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”



Francophone errors

Education is the most powerful weaponwhich you can use to change the world. In my almost two years of teaching in Paris, I have found that French people continually make the same mistakes in English. This has annoyed me so much I’ve decided to start writing about it.

One of the biggest errors that Frenchies make is to take words that they read and hear in English that semi-sound like French words but have a totally different meaning and without looking it up or trying to understand from the context, they just take it and try to use it in a total senseless manner.

Today, one of my students was trying to explain to me what he had to done this morning and it ended up with him explaining in a long winded manner that he had taken his son to playgroup and that his son really enjoyed it there – well at least that’s what I managed to decipher from the broken English. What came next was the weird thing, my student was trying to tell me that his son’s play school was between his apartment and his office but he somehow came out with “my son play school enter apartment and work”. Come again ? “my so play school enter apartment and work?” Heureusement, je parle le français !

My second pet peeve is when Frenchies mistake “actually” with “at the moment” and this Education is the most powerful weaponwhich you can use to change the world. (1)is an extremely common mistake. “My actual job”, “I watched the actualites”. No no no no no! Actual = is in fact not at the moment “my current job”, “I watched the news” grrrrr. Connected to that is when people say the new – its always plural! It even is so in French!

And one last one for the road that is rather fitting I think considering this blog post.

Student: “Oups… I do a mizzzztake!”

Me: URGHHHH.. you MADE a mistake.

Bon courage à tous !




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..