Teaching — vocation or job?

I’m still getting the hang of blogs, not a good sign for a writer or a writing teacher!

Firstly, much has happened. Not only did we have a range of overseas visitors but our apartment got flooded, and then we went off to Cuba. This gave me a little time for respite and basically to ask the question “Teaching — vocation or a mortgage paying job?”

Earlier on, I had donated my grammar and writing guide books to certain organisations. These are a conglomerate of all my research and coursework that I had developed for the various schools I had taught in prior to Elite. This is where I believe teaching is a vocation. Educators choose such a profession not only because they have a compulsive need to explain things but they like helping. My greatest concern is for lower income communities particularly ones where young girls have fewer learning opportunities.

However, having developed a wide circle of students in Vancouver, many have emailed for help, sometimes in desperation. I’ve had one student attach more than 6 application essays assuming I would edit all of them for less than a one hour fee. It took at least 2.5 hours to download, edit and explain them! I am getting a lot of this now, even at 11 o’clock at night and many at the last hour before some vital deadline like a college application deadline.

Okay, I tell myself. This kid’s future is in my hands. I have to help! The months of September all the way till January thus become a blur of answering emails and editing application essays — never mind teaching at school. This is when students assume a teacher should put down everything and help. What many don’t realize is they are not the only ones in need.

This brings to mind our new friend “Anna”  whom we met in Cuba. She was such a bright spark and always greeted us with a kiss in the morning. Anna is one of the many hotel waitresses who earn about 12 pesos a month. However, teachers and doctors in Cuba all earn around 25 to 50 pesos so we’re looking at a different living standard affected by Socialist policies. Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother was a Roosevelt fan and my very first love was an ardent socialist in Bob Hawk’s time in Australia. Anna told us she was once a teacher. She explained that it was a thankless job with bad pay and hard work. I totally understand. The tips that hotel staff get in Cuba probably elevate their status way above a doctor’s. Compared to Sweden which has a more capitalistic approach with only a touch of socialist medicine etc, the people I met in Sweden seemed a tad happier. They didn’t have to deal with food and shampoo rations but then again we’re comparing third world  Caribbean standards with developed European ones. What Fidel and Rual have done for Cuba is close the poverty gap and spread the love. And now Rual is advocating that hard work be rewarded and that a flat salary rate for every worker just doesn’t cut the mustard. I think he’s on to something, but go visit Havana before it becomes just another Club Med. spot.

But I go back to two age old questions. How much socialist intervention makes for a happy population?

Is being a selfless teacher a one way ticket to the therapist couch?

I don’t have all the answers, but this is what I need to do — keep on helping the students in Kandahar and Burma. Keep on charging the right rates for the middle class kids here in Vancouver and believe — believe that I am a teacher because some kid out there will find his/her niche in the world and make it a better place for the rest of us.

One response to “Teaching — vocation or job?

  1. Hi
    I really enjoyed reading your account from Cuba. i have travelled there myself but haven’t thought about the lifestyle issues that you bring up here. Really enjoy you blog, keep up the good work


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