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Home » The Good-Bad-and-Ugly Choices of An English Teacher

The Good-Bad-and-Ugly Choices of An English Teacher

By Todd Squitieri

I’m of the firm belief that you can teach English anywhere and live a life that can be peaceful and pleasant while you’re getting everything you want, but beliefs are not the same as facts unless you yell fake news when real facts are presented.

I also have the firmest belief that you can live in a way that doesn’t take a toll on your energy and on your sense of wellbeing. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to do well. That’s not to say you don’t work either, but I’m saying you don’t have to contend with negativity in the office or in your world just to get ahead in your life and to get the things you want.

This article is for people who actually made the choice to become English teachers, and are now preparing for it or are in it right now as they read this and need to make choices about where to take their careers.

I just want to speak generally about choices because I find that even making choices tends to be an ordeal for people, let alone choices about what type of career to start in or organization to work for. No, I won’t be making recommendations about attire or about how to give a good speech. All of this is covered in other literature, which sadly I didn’t write or get a dime from. (see for example, The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill or Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin).

In future articles, I will talk about the differences of school structures and the types of systems you can choose to support to make good or bad choices.  In this article, I will just briefly outline things that you can kind of keep in mind as you’re working or preparing to work in the EFL industry, keeping in mind that you are the ultimate arbiter of your situation and the best person to change or evolve it in a way that makes it more manageable, even more enjoyable for you. The job of living your life falls on you.  As you’ll learn from the foregoing, there are good choices, bad choices, and ugly ones. I strongly encourage you to build a life with nothing but good choices. I find many English teachers make choices that make them seem like masochists, but they don’t realize it. Unless you’re into that thing, then Mr. Grey will see you now. “What?! I’m having a great time!” They forcefully try to convince themselves on their FB walls (no one’s listening to them, mind you), meanwhile in their selfies they have frizzy grey hairs from age, three chins, and the look of the devil in their eyes. You know the same look your crazy uncle has at Thanksgiving.

They are lucky they aren’t in their home countries because they would no doubt be committed to an asylum. I often wonder if English schools in Asia don’t really shelter the Western World’s most insane. But this is another article for another time. Which has to make you wonder if mental health is a bigger issue outside the U.S. I would wager it might be thanks to all the English teachers I’ve met.  

Hollow victories

I find that when I get more things I want, whether material or even like relationships, I find that a lot of the victory is hollow anyway because the payoff turned out to be not as pleasurable as I thought it would be. It’s like when you eat all your dinner to get dessert only to find out dessert is a bowl of mixed berries. What a con.

Even when I had my own apartment in South Korea, largely subsidized by the public school system, when I was cooking my own meals at home and taking trips to Seoul and Busan on the weekends, I still felt pretty like life wasn’t as great as it could have been. This might be because as humans, we can never really arrive. We’re more like bicycles. As Dr. Maxwell Maltz states in his seminal work, The New Psycho-Cybernetics, “Functionally, a person is somewhat like a bicycle. A bicycle maintains its poise and equilibrium only as long as it is going forward toward something. Similarly, we are engineered as goal-seeking mechanisms. We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve. People who say that life is not worthwhile are really saying that they themselves have no worthwhile personal goals” (p. 136, 2001). So in terms of our long term happiness, we have to keep peddling.  

Good problems

But I guess for the most part we want to be able to create good problems for ourselves and not bad ones. A good problem by definition is one where you’re choosing between one luxury and another, or you’re choosing between how to control the flow of your money coming in, which is a great problem to have and that is exactly the type of problem I want. But remember a wise man once said “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” So there’s that too.

Another good problem is competing schools wanting your attention and competing for you on price, getting into a price war.  One more good problem is choosing between a boyfriend or a girlfriend. You’ve got three choices there. They all want you, and now you have to select the one you think is the best for you. Again, great problem. But don’t get greedy otherwise you have No Money, and Mo’ Problems.

Problems that are in abundance like that are based in having too many options are good problems, generally speaking.

Bad problems

Bad problems are when you’re lacking something, when you don’t have money, when you don’t have transportation, when you’re lacking skills, when you’re lacking the things you want in life, such as a relationship or a car. However, both can be easily solved with apps, Uber and Tinder, am I right?

When you’re lacking something and you’re striving to get it that tends to be less of a good problem and more of a bad problem. 

Of course, good problems are better than bad problems, and I’m of the firm belief you can have nothing but good problems while you’re teaching and you can maintain your level of calm and equilibrium to manage the atmosphere around you and the world you build for yourself because in a way we’re all architects. We’re all building our own realities and the worlds we want to live in. Obviously if there are going to be changes that need to be made for a better life, the change had better start at home, with yourself.


So pull the trigger. You will never have a completely solid decision anyway. There will always be good and bad, but if you’re of the right mindset, the kind that turns lemons into lemonade, then there will really be no bad problems at all and everything will be a learning experience for you that moves you forward in your life and helps it develop into something that you enjoy. Just remember the bicycle metaphor though. All will be good, provided you keep peddling. It’s an interest paradox isn’t it?  So ultimately, you can be assured the life you want with the right positive thinking and a certain consistent level of peddling over and over until you croak. It’s called Hustle don’t believe me ask John Cena, wait, you can’t see him.

Don’t stop for too long are you could end up in the bushes. And if you fall in the bushes, remember that those bushes were there to teach you a lesson this whole time. Yeah, you may have thorns in your side, but you’ll never forget them! Poor, wisdom. It’s a real pain in, well wherever the thorns are.

Maybe I’ve taken this metaphor a bit too far but you get the idea. Take things in stride and keep positive and you’ll be okay no matter what situation you find yourself forced to contend with. Unless it’s a bear, then lay still. That problem has to decide to go away on it’s own.  😉