Welcome back to ESL Gypsy. There’s been a ton of content on what people look for in a company and how to select the right company to work for. Most of what has been written centers on the bottom line- the rate of pay and bookings. “Obviously! I gotta make money!” Totally understandable. Everyone has to pay the bills. However, this article aims to examine what we might look for in a job if money didn’t matter.
In their recent Facebook post, Jake and Sarah from TeoLeo brought up the subject of goals. Most people cite financial freedom as a long-term goal. As a big believer in FIRE, and someone who has recently hit some major FIRE milestones, I’ve begun to think about what I’d look for as a teacher who was less concerned with the bottom line and more interested in what else the job can bring me.
Now, you might be saying, “I would be looking for an apartment in Thailand and one of those little umbrella drinks.” Totally understandable. For some people, teaching is just a means to an end. I get that. This article is aimed at people who would continue to teach even if they achieved financial freedom. Listed below are some things I would look for in a potential company.
Focus of the Curriculum
Some people love the idea of teaching purely conversation classes. They’re fun! You get a chance to really get to know your students and watch their language skills develop. Currently, I’m teaching English language arts classes that are aligned with the American Common Core curriculum. Most of my classes focus on literacy skills and reading comprehension. For me this type of curriculum is a lot of fun to teach. If money didn’t matter, what would you choose to teach students? The list of options to consider is practically endless:
Test Prep (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC)
Phonics/Emergent Reading Skills
English Language Arts/Reading
Flexibility of Curriculum
I happen to be lucky and work for a company that has a pretty good curriculum laid out. However, some companies leave a lot to be desired in this area. Regardless of how good any curriculum is, experienced teachers know that a one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum never works. Curriculum needs to be adapted to individual student needs, and the very nature of lesson planning is recursive. If your financial situation allows you to get by just teaching a few classes, then you likely have the time to adapt the curriculum to meet the students’ needs… if your company permits you to. Some companies may be very rigid about what they expect their teachers to do. This can create real frustration for teachers that want to do what’s best for their students.
At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about for me. I left a well-paid job in accounting to move into a (eh… less well-paid) job in education. For me, the motivation to get involved in education was the opportunity to work with the students. If money were no object, what type of students would you be happiest teaching? Currently, the market for teaching young learners is huge. I enjoy teaching young learners, but I also love teaching young adults. I feel like I did my best work as a teacher working with university level students. Would working with an uptight, stressed out businessman drive you mad? Would you prefer to teach a young and emerging reader? Consider your options and work with the students that bring you the most satisfaction.
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Bookings are a real concern for people who need to pay the bills- understandably so. Having a solid schedule that you can rely on every week means that there is always money coming in. If you are financially independent, you can aim for a little more flexibility. Personally, I would love the spontaneity of being able to pick up and take off when I want to. For this to be a reality, I would need a schedule that can be changed from week to week. The potential to cancel bookings on short notice might also be something I’d look for. Some people I know who’ve retired early love having a very definitive schedule. They do a few hours a week at a job they enjoy, and the rest of the week follows a predictable routine. Look for what best suits your goals as you achieve financial freedom.
Opportunities to Contribute
This is huge. When you are on the road to FIRE, you need to look to save as much as possible to reach your financial goals. Finding additional sources of income within your company is a great way to help you get there. However, a lot of this work can become very demanding- especially if you’ve got your hands in a lot of different projects. The last thing you want to do when you are financially free is to engage in work that is going to stress you out. Find something you’re good at and focus on that area. For me, I love writing curriculum and creating materials. I would look for some way to contribute to my current company in this capacity. If you like building things from the ground up, maybe working with a new start-up would suit you well. As someone who had a chance to do that, I can say that it’s a lot of fun! You really have a chance to make a meaningful impact. When you’re doing that sort of work, it makes the amount of money that you’re taking home less significant.
If you’re financially independent- or at the very least secure, then start to look for jobs that can bring you more of what you enjoy about education. Teaching is a great profession. Even if you have the money not to work at all, teaching is something that can still bring you so much value outside of a paycheck. Consider a school with limited hours or a flexible schedule. Find what your niche is and focus on that. If you’re not financially independent yet, start to set goals and work towards them. Being an online teacher in a LCOL country gives you the chance to FIRE before most people back home. When you do FIRE, find a job that allows you to love everything about being in the online classroom.