The second Eurovision semifinal is playing in the background, whilst I lie on my hotel bed, trying to gather my thoughts and feelings. I still couldn’t believe how these series of coincidences brought me back to Southampton, after three years, since I left. It feels like a lifetime ago and at the same time, like yesterday.
I had finished my work meeting a bit early and after a bit of wander into the city I spent 10 years of my life, probably the most transformative years of my life, my 20s, exhausted from the travel the night before, came back to the hotel, had a shower and decided to just rest.
It’s been months since the last time I decided to ‘just rest’, it’s been so long I can’t even remember when the last time that happened was.
The following day I just wandered in town, at my favourite bookshop, walking across the park and for the first time in a while I felt I didn’t have to rush. I just enjoyed doing things I love. I felt I could breathe again.
I’ve realised that for a while now, I have been running around like a headless chicken for so long, I neglected my mental health, which of course has affected my physical health. Headaches, sleepiness, confusion, memory lapses, loss of appetite.
I really don’t understand how being busy became an achievement and something everyone loves to complain about. It’s not an achievement, it’s a sign of no life balance (Trust me, it’s OK to relax and rest for a day or too, rather than feel you have to do something, just because others do. FOMO is an artificial need created by humans, like many others).
And I feel I lost that balance ever since I left this city. I spent Saturday just catching up with friends, and enjoying living in the moment. Moments with old colleagues and loved ones. I instantly felt how much I missed them. How not to, with all the wonderful humans I know. I wish I had more time to see more of my friends.
Lately all I can think of is what the point of life is. Every now and then I get this horrific anxiety and fear about living and dying and the in-between.
What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why do I exist?
I read a few books and had countless discussions with friends trying to figure out the answers to these questions, just to calm my brain down and the irrational (or rational? I haven’t decided yet) fear of dying.
As Derren Brown, eloquently argues in his book about happiness , if we were to live for ever, we would have eventually be bored of everything, and life would have no meaning. So, what is the purpose of life?
Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not. There’s that lovely thing: “A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in”. Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end. Anne told Tony on Ricky Gervais’ brilliant series After Life, which is about a man triyng to deal with the death of his wife whom he absolutely adored.
But even when you find your purpose, and to do that you inevitably need to work on your emotional intelligence, your self-awareness, realising who you are, loving yourself, self management and above else empathy, growing up it’s scary as hell.
My parents are now in their late 50s and 60s and I’m terrified for them, watching them grow older. I want them to live forever. It tears me apart. I’m thinking that maybe is better to stick around now they are growing older and they may need me more, but on the other hand what if I finally find my purpose and that takes me elsewhere, away from them?
It makes me sad thinking that they may find themselves feeling lonely and helpless. And I certainly want to try and enjoy being around them as much as I can before they start forgetting and get that lost look in their eyes (I only recently watched the latest episode of This Is Us and the scene where Rebecca doesn’t recognise her children broke my heart).
So on my birthday, a week after I came back from Southampton, I spent the day with my family and loved ones and I cherished every moment.
When thinking about life, mortality and growing old stresses me out, I just focus in the moment, taking one day at a time, spending time with loved ones and I try to make the world a better place, little by little. When my time comes to go, at least I’ll go happy and not anxious and horrified.
The reason I’m sharing all these thoughts, it’s that I know they are not unique and actually expressing them out loud, or in this case in words, somehow makes them more bearable. And perhaps you can relate, and feel a bit of a relief that these terrifying thoughts haunt not just you but a lot of other people.
On my way to work a few days ago I noticed a guy enjoying a bite of his sandwich. He looked so content, truly happy he had his breakfast whilst walking down town and I felt a bit jealous. I wish I was that happy.
Last November I wrote about this disturbingly confusing state of mind, not feeling myself (you can read about it here). I never would have thought that almost 8 months later, I’d still feel lost and not that happy.
I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while, hoping it will help my brain to at least attempt to make some sense out of it but all I could produce were interjections of confusion and desperation (e.g. AAAAHHHHH), but I’m now at a place I can better articulate my thoughts.
Have you ever experienced heavy turbulence on a plane? Holding on tight, scared to death but not able to do anything, that feeling of having no control?
