My six jobs before becoming a teacher

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Lindsay Clandfield on his lovely “Six Things” blog has invited us to think back to six jobs we held before becoming a teacher. Good question! None of the English teachers I know have had a straight career. Something drives us to do this crazy job, opening up to anyone and everyone as we support them on their often frustrating path to becoming proficient in a language forced upon them, often enough, and making sure they like it, too.

What were the six jobs you had before your current job that gave you your work/life skills?

So about me: I’ve always needed money, so there have been far more than six jobs. I’ll skip the IT company I worked at to earn money for college, and the other IT company I worked for when I was considering giving up teaching, and the bit jobs, to tell you about the ones most closely related to what I do today:

  1. Perhaps I was most successful at being a babysitter. I got an early start at 11 and basically owned the neighborhood. My grandfather had carved beautiful wooden puppets that my mother had sewn clothes for, and I’d put on puppet shows with the children. Or we’d go down to the Smithsonian to see the bees. We’d romp and go swimming and play games. No TV on my watch, but we acted out every cartoon character in the book. I told them stories that they’d have to help me finish. So I never really stopped being a babysitter.
  2. When I hit 16 and was able to move on to minimum wage jobs (to support my expensive record-buying habit), I went into catering. First an icecream parlor that served sundaes with a political theme, called The Ice Cream Lobby. Then a deli. I branched out and did weddings on my own. During college I waitressed, the most challenging place being a football clubhouse just south of the border in Switzerland. Excellent prep for teaching, keeping a cool head among fans speaking Swizzerdütsch!
  3. As a teen, I volunteered in France for two summers restoring monuments and sites with ICOMOS/ REMPART. I tell anyone who still has their life ahead of them: You haven’t lived if you haven’t volunteered abroad. I learned how to really learn a language. Obvious connection to teaching English there.
  4. At college I was a research assistant (political science). Very heady. I loved it, but in time became skeptical about the value of academic learning. That kept me from getting yet another degree when I parachuted into EFL. I keep toying with the idea, to open the door to a more established teaching position, but…
  5. After my MA, I became a coordinator/curator of exhibitions and educational programs at various museums. At the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden I was involved in exhibitions devoted to Odol (a mouthwash) and Darwin and Darwinism, travelling to the US to research history and artifacts connected to genetics, immigration, racism, the Scopes Trial… Later I ran an exhibition project on the experience of migration at an archaeological museum, with an after-school program for teenagers from migrant families, along with community events, from a panel discussion to a street festival. Or: In Konstanz I worked with artist Rune Mields to develop a tour of her paintings depicting the myths of how the world came into being. Marvellous, life-changing years. Being interested in such a wide range of ideas, and learning to use artifacts to relate them, was probably the most valuable source of inspiration for what I do today.
  6. Being bilingual, I’ve worked as a translator and interpreter ever since I came to Germany in 1981. Once, in Berlin in the mid 80s when I was working for the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, I translated a talk Johan Galtung was giving in English into German and got it all wrong when I paraphrased in English “What he means is…”

Over to you! Now, please, don’t be shy!


8 Responses

  1. Hi everyone

    I also had a lot of jobs before getting into ESL teaching. Here are some of them, but not all of them. I have never been unemployed since the age of sixteen.

    1. Paper boy for the Washington Post in Northern Virginia. I did this for two years from age 11 to 13. It was hard work, I got up a 5.30 and had to be finished by 7.00 am. I also collected the subscription fees evenings and tried to grow my route by calling on those houses who didn´t subscribe.

    2. A few years later my family moved to Southern Illinois where I went to high school. When I was 15 I worked as a pumpkin picker after school at a local orchard/farm and also picked up corn which had been missed by the combine. With a group of about 4 guys we´d husk and put it into a pile, which we later sold to the Grange Co-op for about three dollars a bushel. We averaged on a good day about one bushel each per hour.

