The Stresses of Teaching – My Personal Reflections of Teaching Overseas

I’m back!

And I’ve gotta say, July was pretty darn great overall.

There’s quite a bit to update you on: the local summer solstice festival; a week spent living in a semi-rural village; a weekend camping trip in another part of Yakutia; the end of summer camp and, therefore, the real official end of my school year; and a hiking and camping trip in south-eastern Siberia. I’ll catch you up over the next month.

Today, I’ll start in the middle of it all with the end of summer camp and what that meant for me.

I taught camp for a total of six weeks, starting the week after the school year ended. Basically, I had a long weekend off then camp started.

So you see that I began at a disadvantage in terms of being rested. Most of us did.

Surprisingly for me, summer camp was pretty draining in itself. I hadn’t expected that, because after the first two weeks, I was working shorter hours than during a normal school term and preparation was minimal.

Despite this, those last couple of weeks wrung out just about everything that I had left in me. I think it was a cumulative effect from the first four weeks of camp.

Perhaps I should have expected it, because what kid wants to be in class on a bright summer day?

To be honest, the majority of my groups were pretty well-behaved and keeping their attention wasn’t too difficult, although it did require a lot of effort through extra activities.

But there was always that one badly-behaved group that lay all my preparation to waste, no matter what tactics I tried. The stress of teaching and managing those groups, coming at the end of a long school year, took everything I had left to give. Still, I managed to get through it.

Despite my powering through, by the time the first two weeks of July – and the last two weeks of summer camp for me – rolled around, I was absolutely exhausted.

As much as I love my job and my place of work, it’s not easy to work intensively and almost nonstop for the better part of a year. This was why I had to take a break from writing for the month of July; I was running on fumes.

Since the early days of this blog, I’ve found that I spend quite a bit of time composing posts in my head as things are happening, so that by the time I have an opportunity to actually write it all down, the words tend to flow out of me.

This had stopped happening and I found myself repeatedly staring blankly at my laptop screen, with not a word ready to come even though I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Thankfully, the break worked. By the third week of July, I found myself writing in my head again. Hooray!

So, having said all of that and after all these months of working in what is my first really proper teaching job, I think it’s time to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned and how I’ve conducted myself.

As would be reasonably expected, I’ve done a good job in some areas, a not so good job in some areas, and a bad job in other areas. Let’s start with the bad stuff.

I’m still struggling to love people.

Uuuuggghhh. I don’t have to deal with this issue often because I usually either like most people I meet or I’m neutral towards them.

I very rarely dislike people and they very rarely get under my skin.

In other words, I’m a pretty peaceful and accommodating person, generally speaking.

I say all of this to make the point that, although I’ve basically forgotten about the Toxic Ones themselves, the memory of my love failure with them remains front and centre in my awareness because I know it’s a weak area that I need to overcome.

The issue recently came up for me again on a trip I took but I’ll tell you about that in a couple of weeks when I get to that story. Suffice it to say that the incident showed me that God still has a lot of work to do on me in that area.

A lot.

That’s the bad.

The not so good has been haunting me, too. It’s that I haven’t done a thing to actively share the gospel.

I do the normal things, like try to live my life in a way that is Christlike so that people see a difference in their interactions with me. I also don’t make a secret of the fact that I love God far beyond anything or anyone here on Earth and that Jesus is my main squeeze.

But I haven’t proactively done anything to share my faith with anyone, and I’m not sure that I’ve actually served anyone this year, which is what I believe God has sent me out into the world to do.

I’m going to have to rectify that.

As for the good, I know without a doubt, and without needing anybody to tell me, that I did a good job at work this past year.

I worked hard, people. I worked long hours and I put my all into those long hours that I worked.

It wasn’t because I was trying to impress anyone, because I wasn’t. It was for two reasons.

First, this company went through the time and expense of recruiting me from halfway around the world. The least I could do was to show that their decision to take a chance on me (a teacher of very little experience) was not misplaced.

Second, I know without the slightest doubt that my being in this place at this time is at God’s behest and therefore I took His word very seriously:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

That was my main motivator this year, and it says a lot about my growth that I needed no more than that because in my early days of working, during my people pleasing days, I was ridiculously dependent on external motivation and validation.

Not so now, thank goodness.

I can also say after the intensity of this year that I believe I’ve grown a lot as a teacher because of my students and because of the feedback of my colleagues.

I’ve continued to learn how to adapt my methods to fit my students’ needs and I actively seek improvement feedback from my colleagues. And that’s another thing: I’m not afraid of criticism the way I used to be.

In fact, I now welcome it, even if it’s not meant to be constructive.

All in all, I’m happy the school year is over and that I’m now on vacation because it gives me a chance to explore a little bit more of where I live and beyond, to recharge my depleted batteries and to get my creative juices flowing again.

I’m also happy with my overall performance this year, even as I acknowledge my failures and am ready to work with God to do something about them.

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. Micah‬ ‭7:18‬ ‭(NASB‬‬)