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THE TEFL LIFESTYLE GOT SILLY

THE TEFL LIFESTYLE GOT SILLY

“Children have one kind of silliness, as you know, and grown-ups have another kind.”

C.S. Lewis

“And TEFLers have the sort that often borders on hysteria.”

  • – tefl-lifestyle.com

 

Humour and the TEFL Lifestyle

Well, to be accurate, the TEFL lifestyle didn’t suddenly become silly – it has always had elements which were daft to the point of surreal – expectations which include teaching classes of really mixed ability groups (with some students who don’t even know how to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in English and others who, embarrassingly, speak it better than you do), organising ‘workshops’ for a hoard of hyper-active kiddos without so much as a finger puppet in the way of materials, and – true story this one – teaching literature in a department which has no actual books whatsoever. Yeah, you gotta laugh.

A Healthy Dose of Daftness

So, no excuses and no justifications for a little corner of the site dedicated to a bit of nonsense. Money may make the world go round, but a dose of daftness can keep you sane. Well, semi-sane, at least.

Click on the image above or the link below to hop to a page of memes dedicated to the TEFL lifestyle, some choice excerpts from that classic of English language teaching, “Mastering the Idiosyncrasies of the Syntax, Grammar and Idioms of the English Language By Means Of Illustrated Tales Demonstrating the Functions Thereof for Continentals and Other Persons of the Foreign Persuasion”, and any other nonsense examples of our razor-sharp wit which might occur to us.

Yes, I could do with a smile, and I’ll even settle for a wry one, but if it isn’t even slightly amusing, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers in the morning.

 

EFL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

EFL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

“As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”

– Donald Trump

Yes, well, that’s easy for him to say – let’s face it, Donald Trump has never been an EFL teacher. Thinking big for many EFL teachers often simply amounts to begging their employers for a new photocopier, for EFLers are, for the most part, simple, noble souls, without the ruthless drive and nasty comb-over which apparently characterise the successful entrepreneur, but able to take joy in seeing a student’s face light up as he suddenly gets the difference between Present Simple and Continuous.

Though an odd hair-do might not actually be a compulsory element in explaining the success of high-profile business-people, some sort of compulsion to make money just has to be a vital component in the mind-set of those whose job is, well, making money, and that magic ingredient would seem to missing in many of us teachers.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, TEFLer?

 

If you actually chose your chosen profession – to teach English to foreign language speakers – it’s probably safe to say that becoming fabulously rich was probably never uppermost in your mind, as EFL teaching has never been an obvious association with Scrooge McDuck piles of glistening gold. Unless, of course, you didn’t dream of being an EFL teacher all through your childhood, and you just sort of stumbled into it. And then couldn’t get out. Although such a thing is doubtlessly a rare occurrence, with the vast majority of us most probably having spent our school and university days and nights feverishly trying to figure out how to break into TEFL, it could just be that a few of us EFL teachers actually had, at some point, a burning desire to make some money.

One thing we can be sure of – those hands do not belong to a TEFLer.

 Harsh Realities

 

If you were one of those who, when still a child, had envisioned a future life of wealth, power and fame, then the harsh reality of TEFLing must be a tad hard to digest at times. Truth be told, not just the earnings, but the general the working conditions of many EFL teachers have been known to be, to put it mildly, pretty dire.

To add salt to the wound, trade unions are not an option in a profession which, by its very nature, has those who do it constantly on the move from contract to contract, from nation to nation. In order to create an organisation like a trade union, one has to be able to discuss, debate, confer, agree, collaborate and act with others, and in order to do that, one really ought to be in the same place as at least some of the same people for sufficient time to actually develop ideas and take action.

And most importantly, it would be very helpful if all the members of the profession were actually governed by the same national legislation, and not by dozens of different ones. Furthermore, it would be immensely helpful if your members were all in nations in which trade unions were actually permitted by law. Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – none of these nations permit trade union activity. On the bright side, it has to be said that, if you ever did have the urge to become a modern-day Tolpuddle Martyr, finding a destination undesirable enough to transport an errant, bolshy EFL teacher off to might prove to be challenging. Australia? You wish. Ironically – or perhaps not –  some of the least appealing places on the planet are key EFL locations.

