Month: Feb 2020

A day in the life

Yesterday, 14th Feb 2020, was a special day for me. Not in the romantic, Valentine’s Day way, though. It was the last day of the teaching semester at the university where I teach – cue high fives all round! 😀

Recently, I’ve read a couple of ‘A day in the life’ blog posts giving insight into people’s working days and have been extremely impressed at the tightly-followed schedules and routines – especially of those colleagues who work from home. You’ll see that my day is far less regimented, and especially on the last day of term, I feel sometimes like I skid through the day by the seat of my pants! But maybe some blog readers out there will still be interested in what a day in the life of an EAP teacher, team leader, materials writer and MaWSIG committee member looks like. Oh, and you’ll see, I should probably add ‘team problem solver’ to this list of duties…


6 am: Get up. (Yes, I need an alarm for this!). Have a cuppa with my husband, listen to the news and traffic updates. Pack my bag and lunch, then get dressed and ready to go – luckily remembering to take the empty drinks bottles with deposits on, and the shopping bags.


7 am: Drive to work. On Fridays, there seems to be comparatively less traffic, so I made it to the university in ‘just’ 35 minutes yesterday. Luckily, I work from home two days a week (that’s when I do my materials writing – I’d never be able to stay focused in the office at university), so I don’t have to do this drive every day! I use the time in the car to mentally go through my plans for the day’s lessons, and to warm up my voice by singing along to the radio.


7.40 am: In the office. Make another cup of tea to take to class. Get the computer on and answer students’ emails (usually apologies for absence in the day’s lessons, and a few other questions). Make piles of materials etc. to take to class for each lesson. I’m lucky that my office includes a computer desk, a ‘writing desk’, and a spare desk which I use for meetings with students and these piles of things to take to class. Surface is space is really the key for me getting organised!


8.15 am:  Start teaching. I have three 90-minute classes on Fridays (or, at least, I did, during the semester – now it’s the semester break!). The Friday classes this term were “Phonology and Accents of British English”, “Advanced Grammar” and “Integrated Language and Study Skills”, all undergraduate seminars with 25-35 students. Between classes, I have 30 minutes to get back to the office from wherever I’ve been teaching, perhaps stopping in the ladies on the way, swap the materials etc. in my bag, grab another drink, and get to the next lesson.

My three Friday classes were in three different buildings on campus, so I had managed about 2200 steps by 2 pm yesterday. Before I started looking at the step counter on my phone, I’d never realised how much I walked around during my classes; on a ‘good step’ day, I get up to over 1000 steps during a 90-minute lesson. Yesterday, though, the grammar class were taking an exam and we had two student presentations in the Integrated Skills class, so I was sitting for quite a while. Still, in the quiet of the grammar exam, I was able to give feedback on the group work the Phonology class had done in the morning’s lesson and post it on our online platform for them.


As an example of how chaotic the days can get, though: I had two students from a colleague’s class in my grammar exam, as they’d missed theirs on Monday due to the storm. She’d given me copies of her exam for them. About 10 minutes in, though, one of her students called me over and pointed out that the exam title said “mid-term” instead of “final”, and showed me that the questions didn’t cover the topics covered in the second half of the term. So I had to phone her in the office, (thank goodness she was there, as she doesn’t normally work Fridays!), and she did a rush-job on printing the correct exam for them and running over to my classroom.  To give them the full 90 minutes, I had to stay 15 minutes longer than planned, making my break between classes rather short and meaning I had to practically inhale the salad I had brought for lunch!


1.45 pm: Class are over! I mentally high-five myself as no other colleagues are around (those lucky part-time teachers!). I head back to my office and finish the rest of my lunch.


2 pm: Dump the materials from my lessons into a “To sort” basket – yes, I know, this is a bad habit. Really, I should file them back away in the relevant binders. But, come on, it’s Friday afternoon, and the last day of term!

I start checking emails that have come in while I was teaching. Most are short, some don’t even require more response than clicking “Accept meeting”. But then … a part-time colleague who finished teaching and has been on holiday since Wednesday has emailed. He’ll be away until the second week of March and had forgotten that we need his grade lists for “Integrated Language and Study Skills” by the end of February to know whether his students have passed and can be allowed to take the module exam. He’s (kindly…) sent instructions on where I can find the different lists with presentation, participation and homework scores, and has given me access to his class on our online platform so I can check their self-study diaries. Great.

I have to say… I was torn for a couple of seconds here. Part of me wanted to say “It was his responsibility and he has not reported that any students passed his class. So they won’t be able to take the module exam, and they’ll just have to complain to our boss.” But, of course, being the overly-helpful problem solver I am, I went to find the lists and see if I could decipher his doctor-like handwriting. (Luckily, I could.) But I still didn’t really see why I should do his work for him, so I called our student assistant and delegated that to her. It’s a task for complex and important than the scanning and admin we usually give her to do, so I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that she’ll manage and I don’t have to spend (too much) more time on his work.


3 pm: This is the second time in the week that I dedicate to my MaWSIG duties. (The other one is Thursday afternoon when we have our Skype meetings.) I add my tuppence worth to a couple of online discussions we’re having, and send off a few emails to get our next webinar sorted.


I look at my to-do list and check for any other urgent tasks. I’m glad I did this – it reminded me to upload the instructions for the final assignment for the “Phonology” class, and to send the invoice for the materials I wrote last week for an English-learners’ magazine. I have a paper diary, A5 size, where the days of the week are on the left and the right page is space for ‘notes’, i.e. my to-do list. I really like the fact that this enables me to add to-do’s for weeks far in advance, and it means I have plenty of space to list work, MaWSIG, writing and other life-admin to-do’s all in one place . I would definitely recommend a diary like this!

4 pm: The freelance teacher who has taught some classes for us this term is now finished with her last lesson. She has some questions about marking, invoicing, and planning the next semester. We also have a nice chat about the Irish elections and evaluate the textbook she has been working with. I give her some tips on adapting it more next time.


4.30 pm: There are actually still a few items on my work to-do list, but nothing that can’t wait until Monday, so I decide to call it a day. It’s a great feeling turning the office computer off on Friday afternoons, isn’t it?

Time for my grocery shopping. I find supermarkets in Germany rather stressful, so I stick grocery shopping on the end of my Friday to get it out of the way and not let it encroach on my weekend. I drive to the supermarket from work, return the deposit bottles, manage to get everything on the shopping list (made on Thursday evening – I’d be awful at spontaneously deciding on meals for the whole next week!), and then head home.


6 pm: Get home. Unpack the shopping. Make tea, put the radio on, and collapse on the sofa. A colleague actually texted me a work question around this time. But she will have to wait. Seriously, I learnt the hard way: When work is this hectic, and there are so many ‘things still to do’, that’s even more reason to have a real weekend (i.e. NO WORK!) so that I can face it all again next week with new energy and the necessary composure. Oh, and it was Valentine’s Day, too, of course…