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”

 

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Confusion

Apologies for the lack of update this week.
I woke up yesterday and could no longer move my neck. I still can’t look down and have to sit in extremely upright position. It’s ridiculous! I think its to do with the way I lie down sometimes with my laptop and my head isn’t properly supported so it serves me right really.
Anyway, the point of this post – well, remember the internship that was making me jump through hoops to get for months; they finally decided to offer me the position except that I have already decided to go to Paris and even put down a deposit for a room – a pretty expensive deposit at that.
I’m confused at the moment because this could potentially be a really good opportunity at the same time I have always had my heart set out on going back to Paris and I’m sure I’m fond of putting that off for a year to do this internship.
The internship would be in Munich but it only pays 400euros per month and although accommodation is provided, I would have to share a room with someone – something that I have never done in my 25 years of living. I find that a bit weird to continue the student lifestyle. Although, the internship and living in Munich could make up for that.
I’m so confused! I’m 80% leaning towards Paris but is this an opportunity that I shouldn’t pass on?

Perceptions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perceptions after taking an online course entitled: On Strategy: What Managers can learn from Great Philosophers. So in the first lecture, we learn about “The forgotten half of Change” which is perceptions.

 After my cousin left, I had just arrived home back in the sticks of Cambridgeshire and I think I had pretty much decided on going back to Paris – well I had pretty decided on going back to Paris before I left Paris, but anyway, I finally decided to just suck it up and tell my mum that I was going and there was nothing she could about it – not like she was paying for me or anything.

I think the most annoying thing about my mother is that, she sees me in a certain way, even though I’m constantly changing (growing up etc, I am a 25 year old woman who lived in Paris for 5 years – paying my own rent and education), but her perception of me is still this young girl that she needs to make decisions for and that is fine – I guess that’s called parenting is all about. But I feel like asian parents have a particularly over-bearing way to do so. Anyway, she wasn’t happy about it and couldn’t understand why I wanted to go back and asked what I could possibly do there – apparently, all she thinks I can do is wait on tables and I got the same reaction from my dad (well, he’s generally much nicer and less irritating) but he also said to me “Oh, I hope you’re not going back just to wait on tables.”

I can’t get my head around this idea – I mean sure, while I was studying, the easiest job and the easiest way to make money was to become a waitress but this was always on the side of my studies and it was never meant to be my  full-time profession. There’s nothing wrong with working in the restaurant business, most of my friends do but that’s certainly something I’d consider.

I’m so sure there are plenty of jobs out there, some even catered just for English speakers like teaching English as a foreign language is a prime example. One of my friends actually got a job writing about apps just because she was a native English speaker. So yeh, after 5 months of wining about unemployment and being stuck out in the middle of nowhere applying for jobs that I’m over qualified for or under qualified for, I am going back to Paris on 13th May. 

I can’t wait for the French job search to begin. More soon.

Résumé

Today is my 3 month anniversary as an unemployed person and 5 month anniversary since returning to life in the UK.

Granted, it’s not really something to be celebrated but looking back on how time has gone past; it has definitely got me thinking.

In these past 5 months, I have moved home to live with my parents, quit a job, done a temporary assignment, broken up with my boyfriend, sent over 400 CV’s and applications, attended 6 interviews, been to Germany, seen my sister get married and I am pretty much in the same place as I was 5 months ago.

Unfortunately, things are not looking to change any time soon. I still haven’t worked out where my life is headed, chances of me getting a job any time soon seems slim and I’m starting to lose momentum in even applying. Everyday, I’m just waiting for the phone to ring – anyone want to hire me? My job search is going south – the same agencies are advertising similar positions and I have already been to register with them and I haven’t received a single call about a job.

I feel like I’m stuck in this house with my parents with no friends who live nearby and nothing to do. I need a new hobby. I need new friends. Suggestions welcome.

Incredible

So back in February I was starting to feel very desperate and just wanted to go back to Paris so I started applying like crazy to some internships and jobs over there and today I finally got a response from someone. I mean it took them more than a month to reply asking if I was still looking for an internship and when would I be available to start.

Is it just me or is a month a long time to wait for a reply from a job – I understand if it’s some sort of high level position but it seems bizarre to me that he’s coming back to me now. Anyway, I replied quite happily informing him that I would be available in 2 weeks so if all goes to plan I might be heading back to Paris after all.

