Sunday, April 14

How To Survive Teaching

This is how most people view teaching. And oh, how the envy goes both ways.
As with other professions, teaching has its own set of challenges; namely a posting in the interiors, overbearing leaders, unbelievable targets, Emmy award-esque classroom performances, classroom control, marking, clerical chores, office politics, subordination, workload taichi, etc.
It also has it's perks, long holidays & an above market rate salary. But, there are times I have been so drained & alone that I wonder if it was worth it. I have, many times during the past few years, seriously wondered why I'm still working at the level I am now. It is just so tempting & easy to join the "backbenchers". I'm glad that I didn't.

Today, I want to share about how I survived as a teacher. I believe the same principles can be applied to other professions & many aspects of life.
I know that there are many people out there struggling with the teaching profession. We have & will probably continue to have ups & downs in this profession.
The truth is. Work is work. It is especially hard if you don't enjoy it or do not think that it is your thing.

I guess we were not prepared for a hard life. Most of us had it pretty easy during our studying days. School & university was a breeze. We could sleep all day & do our assignments at the last minute.
We were probably not that serious about our part time jobs too because we had a parent-chute to rescue us should we fall into financial trouble.

So, what are you going to do? Do you want to thrive? Or, do you want to merely survive?
The easy thing to do would be to quit. Honestly, if you quit before you've truly tired to fight for your survival, you're a coward.
Believe it or not, you are actually a professional. You've beaten millions of other candidates & gotten yourself into a premier civil service position. Also, you have a degree. That means that you have something in between your ears. Use it.

Teaching is not easy but it is also the most rewarding profession in the world. You get to shape lives & make a difference.
If you feel that this is not what you want to do, don't bother to continue reading.
If you are fed up with your circumstances & want to do something about it, read on & follow the 4 steps I took myself recently.

1. Allow Yourself To Grieve

We are humans & we have emotions for a reason. It is our greatest ally as teachers & also our greatest weakness.
When our expectations are not met or if we have been unfairly exploited, it will build up in our emotions. An extended period of overworked or suppressed emotions will lead to breakdowns or burnout.

Do whatever you need to do to vent your worn out emotions. Scream, cry, eat ice cream, dance, travel, take time off, do the Harlem shake. Whatever you want to do, do it. You cant use your head if your heart is in a mess.
Once you've taken an emotional dump, you can move on to the next stage.

2. Accept Your Circumstances

Whatever your situation, be it condescending colleagues, unsupportive superiors, unfair distribution of work, an assortment of knives sticking out of your back, uncooperative students, mischievous pranks, aggressive helicopter parents, etc, accept it for what it is.
Also, you might need to begin accepting your inability to change your circumstances.

Don't try to make your circumstances out to be what they are not, because, the reality is, they will NEVER be what they are not. Do NOT compare. The more you do, the worse you will feel. Look at your circumstances as they are & make peace with your misfortune.
The sooner you accept your circumstances for what they are, the sooner you can work on making things better for you.

3. Appreciate What You Do Have

The truth is every cloud has a silver lining. Admit it. There is something within your circumstances that you love & it adds to you. It could be the students who respond to you, the colleagues who support you, the parents who appreciate you, the unique opportunities you have, etc. Any little positive thing. Hold on to it.

Understand that in every circumstance there is a good side & a bad side. Unfortunately, we are usually too obsessed with the bad side that we often overlook all the good that is around us.
If we focus on what is bad, we will eventually become that which we despise. If we focus on what is good, we can build on from there.
Until you can begin to see good things about your situation & appreciate it, you are not ready to thrive.

4. Teach Like You're In The Best School Ever

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? There you are being spun around like Kylie Minogue & here I am some idiot in the jungle telling you to teach like you're in the best school ever when, in reality, you are not!
Well, until you have unloaded your emotional baggage, made peace with your circumstances & begun to see the good things around you, you can't teach like you're in the best school ever.
Honestly, what have you got to lose? Your only alternative is to continue dwelling in the depths of despair at a place you despise. Isn't it time you turned the sheet thrown at you into gold?

Let me give you a simple comparison. Imagine a teacher teaching in the best school ever. Now, imagine a teacher teaching in the worst school ever. Which one will do better?
The truth is it's all the in head. Best or worst is merely a matter of opinion. The same school could be the best to one & the worst to another.
But, there is a whole world of difference in the actions taken by a person who thinks that he's at an awesome place to serve compared to a person who thinks that he should be working elsewhere.

Imagine that you are in the best school ever. What kind of activities would you like to carry out? Make it big. Make it slightly beyond you. Bring other people in. Above all, make it happen.
This is probably the most important advice I can give you as a teacher: Make things happen instead of allowing things to happen to you.

Network. During the holidays, visit your PPD & JPN. Find out who is the officer in charge of your subject. Find ways to collaborate.
Build relationships with the teachers from other schools. Find ways to collaborate.
Keep an eye out for events by NGOs / GOs relevant to your subject matter. Attend. Build relationships. Collaborate.
Keep an eye out for conferences. Attend. Build relationships. Collaborate. At one point of your career, you should be a presenter during one of these conferences. Everybody has something unique worth sharing.

There are infinite possibilities on how to thrive as a teacher. There is no reason for you to be unable to top yourself each & every year.
The time for self-pity & excuses have passed.
It is now time to take control of your circumstances & make a difference.
Remember, your circumstances do not decide what kind of teacher you become. You do.

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