Freelance teachers’ survival kit

Perhaps the saddest of the many things I like about being freelance is that packing up for a day out and about teaching reminds me somewhat of setting out on a camping or backpacking trip. Here’s a list of things I take with me, or would if I had them and could fit them in my already incredibly packed bag. Given that lack of space, priority is given to things with multiple uses, some of which you might not have thought of. The list could also provide suggestions for Xmas presents for your TEFLing loved ones.

  • Scissors (for endless cutting worksheets up into bits of paper, trimming nose hair, etc)
  • Glue (for putting things together on one worksheet, patching up bag and shoes, sniffing for a quick pick-me-up, sticking hyperactive students to their chairs, putting in messy hair, etc)
  • Blutack (to stick things to the classroom wall, chew in the place of chewing gum, etc)
  • Paperclips (to stop bits of paper from getting mixed up, to stick into your thigh to stop yourself falling asleep during class, etc)
  • Clip-on tie (for those rare days when anyone actually checks what you are doing)
  • Alcohol-based wet wipes (for getting rid of pen off your shirt, for a quick wipe of the armpits when you didn’t have time for a shower, etc)
  • Laptop computer and portable printer (for preparing lessons, Skypeing your children to read them bedtime books when you are on the train back home, etc)
  • Box set of DVDs (to watch on the train or in cafés between lessons)
  • MP3 player (for speech radio, to retain the ability to speak English at above Pre-Intermediate level)
  • Several plastic bags (for disposing off paper offcuts, wrapping things on rainy days, putting smelly socks into, carrying extra worksheets in when your backpack is full, using as improvised wellies when the weather turns bad, peeing into during long train journeys, long classes and days with no breaks between classes, etc)
  • Flask of tea or hot water (for secretly topping up your Starbucks cup to kill time when you have five hours between classes)
  • Cutthroat razor and/ or Swiss Army knife (for personal grooming between classes, cutting things up, threatening really lazy students, self-defence etc)
  • Peanuts, Kendal Mint Cake and glucose tablets (for survival, to secretly eat during classes to make up for lost meals, etc)
  • Caffeine tablets
  • Hipflask of whiskey (for medicinal purposes, to have a little party on the train home to reward yourself for a hard week, etc)
  • Inflatable pillow or paperback book (for napping on the train or in a café between classes, putting under your butt in particularly long classes with uncomfortable chairs, etc)
  • Alarm clock (to wake you up before the train gets to your station, 15 minutes before your lesson starts, or when students finish a practice exam)
  • Sleeping bag (for secretly spending the night under a desk, in a café or in a park when you have a late finish and early start)
  • Cattle prod (for motivating students, keeping yourself awake, self-defence etc)
  • Stretchy exercise band or 100 rubber bands (for exercising while on the train to the next class)
  • Passport and traveller’s cheques (in case not complaining about being made to travel further and further to do classes leads to you actually being made to switch countries during your working day)
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