Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • I was listening to a podcast this morning and it really pissed me off. This Stanford professor was talking about how if you were stuck in your job you should reframe your job as providing for your children, or that you were doing meaningful work. Basically by giving a meaning to your work you’ll feel better. It’s not a bad idea. In fact Victor Frankl talked about a similar concept in his Man’s Search for Meaning: as a Jew in one of the Nazi concentration camps, he noticed that some of the strongest men lost hope and gave up on life while others fiercely survived. He found that the survivors often had a meaning attached to their survival: they would live to tell their grandchildren so that this would never happen again, for example. But at the same time, this Stanford professor’s argument felt hollow. It felt for me as if you were basically being told to accept your life for what it is, convince yourself that it was great, and you’d then feel awesome. And the epiphany that I had while I was listening to this professor was that I’m someone who will probably be on my deathbed unsatisfied with my life. I’ve always looked at my life and focused on what I want it to be and been extremely bummed out that it isn’t. I think the thing that keeps one sane, in spite of that consistent frustration, is that I am forever looking for ways to improve my life incrementally. Throw me in a department store and I always seem to be roaming the stores hoping to discover a new gadget that will improve the quality of my life in some small way. And I’m always reading and learning new skills. And I’ve never been afraid to take risks for a better future: I’ve bet wrong often and paid for it, but I’ve become better at evaluating opportunities and minimizing my downside risks. Having been a teacher, @zorxique, I know the challenge in finding the right fit. I used to be a corporate trainer and would often work one-on-one training middle managers who were not meeting expectations. As a result, they were extremely motivated in wanting to learn and get better. Teaching kids, by contrast, was often the exact opposite: students who didn’t want to learn, didn’t see a need to learn, and who didn’t put forth the effort. Not all of the students, but enough to know that I would’ve been happier teaching night courses at a community college to working adults who were serious about getting a better career. I wonder if teaching adults might be a more enjoyable fit for you. There’s a town in China that sells all the stuff that ends up in those 99 cents stores in the US: there are miles of indoor markets in the town where local businesses negotiate orders with buyers from American retailers. I learned about this from listening to a 99% Invisible podcast episode. Anyway, an American taught at a school there and was teaching Chinese business people how to speak English. He learned about his students’s businesses and eventually leveraged that knowledge to become a successful buyer for one of the American retailers.

    • Funny thing is that I do also teach adults. I actually work at two different schools, the second one is an English school for adults. And yes, I do find it easier to teach them than it is to teach at the high school.

      The difference is, I think and as you mentioned, that those students are much more eager to learn than the students in traditional schools. The students in those schools are there either because they themselves are interested in improving their English or their parents are. Either way, somebody is paying a lot money for them to be there.

      So, right now, I much prefer going to the adult English school than to the high school. The problem, however, is I can't get enough hours at that school to make a living, or at least to support a family. Even if I could, the hours would be terrible. Because the student are adults and university and high school students, the only time they can go to class is in the evening or on Saturdays. That would mean I would always be working when my kids are home from school and so I would almost never see them.

      Your idea about becoming a buyer is an interesting and intriguing one. I have a student whose job is a buyer and, to be honest, I am not completely sure what it is she does. I'll have to ask her. I'll also have to look into it for myself. One disadvantage is where we live. The city we live in is not a very big one; there aren't many -- if any -- international companies here. So I'm not sure if any companies in this city would be doing business in English. But maybe it's something I could do from home online. Moving wouldn't be a practical option either, as we have a house here and the cost of housing or rent is way to expensive. I would not want to have to either buy a new house or pay for rent. Also, my wife's family is close and I think she appreciates having them close (but not too close). Commuting would also be inconvenient as it is too far to a city large enough to have business dealings with companies with whom the lingua franca would be English. But, once again, maybe I could do it online. I'll have to look into it.

      Thanks for your concern and suggestions. They are much appreciated.

