Another day in my life – October 14th

In an attempt to accurately represent the life of a TEFL teacher in Paris, here’s another ‘day in my life’ selected at random.

My alarm wakes me up at 7:31. I stare at it and grumble a little as I contemplate snoozing – on Thursdays I don’t start until 10:00, so I can usually sleep in. However, I realised last night that I hadn’t made some photocopies that I would need today and would have to go to BTL’s office before my classes.

I grudgingly get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth. When I return to my room, I decide to snooze after all, resetting my alarm. After four minutes I feel guilty and decide to get up – as well as leaving early today, there are some things I need to finish before I go.

Next – making the bed. In Australia I was quite lazy with my bed, but here it’s a necessity. I can’t open my wardrobe when it’s out.

Step 1 - unmade bed

Step 2 - made bed (yes, the mattress is strapped down)

Step 3 - my daily bench press

Step 4 - the mirrored wall in my beautiful, spacious, bedless bedroom

Last night I was preparing some video activities for my students, and this morning I realise neither has gone the way I’d hoped. One was going to be some extracts from the Friends episode where Joey tries to learn French (S10E13), but none of my downloads have worked. Luckily I realise that I can save videos from YouTube, so quickly get the clips I need. The other video was of some extracts from episode 1 of Mad Men, which I’d clipped and pasted together using Windows Movie Maker for the first time. Unfortunately, when I publish, the video plays with a green bar across the bottom half of the screen. After following the advice of some online forums, it doesn’t play at all. Fortunately I discover that I can play the unpublished project full-screen using Movie Maker, so that will have to do.

I leave at 8:20 and go to the bakery across the road from the metro to pick up a pain au chocolat for breakfast (at €1.20 they’re a little expensive here, but I’m hungry). I then walk to the station. In front of the entrance are three people distributing each of the free papers – Direct Matin, Metro and 20 Minutes. As I approach, they stand in a diagonal line across the entrance and offer me a paper, saying ‘bonjour Madame’ in a canon so well timed that it could have been choreographed. I turn all of them down and scamper to the train. Today it’s line 1 from Pont de Neuilly to Franklin D. Roosevelt, then line 9 to St Augustin, then a five minute walk to BTL.

First I photocopy Unit 4.4 from The Business, Pre-Intermediate for my first class – Groupe Laudic. This is supposed to be a class of two, Antoine and Daniel, but only Antoine has come to date. Having reported this to BTL a few times over the past month, Daniel has confirmed his attendance today, so I’m a little nervous. I’m planning to start with the Friends episode and use this to lead into a discussion about learning languages and re-setting our objectives (this way I can learn Daniel’s objectives and confirm whether Antoine is happy with the course), before going on to some work on performance appraisals from the book.

Next I go to one of the computers to print out an activity sheet I wrote last night to go with the Mad Men extracts. Upon opening my email, I see a message from Antoine:

‘Hi Jolie,

I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t be there today because I have some issues with the person who keep my daughter.

Take care

Hmm . . . so I might have a lesson with just Daniel. Although he said he would be there today, I’m not sure I trust him after his performance over the last six weeks. I reply to Antoine, and send Daniel an email, asking him to confirm his attendance by 9:30.

At 9:20 I go to Lisa in planning and ask if she can call him. Her side of the conversation goes something like this:

Hello Sir, it’s Lisa from BTL . . . I’m fine, thank you. I just wanted to confirm that you would be at your English class today . . . oh good, I just wanted to be sure, as Antoine will not be there . . .” she frowns, “. . . it’s at 10:00 this morning . . . ah, okay, so you won’t be there after all?

Yay – late cancellation! This means I get paid for 1.5 hours without doing anything, and next week’s class is already planned. Not having anything else to do at BTL, I decide to do some grocery shopping – some of the other teachers have said that the Monoprix near Saint Lazare accepts restaurant tickets, and I’m eager to test the theory.

As I reach the checkout, I tentatively ask, “puis-je utiliser les tickets-resto?

Oui, oui, c’est bon,” the cashier says. I grin as I realise that my food expenses are going to plummet – I’ll rarely have to pay for groceries anymore.

Now I go home to relax before my 1:00 class. It’s a shame I didn’t get the cancellation last night – I could have slept in after all :p

At 12:10 I leave again, taking line 1 to Chatelet then Line 14 to Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand. From the metro I head to Flammarion’s office, on the bank of the Seine.


