Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Teacher Jobs in London Up by 21-32%


Here's some good news for Canadian teachers: The teacher shortage in the UK is up by 21-32% from last year.

I knew something was going on when I called our London office last week. They told me every one of my teachers was out working & they still didn't have enough teachers to fill the needs of all the schools calling them.

To put this in perspective, think about supply teaching in Canada in September. Do you know any supply teachers in Canada teaching 4 or 5 days/week? I doubt it. Not here. We have a job shortage, not a teacher shortage.

But in London, all of my teachers are working almost every day! At least half have full-time positions. These jobs were secured last year, over the summer and in the first 2 weeks of this school year. That's incredible!

Over the past six months, I have been telling the September arrivals to be patient - they probably wouldn't get more than 1 or 2 days/week, just like in Canada. It's September, the teachers aren't sick yet and they don't start taking courses until October.

I am pleased to say that I was wrong! We need more teachers already. So what's going on in the UK you ask?

Well, the Guardian reports that primary teacher vacancies are up by 32% and secondary teacher vacancies are up by 21% this year. For secondary, the largest need is for math, science and English. There are: 250 math teacher vacancies, 270 science vacancies and 210 English vacancies.

This is fabulous news for Canadian teachers! If you haven't applied for a teaching job in London yet, now's the time.

Still not sure about teaching in London? Read Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reflections of a Teacher in London

Sheena, the woman on the left in this photo, lives in our accommodations with other teachers from across Canada and teaches full-time in a primary school in Central London. She sent us these reflections about her time teaching so far:

"So I moved to London to teach. Is it what I’d expected? I’m not sure really. I guess I was like most people, who have dreams and expectations about what it would be like. I’m not sure I ever really thought that what I imagined London to be like would be the reality.

Firstly, I can honestly say that I am lucky. Profoundly lucky that I am here with a bunch of teachers that are from all over Canada, who are going through exactly what I am going through. We all miss the comforts of home, but all at different times. Thankfully, we all experience this at different times and can be there for each other.

I am also so lucky that I met my flat mates. Without them, I would be lost right now. We are totally different people but we have two things in common; we are all far from Canada and we are all teachers. Somehow it makes us bond in a way that can’t really be explained.

Secondly, I have to talk about my first teaching job in London. I knew that my first teaching job would be scary, but somehow it's different over here. There are so many things that I never even imagined would be different.

During my first week of work, I definitely felt like I was swimming under ten feet of water. I felt like the rules were different, the kids were crazy, and that I knew nothing!

But now, I’m on to week three and it feels like everything is settling. I guess I try to look at every challenge as something I can overcome, even if sometimes it takes longer than I thought.

So now, in my third week of work, I don’t feel like I’m sinking anymore. No doubt I’m still adjusting, but definitely not sinking!

Above all, I love living in London. It's not the quaint, quiet city that some people think it is. Conversely, it is bustling and charming all at the same time. I am never bored here, I’m always busy doing something different.

But most of all I can say that I’m comfortable living here. I’ve come to realize that you can be enamored with a city that you visit, but to live in and love a city you must feel truly comfortable there. That’s how London makes me feel."

I am so pleased that Sheena found amazing friends and flatmates through Classroom Canada. That sense of community, understanding and belonging is so important when teaching abroad. Keep up the great work & keep on laughing Sheena!

Watch this space for more reflections from our teachers in London.

Also, check out Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. The American edition is in the works and should be available by Christmas.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our First Contest: Name That Prize!

The Classroom Canada London Scavenger Hunt is November 7th, 2008 and we already have more than 25 Canadian teachers signed up for the adventure. Now you decide what the winners receive!

The event will last 2 hours, and teams of teachers will run through the streets of London searching for answers. I don't want to give too much away, but here are some of the challenges they will need to complete:
  • Act out a scene from Romeo & Juliet in front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (and take a video for evidence)
  • Squeeze as many of your team as you can fit into an old fashioned London phone box and get a passer by to snap you.
You decide what the winning team receives! Tell us here what you think the winners should get with a $50 budget.

I already have one full suitcase so the prizes have to fit into my second bag. I'll post photos on this blog of the winning team receiving their prize. Be part of the fun!

