The difference between being a dive instructor and an English teacher

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I was a dive instructor for 8 years but became restless. As part of a couple I found myself being shoe-horned towards office jobs instead of teaching and guiding and I refused to be pigeon-holed because of my gender. I took a few years out to get back into normal life and then decided to get back into teaching of another kind: teaching English as a Foreign Language. I love traveling and exploring countries by living in them so this was a perfect way for me to keep my lifestyle going. The quality of my life is more important than  chasing dollar signs so teaching/ traveling/living outdoors suits me to a t.

I believed that teaching English and teaching scuba diving would be much the same. Same same but different.

Pros of being a dive instructor:

– You get wet every day and see awesome wildlife.

– You get to teach a variety of ages.

– Your students generally WANT to be there, they’re on holiday and they are happy.

– Small class sizes with additional helpers with a class of 8+.

– You can choose whether to certify someone or not based on their ability.

– Fast results.

– You get tips.

– You can drink with your students after class. Students can become friends… or conquests.

– You are usually in good shape because you do moderate exercise every day to off-set the booze you drink with your customers.

– You can swear underwater and no one will understand you.

– The majority of people you encounter during your working day will share English as a common language.

Cons of being a dive instructor:

– Less holiday time, long hours and early morning starts. You work when everyone else is on holiday (Christmas, Easter, New Year, school holidays).

– Commercial pressure on you to perform/ bend standards/ pass students.

– You have to spend a lot of your free time with customers to give them an unforgettable experience. This leaves less time to nurture personal relationships.

– There is a large amount of egotistical, crazy managers and dive shop owners in this world and no human resources department to support you in case of maltreatment.

Pros of being an English Teacher:

– You have lots of fun and laugh a lot.

– You get a good amount of holiday and enough money to travel.

– You are making a difference, especially if you teach in a government school. Even if the kids still suck at English, you are teaching them about the wider world and acceptance of “other”. When you’re a dive instructor you mostly teach people who are well-off who can afford to see the world and travel.

– You get letters and gifts from your students and they love greeting you outside of school.

Cons of being an English Teacher:

– Large class size, hard to give individual attention, kids get left behind.

– Everyone passes regardless of ability.

– You will encounter discipline problems and language barriers to a degree not encountered as a dive instructor.

– More creative lesson planning required as opposed to pre-planned formulaic PADI teaching.

– You can’t swear.

– You may be the only foreigner at your school so you may feel isolated because of the lack of English around you.

For me, Teaching English is more challenging but far more rewarding. I miss being a dive instructor and in an ideal world I’d alternate between the two jobs.  However, I managed to educate 600 teenagers about the ocean and conservation last year. I would never have been able to teach that many students how to dive. I may have moved battle grounds but the fight remains the same: education in order to preserve oceanic species.

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3 thoughts on “The difference between being a dive instructor and an English teacher

  1. Dive instructing seems interesting, but can’t comment on that.

    However, for English teaching. Does Korea have those after-school training centers with small class sizes? Are they lucrative jobs to have? Might be more rewarding that way for you… 🙂

    1. Hagwons are Russian Roulette- you either get a fair deal or get completely screwed over. Academies offer smaller classes but are again only catering for the elite who can afford to attend (needless to say they’re all profit driven). Hagwon teachers work longer hours with less holidays than public school teachers and there are many stories about foreigners not being paid or being cheated out of end of contract bonuses/ flight reimbursements/ medical insurance & pension contributions. If you’re thinking of working at a hagwon, do your research and try to speak to your predecessor.
      I’d like to think that I’m giving my public school students the best they can get without the luxury of hagwon but I’m very aware of the limitations of large class quality/ attention/ success.
      I’ll probably stay with EPIK until it gets phased out completely.

      1. Really? In China, the private training centers are basically part-time jobs. Weekends are harsh, but weekdays are only evenings so it’s quite low hours. Only drawback is how it hurts one’s social life.

        There are scams out there, sure, better be prepared for that. Sad that even in a rule-of-law country like South Korea it happens. In wild east China, one must really do the research…

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