A Day in the Life: Kindergarten Class Teacher

     New job, new routine. And it is a little different this time around. Obviously, I’ve worked as an ESL teacher for a while now, this being my third job of that sort, after previously being an ESL teacher in a Hong Kong kindergarten and then a Korean hagwon (read here if you don’t know the story of why Korea didn’t last long). However, this time I’m not just the English teacher, I’m a class teacher. This means instead of going into several classes a day to teach their English lesson, sometimes repeating the same one to multiple classes, I stay with one class, K2 (4 year olds, starting to turn 5 now) for the entire time they’re in school and I’m responsible for everything about them. It’s more work in some ways, but I like getting to know just these few kids really well, and it’s more fun being around them than in an office for large chunks of the day. I have a Chinese co-teacher too, who generally takes the lead and keeps me right, and they spend a lot of time doing Chinese, Putonghua, having their snack and doing extra activities with other teachers on some days (PE, Drama), so only a small portion is actually teaching them English. Anyway, this is now what my average day looks like…


6.45am – Wake up. One of my favourite parts about my job in Korea was the later starts in the morning, whereas now I’m back to being up at the crack of dawn again, which is just hideously early for me. The plus though I guess, is I finish work earlier than in Korea too.

7.30am – Leave for work. This is a rough time, I have an alarm at 7.25 telling me to get a move on, and ideally I should leave by 7.30. However, I can usually still make it on time as long as I leave by 7.35, it just means I have to leg it to the MTR station.

8.25am – Arrive at work. The school is in the New Territories, and quite far out, but fortunately right next to an MTR station, so there’s no faffing around on different buses or changing transport or anything. I usually walk to the Prince Edward station, as I’d have to change lines there anyway, then only have to change once after that.

9.00am – School starts. Officially students start arriving from 8.30, but no one turns up to my class until about 8.50, with the majority coming on the school bus at 9.00. I don’t have to do door duty, so I just wait in the classroom, and can spend the time doing any work needed – outside of actually teaching and preparing any materials I need, there’s plenty of paperwork, including lesson plans, making a wall display, marking, completing the students’ handbooks, chopping (stamping) their names on books and notices, and whatever else may crop up. As the students arrive, they take out their homework and any notices, reply slips etc for us. This time is usually spent counting the homework books and figuring out whose is missing!

9.20am – After set up time, the kids have Putonghua (Mandarin) first, which another teacher comes in to do, so this is time for me and my co-teacher to continue with any other work we need to do – I typically mark their homework that they’ve just handed in, and go around the room checking schoolbags for those who didn’t give it to me…

9.45am – Activity time. There’s supposed to be a different activity each day, but some days are English Music or Chinese Music, so we just add that to their lesson later, making it a bit longer, and skip it here. There’s also the outside play area once a week, but that’s weather dependent. P.E. is the only one we consistently do, on a Tuesday, as another teacher from outside the school comes to do it.

10.15am – Snack time. We take them to the toilet beforehand, as taking the whole class at once makes far more sense than making students individually as needed, and this also means they wash their hands before eating. K2 are old enough to get their cups out, serve their own water from the dispenser, and clean up by themselves, so we just have to actually serve the food, and milk when it’s an option, then keep an eye on them (there’s a few fussy eaters who try to throw the food out!).

10.30am – Chinese lesson. This is my co-teacher’s time, when she teaches the kids their Chinese class (in Cantonese) and they do their written work – it’s called their homework, but they sometimes do all of it in class and just take it home for their parents to see, not that all the parents look. Some days this runs just fine, other days it can take the kids longer than planned for, especially when they have to practice writing Chinese characters. This is more time for me to do any other work I have (my load varies, the first couple weeks were busy but there’s less for now), or I’ll help the kids if I can (writing numbers I can do, Chinese characters not so much!) and I’m not busy.

11.30am – English lesson. My teaching time! We start with circle time, where I present stuff to them and they practice speaking. Each week the curriculum has a vocabulary theme, a song, conversation and a reading book to be looked at in this time. I don’t do as many games as last year, with limited space and large class sizes (20 in the AM class, 28 in PM), but of course I try to keep the kids involved and engaged. Then I teach the homework for the day – number, phonics, sight words, word formation – and send them back to their seats to start it. If they finish in class, great, just take it home for the parents to see. If not, they finish it at home and everyone submits the next day. We also do artwork each week, which we work on whichever days I have time for it.

12.15-12.30pm – Pack up and go home. This time is spent making sure they all put everything in their bags, and everyone goes home with the right jacket, fastened up – it can actually be quite hectic, as 4 year olds can only organise themselves so far!

12.30pm – Lunch time. The whole day students disappear and are not my problem from this point. The school provides a lunch, which isn’t remarkable, but it’s free and will do me fine – and I like it better than the Korean lunches! On a busy day, I or other teachers will eat in our classrooms and do more work, but on most days we all congregate to eat in one classroom.

1.30pm – 5.00pm – Repeat. The afternoon class is different kids, but K2 again and they do all the same work as the morning class. Their order of activities is slightly different, but all the content is exactly the same. The sessions here are slightly longer than last year for me, three and a half hours instead of just three, but some students will leave before home time, depending on when their school bus comes – for instance, in the afternoon, we’re only left with about a dozen kids for he last 20 minutes, so we pretty much finish everything before then, and those kids just wait until the end.

5.15pm – Finish work. Staff have to wait fifteen minutes after the kids leave, mostly I think so we aren’t walking out while some of them are still being picked up. Occasionally you might need to stay later, if you have a lot of work to do, but since K2 are a little more grown up and capable (this is less true for likes of nursery classes, but they leave half an hour before all the other students), I can get a lot done while the kids are in, so haven’t had to stay late so far.

6.00-6.10pm – Arrive home. Somewhere around these times, depending on whether I miss the first MTR after work (they come less frequently to the station the school is next to, so it’s a long wait if you miss that one) or if I have any errands on my way back. The rest of the evening is spent making dinner, doing laundry, showering, blogging, watching TV or whatever I else I need or want to do. I usually go to bed around 11pm, though I have passed out much earlier on occasion!

     This is just what an average day looks like, but there are variations of course. Because we are with one class all the time, we can adapt their schedule as needed, with the exception of the times when other teachers come in (Putonghua, PE). For instance, today we had to measure all their heights and weights, which we squeezed in after snack time, and earlier this week they had a special class about stamping, which an instructor came in for, which ate into Chinese and English time. The last Friday of each month is birthday party, so no lessons or homework that day, and on other Fridays they have an English drama class for the first hour and fifteen minutes (no Putonghua) with another teacher who comes in for it, though I have to assist, mostly with discipline. I also work alternate Saturday mornings, 8.30-12.30, although due to various events they aren’t always alternate, but it still works out to about half the Saturdays in the term. It’s Parents Day last week and this week, and we also have picnic, rehearsals and graduation still to come.

     And there we go! It’s busier than my previous jobs in terms of time spent with the students, but since I don’t have to teach all that time, it isn’t too bad so far, and I find being with the kids makes time pass faster than doing the paperwork in an office or empty room. What do you make of this? Anyone have similar jobs or experiences to compare?