But wait, I sense a counter argument. Were these not pink collar jobs? After all, it has been established that jobs traditionally performed by women are less rewarding, both financially and in terms of prestige. Was this burgeoning industry anything more than a pink ghetto?
Well, to a certain extent, the criticism is valid. In the early days, the teachers were in that position precisely because they had the luxury of being able to work for free. It is also an uncomfortable truth that, even in my day, many of the salaries earned in ESL were second incomes and considerably smaller ones, proud feminists though we were.
There’s also the matter of status. There’s a commonly held assumption that ELT is a field that requires no particular talent or expertise. I’m sure we’ve all been buttonholed by someone at a party who’s always thought of going into ESL and might do so after he or she retires. I know I know! ESL teachers have followed diverse paths towards their profession. I believe that many different kinds of people can become vibrant and empathetic instructors. However, I’m sure brain surgeons are rarely told, “I’d really like to get into your field. I’ll move on to that when I’m too old to do my regular job.”* For me, though, the worst was bumping into my former high school gym teacher and her asking, “But what do you really do?”
So, yes, many people working in the system are paid less than similarly educated people in different fields, but not all. Because the Feminine Mystique housewives had been there at the beginning, it was they who moved up the ranks. Program officers, principals, superintendents, the majority of them have been female, and many of them make the sunshine list now.
And for that matter, where do you think our premier got her start**? You might not want her job right now; you might not think that any amount of money is enough for what her job entails, but there is no denying that it’s a high profile position.
*I’d like to back up my statement with this videolisticle (visticle?) Thank you ifp for the website evaluation lesson!
**Overland is a large, photogenic school, and we’ve had some very politically savvy principals. So we’ve had our share of photo ops. However, of all the bigwigs and mediumwigs that tramped through our halls, Kathleen was the only one who could walk into an esl classroom and instantly get what was going on. I’ve also seen her work a room of new Canadians, shoring up the future vote. That woman is a bred-in-the-bone politician; she’s also an ESL teacher. The two are not mutually exclusive.