Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher Mode Burn Out

Whenever I leave the flat, I am almost always in teacher mode.  I go to class.  I go to the Tree House.  I advise clubs.  Students want more of my time.  They want me to start cooking club, knitting club, and writing club.  They want to spend as much time as they can with me.  They want to be my friend.  The boundaries between my personal life and my work life blur.  In China I don't have a personal life except when I am alone in my flat.  I am always in teacher mode, the conservative teacher who tries to get students to use their English to communicate with me.  They want to be my friend, but it is a one way street.  Can they really be my friend, a friend who listens to me, who challenges my thoughts, who understands me, who wouldn't judge me if I revealed all to them?  In China, I no longer have a personal life with actual friends.  My "friends," the people I socialize with, eat out with, do things with are my students. 
In Alabama, I rarely felt like I had community.  In Seattle, I finally found people I connected with, could talk with, could be social with, a community I felt like I belonged to, a community that understood me and didn't judge me.  This community was different from my work place.  It was my private personal life a community of friends where I could be me, reveal my thoughts and questions, do activities I like to do.
I am burnt out.  I have run out of energy to be the super social nice teacher friend.  Instead I feel myself running away unable to keep up the friendly persona that the students so love.  Now I am starting to gain the label of strict instead of easy going teacher who we all love and can talk to.  I am tired.  My mood has changed.  I feel like a therapist who is always listening to other people's problems and then they themselves now need their own therapist to talk to, but in China who can I talk to?

1 comment:

universalibrarian said...

Hello Jen this one is just for you, not probably for posting just wanted to write to you,
I'm sorry that you are having a rough time with that. You aren't weird. That happens to a lot of people, especially working overseas. I've felt that way before, that's why we purposely chose an apartment in a neighborhood away from school and even that doesn't fix it all. It's really hard not having friends who aren't either teachers, students or parents. I rely on the internet to stay in touch a lot here but it's still not easy.
I hope that you remember that there are people who know you and would be willing to talk. Skype is a beautiful thing. I mean, I like you and I only met you in person for two weeks but Geoffrey and Christine and the other people you have worked with before are still there and still care about you. While you aren't typing with them in the same office everyday or living around the corner from people that you nod to in the grocery store every wed when buying sausage and lettuce for your respective cute little picket fence protected families. You still have a community. It's just stretched out a bit and a hell of a lot more interesting.
Hang in there and I know it's not the same as talking but feel free to write an email as well if you want to. I hope that blogging helps. I enjoy reading your posts and can definitely relate.
Sounds like you are in rough spot right now, but then again the beauty of the itinerant lifestyle is the freedom to live intensely in ways that are too tough to do long term and then move on to a different adventure. I know that we like living here but are looking forward to moving somewhere else sometime. But will stay in touch with the extended network of friends we've made here. maybe not every day but when and where we can.
You can last through the last sememster and still find some joy along the way. Maybe long walks? Stay safe,