Terms I don’t like: 1 of 11

Are you in a band? Are you a model or something? Do you want to be? Otherwise, why are you using the word “gig” to talk about a teaching job? 

  • Is it to sound cool? (NB: It doesn’t sound that way to me)
  • Is it to sound casual and footloose (not to mention fancy-free)?
  • Is it to sound like you are in demand?
  • It is to give an entrepreneurial (edupreneurial?) spin to the act of teaching and creating a schedule?

Actually, sorry. This post is not about you and your word choices. It’s about me and my allergic reaction to this word. The post is truly about me trying to work out why the word elicits a strong negative reaction from me.

So, no disrespect to everyone out there hustlin’ and arranging side hustles. I don’t like the word is all. Why not? I’d like to offer a few potential reasons this term grinds my gears. Here they are in a convenient list: 

  1. I might have touched upon it above during the interrogation above but I think the problem is that it sounds so casual to me. It doesn’t strike me as a professional term for professional educators. 
  2. It sounds incongruently cool for teaching. 
  3. It also sounds like the most important thing is the conditions like pay and time of day. While these are of course important I feel like it doesn’t account for other factors like student motivation, for example. 
  4. I think the first time heard this term used in this context was at the dawn of the millennium in Northeast Asia and the first few people I heard use it like this were dickheads.  
  5. The braggadocious bros mentioned in point 4 were always blathering on ‘bout the sweet gigs they had. It was tiresome (which doesn’t mean that I never participated in such talk). 
  6. It’s also sort or boring. As a true EducaTOR, I’d prefer to hear more about reflections on teaching and lessons learned from that. I’d like to hear about challenges and solutions. I’d like to hear about students’ successes. There is so much to talk about. 

If I’m being honest, I think part of the reason I didn’t like this word at first is because it made me a bit sad to realize I’d escaped or avoided various rat races in my home country only to be in a new one in foreign land. Thus, this one word, gig, conjures up a lot of feels for me. 

Please note (especially before commenting) that this post is partially but not entirely, tongue-in-cheek. The man, Andy Allen, said he’d like to see some “You know what grinds my gears’ style” in my social media content. This is fulfilling that suggestion/request but it’s truly something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I don’t like the term gig in this context but in reality I am less judgy of those who use it than this post would suggest. I think people can use whatever terms they damn well please. 

I should also mention that I’ve held this negative feeling about the term gig long before I even heard the term “gig economy.” 

Other things on my mind as I muster up the courage to hit publish are “Maybe there would be less talk of gigs if there were more steady jobs” and “Maybe the bigger problem here is not the nomenclature.” I will leave that to others for now. I fully understand that being mercenary is often a requirement. 

I also realize that this might be very much a “white person in Asia” thing and thus not applicable to most readers.

I do feel a bit better after writing about this. It’s sort of cathartic.

Thank you for reading. Please stay tuned for this upcoming and ongoing series. I’d love to know your thoughts and feelings on this word as applied to what I’d call “teaching jobs” or “private lessons.” 


  1. robertjdickey

    As a former musician, “gig” carries a few connotations:
    – short-term
    – chance to show-off your stuff
    – it pays (vs. free shows)
    – you ain’t gonna get rich off this
    – part-time (you can do other things between engagements)
    – non-permanent (for most folks, some day you’ll hafts grow up and get a real job)
    – structure is pretty loose, and if you break any rules, well, it was never gonna be permanent!

    Is this the mentality we want in our teaching staff?

    • mikecorea

      Hello Rob,

      Thank you for the comments. You got me curious about your music days. 🙂
      I think you make some interesting points here about the meaning of gigs. Maybe that is partially why I feel that way about the term. But, as Marc points out below maybe that is just the situation in the world. You wrote, “Is this the mentality we want in our teaching staff?’ and I guess the obvious answer is no but I still wonder if that’s where we are as a field.
      (Chose not to use profession or industry here)

      • robertjdickey

        The folks applying to the state schools in USA/Canada/UK/Australia/whereever would not dare to think about a teaching position as a “gig.” They worked too hard for their licence, and are looking forward to a stable career type job. I dare say that those with an MATESOL use the word “gig” less. (Not sure here, I’m old!). And few of the EFL teaching jobs folks are talking about are career-type jobs. So, maybe, “gig” is a fair description of the job as they perceive it?

      • mikecorea

        Thanks for the follow-up, Rob! The more I think about it, I don’t think I hear this term sooo much these days. I think we could point to this term being used (in general) by those less serious about the profession. I could be wrong though. I am old too!

        On Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 6:51 PM ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections wrote:


  2. Marc

    Sadly, I think gig is all too accurate for some teaching work. Obviously I am thinking more toward the Deliveroo/Uber connotation than the “Good Evening Madison Square Gardens, are you ready to rock?” side of things. I would love to be Mr. SEO and link to my posts on this but curmudgeon strikes. Tl;Dr – I hate it too, but it’s sadly accurate.

  3. Zhenya

    An interesting read, and a new blog post genre (to me!). I heard this term in relation to ‘teacher training (jobs)’ more than teaching, but that does not make the reasons for not liking it in your list irrelevant…

    • mikecorea

      Thank you for the comments Zh. Interesting! I feel like I’ve heard “The G word” used a lot about training (and maybe from some of the same people you heard). I guess maybe it doesn’t bother me much because many teacher training ahem gigs are in fact short-term by nature so it doesn’t really capture my ire. Or maybe I just like the people that I hear saying it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s