A day in the life of a poor ESL teacher

8.00am I woke up in my freezing flat to sound of people pounding down the stairs. Yup my thin wall is adjacent to the staircase of an old Parisian building in the 11th arrondissement. I got up to make a cup of tea and saw that my flatmate’s cat had left its usual piss puddle in the middle of the floor so I proceeded to clean that up.

8.30am All dressed and ready to go after a quick tea and 2 sad little knacki sausages for breakfast. I headed to my metro “Charonne”. I headed on to line 9 in the direction of “Pont de Sevres”. I got on to the metro forcing my way in between all the other poor souls heading to work and crushed by the invasive piles of Spring tourists heading to Trocadero to see the “magnificent” Eiffel Tower.

9.15am I arrive at Franklin Roosevelt to pick up my day sheet and get the teacher’s manuel from the staffroom.

9.30am My first lesson was with a shy lady who I had never met before because this isn’t my usual school. The lesson did not get off to good start. She told me that she felt ill today and was not in a particularly good mood. I thought to myself me neither but let’s just get on with it. The topic of conversation today: The Environment. Absolute torture – an hour and half of

Student: “What does it mean “living things?”

Me: “Urghhh.. things that are living… to live… alive.. you.. me.. animals..”

Student: “What does it mean “heat”?

Me: “Urghhh.. Hot: the adjective, heat: the noun. You know the opposite of cold”

11.00am The bell rings, and I breathe a sign of relief.. First torture over, time to head to my next lesson. I sign the sheet and leave the Champs Elysées heading back on to line 9. BOOM.. I’ve gone on the wrong direction of course, I jump off and walk up the stairs and over to the opposite platform feeling like a complete idiot.

11.35am I arrive at my school in Porte de Saint Cloud. Pick up my day sheet. Ok I have 2 more lessons.

12.30pm My student arrives, I’m wondering why the hell do I always end up teaching at lunchtimes don’t these people eat. The topic: “Making new business contacts”. This student a little more happy to share than the last and we spend a pleasant hour and half speaking her job as an accountant at Canalplus.

2pm Finally.. lunchtime. Awkward time. I need to print off the exercises for my private student after my day at xxxx. One of the other teachers has already arrived at the school even though his shift begins at 5pm – I wonder to myself if I am really that hopeless and its not the job but me or he is just overly enthusiastic- who knows.

2.45pm My final student arrives – it is a 14 year old boy. I wonder to myself why I always end up being lumped with teaching the kids when I never signed up for this. We spend an hour and half practising the present perfect. It was almost mechanical.

3.30pm I’m done for the day, at least for my day job. Off I head on the metro again, this time I’m going to Guy Moquet in the north of Paris. I arrive at Moromesnil to change for the line 13 – my most despised line on the Paris metro system. I attempted to push onto the metro but it was impossible. I waited for 5 minutes and was finally allowed on. I got on and ended up squished against a man holding a pizza box and I thought to myself that pizza must be damn good if he is willing to go into paris just to buy one.

4.05pm I finally arrive at Guy Moquet and get up my student’s apartment. She looks stunning today but extremely bored as usual. A 20 year old business student from La Reunion that needs to pass the BULAT test to get to 3rd year in her course. We have a light banter about last week as it was the school holidays and then went straight on to the past paper. I realise that I didn’t actually print off the answers so I ended up doing the test with her. The 2hrs was surprisingly pleasant and I was pleased as I would finally have some cash.

7pm She pays me and I leave her flat thinking my god I haven’t had money since last week, I’m definitely going to treat myself to a kebab, a can of coke and a packet of marlboro lights. And that’s what I did.

All this to say that life in Paris truly is what the French say “Metro, Boulot, Dodo”




March has been an interesting month in Paris.

I am starting to freak out a little bit again. Firstly, the realisation that nothing has really changed since last year. Well.. in terms of professional development. I started this blog a year and 3 months ago and I feel like I am not any closer to discovering what I want to do with my life. Since moving back to Paris, I have worked in 2 language schools, the first was Wall Street English and now I am working for another (whose name I cannot disclose apparently). The thing about working in the ESL sector is that it is not a real career. Well… it is and it isn’t. Obviously, there are some teachers that I’ve met who have been working for 30 years in the business and they enjoy it immensely and love living abroad and most them of them are almost retired and then there are the younger souls like me who are kind of lost and feel like ESL teaching a sort of stop gap.