Leave your comment below with your idea. If your idea is chosen for our Scavenger Hunt prize then you will win something as well. Everyone wins!

Be creative! Be bizarre! Name that prize!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spelling is Very Important in Shcool

I "borrowed" this image from Urban School Teacher. Thanks Mr. Teacher for the giggle! I love the woman scratching her head. Brilliant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teachers in London: How to Find an Apartment


Teachers always ask me where they should live in London. To help, here's an excerpt from the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

If you decide to go with an agency that provides its teachers with accommodations, you will likely want to strike out on your own at some point (agency accommodations are usually university-dorm style settings, with shared kitchens and bathrooms – and rent to match! So great to start out in, but not so great to live in permanently for most people.)

To calculate what your rent will be, you need to determine what zone you’d like to live in. I personally lived in a shoe-box sized apartment in Notting Hill for 468 pounds/month. I had to share a bathroom with one other woman (the one who thought her plants were trying to kill her while she slept that I mentioned earlier), which was the downside for me. The plus side was living in Notting Hill, so I was more than happy to pay the money to live in a studio flat on my own in one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in London.

I’ve also shared with other professionals. We had a 4 bedroom apartment in Islington (the Finsbury Park area), and we each paid 500 pounds/month plus utilities. The downside to that story is that we had to pay a 2000 pound deposit, which we never got back from the landlords. They claim we caused a flood in their basement by not cleaning the leaves out of the outside drains.

First off, as a Canadian, I couldn’t understand why there were drains leading into the basement from the outside at all. I had never heard of such a thing. Anyway, they argued, we gave in and just left it. We should have fought it, but London life moves quickly and we moved on with it.

The moral of the story is that you need to be very careful who you rent from.

There are Estate Agents in London (real estate agents that rent apartments), and you will be overcome by how many there are and the fees they charge.

Don’t pay any money upfront.

They will charge you once you have found an apartment that you’d like to take. The fee will cover checking your references and your credit report. It can be anywhere from 150 pounds to 400 pounds. Double that figure to get that value in Canadian dollars.

You will notice that rents are listed weekly rather than monthly. So it might look at first like you totally scored when you see a two-bedroom listed in Chelsea for 750 pounds, but in actual fact, that’s 3000 a month.

You will need to ask about utilities, council tax (which is how the local government collects money for garbage collection, recycling and other local costs), and any other costs as well.

I always tell my teachers that they shouldn’t pay any more than one week’s wages towards their rent, which usually means about 500 pounds. This seems to work well for most.


Some teachers are willing to pay more, and travel less around Europe. They want a nice home, where they can have friends over for dinner parties and feel proud of their space. 3 of my teachers this year pay 600 pounds/month each to share a 3 bedroom flat on the Thames River in Greenwich, a very nice area of London. They travel less than the other teachers, but they prefer their home to the other options available.

See www.gumtree.com to see apartments for rent. Just like the city of London, gumtree has put their apartment ads into 2 categories, North London and South London.

You should also read Living in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians, written by Network Canada.

If you've liked what you read so far, check out Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. Also, you can sign up for the RSS feed on the right hand side of the page, or our newsletters.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pants, Pants & Pants: The story of a confused Canadian Teacher in London


It was my first week of teaching in London, and I knew that the word "pants" means "underwear" in England, but hadn't really used it yet.

So, I told my year 5 students to get changed for Physical Education. Most schools have the children just get changed in their classroom, which I found to be bizarre on 2 fronts:

1) Why do primary aged children get changed for P.E.?

2) Since they get changed for P.E. shouldn't there be change rooms like in secondary school?

One of the British teachers explained to me that getting changed together wasn't a big deal and that's the way it's always been so the children are just used to it. It still felt very stressful to me to ask them to get changed in one room together.

So, back to my story. I told the class to get changed for P.E. and one boy (let's call him Sammy) told me he didn't have any P.E. clothes, so he went to get some from the office.

When he returned, I advised him to "Go on then, take off your pants."