That’s how I’ve felt for a while, intensified by the recent pandemic. I feel I can’t plan anything, I have no free time for myself, hell sometimes I feel I have no time to think. I’m stuck and I’m not sure what’s the best way out because I just don’t feel I’m in control and my confidence also went down a notch.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for what I have, a job, a place to live, my friends and family, my loved ones. I’m happy for these.
But I know I can and want to do more and the lack of me-time and inability to make any firm plans or big changes at the moment are feeding my misery.
So what can I do? Well, focus on what I can control for now and work on improving myself on all fronts in order to make moving forward in a turmoil easier. So here’s one of the things I did.
I recently got braces.
‘How come you decided to do that at this (*late) age?’ a colleague asked.
I was taken aback. I didn’t expect such a question. I guess because I wouldn’t ask something like that and I wouldnt expect someone as open-minded and liberal as him ask such an old-fashioned in a sense question. Do only kids get braces? Does getting braces have an age limit? Does anything really have or should have an age limit?
‘It’s not just for aesthetic reasons, it will also help my bite, it was needed to be done’, I said. I didn’t want to point out the obvious, that the question was not appropriate, or share my deepest insecurities with a stranger, that I always hated my crooked tooth and the side gap I had and I’ve been wanting to fix it for years but couldn’t afford it or the timing wasn’t right.
It’s been almost two months now and I don’t enjoy wearing braces, they are not the prettiest and are QUITE uncomfortable, they need constant cleaning and looking after. I can’t wait to take them out. Weirdly, though I hate them I also like them, because at least I have something to look forward to and that helps.
Getting braces isn’t the only change I made or going to make, but it’s just an example of how doing something with an ‘end date’ , (especially in time like this when uncertainty is part of our life and noone knows when this horrid situation will end), can help you move forward or feel a bit less stuck at least.
PS. Here it’s me with braces, in case you were wondering.
Have you ever owned an inexpensive item of negligible monetary value that you absolutely love? And you recognise you love it purely because of its sentimental value?
I’m one of the least materialistic people I know. I’d rather spend the little income I make on experiences, travel, time with friends and family, not on things. So I never spend a huge amount of money on clothes or accessories.
I often though associate my modest belongings with precious memories or people and when I lose or break one of these precious to me pieces I grieve. I, of course, understand that it’s just ‘a thing’ and losing it shouldn’t matter, but it does. Because, for me, this ‘thing’ is a memory nugget, reminding me of a special friend, a loved one, an awesome day, a significant period of my life, and I’m terrified I’d forget whatever I associate it with, if I lose one of these memory nuggets.
I’ve lost or broken a few of these memory nuggets over the years, a set of earrings my sister got me, a memory card with photos from the UK and my most recent travels to Sicily, Rhodes and Belgium, a bracelet a dear friend got me, a pair of shoes I wore absolutely everywhere, and most recently, my blue denim jacket.
‘Come on, it’s just a jacket, get another one, the same even’ one might say. But it will never be the same.
I’ve got this jacket in June, 2019. I remember that because it was one of the last purchases I made before I left the UK. And as with the majority of my decisions, I browsed for hours, painstakingly looking for the perfect jacket. Why do I find it so excruciatingly difficult, even choosing a denim jacket? But, when I came across it on the Mango website, I knew that was THE one, at least what I had in mind.
I wore it the last time I’ve hugged goodbye my UK friends in Southampton in July.
I wore it a month later, during my CELTA course, one of the most challenging, painful but rewarding months of my entire life. I wore it during our lessons, I wore it when Jonny hugged me after I told him with tears in my eyes that my grandpa had died the day before and I wore it when I hugged my classmates goodbye.
I wore it on my way back to Cyprus after 11 weird and wonderful years in the UK and on my way to Italy a few months later.
I wore it during my first year teaching at Reggio, an experience I’ll never forget and on my way back to Cyprus after going through the first wave of the global pandemic outbreak in Italy, one of the worst-hit countries.
So today I grieve the loss of my blue denim jacket and with it the friends and places I miss.
As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations in Cyprus, women across the island could enter a competition and the prize was to spend a day with a female ambassador in Cyprus and learn more about their work.