The major problem with teaching at a language school is that it’s a major rip off for the teachers because it isn’t really a school, it’s a business – therefore teachers usually end up getting paid a fifth of what the student is actually paying the school. The other annoying thing about teaching in a language school is the schedule. Maybe not in all language schools but for mine in particular, the schedule is sent to us every night at 5pm so it’s impossible to really plan a week or a month in advance because I’m not really sure when I will or will not be working and then there are many tedious gaps in the schedule ranging from 45 minutes to 3hrs!!

The other thing about language schools is that they don’t always have business during the school holidays etc. since most of the students are businessmen who wish to go on holiday with their kids during the school holidays so there is literally no work in some periods which can make it very difficult to live.

However, there obviously has been some pros to teaching English. I have discovered and learnt a lot of the English language that I wouldn’t have been able to explain properly if I hadn’t have taught it. And the sense that sometimes students are finally understanding something, I think that is always a nice feeling.

BUT, the thing is teaching is not my calling. I work for a pretty small school so it is mostly face to face private lessons; I do, however, occasionally, have to work at other centres where there were groups and I despised it so much! And working with kids! I have no interest whatsoever in pursuing a career in teaching or in ESL but I have met a bunch of great people and I have learnt a lot but I am still no closer to feeling like I have found something I want to do for my career or even see myself doing in 5 years. I just don’t know what to do..


I haven’t been writing for the last few days because I’ve been pretty busy. My cousin from Hong Kong was still in London so she wanted me to go out with her. I’ve spent an okay week but then I got a sudden rush or sort of need to check my ex’s Facebook. My cousin is 31 years old and a month older than my sister who has just gotten married. Apparently, when you are over 30 and single, times get kind of desperate.. at least in Chinese families. My cousin spoke a lot this week about her love trials etc and it just made me miss my ex so badly. I’ve been doing pretty well this last month. I haven’t even checked his Facebook or felt depressed but yesterday, I couldn’t stop going through his pictures and looking up for advice online about getting over an ex etc. I am feeling pretty lame right now and almost embarrassed but at least I didn’t try to talk to him. I’m proud of that fact.

On the job front – still nothing and my parents and my brother are really starting to get on my nerves. I’ve been looking up Eurostar tickets. I’m seriously considering just picking my stuff up and moving back to Paris. I can’t stand being asked when I’m going to get a job or when will I be getting married. Does life really have to be like that? Being born, going to school, trying to get into uni, finishing uni, getting a “real” job, getting married, having kids, growing old, death. I think everyone needs to stop planning my life out for me and just let me live it. JEEZ

Stupid questions

Another visit to the job centre, another horror story.

I went in today to “sign on”, and I happened to get the woman I first met at the start of my JSA journey back in November. As I walked up to her desk when she called out my name I knew that the experience was going to be excruciating. I sat down and she said immediately to me

Tell me about your job search then, what have you done?

Sure, just have a look at my notes on Universal job match. She scrolls through my job search and comes across a note I made about receiving an email from a agency recruiter telling me that I was “unsuccessful” and that my CV wouldn’t be passed on to their client.

Did you ask for feedback?

Feedback from a recruiter about why they didn’t send my CV across, of course not. If I did that I’d be making a lot of calls.

She looked at me for a second and said I recognise you actually, we’ve met before. You’re the girl that spent a year in France or something. I said yes, I am indeed, I spent five years actually. She then asked me the most ridiculous question:

Is it really that hard to find a job?

Ha, do I have an answer to that question? Well, I’m still here claiming the dole aren’t I so yes it really is that hard. She then suggested to me that I should look into accounts or book-keeping. Why is becoming an accountant always the answer for getting a job? I am not in the slightest bit numerical and I dropped maths as soon as I hit A-levels. She then scrolled over my CV and said

Oh, well you have catering experience – you’ve worked in restaurants, why don’t you just do that?

