Precarious Employment - The "new normal" for ESL Teachers

precarious employment May 10, 2017

Each week for the last 18 months, I have written a blog post on a teaching and learning issue.  In last week's post, I talked about writing monthly blog posts instead of weekly because I was going to teach an EAP course starting this week. Unfortunately, the course was cancelled due to low enrollment. My workload as a part-time instructor included just this one course for 8 hours a week. 

Precarious employment in Canada is real and is now referred to as "the new normal".  It is unlikely that this will change anytime soon and even our government officials tell people to get used to “job churn” – jumping from “job to job to job.”  

Many teachers I know work at more than one college/school in order to make ends meet. Take a look at the most recent stats for faculty at colleges in Ontario, Canada  - 70% part-time and 30% full-time!  I was one of the 70% and look what happened to my workload!


Precarious employment in the ESL field has been the norm for decades. It is hard to believe but my last full-time teaching job was in 2007 when I lived in Hong Kong. Since that time, I have been piecing together part-time contracts.  I know that this is the reality for many teachers around the globe so it is not just a problem here in Canada.

So what do we do about precarious employment as ESL teachers? Since 2015, I have been looking at ways to earn additional income without physically being in a classroom.  I needed a change after 20 years but I also wanted to have more control over my workload, free up time to work on creative projects and travel.  

When teachers began asking me what I was doing, and how they could also earn income outside of the classroom, teacher to teachepreneur was born! The interest in teacher to teacherpreneur has been growing and since last November, I have presented at 5 TESL conferences; ran a webinar for TESL Ontario on this topic; taught an online course for iTDi on Teacher to Teacherpreneur; started a podcast for teacherpreneurs; written numerous articles on my journey and produced resources to help teachers transition from teacher to teacherpreneur.  

There was so much activity and interest that I set up a website just for teacherpreneurs at  If you think that this is something you might be interested in, there are free resources to get you started and more than 42 inspirational interviews with teacherpreneurs from around the world.

I have also been asked to present at TESL Canada in June - The 21st Century Skills for New ESL Teachers which will focus on whether TESL programs train new graduates to adapt to the changes in the field, and how we can best prepare new teachers to enter and stay in the profession.
Am I disappointed that my class was cancelled?  Yes, but having a "teacherpreneur mindset" means that I have several projects on the go such as making the final changes to my first book called Successful Group Work: 13 Activities to Teach Teamwork Skills which should be available in the next few months through Alphabet Publishing.

I also teach two online TESL Training courses and teach online with italki - the fastest growing online teaching platform https://www.italki. com/teacher/3420587

I can also start working on my second book, finish an 8 module online course for teacher to teacherpreneur and log into my freelance account on to see if there are any interesting projects that I can bid on.  

Looking for ways to earn additional income outside the classroom was in response to precarious employment but I wouldn't trade it now for a full-time position.  I have been able to develop so many new skills, and have connected with teachers all over the world.  Being able to travel at any time of the year has given me the freedom that I did not have while working in a college semester system.  

Being a teacherpreneur can help us gain control over our workload and be ready for constant changes in our field.  Let me know what you think.

Resources current-projects/vulnerable- workers-and-precarious-work/ vulnerable-workers-interim- report-august-2012/quick- facts-about-vulnerable- workers-and-precarious-work/

http://www.theglobeandmail. com/report-on-business/rob- commentary/job-churn-and- precarious-work-dont-have-to- be-the-new-normal/ article32704805/ rise-of-the-precariat-the- global-scourge-of-precarious- jobs-1.3093319
Call for Papers 2017-call-for-papers/

This issue focuses on Advocacy in ESOL on an international, national, state, and local level. We are interested in specific areas of advocacy such as immigrant issues, as well other more typical issues regarding school policy and teaching practices. Submissions could contain or be the voices of students, parents, teachers, or administrators in primary, secondary, adult ed., and higher ed.

Further, we are seeking submissions on individual, professional, program, as well as student advocacy at the local and community levels as well as state and federal levels. If you serve as in an advocacy or leadership position, we welcome short reports on what you are doing, strategies for, and challenges with advocacy in your ESOL context.

A general overview of submission types is:

Action based research – research focused on advocacy, its effectiveness, challenges, and points to consider.
Reports on emerging issues, new challenges, new methods
Articles – articles grounding social change theory with a focus on ELs in primary, secondary, as well as adult and higher educational institutions.
Literature Reviews
Lesson plans or teaching strategies/ tips that move educators and students beyond superficial considerations of diversity, inclusivity, and the complexities, rewards, and cost of multi-cultural environments.

If you have questions, please contact Alex Monceaux at [email protected]  Editor, MWIS, Editor, TexTESOL IV


About Me

My name is Patrice Palmer OCELT, M.Ed., M.A. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I now work as a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses and books, blogging, sharing teaching materials, and providing instructional coaching to new teachers Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year. For more teaching resources, please visit my website at


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.