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When in the Netherlands, judging from the answers that I’ve been receiving, one can’t really stay optimistic for very long. You can imagine the pile of refusals I’ve got in my mail-box, or on my desk (oh yes, there were still a few institutions about two years ago that sent you a real letter even on refusal).

When you get the hundredth or so refusal, you are justified to ask yourself what to do now. To understand the situation, lets have a look at what kinds of answers you can expect. First of all, you get messages that simply state that you haven’t been selected for further procedure. There’s nothing you can do about and with such answers, but they are the vast majority, though, granted, nobody really forgets to wish you good luck to your further applications.

Then you get a few replies that say that you don’t suit their profile. When I first received such an answer, I started to think that perhaps they want someone who’s written more than just one course-book, published more than one other kind of book, has a PhD in Education while he/she is only below 40, has presented dozens of times at international forums (which they surely haven’t even taken part of, as I mentioned elsewhere), and of course lives in the neighbourhood so that the institution doesn’t have to pay transportation costs. But this is not China, is it? Except that in China they’d provide a car with a chauffeur to pick you up if you otherwise suit the above criteria.

Then, suddenly, came a ‘brief’ – it means a letter in Dutch, and yes, it was quite brief, but yet it stated that as I have never taught in a Dutch school, they can’t accept my application. Oh, yeah, I thought, just like my grandma decades ago, when I wanted to climb a tree for the first time in my short, then ten-year-long life, “little kid, don’t try, you’ve never climbed a tree”. So childish! As I then answered, “But how can I ever climb if I can’t try for lack of trying,” I also wanted to answer that, for once, I’d like to do it and prove that a language class is a language class wherever we teach and what is different, even a Dutch teacher freshly out of university has to first try to find out about. Oh, how green was I! Now I know that they can’t get out of university without at least a year of practice teaching.

Still, this answer reminds me of the bondage of serfs in feudalism. Or of bonding Chinese people to their own region in the communist era of yore, which still exists in some areas. Stay where you are, don’t try anything new.

Then came a few other replies giving answers that are a bit different. One from a little town (or village) between here and the German border, really almost at the end of the world says that, due to the great number of applicants, they’ve found better ones, so I’m not among them. Yes, there are so many good ones here, you bet there are! I’ve just received yet another similar one from near Utrecht that informs me that they’ve considered all aspects of the applications, but due to the great number of applicants, I’m not among those invited for an interview. I’m beginning to think that, although the Netherlands has the third lowest unemployment ratio in Europe, there still are dozens of unemployed teachers in most areas, perhaps most villages, of this country. Or there are reasons completely beyond me.

I’ve also recently been rejected by a school where even my job-coach thought I have a good chance. Well, for a vacancy in Tilburg, the sixth city in the country there were three applicants, including me, yet I wasn’t given the opportunity. On the one hand, this number makes it highly likely that the refusals I’ve been receiving with the reason that there were too many applicants were simply lies. On the other, I’ve been given the reason, not for the first time either, that I haven’t worked at such a type of school, VMBO, in the country. Very true. Not in this country. Only in Hungary. In this case, see my remark about feudalism above.

On the other hand, I may think that the serf-like feudal attitude may also be present in the Netherlands on the whole. If someone has come out of the university with a practice period spent in, say, a gymnasium, he/she won’t be deemed suitable for a job at VMBO’s, and this works quite the same way with other types as well. A language class in one is not perceived similar to a language class in another one, though the age of students is the same. Are students in some schools so terribly different from decent students in others that no teacher who’s never worked in such circumstances may be able to cope, although he/she has a long experience elsewhere? Only a beginner can get used to such circumstances? Do we all get so rigid and unadaptable a few years after initiation? I’ve never thought so back in the other countries. We are aware of the logic of the language, of the learning processes of the age-group, and there we go, thought I. No, not here.

One big problem with this attitude is the feudal and childish thinking behind it, referred to above. The other is that it seems to underline the opinion of so many pig-headed youngsters, wherever, who think that a teacher considerably older than they themselves must already be senile, inflexible, unadaptable, rigid – to me implying that they see themselves as such in 10 or 20 years down the line, but, admirably, this seems to be the ingrained opinion of this school system too.

So now what? Does it make a difference if I fight for an acceptance of my old degree from back Hungary? I have doubts, considering the above. But then again, I’ve never been allowed to add to my CV that I’ve received such an acceptance, or that I’ve done practice teaching here in this Dutch school, or like that. I may still entertain the hope that such an experience may make a difference.

On the other hand, it may not. If I simply listen to the voice of the rejections and some political opinions, I may also conclude that this country, one of the founders of Western Europe as an entity back in the 50’s and a staunch member of the EU and the Euro-zone, quietly goes against the very rules they helped created, and more and more resists the influx, formerly seen as beneficial, of foreign knowledge. I may deem it institutional, as I’ve described it in my previous post, but it may simply happen in the heads of ordinary people, or ordinary school staff, for that matter. Even I, never mind a Dutch employer, may not see a reason why I may be chosen against a local teacher as long as there is one. True enough, I may want to create a kind of small revolution wherever I go, by using material out of the English-speaking source countries, bringing in the ‘lexical approach’, the ‘communicative method’, ‘cultural approaches’, or whatever I find as new and interesting, and this may go against the influence of local publishers. But, c’mon, is that so important for the individual schools? Do they get price exemptions if they apply local books?

What advice may I offer to Eastern-Europeans? Seeing the difficulties, they may find it a lot better to stay at home and fight for appreciation in their own land. This one may be a country which has dug itself into the trenches of its own successes and talents – like the old Hungarian vine-producer, who maintains that his method worked with his father, grandfather, with generations back to hundreds of years, so it must still work for him. Never mind that you can’t make ends meet in your fatherland – this is not your fatherland, so you won’t make it here either. This is only a part of unified Europe. Or so it seems.

by P.S.