Why be an ESL Teacher?

Why be an ESL Teacher?

Maggie Attoe Teaching English in China

I have asked a handful of ESL teachers why they wanted to be an ESL teacher and many locals ask the teachers why they decided to do so as well. The answers vary, some very practical, some spiritual, some wanderlust– a common thread tends to tie them together.

kc2A lot can be said about being a teacher and a lot more can be said about teaching those who do not speak the same language as you. There are many articles about what it means to be an ESL teacher— you have to take a lot into consideration before doing something like this. But there are very good reasons to give it a try!

Again, everybody has different reasons but I will elaborate on some of my own. Firstly, why be a teacher?

There were three big reasons why I chose to leave my corporate IT job in pursuit of teaching, they are as follows:

You Are Able to Move Freely

This may seem very trivial and many desk jockeys have taken steps to be able to move more freely, but it was a big deal to me. There are many sources that tell us our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is not good for us.

It’s not hard to understand why– I could feel my body stiffening and suffering after long bouts of staying put. Even interspersing the day with small bursts of movement wasn’t enough for me. At the end of the day, I would end up worse off when I tried to exercise by pulling my extremities after eight hours of non-movement.

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As a teacher, I not only can, but have, to keep moving in order to help the children in my classroom. I love this aspect of the job and my body thanks me for it!

Free Interaction

When I was considering a switch to teaching, I noticed two different types of people: those who thrive on interaction and those who shy away from interaction– they would rather work alone and have their work shine for itself.

I was one of those people who thrived on interaction and being in a pool of those who did not completely suffocated me. As a teacher, your job depends on your interaction with students.

Sometimes, it can be overwhelming how much interaction is needed with students! I love this aspect of teaching– it always keeps me on my toes; talking and interpreting what a student needs to make them thrive.

Having an Impact on Others

Surely your work will always have an impact on something or someone indirectly, but teachers have an impact on others instantly. As a teacher, you can immediately tell whether or not a lesson is getting through to a student.

You have a chance to teach the next generation of humans valuable lessons that reach far beyond the typical English lesson. I absolutely adore this part of the job! I always liked to help others and ensure they could find a way to be the best version of themselves that they wanted to be.

I try to allow enough creative freedom in the classroom for my students to explore what this means for them as it applies to my lesson and it’s absolutely amazing to see what they come up with. They end up having a greater impact on me at the end of the day!

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As for being an ESL teacher, another world of possibilities and challenges opens up. There were also three reasons on why I chose to teach abroad, and here they are:


I began to notice that I flourished when my work presented me with change– it was a challenge for me that I wanted to creatively explore. Without change and learning from the challenge, I grew bored and stagnant.

While it’s true there can be a lot of change and challenges with any career you pursue, there is a unique challenge that comes with living abroad. There are always new things popping up and trying to overcome these challenges is always a fresh adventure. I’m constantly learning new things and I could not appreciate this more!


Of course, culture is going to be a huge allure for most! Being able to truly immerse yourself in a culture so strikingly different from your own is incredible.

It is even better when the culture can be presented to you from the students you teach– you get to experience brand new holidays as if you were a kid again!

Explore totally new roads, shops, restaurants, ideas, people, language– well, the list goes on and on. For some, stability in having a schedule, having the same routines and knowing exactly what’s coming next is top priority. Others, like me, need to have some surprises!

No Matter What, You’ve Came a Long, Long Way

There will be good days, there will be bad days, there will be days where nothing exciting happens at all. They vary with surprising increments, however, as every day is something different.

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At the end of the day, however, you will always have that knowledge that you are going to bed, waking up, eating, and living in a totally different world from where you came from. It’s incredible– it’s a challenge, accomplishment, and reward all at the same time.

There have been days I stare out the window of the bus and see the mandarin written on a sign and it reminds me just how far away I am and how far I’ve come. It’s an incredible feeling, believe me!

I hope this gives you a couple ideas about why you might want to become an ESL teacher rather than viewing it as a means to an end. If you are on the fence about doing something this radical or taking a chance with anything else, always remember this quote by Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

face1 (1)Michaela left her small town in the flat cornfields of Iowa in April of 2015 to explore the world before becoming condemned to a desk in an IT corporation. She has been teaching at Hess International English school in Taipei,Taiwan and shopping, hiking, and eating her way through the foreign streets. She has traveled alone and encountered many interesting experiences and hopes to aid others traveling alone as well.

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