Teachers in Turkey, Part 1 - “Teaching as a Career” by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan

Welcome to the first post of what I hope will be an extensive guest series: “Teachers in Turkey”. Our first guest is Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, a name I’m sure will be familiar from Twitter and ELT conferences across Europe. I had the pleasure to meet Eva in person at ISTEK last April and I’m honoured such a great educator agreed to be a part of this series.

Eva’s post touches on something that I’m sure many of you will have experienced at some point in your teaching career: the perception that teaching is a ‘part-time’ job, the best feature of which is long summer holidays. Please read on and share your comments - both Eva and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Teaching - the ideal career for a woman? A bit of an old-fashioned ,idea I think!

Image by kevindooley

Writing is not very easy in summer anymore as Istanbul is getting hotter and hotter each year and more humid. I brainstormed some ideas but wasn’t very sure what to write. It was difficult to concentrate on anything.

Until today....

I was at pool with kids and chatting with the ladies there and of course I told them ‘I’m a teacher’

Guess how the conversation continued....

An elderly lady told that teaching is the best job for a woman.

Any ideas why she said that?

She added ‘You have three months holiday and arrive home early and do the other stuff’

Do I?

Why does she think like that? She is not alone. That’s the common thought about teaching. It is kind of a part time job. It looks and sounds like that.

We know it is not.

But you know there are others who make them think teaching is a part time job.

I didn’t argue with them. Didn’t say anything but just mumbled ‘yeah I love teaching’

Maybe I should have argued...

Yes, I love teaching but not just because of long summer holidays, sudden snow breaks or because it enables me to be home with my kids when they return from school.

Teaching is the best job for me because it keeps me young, cheerful and energetic. It helps me share what I have. It helps me guide some young people. It makes me see how they achieve their goals and it enables me to learn something new every day. It ... I have loads of reasons why I love teaching, why it is a great job.

When do you think people will stop thinking about teaching as a kind of part time job for a woman which will enable her to bring her kids up and be a good wife?

Teaching is a career. A very serious profession but it hurts when a parent says ‘my daughter doesn’t like studying Mrs Buyuksimkesyan, I only want her to graduate from high school and who knows maybe she can become a teacher. That’s the best job for a girl, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t.

Please, please.... if you won’t work hard, try to make a difference or touch somebody’s life, don’t become a teacher. It requires enthusiasm, hard work and dedication.

Only if people see teachers who are working hard and trying to keep themselves updated, will others stop thinking like that.

Only if students realise how tough the teacher’s job is, will parents see the hard work.

But if we, the teachers, boast about the long summer holidays and I-don’t-care-what’s-going-around-the-world-I’m-just-waiting-for-my-retirement or I-am-looking-for –a –job-as-a-teacher-coz-I-decided-to-have-a-kid attitude changes then teaching will be perceived as a real job with career opportunities, travel chances, development options just like other jobs which are more considered as a profession.

Or maybe when the working conditions, payment, etc. becomes better ...

EvaI'm Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, an EFL teacher and a blogger, working at the same school I had graduated from.(It was my dream and it came true) I'm trying to integrate technology in my teaching. I have started several collaborative projects with teachers from other countries.If you like you can also join the fun at http://celebr8uandmedigitally.wikispaces.com/ next year. I blog at evasimkesyan.edublogs.org and I'm evab2001 on twitter.


  1. Thank you Eva for this great post!

    I also face many of the same comments as you (except for teaching being the best career for a woman of course!) From people I meet for the first time to my own mother, I've heard the 'part-time' job comment more times than I care to remember.

    Of course, it doesn't help that teachers often seem to 'celebrate' the long holidays, complain when there isn't a snow day or get excited when rumours circulate that school might close for the summer early.

    I think the attitudes of those teachers need to change before the perceptions of others will. Still, with passionate educators like you writing posts like this, we can make this change happen!

    In fact, that's one of the main reasons I wanted to get this guest post series going in the first place!

  2. Hi from Greece,
    such a shame for teachers to be considered as the lucky ones to have a job which allows them to have 3 months holidays in summer, 2 weeks during Christmas and Easter,working only a few hours (actually I've been told that I teach children songs and abc!) and going back home having the rest of the day to enjoy family, hobbies etc. Here in my country, it all starts from the public sector.Yes, that's a teacher's profile in public schools , very convenient for most graduates who just want to get an "easy" job (and well-paid, at least before the economic crisis). I don't blame them!If I wanted to be just a teacher, probably I'd follow their example. But..I chose to be a passionate teacher, and in the private sector. And I can tell that my working day starts and 13:00 with lessons preparations, have lessons from 14:30 till 22:30 at night, two breaks, go back home at eleven, just to see my son sleeping....and then, marking and of course pln! professional development for others. During my summer holidays, I always try to do a distant learning programme or something like that and life goes on..... or career?? No! I'm not pursuing a career, I'm a teacher who first of all respect myself, in order to be respected first by my students and then by their parents. Am I giving the wrong example? Am I spoiling the "light" profile of a teacher? Well, that's the way I see the teaching profession. I might sound too strict and furious (yes, I know)but as Eva mentions, it takes passion and hard-working to make the difference, and those who aren't willing to offer or just can't do so, I'm afraid they're on the wrong path.
    I think you'll have lots of comments from teachers in Greece, as the situation here is much worse than the incidents Eva describes.
    Thank you Eva so much for raising such a subject, and Dave I can assure you that male teachers are no exception to the rule :)

