This is a breakdown of a typical day in the life of a TEFL teacher. I chose Tuesday as it’s my busiest day so it gives you a better view of what it’s like day to day. Most days I would have fewer lessons than this, so if it seems like a lot don’t worry!
I’ll begin this by saying that I live on the school campus and that it is a primary school so that may be different to the contract that you have so bear this in mind. Your results may vary.
My school is also very lenient with office hours and unless there is a specific reason then I don’t need to be in my office. This means if I’m not teaching then I’m free to do as I wish, check your contract for office hour requirements.
A Typical Day in the Life of a TEFL Teacher
8:20 am Wake up – This is when I wake up, I don’t need an alarm as this is the time when the whole school come out to sing the national anthem. So that is an interesting way to start the day. My first lesson isn’t until 10:20 so I have enough time to get ready and print off anything I need during the day.
It’s pretty nice to not have to rush early in the morning too. Also, as I actually live within the campus it is literally a sub 5-minute commute to the classroom or office.
10:20 am Lessons begin – This is my first lesson. This class is usually pretty… boisterous, so I am glad I have them early in the morning whilst I still have the energy. The other benefit is that if a lesson plan works with them it will almost certainly work for my other classes.
I should add that the way my schedule works is that I have 12 regular lessons a week and 6 individual classes. This means I plan 2 lessons a week then repeat each lesson six times. In some ways this is good as it means lesson planning but also can be repetitive by the end of the week.
After this class, there is a fifteen-minute break for the students to do their eye exercises. They rub their eyes in a special way, I don’t really know why but it’s nice to have a break.
This is followed by another lesson then lunch.
11:45 am Lunch. The school gives all the foreign teachers free top ups on the lunch card making lunch essentially free (the top ups can also be spent on breakfast and dinner). The lunch break is about 1 hour and 25 minutes so if the canteen isn’t offering anything good then it’s possible to leave the school and go to a restaurant or something.
Lunch is typically a choice of basic Chinese dishes, fish, pork, vegetables and then you help yourself to rice. Some days when they are feeling particularly generous they might offer some pig’s ear or intestines or something… But luckily there are usually other options.
After lunch, the students have some free time to play and I can go to my office, practice some Chinese or do whatever I want. When the play time is over, it’s nap time. It’s not only nap time for students but teachers as well, so feel free to take a nap to re-energize yourself before the last lessons of the day.
1:10 pm – Lessons start again. There are two lessons in the afternoon each 45 minutes (the same as morning lessons). At 2:30 the students spend some time with their form tutors.
3:15 – English club. Most students will go home at this point unless they have signed up for a specific club. Clubs include making Lego constructions, dance, badminton, model airplanes amongst others. The foreign teachers each have their own English club which is essentially a freestyle class where the parents are just happy their kids are interacting with a foreigner. It is pretty relaxed, and I usually play games in English with the students so it’s something fun for them.
4:05 pm – School is over. At this point, I am free to do whatever I want as work is finished. A few times a year the school may ask to help if they are doing rehearsals for an English performance or something similar, but that is up to me whether I want to.
I personally have a few private lessons after school for some students that I was teaching last year but again this is something optional and there is no obligation to do it if you don’t want to.
For dinner, I might meet with my foreign colleagues and we will go out to a restaurant together. Alternatively one of the families of the student I teach privately will cook for me. I don’t cook for myself very often as the facilities in the apartment in school are not so great for it and restaurants are very cheap anyway.
After that, sometimes my colleagues and I play basketball at the local basketball court or go out to watch a movie or just go for a bike ride on the free “sharing bikes”. It’s pretty good going really!
So there you have it, a typical day in the life of a TEFL teacher. If you want to ask any questions then please feel free in the comment section below!