By Todd Persaud
If you are new here please read this first.
This article was written by Todd Persaud, an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. Todd wanted to share some of his experiences (he has taught in over 5 countries) as an English teacher and pass on some advice on how to make teaching less complicated.
There are plenty of ways to store your energy without going insane in the school community. When it comes to teacher-colleagues, you have to be far more delicate because these are the people who will make or break you in the school environment.
In my first year as a teacher, I had a rather nightmarish co-teacher who would swing back and forth in moods and give me contradicting recommendations (they were more like orders) on how to improve the class so that the students were interested in the material and continued coming to my class. Everyday became an altercation and she could sense my aggravation and nervousness and only grilled harder.
In truth, I probably would not have renewed my contract had I needed to work with this individual again the following year but I persisted in trying to solve my problems by reaching out to other colleagues and telling them about the situation. I earnestly wanted to do a good job and I didn’t know how to rectify such a negative situation. I gathered up information as I went through this investigative process, learning about how co-teachers had typically done the work in the school and learning about what they did to handle a situation like the kind that I was in.
If you find yourself questioning the judgment of your co-teacher, you need to reach out to other people to bring yourself back to reality. Colleagues, especially your co-teachers, can distort reality and make it seem like you should be doing more work than you’re supposed to do. Some teachers said that I could do what I wanted in the class and were blatantly shocked by what they were hearing me say when I told them about what was transpiring.
Taking A Vacation
There are plenty of ways to retreat and escape the confines of a profession that will zap the energy right out of you. In a school where you’re virtually in front of people at all times, it can be quite difficult for you to conserve your energy. Although it’s nice to be wanted by people consistently for your services, often times it can be quite draining and you need to find ways to not have people suck the life out of you.
Vacations can fill that void that you experience. Let’s face it: teaching can get pretty boring, even at your best when you’re trying to develop new and innovative material for your students from the work of other people. Sometimes the pattern that you fall into can make the job tedious and unfulfilling. To break that pattern, you can consider going on a temporary escape to a different country.
Leaving a host country for another country has its perks. When I visited the Philippines, I visited mostly nice establishments, albeit in some rather shady areas of the city. The first night I was in the Philippines, I met a guy named Jojo who threatened to beat me up if he ever saw me in the streets again. But Manila was still a fun place. For one thing, you can see what you’re missing in the world and what’s taking place outside of the bubble that you’re usually cloistered in as an English teacher. This is not only refreshing but it can give you ideas about where to take your career next.
It’s also nice to be in a country where you know absolutely no one at all and can start afresh with new insight and no preconceived notions. There’s something fun about being able to walk the streets and just observe people doing their daily activities, even when no one is talking to you or paying attention. Some countries are better at this than others. When I was in the Philippines, everyone stared at me unless I was in a crowded marketplace, like near Binondo, in the Chinatown district. Sometimes I would feel uncomfortable but I nevertheless always found time to be by myself and absorb the vast amounts of energy that I had lost while teaching at school.
Vacations can really be expensive and eat a hole in your wallet, thereby eliminating other options for you in the future if you don’t have enough capital. I only recommend taking out-of-country vacations as a last resort.
Searching For An Accommodation
You can find a host of nice apartments on Airbnb or do some hostel-jumping or hotel searching with Agoda.com. I’ve tried some of these and they’re great for short term stays. I generally do not recommend couchsurfing.com because you have to spend a lot of time getting to know the couchsurfing community and you have to practically make friends with virtually everyone you meet or else it becomes a futile exercise. If you’re going to make friends, my thinking is you should make friends with people who share similar interests to you and then work backward to couch surfing possibilities from there. Not the other way around.
To me, making friends with people just because they might have a spare couch is a little phony and just not my style. The other issue is that most people don’t trust men—I understand this actually—and so they are less inclined to help you out unless you can produce the proper paperwork—criminal background check, blood tests, and the like. If you really want to make couchsurfing work at all, you had best get started now, from the moment you read these words.
So the point I’m trying to make is that couchsurfing is entirely possible when you want to get away from it all. You just have to do your planning and make sure you do it at least a month in advance because most people need to be prepped for something like couchsurfing, even the best hosts on the planet, because people are going to live their lives and some moments in their lives will be more convenient than others. If you show your awareness of this, and be sensitive to people’s needs, you’ll likely be able to find a couch for the place you want to escape to.
Either way, you spend your time on a trip away from your host country and school community—be it to lounge in a chair or to go hiking in the mountains—is bound to reinvigorate you for your classes when you return. Don’t underestimate the need for even just a change of pace.
If you can’t live your location, find places in your building to retreat to whenever you need to be alone—bathrooms are some of the best private areas around for this sort of thing, even if the bathroom can be grimy and disgusting. Corridors are another option as is unoccupied rooms. Keep pleasantries and smile at the students when you’re walking through the hallways. Keep conversation at a minimum and keep it casual.
If you’re in a busy school where people are constantly approaching you with favors and tasks and conversations, maintain that you’re a very busy person and tell them that they can get in touch with you at a specified period of your choosing (but not in that moment).
I think it’s okay to even tell your students that you’re tired (and that you’re not going insane). To let them know that you need a little space. It humanizes you more and lets them know that they can’t just freely approach you with favors because they know what a tired person you are. When you’re on the brink, you gotta draw a line in the sand somewhere!
About the author:
Todd Persaud holds a BFA from New School University and an MA in Applied Sociology from William Paterson University. He has taught in over 5 countries and currently resides in Da Nang, Vietnam where he is writing a book about his experiences. He may be reached on his website at www.ToddPersaud.com
P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!