Urgh… I don’t know, because I don’t really want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. It’s interesting how the job centre staff just want me to get any job – be it cleaner, waitress, factory worker. They don’t care and they wish to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible each visit. Yet, everyday, in the news, we are reading out a benefits lifestyle and benefits Britain. Why aren’t they chasing after those people who actually don’t have any intention of finding work?

Luckily, tomorrow, I have an interview for a translation company so I’m feeling pretty optimistic at the moment and I just spent a good half an hour chatting to the recruiter – so basically being spoon-fed some answers for the interview tomorrow. Apparently, it will last about two hours – a traditional interview and then three practical exercises – answering an email to one of the “clients”, e-tray exercise prioritizing tasks for a typical work day and a spelling test.

Then, next week, I’m going to Germany next week for another interview. I can’t wait to get out of this rut.

Voluntary solitude

I did not wake up to a pleasant surprise today. After the break-up I was debating on deleting my ex-boyfriend off Facebook. It sounds petty and maybe it’s not even a discussion topic but right now I don’t know what to do. I already turned him off on Facebook chat and removed the notifications from him; what I forgot to do was to hide him from my news feed… So there it was this morning “[Insert ex-boyfriend’s name here] is feeling happy in Biarritz, France. I don’t know why but seeing his name and Biarritz sent me in a state of shock. The boy that was too busy to see me but manages to go to Biarritz for the weekend – the sacred place where we met. I nearly puked.

He is having probably the time of his life and I am at home with my parents doing nothing. It’s 4.43pm and I have managed to pass 2 levels on candy crush, 1 level on farm heroes saga, I applied to 2 jobs that I will probably not hear from and I watched 2 movies (Anchor Man 2 and Kick-ass 2). I haven’t seen anyone that isn’t my immediate family for quite a long time except for the visits to the Job centre or  recruitment agencies. The thing is, when I moved to Paris, my parents moved to a different city and all my friends live about an hour and half drive away. I know no one here and I’m not even sure I want to meet new people. I have one school friend that lives close by who I met up with once but I have been reluctant to contact her again – I hate catching up nowadays because there is nothing to catch up on. All I do is hang around at home feeling sorry for myself and talking to recruitment consultants. I don’t know if its a form of shame or jealousy that I don’t really want to have any social contact with any of my friends in the UK. I mean I almost envy her – she’s been in a steady relationship since school with the same guy and she was clever enough to do a vocational degree – Business studies so now she has a cushy job as a brand marketing  manager. I remember when she got the job I was still finishing my degree in Paris – it was literally her first interview and that was it, she got the job. And now she lives with the same guy that she has been with for the last 6 years – and they go on 4 holidays a year and have a nice house in Stamford. Since school, I, on the other hand, have had 5 different relationships; 5 failed relationships in 6 years and a string of other hook ups. I graduated with a language degree – a non-specific literary subject that is apparently worth nothing and I am yet to find my first job. Why didn’t anyone tell me that mid-twenties would be so hard? Why didn’t anyone tell me when I was 18 to be serious in school and then go into medicine or law. And why didn’t anyone tell me when I was 21 that I should be doing internships and making myself look as “employable” as possible. Do some people get it easier than others or are they just more adept to living?

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I’m so done

This is officially the worst weekend ever. Ok, a huge exaggeration but still I’m fed up. On Friday night, I got an urgent call from my recruitment consultant who told me that the company no longer needed me. FINE. At first, I was relieved – the long drive to work and the fact that I have nothing to do but now I am seriously pissed off. I don’t know how people handle temporary work, its so ridiculous – just going into a new place and being expected to pick up where the last person left off and doing a good job without receiving any training or help. Anyway, I was only there for an exact 6 days so I can’t even put that on my CV I guess. I really hate this weekend because I’m back at home – but this time it is not just my parent’s it is my whole entire family. My sister is back from New York this month to prepare for her wedding and there is also of course my brother. All five of us in this house again, except now it’s five grown ups instead of two parents and their three kids.

