Your first year or so as a TEFL teacher can be a very up and down experience. There can be a steep learning curve at the beginning, followed by a nice comfort zone, followed by (for some), a bit of burnout.
Let’s explain what burnout is first; then talk about ways to avoid it.
What Is Burnout?
This isn’t something exclusive to the teaching world, and it’s not something everybody experiences. Burnout is simply a feeling of frustration, boredom, or discontent with whatever you are doing.
In the TEFL teaching world, it’s usually the period that comes after the comfort zone. New teachers sometimes struggle in the beginning, as teaching is a learning curve. However, this only lasts a few weeks or months before the teacher will start to get the hang of things, enjoy themselves, and start having a great experience.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t last forever, and at any given time, you may find yourself feeling like it’s just another job. A feeling of monotony may set in, and before you know it, you’re getting fed up.
Burnout can be pretty demotivating, but it’s also fairly easy to get through. Just like any doubts, fears, or frustrations you had as a new teacher, if you work at it, you’ll be enjoying yourself again in no time.
How To Avoid Burnout?
It’s quite hard to avoid burnout sometimes because when you are enjoying yourself and things are going well, and you don’t always foresee that there will be another “down” period. The best way to avoid it though is to keep things interesting in your life.
Try not to have the same routines, try to get out of town at weekends, and try to keep your life new and engaging. Comfort zones are great, but don’t let yourself get TOO comfortable.
Sometimes though, burnout is just going to happen anyway. The key thing to do is recognize it and take steps to beat it.
How to Get Through a Burnout?
First of all, you have to identify it.
Burnout is often caused by repetitiveness in your job, but not always. Sometimes it’s a case of the novelty of being abroad wearing off, perhaps China or Shenzhen no longer being new and exciting, or even small cultural differences starting to grind you down.
To put it simply, it’s often a combination of small things, and therefore it can be hard to find the cause.
Let’s get started.
Take A Break, Get Away
If you can, one of the best and first things to do is to get away and recharge your batteries. Whether this means a day trip out to Hong Kong or weekend trip to another country, you should take advantage of the weekends and holidays that come around.
It’s amazing how effective time away can be. Even if your job itself is the same, just getting some new experiences in can help you to manage it. Some teachers who have been abroad for many years and still get away as often as they can.
Teaching abroad is a great way (and an even better excuse) to travel anyway, so this should be something that appeals to you right away.
Challenge Yourself at Work
Most people will say that their most satisfying experiences at work have been overcoming a challenge. It’s highly possible that as you’ve got better at your job, you’ve stopped finding it a challenge. When this happens, monotony and burnout can happen quite often.
‘Talk to your foreign coworkers or fellow SDE teachers to see if you can learn a bit about how they teach and use it.
Try engaging with your students in a different way, try new activities, new ways of approaching their learning. Dive nose deep into ESL teaching techniques and put them into practice! The internet is a wonderful and vast place to find free ESL training materials that will help you become a better ESL teacher than you even think you could be!
Find a Hobby
Learn Mandarin Chinese, join a sports club, take day trips around Shenzhen and neighboring cities to go hiking, swimming or just about anything else! Perhaps suddenly, you may find life a lot more interesting.
Start a Blog
China changes too fast and information gets obsolete. People coming to China always want to find the most up-to-date information about working in living in China—Why not share yours?
On top of that, they make great memoirs and are a great way of letting your friends and family back home see what you’re up to.
Plus, if you’ve got this blog showing off your life and how much fun you’re having, you’ll probably be encouraged to force yourself to have a good time.
Reach Out To Other SDE Teachers
As well as helping you avoid it by keeping you busy, you can also ask other teachers what they do to avoid it. There will very likely be a couple of SDE teachers that have gone or going through the same thing.
That being said, making some friends is so important for keeping some of your sanity while abroad. There’s a level of comradery because you know you all have been through the same experiences and challenges.
Recognize That It Won’t Last Forever
You’ve got to have the lows if you want to enjoy the peaks, and the ups and downs of an expat are just part of the fun.