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10 TEFL Traumas: Explained via Cat GIFs

Meow. (Cat)

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1. Marking Exams. / Via

You've had a great day at work, you printed and stapled all of the exam papers the day before and you feel wonderful! The lessons start with a bit of review and then you leave the students to get on with writing exams, while you conduct the speaking exams. It's time to go home; the exams are in your bag.

Back at home, you turn on the lights, your laptop, followed by the kettle and the TV. The exams are still in your bag. It's about 10:00PM, you have a shower and you go online... the exams are still in your bag, you take them out. They sit on your desk, judging you as you watch videos of pugs on YouTube. You give in; you put Harry Potter on and stay up until two in the morning with a calculator.

2. Teenagers. / Via

Teenagers are generally harder to teach, they're harder to please and so much harder to help than the younger students. They're on the verge of self discovery, they think teacher is stupid, school is boring, games are lame, listening is for nerds and that they are the supreme rulers of the universe.

It's like trying to teach whilst wading through a sea of hormones. I often try to combat this by providing the students with exciting worksheets, organised so that the exercises become sequentially more difficult. It's good to challenge them, "oh really, you've finished already, are you sure about that? Turn your paper over, there's more on the back..." Muahaha. They also make you realise that you haven't been a teenager for several (in my case four) years... and that they think you're old, really, really old.

3. Early Starts.


Oh, hell, no.

I am this cat. I don't want to leave my bowl.

4. Language Wizard. / Via

Every now and again there will be an English word that sounds like a Mandarin Chinese word (for example cow... sounds like... a swear word), the students look at you like this GIF of Grumpy Cat. I call it the "say what" confusion face. It causes even the most distracted of students to pay attention. They will presume you speak their language and you'll usually get respect points, which is good, until they realise that you don't really speak their language, thus losing said points instantly... and then you become a figure of ridicule.

For example, when teaching imperative + the + noun + to + [the] person/name... expect to hear this: "throw the teacher in the garbage can..." or "give the poo poo to the teacher..." I genuinely encountered this last week, they did use the word "please" before the imperative though... so they were cruel but they were polite about it.

5. Mid-Week Blues. / Via

The weekend is so close, I can, almost... Ok, no, no, no, it's Wednesday and I have four back to back classes (one hour and a half each) without breaks at a school where the teachers aren't allowed to sit down during class. Standard. Where are all the paper clips? Where are all the bulldog clips? Why do I always run out of staples when I need them? Why does the printer jam when you need it the most? Why? Why? Why?


6. Late Starts.


Sometimes, you have late start days where you don't have to do any preparation in advance... These are good days. However, when you wake up on a late start day, having hit the snooze button one too many times, look across from your bed at your desk, see that pile of lesson planning that needs to be worked on so that you don't have to do any at the weekend, it causes you to crashing back down to Earth fast. These days usually involve brushing your teeth in a rush and wearing the same shirt you wore yesterday, mmm fragrant.

7. Weekends. / Via

I love weekends. I get to wash and brush my hair (it's long and unmanageable), watch television, sit in front of my laptop, watch films, cook exciting meals and wear pyjamas for two days. I'm usually ill on the weekend, it seems as though the week catches up with me, it's quite strange really.

For most teachers, weekends are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you're into bread that is, which most people are. I miss decent bread, TEFL is hard when you can't find the right kind of bread. I have actually tried every kind of bread at the local bakery to no avail in search of perfect toastability or sandwichability. Hmm, so many portmanteaus (or portmanteaux maybe) about bread, so little time.

8. Running Late. / Via

The teacher's room becomes a silent zone of concentration where we might as well all be cats because I wanted to use this GIF.

9. Living Abroad. / Via

TEFL: Teaching (or Teacher of) English as a Foreign Language... This usually means you'll be living somewhere rather exciting. I live in Taiwan. It's awesome, temples, festivals, waterfalls, street food, night markets, museums, more temples, mud kiln traditional buried BBQs, history, art, culture, languages, the works. Even if you're a bit of a hermit (I'm not religious) or a self confessed internet/technology addict such as myself, you can't avoid being exposed to all the wondrous magic that comes with living and teaching abroad. It's like being on a gap year (I presume) but you live in the comfort of your own apartment rather than a dingy hostel... and you get paid.

However, this is a post about TEFL traumas... so expect to get sick, really sick, as there are plenty of new viruses and bacteria etc. floating around. Get your disease injections before you arrive, or as soon as you arrive. Bring plenty of paracetamol, ibuprofen etc. as local medicine might not be what you expect and might not actually work. Oh, also, people will usually drive in a manner to which you are not accustomed. I ride a bike and there have been times where I'm using the correct side of the road and about six scooters decide not to... they come towards you and you either swerve into a wall (missing it if you're lucky) or into traffic. People park in the middle of the road... There are no pavements anywhere... Pedestrians? What are they? Red lights? Green lights? Orange lights? There might as well be no lights.

10. Emotional Wrestling. / Via

TEFL isn't easy, it is not for the faint hearted, lazy or narrow minded. You will have days where you fight back tears or cry floods of them, where you struggle, where you reconsider every decision you've ever made. If you survive your entire contract, you'll definitely come out the other side as a very different person, usually a stronger one. Being here has taught me that anything is possible or 死馬當活馬醫 (Sǐ mǎ dāng huó mǎ yī) and that taking chances in life is more important than sitting at home, wondering what could have been... So, despite all the things that make it a frustrating job, there are so many more things that make it a fantastic one.

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