Advice for single expat teachers during a pandemic

Life as a single teacher abroad can be amazing - but during a pandemic the usual social scene has collapsed. Kate Jones offers some advice on making the best of this time to yourself

Kate Jones

Being a single teacher abroad can be tough but great fun too

Life for a single teacher when you are miles away from relatives and friends can be hard.

Of course, usually you are able to make new friends, travel, meet new people and generally enjoy the perks of being your own boss – in your own time at least.

But during this year lockdown has made this mostly impossible – and made life for single teachers particularly tough.

It often means going long periods of time where the only interactions involve talking to key workers when out shopping for essentials or greeting a person with a delivery. It can be tough when facing the prospect of another weekend on your own in isolation.

As such, here is some advice for single expat teachers to help get through this turbulent period, based on my own experiences and that of colleagues and friends

1. Find your family away from family

Make sure you have a support network around you and it’s just as important to reach out to them and check in on them as it is for them to support you.

This will probably be colleagues you work with or other individuals in the teaching community in your area. Stay connected, keep in touch regularly and get involved – whether that be a Zoom quiz, group chat or a socially distanced coffee.

It’s a simple thing but can easily slip – so make time to communicate.

2. Do stuff!

It can be tempting to hide away and binge watch Netflix for escapism but this shouldn’t take over. We need to motivate ourselves to do something.

Go for a walk, read a book, do some exercise or yoga, take up a new hobby, anything to energise your brain and body.

3. Connect with others online

Twitter has a great community of educators with a common interest and passion for teaching. So it can be a great way to connect with other like-minded teachers who are facing similar struggles and can relate.

Facebook groups are also another useful option, too. There will be local and national groups that post regular updates about places that are open, flight information and even offer competitions and discounts to people in their communities.

Overall it’s about using these platforms to cultivate the right community so they are a source for connection, camaraderie, knowledge-sharing and fun.

4. Talk to someone

Being on your own for a long period of time without any real physical contact or connection can be tough.

So it’s important that anyone struggling with mental health tells someone how they are feeling. It could be someone within your family away from family, it could be friends or family back home, your line manager or HR department.

If you lead or work with colleagues who are single it is worth checking in on them if you haven’t already.

Alternatively, if it is a struggle to talk to someone you are close to (this can be down to a range of reasons such as fear of worrying those we care about or not feeling comfortable to do so), then a good option would be to talk to a doctor.

Medication is not the only solution they will offer. A doctor may be able to provide some strategies and tips, recommend a useful book, refer you to a specialist or, if it is the best option, then prescribe a form of medication.

5. Disconnect

Staring at our phones is tempting but not always helpful – especially if we’re bombarded with images of those that don’t need to self-isolate alone.

Sometimes it’s better off to just switch off from all this by putting your phone away, having a bath or reading a good book, and appreciating where you’ve got to in the world.

It’s important to remember that this won’t be forever and we are all in this together. Even if you are single you are not alone.

Kate Jones is Head of History at The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi. Author of Love To Teach, Retrieval Practice and Retrieval Practice 2. She tweets @87history 

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