Unfair? Too damn right it is! But full-blown protesting is usually not an option in TEFL.

 

 Every TEFLer For Himself

 

It’s probably safe to say that the profession has ended up being one of the least regulated in the entire universe, and it’s very much a case of every TEFLer for him or herself.  So, we’ve already established that there aren’t too many life-jackets on the good ship TEFLdom, and many of us get left hanging on for dear life as decisions are made by others apparently with the sole intent of destabilizing even further, and based on a logic which totally escapes us.

The Big Money Picture

 

Although we teachers will alternate panic attacks with bouts of scoffing over what appear to be utterly nonsensical policies, we usually fail to see the wood for the trees. And by ‘wood’ and ‘trees’, naturally I mean ‘profits’ and ‘education’. Which also goes some way to explaining why there’s a substantial number of EFL managers and entrepreneurs who haven’t worked their way up from actual EFL teaching; you will very often find yourself governed by business-people, many of whom don’t actually know a great deal about EFL teaching, or any sort of teaching for that matter, and even a good few who know very little English.

However, during those industrial-scale eye-rolling and eyebrow-raising moments we indulge in when the latest anti-educational decision filters down from above, consoling ourselves with the thought that we could do so much better, a lot of the time we’re actually wrong. Much more often than we, the teachers, would care to admit, they know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re doing it rather well.

The TEFL Gold-Mine

 

So, what is the appeal of TEFL for those not involved in the ‘T’ bit of it? That war is good business is a generally accepted fact, however unsavoury the implication of such a statement might be; education seen principally as a mega-business, and not as a contribution to the evolution and development of Mankind, is another concept which might be slightly hard to wrap your ethical brain around, but which is not one relegated to the realm of merely abstract.

According to the GSV EDU Education Sector Factbook 2012  English Language Learning (ELL) accounted for a whopping $63 billion slice of the overall global education-business pie in 2012. Which goes some way to explaining why even those not dedicated to EFL teaching per se have found themselves irresistibly attracted to the business of English Language teaching. In other words, English is not only the language of global business, it is a global business. And it’s one of the healthy ones – it’s forecast to reach the mind-boggling sum of over $193 billion by the year 2017.

Doing The ‘Dirty’ Work

 

Are you reeling? I know I am. That’s an awful lot of money, however, those who do the teaching are not going to be pocketing anything other than a teeny proportion of that figure. Which is pretty hard to digest, when you think about it, since we’re the ones in the front-line, trying to cram many years’ worth of grammar and vocabulary into a year of foundation programs, create lessons which, miraculously, exclude neither the couple of students who are highly fluent, or the handful who appear to know absolutely no English whatsoever, but who have been put in the same class, or who have to put together activities which are demonstrably effective from an academic point of view, yet are amusing enough to engage a rowdy crowd of kids or teens in a summer camp. Just as well we love teaching, right?

kiddies

There’s a reason why the summer camp job ad specifies that “energetic” teachers are required.

 

So, where’s The Money, Honey?

 

So, if it isn’t the actual teaching which makes the money, which aspects of ELL are the cash-cows? Well, although the situation varies from region to region – for example, high taxes in European countries can make owning a independent language school not much more profitable than teaching in one – the main money-spinners in the ELL market are:

  • ELL publishing (market leaders include Pearson, Oxford University Press, Macmillan)

  • International educational providers (such as EF or Kaplan)

  • Testing / assessment (Ielts, Toefl, PET, FCE, etc.,)

  • Assessment preparation (big guns, such as British Council, and countless independent bodies globally)

  • Study-holiday providers (EF, Bell English, English UK, etc.,)

  • Course providers, both on- and offline (Berlitz, Rosetta Stone, Linguaphone)

  • Language schools and centres (British Council, International House, and many, many smaller players)

  • App and program creators/sellers (FluentU, Busuu, Nearpod, etc.,)

  • EFL/ESL teaching certification (CELTA and TESOL being the most obvious)