I had a really tough class and my eyes were darting all around the room to make sure no major fights were breaking out. I didn't even notice that Sammy left the room, until I heard the Deputy Head Teacher yelling at him in the hallway.

"What are you doing out here? Why aren't you in your class?!"

"Uhhh...the teacher told me to take off my pants so I went to the toilets to get changed out of my pants," Sammy explained.

"You know not to take off your pants in school!"

"But the teacher told me to," Sammy missed a lot of school because of his home circumstances and was very used to being told off. This time it was my fault though and I felt horrible. Poor kid!

That was the day I learned about pants, pants & more pants. See, pants means 3 different things:

1. Pants are underwear in the UK.
2. Pants are pants in North America (aka "trousers")
3. Pants can also be used as a negative, like "My day was really pants!" or "This food is pants!"

If you're thinking about teaching in London, or anywhere in the UK, you should know these words & practice using them. Please don't make the same mistake I did!

Check out this list of important words for Canadians to know. Watch British tv, or Teachers TV and learn the lingo. Use the British words & get used to them so you won't tell some poor child to "take off your pants!"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Many Ways to Get Around London

In Canada, I can pretty much bike to most places in a city that I need to get to. I bike to stores, to schools, to friends, to sports. You name it, I use my bike to get me there. So when I first moved to London, I bought a bike right away. A few of my teachers in London did the exact same thing and bragged on facebook about biking through Hyde Park or Regents Park. Fun times!


So let's look at all the ways you'll get around town while teaching in London.

As soon as you move to London you're going to walk more than you've ever walked before. Up stairs, escalators, through the underground stations, above ground, through parks, along the Thames River. Your feet will grow tired and soar and you'll be rubbing your feet in no time. Women mostly wear high heels and you'll likely want to fit right in.

If you're a shoe-lover, then check out Neal Street in Covent Garden. It's a whole pedestrian friendly street (no cars allowed) with more shoe stores than you'll know what to do with. Be sure to eat at Food For Thought while you are there as you should be able to get a great vegetarian meal for less than 10 pounds.


I've only ever had one teacher in the last 4 years who actually had a moped and used it to get everywhere in London. He's an Aussie with a very adventurous spirit! He always said that he loved his little bike, and it only cost him 500 pounds (used and not a cool Vespa like the ones above). He said he saved heaps of money because he used little gas (called "petrol" in the UK) and he loved zipping between the cars stuck in traffic.
More realistically, you'll be taking the tube to get around London. That's the underground or subway if you're not familiar with "the tube" yet. To see the routes and prices, check out www.thetube.co.uk The tube is amazing and will get you everywhere you need to go, for the most part. You can see if there are delays on your route online, or if you need an alternative route completely. If you're used to the Toronto or Montreal subways, then you'll love the tube in London!

Here's something cool to check out as well: http://www.londonphotoproject.co.uk/blog/
This person walked the entire tube map above ground. Yes, that's right - all 378 miles.


When you first arrive in London, buses will seem a bit daunting. They run every 2-3 minutes in Central London, and there are many night buses as well. They're cheap and easy to use and way better than any we have in Canada. You just need to learn how to read a bus map (which are posted in front of the bus stops) and become more confident in getting around town on the bus. London has designated bus lanes, so they are pretty fast. When you get stuck in traffic and are no where near a tube stop, they can be a real pain though.

Don't forget to flag down the bus or else it will keep going without you! You need to put your hand out like you would to get a taxi.
Ah the famous London black cabs. I love them! The best advice I have for taking a cab in London is to make sure it's a licensed taxi, and not just some random guy outside a night club in his car saying "taxi". You should know that anyway, but sadly these guys take adventure of naive travellers and locals every night. Don't get in their cars. Please.

And finally, my personal favourite - by bicycle. I've only tried to bike to school a few times in London and it was pretty tough to be honest. In the end, I decided I needed a cool GPS thing on the front of my bike so I didn't have to keep stopping to check my maps. Once you know your area well, there's no reason not to bike around town. For me, the difficulty was in getting to different schools on time. Frankly, it was just easier to take the tube or bus. If any of you come across any bike GPS systems, please let me know! I'll be the first to buy one for my next London adventure.

