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Quitting Your Day Job

Kelly with students at her previous school in Bangkok, Thailand. Kelly Iverson

The messy part of teaching abroad that no one wants you to know about. 

I have never quit a job in the entirety of my 23 years of life. If a job was tough, I stuck it out. If a job was draining, I slept less and drank more coffee. There were always solutions to the seemingly minuscule problems that were making my day worse when it came to where I worked.

It was not until my last teaching job did I realize how bad a work situation could get.

All of these blog posts and teach abroad companies will tell you how amazing teaching is; this life-changing, humbling experience more valuable than, well, anything. This is usually the case. But I must warn you, in rare situations, you will find yourself wondering, how did it get this bad?

It was the first day of school. I put on make-up (for once), wore my best teacher-esque skirt and had my backpack with pens and notebook in tow. I was ready to meet my new co-workers, see where I would be working and start the new school year. While there were 100 small things that bothered me that I could share with you here, the thing that affected me most was my fear; I was afraid of my bosses.

While there were 100 small things that bothered me, the thing that affected me most was my fear.

When you teach abroad, you will oftentimes work with both a school and an agency. This was the case with my new school. It became clear within the first few months that the agency and school did not get along. This was the first problem. It also became clear that regardless of good intentions, hard work and effort put in, our new boss was always ready to find a way to make it seem like you had made some colossal mistake. (One of these “mistakes,” for example, was when a co-teacher and I had used scrap paper to make worksheets for an English club we were running. Whoever thought that recycling paper could get you in trouble?)

After a few months of enduring the sporadic episodes our boss had that involved yelling, screaming, passive aggressive remarks and blatantly talking about the foreign teachers in front of the foreign teachers, I decided that I was done. I was exhausted from walking on eggshells when I was doing my best. I was tired of having to meticulously look over my paycheque to ensure that I had been properly compensated. I was tired.

Living abroad comes with enough challenges. I don’t know the language. I’m not adjusted to the weather. My apartment is a dungeon. I still get sick from the food. I am able to take most of these things in stride, laughing off the mornings spent in my bathroom.

That being said, I am not willing to let a handful of people ruin my experience abroad so far. As many of you may already know from previous posts, I’ve had blood poisoning here, been stolen from multiple times, and struggle with everyday life in general. My new work situation, however, was seemingly worse than all of these things put together. I would take a week’s stay in the hospital over ever going back to that school to work—that’s how bad it was.

The worst part is, I know I let my students down. Halfway into the semester, another foreign teacher quit, giving them yet another reason to distrust foreigners in general. I did not even have the guts to tell them I was leaving because of the guilt I felt. I simply could not work there anymore. I tried my best. I lasted as long as I could.

I’m not sure what advice to give. I had no way of knowing how bad my bosses were going to be. I had no way of knowing what I was getting myself into. I can only tell you that you should be prepared for how difficult it may be if you find yourself teaching in a situation that is less than ideal.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Kelly Iverson

Although Dorothy was quite content, Kansas was no place like home for native Kelly Iverson. After studying abroad, she returned with an itch for travel no amount of scratching could alleviate. She lives in Bangkok, Thailand, where she teaches English.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/KellyJIverson/

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