My students sometimes ask if i think about returning permanently to England, or trying to teach in Italy, or any easier country. It is extremely hard to survive as an (EFL) English teacher in Germany. The only way to reliably get enough work is to only work for a McLingua (Berlitz, inlingua, Wall Street); if they know you work anywhere else they stop giving you work and, as happened to one teacher in Kassel, they will actually threaten to fire you – illegal but it happens all the same. The pay is so low that the only way to survive is to work as much as possible; however, teaching 12 hours a day will swiftly lead to a burnout. Independent schools offer higher paying work but it’s hard to get more than a few hours a week and almost impossible to coordinate more than one school. Inevitably, most teachers are Californian drifter types or have a rich partner. i don’t know a single female teacher who isn’t supported by a rich German partner; and this is even the case with some of the male teachers.

It’s made harder for me, because in addition to standing alone i have huge debts, incurred over my 6 months of almost-unemployment in Kiel (thanks to inlingua), and my 5 years of minimum wage tempery in England. Munich students are also considerably pickier and bitchier than in Kassel. i don’t think i received a single complaint in Kassel; in Munich, i’ve now gathered about a dozen. They complain about everything: the other students, the materials, the pacing, the classroom, my socks, the amount of speaking time, too much/not enough grammar, not enough vocabulary, vocabulary not hyper-specific to their “needs”; not enough/too much “Business English” etc. etc. etc. One bitch, who talked 50% of the time in a 4-person group, complained that i wasn’t letting her speak enough.

A low-level group recently complained that i wasn’t doing Business English. This is a McLingua group which means i’m only paid to teach the McLingua materials. That’s one justification for paying next to nothing – that anyone can teach it, supposedly. One student, a retired teacher, just wants to learn some English for going on holidays. The other two have to use it at work and complained that they weren’t learning the “Business English” they need for their jobs. My boss then told me to make it into Business English where possible, as if i should just rewrite the materials, for free.

i explained that there’s no point trying to teach Business English until their general English is better; and that furthermore they work in different sectors (one is a PA in an Insurance company, the other an IT technician) so that even if i wanted to totally rewrite the McLingua materials, for free, i couldn’t find something that would satisfy them both. And that, FURTHERMORE, to write relevant Business English materials, i would have to know their jobs in detail, that i would need, in effect, to be a PA in Insurance and an IT technician, in Germany, before i know how to teach what they want.

i had a similar complaint from a group of Accountants, to whom i attempted to teach “English for Accountancy” last year. They complained that i didn’t know anything about Accountancy. i looked into their autistic, bespectacled geek faces and wondered if i should explain that, to be able to do more than teach from a (highly tedious) textbook, i would need to be an Accountant; an Accountant with fluent German; an Accountant who had decided to leave Accountancy and become a freelance English teacher on 1% of an Accountant’s salary, with no job security, no health insurance, no pension, no holidays, no sick pay.

Instead i just looked at them and they looked back with their stony, bespectacled German geek faces, and i considered the angry self-righteousness & indignation in their tiny pig eyes. At times, i understand the “they’re all Nazis – all of them” talk i heard in the Kassel teacher room, from one of the Jewish teachers. My worse students have an attitude of complacent self-worth, mingled with unrealistically high expectations, total lack of understanding about how one learns a language, and a propensity for complaining. It’s no doubt beneficial to have to appease and placate these trash, to constantly suppress my personality; but i have diminishing patience and increasingly homicidal lusts.

i long to escape this life and consort instead with good Germans, the right kind of Germans, artistic Germans, Germans like this: