A Day in the Life of a Freelance Multitasker

Theodora Papapanagiotou
Theodora Papapanagiotou
By Theodora Papapanagiotou

It’s 6:30 a.m. and the alarm clock goes off. First coffee of the day and work begins.

I love waking up early in the morning, the peace and quiet are wonderful and I am ready for my first task. I am working on a translation now. One of my “jobs” is translating medical and sports-related texts. I work with trainer schools and sports professionals. I truly enjoy this kind of texts: I learn so much about the human body, the way it functions, methods how to improve our performance and avoid injuries, whether you are an athlete or not. There are so many sciences combined to actually train somebody (or yourself) – physiology, physics, sports science, medicine, chemistry, psychology… the list goes on. I admire sports professionals for using this knowledge to actually help their athletes improve. That’s also what we do as teachers, I guess. Combine the English language with technology and other subjects to make our lessons more useful and interesting.

Nine o’clock and I am off to class. Recently I have started working for a non-governmental organization. At the moment they are holding seminars and sessions for senior citizens, such as yoga, health-related seminars, as well as computer and English language lessons, and that’s where I come in! My class consists of eleven wonderful ladies over sixty. They were all very active during their youth, working and enjoying life, and in fact they still do. Although I do have a leaflet created by the organization with basic vocabulary and phrases, we usually improvise dialogues with related vocabulary, role-play trips to stores to buy stuff and going to restaurants. We focus on the language that they are going to need when travelling abroad. The funny thing is that, being “old-school” people, they are used to learning more grammar and rules, so they find it a bit bizarre to actually talk and communicate with each other in English, but it’s a lot of fun!

It’s almost noon and I am rushing back home to prepare lunch. If I lived alone, I wouldn’t be bothered, but having a kid makes all the difference. I am not good at cooking but I try to make something out of fresh ingredients, avoiding junk food and taking care of myself in this way.

Since it is summer, I don’t have a lot of one-to-one students, only a couple of adult learners a few times a week in the afternoon.

My first student is a teacher preparing for a literature exam, so I always bring excerpts from classic English literature, such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, or even Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We talk about the plot, analyze the characters, and compare the books with one another. The preparation I have to do at home is pretty demanding but I love every minute of it, because I get to read books and I have no excuses since I have to use them in my work.

My second student of the day is a businessperson who needs English to get around. I look for articles about food and drinks, travelling, and different cultures on the Internet. I create reading comprehension and vocabulary exercises and then we talk about the subject I have chosen for the day. My student has travelled almost everywhere in the world, so the experiences he shares are very interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes enlightening. Working without a coursebook is a great experience for me because it keeps me motivated to create new things myself. Not that I don’t like coursebooks – I do use them for my lessons with children and teenagers, as well as preparing for exams, but when you teach ESP you have to be creative, I guess.

After my private lessons, it’s spinning time! Well, for those of you who don’t know what it is, I will explain. Spinning is a gym class on a stationary bike. You may tell me, “What kind of class is this, you just get on the bike and ride!” But it’s so much more than that. You can have a complete workout with sprints, climbing hills, or even jumps with great music. I love this class so much that a few years ago I actually went to a spinning instruction school and got my own trainer diploma. I learned about human physiology, heart rates, different kinds of bikes, and all about beat and music used in the process. Spinning combines my three big loves: teaching, music, and movement, and that’s why I love it so much! So every weekend I try to spend a couple of hours discovering new music and creating my “lesson-plans” with the right moves. What I find really challenging in this type of teaching is that you never get to have the same students like in a normal language class, and the fact that their levels are different never makes it any easier. You can have an athlete, a pensioner, and a housewife all in the same class! So, when planning, you have to create different versions of moves, a lighter one and a more difficult one. This reminds me of mixed ability classes and the need for us teachers to have activities that cover the same language phenomenon while catering for different language levels and individual abilities of our students.

It’s late in the evening. I am back home, to tidy up and talk to my kid a bit more. Tomorrow is another day. And a new challenge.

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Theodora Papapanagiotou

Theodora Papapanagiotou is a teacher of EFL and DaF (German as a foreign language) in Greece since 1992. She has worked in various language schools in her hometown, Thessaloniki and with various levels and ages. In the past few years she has been working as a freelance teacher and taking parts in conventions, webinars and online courses, trying to become a better teacher.

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