How To Avoid Burnout As An ESL Teacher

Teacher Burnout

Your first year or so as a TEFL teacher can be a very up and down experience. There can be a steep learning curve at the beginning, followed by a nice comfort zone, followed by (in some cases), a bit of burnout.

Let's just explain what burnout is first, then we'll talk about ways to avoid it.

What Is Burnout?

This isn't something exclusive to the teaching world, and it's not something everybody experiences. Burnout is simply a feeling of frustration, boredom, or discontent with whatever you are doing. 

In the TEFL teaching world, it's usually the period that comes after the comfort zone. New teachers sometimes struggle in the beginning, as teaching really is a learning curve. However, this only lasts a few weeks or months before the teacher will start to get the hang of things, enjoy themselves, and start having a great experience.

Unfortunately this doesn't last forever, and at any given time, you may find yourself feeling like it's just another job. A feeling of monotony may set in, and before you know it, you're getting fed up. 

A burnout can be pretty demotivating, but it's also fairly easy to get through. Just like any doubts, fears, or frustrations you had as a new teacher, if you work at it, you'll be enjoying yourself again in no time.

How To Avoid Burnout?

It's actually quite hard to avoid burnout sometimes, because when you are enjoying yourself and things are going well, you don't always foresee that there will be another "down" period. The best way to avoid it though, is to keep things interesting in your life. 

Try not to have the same routines, try to get out of town at weekends, and try to keep your life new and engaging. Comfort zones are great, but don't let yourself get TOO comfortable.

Sometimes though, burnout is just going to happen anyway. The key thing to do is recognize it and take steps to beat it.

How To Get Through Burnout

The steps to get through it aren't much different from the steps to avoid it, except that you're often dealing with it when you're feeling down. First of all, you have to identify it.

Burnout is often caused by repetitiveness in your job, but not always. Sometimes it's a case of the novelty of being abroad wearing off, the city or place you're living in no longer being new and exciting, or even small cultural differences starting to grate on you.

To put it simply, it's often a combination of small things and therefore it can be hard to find the cause.

Take A Break

One of the best things to do is to get away and recharge your batteries. Whether this means a day trip out of your city, or even popping over to another country, you should be able to book some time off or enjoy your free time.

It's amazing how effective time away can be. Even if your job itself is exactly the same, just getting some new experiences in can help you to manage it. Some teachers who have been abroad for many years get away as often as they can.

Teaching abroad is a great way (and an even better excuse) to travel anyway, so this should be something that appeals to you.

Challenge Yourself

Most people will say that their most satisfying experiences at work have been overcoming a challenge. It's highly possible that as you've got better at your job, you've stopped finding it a challenge. When this happens, monotony and burnout can happen quite often.

If you're teaching elementary school kids, see if your boss can give you some adult or teenage students, and vice versa. This isn't always possible, but if you explain to your boss that you're looking for a challenge, I'm sure he or she will come up with something.

Get A Hobby

You don't just have to challenge yourself in the work place either. Being abroad and in a different culture gives you a lot of opportunity.

Learn a language, take up a sport, explore the things your area has to offer and you can find life suddenly a lot more interesting.

Start A Blog

A lot of expats blog about their experiences. The great thing about this is that everyone has a unique experience in the country/location they're in, and you can find that even if you're just another expat blogger, people will find your views interesting.

On top of that, they make great memoirs and are a great way of letting your friends and family back home see what you're up to.

Plus, if you've got this blog showing how much fun you're having, you'll probably be encouraged to force yourself to have a good time.

Reach Out To The Expat Community

We've mentioned several times in the past that expat communities are great for helping you find friends, stave off homesickness, and other things. Now you've got another reason to reach out to your friends: Burnout.

As well as helping you avoid it by keeping you busy, you can also ask them what they do to avoid it. There will very likely be a couple of people in any given expat circle that you can ask for advice. 

Failing that, ask your coworkers, or if your school has western management, ask them.

Recognize That Is Won't Last Forever

Just like the other stages that you go through, burnout is often just a phase. Yes, you can take action to get over it or even avoid it outright, but at the end of the day, time is a great healer too. 

You've got to have the troughs if you want to enjoy the peaks, and the ups and downs of an expat are just part of the fun.

Closing Thoughts

The above should provide you with plenty of food for thought and SHOULD be enough to help you out. As well as this article though, your own brain is the best tool you have.

Recognize when you're feeling burnout (and not something else, like homesickness or culture shock), and be proactive and positive in getting through it. Worst case scenario, reach out to those who care the most about you and work through it together. 

It won't last forever.