13 Good and Educational Ways to Cry as a TESL Teacher

Teaching, a noble profession. Could there be any greater joy than seeing knowledge flash in a child’s eyes? Hearing your class count to ten in English, all together like an angels’ chorus?  Going home exhausted, with papers to grade,  smelling of the vomit you cleaned up when Erwan didn’t make it out of the room in time? It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.

I’ve been crying through my classes for about three years now, from the day I got my TAPIF acceptance letter, to when I taught English online to children in China, to the moment I signed my full-time contract in a Parisian primary school.

Teaching jobs have gotten me overseas, kept me fed and fulfilled, and knocked the wind out of me, depending on the day. If you’ve also found yourself in front of a class of confused kids, odds are you know the feeling. Chin up, soldier. Come on in for the hug. Here are 13 ways to cry about it.


Everything is a teaching aid. When the exhaustion creeps in and the tears leak out, have your students repeat: Water! Salt! Cry! And for the advanced classes: Desperation! Visual aids are key.


Maintain good hygiene. Germs fly around classrooms like bats in cave. Cry into your open palms, give them a good rub, and do some jazz hands to dry off. There you go, a good saline rinse and a jazzy finish to lift your mood.


The visa process was supposed to be so simple, wasn’t it? You signed what you were supposed to sign, you got certified in what you were supposed to be certified in, and now they’re asking for documents that go as far back as that tutoring you did in middle school? Just go to the embassy, and cry all over their electronics. Everything’s fried. The records are gone. The borders have been erased. Everyone can live there now.


Don’t forget to switch up the activities in your lesson so the kids don’t get restless. It helps to have a ritual that changes the pace. Here’s what works for me: saying clearly and slowly, pencils down. Good. Stand Up–very good! Okay, and, scream. Again? Scream. Three times! Scream.  As their little voices become one hellish clamor, pass around the tissues. They’ll be cleansed, refreshed, and ready to start the next assignment.


Difficult student? You have to make a connection. Next time Jonas swears at you in German, sit at his desk, look into his eyes, and cry. Don’t stop when class is over. Let the other students filter out. You stay there. Don’t you dare move until he is sobbing in your arms. You will then adopt him as your foster child, and he will take care of you in your old age. You did it! Your life is now a feel-good summer blockbuster.


You might have little classroom experience, a two-week online certification, and a lack of cultural awareness of the country in which you have just arrived, but, regardless, your program finds it appropriate to leave you alone with nine classes of thirty teenagers. No problem, it’s just a question of classroom management. When they start testing their limits, you have to show them who’s boss. Throw back your head and howl like you’ve lost your son to the war. Terrify them with your tears. You’re the captain now.


In the teachers’ lounge, your colleagues are chatting away in Japanese as you stir your coffee with a wooden spoon. It’d sure be nice to communicate with your coworkers, wouldn’t it? Squeeze out a solitary tear, a heroic droplet that rolls down your cheek as you look stoically out the window. They’ll be captivated. Who is this melancholy foreigner? You’ve intrigued them. They have to find out more about you. Now it’s their turn to struggle through your language. How the turn tables…


Who needs a budget for teaching materials? As the administration has made it clear, reimbursement is for the real professors. Well, it’s time to turn to Pinterest. Use your tears as a resource and get to crafting–a play-dough ingredient, a step in a science experiment… With a little ingenuity, anything is possible. 


So you imagined yourself in Dead Poets’ Society, as the Mr. Keating whose students stand on their desks at the end of the year to yell, ‘oh captain my captain!’ as you walk out of the classroom? We all did. Only you see your students once a week, they don’t understand what you’re saying, and your out-of-the-box teaching methods end in chaos. You realize, in fact, that you have not become Mr. Keating, but rather the old, angry substitute who takes his place. It’s okay, I know. The feel-good teacher movies have betrayed us all. Let your tears blur your eyes so you never have to watch it again.


Keep it simple. Whiteboards can be hard to clean, but salty tears are the perfect solution. Take your soggy handkerchief to the smudged surface and wipe it all away. The whiteboard is now pure as the driven snow. Cleansed, like your soul. Take a deep breath. It’s all going well.


You have to maximize student talking time! It’s all well and good if they can conjugate the verb “to be” on a piece of paper, but can they hold a full conversation on the nuances of America’s foreign policy? No? Not good enough! Create an exercise that drives them to speak. Put them in pairs, stand in front of the class, and cry. That’ll give them something to talk about. Require that their surprised and concerned commentary take place in English, and you’re on your way.


Somehow it’s been two months, and your paycheck still hasn’t arrived. You’re pretty sure you were able to open a bank account, but only understood about half of what the teller was saying. The savings you brought from home are running dry. Take your tears to the streets and depend on the kindness of others. Passersby will see it in your reddened face, the need, and help you out. It’s the least they can do.


Wait–one of the students smiled when you walked into the room? A teacher gave you a genuine compliment for all the work you’ve been doing? A parent thanked you after school? Bottle that up! Keep it forever! Let your heart warm and your nose run. Show them their compliments hit home.

How are you feeling? Cleansed? Relieved? Good, now get back to your class planning. There are a few more months to go until Winter Break.


Are you a teacher? How’s it been going for you? Let me know below!


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