The Online Teaching Meat Market

 

A special mention apart has to be made of the blooming online English language teaching market. Doing away with the need to transport actual flesh-and-blood teachers to actual schools, there’s a proliferation of bodies which either offer online courses with ‘their’ teachers, or which offer platforms to freelancers, on which you get the opportunity to undercut the competition by lowering your pay-per-hour to levels which, post-tax, won’t cover the cost of your dinner. If we want a very clear example of what the commodification and globalization of ELL can do, in terms of just how far the teaching profession can be devalued, then this market sector just has to be the winner. Of course, for those who own the platforms and virtual schools, the limited outlays and running costs make this a very profitable field.

Now, realistically, as individuals, being worthy rivals of the Big Boys, such as Kaplan, isn’t likely to happen any time soon. Nor would launching a rival EFL/ESL teaching certification be the brightest idea in your ‘make-a-Tefl-fortune mind-map, so cross it off right now. Keeping our feet planted firmly on the ground, let’s ponder which areas can we reasonably focus on, should we wish to participate a bit more substantially in that 193 billion dollar growth foreseen for ELL over the next year or so.

A Piece  Of The Pie

 

Although material writing and opening your own private English school still remain as options to teachers wishing to branch out professionally to fields outside the classroom, it should be kept in mind that a huge chunk of the ELL mega-growth is forecast to  lie in the digital realm, so if you happen to have a buddy who happens to be an IT whizz-kid, you might want to stay chummy with him, because great ideas which take ELL on-line in effective, user-friendly and engaging ways are potentially superb money-makers for those able to come up with ideas and for who make them happen. An IT expert may or may not also have expertise in the ELL sector, but it’s more likely that he or she doesn’t – likewise, a brilliant, creative English teacher may also dabble very effectively in IT, but it’s not awfully likely that they possess the sort of top-notch coding skills required to create apps and programs. Conclusion? A collaboration for the mutual benefit of both parties makes perfect sense.

pie

Fancy a piece of the pie?

Back to the online teaching malarkey for a moment – nothing wrong with cutting your teeth in someone else’s online ‘school’, however, there are platforms out there that you, as an individual, can use to set up your own virtual classroom. Zoom.us is just one example (the choice lies greatly in cost – some platforms are really rather expensive if you’re just starting out, but Zoom.us lets you have unlimited teaching sessions free of charge, if you keep each one to a maximum of 40 minutes), but there are many more out there, such as WizIQ, which you would probably want to take into consideration only after you had built up a bit of a user base due to its starting price of $33 a month.

Union Makes Strength

 

Of course, it’s always easier said than done, and coming up with brilliant and innovative ideas can’t be that simple, otherwise we’d all be doing it all of the time. It also has to be said that contemplating what can amount to a career-shift, if not an actual full-blown career change, is a decidedly daunting prospect, however, exploring one’s options carries no financial costs, and, if the aim is empower yourself as a professional in order to get a little bit more of what you deserve, it’s definitely worth the mental-energy investment required.

There’s a great deal more to be said on the topic, and we’ll certainly go back to it in future, however, in the meantime, if you do have any great entrepreneurial ideas, why not share them with a trusted colleague? It shouldn’t be forgotten that one of the reasons teachers get shunted off the money-making playing field of their own profession is that many of the aspects of TEFLing – the short-term contracts, the high-mobility of colleagues, the trans-continental moves – do not facilitate cooperation and collaboration among peers. Perhaps, ultimately, partnerships with fellow teachers, mutually supporting and encouraging one another, is the way to go – after all, it is the digital age, and collaboration across distances really shouldn’t be an issue.

All the best!

 

DESPERATELY SEEKING YOUR THIRD EYE

DESPERATELY SEEKING YOUR THIRD EYE

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape”

Unknown

God knows, TEFLing can be awfully hard on the ole physique. Without even getting into the less than state-of-the-art medical facilities one is often forced to rely on, the dramatic change of diet, climate and environment which comes hand in hand with TEFLing abroad for a living can knock your organism for six.

