The default career

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The default career

ESCMAt the moment I’m not experiencing that euphoria, that Friday feeling, when the weekend looms large as it does today.  This is partly due to the fact that the weekend usually involves just as much work around the house as it does in the office during the week, but is primarily related to the fact that I have recently become an English teacher.

I teach 2 hours on Friday afternoons and 4 hours on Monday morning (starting at 8am).  Which does tend to put a dampener on my weekends. This was not by design of course, it just so happens that that’s the way the timetable has worked out.

Although I am now a self-proclaimed “Professor of English”, at the school where I teach, the only thing that qualifies me for this noble title – is my mother tongue, nationality and a bit of lecturing experience. If my students ever complain about my methods then I can say in my defence that I never planned to become a teacher in the first place, and I never said I was any good at it anyway.

When we moved to France I promised I would do (or not do) two things, in order to ensure my speedy integration into the local community:

  1. not get involved in the ex-pat scene – for that would impede my ability to pick up the lingo and place me into a ‘them and us’ pot
  2. not teach English as a foreign language – as again this would have me thinking far too much in my mother tongue, rather than exercising my Francophonic bouche

My eventual capitulation, on both counts, occurred only after securing a fairly fluent grasp of French and amassing a  circle of Francophone friends.  However, I won’t pretend that I’m not slightly disappointed that I have been unable to break the mould.

There’s no shame in teaching English, indeed it can be a profitable enterprise in France as almost everybody has some level of interest in learning the language.  It is also very enjoyable. However, taking on a teaching role can feel like admitting defeat in a land where experience counts for little and qualifications define your career.

Finding a job in the hexagon can be a futile task if you lack a masters or doctorate to go with your field of expertise.  I was recently advised by an APEC representative (career advice for executives) that I should consider doing a stage at a web-design firm, because if I wanted to find web work – it was certainly going to be very difficult without any qualification in that field.

The fact that I had been working in that domain for over ten years (before any qualifications were even available) and that I had been webmaster on an award-winning FTSE100 investor website were, apparently, irrelevant.  It is for this reason I am now seriously considering doing a Masters, in anything, just to secure some future earning potential.

A situation which regrettably backs up the proverb: He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.*

*George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists”
By | 2017-01-06T11:16:33+00:00 March 16th, 2012|Life in France|2 Comments

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  1. Jean-Marc March 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    As a teacher, you might like to reflect on the longer version of the same proverb:
    …and He who cannot teach, administrates.

    Sooo… keep teaching 🙂

  2. fattycatty April 10, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    “and He who cannot administrate becomes a recruitment consultant”!

    I know what you mean. When I apply for admin jobs for which I am more than qualified, nobody wants to know. On the other hand, people practically beg me to “teach them English”. An Italian friend of mine was in the same situation, with the difference that when she decided to do the thing properly: ie take the CAPES exam so that she could have a full-time, permanent, pensionable job rather than just getting a few hours here and there she was accused of “stealing a French person’s job”!

    Although I have “taught” for two years : once as an Assistant in a lycée as part of my degree course and as a Lectrice at a university, I have always held out against it. Mind you, I’ve got no kids so I can more or less afford to.

    You are lucky living in Strasbourg, I’m in Metz.

    Keep on blogging

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