February Updates (3 months in China!)
Once again, February was a very busy month for me here in Yuyao. I am keeping myself from going to bed because I had a few things I wanted to write about whilst I am in the right mindset. I'll keep it fairly short...
Work stress, coping with the stresses of teaching and other responsibilities
Recently I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure and stress from work. This has to be the most challenging job I have ever had (as I’m sure I’ve said before) and some days it gets so overwhelming I have to remind myself to calm down and take a step back. When I find myself stressing out about certain responsibilities and duties I have at work, I try to distance myself from the situation and think about what advice I would give to someone if I saw them getting stressed. Number one would be to avoid a lot of stress in the first place by organising your time to make sure you have time dedicated to work, and time dedicated to relaxing. For example, if I know I have a lot of classes to plan lessons for in the week, I like to get it out of the way as soon as possible, so that I have time to relax before the classes. I’m a terrible worrier (by terrible, I mean REALLY GOOD at worrying), so if I am unprepared for a lesson I am giving myself a lot more to be anxious about. I also find myself worrying about pleasing every single child in my classes, and getting the best out of every child. When this happens, I just have to tell myself that I am doing my very best as a first time teacher, and the more I relax, the more I enjoy teaching. One thing I’ve learned is how much kids feed off your positive energy in class- if you go into class feeling tired and lethargic, the kids will notice that and quite often reflect your behaviour and be unmotivated to learn and listen. On the other hand, some days I will be feeling super stressed out and I can go into a class of wonderful, energetic kids and after an hour my mood will be lifted. This is something I am so grateful for, as cheesy as it sounds, those kids really brighten my day and make it all worthwhile.
This leads nicely onto my second point...
Making the most of down time and days off
Down time is so important to me- as I have written about in previous posts. Every “weekend” (Monday/Tuesday being my weekend) I like to make sure I go out somewhere for a day. As much as part of me would like to just sleep in bed all day and laze around in my pyjamas, I know that my days off are the only time I have to really explore and make the most of actually living in China! It can be easy to get caught up in a work week routine and forget all of the things I want to do when I am not working. So even if it is just a matter of hopping on a bus and seeing where it takes me (one of the best days out I had on my own happened this way) making sure I get out to see something really cheers me up, makes me focus on things outside of work, and gives me something to look forward to every week.
The nostalgia of home, and the power of home comforts
I’ve been thinking about home a lot recently and how different everything was just 4 months ago (this Sunday I will have been in China for 3 months!). Some days I have felt so stressed with work responsibilities, I have thought back to life back in the UK with nostalgia and longing for that tranquil easy life. I have thought about how much I miss having minimal responsibilities and worries, how I could get home from work and not have to think about it until the next day. Now, I often find myself sitting up late at night thinking about the lessons I have the following day (sad, I know!). The trouble with nostalgia though, is the over sentimentality of it- meaning that I am forgetting the reasons I wanted change. Maybe some days the stress gets me down and makes me long for an easier ride; but one thing I can say for sure is that I am never bored here, and for me that is the great motivator.
Having said that, there are certain home comforts that I naturally go to when I’m having a bad day or feeling a little homesick. Music is a big one- I find it can drastically alter my mood and when I am feeling a little lost and bewildered, I put on a favourite album and allow myself to feel the moment and nostalgia associated with that music. It calms me down and lifts my spirits. Music really is a wonderful thing.
Finally, some updates on my language learning!
I’ve been having private Chinese lessons (I've had three so far) and they are going quite well. It’s good to have a structure to my learning, as well as a motivating factor (paying for lessons and doing my homework, as well as working towards an exam). It’s a slow process but I’m really enjoying having something academic to focus on, and being able to put what I learn to use in context.
Now, here are some photographs from recent explorations…