It’s none too gentle on the psyche either, it has to be said. The job often requires an individual to repeatedly subject him or herself to a combination of classic stress factors, such as moving home, changing job, living far from loved ones, financial instability and consequent concerns, and integrating oneself into new cultures on a fairly regular basis. Just one of those challenges is enough to send a person into a tizzy – your average TEFLer abroad deals with the combination of all of them many times throughout his or working life!

So, what to do when the TEFLing has started to take its toll, and you’re feeling a little ragged round the edges?

Yoga might well be the answer.

When East Met West

The precise origins and age of yoga are in themselves subjects for debate, however, charting the introduction and influence of the Eastern philosophy in the West is much easier to do, as it occurred relatively recently, though perhaps not quite as recently as one might think. Long before modern-day rat-race-runners halted in their tracks and turned to the East in their quest for inner peace, Norbin Chunder Pal, a graduate of the Bengal Medical College, published in London A Treatise on the Yoga Philosophy, under the anglicized version of his name, N. C. Paul. The year was 1851.

If you’re struggling to imagine stiff and starched Victorians trying to get into yoga poses, it’s because they didn’t – Paul’s book focused on explaining, from a scientific view-point, the physiological effects of yoga on the human body, including the decidedly spectacular phenomenon of a Punjab yogi’s capacity to ‘suspend life’ and survive a 40-day live burial; the book stimulated theoretical discussion, not actual practice, among its readers, who were, it has to be said, mostly from the press and the scientific community. So, although he may not have been responsible for hoards of New Age Victorian ladies busting out of their whale-boned corsets to salute the sun, he can certainly be accredited with getting the West talking about yoga for the first time.

About forty years later, a swami called Vivekananda made it to the USA and, once there, wowed the audiences at the Chicago World Fair with his exotic robes and turbans, and an undeniable stage-presence, getting a two-minute standing ovation just for his five-word opening: “Sisters and brothers of America!”. He too avoided trying to coax his listeners into tantric poses, but orated his way into their enthusiasm, speaking to them of Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony among religions with such eloquence that the American press nick-named him ‘the Cyclonic Hindoo Monk of India’.

From Treadmill to Transcendental

It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that yoga began to be practiced in the West on any real scale. No longer merely a subject for polite conversation, yoga was launched stateside primarily by an American called Richard Hittleman who’d completed his apprenticeship in India, and who filtered the religious element out of the very spiritual practices he’d learned from his guru, and made it palatable to large numbers of more secular Americans by focusing on the physical benefits to be had.

By the time Swami Satchidananda, sitting on stage at Woodstock, in 1969, had half a million very mellow young people chanting ‘Hari Om’, Westerners had finally got off their horsehair-stuffed armchairs and were able to sit cross-legged on the floor. Not only that, many of them had learned to maneuver their limbs into yoga poses, and some even to meditate. It is rumoured that about half a dozen or so of them even managed to locate their third eye during those halcyon Age of Aquarius days.

During the 1970’s yoga went mainstream, and yoga studios started popping up everywhere, although the general vibe was perhaps more Lycra than cheesecloth. The many benefits of yoga were at last available to those not graced with being born in the shade of an ashram, and, increasingly over the decades, yoga has come to be seen as one of the most effective antidotes to modern, post-industrial societal stress. Even if you never do quite manage to figure out where your third eye is supposed to be, the slow-stretching, non-traumatic postures and positions of yoga can do wonders for those destined to spend their working days hunched tensely over computers.

Yoga: what’s in it for you?

A faster metabolism

Weight loss

Better balance

Improved posture

Improved breathing

Better sleeping patterns

Calms and de-stresses

Protects your joints

What’s not to like? It’s certainly worth giving yoga a bash just in case it turns out to be the answer to your bodily and spiritual issues, though strictly speaking there should be absolutely no bashing going on whatsoever, which is probably one of the main reasons why other less spiritual fitness fads have come and gone, some even revealing themselves to be rather detrimental to the health (remember the jogging craze of the Eighties? Everybody and their eighty-year-old mothers were slipping on lime-green or canary yellow, high-cut, nylon running shorts and pounding the pavements, and, tragically, many of them didn’t live to rue the day they suddenly took up vigorous exercise after a lifetime of sedentary behavior), while yoga has had an enduring appeal over the decades – it’s undeniably gentle on the heart, joints and muscles, as well as being soothing on the psyche.