Talking about Paris, I have been missing it lately so I was searching around for some blogs on WordPress and I have to say I am unimpressed with some of the Paris blogs out there. I don’t mean to offend anyone because I’m all for moving to Paris and following life long dreams and well what can I say.. it’s Paris. But Paris is not just taking photos in front of the Eiffel Tower and eating macaroons at La durée. Just saying.

Struggling

I’m struggling with so many things right now. What I want to do with my life? What am I going to do if I go to Germany? What am I going to do if I get the scholarship to go to Germany? When am I ever going to finish my dissertation? Should I go to Paris while waiting for the job in Germany? What should I write about on my blog?

So many questions going on in my head. I feel like I’m going to explode or implode? Another question.

It is actually really hard work to keep up a blog and to keep writing so I’m kind of happy that I decided to do this because I’m a real procrastinator and I will do anything but commit to anything and this blog has pushed me to do something and the comments that I receive from kind strangers about my life is encouraging.

I have been doing a lot of things lately, and also doing a lot of nothing. But, I’m happy to report that I completed a certificate for Microsoft Excel 2010 and yesterday, I started the introduction on my dissertation so I’m finally pretty positive today. But, I think the highlight would really be speaking to my friends on skype last night. They were surprised to hear how “chipper” I was sounding, considering that I live in the middle of nowhere, have no friends, no job and no life, but, somehow, feeling content, which is unusual for me.

Also, for once, I had a pleasant experience at the job centre. Another sign on day, but not another horror story. I had the same woman as I had two weeks ago and this time she didn’t suggest that I go into Accountancy or Teaching so the visit was all-in-all quite painless as she saw that I had been applying for jobs and I had been to 2 interviews in the last 2 weeks.

After that, I decided to go to a recruitment agency that had called me up yesterday, and here lies my mistake. I should never have gone there, it was a sheer waste of time as usual. There were trying to push me into doing a night shift at a call centre catering for Canadian-French speakers. I’m all for work and doing things to get more experience but I’m really not interested in doing shift work anymore. I did a lot of that when I was a waitress – 55hrs a week finishing at 2am/4am. It’s not a life. So I kindly told the recruitment consultant that I wasn’t going to be interested and she made me register with her anyway – the registration consisted of filling in a form, a signing off a couple of agreements as well as an aptitude test which was ridiculously easy with a few simple calculations and matching up so stuff. She then had a quick chat about what I was looking for and I told her that I was only really looking for office work with normal office hours and she said that it was unlikely that she would be able to help me with my limited experience. It’s so annoying this whole “limited experience” thing. I have a year’s experience in a office and degree in French – but somehow I’m not qualified to do some filing and admin work and my job pool is limited to serving and call centre shift work. Where am I suppose to get more experience if I can’t even get temp work. Recruitment consultants are only interested in making money and will never be interested in helping me find a job, they just saw “French” and tried to push me into a call centre job. Well, no thanks.

Side note: a receptionist position that I applied to a month ago, now wants to interview me. How random.

Life issues

Yesterday, I found out that my interview in Germany was a success!

I’ve been avoiding calls for a few days now since I got back from Germany. I’m not really sure why, but everytime I saw the phone ring I just let it. I think it was the fact that if I answered the phone and it was a big fat no then it would have been back to the drawing board.

Anyway, the problem is that the training programme they have for the position actually begins on Monday and the HR woman felt that that was a little soon for me since my interview only took place on 6 days ago – the move to Germany, finding a place to live so they have basically put me on hold. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not. My sister’s wedding is next Sunday anyway, so it would have been pretty annoying to start a training programme for a week and then fly back and sort of get around it or attempt to take one day off which would have been completely ridiculous. However, the company basically don’t know when they will actually have the next training programme, but they indicated that it might be in May since they need at least 5-10 people for the training programme etc, they are obviously not just going to do another one just for me. So, all in all, I got the job but I haven’t because I have to wait at the least another month or maybe even 2 months but they have indicated that they will get back to me as soon as they know when they will have the training and if I’m still interested in the position then we will go from there. So now, I’m evaluating what to do. I really want to go to Germany and I want this job but I’m bored of sitting around and filling in applications. Plus, if I was thinking about accepting this job in a month or two, then it would be stupid to start work and then stop again. I’ve been thinking about temping again but it seems like this kind of work isn’t readily available or they just don’t have that many temping jobs round where I live. I’ve decided that I might go back to Paris for a while, at least, while I’m waiting because I feel like staying in the UK is sucking the life out of me and I don’t want to work here so what’s the point in applying for a load of jobs I don’t want to do?

