Thank you for your email. You raise some very interesting points, which I will try to answer as succinctly as possible.
Firstly, teachers in Ukraine earn on average $150 - $200 a month. They also work extremely hard for their pay and get little thanks for their efforts. Teachers in Ukraine are at the bottom of the social ladder. Essentially, they are not seen as part of a respected profession.
Secondly, I work an eighteen hour day, seven days a week. I really do love my work.
Having said all of the above, my circumstances are somewhat different to other teachers working in Ukraine. Here’s a brief personal history. Please read it before deciding if I an idealist or not.
Qualifications: I hold a first class honours degree from the University of Sussex in England. My speciality is psycho-analytical theory. I’ve written and published quite a few papers on the subject.
As well as holding a degree, I also hold fifteen teaching diplomas in the following subjects: Psychology, philosophy, communication studies, business studies, media studies, information communication technology, history, English and mathematics. My favourite subjects are English and psychology. I’m studying for my doctorate in psychology. I will complete my doctorate at a Russian University.
In addition to my professional qualifications, I speak, read and write in German and Russian. When I first came to Ukraine, I spoke no Russian. I’m still not very confident in the Russian language and I make lots of mistakes. On the positive side, making mistakes when I converse in Russian provides me with a veritable source of humour. Well, I find it useful when writing my blog and most people enjoy reading about my mishaps with the Russian language.
Summary: I consider myself to be a consummate professional in the world of academia. This is my life. I therefore dedicate a lot of time and resources to studying and teaching.
Employment history: I served with her Majesty’s Armed Forces during my late teens and early twenties. I saw action in Northern Ireland. In short, I am familiar with the misery caused by terrorism and warfare. I saw plenty of bloodshed during my tour of duty, enough to make me cynical about the world we live in.
After leaving the Army, I worked as a civil servant for the British Government. Until recently, I worked for the British Government as a lecturer in social education. I was extremely well paid for my services.
Travel: I’ve travelled extensively throughout Europe, Eastern Europe, North Africa, North America and the Far East. In total, I’ve visited 22 countries and have worked in a number of them.
Political Interests: I was a councillor and Deputy Mayor of a small town in England for three years (1998 -2001). My political agenda was relatively simple – to ensure access to education for all. As a result of my efforts, I was able to establish a task force that promoted access to learning for rural communities in England. The task force was extremely successful and has since been adopted by many rural communities in England. (I did not get paid for my work as a councillor or as a Deputy Mayor.)
Recent History: About four years ago I suffered a tragic loss that would have crippled most men. I lost my family and everything I owned. The nature of that tragedy is immaterial. However, it is sufficient to say that it was devastating enough to alter the course of my life.
After the loss of my family, I went through a period of deep depression. I really did not know what to do with the rest of my life. Everything I had worked for had gone in the blink of an eye.
It was during this period of deep depression that I visited Ukraine. There I met a little boy suffering from chronic heart disease. The little boy was dying because no one cared about him or his mother. They were living in abject poverty with nothing to eat and no money to buy medicines. Upon my return to England I determined that I would do everything in my power to alleviate the suffering of this little Ukrainian boy.
Whilst I was in England, I supported the little boy and his mother from what I earned as a lecturer. Anyway, the little boy got extremely sick and it was touch and go whether he would survive. The British government would not allow him or his mother to visit England so that he could receive medical treatment, which I was willing to pay for. In the end I decided to come to Ukraine to support the little boy and his mother. I later married the boy’s mother and adopted him as my son.
Now, having lost everything in England, things were very tough for me in Ukraine. I had to work extremely hard to feed my new family and pay for the little boy’s open heart surgery. But I did it, not by complaining or bitching. I put my head down and I did everything that was humanly possible to earn what we needed. As I said at the beginning of this email, a teacher’s salary in Ukraine is not good.
Two and a half years later, I now own a company teaching American and British teachers how to teach TEFL. Once a teacher is qualified through my company, I place them with Ukrainian, Polish or Thai schools. As a rule, these schools are for impoverished students (social education). My company (Interlink Ltd) also delivers specialised courses in business studies for local and international companies operating in Ukraine.
My company’s philosophy is simple: Where there is a will, there is a way! I truly believe in this philosophy.
Something else – I do not work for money. I work for success. I believe in the unique potential of everyone, no matter their colour, creed or religion. I do not think that I am an idealist – I think I’m a humanist.
I cannot change the whole world. All I can do is to work within my sphere of influence so that I can change the environment in which I live. As a teacher, I have an opportunity and the ability to influence future events. I do this by giving others the tools they need to lead better lives. This is real power.
I don’t look for money – money looks for me. Interestingly, I view money as a tool that has only a limited value. Let’s face it we can’t take money with us when we die. Furthermore, a man’s success is not measured in terms of material wealth but in what he does for others.
I’ve read your blog several times and whilst I do sympathise with the predicament of you and your colleagues, I believe that the path to change rests inside of you, not in the politicians of your country. Getting angry about events beyond your control does not help you or your students. If anything, it destroys your ability to make the changes necessary for you to lead a more productive life.