    • If it is any consolation—the first year at a school is ALWAYS hellish. It is almost too much for anyone to bear what with all the new expectations at the school, with the new students, with the new curriculum demands, with new colleagues, with the new culture, etc. I have seen people destroyed by their first year at a new school. It is unconscionable.

      However, IMHO the worst thing to do is to jump to another new job during or right after that first year. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but doing so can really mess up your life perspective.

      You sound like you are typical of many teachers—a perfectionist and used to self-sacrificing for “the cause.” My advice is to seriously pick and choose your personal goals for this year and learn to LET THE REST SLIDE. It will be very difficult to pull yourself out of this depression (a natural response to the crazy expectations, by the way), but you have to do it if only for the sake of your kids.

      Assert your own limitations on the job because no one else will, and you will absolutely burn-out if you don’t circumscribe the expectations of your career. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about doing it. Decide where you want to really invest your time at school, and then take shortcuts everywhere else. Preserve your sense of self-respect by focusing on those one or two elements and let the rest slide by. It’s the only way to get through the first year at a new school and live to tell about it.

      I was a teacher. I know.

      My daughter is a teacher (now in Thailand). I watched from afar and agonized as she went through some absolutely AWFUL experiences during first years at new schools. I worried A LOT about her mental well-being. (She is much better now, thank goodness. She learned to balance work and life.)

      Good luck! (And I really mean that.)

    • There are quite often two thoughts going through my head. One is that hopefully next year will be better. The other is that I'm going to fulfill my contract, but once my contract is over, I'm jumping ship. I'm still trying to decide which path to take.

      Speaking of contracts, it's kind of funny, but in my eighteen years of teaching at a total of four different high schools here, my current school is the first school where I have had a contract. With the other schools I worked at the school and I just had a verbal agreement that I would go and teach and that they would give me money for doing so. Things worked out so much better that way, I think. For one thing, it made it easier to take a couple weeks off to go back to Canada to visit my parents. Right now it's very difficult to do that.

      Right now due to the coronavirus outbreak we are on an extended vacation. The second semester was supposed to start on February 11th after the Lunar New Year holiday but because of the outbreak they pushed back the start of the semester two weeks. It has been nice having this extra time off and not having to worry about class, but when I stop to think that I still have five months (these extra two weeks are being taken from our summer vacation so the semester isn't shorter it's just ending later) of going to that school and teaching there, I have the thought that I’m not sure how I'm going to survive it. I wonder if I'm going to end up going crazy by the time April or May comes around. As @Dracula said, I wonder if 1 + 1 makes sense right now.

      But I also realise that maybe this is just a breaking-in period. Maybe once I get through this year and possibly the next year, things will be much better and I'll look back at this time and say to myself that I'm glad I stuck with it because life is much better now. Right now that is my hope.

      An interesting question: I know some people get confused and can't remember if I am in Taiwan or Thailand. My parents get asked about how I like Thailand and people have asked me that question when I am back in Canada. Do other people you talk to also get confused and think your daughter is in Taiwan?

    • My daughter taught in China for three years, then in Singapore for three years, and now she is finally at a school in Thailand, so she’s been away from the states for a very long time. People don’t ask about her much anymore. 😔 Most of her friends are people she has met in Asia or on her travels.

      She has been teaching middle school math (grades 6-9) at international schools in each of these places. The schools in China gave her good experience though they were not top-tier. She thought she got lucky when an international school in Singapore hired her, but her first year there was absolutely awful. She was hired to be a tutor-like support person for kids who needed special help in Math—it turned out to be a hire made mainly to placate disgruntled parents she found out later. There was no support for HER - no teaching space (she had to meet students in the back of a common room), no office space (she had to sneak a chair and table into a janitor’s closet and then share that with another girl in the same predicament), no comraderie (none of the teachers considered her a professional teacher), no policies, nothing. It was insane. She was isolated and shunned. It was absolutely awful to watch her go from the head of the Math department in the Shanghai school to this non-person in Singapore. She was miserable and seriously depressed. I hated everyone at that school for what they did.