Check out these great bike routes that the Time Out has featured today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Typical Interview Questions for Teaching in London


Teaching in London will present a different set of challenges than you are likely used to "back home". Your interview with a school or with a teaching agency will likely focus on this adjustment at least a little bit.

Here are some typical interview questions for teaching in London, England:
  1. Why do you want to teach in London?
  2. Tell me about your teaching so far.
  3. What were the students like (socio-economics) and what kind of schools (private, public, rural, inner city, small, large, etc) have you worked in?
  4. What are you ideally looking for (long term, short term, daily supply, subject/age specifics)?
  5. If I were to call another teacher that you worked closely with, what do you think they'd say about you?
  6. Why did you leave your last school?
  7. What involvement have you had in extracurricular activities?
  8. How do you ensure that all students are actively involved in their learning?
  9. What experience have you had with IEP's (Individual Education Plans)?
  10. What experience have you had with students with Special Needs in general or EAL (English as Additional Language) learners?
  11. Describe a successful lesson you have recently given. Why was it so successful?
  12. Walk me through your classroom. What does it look like?
The person interviewing you is trying to get a good sense of your experience, who you are as a teacher, how well you interview and where they can best try to place you at a school.

The best way to prepare for an interview for teaching in London is to actually sit down and write down your answers beforehand. Now that you know these typical questions, you should be off to a better start than most others anyway.

Also, dress as you would in any other interview, and don't eat food during the interview. Sadly, I've had people show up in their sweat pants (and no, they're not gym teachers) and eating muffins. This does not give the best first impression. If you are a professional teacher, then dress and speak like one.

An interview with a Recruitment Consultant is very similar to an interview with a school, so use that interview as a good trial run for the real thing. It might be a bit more casual to make you feel more comfortable, but that should help you rather than hinder you.

If you know of any other great interview questions, please add them in the comments section.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Movies About Teaching in London: Notes on a Scandal



Notes on a Scandal was filmed in a North London secondary school that is well known for being fairly tough. I remember one of my teachers did a day of supply teaching during the filming and told me how excited he was to actually meet Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in person. Not your typical day of teaching in London that's for sure.

It's a great movie and I do recommend that you watch it, if for nothing else than to see the inside of a London school. Who knows? You may even end up teaching there yourself.

You should also check out this list from The Guardian newspaper of the top 40 films about teaching. They are organized in alphabetical order, A-G movies, H-Z movies.

Here's another movie to check out if you want to teach in London. Colin Firth plays a football (soccer) fanatic and a high school teacher in North London. If you know nothing about footie, then you need see this film for sure. If you're a big fan of Arsenal then this is your film.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Schools in the News: Academies in London


If you're like me, then you probably think of British schools as simply public or private.
Just like in Canada, but with uniforms and accents right?

Well, there's more to it than that. They also have academies, and some of our teachers are working full-time in brand new academies this year. So, let's explain what academies are.

Here's what the Dfes (Department for Education and Skills) says about academies:

"Academies are all-ability, state-funded schools established and managed by sponsors from a wide range of backgrounds, including high performing schools and colleges, universities, individual philanthropists, businesses, the voluntary sector, and the faith communities. Some are established educational providers, and all of them bring a record of success in other enterprises which they are able to apply to their Academies in partnership with experienced school managers."

Basically, they are new schools that are funded by the local government and a private sponsor, which can be a non-profit organization, a business, an individual and so on.

They offer a new approach and every one is different from one another. The main idea is that some areas of Britain have lower standards and achievements in school. So, an academy gets opened, and is a fresh start for the area.

Usually they are very strict, (which you can see in their dress codes, how the students stand in line, straight posture, etc.) and they tend to have strong leadership in the senior management team.

Here's an article in the Guardian today about academies and specifically about one of the Ark Academies. One of our teachers is working with Ark this year and I know she's very excited about being part of this new academy. Ark is a non-profit organization that works in the developing world as well. Read the article. It's good and will give you a much better sense of what academies are like than I can.

I have visited a few academies in Hackney and Brixton in London. What I saw really impressed me. I taught in Hackney & Brixton for 2 years, and know from first-hand experience just how tough some of those schools can be. I've also taught at outstanding schools in those areas as well though.

