Studied MA Education online

A day in the life of an international teacher

Image: Online Education MA masters student Peter SturgessPeter currently works in a Senior Principal role in a Kindergarten in China. Originally from Bolton, in the UK, Peter graduated in 1995 with a Primary Education degree and spent most of his career as a teacher and senior leader in the UK until 2012, when he decided to relocate to Abu Dhabi. He continued his teaching career in Abu Dhabi but found that the school days were very different to what they were in the UK, and after 2:30pm he was left with a lot of spare time. This, alongside peer encouragement led to Peter’s decision to study for a Master’s degree in Education.

“A few friends and I were supposed to start the course together so we could interact and learn as we went along, but it turns out I was the only one that went through with it!”

Friends of Peter’s recommended he apply to the University of Derby Online Learning, so he completed his application to start the MA Education in January. Since starting his degree, Peter has relocated again to Beijing with his partner and they welcomed a baby girl into their family in 2016. The family are on the cusp of their next adventure, as Peter and his partner are considering new opportunities in the Middle East!

A day in my life

As a busy teacher and father, what’s a typical day like working in Beijing?

“I wake at 5am and breakfast together with my wife. We use this quiet time in the morning to catch up with news from home, via Facebook (if our VPNs are working successfully!) or WhatsApp. The mornings are also an opportunity for me to connect with my university tutor via my blog on the student portal. He’s usually settling down for the night as I’m waking up so we might get a chance to go over any feedback he’s provided for me, or to discuss next steps with my dissertation.

My baby daughter usually wakes around 6:30am and my wife and I take it in turns to get her ready and give her the morning feed, whilst also getting ourselves ready to go to school. By 7am our wonderful ayi arrives to take care of the baby and after a quick chat about the day ahead we leave for work.

Many people in Beijing cycle to work and I’m no different. I love using the 30 minute ride to school as an opportunity to reflect on the day ahead and think of the things I need to do when I arrive. By 8am most of our staff are on duty, ready to greet the students when they arrive and I’ll walk round to each classroom and say good morning to everyone. There are nine classrooms on our campus with four teachers in each, so this is the one time each day when I know I can connect with everyone before the busy day begins in earnest.

At 8:30am I’m greeting the children and parents as they arrive. During the warmer weather all of our teachers will meet in the playground and lead a morning dance routine, which the children and parents love. My designated dance is ‘Cha Cha Slide’, which I’m finally getting the hang of after weeks of practice!

Classes start at 9am and during the next 2-3 hours I will routinely spend time in class observing the children working on their Montessori learning activities, as well as catching up on emails and talking with my logistics and administrative staff.

Lunch is usually a quick sandwich at one of the many cafes in the central business district area of Beijing, before heading back to the campus. This is the time when our children all settle down for nap, which is traditional in Chinese kindergarten and elementary schools. This gives the staff an opportunity to hold meetings and prepare their learning materials and lesson plans. I am then involved with meetings with my Lead Teachers or foreign English Specialists, which is a combination of professional development activities and information sharing. This is also a great time to work on my dissertation; as my focus is on parental partnership I have been able to use my own setting as a case study, which has given me a wonderful opportunity to interview a number of our parents and use their responses as the basis for my research. I sometimes use this time to conduct an interview, write up a transcript or read some of the many academic papers on the subject.

Later in the afternoon I spend further time in the classroom before saying goodbye to parents and children when they leave the campus at 4:30pm. Around 5:15pm I head home, either by bike or subway and it’s then an opportunity to have some quality time with my daughter, including bath time and a bedtime story.

My wife and I will usually eat once everything is settled down. Depending on how tired I’m feeling we might try to relax with a DVD or I might try to squeeze in a little more work on my dissertation. I don’t usually read anything too heavy at this time of the evening, but I might try to add a few sentences to what I’ve already written, or check over a section to make sure it reads well.

Bedtime is usually around 10:30pm. After such a long day it isn’t usually too difficult to fall asleep!”