All you had to do was send a short video (up to two minutes) with a brief introduction about yourself, why you’d like to be an ambassador for a day and why International Women’s Day is important.
Truth be told I didn’t know much about an ambassador’s life and I was really happy that there was no age limit to enter (I felt a bit frustrated lately with the amount of events or initiatives only for people under 30 years old) so I thought I’d send a video. I had nothing to lose and I love making little videos.
Unsurprisingly, two minutes were not enough to express all my thoughts but I tried. This was the video I sent.
I didn’t really expect to win. I’m older than probably most of the participants and ,well for those you’ve known me for a while, I’m infamous for my bad luck (don’t forget, during the first of what was supposed to be a few years of travelling and teaching English, I spent it in Italy, half of it locked inside due the global Covid pandemic).
Against all odds though I did win and I was matched with the Austrian ambassador in Cyprus, Dr Eva Maria Ziegler.
We had a little chat on the phone beforehand during which she explained that due to the current lockdown situation in Cyprus there weren’t many events planned this period so there was no point spending a whole day with her just in the office. I was pleasantly surprised with her honesty and openness from the get go, even over the phone.
So the plan was to meet her a few days later at the Austrian Embassy and have a chat. But she first invited me to the (virtual) Press Conference on Francophonie (the annual international celebration of the French language) and the celebrations planned by embassies across Cyprus as well as the Ministry of Education and Culture. I couldn’t believe I was part of a Press Conference which consisted of various ambassadors in Cyprus as well as the Minister of Education and Culture. What a surreal experience that was!
I knew about Francophonie as I happened to be in Brussels two years ago on that day, during which there was live music next to Manneken Pis, but I didn’t realise that was also celebrated in Cyprus with events planned and all.
A few days later I went to her office and we had a long chat. What an amazing experience it was to visit an embassy!
I can’t remember the last time I learned so much in such short space of time. I can’t possibly document all I’ve learned but I’ll share the highlights.
Dr Ziegler’s father was a diplomat, so she was familiar with that way of life since she was a child. Although she originally studied music management (and law) she found it hard to get into it and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. She had an incredible career. She worked for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and she worked as an Austrian ambassador in Milan and in Lebanon amongst other countries.
We talked about politics, travel and she shared amazing stories from her ambassador life including the story of the extraordinary life of a 103 year old Jewish lady who ended up living in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia (and sadly recently died).
What she loved most of the ambassador life is the variety as embassy work is not just about visas and passports but also organising cultural events and initiatives as the embassy is given a cultural budget, as well as meeting a diversity of people from all walks of life. And of course an Ambassador gets to travel as every 4 years postings end and you get to apply for a different country. I would love to live the ambassador life!
The worst part of her job that she doesn’t enjoy as much is writing reports and long meetings. I don’t blame her!
After our chat I got to meet her PA, Mr Antonopoulos, A Greek-Austrian who’s been working as a PA in embassies for a few years. Similar to the ambassador, he loves the variety and travel that comes with the job. What he doesn’t enjoy is moving.
All in all it was a great experience, it’s not every day you get to meet an ambassador, let alone an honest, fun, easy to chat to one, as Dr Ziegler. I’ve learned a lot and it gave me a few ideas on what I’d like to do in the future.
I woke up early, earlier than my usual ‘get out of bed’ time and I was trying for a few minutes to remember what day it was. Lately, everything in my brain is messed up, turned into a huge tangled up ball of information, dates, worries, anxieties and at times throughout the day I get tiny panic attacks thinking about three million different things at once.
Will I finish everything on time?
Will I meet all my deadlines?
Will I be able to book a holiday soon? Will I be able to travel this year at all?
Is this how life going to be from now on?
Will we ever go back to normal?
What is normal?
Do I like living back in Cyprus? When will I adjust and how amidst the pandemic chaos?
I miss the UK a lot, should I move back in a few years?
What do I even want to do with my life?
This is just a small sample that goes through my head, all day, every day.
I can’t switch off, my eyes often hurt from the amount of time I spend in front of a screen, let it be phone, laptop or TV and I feel so tired I have no energy to do much after work.
