Thursday, May 1, 2014

[Teach Abroad Blog Carnival] Staying motivated to teach

[Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I'll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog at the beginning of every month, and the carnival is published on the 5th by its host. If you'd like to participate in next month's Blog Carnival, you can find details in the above link.]

All of this month's carnival entries can be read at Chris and Jenni's Adventure of  a Lifetime.

Prompt: How do you keep yourself from becoming burnt out and how do you stay motivated to teach?

When I opened the email back in April with the prompt from this month's carnival hosts, it had been a particularly challenging day at school. I was feeling extremely burnt out and without motivation, so I chuckled to myself and said aloud "I don't know!" as soon as I read the month's topic. But as the question stuck with me that night, I realized there were a few things I had started doing without realizing.

Talk with others

After discovering that we both blog and share many of the same teaching frustrations and joys, I became closer with a fellow Badger here in Korea who also teaches at an elementary school. With many extra after school classes both last year and this year, and co-teachers with different styles, we're able to vent and complain and share ideas and encourage one another. It's been so helpful to my overall sanity here to talk with her about teaching.

Take a step back

Sometimes I just need to remind myself that it's one lesson of many, that in the grand scheme of these kids' lives, how much will that one detail actually affect not just their English education, but their lives. Almost always the details I get frustrated about won't make any impact on the overall life of the child in the long run, so I should focus on what will make an effect: smiling, encouraging, and celebrating successes.

Appreciate the small things

I'm mostly internally motivated, but to keep the motivation up I make sure to appreciate the little things each day: hugs from the little first grade girl, funny kids in class, seeing students help each other, delicious Korean school lunches, and other tiny treasures. It's far too easy to get hung up on the pending lessons to plan, things that didn't go as you'd hoped, and crazy students you can't control. So I make it a priority to feel gratitude every day and to fill my mind with as many positive thoughts as possible. The combination of stepping back to look at the big picture and appreciating the small joys each day help keep me motivated for the months that lie ahead.

Be burnt out

Clearly from my tale at the start of this post, I can't prevent feeling burnt out. So sometimes I just need to recognize it and give myself a break. I had multiple weekends last fall and winter where I did not leave the house from Friday after school until Monday morning on my way to school again. I needed the time to relax, reenergize, and catch up on home-life sorts of things (laundry, blogging, calls, TV).  And sometimes there are those weeknights that I've had to let myself completely scrap my evening to-do list and just watch an episode (or two) of Grey's Anatomy or Girls. The feeling never lasts, and after giving myself a break I'll feel motivated and productive again soon.

So while I'm no expert on preventing teacher burn-out, these four techniques have helped me stay motivated the best that I can.
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  1. "Appreciate the Small Things" - Why didn't I think of that?? It's so true, and so easy to forget when you're a teacher being pulled in a thousand directions. Nice post.

    1. Thanks Lisa! Yeah, it really helps me live in the present and prevent the days from all blurring together. I really treasure small interactions with students!