A Day in the Life: Kindergarten ESL Teacher

     So for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention lately, I recently began working in my first real-world, full-time job since graduating university, as a teacher in Hong Kong. I got the job through an agency, who also provide my flat, and have been placed in a kindergarten, where I teach English to the nursery classes, who are around 2-3 year olds. The school also has grades K1-3 (ages 3-6), but the other ESL teachers have those classes. I’ve worked with children, and non-native English speakers before, so it’s not too much of a surprise, but it’s certainly different to university life! I’ll be posting more in detail about how I’m finding it etc, this is just a general overview of what my average day entails.


6.30am – Wake up. This is so horribly early for me, as I’m prone to sleeping until lunch-time if allowed, and staying up far too late at night. My sleeping schedule has adjusted though, and I’m slowly getting used to the early starts, but I’ll never enjoy them, that’s for sure.

8.20am – Arrive at work. It takes around 30-40 minutes by bus to get here, and this is the time by which the school expect me to arrive, but the actual time can be anything from 8.05 to 8.25, depending on traffic.

8.30am – Students arrive. I spend a half hour window waiting at the front door, with several other teachers, greeting the students as they arrive. You have to take the lift to the floor the school is actually on (because of course it’s in  skyscraper, this is Hong Kong!), so most teachers assist with that, but my main duty is taking every child’s temperature as they arrive.

9.00am – Morning routine. By now, all the students should have arrived, so I float around during their morning exercises, singing, and Bible verse recitation (it’s a Christian school). Many of the teachers are class teachers, with their own group to look after, but as I don’t have one, I’m really just around as extra assistance, particularly with the nursery classes. I stay for the beginning of K1-3 singing class too, before I have to leave for…

9.25am – Classes. I teach English to all the nursery classes, who I see one after the other in the morning, with brief breaks inbetween. Each class has approx. 10-12 children, and there’s always at least one Chinese class teacher there with them. For now, I observe another teacher two days a week, and teach them myself the other three (though my impression is that eventually I’ll take over entirely). Each class is 20 minutes, and we cover the alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes, and basic phrases. Ability varies, from those who are very good at English, those who are less certain, and there’s at least a couple of special needs kids in each class, who struggle to really participate (though some do want to try!). Most are well-behaved too, the biggest issue being when they start crying, but their class teachers deal with them.

10.40am – Office. I have a longer break after these three classes, which I generally use to prepare my next class. As I don’t have to submit my plans, these are just my own notes, and I only do them a day or two in advance. The school has a weekly curriculum, and heaps of teaching resources too, so I don’t have to do too much preparation – the biggest challenge is finding fun games to keep them interested, but that 2 year olds are actually capable of doing!

11.30am – Singing. This is another 20 minute session, part of the kids’ daily routine, which we conduct in English from Mon-Thu (on Fridays they sing in Cantonese), with all the nursery classes at the same time. Most of the songs are ones I know from my own childhood, but there’s a handful of others too, and they also have lots of props and actions etc to get the kids involved. For now, I sing alongside another teacher who leads the session, but again, I think I’m taking over eventually.

11.50am – Students leave. A few kids stay for the whole day, but don’t have to do proper class in the afternoon. While they go for lunch, I help with the departing students, again primarily the nursery classes – getting them ready, taking them downstairs, and helping with pick-ups.

12.10pm – Lunch. Pretty self-explanatory. We have to take our lunch with us, and I eat with one of the other English teachers. We’re right next to the kids though, so it’s not exactly peaceful, at least until they go for nap-time.

1.00pm – Afternoon students arrive. This is the same procedure as in the morning, except there are far fewer kids in the afternoon – apart from the whole day students, who I don’t see after lunch anyway, there are only two nursery classes in (totalling 14 students), one of which is the international class (everything is conducted in English), who I don’t teach either. Again, I’m around for their exercise and Bible verse routine.

1.55pm – Class. As every class I teach in the day is different students, I simply repeat the same lesson four times. However, as there’s less in this class, sometimes I need an extra activity ready, if they finish the rest early. I have to say though, the afternoon class are probably the brightest group, on average!

2.15pm – Office. The headteacher gives us work to do in between classes, since lesson planning doesn’t take all day. Many of the class teachers are only in the office in the afternoon, since we have less students then. My main work over the past few weeks has been artistically based (which she read from my CV!) – I’ve been colouring in pictures, to go in a book they’re making. It’s ridiculously easy work, sometimes relaxing, other times quite boring!

3.55pm – Singing. Round 2 of the day, with both afternoon nursery classes.

4.15pm – Students leave. Again, very similar to the morning, except I help with all the students, not only nursery, and help escort those getting buses, as well as normal pick-ups.

4.30pm – Office. Yes, back to the office for a final half hour. Many of the class teachers use this time to call parents, to give feedback, but as I don’t have to do this, I just carry on with the colouring in for a bit longer.

5.00pm – Finish work. Annoyingly, this means I miss the 5pm bus every day, and have a 15 minute wait for the next one. It’s not too bad, but it’s generally around 6pm before I get back to my area of Hong Kong.

6.00pm – My evenings aren’t that exciting, at least for now. If I have any shopping or errands, I’ll do them on the way home, which is easy enough since everything stays open late, but annoying when I work the same schedule as most of the city, and everyone has the same plan as me, meaning everywhere is paced. Back at the flat, I’ll make dinner, watch TV, write my blog etc… Then I’m probably asleep between 11pm and midnight, to start all over again the next day! Repeat Mon-Fri, then 3 hours of more ‘office work’ (i.e. colouring in) on Saturday mornings.