My mum keeps going on still about what am I going to do, I should just work at a call centre or accept old job. My dad said that I should cut my hair short because people aren’t taking me seriously with my long hair as I look too young. So yeh, great, now it has moved on to actually criticizing my physical appearance – apart from the fact that surely it shouldn’t matter. Having worked in recruitment I remember the employments laws – we cannot discriminate in the work place for age, gender, sexuality, physical appearance etc. etc. It’s not like in France or I think other European countries where there CV has their date of birth and age clearly stated with their sex and passport photo and the ads can clearly require a native speaker of yada yada rather than in the UK where they have to write “native speaker level”.

To be honest, if it’s not sales, I really don’t care what job it is. I’m bored of speaking to recruiters about my “job search”, I’m fed up with my family criticising my physical appearance to suggest that my “immature” appearance means that I can’t be taken seriously which I honestly doubt is the case. Why does everyone have an opinion about everything that they know nothing about? My self-esteem is seriously taking a bashing. I just want this over and done with!

I’m a temp!

So I finally got a job. Well kind of.. I’m not sure if temping counts but at least it gets me out of the house. I have spent the last 4hrs crying my bed which is so lame to admit but so true. My eyes are stinging while I write this post. I guess I am just frustrated at my life. I really don’t want to be here. As aforementioned, it was my 25th birthday on Tuesday and everyone that wished me happy birthday were all practically frenchies or people I had met in Paris. I feel like my life in the UK is non-existent, and I don’t really care about connecting with people; I actually avoid contact which is I guess a terrible thing, but if I’m honest, I really don’t care about anyone here. All my closest friends live in Paris and the school friends that I have here I’ve lost contact with – because they are all rather married or have kids or are in serious relationships. How is it that I’m 25 and half the people I went to school with are already married with 2 or 3 kids and I can’t even decide whether I want to stay in the country. I cannot imagine myself at all married, let alone a mother. I’m beginning to wonder if something is wrong with me; every time I look on my Facebook newsfeed someone else is engaged or having a baby! Yaaaay. My news? I’m a temp!

My assignment is pretty far from my place – like an hour and a half drive, I’m not even sure if it’s worth it in petrol money but I guess job is better than no job. Apparently, I’m going in as a customer service coordinator with languages. I don’t even know what that means and the agency has nothing extra to tell me. That’s the thing that I hate about agencies; I applied for an Editorial Administrator job and they immediately jump at the opportunity to push me into a customer service role. All I remember is the recruitment consultant calling me and saying she liked the look of my CV and asked if I spoke fluent French and would I like to register with them. Then an hr later, they come back to me saying that they forwarded my CV to a suitable position and that the company wants me to start on Friday. Except, I have no idea what the company is, I managed to get the name of it so I looked at the website – seems to be some posh furniture wholesale place. So, I wasn’t actually given a chance to accept the position, it was sort of assumed but obviously work is work! What I don’t get is why they must give me something so far away that I’m clearly going to get pissed off with. I’m going to have to get up at 5.30 or 6 tomorrow and with the traffic going to work/school – I’m looking at a 2hr drive! If it’s going to be like that there and back I’m going to be so dead. Plus, the agency didn’t even tell me what the job actually entails, they were super vague and just kept telling me how great the company was and how its family-run, great, but what the hell am I going to be doing? And how long is the assignment going to be for? They have no idea either. So helpful.

Well, I guess we’ll see. They seemed pretty desperate for someone if they didn’t even want to interview me and want me to start immediately.

Following up on the internship, it seems I passed the trial day of a thousand tasks, but I’m not sure, I’ve advanced to the next stage and they are now looking for me to show my motivation to work for them through a letter, a video or a presentation. I decided the easiest for me would be a letter so I hope that is well received, I think there may be one more task after this one but I hope not because I’ve been going through the same recruitment process for the last 2 weeks for an INTERNSHIP!

Since I “accepted” my temporary assignment, work has been flooding through, I hate that because now I won’t have time to go to these interviews. I’m really annoyed about that and it makes me always think of the phrase about men who are like buses – You wait for about a year. And as soon as one approaches your stop. Two or three others appear. Do they just detect that I’ve suddenly become available and decide to taunt me? I don’t know but I’m continuing to be stressed. I think I’m overloading my boyfriend with my crap and he’s going to leave me soon. Oops.

