efl elt ELT life teaching teaching english abroad tefl

The ‘disillusionment’ stage (of first year of teaching)

It’s Saturday, just after 12pm, my body aches, I’m still sleepy and exhausted but I’m slowly getting ready for my mini break. My body is struggling, it could do with a few days of rest but my mind desperately needs this break.

I thought long and hard, I’ve been trying for a while now to accurately describe how I feel. I’m normally pretty damn good at it, but not lately. When asked I just say I’m tired but it’s much more than that.

I’m exhausted, I struggle to keep up with the energy levels required to teach, especially children and on some days I lack the motivation, particularly when teaching 4 lessons back to back, running around from school to school.

It’s not an easy job to say the least, let alone when you teach 8 large groups of 16- 25 children (plus two large classes of 16 yr olds, three one-to-ones and a group of adults which also have their own challenges) and after the 100th time that you repeatedly told a student or a class that you don’t speak Italian or waited for them to stop talking so they can listen or gave the same instructions but they just don’t seem to get it or they shout ‘Non capisco!’ even before you finish your sentence, well it becomes frustrating.

It makes me wonder whether this job is for me. Do I still enjoy it? I’m not even sure if I’m good at it. Will it get better? Will it get easier? If I decide to pursue this career does that mean I’ll never have free time again??

Then I remembered a little chart I came across last month, my friend and fellow teacher sent me a kind, encouraging open letter for first year teachers and in that letter it had the following graph (by Wisconsin Education Association) which is so far bang on the money.

To begin with it was exciting, the anticipation of applying everything I learned was off the charts and the first couple of months of teaching was all about survival, keep going, trying to plan amazing lessons in less time and improve whilst also having to do a million other things, but lately I feel sad and disappointed at times.

Disillusionment: a feeling of being disappointed and unhappy because of discovering the truth about something or someone that you liked or respected.

I’m not sure this is what I signed up for and I can’t but wonder whether this is for me, not just mentally but also physically. I guess the fact this is not my first job, I’ve lived and worked and led a different life plays a part. Perhaps this is just a phase. Some lessons are absolutely incredible, the students happily take part in most of the activities, they enjoy learning, I enjoy teaching them and time flies by, others there are so disappointing, disheartening, I don’t even want to be there.

It doesn’t help that I have very little free time to do other things not just work related e.g. lesson planning, if only I had more time to plan more engaging lessons, or time to read resources to help with my teaching and expand my knowledge but also just for myself: write, read, play my guitar, go for a walk, explore.

I’ll give it some time before I make a decision, maybe I’ll soon enter the ‘rejuvenation’ stage, but for now I just need to find the mental and physical strength to keep me going.

Who knows, maybe spending a few days in Barcelona, a city I’ve always wanted to visit, with my bestie who I haven’t seen for months, might do the trick and help me see things clearer.

Eleni

3 comments

  1. Working conditions in ELT are terrible, worse than in other education sectors, and the endless stream of exploitable naive new teachers is part of the reason academies get away with it.
    If you want to keep going next year maybe consider cutting out the middle man and joining a workers co-op (for example SLB in Barcelona – their podcast also has excellent information on language learning and teaching as well as stuff to do with working conditions).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation Darren, I’ll defo check their podcast out. And completely agree with you. From my experience so far, I’m not sure I’d like to keep doing this, I’m always exhausted and have no free time for anything else. It’s just draining at the moment.

      Like

  2. It’s tough. Mentally tough more than physically. At around the 9 week mark of the school term I start feeling like I’m walking in a brain fog! Regular mini breaks work. Sleep, sleep, sleep…

    Like

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