Far, Far Away: An interview

Recently, the iTDi blog issue “From the Teacher’s Family” came out. I highly recommend you read the posts in the issue. They show very clearly that teaching is not just about the teacher and the classroom, but affects those close to the teacher as well, especially the family.

I was especially inspired by Rose Bard’s honest and moving post in which she shows what her family has both gained and sacrificed from her being a teacher, the price she paid for those gains, and how they feel about it. And it made me wonder how my family feels about me being a teacher on the other side of the world, away from home for 13 years with visits no longer than a couple weeks every couple years. For me it’s sometimes very hard, and I miss them a lot. I feel guilty on important days when I’m not at home. But teaching overseas is a choice I made that my family have had to live with. It is time to ask them how they feel.

The interview occurred over Skype and I recorded and took notes. I used the questions that guided the iTDi posts.

1) What are three good things about having a daughter/sister who is a teacher?

My brother said it’s one of the most important jobs. He said he’s proud of me. He also said he enjoys traveling to visit me. My mom’s answers were a little different. She likes that it makes me happy. She can see that I like what I do. She also said, “I like the fact that you’re teaching kids because I know you care about them.”

2) Were there ever a moment in your life when you wished I wasn’t a teacher?  Please tell me about it.

At Christmas, when you’re far, far away.”

I’m so glad for Skype, you know.”

Are you going to visit this year?”

3) Was there ever a moment when you were very proud of something I did as a teacher? Please tell me about it.

This was a difficult question for them. I don’t share a lot of day to day stuff, I guess. My mom said that she is proud of the textbook proofreading work that I do because, in her words, “You went beyond what they asked you to do just to make sure it was done right.” (She is referring to pointing out social issues that come up in the CBs I proofread.)

4) How do you think me being a teacher has made life more complicated for you?

This question made my mom laugh. She thought immediately of mailing stuff. Postage costs more than what’s being posted. My younger brother had a different perspective: “You being a teacher makes my job seem less important.”

5) Do you think I am well suited to be a teacher?  Why?

My mom and brother were unanimous on this: YES. You like what you do. You have patience with kids. You establish rapport.

6) What other jobs do you think I could have done or should have done?

I can’t picture you doing anything else.”

Maybe a writer?”

7) Why do you think I became a teacher?

Because you wanted to go far, far away and travel.”

Because it’s an important job.”

Originally it was a good way to meet other people and gather experience traveling, but it because more than that. Because you stayed. You wouldn’t have stayed if it had been just that.”

8) Why do you think I am a teacher now?

Because you are good at it.”

Because you have a commitment to teaching EFL so that they are able to be proficient. You know your teaching isn’t half-assed.”

9) How would our lives change is I stopped being a teacher tomorrow?

I think you’d be sad.”

Our family collectively would not make as positive a contribution to society.”

10) Do you have a message you would like to give to teachers throughout the world?

From my brother: “You have the most important job. You probably should be the highest paid and most respected.”

From my mom: “Learn how to handle job-related stress so that you don’t stop teaching. Because we need quality teaching and it seems like the ones who have the higher stress are the ones who are the better teachers. Set boundaries for yourself because your employers are not going to do it for you.”

11) Do you have a message that you would like to give to other families in which a member is a teacher?

From my brother: “Appreciate the importance of that person and their role.”

From my mom: “Communicate, communicate, communicate!”

I learned some new things from this interview: I learned that my younger brother holds teachers in a very high regard, and considers me among them. I had no idea he felt that way. I learned that my family supports my choice to become an EFL teacher and wants me to be happy. I also learned that it has been difficult for them to have me so far away. Some of their answers stung because they were on point (“you wanted to go far, far away”) and touched my own guilt (“are you coming home this year?”). I so grateful for their continued support and love, grateful to be a source of pride for them, and grateful that they took the time to share their thoughts on these questions.

Thank you for reading.

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