ESL Discussion: How often do you get thanked as a TEFL teacher?

I only bloody well got another one, didn’t I? I have to say that I’ve probably had my best year for thank yous and presents since I lived and taught English in Thailand. I don’t know why, I haven’t been doing anything especially extra friendly. I’m still being tough with my students, still sending some out, and still making the odd student cry in class (not normally deliberately). But for some strange reason I’ve been shown more appreciation for my efforts than other years.

TEFL highs

If only that said ‘Barry’ Photo by Emily McCracken

When I lived in Thailand I got treated with a different level of respect than in Sevilla. There I was a real teacher, a foreign teacher giving up their precious time to come and work in their prestigious school. There I was Mr Barry, a role model for numerous kids, and also an entertaining clown at times. I used to get thanked every day, just for breathing. The students used to stand up when I walked in the class, in Sevilla I’m happy if they manage to tear themselves away from their mobiles within a minute and smile at me. For Christmas in Thailand I was given presents by all the students, fair enough, there were one too many towels, but it was the thought that counted.

Even my time in Brazil I felt like a bit of a celebrity. Students used to hang around after class and try to chat with me and just as me questions about my life. In Australia I got a thank you letter from a Chinese student saying how much I’d inspired her to live her life more and travel and not study so much (maybe not the best advice from a teacher).

I go on a lot about job satisfaction throughout my blog. I mean, compared to the money driven sales job I used to do, you can’t compare it for uplifting moments. I love teaching, showing people what I know, and helping them improve their lives. But, to be honest, at times a lot of it seems unappreciated.

Typically I might spent longer preparing a particular class, and all that happens is either an argument breaks out, or the kids moan about something. I would say that my best, most appreciated moments in class are the spontaneous ones, which normally involve the students more in some way. But even then you don’t get a huge thank you, just a comment like “Is that really the end of the class?”

At the start of the year I taught all my classes an expression, which was ‘Thank you that was a very interesting lesson.’ To be fair, I do to all levels, but this year one group said it, every single class. Even after their end of year exam, to which I called them liars.

What else happened this year? Well, I was quite chuffed when three of my adult FCE students came up and shook my hand at the end of the course. I prefer teaching adults, or university students (who are also technically adults), and you can always tell when they appreciate your efforts.

I also got a present this year from a teenager class. Yeah, it was just three sets of parents who chipped in and brought me a new wallet, which I have actually used, and it was also a nice touch.

I also got given two bottles of wine by a good colleague, and mate of mine, even if he is an Arsenal fan, for helping him out this year through the difficult moments during the year. Mainly the exams and reports writing.

The reason I thought about this blog though was because of an email I got from a student of mine during a July intensive course. He basically said he wanted to thank me on behalf of the group for the month preparing them for their PET exam. He said he had fun in class and learnt a lot from my teaching and also my experiences travelling the world, which was great to hear as this doesn’t happen often. This is probably the 3rd email I’ve had in 11 years in Spain. So it’s worth a blog.

I get that students are busy, have thousands of teachers each year, and most of them obviously care about their education and I’m sure most of my students are happy, but it would be nice to hear it a little more. This doesn’t include the parents of course, who are generally grateful when it comes to picking up the reports.

I made the effort of going in to see my son’s first nursery teacher at the end of term and thanking her for her work and told her I hoped she’d be teaching my daughter, who starts this September. It didn’t take much effort, and sure it made her day (that and knowing she was about to be off for a month without snotty three-year olds).

So there. That was a sort of moan / rant / inspiring blog. I’d be interested to hear whether you get thanked as a TEFL teacher and if you feel you are valued enough in the classroom. Do you force your students to say thank you? Or are you still waiting for that first one?

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