I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the work. I suppose all of us feel the grind at some point. A lot can depend on how much you enjoy your job, because if you have passion it can consume you. For teachers there is the added bonus of having to grade your student’s work on your own time as well, which adds another dimension to the enjoyment. So what happens when you have too many hours as an ESL teacher and you barely have time to eat, let alone prepare for the next day’s lesson or even grade the work that’s been handed in? Tough, exhausting, give me break, jeeez……
The choice: work-life balance
I remember when I first started being a teacher and promised myself then, that I wouldn’t push myself too hard and I would do whatever I could to keep that precious work and life balance we all so desperately desire. For years I managed just fine, working about 24 hours a week, which for the 40-hour workweek folks might not sound like a lot, but you got to remember that teaching hours are different because all those hours are full on, without a rest bite, and of course that doesn’t include the time required for grading student’s work. I believe that 24 hours in Krakow was just the right amount to have that ideal balance that we all seek. I had time for my hobbies, and could socialize during the workweek on occasion. Of course that also allowed for a nice sufficient amount of time spent on preparing my lessons for that week/day without any stress.
Now, after 10 years on the job the tables have drastically turned. I’m putting in over 30 hours a week of lessons, and wonder quite often “How on god’s green earth am I pulling this off?” I believe that over the short term it’s totally doable. Knowing that we have to do this only for a few weeks or a month helps us see the finish line and suck it up to get there, like any race to the finish. The trick of course is to have a “finish line” and keep it. What I mean is, don’t keep extending it until the one month experiment becomes well, indefinite. Some of my own students have admitted that once you become a workaholic it’s hard to turn off and you just keep on going, working, like an animal!
So how can we teachers deal with that overload? How do we juggle the out-of-class work, the lessons and anything that might be considered downtime? Organization baby! That’s gotta be the first step as far as I’m concerned. I have two shelves packed with books, materials, binders and plastic folders with my cream of the crop lessons that I can retrieve instantaneously when the going gets tough. In doing so, I have drastically reduced the amount of time required to prepare a lesson because I have it ready to go and I’ve categorized my lessons so as to allow for maximum efficiency during retrieval. You only need one copy, or double sided copies of lessons that can be combined, because the topics relate. So, I rest my case here peeps, when you got the shelves stacked, with the goods in proper order, than you get to chill on your couch with a refreshing beverage rather than waste time hanging your head over course books trying to pull a lesson out of a hat. Man up!
Step two for additional time reduction I resort to, is called THE CLOUD! Say it with me peeps: THE C-L-O-U-D! I’m not talking about the one you see above your heads every stinking day in Krakow, Poland, but the one that’s somewhere on the web or some server, which if hacked (very possible, according to my students), your whole life gets exposed to the greater public and your life is OVER basically 😉 However, there are some benefits I get from this cloud! And I am willing to take the above mentioned risks to enjoy these benefits. The first one being that I have access to many of my materials anywhere I go. That means, my smartphone (which has an app to my cloud), my tablet (also has the app) and finally, the computer available at the school or company I am having the lesson at(accessible via the internet). It’s quite handy to have certain scanned worksheets, course book pages, conversation lessons and other exercises so readily accessible because it saves on paper and photocopies for you – that’s a big one. You limit paper used, and use the projector which you can then incorporate for other aspects of your lessons that might include videos or interactive stuff you have prepared. The second factor in this equation is how it allows you to review what you will cover while on the go. In a traffic jam? Boom! Using public transport? No problemo! There’s another sneaky trick here, audio, peeps! So when there is a listening exercise you hook up your smartphone to the speakers, access the tracks from the cloud and badaboom, you’re in business. Plenty of time for a refreshing beverage in the meantime. Man up!
It’s a frenzy out there, some days I need to pause to catch my breath and exhale. I catch myself doing that more than before, and I don’t reckon it’s a good sign. I keep telling myself that this mad work schedule will subside really soon, only it seems like another month ends and there is no end in sight, no pause or rest. Only the summer provides some salvation from the frenetic pace of going from one lesson to the next. When you got passion you don’t think about it much though, you just keep on trucking and remind yourself: “That’s what weekends are for bro!”
It’s Friday. Only a couple of lessons left and then…. Bottoms up!
Man up 😉