Today’s guest blogger is Anita Kwiatkowska, a Polish teacher of English working in Istanbul. I like her blog because she makes interesting cross-cultural connections, and, like her compatriot Agata Zgarda who lives in Brazil, Anita is very good at describing the culture-bumps that lie in wait when you live and work in a different country.
I’m a teacher of English, coming from a small village called Tuchom in the north of Poland. A true Sagittarian – optimistic, freedom loving and straightforward. Face painter, traveler and Pedro Almodóvar fan. Currently teaching Young Learners in Istanbul and blogging about anything that comes to my mind.
My Burnout Experience
People who have met me since I settled in Turkey open their eyes in disbelief when I confess to having suffered from a burnout syndrome a few years ago. Having just turned 28, being a beginner blogger and occasionally a speaker at TEFL conferences, even I find it sometimes hard to believe. Yet life is plenty of surprises and back in 2006, I wouldn’t have dreamt of reaching the point I managed now.
The truth is I never really wanted to become an English teacher. As a seven year old, I saw myself as a future explorer, a female version of Indiana Jones, solving mysteries and having loads of adventures. Later at school, I dreamt of teaching Geography and was really into studying that at university. Eventually I chose English Philology, largely because my mom convinced me that focusing on this area of study will give me all – a secure job, money and the possibility to travel. Needless to say, she was right.
In order to gain experience and a few zloty in my pocket, I jumped into teaching at a second year of university. When my friends were partying, I was giving private lessons traveling around the Tri-City in Poland to the homes of my students. In 2005, during my final year, I was working part time in a primary and a middle school and taught a few groups in two different language schools in Wejherowo and Sopot in Poland.
After graduation, I reduced the number of schools I worked for to three and slowly started becoming a workaholic – one that forgets about his/her friends’ birthdays and has no weekends free. That’s when I realized that the burnout got me.
I remember feeling constantly tired. I was always thinking of work and how much I dislike it. Thinking of school made me nauseous. I saw no point in teaching whatsoever. Every day was the same – routine and boredom.
Obviously I wanted a change. I tried teaching different levels, using new course books, changing schools and attending seminars. Nothing worked.
One day, searching for pen pals for my students I came across two teachers from Turkey who were very willing to cooperate. The letters our students exchanged were a ray of sunshine in my miserable existence back then. It wasn’t until my university friend told me about the CELTA that everything started to change for good.
For a whole year, I was saving up for the course which I decided to take in Istanbul. Now, I can honestly say that it was the best spent money in my life. The people, both trainers and colleagues I met during the CELTA, have been the first among my PLN. Emek, for example, is a huge fan of drama and she was the one who dragged me to a seminar by Ken Wilson one day. How much I learnt that evening!
Having decided to work abroad was another great decision. Although the beginning was hard, I have never regretted that choice. Different people, different approaches and ideas about teaching or life are what make me want to wake up every day. I have a feeling of constant learning and realize every day how much I still don’t know. That pushes me forward, makes me search and adds confidence. What I keep learning doing the DELTA or from other bloggers, Twitter and Ning is priceless.
In my case a solution to burnout was changing the country and focusing on professional development, a rather curious combination, I must say. Time has shown though how beneficial it was.
One may think of the motto of my story being ‘pursuing knowledge always pays off’.
I see it differently. ‘If you don’t like something in your life, change it. No one is going to do that for you’ – that is what I keep telling myself every day.
Anita blogs at anita-kwiatkowska.blogspot.com