I have very little free time for myself, and even when I do, I’m most of the time too emotionally and mentally drained to do anything else other than read a couple of pages of a book, watch an episode of a series, or the Cypriot version of Chase. I still do my Yoga and started running again, the park near my new flat is gorgeous, so at least I have that.
I rarely see my friends, we mostly chat online and I visit my family once a week. Other than my flatmate-sister I don’t have any other significant social interactions.
I haven’t travelled in months, I haven’t even travelled within my island for a while.
My emotions are all over the place and I get teary quite easily, well, easier than before.
I haven’t slept well for a while, I put on weight because I snack a lot, being home all day my only breaks are to snack and most of the time I spend the day in loungewear.
Social media and message notifications never stop, day and night, an inevitable side effect of the lockdown. It’s hard to keep up and sadly, I admit I can’t really keep up. I can’t possibly read and reply to everything or stay on top of news, videos, articles etc I’m sent or come across (after watching the Social Dilemma on Netflix, I’m even more aware how algorithms work, so I try not to feed the monster that often, but it’s proven rather difficult, considering it’s virtually impossible to survive without technology, the internet, social media.).
On top of that, I’ve only been back to Cyprus for a few months and I have spent most of that time under unique conditions, I haven’t had the chance to find my feet and adapt to my new life. The daily horrific news, the archaic legal system, sexism, racism and a number of other social issues I hadn’t realised beforehand, haven’t made it easy, I must admit.
Lest we forget the inability to plan in advance, organise a holiday, make plans for the future, is just devastating to even think about.
It’s like we are stuck in Groundhog Day over and over and over.
In any other circumstances, dealing with each problem or situation individually it would have been easy to cope with, but dealing with all of them, anxiety, social isolation, social media overload, exhaustion and the list goes on, is unbearable. I feel I’m drowning, I can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s as if the sun is forever hiding behind huge grey clouds.
And this is not just me. The majority of my friends, colleagues and other people I talked to feel the same, and I’m guessing they are not the only ones.
I’m lucky I have a job and I live with my sister, but for others, the second lockdown effects are much much worse. They live on their own with no support network, a lot of people are sadly unemployed and it’s incredibly hard for them to find a job, even a temporary one now under these circumstances and let’s not forget all the businesses and freelancers who went bust or are dangerously near bankruptcy.
I fear the repercussions and impact of this second lockdown (the first one was a completely new experience to all, noone knew what to do what was happening, now life is supposed to continue, despite the lockdown) will be long and painful.
Do the benefits of lockdown outweigh the horrible effects on mental health? Is it worth damaging our mental health permanently? There are children who were born and only experienced life in lockdown, there are children who went to primary school for a month before spending the rest of their first ever school experience at home, there are teenagers who started university online, there are young adults who entered the world of work for the first time straight working from home. Suicide rates have gone up, psychologist appointments are high on demand and many fellow humans suffer in silence.
I personally think that we’ve all had enough of the lockdown. It’s time to get out, let the sun shine again, live like human beings, hug and kiss each other again and just be careful and responsible so there isn’t another outbreak.
PS To cheer us all up a few poems I wrote and some travel articles I posted on my other blog are coming super soon (well, maybe not so much the poems, they are rather melancholic).
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ everyone would ask when I was a child, a teenager, a young adult.
The answer differed as I grew up. A doctor, a singer, an actress, a teacher, a psychologist, a travel writer.
And when I grew up, I became none of these. I’m not even sure what I became.
A year ago I quit my office job, I left the UK, got a CELTA, taught English in Italy for a year and now I’m back home to Cyprus after 10 years and I have no clue what to do next. It’s exciting, in theory I can do anything but I’m mostly terrified and worried I’m too old, I’ll run out of money and end up nowhere.
We were brought up to believe that by the time we hit 30 we would have tried a few different jobs and settled on a career and be happy with that one dream job, or at least be happy enough to stay in a job indefinitely.
But a single career path is not for everyone and not always the case. A lot of successful people in pretty much every field changed careers when they were older and wiser or kept changing careers or juggled more than one jobs until they died.
