I’ve always felt that in order to be a good teacher for my students I had to be at the top of my game all the time. This means having to let go of all worries and problems from the outside-of-the-classroom world while teaching, and I managed to make that happen for over a decade. Little did I know that there would come a day that my heart would ache so much that achieving such self-control would be almost impossible…

Sorry if you clicked on the link for this post expecting to find uplifting and happy words. I can’t give you that right now. I can, though, reflect about how we, humans, are sometimes entitled to suffer and be OK with that.

This year I lost my father. The pain that such loss brought to my family and me has been difficult to endure. So much so that after three months, I had to talk to my private students that I needed a little break from work because I had the feeling that I didn’t allow myself to grieve properly. After my father passed, I chose to deal with it by focusing on work and keeping my mind busy, but in hindsight I came to learn that this decision wasn’t very wise.

I’ll spare you the details and go straight to the point: I needed some time for me. Some time to cope, to cry, to figure out my feelings… But how could I allow myself to be “weak” and show vulnerability to my students? After all, they had hired a professional to teach them English, and being a private teacher means being your own business. In my head there’s this conception that when a client pays for a service, they expect excellence, and in the teaching/learning scenario, excellence means having that service delivered. Well, it turns out that life doesn’t always follow a pattern and each case is unique.

According to the Collins online dictionary, “someone who is vulnerable is weak and without protection, with the result that they are easily hurt physically or emotionally”. This is exactly how I felt: weak, unprotected and emotionally hurt. And denying it for both me and the people around me was worse. Besides feeling emotionally unstable, I started to have evidence that my emotions were reflecting in my classes. What I mean is, from a business point of view, I realized my students were getting their classes, but they weren’t getting good lessons. I was in no conditions to do my best. 

When I talked to my students they were nothing but empathetic and supportive. I was given the time I needed to wrap my head around everything that had been going on in my life and recover from such a painful heartache. This was quite relieving, not only because I finally got what I needed the most, but also because I was then able to talk about my feelings, and talking might be the best medicine when we’re in times of trouble.

The bottom line is: be vulnerable! The job of a teacher can be particularly stressful and uneasy. Putting too much pressure on ourselves will only do more harm than good. So whenever you feel like you need some time to take care of yourself, don’t feel sorry for it. Be kind to yourself and respect your own limits. This might as well be the boost you need to pick yourself up again.

Thank you for reading. And in case you’re feeling down, remember: this too shall pass.


Henrique Zamboni

Henrique Zamboni has been in ELT for more than 10 years, having worked for different language schools. He holds the CPE and the CELTA, a degree in Letras and a degree in Marketing. He is the founder of Inglês Para Adolescentes, where he is a teacher of teenagers and teacher trainer.

1 Comment
  • Alex Fernando Oliveira Braz
    Posted at 00:35h, 21 maio Responder

    Good to read your weaknesses. I could not agree more because I felt like this some years ago and I decided to do the same.
    I am a student of English and I am struggling to improve my writing skills and your articles are a inspiration to me.
    Hugs Alex

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