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  • HBenson

Hot Commodities: Empathy & Advocacy


I once read a hilarious Onion article about ESL teachers. The title (does anyone ever go on to read the "whole" article?) basically read: "ESL Teachers Watches ESL Students Move Out of ESL 1 and Wonders, When Will It Be Her Time?"


Not super catchy, but you can catch the point: sometimes we feel stuck. When I first started as a teacher, I was disenchanted almost immediately. I kept wondering, what is my goal?? What do I strive for? Department head? A career in administration? I started doing some research, and found a host of international opportunities--one even representing the American government abroad for schools starting language programs. Fresh off of a stint in China, I wanted to stay stateside. I found more opportunities with a government security agency, but I was a newby to the field--didn't have much clout yet (still don't much--just years behind me). So, there was always this question: if I'm not corporate or in a company with levels (beyond tenure and retirement), what do I strive for??


And now we are...HERE. Fallen into this twighlight zone where schools are threatening massive (up to 20%!) pay cuts and 20% teachers are considering not returning to schools (Washington Post). Schools are considering offering early retirement as incentive, but many don't want to risk their health by coming back to school too early and many...just don't want to come back at all.


I didn't want teachers to feel I was luring anyone away from teaching ESL--hence the shameless promotion of adult volunteering; it's a great way to discover if your qualms with the field are related to the age you are teaching. But I also wanted ESL teachers to know the skills we are honing, empathy & advocacy, are VITAL for so many fields. Searching for a job by skill is a new revelation to me, but brought to light by my husband, who is in insurance and says they search for people from all different backgrounds (construction, pharmacy, chiropractic, realty...) because they all help adjust claims with their background knowledge. Our background knowledge of refugees and their immediate needs, immigrants and the struggles they face, language barriers in the community, employment, financial resources, the list goes on, is absolutely vital to a host of careers fighting for rights in many different fields. My goal was to shine a light on these important works.


Know that you are valuable.


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