Hitting the Yoga Mat

Well, perhaps not so much hitting it, as lowering yourself gently on to it.

If you’re keen to get started, ideally, you will want a good yoga instructor to guide you serenely towards inner peace and a more supple and flexible physique. Yoga schools and personal yoga teachers can be found just about everywhere on the planet, though, as always in such things, if you can get a recommendation from a very satisfied and observably chilled-out, loose-jointed client, it’s always better than just walking into some unknown yoga centre which you just happen upon.

What if your TEFL post has taken you well and truly off the beaten track, and there actually is no yoga instructor, much less yoga centre, in the area?

If you take it easy, listen very carefully to your body and to any warning signs it might give out in the form of twinges and overly-taut muscles (a word with a doctor would also be advisable, if you want to be 100% sure that there are no contraindications for you, though the doctors you can now access probably have a very limited idea of your past medical history – still, you might want to try and fill him/her in as best you can so they can advise you), there’s always the Internet.

Not quite the same thing as having your own personal guru lighting candles and incense, and talking you quietly through the process, but the computer monitor does give off a bit of glow to create a smidgeon of an atmosphere, and if you stick to your guns about never, ever pushing yourself further than is totally comfortable, a chirpy, gently encouraging YouTube yoga instructor surely has to be better than sitting on your bum in front of the TV all night – at least to get you started.

Naturally, yoga has a great deal more going for it than mere body postures – the physical aspect is, I am told by an actual yoga instructor, just the preparatory phase for the main event, which is, of course, the meditation. I’m not even going to begin to suggest that YouTube videos will get you lost in transcendental meditation…but you never know…so here are a couple of links to YouTube pages with some videos which might get you started on breathing exercises and meditation techniques. The only real risk with doing these unsupervised is that you might just fall asleep. And since TEFLers can sometimes be a bit sleep deprived, that’s no bad thing.

Even if you are dependent on a video guru, once you get the hang of asanas (yoga positions) and work out an effective routine, you can get yourself outdoors and find yourself a pleasant spot to go through your moves – a beach at dawn or sunset, a desert dune, a grassy meadow or a wood all suit the purpose perfectly.

And who knows, the next job posting might be somewhere that actually has flesh-and-blood yoga instructors. You never know – by the time your current contract runs out, you might be ready to give up the rich and materialistic TEFL lifestyle and run off to join an ashram.

Alkhan_Khee_4

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…

Violet_Romer_in_flapper_dress,_LC-DIG-ggbain-12393_crop4…I can’t go on, I can’t go on no more, no!

  • – Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer

TO RESIGN OR NOT TO RESIGN

There comes a time when every cell in your body is screaming at you to head for the door and to the nearest airport. What do you do? Give in to the feeling and run like hell, or try and stick it out?

The expression ‘doing a runner’ actively enters into your vocabulary usually about the same time you take up your very first TEFL position somewhere very, very far from all that is familiar, which, you will shortly discover, also includes the Western concept of workers’ rights. It’s not unknown for a freshly arrived TEFL teacher to hear, in fact, that the position he or she has just landed, had become available because someone else had ‘done a runner’. This act consists of dispensing entirely with letters of resignation and working one’s notice, but simply heading off into the night in a hastily flagged-down taxi, clutching a suitcase or two containing all one’s worldly possessions and wearing a wild-eyed expression interrupted only by a newly acquired tic.

TEFL TICS

The reason for your predecessor’s hurried departure doesn’t usually tardy in becoming apparent, and quite possibly you too will be the proud owner of a nice, new tic before the first month is over. On the other hand, you may turn out to be made of tougher stuff altogether, and find that it only requires drinking yourself into a stupor every evening to make it through the days and the nights. Which is great. Truly it is. Unless the over-priced booze starts to take its toll on your liver and/or bank balance, and you end up having to borrow money from your new colleagues in order to eat, in which case, you might be forced to face the reality – it’s not working out for you.

