Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's our birthday!


Classroom Canada is a little teaching agency that could.

We have big ideas & amazing Canadian teachers. Incredibly, 100% of the teachers that go to London stay with us, working in inner city London schools and hanging out with other Canucks, Aussies, Brits, Kiwis and South African teachers in their free time. I've worked with other teaching agencies (both as a teacher and as a recruiter) where it's just expected that 50% of the teachers they recruit will walk away and join another company instead. Talk about having low expectations!

I'm a huge fan of Stuart McLean so when I thought about starting a new teaching agency with a different approach, I immediately thought of his fictional music store, The Vinyl Cafe. Above the cash register is a sign that reads, "We may not be big, but we're small". I love that idea.

I'd rather have a small group of dedicated, loyal and fabulous teachers that make me proud of what I do, than 2000 teachers that don't feel any sense of loyalty at all. I completely understand why they wouldn't feel loyal if they felt they were a number. A cash-grabbing agency that expects half their teachers to bail out is not exactly a fun place to work.

The wonderful thing about this small company is that it's fully supported by a larger company - Classroom Ltd. (in London, England). Classroom has other branches in South Africa and Australia as well. With Classroom Canada, we can remain small but know that once our teachers arrive in England they will be supported by a full staff team with a specialized knowledge of working in London. In fact, the vast majority of the recruiters in Classroom were teachers in inner city schools themselves.

So here we are. Classroom Canada's first blog entry. The idea behind this blog is not to sell you to our agency, but to help Canadian teachers who are considering moving to London know a little more what's in store. We know that once you're ready you'll apply anyway. Hey, that's how we operate.

When I graduated from Teachers College in Ontario, I was desperate to find a full-time teaching position. I applied everywhere I could, and when offered a grade 5 class outside London, I took it. I looked everywhere for more information, particularly from a Canadian viewpoint. What I learned then is that there's a whole lot of companies trying to sell the jobs to us, but not a whole lot of information about what they do, what the teaching is really like (other than that it's hard) and what struggles other teachers have faced and overcome. I did go, ended up staying for three years and used my background in International Development and community volunteer work to recruit teachers for the agency that originally brought me over. I tried to change things from within, but after a couple of years I realized that I needed to find a different agency with a different approach to teachers.

I asked another Canadian teacher who she was with & why, and I liked the sound of the company. A week later, I had applied for and accepted a position within Classroom as both a teacher & a recruiter. This meant that I was out teaching a few days a week and in the office the other days. Six months later, I moved to BC to start Classroom Canada. And here we are. It's been one full year. Since then, about 20 teachers have traveled to London with us and most are still there. A few have returned home (to get married or pursue their careers in Canada).

But this blog is not about me, nor is it about specific teachers. This blog is about what it's really like to teach in London from a Canadian perspective.

Watch this space. Also, you can check out our website, become a fan through facebook, or sign up to receive our emails.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!

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