The first thing I do when waking up each day is checking my diary and all my schedules. It isn’t necessarily the best thing, to be on your phone right after waking up, but in the life of a freelancer, I want to see how my day looks straightaway. Generally, I will have an idea how my day and week is looking ahead of time and the week before; however I often wake up and have extra lessons dropped in, especially from Palfish, so I need to make sure I have time to prepare etc. I always update my diary with any changes and additions, so I know everything is up to date. After checking my schedules, I always check my emails for any messages from clients or potential new students and general teacher admin emails.
After checking all my schedules and emails, I then do the next most important thing…breakfast! Regardless of the time of my first lesson, I always make sure I eat first thing. Its vital to be energetic and on the ball when teaching. Even if its early doors for you, it might be mid afternoon for your student, so you don’t want them to think you aren’t at 100%. If you have back to back lessons, which I often do, I always try and have a drink and some snacks on hand as a pick me up for in between classes.
Most of my lessons are late morning to early evening and then evenings Monday – Sunday. With Palfish, as the students are all based in China and due to the time difference, I can teach anywhere from 8am-3pm, however the busiest times are 11am-2pm. I also teach Spanish students with Oxinity throughout the afternoons and then my private students at different times throughout the week depending on their availability and requirements. My evenings are booked out 7-9pm Monday-Thursday for another Spanish company teaching adults using the Cambridge English material. Once a week I also teach with Paper Airplanes as a volunteer, and these lessons are taught around the student’s availability, normally 1-2hrs per week plus pre lesson preparation time.
I’m quite fortunate in that all the companies I teach with provide lesson material in advance, so minimal prep time is needed which is helpful when managing time. Each company has a different platform and setup so preparation time varies and obviously, I need to prepare the lesson material and check through what I am teaching in advance, but it saves a lot of time rather than preparing the lessons from the start. For my private students, I prepare material in advance, as the lessons are more tailored around their individual needs and requirements, so I need to ensure to allow time in my schedule for planning. When planning lessons, I use various online materials. I have a few ‘go-to’ sites I use for lesson planning materials and ideas, and then I adapt the lessons around my students learning requirements and add/ take out content as required.
When I’m not teaching, I am most probably doing teaching admin! Being a freelancer, it can be quite hard to switch off from your laptop and phone as there’s always something that needs doing or checking. One of the things I do each week is my blog, writing a new blog for my website (www.catherinekilbane.co.uk) and sharing my (albeit limited) experiences and knowledge from my TEFL journey so far. This has been a really enjoyable part of teaching and something new for me, being able to share my stories and knowledge to the world. I also have a teacher Instagram page (@catherines.esl.online) where I share my TEFL journey. Here I also have a weekly English language theme where I share examples of the different themes each day in my stories.
Another part of being a freelancer and TEFL teacher is CPD – making sure I am upto date with any new processes and teaching methods and keeping refreshed on the latest exam processes and materials etc. I have signed up to a few different companies to help with CPD, along with the training provided by each of the companies I work for to ensure I am always up to date.
When I am not switched on and plugged into my laptop or phone, I love to get outside. I am part of a local running club which has been great during the Coronavirus pandemic and we meet at least twice a week, more if we are feeling keen, and run around 5-6k around the city. It’s a great way to meet new people, explore the city and local canals, keep fit and active, and have a good chat too! I also get out for walks when I can, exploring the city and the parks a short drive away. I love being outside and by water when I can, so this is a great escape from the screen and teacher life. I think its really important to have ‘down time’ and make time for you when not teaching. I also enjoy cooking, catching up with friends and family, going to the cinema, and visiting new places.
Before switching off at the end of the day, I do a final check on schedules, diary, and emails to make sure nothing has been missed then I can switch off for the evening!