What do I want to be now I grew up?
I’m one of those people. Not a successful one, not yet anyway but there’s so many paths I’d like to follow but it’s impossible to try them all and even harder to stick to one or two.
Some are technically, and by technically I mean financially, not possible. One of the occupations I always wanted to go into was counselling. But I can’t afford another qualification. I can’t even ask for a loan as I’m now back to Cyprus and all the excellent credit score I built up for years in the UK won’t help me much here. Do I even want to have a debt?
Should I continue with EFL teaching? I could but my first year though rewarding, was exhausting and had zero time for myself, my friends or to travel. And should I risk going to another country and end up locked inside teaching online because of this pandemic’s unpredictable course?
I could become a writer. The idea of writing a fantasy/crime novel always excited me or a raw honest non-fiction on how society, social status and let’s face it wealth (or perhaps lack of) can and has for generations embedded a deep fear of failure especially in women. It’s always tougher for a woman, let alone one with no savings or family money to have ambitions and not let disappointment take over.
I sadly not only realised that for myself (after years of deep self-exploration) but I see it in dear friends and family who are better in what they do than others who might have become famous or run their own business but they are too shy or lack the confidence to ask or go for more.
That’s why the majority of politicians, business owners, celebrities and so on come from wealthy or at least upper-middle class families with connections and financial support making it easier to succeed.
I should believe in myself more, but at the moment I am crippled by my own insecurities and fears.
So what do I know about myself when it comes to my next career step now that I’m on those crossroads?
I don’t want to be stuck in an office 9-5, I’d love to travel and most importantly I’d be over the moon if what I do for a living helps others in any way.
Unfortunately volunteering doesn’t pay and living with my parents after 10 years living on my own is tough. I need my own space to keep growing and figure out what to do next.
For now, I’ll keep pushing myself to do more, trust myself and try not to stress about money and work and in the meantime if you have any personal inspirational stories or any piece of advice, please do share!
I’ve been back to Cyprus for a month now and let me tell you, a lot happened these last 4 weeks. A LOT.
The good (bits)
For the first couple of weeks, though my Covid-19 test came out negative, I avoided crowded places or catching up with friends or relatives just in case my bad luck stroke again and end up spreading germs. Thank God it hasn’t so in the last few weeks I spent days at the beach, swimming pools, a little hike in the mountains to admire the gorgeous Caledonia waterfall (video coming soon), checked out a few cafes for brunch and other more quiet ones, perfect for creative work.
About 10 days ago, on our way down from the Caledonia waterfall, my sister stepped on a loose rock, twisted her ankle and damaged her ligaments. It was a long day followed by a long couple of weeks. I only made it out of the house two or three times as her leg is in a cast and she can’t cook, clean or walk (doh) without crutches. So I’ve been her ‘nurse’ since then.
In other news, it seems there’s a second wave of COVID-19 (or just one big wave according to WHO) in Cyprus (and it seems globally too). The use of face masks has now become mandatory again and local lockdown measures have already been applied to Limassol, a nearby city where most new cases have been reported at.
Ever since I came back I haven’t been able to relax and enjoy every moment of my break, although that was my plan and what I’ve been craving for months.
I recently realised why. I’ve never lived in Cyprus as an adult and I don’t know how to just… be here as myself and not my 22 year old self with all her issues and stupid insecurities. That’s something I need to work on.
I’m not that happy with myself in general either. Which makes adjusting living in Cyprus harder. The lockdown left me not just with emotional scars but with extra physical weight I desperately want to get rid of.
I’ve also been stressing out about what to do next. Should I look for another teaching job abroad or should I get a random part-time job and stay here until Christmas? Or get a teaching job here until May? Do I still want to teach? Two of my adult students have recently messaged me to thank my for their FCE exam results. I loved teaching them and I’m so happy they did so well, but is that feeling enough to keep me going for another 9 months of hard work? What if I leave and spend months locked inside because of a second Covid-19 wave? But would I be able to stay here? Or would I drive myself crazy? What if I forget my English? Or myself? Aaaaaah!!!!