But when I went to visit the new academies, I was really impressed at how well the students behaved. These were the same kids I had taught the year before. The kids that threw recycling bins at each other, or climbed the bookshelves in the middle of my lesson. But when I saw them at the academies, they were walking proudly, talking quietly with their friends in the corridors (not the yelling I was used to) and actually listening to their teachers. Talk about night and day!

Now, I know there are parents and teachers out there that are very opposed to the idea of academies. One of the reasons for this controversy is the question of power & authority. Since academies are privately & publicly funded, how does one determine how much power the private sponsor has?


For example, what would stop Microsoft from opening an academy where they only taught students how to use their computer programs, and trained the students for jobs within their company? Or Pepsi? Or Coke?

Where is the line and how do we draw it?


So what's my point? Well, I guess it's just that this stuff is complicated.
Read up on it. Do your research. We don't have anything like it in Canada, so this will be all new to you when you do start teaching in London. You might as well find out about it now.

Feel free to add your opinion to the mix in our comments section. Don't be shy! We love hearing from you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Money, Money, Money: How to Open a UK Bank Account & Send Money to Canada

Besides getting a visa, plane ticket, accommodations and a teaching job, there's also the added task of opening up a UK bank account & arranging to send money home. This is easier said than done.

I joked last year that 100% of my teachers were teaching in London, but only 50% were able to open a bank account. They were all able to get visas to work in the UK, but when it came to filling out the bank forms, half of them messed up. That's not to say they can't fill in forms! But a bank account is more difficult to get than a visa.

Part of the reason this is such a big deal is that you can't get an apartment without a bank account, and you can't get a bank account without an apartment.

See the problem?

You have to prove to the bank that you live where you say you live, and you are who you say you are. Living where you say you live is shown through a bill addressed to you at your address. If you're not yet in the UK, how do you this? OR, if you are in the UK, how do you prove you should get an account when you're staying at a hostel?

So, here's what you do.

If you are still in Canada (or your home country), and want to get your account before you go, then Lloyd's is your best bet. You can try to get an account with HSBC, or another international bank, but in my experience they are much more expensive & more difficult to get accounts with. Lloyd's has a fairly simple process and costs less than 10 pounds/month. You don't need a UK address, as they open the account based on your Canadian address.

Here's the link:
www.lloydstsb-offshore.com/International and quote 222320 on all correspondence.

Proving You Are Who You Say You Are
Along with your application form, send them a copy of your passport, with the following taken into account:

Passport - A clear black and white photocopy (both parties for a joint application)
Passport must be valid (i.e. not out of date) and confirm expiry date & date of birth.

This must be certified by one of the following:
• Lawyer
• Chartered Accountant
• Serving Police or Customs Officer
• Notary Public
• Member of Judiciary
• Senior Civil Servant
• Actuary
• An Embassy, Consulate or High
Commissioner of the country of issue of the
document
• Director, Officer or Manager of a regulated
financial services business (e.g. Bank Manager)
operating in an equivalent

Proving You Live Where You Say You Live:
You do this by providing them an original bill, in your name at your address.

This must be:
  • An ORIGINAL gas, telephone (not cell phone), local authority rates or electricity bill. Alternatively, a mortgage, credit card or bank account statement from a recognised bank.
  • Must show your name and residential address
  • Documents must be less than 3 months old
You also need to send them a 100 pound cheque addressed to yourself. This is your money, so don't worry. You're just using it to open up your account.

You have to send your passport photocopy (certified) and a bill, as well as your completed application form. They will also need a letter from your employer which confirms your earnings. So, if you've registered with an agency, then the agency provides you this letter, or mails it to the bank for you.

That's the whole process in a nutshell.

The only other option is to wait until you arrive in the UK. Most people just do this. Your agency will likely have a relationship with a UK bank, where they write letters for their teachers confirming their income. You then take that letter, along with your passport and your proof of where you are living (ie. your lease), and bring these to the bank. Some people are lucky and get their account within a couple of weeks. Easy-peasy. Most aren't though. It can take 2 months to actually get a bank card & your PIN number, and if you're waiting to be paid that long, it can be a bit of a nightmare.

