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article imagePhoto Essay: Teaching English overseas Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jan 26, 2013 in World
Istanbul - Many qualified teachers are leaving America, Canada, and England to teach overseas because their local economies make finding teaching jobs at home difficult.
When I finished my Master's degree in English at San Diego State University and was awarded my lifetime teaching credential, I never imagined that it would be difficult to find a job teaching in my own country of America. But, after taking time off from teaching to home school my children, go through a divorce, and live in New Zealand to focus on my writing and photography, I came back to California to discover that, in 2008, the economy had taken a terrible turn. There were no teaching jobs. I searched for over 15 months for any kind of teaching job all across America, from universities to elementary schools, and I could not even obtain a part-time substitute position. So I applied to teach where I was needed—overseas.
First I went to Russia where I taught for 6 months through a lonely winter. It was so cold in Samara that the Volga River froze solid enough for trucks to drive on it. I would walk for hours in deep drifts of snow and then a mile across the frozen river and back to the city. My "language school" for which I was hired turned out to be a less-than-legal operation out of a Russian family's home. I lived with them, in a twelve-story apartment, learning about Russian language, culture, architecture, and food. I never missed fresh vegetables so much or ate so many salty, dried fish. My Russian boss could not find enough private lessons for me (since he had no real school, we met in his apartment or people's homes), so I had many free hours to walk through Samara's streets and take photos of old churches, Lenin statues, ice gardens, and interesting buildings.
After 6 months of not being paid what my contract promised, I called the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. A kind counselor urged me to demand enough money to fly to Turkey where I had found a new teaching job online. After a confrontation with my boss (who had admitted that all businessmen in Russia were corrupt), I flew off to Istanbul. I left Moscow on an April day that featured snow and ice. When I arrived in Turkey, I was happy to find sunlight, flowers, smiles, and spicy food.
I've been in Turkey now for almost 2 years. I've taught in private language schools and universities. I've been paid well enough to survive and even given health insurance.
While here, I interviewed other teachers like me who left their homelands to teach overseas. My Canadian friend Peter Szikinger taught in China, Mexico, Hungary, and Turkey. He found very different experiences in each country. In China he found many interesting places and strange food (like insects) to eat. He also stated, "If you teach in China you can expect to be cheated."
Peter continued: "A stereotype for Mexico would be the hot blooded students constantly talking about sex or romance; for Hungary it’s the depressed, suicidal, alcoholic with a dreary outlook on everything; and for Turkey, well, Turkish businessmen make their Chinese counterparts seem honest. It’s a bit of a contradiction; the average Turkish person is stereotypically honest, very welcoming, and eager to make a good impression of Turkey on foreigners. However, these basically nice people have managed to produce the most dishonest school I’ve come across in my ten years of teaching . . . To end on a more positive note, as a teacher one rarely has to deal with management, and the students and people in general are fantastic all around the world."
One of my Turkish students, Neco Umut, asked me,"Why did you leave Big America to teach English in Turkey? I thought America has the strongest economy in the world and is The Land of Opportunity."
"Life is full of ironies," I explained. "Maybe someday I'll get a teaching job in America and go back home. Besides, I love the Turkish people, and my mission is to teach you English."
A Russian Orthodox Church in autumn rain
A Russian Orthodox Church in autumn rain
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The city of Samara by the freezing Volga River
The city of Samara by the freezing Volga River
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An ice garden by the Samara opera house
An ice garden by the Samara opera house
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A bird perches atop a statue of Lenin in Samara
A bird perches atop a statue of Lenin in Samara
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My largest class in Russia  4 teenage girls  celebrating Christmas in one girl s home classroom
My largest class in Russia, 4 teenage girls, celebrating Christmas in one girl's home classroom
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A distant view of the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul  which my Turkish students explored with me
A distant view of the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul, which my Turkish students explored with me
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Ataturk banner at Kocaeli University
Ataturk banner at Kocaeli University
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A palm tree by a fountain at Akdeniz University in southern Turkey
A palm tree by a fountain at Akdeniz University in southern Turkey
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Akdeniz University students pose with me
Akdeniz University students pose with me
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My private language school students pose around my old computer
My private language school students pose around my old computer
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My students show and tell about their talents in sports and music
My students show and tell about their talents in sports and music
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More about teaching english, Turkey, Russia, Overseas, American economy
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