Honestly, I have no idea. For the time-being I decided to start the new social media pages on travel and food I’ve wanted to for a while now and enjoy the rest of the summer with my friends and family and allow myself to get stressed about my next steps at the end of August. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.
Oh here’s the logo of my new page. I designed it myself on Canva, I’m so proud of my little achievement!
PS I already feel better just writing about it all.
This week’s video it’s all about endings, the end of my first year of teaching English as a foreign language, new beginnings, which at the moment I have no idea what those would be, and change.
I hope significant change. I hope the black lives matter movement keeps going on until we all finally realise our white privilege, our implicit racism as well as racism deeply embedded into every layer of our society, justice system, the world and our responsibility to change that. And the first step: educate ourselves, as sad and uncomfortable it might feel. Imagine if we feel uncomfortable reading and seeing this injustice, how much worse is for the people living it.
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately, at the moment I’m watching Kalief Browder’s story, a poor kid who at age 16 was sent to adults prison. He spent three years at Rikers Island, two of those in solitary confinement for a crime not only he didn’t do, but was never convicted for. After his release he was so scarred from all the abuse he suffered, he committed suicide.
Saturday evening. I’m wrapped in my fluffy blanket, not because it’s that cold, it’s still 20 degrees in Reggio but because I’m just getting overa cold for the second time in 5 weeks.
I just finished working on my portfolio tasks for my Young Learners IH online course, since I had zero free time on any weekdays this week. Not a single day. At least today I had time to catch up with some of my friends and family. (Apologies to all my friends who I haven’t messaged for a while, or didn’t reply to your messages, I honestly, genuinely didn’t have the time. Keep reading and hopefully you’ll understand).
I was going to go out after this, have a drink with my lovely fellow teachers but I’m exhausted, I’m finding it impossible to leave my sofa.
Surely that’s not how a typical ELT teacher abroad lives you might think.
I’m not sure what I expected teaching English would be like. Most of the stories I’ve read or heard are of partying, travelling, exploring, tasting the local cuisine, living like a local. The actual teaching was rarely mentioned in detail, I always assumed it won’t be that time consuming, though when I made the decision to join my current school I was well aware that was not going to be the case.
‘We work hard here, but we love it’ Lucie had said at the interview. That was one of the reasons I accepted this job. I needed a challenge after years in a mundane job and I could feel just from talking to Lucie how much they all cared about teaching.
”Since it’s my first year, I’d rather work hard, learn as much as possible as fast as possible, so the following years are easier.” I told myself.
I didn’t quit expect it to be as crazy busy though.
So let me give you a taste of how a week of a newly qualified teacher at a busy IH school in Reggio Calabria is like.
First of all there’s no ‘typical’ week. Every day or week something would come up that will change your schedule. ‘Typical’ doesn’t exist in this job, I’ll therefore describe you last week as an example.
(Also, this is NOT my full-time schedule as not all my courses have started yet, this is about two-thirds of the way (God help me when it all kicks off)).
11 am. I made it to school early (considering I don’t finish until 7pm today). My first lesson starts at 1:30pm and I have to leave the school at 1pm to get to the public school I’m teaching at. I thankfully prepared a draft lesson and I only had to print copies of everything and gather all the material I needed.
But first, coffee! I can’t survive without it. OK let’s do everything quickly (everything takes longer than you’d expect). Oh shhhugar (not a good idea to swear at school), I need to have some lunch before I go. Do I have time?? Nop. OK it will have to wait.
3pm. I’m back at the school. I’m starving, a quick bite (thankfully I brought lunch with me today) whilst I show a colleague how to use my camera for some filming for a promotional video and then off to finish planning my lesson for my one to one later today, re-design my poster for the conference on Friday (ah, why did I do it in Word?) and if time allows plan my new one to one with a doctor starting tomorrow. Lisa already gave me a few ideas for that (I love Lisa’s ideas) so that will save me some time.
About 4pm. A message comes in. Tomorrow’s external lessons are cancelled, public schools will remain closed due to the weather warnings. Southern Italy is not built for rain.
5:50pm. I lost track of time. I have 10 minutes to print off an activity to do for my one to one, the rest of the lesson is ready. The weather is getting worse, we can hear the gusting winds hitting the windows. Apparently the port closed. I wouldn’t like to be in a ferry in this weather!
