You will find that being a TEFL teacher takes a lot of patience, especially outside the classroom. Getting the required paperwork, navigating the minefield of cultural differences — all of that takes patience.
That said, what can you do if you are not the most patient of people? If being patient doesn’t come naturally to you, you can try to develop some techniques to help you cope with situations that need a touch of patience.
For myself, I am NOT naturally a a patient guy. However, over the years I have trained myself to deal in situations where I am not in control.
For example, take the mid-level officer who is in charge of visa processing in your target country abroad. When you are asking for help from her, you have no control over the situation—she can make your life heavenly or hellish. When I come in contact with someone like this, who controls the strings, so to speak, then I have learned that I should approach this situation with a smile on my face and preparedness in my heart. I have to be prepared to do whatever she says it takes to get my visa paperwork done.
I have learned that getting upset about delays in paperwork, or getting nervous, or trying to push the officer’s buttons won’t realistically influence my case in a good way, and is more likely to make the situation worse.
Newbie TEFL teachers are often the most prone to frustration over bureaucratic fumbling. When I’m confronted with a situation out of my control, I try to keep it in perspective. In my own country there are also some processes that are terribly inefficient and frustrating — the lines and procedures at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the USA are famously ridiculous, and student loan officers around the world strike a terror of paperwork in the hearts of their customers.
One thing that’s helpful to keep in mind when you’re dealing with potentially frustrating scenarios abroad is that life in another country is really not THAT difficult. What may be the problem is that you, as a foreigner, don’t really grasp the full picture of what you need to do, and often will not have good enough language skills to get through processes smoothly.
A while ago, I was assisting an English teacher who was going to go teach in China. We were working on the various paperwork necessary for work permits and visas when it became clear that we needed to ask someone back “home” to fill in a form. Not a problem—yet. We found the right form, asked nicely for it to be filled out, and then sent it in to the Chinese official for processing.
But, why? Apparently, the form that we had had filled out didn’t have a “chop” (usually a stamp or seal) from the school on it.
Well, chops are quite important in Chinese culture (and in Chinese bureaucracy), but not, of course, in Western culture. In the US, a signature is just fine. But in China, that stamp is worth much more than someone’s scribbled name.
Eventually (despite it being during school holidays, when it was quite hard to find anyone in the relevant offices) we got it sorted out—but only after the teacher I was helping acquired a saint’s worth of patience.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Know that the paperwork involved in getting your job overseas will probably frustrate you more than any situations that arise out of your actual job.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t lose perspective. There are doubtlessly things in your home country that frustrate you, too. Life is a journey down a road filled with obstacles and rewards.