I’m freaking out

So yesterday was my 25th birthday.

I hate the number 25. I feel so old and unaccomplished. When I was 20, I thought that by 25 I would married and doing a stable job with a great start in my career. In reality, I have a few experiences on my CV, a good education, a difficult long distance relationship with a summer love.

Life is a lot harder than I thought and the day I left Paris was certainly the biggest mistake of my life. Now, that I’m back, I feel so trapped. I think the reason that I can’t find a job is not because of the economy or the recruitment agencies or anything else. It’s because my heart is not in it. I spend all my days dreaming about Paris – when I’m driving in my car, commuting on the tube, watching tv, eating dinner. I didn’t try very to look for work there and I definitely gave up too soon but I have found that trying to apply for work in the UK for a job in another country is an extra task that most employers don’t care take on.

I had a discussion with my mother today, not a serious one, but I told her that I missed Paris and I wanted to leave. She seemed very offended and was not keen on the idea. But it makes me feel kind of sick to stay in the UK. I can’t even be bothered to get out of bed sometimes. I just spend all my time looking for jobs, filling in applications, talking to recruiters (I talked to 6 today). My phone keeps ringing and ringing and I just want to throw it out of the window. I’m so frustrated. Everytime I talk to my friends, I tell them “j’ai envie de rentrer à Paris” and they ask me what’s stopping me? Family, pressure, fear. My parents were never happy about me going Paris and when I finished my degree, they were pressuring me to come back. And most people will say, well just live your life how you want to but I think there is always a difference of growing up in a traditional Chinese family rather than a Western one, the burden of guilt is incredible. I have never felt so guilty for leaving and doing what I want to do and I still feel that pressure and guilt everyday to please my parents but at the same time I can’t. My heart is telling me to go back to Paris and my head is saying stay and find a job. I’m literally torn. My sister says that I should find a job in Paris first – a serious one then they can’t really say anything anymore. The thing is I need to be out there to find one – to be available immediately for interviews, to chase up the companies. I’m at a loss.


Today, has been the most boring day ever.

It consisted of waking up to a rejection email (I didn’t even make the cut for an internship position):

Thank you for your recent application for the above post. I am sorry to tell you that we will not be taking your application any further on this occasion.

And then I was pulled into babysitting again. I actually went to the cinema and watched Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy. I think today has been the all the time low for me. I am really not one for animated films but this one really waq a straight to DVD film. Although, I enjoy spending time with my family I sometimes feel quite trapped by them and today was particularly hard on me. It dawned on me that next week is my 25th birthday. 25 sounds horrifying to me because it is, of course, a quarter of a century. It is also 5 years from being 30. It is also particularly monstrous because I’m unemployed but this is not a topic that I particularly want to touch up because I feel like my job search has taken over my life.

February marks my 3 month return to the UK. I find myself really missing Paris. I left Paris because I thought I was becoming out of control. But I find that in England I am not all that interesting and I often become depressed. I am a completely different person. Withdrawn from the world. I have actually only managed to see one friend in the UK since coming back and that was a one time thing. There is a serious lack of real social interaction in my life bar seeing my boyfriend and his friends twice before Christmas but now even he has returned to the south of France. When I think about it, it really depresses me. In Paris, I would spend every night with my friends and I mean we really did go out every night to the point where it was excessive; I thought that I was out of control so I left. I never really bothered to look for a serious job over there and now I am starting to regret it. I’m certainly experiencing a lot of job envy for my classmates that make that plunge to stay over there.

I feel lonely. My only interaction with the outside world is with recruitment agencies and employers and it’s making me incredibly bitter. My time is otherwise spent flitting between my parent’s house in Cambridge and my auntie’s house in London. My life in Britain is becoming exceedingly unhealthy and I can’t seem to get myself out of this funk. It’s not like I don’t have friends here but I’m almost ashamed to meet up with them and catch up. I find myself leaning harder on my boyfriend for affection and just general human interaction but he is so far away and he is not really one for communication (he actually told me that he hates speaking on the phone and video chatting so that leaves us texts and facebooking) I really do feel like I’m bothering him all the time and he is the only person I can really express my frustration to, I guess the closest ones to us, pay the heaviest price…

All I do is day dream about Paris and wonder did I give up too soon?