  3. Love this post. I teach internationally by choice and I work my tail off to do a good job and make a difference but all people see is the holidays and the locations. I agree that teachers need to start advertising about the kind of work we do... we make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions a day that can change lives... we go to school continually to upgrade and make sure we are on the cutting edge of what is best for our students (I've got 7 years of education, 2 degrees and several certifications under my belt just so that I can feel like I am bringing my best to the classroom)... and we leave our hearts and souls in that classroom on a regular basis because we aren't just teachers, we are parents during those teaching hours, we are nurses, we are administrators, secretaries and cleaners... and I don't know many teachers who just work 8 hours a day during the teaching season... I know I'm there for at least 9 hours and sometimes I have to take work home or stay late/come early just to get stuff done in time or to make it a place that kids want to come and to learn in...
    Sorry for the rambling comment, but as you can tell, this is a touchy topic for those of us that choose this profession, who love it and who excel in it. Thanks for this!

  4. Thank you, Dave and Eva, for touching this sensitive issue.
    I teach in Greece, like Nora, and of course I share the indignation felt in this post and the comments.
    My Greek mother kept saying to me: "When are you going to get a REAL job?" After almost 30 years in the field, it still infuriates me to hear such comments and it never fails to highlight how unwilling society is to acknowledge the very real contribution teachers make to building a better future.
    Needless to say, there are those in our profession who foster such attitudes by exhibiting indifference to their work and a tourist-like mentality (I'm just here for the ride!).
    Nevertheless, I feel that such a low opinion of the teaching profession does speak volumes about the attitude of society towards the value of education. And that means that those of us who pour our souls into our work have to work even harder to change that attitude: a challenge I embrace wholeheartedly!

  5. Dear Dave,
    thanks for inviting me to write a post on your blog. It was a great challenge.
    Dear friends,
    I hope people will soon realise that teaching is a really demanding and a truely amazing job. There are wonderful, passionate, self-motivated teachers all around the world and I'm glad to meet them virtully.
    Teaching has always been a right job, a safe one for a woman through years. even they started pursuing careers, they were allowed to work as teachers, say till they got married. However even in those years there were teacher who made a difference and touched the kids hearts. My mother-in-low mentioned about her science teacher. In 1940s she guided them into a world and helped them make these kids to become learners. Even in those years, as a young lady she took them to field trips. Following her teachers footprints, my mother-in-low became a dedicatedv kindergarten teacher and worked for 45 years. She also made difference in the school where she worked, writing kids' plays, making costumes for school performances, trying not to leave behind even a single child.
    I'm sure the students of the enthusiastic teachers will understand the hard work.

  6. Fantastic post, Eva! I completely agree with you and all the comments, so I won't repeat the same!
    This attitude is unfortunate, but sometimes I feel that people react in this way whenever we complain about our situation (just the same way that everyone moans about their job) - it's a kind of gut reaction - What? You have three months off in summer and only do 6 hours a day and you're still complaining???

    Looking forward to the rest of the series, Dave.
    Thanks :)

  7. Hi,
    I have been fighting against these people who think that teaching is the best job for a lady because of the reasons Eva mentioned above since I first started teaching. Also, in Turkey there used to be this strange idea that if a person cannot find a job, they can at least be an English teacher and I actually shared a class with some of them while I was taking my teaching certificate at Haliç University.I think as a result of the changes in the system which made being a teacher at state schools difficult I don't meet people with that idea often anymore.
    Teaching is something really important and we must help people see that trying to make a change in one's life is not a simple thing anyone can do-as it needs to be passionate.You need to believe in yourself first of all so that you can help your students.Teaching doesn't only mean marking papers or giving exams but actually teachers are the role models for their students so they are really important to shape the society we all live in.
    So much to say about it but may be some other time somewhere else but thanks a lot Eva for mentioning this!
    Emine BC from İstanbul

  8. I can't say I've really ever encountered this type of attitude, at least not with the same intent--maybe it's less of an attitude in my area. I'm not sure. How I can relate is the dissipating concept of female teachers being more appropriate for younger grades than males. I myself had felt that way, but I've increasingly known wonderfully dedicated male youth teachers, so appreciate that no stereotype is worth placing any emphasis on.

  9. Hi Emine,

    As you know, in Turkey native speaker teachers have contributed a lot to the idea that 'anyone can teach' (or at least the people who employ them so readily have). Far too many times I have seen people with inadequate training or preparation thrust into the classroom just because their first language is English. At least that is changing now with more and more schools focusing on the quality of teachers over the quantity.

    Tyson - This was an attitude that I didn't encounter when teaching adults, probably because there were no long holidays or weekends off in that job! Once I started teaching kids, I also started to get the 'part-time job' and 'it's ok for you because you have such long holidays' comments. :)

  10. Hi - Yes, I hear (and sometimes have thought) those things myself about elementary education, but not the female thing about any educator position, at least not during my generation.

  11. Great post, Eva! I agree with you. I've had several people comment that I'm teaching only so I can travel. I wish they realized that we hold the future in our hands, and we can influence the future of the country in which we are teaching. I wish people would realize and value education for what it is and take it seriously. In my opinion teaching can be the best or worst thing for a country depending on how the people perceive it.


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