When taught how to become a teacher, you learn many things except how not to let the job get the best of you.
A few evenings ago, I was playing Mahjong with my wife. This was our seventh round, and I had won all but one of them.
For those of you who don’t know, my wife can be quite the sore loser (as can I if I’m being honest). I was about to claim victory again, when my wife cheated.
All of a sudden, I did something I’d never done before – I screamed at her.
It didn’t take me long to realise that it wasn’t her I was mad at, but the damage had already been done. I had taken the stress and the anger I had felt at school home with me, and my wife had been forced to suffer it.
Being a teacher can be stressful
Before becoming a teacher in Australia, nobody ever deigned to tell me how stressful the job could be.
From excessive workloads, to in-school politics, pushy parents and the occasional malicious child, there are no shortages of stresses.
In fact, a lot of teachers burn out during their first couple of years in the industry and choose another career.
Although teaching isn’t for everyone, if you’re moving to China to teach, it’s probably not because of the money; it’s because you love teaching and adventure.
To make sure you remain in the career that you love, I’m here to provide you with a few strategies you could use when teaching in China to relieve tension after a hard day.
Your house is not your workplace
So don’t make it one! All the work I need to do at school that day, I complete before going home.
If there is a task I didn’t complete (like marking student exams, developing a lesson plan – you name it), I arrive at school early the next day and do it then.
There are times when you will have a deadline, and have no choice but to take something home.
But nine times out of ten, when I arrive home, I have zero school work to attend to. This makes it so much easier for me to switch off the teacher within me, and just relax.
Talk it out
I’m more of a suffer-in-silence kind of guy myself, but I know this is the least effective way of coping with stress.
If there’s someone you trust with your feelings, don’t be afraid of discussing what is bothering you.
Chatting with someone you trust is one way you can take the stress out of teaching in China.
Though I sometimes feel like I’m burdening others with my problems, you will really feel a weight coming off your shoulders once you have explained what has happened.
What’s more, those closest to you would rather you let them in than keep them out, so don’t be afraid to share. In doing so, you’re also showing how much you appreciate the relationship.
TV is your friend
The moment I arrive home from teaching, I often go straight for the television or stereo.
My wife doesn’t typically arrive home until after I do, and rather than spending an hour or so alone, I fill the void with the voices of others.
Spending time on your lonesome is the quickest way to not forgetting the school day.
Not only this – I cook. I find cooking to be one of the most therapeutic strategies.
Now, I’m no kitchen connoisseur if that’s what you’re thinking. In fact, I’ve only managed to perfect perhaps two meals, but that doesn’t stop me from trying!
Turn every weekend into an adventure
Why just be a teacher in China, when you can be a tourist?
You are visiting one of the most beautiful places on the planet, brimming with cultural riches, man-made marvels and delicious food.
Doing touristy things is a good way to reduce stress while you're teaching in China, says teacher Nicholas.
Don’t become so focused on work that you forget where you are. In the first couple of months you may need to become acclimatised to your surrounds, but once you have settled, try for at least one adventure each weekend.
Plan your adventure a week in advance. Even a trip to a restaurant – as long as it gets you out of the house – will be a worthwhile distraction.
But try not to do it alone.
Spend time with others
If you are unable to invite people to be part of your plans, why not score an invite to be part of theirs?
You will make lots of friends when in China. Some of the locals you meet may never have seen a person from another country.
You can imagine a lot of people will be interested to know more about you.
In China, going out for karaoke (or KTV as they call it) is a religious ceremony. Relieve the stress after a day at work by belting out a few tunes.
The only problem with singing alongside Chinese people is they’re often pretty good. If you can’t hold a tune like they can, however, don’t be dismayed.
Chinese people are masters of making people feel pretty good – just don’t let it go to your head. If they’re applauding, it’s probably not because they liked your singing – it’s because they’re glad the agony is over!
Teaching in China is a life-changing experience
Teaching in China is not only going to be an experience like no other, it’s going to be life-changing.
You are literally packing up your life and moving somewhere else. This is an astronomical step, and one which should not be made lightly.
But even if teaching in China has been your dream since the dawn of time, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. Nothing is without stresses, and it’s how we manage those stresses that determine whether we fail or succeed.
Do not underestimate the effect stress is having on you. But most of all, don’t underestimate the positive, uplifting effect of enjoying yourself after a hard day.