Dear Mr. Grizzly,
I had been considering becoming an ESL (English as a second language) teacher for some time, but it wasn't until the last six months I had decided to do it. In order to do this, I will have to get a bachelor's degree in something (it doesn't really matter what), get a TEFL certificate and move to the country I signed up for. There are some countries that don't require a BA, but I'm a bit more skeptical about those places. I have been considering teaching somewhere in east Asia, like China, Japan, or South Korea. I also want to work on a graphic novel in my spare time.
I have been very indecisive about my career choice for a long time, and my family knows this. My mom and my stepdad are supportive of my choice, but my dad and my stepmom aren't that much. Literally right after I brought it up to my dad he asked me "So, have you thought about anything ELSE you'd like to do?"
When I went to visit them a couple weeks ago, they literally told me to stop going to college and to start going to a technical school, so can get a "real" job, I suppose. Whenever I bring this up to them, they try to change my mind. I've slowly been learning the fact that you can't live up to everyone's expectations, and that it's a waste of time to try.
How do I put my foot down and tell them that I've made my decision, and that I want to follow my dream?
Caleb (age 19, Michigan)
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I’m confused why your parents think TESL is not a “real” job. It’s a very real job, and an excellent one at that. There is high demand for it, and if you’re good at your job you will likely never be unemployed. One suspicion I have is that your parents don’t want you to move out of the country and they would miss you. That’s understandable, but a bit selfish on their part. If I were you, I would pursue the following course:
Now, while I would pick China, I did a little research and found an excellent article by an ESL teacher in China in which South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China are compared. Overall, this person picks South Korea, but here’s a link to help you pick for yourself. And here is a helpful site on ESL careers in general.
Besides perhaps not wanting their baby to move to Asia, your parents might also be woefully misinformed about what an ESL job is and what it entails. Your job, in order to convince them, is to provide them with information about how great a career choice it actually is. Not only will you make a decent income, you will also gain an incredible amount of life experience that will serve you well for years to come.
Judging by your parents’ comments (and where you live), I’m guessing they are blue collar workers who have lived all their lives in the Midwest, thus developing a rather colloquial attitude about the world in which factory and farm work are “more real” than academics and culture. You need to get them out of this mindset, but in a way they will understand: and that way is to show them you can make a good income and be a success. This isn’t like you are flitting off to Asia to party and occasionally teach a class; this is a serious career choice. So, gather up your research and make your case.
One last thing I’d suggest is to ease off the “put my foot down” strategy. After all (pretty sure of this) it’s your parents who are likely going to do a lot of the heavy lifting in paying for your higher education. Therefore, approach it like you would a salesman making his pitch to a large company for a long-term investment (you are their investment in the future). Don’t go for the emotion; go for hard facts. Don’t use glitzy, starry-eyed words such as “this is my dream,” but, rather, use words they understand, such as “I can make a salary in China that will allow me to put almost half my income away for savings and investments for the future....”
That should help. Good luck! I’m routing for you!
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