A day in the life of a peripatetic teacher of English in Moscow. Be careful of the pronunciation: peripatetic, not “very pathetic”.
This is how today went – it is not untypical.
Up at 05.30 for shower & shave and a leisurely breakfast in front of the computer checking emails, Facebook, and the BBC News to discover what has been happening in the world at large. It is also important to check the weather forecast. The thermometer on the window tells me how cold it is but it also helps to know how strong the wind is going to be.
Out the door at 07.00, having checked that I have the right books, equipment and security passes or passport commensurate with the lessons scheduled for the day. Every Company has their own rules.
Past the rubbish skip where one or two people are foraging for empty bottles and cans and anything of any worth. A 5 minute walk to the bus stop then 2 stops on the trolley bus to get to the metro station. At the entrance to the metro one or two babushkas are already setting out their “stalls” for the day. One old lady is wrapped up in layers and layers of woollen “blankets” which she hopes to sell during the day. In the photo she looks a bit like an elephant – I didn't mean to catch her bending, it just happened that way. The other lady there is selling home-made cole slaw and such like.
2 metro trains later and I come out at Paveletskaya just to the South of the city centre. On the way out of the station I collect my copy of the free metro newspaper – the same one that is distributed at many underground stations around the world. This one, of course, is in Russian.
A 10-15 minute walk to get to my first lesson which is due to start at 08.00 but almost never does because my student hasn't arrived by then. I go through the first half of the securtiy rigmarole and pass through to the Prime Star cafe where I buy a coffee to drink while I'm waiting for her to arrive. A coffee in Prime Star costs almost £2. Back on the other side of the security area there is another coffee shop, called Coffee Mania, where coffee costs nearer £4. The difference in prices is astonishing.
Once my student arrives we go together to the sixth floor to complete the other half of the security rigmarole. Now, as well being allowed into the building, I am allowed into the company she works for.
This class is a one-to-one. She is a very bright upper-intermediate level student. Halfway into the lesson she asks why the answer to a particular fill-in-the-blank exercise question is in the future perfect continuous and not future perfect simple. Good question, well presented! Rather than fob her off with the first thing that comes into my head I promise to give her the explanation during the next lesson. Make a mental note not to forget to research that particular question, otherwise credibility goes out the window.
Class finishes at 09.30 sharp and I have to get to the East of town for 10.15. a ten minute walk back to the metro station and 2 metro trains to get me to Rimsksaya station ready for the next 10 minute walk. Coming out of the station there are the usual sandwich board wearers and flyer distributors. It doesn't matter that the temperature is about -15, they still need to earn their few roubles. Under the underpass beneath Hammer and Sickle commuter station there is usually at least one beggar and often one accordianist busking. Today, however, there was only one spiv selling SIM cards. I think it was from a fold-up table in case he had to move quickly if the police moved him on or the mafia came for their cut of the profits.
On the other side of the underpass I had to pass several marshrutka taxis sitting with their engines idling polluting the atmosphere, and my lungs, with their cheap diesel emissions.
On to the second lesson. I have been coming here for almost two years and the students and I know each other quite well. One of the newer students to the group decided to bait me today by telling me how Russian people have such a poor opinion of Winston Churchill because he, and Truman, were responsible for starting the Cold War. An interesting slant on history I thought.
After the lesson back across town, almost to where I first started this morning. This time the beggar was on the train. They work their way through the carriages, standing at one end and giving their sob story before moving down the carriage amongst the passengers and then on to the next carriage when the train stops at a station. I would estimate they have one or two successes per carriage. Probably multi-millionaires by now.
I arrived at my next lesson with time to buy a bowl of soup from the building canteen. Cheese soup! Sounds unusual but tasty nevertheless.
This group consists of two deputy directors who are keen to improve their English because they do a lot of foreign travel and English is the International language of business. They are intermediate level but keen to improve. They are a bit like a tag team – one or other of them always seems to be away on business trip. This helps with lesson planning and delivery because what I do with one during one lesson I can do again with the other during the next lesson. Provided, of course, I remember what I've done and with whom!
3½ hours between lesson so time to head home for a very early evening meal and a short power-nap.
17.00 head out for the final lesson of the day. Another upper-intermediate one-to-one. Nice lady, she's off to Japan for the next two weeks so I will have the luxury of two free Tuesday and Thursday evenings. No lesson, no money but sometimes down-time is worth more.
19.30. Lesson finishes, head home. Home at about 20.30 for a well-earned drink and a brief rest before reveille at 05.30 tomorrow.