6pm. One of the receptionists comes in. ‘We are closing the school’. Hooray you might think, you now have some free time. No. I make it home around 7pm, feeling a bit shivery and with a sore throat. Just what I needed!
I filled in my register (we need to submit a form after each lesson we do), had a shower, dinner, I helped my bestie with a presentation she was working on and then I re-designed my poster, from scratch. I finished about 11pm. Absolutely knackered. And it’s only Monday.At least my poster looks cool, I can’t wait to see it in A3 on Friday! (Thank you Suzanne for reminding me how awesome Canva is).
12pm. I don’t need to be in until 3pm now that my external lesson was cancelled but there’s a lot to do and no time to do it in.
OK, let’s start by planning today’s lessons, pop in to lesson planning with James (life and time saving!) and then make time to start preparing for my first formal observation on Friday.
3pm. Time to film one of the lessons. I’m glad I managed to do that. I love filming. The little ones are adorable and Mariah, their teacher is awesome, it gave me a couple of ideas for my lessons!
4:20pm. I just finished filming and I need to hand over the camera to Suzanne and rush to my next assignment, help out an Italian couple with their presentation for a pitch event.
4:30pm. The lady arrives but she is not happy, her first session was with someone else, she didn’t know she would get me today. It was hard not to take it personally though she kept repeating it wasn’t my fault (the conversation was in Italian but I could pick up a few words). Anyway by the end of the session both herself and her husband left smiling and thanking me profusely. Job done.
5:30pm. I have 45 minutes to finish preparing for my adults lesson later tonight and start working on my lesson plan for the new classes starting tomorrow. OK, I need another coffee!
6:15pm. Time for my one to one with the doctor. Not sure what to expect, I can’t even concentrate.
7:15pm. It all went well. You never know with one to ones, they are so personal and intimate, if your student doesn’t like you, it can make your life and theirs impossible. But all good.
7:45pm. OK, thank God I last minute printed all my material for this lesson. And thank God I teach adults too, keeps me sane!
9:30pm. I made it home. My throat hurts even more, I’m tired and I need to finish some work but I can’t. I do the register, have dinner and straight to bed.
11am. I drag myself to school. My throat definitely got worse overnight and I didn’t sleep much because of my now blocked nose. I have my Italian lesson in half an hour and I still need to print all the material for my classes today. I just hope and pray to make it through today.
12:30pm. Italian lesson done. I have about an hour to prepare everything and then have some lunch. It’s gonna be very close.
2:30pm. I’m here with the rest of the crew, two classes back to back at this new school. The language assistant is lovely, but she doesn’t speak much English, I hope it all works out OK.
5:50pm. Alessia picked me up to take me back to the school but we are stuck in traffic. I have to be at the school for my 6pm appointment.
5:55pm. Oh my lord. OK. Pheew. I drop everything on my desk and run upstairs (My desk is in such a mess I can’t even look at it).
6:20pm. The lady who I had the one to one with (another person to help with their pitch) didn’t show up. I might get some time to work on my observation lesson after all.
6:30pm. The lady showed up, half an hour late. Running back upstairs!
7pm. She was so lovely, I wanted to give her a hug and her business idea was great. I hope she wins!
7:30pm. I need to get my hair dyed and I need to buy food but all I want to do is lie down and wake up when this cold goes away.
8:30pm. After a quick stop at the supermarket, I made it back home, had dinner and put the hair dye on (finally I’ll get rid of white hair, it’s been giving me nightmares)! My cold got worse, I can’t breathe properly.
9:30pm. OK, I need to comment on the forum, a requirement for my online course, otherwise workload will pile up. What day is it again??
11pm. I’m heading to bed early. Oh please universe help me sleep.
3am. This is the fifth time I woke up. Stupid cold!
11am. I don’t need to be in until 1:20pm but I have a crucial, time-constraining to-do list. I head to the pharmacy to get some Nurofen Cold and Flu (14 EUROS!!!) and straight to school.
1pm. I finished preparing for my poster presentation, I finished reading the scientific article the doctor sent me for tonight’s lesson and I can have lunch very quickly.
