Marc profile picby Marc Jones

Shrill bleep. I open my eyes, unplug my phone, go to the kitchen to make coffee and eat breakfast, then wash, shave, brush my teeth. I sometimes leave the house before my wife and son are awake but this is growing less common. Usually I read the news but if I’m in a slack period, I check all the job sites I use, and then I go to work.


I work three days a week at a school, one day at a university, and for the rest of my time I teach corporate clients, often through agencies. I have a love-hate relationship with the agencies because there is always a Faustian bargain in mind: what meaningless paperwork can be requested in order to justify the price to the client? This makes English teaching just another component of big business, like two-hour meetings and Gantt charts on the office wall. On the occasions I work independently, there is no paperwork bar invoices: all my students know how they are progressing in their courses because there is always feedback. I do paperwork on the train on my phone or tablet if possible, when files are urgent and formats compatible. I check Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, the job sites and think about whether Craigslist is pointless or toxic. I go to the staff room, print what I need, and then greet my students.

Between lessons I kill time reading or planning lessons in the park if the weather is nice, else it’s a coffee shop. I used to teach in coffee shops but the number of cancellations from private students just meant that the work wasn’t tenable. When I finish the planning or the book gets to the end of a chapter, I check the job sites again, just in case I missed something. I usually have: something I’m hideously unqualified for that pays numbers I can’t count to. I seethe and make plans to set up my own business, knowing that I have too much on my plate to be able to quit jobs to do it.

If it’s a really busy day I might need to rush home to cook dinner for my family before going back out to teach at a company. My cooking is awful and this is exacerbated by the pressure to leave the house in decent time to get to the next gig. I also know all my concentration has been spent on the morning lesson and shouting at the Internet.

I drink a can of coffee on the train and will usually have a snack or twelve to keep my energy up. My wife warns me about diabetes but I’m more immediately concerned with the supply of energy to my brain and limbs. I greet my students with a caffeinated smile and hope that I don’t fall asleep in the middle of the lesson.

I say my goodbyes after setting homework or listening to arguments against it and get on the train home. I might wake up in time to get off at my local station or else I change platforms to the same train in the opposite direction and look forward to another exciting day full of autonomy, free from outside influences and the anxiety of working for The Man. I am a freelancer!

Published by

Marc Jones

Marc Jones was born and raised in and around Sunderland, England. He has worked in call centres, a library, then a Hawaiian bar in the Tokyo suburbs but finally settled on working in schools, colleges and businesses. He tweets at @11thhourspecial.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.