CV’s sent: 10

The three events of today, the email rejection, the phone call and the forum post

Thank you for your application for the position of Graduate Trainee. Unfortunately, in this instance, your application has not been successful. We had a really strong response rate and one outstanding candidate who has now accepted. However I’d like to thank you for your interest and time taken in applying and wish you every success for the future.



I always love waking up to rejection. Not. I can only question why he signed off the email with “yours”, is that normal email rejection etiquette? This was followed by the usual recruiter call from XY recruitment to ask if I was interested in doing a temp job at a call centre for Coca Cola. Yes, great, of course, send my CV! That’s what I always say but I never hear from them again.  For example, yesterday, I got a call from the recruiter at Reed who informed me that admin position she had put me forward for a few weeks ago and that I had never heard back from had just become available again and would I still be interested. She then informed me that the position had become available because the previous candidate’s excel skills were not strong enough so she would need me to do a few online excel tests ASAP that she would send me by email – No sign of that, and no response from her after I sent a polite email today reminding her that I had yet to receive these “tests”.

Anyway, today, was a particularly boring and unproductive day. The thing about being unemployed is that everyone thinks you have so much free time because you’re not working. And then all of sudden you’re lumbered with school runs and doing little errands for people. I don’t live in London but I come down often and stay with family because I find that the capital has the largest accumulation of job vacancies and I can pretty much come and go as I please. I repeat I can pretty much come and go as I pleased. I have found that since being unemployed, I have turned into a babysitter for my auntie, I am also in charge of picking up my cousin from school. I’m not particularly bothered about doing it except for the fact that I can’t actually parallel-park and fighting with mums for a parking space while they try to pick their kids up from school is a particularly scary experience. Luckily or unluckily, this week is half-term so i have spent the day running around after a 5 year old and have watched both Tangled and Cinderella and tomorrow I’m supposed to go to the cinema with her to watch another Disney film. Then, on Saturday, I am apparently supposed to drop off my gran to Stevenage on my way home.

All these tasks got me thinking, how much time on average should we be spending on our job searches per day, per week, per month. And what should we do in the meantime when we can’t find work? I remember that my advisor at the job centre told me a few weeks ago that I should be spending at least 35hrs a week looking for employment (so basically almost the same hours as a full-time job in France haha). Is it really productive to spend all that time searching for work? Sometimes the opportunities and vacancies just don’t match our own personal profiles what are we supposed to do then. Yesterday, I was on a student forum where I was trawling around correcting French GCSE’s essay’s when I came across a thread about an OP that was asking if it was worth signing on to JSA. Another graduate that was having trouble finding full-time employment and had registered with a couple of agencies who had proposed him a cleaning job which would allow him to earn less than he would if he signed on. Well, I replied that there is absolutely no shame in claiming JSA while looking for a job, it’s called JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE (as I have previously mentioned in my post entitled job snobbery) but to be wary of Job centre’s because they like to organize work experience like factory work for jobseeker’s that basically add no relevant skills to your CV and to be honest, its cheap labour isn’t it. The work experience that they organize is usually full-time or at least 30hrs but you only receive the same amount of JSA. I was merely pointing out that I thought the Job centre’s were doing a pretty crappy job of helping grads get back into work. But anyway, I was then accused by another poster that I had an attitude and that the government shouldn’t subsidize my “lifestyle” because I won’t accept work that is beneath me.

Except that is absolutely not true, when I came back from Paris, I applied for a customer services position in Call centre for Mastercard, accepting the minimum wage and the shift work but my interview was unsuccessful even though I have a fair amount of customer service experience. The job centre then decided to arrange work experience for me at the same call centre to do exactly the job that I was rejected from but on my JSA wage. I am merely stated the ridicule of the whole situation. Working essentially for free for job that I was deemed unsuitable for.

I am a firm believer that we should all follow our dreams and aim for our chosen careers, however, let me state that I am not at all promoting a “lifestyle” of staying on the dole until that dream job magically hits you in the face.

P.S I am also not looking down on voluntary positions! By all means, it may even be the best way to get a bit more experience.