Sending Money Home
The next issue is how to send money home. If you're like me, and plan to pay your student loans (or mortgage) while you are away, then you need to figure out how to get that money home quickly & cheaply. The banks charge about 15 pounds for a wire transfer, and those can take 30 days. You just walk into your UK bank & ask them what to do.

I was with RBC, and they mucked up my wire transfers every time for a year. No joke. Many of my teachers have had the same experience. For some reason, when receiving money from the UK, they would act as though it was the most foreign concept ever! It should be easy right?

So, I found the company, Tranzfers - they charge 7 pounds per transfer, and it only takes 6 business days. It's ridiculously easy, and relies on internet banking. So if you're reading this blog, chances are you know how to use the internet for your banking as well.

Here are their details:
  • TRANZFERS is a service for expats where you can send money to or from home for a maximum fee of only £7 without even visiting a bank branch.
  • It only takes a few minutes to get registered and start sending funds between the UK and Canada
That's it, that's all! If you're reading this & think I've missed something, please add a comment below. Or, if this post helps you, please let me know!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians


Finally, a fun, clear and easy to understand guide that covers everything you need to know about teaching in London, England...written just for Canadians!

In this guide, you'll find:
  • job hunting advice
  • visa advice
  • uk curriculum guidance
  • lesson planning
  • assessment strategies
  • supply teaching tips & advice
  • interviews with canadian teachers in london
  • honest & clear advice
  • comprehensive resources
  • true stories from the front-line
  • interviews with recruiters in london
  • accommodation advice
  • everything you need to know!
It's almost done. One more week, and this book will be available to purchase online.

I have to admit my pride in this little project - 4 years of teaching, helping other teachers, hiring teachers, firing teachers and opening a new teacher agency has brought this book to life. Wow. In case you can't read the author, that's me - Victoria Westcott. Caroline Bishop did the art design, and is an incredible graphic designer.

It's an ebook, so that you can read it and click on the links as you go, making it a more comprehensive guide than a typical paper book. You can get it as an actual book as well, so if you prefer to hold the book in your hands you can.


The website isn't ready yet, but will be www.GuideToTeachingInLondon.com
What do you think? Is this something you would be keen to read?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Teaching Math in London Schools



Teaching math (or "maths" as they say in the UK) can be quite the challenge for new teachers to London. You will find that most schools in London don't have Math textbooks anymore. So, while I present the above video for humour, it also illustrates how you will actually be teaching math. Perhaps without the costumes though.

I found that the elementary schools all had very good Math resources, with bins of manipulatives and Math corners in pretty much every class. You will have to make your lessons interactive, hands-on and engaging.

You can see the UK curriculum online here to see what I mean.

Music to Inspire Teachers in London

When I was teaching in London, I did some tutoring in the evenings to make some extra cash (I brought in an extra 800 pounds/month but that's another story for another post).

Anyway, I taught this one Afgani family near the Warwick Avenue tube station every Tuesday and Thursday night. Their 5 member family lived in a tiny 2 bedroom flat in the area. I tutored the 3 kids in math and English, and grew quite fond of them over the months. I also became quite attached to the area around Warwick Avenue, and particularly this one coffee shop that I was a regular at.



So, when my colleague Nicole told me I had to listen to Duffy's song, Warwick Avenue, I knew I had to have a listen. And boy, was she right! I now listen to her album whenever I need a little bit of London music to bring me back. It's incredible how music can bring back so many memories.

Which brings me to you, dear readers. You probably know of a few songs that make you get all dreamy about London. If you're not sure, the Time Out has compiled a list of their 50 favourite London songs. It was published in 2006, so Duffy's song isn't on there, but I'm sure it would have been otherwise.

Check out Duffy's Warwick Avenue music video
here.

What's your favourite music with a London theme? Or even better, do you know of any music with an inner city school teaching theme? I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pros & Cons to Teaching in London, England


I heard today that the people who write lists are happier than people who don't. I have no proof of this, but hey, I'll go with it.

