ESL Teacher Burnout: How to Avoid It

ESL Teacher Burnout
Avoiding ESL teacher burnout

You Know that Feeling…

You know that feeling you get when you teach the ABCs one more time, or that unit in the book about movies or weather? It makes me die, just a little bit on the inside and if I’m not careful, I find that it can start to get to me and affect my mental health in a negative way.

Some tips that have helped me get through the years with minimal aggravation or stress.

ESL Teacher Burnout: Don’t Let it Happen to You

Look After your Health

Get enough sleep, exercise and eat well. If you’re tired and hungover, and have a full day of teaching, it will be the biggest nightmare imaginable. Teaching ESL isn’t exactly difficult, but where it can be hard is when you’re teaching a lot of hours.

I remember my first year teaching in Korea when I was working at a sketchy hagwon, putting in a lot of hours. Then, at nights and on weekends, I felt like I wanted to “experience” Korea and was always going out and doing things. This combination meant that I was always sick and run-down and didn’t end up having the most awesome year possible.

For the tips I wish I had known during that first year in Korea, check out: How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats. Newbies to Korea: it’s like a gold mine!

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Most ES: textbooks have at least a few good things that you can use. Use them for at least half your class and then, if you need to, put your time and effort into making up one superstar supplemental activity. But doing 2 or 3 of these extra activities for each class? Burnout!

Also remember to keep track of things like in Google Drive so you can recycle them. Read this post for some advice on that:

Google Drive for Teachers: How and Why I Use It

Make Testing Easy

I have a colleague who records all his speaking tests and doesn’t grade while the students are speaking but goes back and listens to his recording. That’s double the amount of work I want to do! I listen and grade at the same time while students are speaking to each other and find it easy enough. The students never complain that the grading is unfair either.

Here’s one simple way to make grading as easy as possible.

Just Say No

Unless you’re truly strapped for cash, just say no. At my university, there is so much OT that I could probably work every minute of the vacations if I wanted to. Except I don’t want to because if I did, I would return to my job in September hating my life. Everyone needs a vacation if you want to be able to teach ESL for more than just a year or two.

Get along with your colleagues

Drama is exhausting. If you don’t like someone, just avoid them.

For some advice on how to avoid stress at work, check out: Make Life at Work Happy!

Avoid the Shared Office

If you have a shared office, try to avoid it because it’s usually gossipy, drama central. And who can actually do work there efficiently? It’s better to find a spot where you can put in a couple quality lesson planning hours rather than 5 distracted hours.

The Takeaway

NEVER forget this phrase, “Serenity now!” Just repeat it as often as necessary, giggle a wee bit to yourself and chill out! English teaching is not rocket science and it’s actually kind of the easiest, least stress-free jo, ever, but only if you let it be that way.

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