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November 23, 2005

Workplace Issues - ESL Jailbirds and Stool-Pigeons

"I don't like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there" ~Charles Bukowski

Dear Readers,

ESL Inmates? Sounds like the title for a new blog on the horizons.

Your ever-present ESL advocate here, Lee Hobbs. As usual, I am on the case scouring the net for relevant ESL articles that might spark your interest. Patricia Dean's highly informative blog, ESL School, takes the perspective of the ESL employer, advising them with employer-related woes. I try, where possible, to offer you at least a counter perspective, that is the perspective of the ESL teacher/employee so that the discourse can continue on various levels of engagement. Check it out; it might give you some insight too on how the management world is presently thinking about us, their most important asset! Don't forget to leave her some comments.

In PD's most recent post, found here, she writes, and I quote:

ESL Jailbird.jpg

In recent months we have seen a spate of reports about English teachers running into trouble with the authorities in the countries where they work. The alleged offences range from infringement of visa and work permit regulations to far more serious charges of drug use. The penalties the teachers face may be deportation at one end of the spectrum to lengthy prison sentences, or worse, at the other end.

She advises, rightly I might add, that the ESL institution itself should stand beside/behind its teachers when they find themselves in trouble with the law on their watch. While I'm not really interested in getting in a debate over this issue in this post, I am interested to know if any of you out there have had experiences, or should I say run-ins, with the long arm of the law in other countries where you have had ESL employment? I'd really love to hear your testimonies and, of course, what happened as a result, i.e. what was the outcome?

One story that has stuck with me for many years, involves a colleague in St. Petersburg who once had a rather, shall we say, sordid affair with a college-aged person of the opposite sex. Again, the relationship got excessively "serious" for the teacher in question and was dissolved, much to the scorn of the spurned lover. Here, something unusually vicious happened. The ex-lover decided to go the police through a family network acquaintance, and file a report that the ESL teacher had "confessed" a history of psychiatric treatment. The person's "concern" was that this "unstable" ESL teacher/foreigner was now roaming freely in Russia and given official sanction over helpless Russian children (ESL students) in a classroom environment where he had a great opportunity to warp their young minds and Heaven-only-knows what else. The lover's testimony, of course, was completely and ridiculously bogus, but the allegation was taken very seriously by the authorities. You can imagine the troubles our young friend encountered as a result of this (in)famous story of unrequited love. Again, lawyers were procured to fend off the police hounds but a professional reputation was shattered in the meantime.

Well, enough of my war-stories. Let's hear from you please. Anything you'd like to add to this discussion? Please leave a comment and let's find out if there might be other dangerous areas for which ESL instructors should carefully tread when living and working abroad.

Now if Monopoly only issued legitimate "get-out-of-[international]-jail" cards!

See you in the free world,

Lee Hobbs
Editor-in-Chief, ESLemployment.com
Blog: http://www.english-blog.com

Looking for more articles that focus on workplace issues specific to ESL? Click HERE!

Posted by lhobbs at November 23, 2005 05:41 AM

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Tracked on December 18, 2005 06:34 PM


Hello Lee,

I have had several "Innocent" run-ins with Johnny Law, mugged and gone through the Court systems to see the mugger get three years and been the victum of an attempted Murder. All are on my Blog, "ChanceDugan", [the first of] which can be seen here at:

Gary Harwell

Posted by: gharwell1 at November 23, 2005 02:01 PM


Note from Lee:


Excellent story there on your blog. Brings to mind an account regarding a friend of mind, an ex-Peace Corps ESL teaching-volunteer, who got mugged/robbed routinely in early years of post-Communist Ukraine for being, literally, a "cowboy."

After long nights with Ukrainian vodkas, local thugs would sometimes ambush him in underpass tunnels, etc. for a feisty scrap with an American native, presumably to see if his blood bled in the color red as well. He told me later that the muggers in question were sometimes the very guys he'd been buying drinks for the same night!

This guy would frequently wake up from unconsciousness (on various occasions, I might add) with his boots, his cowboy hat, bolo, even his dungarees stolen (though, not always at the same time)!

In true ex-pat irony, to this day, he still tells me that the Ukrainians were the friendliest persons he ever had the pleasure to know!

Posted by: Lee at November 23, 2005 05:47 PM

Someone teaching EFL still uses the word dungarees?


I worked with this guy in Korea who got himself into near-trouble. He dumped his girlfriend and may or may not have gotten involved with a professor at the local University, an affiliate school of which he was working at. The girlfriend heard him boast of the relationship, possibly hearing extreme exaggerations of sexual exploits, and stormed his home. She found messages from a concerned female on his cell-phone, inquiring about his health (he had a bad cold then). She broke stuff, started a fire in the bathroom, trashed it a little, and then went out for liquor. Came back, drank,a nd trashed some more stuff. He came downstairs to the home of a friend with whom I was staying, and asked for help. When we got to the flat, she was gone, so we locked it up and advised him to visit friends in another city for the weekend, which he did.

But when he got home, he apparently found the ex-girlfriend and the professor there, talking about him.The professor was angry for the rumor getting around (which doesn't mean it's not true, just that in Korea, adultery is a criminal offense and a jailable one), and the girlfriend proposed a little deal: he would pay her some massive amount of money (I think it was the rough equivalent of $10,000 CDN) and leave the country immediately, or she'd report him as having raped her, to her cop uncle. By the way, she'd gotten into his apartment by convincing the security guard she lived there but had lost her key; he'd called in a locksmith for her, and the guy hadn't checked whether it was even her own home.

She called the school where he worked and claimed to be a concerned parent, alarmed that he'd been teaching the children about ecstasy and other drugs, and it took a canny co-worker to nip the follow-up procedure in the bud. But in the end, it fizzled out. He was terrified for a while but then it fizzled out to nothing. It was deeply weird, though, and it was even sometimes hard to tell what was reality and what was fantasy that this guy had trouble distinguishing from reality.

Luckily, I've never had anything even half as weird as that happen to me.

Posted by: gordsellar at November 25, 2005 03:03 PM


Note from Lee:

Hi Gord,

Well, I grew up in the American deep south in the 1970s so, yes, some of us do still use words like dungarees trousers, denim breeches, overalls, and other expressions considered "quaint" by the present generation. What can I say? Keep language alive ya'll!

In any regard, what a compelling story that was! I know a few similar breakup disasters involving ESL teachers overseas but this one you described certainly sounds like a doozy!

May it never happen to us!

Thanks for the comment, I hope to see you again on the ESL-Lesson-Plan blog.

Posted by: Lee at November 25, 2005 06:40 PM


That's one scary story.

Posted by: EFL Geek at November 25, 2005 11:24 PM


Note from Lee:

I second that EFL Geek.

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2005 04:47 AM


Can you please tell me if China requires its ESL Experts/Teachers to leave the country once a year in order to maintain or renew their resident visa status?

Also, does the U.S. require its citizens to re-enter the U.S. each year in order to maintain Citizenship/Resident status?


Note from Lee:

Sheila, for the answers to this kind of specific question, please go over to www.esl-job-forum.com and look for the section dedicated to China. The forum participants there will be able to help you on the "specifics" of two questions like that much better than I can. Good luck!

Posted by: Sheila at December 31, 2005 05:31 AM

Note from Lee:

Readers, this post has been relocated to the English-Blog space. To make a comment on this article, please click on the following link HERE!:


Posted by: Lee at January 25, 2006 12:28 AM