Nippon_Shuzō_Kabushiki_Kaisha_(Women_in_blue_kimono)_(rbm-coll3020-05-08)

Sake, absinthe, whatever – it can all look very appealing when you’re feeling down.

DISTANCE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

Making oneself utterly miserable in order to earn a living is, unfortunately, the unavoidable lot of many human beings; the fledgling tic in your right eye could quite easily have been acquired in Manchester or Arkansas, or whichever city you left behind you, starry-eyed at the thought of decent money in an exotic setting. However, back home, at the end of a cruddy working day, chances are you had caring relatives or a set of good mates ready and willing to listen to you letting off steam, to make you a cup of tea, buy you a beer, or to remind you that Mad Men is on the telly later on (let it not be forgotten that, depending on where you end up TEFLing, you might not even be able to rely on having any delightfully brain-numbing decent TV to fill your evenings). More importantly, back home, if your employer really pisses you off, you’ll have various avenues of recourse open to you to protect and to compensate you, whereas where you’re at now it’s quite possible that however rotten a deal you’re being dealt by your employers, there is little, if anything, you can do about it.

Solitude_au_bord_du_lac

TEFLING can mean self-containment to the nth degree

MISSING BUFFERS

 

It would be disingenuous to claim that lousy and dishonest employers are to be found only in foreign climes, because nothing could be further from the truth. Likewise, it would be inaccurate to imply that all TEFL jobs will end up making you rue the day you signed the contract. However, the sense of isolation from the emotional and social buffer of family and friends, combined with the deep frustration of having very few legal options open to you, should things not work out as well as you’d hoped, make all the difference between a professional disappointment on your home turf, and one somewhere overseas.

1913_Rochester_Garment_Workers_Strike

No TEFLer ever went on strike. Ever.

THE HUMANIST MIND-SET

It’s easy to take for granted the laws protecting workers’ rights when you’re a great-great-great-great-great grandchild of the Enlightenment, with a strong sense of individualism in your DNA; it’s understandable not to fully grasp how collectivism, the basis for all the key non-Western TEFL destinations, translates into what you can and cannot expect from an employer-employee relationship, until hit with the reality of not being able to do absolutely anything from a legal stand-point about some grossly unfair event; it’ll be tempting to write off all obstacles you come up against as being down to your employer being less than honest, less than fair, less than decent. The difficult part is trying to figure out if you and your individualistic brain can survive in a collectivist society without damage being done to your physical and mental health, and coming to terms with the simple but harsh reality that, outside of the West, your rights as a worker simply do not have the same weight as they would back home.

The_Saturday_evening_post_(1920)_(14598177030)

On the road again?

RESIGN YOURSELF TO RESIGNING?

Whilst not advocating doing runners as a solution, especially since they leave dirty great holes in your curriculum vitae, it might be worth pondering whether certain foreign countries are really destined to be anything other than potential holiday destinations to you, and whether you might not be happier and healthier sticking to TEFLing in nations which the Enlightenment, well, enlightened, because, at the end of the day, a job which costs you your mental and physical well-being is really not worth it.

 

NATURE AND THE TEFLER – EXOTIC ACTS OF GOD

NATURE AND THE TEFLER – EXOTIC ACTS OF GOD

“Nature: a place where birds fly around uncooked”
– Oscar Wilde

MUTABLE MOTHER NATURE

Sipping Mai Tai’s in the dappled shade of gently swaying palm leaves, as the frothing white crests of liquefied emerald waves tickling your toes, and the balmy sea breeze softly ruffles your hair; this is probably the kind of role you imagined Nature was going to play in your new life abroad – the provider of warm sea breezes, lapping waves and, of course, copious amounts of sunshine in shades varying from pink-and-gold dawn, to midday incandescence. What might not have been envisioned as you were day-dreaming under grey, rainy skies about the new job in exotic, sun-snogged lands, is that your future home might just be located in an earthquake zone, or in one at high risk for floods, tsunamis or landslides, and that the Mai Tai, and everything else you posses, might just end up smashed to bits on the floor or underwater, while you run or swim for your life from a less than benevolent Mother Nature.