1:20pm. INSETT time. Vince is presenting today. I love Vince, his British humour in his Italian accent. Brilliant. And what a great time to sit down and have a little break from all the things I have to do and learn something new.
2:50pm. I’m running to get to a local school I’m invigilating an exam for. Thank God Anna showed up to give me a lift. I wouldn’t have made it on time.
3:10pm. I’m at the school. Not sure where to go, I vaguely remember the way from last time. I asked the caretaker, she doesn’t speak English bless her.
3:14pm. I found the room. It was locked. Back to the caretaker. We somehow managed to communicate using gestures and Google translate. She came back, let me in and the person with her turned the lights on for me (no it wasn’t a simple switch on the wall, in case you are wondering, it was a panel with labels in Italian!).
3:22pm. I quickly arranged the chairs and let the students in. We start the exam.
4:45pm. I’m finally back at the school. I need to finish a vocab exercise I prepared for the doctor, finish my lesson plan for the adult class straight afterwards and finish preparing the material for my observation lesson tomorrow. PANIC!!!
6:15pm. OK, only thing left to do is finish cutting the material for tomorrow. But time for my one to one.
7:15pm. What an amazing lesson. I taught him English and he taught me medicine. We talked about different cancer treatments, types of cancer, haematological diseases. Fascinating. I should have paid him for teaching me.
7:45pm. OK I just need to get through this lesson then I can finish all the cutting and head home to finish off my documents for the observation.
9:45pm. All the material ready for tomorrow, I can head home now.
11pm. After a quick dinner and shower, I spent the last two hours preparing my paperwork for tomorrow. All done now. OK I need to go to bed. I have to get up at 7:30am.
7:45am. Thank God for Nurofen I feel a bit better. I only have 45 minutes to get ready. OK, remember it’s Friday, this week is almost over!
8:40pm. After a very tiny, small breakfast I got ready as quickly as I physically could and ran outside. The School’s annual ELT conference starts in 20 minutes!
8:50pm. I thankfully made it at a reasonable time, only 10 minutes late and it hasn’t started yet. Pheew.
11am. The first two sessions were great, especially Simon Ward’s talk on using positive psychology in the classroom. I forgot how awesome and engaging psychology practitioners can be. I guess that’s what experience with helping other humans make sense of the world does for you. Now for my poster presentation and then I can leave early (thank you Lucie!) and go back to school to print off the paperwork for my observation and have some lunch.
11:30am. The poster presentation went better than I thought. I was worried no one would be interested in my poster but I actually got to talk to 6-7 different people who genuinely seemed to enjoy it!
12:20pm. All ready for my observation lesson. I have no food with me so off to the nearest shop.
1:20pm. We made it to the school early. That means I can check whether the smartboard works! Of course it doesn’t. Let’s hope the mini-projector I brought with me does the trick.
2:30pm. I feel defeated. I don’t have any strength even to cry. Whatever it could have gone wrong in that lesson, it did. Technology failed me several times, my regular language assistant was not there and the children wouldn’t listen to me but I refused to shout at them. I tried my best. On the positive side that’s why I asked to be observed and be given feedback on this class, is my most challenging by far and I desperately need help.
3pm. I have some admin to do and then I need to tidy up my desk. I can bear this mess any longer.
6pm. OK admin done and handed in, I deserve a coffee and a snack. Lucie just came in and gave me a chocolate bear for presenting a poster at the conference. She is the sweetest!
7:30pm. Desk all clean, everything packed. I can go home and not do any more work for today!!
10pm. I’m so tired I’m actually heading to bed early on a Friday. Thank you universe. I can’t believe I made it through this week.
That’s it, that’s how not just my week but everyone else’s I work with has been.
The first year of teaching is NOT easy. If you work full-time, if you care about your students and what you teach them, if you care about your teaching and your performance, if you work for a school that cares, prepare to work hard. It’s exhausting but at the same time incredibly rewarding.
I miss having time for myself, I miss doing other things I enjoy, I miss not having free time to just chill.
You know what though? I love every minute. And also that means it will only get easier.For now, I’m ready for another crazy week.