I'm writing a book called Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians and it's absorbing every bit of creative energy that I have. So, writing a list makes sense to me today.

I answer this question almost every day: "Why do Canadian teachers want to teach in London?"
So, here is the answer in a handy little list.

Pros to Teaching in London, England
  1. You will make new friends from around the world
  2. You'll work and live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world
  3. You earn pounds rather than dollars (so double your earnings!)
  4. You can start your teaching career or advance your career
  5. International experience looks good on your resume
  6. Inner city school experience looks even better on your resume
  7. You will have a social life outside of teaching
  8. Travel Europe during your 13 weeks of holiday/year
  9. Travel Africa (it's much closer to England than it is to Canada!)
  10. Speak with an “accent”
  11. There's so much to do in your free time (museums, art galleries, parks, pubs, events, music...)
  12. If you want to teach in inner city Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver or any other major Canadian city, then your resume will speak volumes.
Cons to teaching in London:
  1. Money will be tight when you first arrive (Canadian to pound exchange rate)
  2. You'll be away from your support network (friends, family)
  3. You won't know for certain what your job will be until you arrive
  4. You will likely have to supply teach before you get a full-time contract (this is also a pro depending on how you see it)
  5. The teaching itself is challenging, especially in your first year (the behaviours are more challenging than you would be used to in Canada in general)
  6. Everyone will tell you that London is too expensive (everyone but teachers that are actually living there that is!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Go with the flow: how teachers travel to London to live and work

I was reminded this week of the incredible traveling spirit that our teachers have. First, Zoom Airlines shut down, right in the middle of the busiest time of year for our teachers. One of our teachers was actually on her way to the airport in Montreal in order to fly to London when she heard the news. Let's call her Sarah.

She was incredibly calm and collected during this nightmare. Sarah's dad was with her, and the two of them put their heads together to figure out what to do. Should she stay another week or so in Montreal? Should she fly to London with expensive Air Canada or British Airways? Or could there be another way?

Well, it turns out that there was another way. Sarah went to the airport and visited each ticket counter until she found the best deal as close to London as possible. A few hours later, she was on a plane to Paris, France. She knew once she got to Paris, she could at least take the Eurostar across to London and still arrive the next day. All told, it took her about 24 hours to finally arrive in London, but she did it!

But the saga wasn't over sadly. When she arrived at the accommodations, the office staff had left for the day. So Sarah was stuck with a security guard who was trying to find her keys to her new flat but wasn't able to find them. And this is where our incredible teachers come to rescue Sarah!

Sarah didn't actually know anyone in London. But she used her social skills and go-get-'em attitude to make sure she was in contact with our other teachers already. So when she needed a friendly face, an understanding smile and a bottle of wine, our other teachers were there with big broad smiles and plenty of laughter. Sarah was able to get into her flat in the end. It was frustrating and she was exhausted to say the least, but it all worked out.

So, Sarah left Canada on Thursday and arrived on Friday of last week. School started in the UK yesterday, and just like we had hoped would happen, one school called in a panic that they needed a teacher to start ASAP! Sarah arrived just in time for this kind of last minute crisis, where a school needs a teacher and the teacher is ready to work right away. She went to the interview and learned more about how London schools work. All of this happened in just a few days of her arrival. Amazing!

Sadly, she didn't get the job as someone else with UK experience got the position. But, Sarah is still smiling, laughing and calling me from the London Eye with the other teachers. She'll get a great job, I know it. With that kind of resilience and positive attitude in a crisis, how could she not?

Moving to a new country can be hard and very frustrating. I've traveled and worked in much less familiar countries (Bangladesh and Guatemala for example) and know the dificulties with language barriers and cultural clashes. But most people think that moving to London will be easy.

"They speak English!!!" is what I hear all the time.

Yes, they do. But that doesn't mean you won't need that same flexibility and "go with the flow" attitude that you need in the developing world in your travels. If anything, you need it even more!

So thanks to Sarah and all the teachers who opened their arms to her this weekend. This is why I do what I do, to help teachers like you make that not-so-easy transition to life in London. You always make it worth it for me with your laughter and stories about your year in London.

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