Tsunami_by_hokusai_19th_century

Tsunami by Hokusai – 19th_century

 

FAR EASTERN PHENOMENA

 

Although wages, accommodation, medical coverage and working hours are obvious key factors to evaluate when applying for new TEFL jobs, for some people the priority is location, location, location – preferring somewhere particularly picturesque with a sufficiently laid-back lifestyle to be able to actually enjoy the views.  Overall, Asia is one of the planet’s key TEFL job providers, and it certainly boasts many of the top exotically-enticing destinations,  however, it’s also the planet’s riskiest area in terms of natural disasters, with almost one million lives lost over the last two decades in earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, etc. Certainly, not all of the continent sees prospective TEFLers scrambling for jobs, and indeed, not all of Asia even offers any kind of employment in the English language teaching field – for example, few if any TEFLers will be heading off to Pakistan or Bangladesh any time soon; however, Japan and China are both highly popular TEFL destinations and high-risk nations for earthquakes and tsunamis. And who can forget the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which lambasted the coasts of Southeast Asian nations, including TEFL-friendly Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, with gargantuan, life-destroying waves?

Reggio_and_Messina_earthquake_1783

Reggio and Messina earthquake of 1783

 

THE VOLCANIC TEMPRAMENT OF ITALY

 

The temptation might be to stick to closer-to-home destinations, however, if you’re assuming that the biggest risk you’d be running in Italy would be spending all your wages on heartbreakingly gorgeous leather goods, think again. The birth-place of the pizza – Naples – is, doubtlessly, a splendidly vibrant and lively city, however, it sits in the shadow of Vesuvius, the same deadly volcano which incinerated Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D. and which, despite having erupted with ghastly regularity for many centuries, has been unnervingly quiet since 1944, when the last major eruption took place. The Italian authorities themselves have a rather baited-breath attitude to the volcano’s future activity, and have in place emergency plans for when, not if, a new eruption occurs. Something you might want to keep in mind, should a Neapolitan dolce vita be tempting you.

Nor does avoiding the Naples area resolve the Italian problem; Italy has another active volcano on land – Etna on the island of Sicily – and a multitude of under-sea ones just off the Italian coast. And if that weren’t enough, Italy, generally speaking, is rather ‘faulty’ – less to do with Fiat engines, and much more to do with the fact that it’s one of Europe’s most seismically active countries – there are geological faults all along the length of the Apennine mountains range, putting about half of the national territory at moderate-to-high risk of earthquakes. In fact, Italy was the site of Europe’s most powerful earthquake in recorded history, which, in 1908, destroyed the Sicilian city of Messina Strait, killing about 100,000 people.

THE ANATOLIAN BLOCK

Let’s assume that’s put you off Italy for good, and you’re considering one of TEFL’s newest top popular destinations, Turkey. How to break this to you? Unfortunately, Turkey has what geophysicists call the ‘Anatolian block’ – the meeting point of the Arabian Plate and the Eurasian Plate as they slowly but surely press against one another. These are not two stubborn goats in a head-butting play-off, but two massive chunks of the Earth’s crust trying to push the other out of the way, a challenge which is pretty much guaranteed to end, sooner or later, in the rupturing of some part of the Anatolian block, possibly (some believe quite probably) with an epicenter only some thirty miles or so from Istanbul.

Tectonic_Map_of_Turkey

The Anatolian Block

 

TEFLING – A JOB FOR EX-MARINES?

 

If you type ‘TEFL and natural disasters’ into a search engine, you will be served up with an industrial quantity of lesson plans and worksheets to use in-class with your students about natural disasters – what you won’t find are job offers worded along the lines of “Come teach in exciting [name of place]! Positions available for five strapping young teachers with a daredevil streak and an ability to run/swim/climb unusually fast (preferably with the equivalent weight of two medium-sized students strapped to their backs). Ex-Marines particularly welcome. Tefl certificate optional”, but, all things considered, perhaps we should.