      Late in the year, something happened to one of the math teachers and he decided not to return for the following year. All the career fairs were past, so the admins decided to move my daughter into that spot the next year instead of trying to find a new hire. Finally! She had a real classroom, real curriculum, and real peers again. She did better that next year and earned the respect of her students and the other teachers in her department, but it was still a challenge. She was in a “great” school, but it is a for-profit school, so the admins are relentless in their expectations, and the emphasis is always on placating parents above everything else.

      During her second year as a Math teacher there, her Dad died quite suddenly. It was quite a shock. She requested time off to come home and attend the funeral. Her department head was very generous and understanding and told her “absolutely, take care of yourself and be with your family.” There happened to be a school holiday coming up and he told her to take bereavement days up until the school break and then she would also have the school holiday time to be with family, too. She was very appreciative of his compassion and flew home for the funeral and all the other related challenges.

      However, the administration (Head of School) decided this was not to be. He threatened to fire her if she did not return to Singapore for the last day of school before the break! She was stunned, and her department head had to renege on his recommendation and insist she return. It was awful. She went back to Singapore for that one day, and then had to pay for another round-trip flight to come home again during the school holiday. The other teachers at the school were gobsmacked. She was embittered. She decided right there and then that she would not stay at that school after her contract was up.

      She had to do the whole career fair thing again to find a new job. Those career fairs are insane. Two days (on a weekend so teachers don’t miss school) of intense interviews with people from all over the world. She called me with offers from schools in Finland, Ghana, Dubai, another Singapore school, and finally Thailand.

      She did her research on each school—she wanted to go to a school that would care about HER, not just about parents or students. The school in Thailand turned out to have top reviews *from teachers* for being very supportive. It is also a non-profit school, so there aren’t the same capitalist pressures. She could feel the difference in the second interview, too. After that second interview, she was delighted to get an offer from the school for 2019-2021 and signed on the dotted line. Then back to Singapore to finish out her 2018-2019 contract there. She had to inform her supervisors that she would be leaving Singapore at the end of the year knowing that would mean she would get all the “shit assignments” as retaliation. Ugh. She kept her cool and put up with the crap while counting down the days.

      She is teaching in Thailand now. The school is everything she hoped. Her years of experience with the curriculum is respected and appreciated in her new school. She is doing well—just spent the last few days’ holiday in Phuket. :) I don’t know how I’ll ever convince her to return to the states. 😩

      I’m not sure why I’ve told you all this. Heh. Maybe so when you are tapped for an administration position, you’ll remember to be kind to your staff. Ha! :)

      As I said before, concentrate on just one or two things that you deem important. Laser-focus on that and let the other stuff slide. It takes a few years to really master a curriculum; the first year is completely overwhelming. As teachers, we were also told to pick out one (or two at the most) students to focus on through the year because realistically, that was as many as we could actually have a significant impact on. (I always thought that was a very weird concept, but for some teachers, really focusing on 30+ students is just not do-able, I guess. And as a high school teacher, you even have a lot more students than that!)

      Transitioning from part-time to full-time is probably more challenging than you’re giving yourself credit for. When you were part-time, you probably used a lot of your “off-time” to prepare and develop. Now you are full-time, you have self-imposed expectations to stay at that same level of teaching, but you have twice the load and half the time you used to have! Of course you are exhausted! Something has to give.

      Figure out where you can compromise. And also figure out what you need to do to feel OK about leaving work at work. I used to give myself 20-30 mins. at the end of each day to sit in my classroom by myself with the doors closed and a little jazz playing to just wind down and breathe. (Other teachers would accuse me of hiding out-hahaha.) Make a list if you have to. Pull out your calendar if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to wrap up the day and calm your mind so you can turn off the lights, lock the door, and go home.

      I hope this helps.