Finally, I am also applying for a scholarship to study in Taiwan for a year but I’m not really sure about this one, I would love to learn Chinese but I think I need to give studying a rest now and get some really solid work experience under my belt… Also, I am afraid of what my parents will think… Although, learning Chinese is important to them as it is a part of my history and our heritage, it seems that all they are interested in is getting me into a stable job, earning enough so I can buy a house and pay off a mortgage and basically begin my adult life. But I’m not interested in that, I want to live from country to country, learn new languages, travel, make new friends. I have absolutely no intention of putting a down payment on a house and then being stuck in the UK. I have had some talks with my sister about this as I guess my parents really don’t get it – they project too much hope or my mother has imagined a life for me that I don’t want but I’m still feeling guilty so…

Time will tell.

Hannover

Before I get into the order of the day, a quick update on Interview #5, the IP services coordinator role – as I expected I didn’t get the job. The recruitment agency called on Monday when I was on my way coincidentally to Interview #6. Apparently, there was a really strong candidate in the mix that got the job so voilà that’s the end of my adventures in Buckinghamshire.

So moving on, I haven’t updated for six days, I hope you haven’t missed me too much. I’m not going to go into my trip to Hannover too much because this isn’t a travel blog and Hannover isn’t terribly exciting – lots of business men in suits carrying briefcases. But just a quick summary of my trip before going into the details of the interview – I went to the zoo, visited Herrenhaus gardens, ate currywurst and did the Red thread tour of the city. Voilà. As aforementioned from my previous posts I went to Hannover for an interview with an outsourcing company – which I cannot provide the name of because I signed a disclaimer that basically tells me to shut the fuck up and what the company does and where it is and how their recruitment process works so I’m technically not even allowed to write about the interview OOPS. I’m doing it anyway because I can and I’m not disclosing who it is or where but you are of course welcome to guess. So the company provides outsourcing services and their headquarters are in the middle of nowhere in centre part of Germany where I had to travel to (expenses reimbursed.) I had already previously had a phone interview with the HR officer who spoke very good English – to be honest, it wasn’t much of an interview she basically asked some questions about my customer service experience, when I could start and what did I know about IT (This is an IT customer service rep role) and then she asked me to complete some online language tests in French and English. The tests were pretty easy – reading and listening, I don’t think I could go too wrong with those. The reading was basically a sentence with a gap and a choice of 4 verbs or whatever – so a light grammar test. And the listening was also multiple choice. Anyway, after that, it seemed that I had passed these tests and was invited to the interview on site in Germany. The town really was in the middle of nowhere – I was basically told that I would need to fly to Düsseldorf, Hannover, Münster, Paderborn, Dortmund and then hop on the train and then get a taxi. A pretty hefty journey – I ended up going on Saturday morning and coming back yesterday, making my overall stay of 4 days. I thought I might as well take a look around Germany if it was going to be a possible new home for me. The day of my interview I got the train to the town from Hannover – it took about one hour and half, I then got in a taxi which took about 10 minutes, the idiot taxi driver took me somewhere else and I ended up walking, when I finally got there, the instructions that the HR woman gave me were wrong, I couldn’t get into the building – luckily there were some lovely smokers outside who helped me find my way. I was led upstairs to get a visitors pass and then taken to another HR woman (not the one that did the telephone interview). This woman didn’t really speak English so the interview was completely awkward. There was also a line manager there watching but it was the HR lady that asked all the questions. From what I remember she asked:

Had you heard of our company before previous to your application? What do you think it would be like working for us? When would you be able to start? Where would you like to be in 3 years? How long do you plan to stay in Germany? What is your earliest start date?

Well, at least that’s what I think she asked – all the questions were really badly phrased and I’m not sure she even understand my answers. But the interview section ended pretty quickly and led on to lots of questions from my part but she didn’t quite understand some of those because the answers I got were pretty random. I was then led downstairs to another room where I was informed that I was going to take a number of tests. The test was again in 4 parts: PART 1: 2 emails I was given 2 emails, one in French and one in English. The emails were basically from an annoying customer having some issues and I had to reply to them as if I was working as a customer representative. So the email in French was a customer that had purchased a printer but had not received it and apparently had sent a couple emails previously as well as calling the service hotline and getting hung up on. The English email was a lot longer – a woman who had bought some phones but the switch kept breaking and they wanted to know about warranties, when the new smartphones were coming out and in this email, the woman had also been hung up on by the customer service hotline. I think in this test, they basically wanted to see if I had basic grammar and then how I would handle a semi-difficult customer. PART 2: An internet search on Bing I’m not really sure why I had to do an internet search – maybe they wanted to know that I wasn’t technologically retarded so I had to search for their company mission statement, look for pictures of Bill Gates, look for Bill Gate’s mission statement and then take screenshots and paste the URL’s. PART 3: A 30-question multiple choice quiz on Microsoft and IT stuff The test wasn’t too hard except that I own a macbook, so I’m very iffy on Microsoft – I remember that the first question was

What is the newest version of Internet explorer?

