So*, by this point, I had a idea of what an ESL teacher was, and it was a pretty maternal model. Most ESL teachers were women, and many of them had young families. It’s possible to draw parallels between the life choices of an esl teacher and those of a stay-at-home-parent. In both cases, one has traded away a certain amount of material and status advantage, in exchange for greater emotional fulfilment and sense of purpose.
It could also be argued that the ethos in the school was primarily a feminine one, not just because we had kitchen schedules and bakesales, but on a more fundamental level. The schools functioned collaboratively and most decisions were achieved through consensus (Oh, those staff meetings that went on for EVER!). Competition was discouraged — a kind of jante * principle pervaded. The mood in the classroom was nurturing, unconditional acceptance.
ESL teachers also tended to prefer stability, in both employment status and geographical location. There was good reason for this– most of us had family routines that precluded changes in site or schedule. For the most part, this stability benefited the school. Staying in one place gave teachers confidence. It also established them as a presence: after a few years, through word of mouth and institutional memory, a good class could evolve into a legend.
But of course, there were downsides. Jante discourages undue pride, but it can also stifle innovation. A stable teaching arrangement builds confidence in instructors and students, but it can make it too easy to block out what is going on outside the fence. There was a certain degree of complacency and sometimes a resistance to new ideas.
Still, this was a nurturing and supportive world, and it was the world I knew. It took a while for me to realize that there were other kinds of teachers, and other kinds of classes out there…
*and yes, I have read that excellent thread on the reasons why one should not preface a statement with the word “so.” And yes, I will continue to do so. I do have my reasons, which I will explain later (probably in a 10-part series.)