When you go into a classroom, what do you think about? The need to eat and survive the day is, I daresay, high on the agenda. You probably also think about the oppression that you face everyday at the hands of your authorities. Now, let’s turn the situation on its head for a moment.
When I go into a classroom, I have only two thoughts on my mind: deliver my lesson and to give the students the tools they need to make a difference to their lives and, ultimately, mine. That is the role of a teacher.
You have the power within you to make the change in your country by working in the classroom, not on a pulpit built on the pillars of complaint. It is not the politicians of this world who hold power over future generations. It is the teacher who, with clarity of thought and vision, can make the difference to the people they serve.
We all have the power to write the pages in the history book of our lives. No one can live, eat or breathe for you. Only you can do these things. It is a fact of nature. You cannot escape nature. Nature is written as a universal law for all living things. It therefore stands to reason that only you can write in the history book of your life. So ask yourself: What are you doing about writing in the pages of your history book?
Some people believe that I am an idealist. Maybe they are right. But ask yourself this question: Does bitching about our lot in life achieve anything? I believe that it doesn’t. I would even go so far as to say that bitching creates a deepening spiral of discontent that can only lead to self destruction. If you want to change something, then you must find an approach that will help you achieve the change that you desire.
At the age of nearly fifty, I’ve lived long enough to witness war, pestilence, misery and unhappiness. But at no point in my life have I bowed my head and given into the tyranny of an un-equal world. On the contrary, I’ve sought change through education and sharing with others the effort and responsibility of what it means to be human.
It may surprise you to know that I have known hunger and poverty. I’ve also known physical and political persecution. But knowing all these things has not dampened my verve for life.
I do not live my life according to the circumstances I see around me. I live my life according to what I feel inside. Only by living in this way can I make a contribution towards building a better world. I hope my contribution will be a useful one. Only time will tell. But until then, I will not complain about my personal circumstances because life is seemingly unfair, or because a government tells me that I should do things in a certain way.
Michel Foucault once wrote that power is not a top down model but a top down bottom up model. Translated, this means that people can only exercise power over us if we let them do so. One way of abdicating power to others is by bitching and complaining. When we bitch and complain about the circumstances we find ourselves in, we effectively acknowledge the authority of others over our lives.
Naturally, we all have to live within the geo-politics of the environment in which we find ourselves. There is not much we can do immediately about our geo-political circumstances. This needs time. However, the one choice that can never be taken away from us is our choice to live the way we want. By living life according to a core set of personal values we essentially banish the influence of geo-politics from our lives. In essence, geo-politics becomes peripheral to who and what we are. Question: Are you living your life according to a set of core values, or are you living life according to your geo-political environment?
You will please forgive me if I sound glib or patronising. This is not my intention. My real purpose is to offer you support. I have no doubt that you are a very good teacher. But being a good teacher is not enough. Now is the time for you to take your place amongst the best teachers of humanity. You have a responsibility to yourself, and to the students you teach, to become the best you can be. Only by becoming the best you can be can you hope to alter the course of events that are driving your life at the moment.
Since I’ve lived in Ukraine, I’ve been threatened by the Russian Mafia and have had several altercations with the authorities. Trust me when I tell you that I know what it is like to have a gun held to my head. It is extremely frightening. However, if I were to buckle under the pressure of fear, I would abdicate responsibility for my life to those people who wish to control me. I’m not about to do that. In every case where I have stood my ground, the Russian Mafia and authorities have backed off. Living life according to a core set of values has helped to survive under very difficult circumstances. Perhaps, if you did the same, your perspective on life would change, and, as a consequence, you may influence change in your geo-political environment.
Before closing, I would just like to point out to you that I was born into an impoverished mining family back in the 1950’s. When I born, Britain was still recovering from the effects of WW II. I know what is like to go without shoes on my feet in winter and to go to school without food in my belly. Today, I owe my position not to privilege or good luck but to sheer hard work and determination.
Please understand that I am not a saint. I also do not think that I am better than anyone else. In reality, I make lots of mistakes. It is through making a million mistakes that I've actually learnt the lessons of life.
I hope the above information answers the questions that were set out in your email.
To bitch or not to bitch, that's the question:
I was impressed with your last message. A GOOD ONE ACTUALLY.
But, would you answer some of my questions?
First, I teach 64 hours a week to make my ends meet .How many hours do
you work in a week? Do you know how much that is? Most of my friends
and I don't have a second job to depend on so we are under a lot of
pressure either financially, phisycally, and spiritually.
Second: I earn about 200$ a month. Sound funnyïŠ? How about you if I am
not invading your privacy? When poverty comes, civilization, culture
and everything fades away. Do you agree? To me you are an idealist so
to speak. I wish I could have thought like you, but I can't. I am not
that strong to tolerate all these injustice and cruelty these ****
dictators are doing over us.