10, 8, 15. I definitely got that question wrong and then some questions about Microsoft office which I also think I got wrong but the mistakes I make always stick inside my head for much longer. PART 4: Typing test The typing test was pretty straight forward and I’m a pretty quick typer so I wasn’t fazed BUT the keyboard was German so I think there were a lot of mistakes with the punctuation and crap. All-in-all the entire process took about 2 and a half hours. And I ended up waiting for the bus to get back to the train station. I waited 15 minutes in cold, I definitely should have asked for them to call me a taxi. Nevermind. I’m not sure if I got the job because the interview was just so weird – there was a serious language barrier between the HR lady and I and then the tests went a bit wrong I think because I didn’t realise that I’d need Microsoft knowledge. But unlike some of the other jobs I’ve been applying to I actually would be really disappointed if I didn’t get this job because it’s for a good company and I really like the idea of a new start in Germany. Well… she said that I would hear by next week and that the next training session begins in May. So fingers crossed for this one.

Interview #5

Yesterday I went to another interview in Buckinghamshire – I got my sister to drive me there and then hang around in the small town for 2 hours while I was interviewing. Haha. I am mean.

The position was for an Intellectual Property Services Coordinator – so basically an administrative assistant in a translation company. The job doesn’t sound terrible exciting but it is 9-5.30 with an hr for lunch, well paid and very close to London; all-in-all, a very cushy job. However, I hated the interview in itself, not because I was nervous. I never get nervous in interviews but because the interviewers had no idea what they were doing. I hate people who don’t have any interview technique whatsoever and just read of the sheet – it was terribly distracting seeing the woman read and check off her piece of paper.

The interview was basically split into 3 parts:

PART 1. 3 exercises

The first exercise was to test how well I could prioritize or manage my time so the personnel woman who was pretty old and spoke extremely quietly lead me to an empty office and spread out 10 documents with an instruction sheet and answer sheet. The instructions told me that I was the Operations Manager of ABC industries – my major clients are Grouchy Enterprises and something else that I can’t remember the name off. I have been off for a week and need to deal with all the emails, messages and voice mails left for me on the Monday morning of my return. So, the documents included – my assistant who has called in sick and has a project that needs to be finished and sent to a client by 11am. A staff meeting at 9.30 with the MD, a new supplier meeting at 11am, a report to deliver to Grouchy Entreprises by 10am and several other issues to do with invoices that were URGENT. I was also given a chart of the company with names of who I worked with so that I could rather – delegate the task and to who, and which order etc. All in all, the exercise took about 20 minutes, and was pretty fun.

The second exercise was a basic filing test matching letters to numbers, a spelling test and a visual accuracy test.

Lastly, I was given an email from a client that required a translation except in the body of the email, the client asked for a translation by the 5th May and into German but in the subject of her email it was a translation into French and the deadline stated 27th June so I was supposed to write a response to the email which took me quite a while because at first I hadn’t noticed the discrepancies between the subject and the body of the email but I figured it out in the end!

PART 2. Interview with Personnel officer – this interview was ridiculously boring. I hate boring interviews, she basically just asked me a couple of questions about my CV off a sheet – “What attracted you to this position?”, “What do you think about our company?”, “When’s the earliest you could start?”, “Where else are you having interviews?”

PART 3. Interview with the managers of the department, two really quite young girls, one of them was German. I think this interview went a little better than the first, it was a lot more relaxed and I had a laugh with the girls because I think they weren’t much older than me but again, they were reading off a sheet of paper and worse making notes of my answers. I don’t mind when people take notes during interviews but I find it so much more interesting when the interview just flows easily and the interviewer seems to know what he/she is doing. All that scribbling just distracted and the questions they asked were the same as the personnel woman except they wanted to know an example of “How I was organised?”  I just made up a load of crap because I didn’t know what to say and probably because I’m not a particularly organised person but I can do admin.

I think things are not looking too positive for this interview as some of more answers weren’t particularly engaging I was too distracted by their crappy interview technique and the manic scribbling. NEXT.

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.