A Typical Day For Me As A ESL/TEFL Teacher

Summary – I have been reading various blog posts about the daily routines of a TEFL teacher. Mine seems very different so I thought I would share my normal workday at a private language school in Portugal.


A beautiful sunset over Lisbon from the Miradouro da Senhora de Monte

Introduction – I have been teaching in Portugal at the same private language school for 2 & 1/2 years. I absolutely love my school and the staff are so supportive. Our Director is great at helping us with issues and pointing us in the right direction. My school is a bit odd as we work at one school Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays in one of the schools and Tuesday and Thursday in  another school. It is nice though to have the change of scene. It is also a very typical language school for the country teaching ages 9 years up to adult and all levels from absolute beginner (A1) to proficiency (C2).

My Normal Working Day

11am – I usually wake up about 11am. I am mosy certainly not a morning person! Sometimes though I get up earlier (about 9:30/10am) to meet a friend for breakfast. If not I slowly get ready for work and do some house work such as the laundry. I generally have a big breakfast as it is kind of breakfast/lunch and I don’t have dinner until late.
The exception of this is Tuesday and Friday mornings where I have private students at 11am/12noon.
[Please note – I do have collegues are less lazy and who get up early go to the gym, go out, do things. That just isn’t me]


Breakfast at a pastelaria (cafe basically). This is actually from my birthday.

1pm – I try to meet a friend for lunch once a week. We usually meet a typical local restaurant somewhere near their work.
If not if it is sunny (i.e. in March to November) I sit in the sunshine on my kind-of-balcony, blog, go on the internet. I am trying to practise more Portuguese as I do get quite lazy.


Lunch with a friend (actually taken last year) – I love fresh fish

2pm – Go to work. One of my schools is about 30 mins by bus to the very West of the city and the other is about 45 mins by bus the other direction (not allowing for waiting for the bus). For this school I only get the bus home and prefer to get the train, if it isn’t raining there as it is a lot faster and involves a 15 min walk. I enjoy the fresh and I love walking.


My school on Tuesdays and ThursdaysYou can see the school’s logo at the bottom of the building.

3pm – I usually get to school about 3pm but this varies a lot. Sometimes I make a minor detour via the supermarket to pick up pies, biscuits, sandwiches, etc, if I have I hadn’t made any myself before I left.
I usually have about an hour and a half to plan and mark homework. My school uses a system of worksheets. Where we are given worksheets with teachers notes so it doesn’t take long. Especially for me, as we use the same worksheets every year and being in my 3rd year most of which I have taught multiple times before.


The pile of paperwork I collected over the first term this year. All lesson plans and worksheets.

4:10/4:35pm – I start teaching generally the first few lessons are school children coming straight from school. They are usually in Level 1 – Level 4 (Beginner/Elementary/Pre – Int or A1 to low B1 if you prefer). They are usually aged between 9 to 14 years old. So the grammar is simple and there is quite a lot of vocabulary. Our lessons are very relaxed and with an average class of about 6 and generally quite motivated and enthusiastic students. They really can be a joy to teach.
We only have 5 to 10 mins between classes which means you have very little time between lessons by the time one class has finally left and the next has arrived. Especially if a student stays on to talk or ask questions.


My drawing skills seem to have improved over the years. Especially for house vocabularly and evironment as I have drawn them so many times!

6:30pm – I usually have 4 or 5 lessons a day of 50 mins for normal lessons and 1 hour 15 min for Exam Prep classes. The last 2 or 3 of these classes are usually the higher levels or adults. Personally I don’t have any adult classes, my oldest student is 23. The general level for my second half of the day is Level 5 up to Cambridge Proficiency Exam Prep (Intermediate/ Upper Int/ Advanced or Upper B1/B2/C1/C2). Most of the work is based on exam papers. This is because our equivillent of our Level 6 is the first preparation year for the Cambridge First Certificate.
On Mondays and Wednesday I usually leave with a slight homework as I finish with 1hr 15 of Cambridge Advanced Exam Prep followed by 1hr 15 of Cambridge Proficiency Exam Prep. I swear most native English speakers would fail these exams. They are tough!
[Note – Most first year teachers don’t get get many exam classes is any at all. I have loads as I have been at the school for several years. My first year I only had one Cambridge First Certificate class]


My study skills lessons I did with my Cambridge Advanced students as to how where they can find different types of texts to read in English

9pm (give or take 10 mins) – When I finish there isn’t much hanging around. I put the left over worksheets in my bag and put my folder away and leave. We all finish at different times and with only 2 to 3 teachers in each school we only see each other in school for a short period of time anyway.
I usually go home but sometimes I go out for dinner or a glass a wine with friends. Or for example on Thursday I had dinner with my boyfriend near my school and then went to the cinema afterwards.
A lot of the time I just go home. I share a 2 bed flat with my boyfriend not too far from the city centre. We take turns to cook and watch a film before bed.
The exception is Tuesday and Thursday where I only have 4 regular classes and finish at 8pm. I usually try to get the food shopping done then. And Thursdays we usually have dinner with my boyfriend and his Mum as she lives close to the school. Tuesdays we try to do something like dinner out, cinema, bowling, etc.


1 or 2am – As I don’t get home from work until about 10 to 10:30pm so by the time I have had dinner and got ready for bed it is usually about midnight and we like to watch a film or TV before bed. However as I do n’t get up until late and generally a late owl anyway, this works really well for me.


Love FOX Crime it is has all my favourite British murder mystery TV programs

Weekends – I noticed recently that I usually have one quiet weekend followed by a busy weekend. I try to do day trips but I never do as many as I hope. I have a private student on Saturday mornings which can effect things.
In the winter (mid November to mid March) I usually like to visit museums and spend time with friends as generally it can be wet and quite cold, or at least unpredictable. It picks up in March and April when we start having picnics in the park and going to more places.
While in the summer months of May to October I spend a lot of the time at the weekends at the beach or swimming pool. Best place to be when the temperature is well over 30 degrees.


One of our favourite things to do. Cycling along the river from centre to Belém, have a picnic next to the tower before cycling back.

To add – If you want to see more of my life I lead I have a blog diary (however this year I have been quite rubbish at keeping it up to date) – www.lifeascarlybishop.wordpress.com

If you are hoping to go into TEFL yourself
If you are reading this because you are hoping to go into teaching yourself please feel free to join our Facebook Group (more information about the group here).

Or if you prefer you can email me with any questions you may have – sportycarlyb@hotmail.com.
Also, you might find my Top 10 Tips for Prospective TEFL Teachers post helpful – especially if you are deciding which course to take. If you want a taste of teaching English abroad first or wantvto but just can’t afford a course maybe you might like my blog post: How to TEFL without a TEFL (/CELTA).

If you have a TEFL certificate and looking for jobs online please feel to use my list of job websites I have compiled over the years. It hasn’t been used over the past year though so it might be a tad out of date. Or if you have been applying but feel you are getting no where I might be able to explain based on my own experience of 5 main reasons why this may be.

2 thoughts on “A Typical Day For Me As A ESL/TEFL Teacher

  1. Pingback: My Top 10 Tips for Prospective TEFL Teachers | The New Me - Life After Uni

  2. Pingback: An Index of TEFL Blog Posts I’ve Written | The New Me - Life After Uni

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