    3.The next summer I was old enough to work for the Welsh Baby Carriage Co. in Trenton, Illinois. I was a full time punch press/bender machine operator on a piece work basis. I also later worked for Roesch Enamel Co. in Belleville, Illinois during high school on the swing and night shift. With the money I saved for a car, bought cool clothes and went to tons of rock concerts in nearby St Louis, Missouri.

    4. After high school I moved to Seattle and started working at Pike Place Mkt. for my Uncle Jeff selling handmade chokers and silver jewelry. Later I sold Mexican clothing/textiles and finally fruit and produce. I loved working there because “there´s no place like Pike Place” and I still have lot´s of friends there. All together I worked there on and off for about seventeen years.

    5. After finishing community college SCCC in Seattle I worked as a lifty at Park City Ski Area for one season. It was fantastic to be the first to ski the freshly groomed runs in the morning. Everyday we´d try to find the spots where we could catch a little air, even though it was strictly forbidden, by the management and at the end of the day we´d race each other to be the first to the base lodge.

    6. When I first came to Munich I worked as a night porter in hotel near the `Theriesienwiese´ and Octoberfest. The owner of the hotel would also pay us staff DM 10.00 an hour to go to the main station as a `runner´to find customers when rooms were free and give them a great discount. I met a lot of interesting people and it was a great chance to practice speaking German. And I also have some good insider stories to tell about the Munich hotel scene, but not really apprpropriate for this forum.

    For the last fouteen years I´ve worked part-time for UPS in Heimstettten near Munich tossing boxes. I work five days a week from 5.50 to about 9.00 am and then have time to do what I really love. Teach Business English!

  2. Well, Anne, I certainly could never compete with that.
    But, maybe I developed myself for my present job in the classroom and dealing with all sorts of folks through one of my passions. That was hitch-hiking. I’ve never had a driver’s licence but have always loved travelling. And my hitch-hiking was not even done to save cash directly. It was this feeling of freedom – the world is my oyster – one had standing on the highway waiting for the next adventure that always kept it exciting. You developed many personalities in this metier – each one being a result of whover was at the steering wheel and having to zoom in and give him / her all your attention. It was also a great way to practise your languages: going through France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland , Luxemburg – the Continental countries wit hall theri different lingos! Not to forget Ireland, Wales and England.
    There were some close calls but somehow I always got away without a bruise! I sympathise with the ‘youth’ of today who will never have this opportunity. Hitch-hiking is no longer in and would be a very dangerous thing to do today, I’d say, unfortunately.

  3. Hitchhiking must have been absolutely grand. Have you ever felt the urge to write about it? You’d have one reader right here!

    Young people will always find ways of limiting the risks involved. Maybe not hitchiking today, but instead we can hook up with people all over the world. Just think of couch surfing! If I were 18 again, that’s what I’d be doing.

    Oh, Joan, the competing bit… no one-upmanship. Have a look at what all those teachers have contributed to the “Six Things” post!

    Their amassed skills are amazing. When I read blogs that see teaching as a job for losers, I want to climb through the Internet waves and shake them.

  4. Pray, tell me, dear Anne, what’s couch surfing?? I know a couch potato eg. and that certainly doesn’t offer much on the lines of adventure!!
    Re competition – maybe that was meant as very complimentary to you on your endeavours! But, I’d say most people harvest their own array of experiences – some more colourful than others!
    Isn’t it nice to have some time this week, good old Penctecost and that holiday season!

  5. Hi, Tom,

    I’m so sorry, your comment was hiding away in the backend. What an early bird you are! Can you still teach evening classes if you get up at 5 or thereabouts? The Pike Place Market sounds like a great place to go back to. And you’ll have to tell me some of your hotel stories on Sunday when we go to see Harry Rowohlt. Joan is coming too.

  6. Hi there

    I just came across this and wanted to say thanks for taking up the baton! As I can see from your post and a couple of the comments it is certainly an interesting topic that people like to reflect back upon.
    Btw, I also babysat when I was 11 or 12. Feels now that it was very young to do that, I don’t know if I would let my kids stay on their own with an 11 year old now! The good old days I guess…

    Thanks again for sharing your story!

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