13:00 – 14:30, Marie-Maud, Advanced

Lately I have been feeling uninspired with lesson plans. Unless I make some notes on class ideas in the previous lesson, I often find myself struggling to think of interesting activities – I seem to have used everything in my arsenal on all of my students.

So I was rather grateful when one of the other teachers at BTL told me about the DVD-ROMs that come with our course books. As well as having a digital version of the books and audio activities, they also have video activities which I’ve been using for the past fortnight with some success. Videos from The Business take about 45 minutes, which consist of watching a 3-4 minute video a couple of times then going through the activities on the disk, including multiple choice questions, matching the beginnings and ends of sentences and re-ordering dialogues so they match the video. Market Leader videos are much shorter, as they only come with one set of multiple choice questions, so I generally do two or three together.

Now, Marie-Maud’s lessons have been giving me strife for a few weeks – being my most advanced student, she gets through the book quite quickly, so I am constantly looking for (interesting) external activities to do, and have run out of ideas.

However, as I was planning to use my laptop for my next lesson, I decided to create an 8 minute video of extracts from the first episode of Mad Men – I was introduced to this series last week and instantly fell in love with it. Being set in an incredibly sexist time, some of the comments made to and about women are both ridiculously offensive and entertaining, and I think that this will be good for some conversation topics about how society has changed, feminism, etc.

After doing some grammar work on comparatives and superlatives, I open the laptop and we watch the video three times, then go through the worksheet of discussion questions and ‘complete the quote’ exercises I wrote the night before.

The video is interesting and Marie-Maud enjoys it (she asks if I can burn the season onto a DVD for her), but we still have 15 minutes left at the end of the lesson. So I quiz her vocabulary.

Shockingly, she has been forgetting words! Marie-Maud is usually very conscientious with studying her vocabulary, and today she doesn’t remember half of the words I ask her. Her homework? Write sentences using all of the words she didn’t get.

Now I just need to think of something for next lesson . . . if anyone has any ideas, please send them in.


14:30 – 16:00 Muriel, Pre-Intermediate

Last week I used The Business – Pre-Intermediate DVD with Muriel. The first video on this disk is my favourite, so I’ve used this with a number of different elementary to intermediate students – one of the characters makes an entrance wearing a black suit and sunglasses, and a James Bond theme sounds in the background.

‘The name’s Pond,” he introduces himself, “James Pond.”

“James Bond?” Mrs Follet, who runs the guest house in the film, asks.

“No, Pond,” he corrects her.

Then when she checks him in, “it’s a double – 07.”

. . . I know, I’m easily amused. But a few little jokes like that make the activities much more interesting, and as the rest of the videos follow the same characters, it’s easy to keep my students interested.

Now I did this video with Muriel last week and she loved it. I was planning to go onto the next video in the series this week, but when we start our class, I realise I’ve forgotten the DVD, and I haven’t prepared anything else!

Instead we take the Market Leader – Pre-Intermediate DVD from her book and look at a video from that (much more boring – it’s a story on a current affairs show about office bullying) before going on with vocabulary revision, which she had requested.

After Muriel’s class I take the metro (line 14) to Saint Lazare and walk to BTL, where I have my last class of the day.


17:00 – 18:30, Magali, Pre-Intermediate to Intermediate

For the last two weeks Magali has been at a conference with Médecins du Monde in Kathmandu. She was basically the MC for the 10-day event, so we had been doing a lot of work on introductions, speeches and general pleasantries over our past few classes.

Today she arrives a bit late and a bit stressed, so we have a fairly relaxed lesson – we start by talking about the trip, and then go onto a podcast from Breaking News English about holidays stressing workers out.

This leads nicely into a discussion about different stressful situations and how to relax, which then leads nicely into Unit 5 of Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate, which is about stress. As Magali flies through the exercises, I’m flabbergasted by how much her English has improved. The reading and writing exercises only take a couple of minutes, and when we do listening from the book, she generally only needs to hear the tracks once (a student should usually take 3 tries to fully understand something at his/her level).

I make a note to start using activities from the Intermediate book – I think she’d enjoy the Unit on travel.

Having been out with a friend the night before, and knowing that I’ll go to the customary Friday-night drinks with the other BTL teachers tomorrow, this evening is a quiet one, consisting of a face-mask, a long shower, and staying out of the way of Bénédicte’s crazy cat as she bounds up and down the corridor.

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