Patrick Hyland

It's Golden Week here in China at the time of writing, and 6 weeks have passed since landing in Pudong International; I don't quite know where that time has gone, but it's nice to be able to take advantage of some downtime, to reflect on my time in China and the ESL classroom. It has been an interesting transition coming to terms with my new environment, particularly in relation to my new work* schedule for my new job in China.

As it is a national holiday, and in the spirit of rest, relaxation, and recharging the batteries, we are lead nicely into the topic of energy levels, an extremely important aspect of teaching.

When I say energy levels, I'm referring specifically to the energy that the teacher brings to the ESL classroom. Teaching requires energy, lots of it. To be able to put ourselves in a position where we can teach to the best of our ability, and enjoy it in the process, it's crucial that we invest time in ourselves outside of the classroom.

There are many ways that we can ensure we enter our classroom in the right frame of mind; here are some suggestions that I've found to be beneficial, in my experience.


Mens sana in corpore sano- a healthy mind in a healthy body. However, you prefer to go about getting in a solid workout-yoga, weights, cardio, HIIT- find time for it. Chase that endorphin rush that precedes getting a good sweat on. A morning workout works best for me; when you step out of the shower after a tough workout, well, you would do well to find a greater feeling of invigoration first thing in the morning. Something to also keep in mind with regard to exercise is that you need to get adequate rest to reap the maximum benefits; build rest days into your routine, and try and get your 6-8 hours each night.

(China seems to be going through a fitness boom at the moment. When you arrive, check out the local gyms and hunt for the right price. Also, it's worth asking teachers in your centre about local sports clubs in the expat community.)


If you think of your body as a machine, nutrition is the fuel. Everything we put into our bodyhas an effect on how we operate throughout the day. You'll notice it also has an effect on our mindsetand overall attitude. We all have a fair idea what is and isn't good for us; if we can get on top of our nutrition, it will go a long way towards building and maintaining our energy levels for the ESL classroom. This is not groundbreaking information, but it's funny how uncommon, common sense can be.

(Finding the right foods in China is quite easy and really cheap! Head down to the local market or supermarket and stock up your fridge with some quality vegetables.)

Hobbies/ Interests

Find time for things that you love to do and are deeply passionate about- the things that bring you most joy and fulfilment. This is crucial. Perhaps you're like me and you find that time loses all significance when you are immersed in writing, or you may be a talented musician, an adrenaline junkie, or a nomadic traveller at heart. If you can find ways to bring these passions into the classroom, and build them into your lessons, wow, even better! Not only will your students be able to feed off your enthusiasm, but it also allows them to get to know you that bit better, making that connection stronger.

(Think of China as an opportunity to reinvent yourself in some way. You can keep your usual hobbies and interests, but there's always something new to do and explore. Check out the EF Teacher Events page for some inspiration.)

Invest In Yourself

The art of teaching is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, and it does require a lot of energy. We owe it to ourselves, and our students, to be able to bring a certain level of energy and enthusiasm to the table. Take time to invest in yourself outside of the classroom, and it will have an instant positive effect on the dynamic inside the classroom.

*Work implies physical and mental effort towards something that you have to doand usually carries negative connotations with it. Every day is a new and exciting opportunity to grow and learn; if you enjoy what you do, there should be no work involved. Here's an added tip: don't use the word work for 7 days and see if you notice a change in mindset.

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