Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who Teaches in London?

Here's another excerpt from the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

So, Just Who Teaches in London?

Teachers who enjoy teaching in London possess many of the following qualities and attitudes:
  • They are flexible and adaptable.
  • They are outgoing.
  • They “go with the flow” and adapt well to change.
  • They are eager to take on new challenges.
  • They want to travel, and appreciate holidays every 6-8 weeks.
  • They easily make new friends.
  • They see the glass as half-full.
  • They laugh easily and see the humour in everyday life.
  • They can shake off a bad day and start each day anew.
  • They are FABULOUS teachers!
  • They love teaching kids of all backgrounds.
  • They see kids as kids, no matter what their troubles are.
  • They believe all children want to learn, and its the their job to help them.
  • They know exactly why they are in London and remind themselves of that often (ie. “I am here to learn new things.”)
On the other hand, teachers who don’t enjoy teaching in London typically:
  • Compare the UK education system to the Canadian one and complain easily and often.
  • Complain constantly (“The tube is crowded!” “There’s too many people!” “The kids are horrible!”)
  • Think they should be treated like gold just because they are a teacher.
  • Think that everyone in the school should be grateful just because they showed up.
  • Think that everyone is out to get them (victim mentality!)
  • Don’t take ownership of their actions (it’s always someone else’s fault!)
  • Just want to travel and have forgotten about the teaching altogether.
  • Get depressed easily and find it difficult to get out of a “funk.”
  • Are only there for the paycheque.
  • Are only there to get a job because they couldn’t get one in Canada.
  • Have possibly chosen the wrong profession.
Which list do you think you fall into?

If you know you’re in the top list, then great! If you’re still not sure, well, this book will help you figure that out. The most important thing is that you read on, get prepared and figure out if teaching in London is really for you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cheap Flights to London, England and How to Book a Hotel/Hostel

Teachers always ask me which airline they should fly to London, England. They tend to want the cheapest flight, which usually means that they take charters. They also want to know what hostels are the best deal so I've included them in the list here as well.

Here are the websites I keep my eye on regularly:

  1. Air Canada - This is an obvious choice, and I try to fly with them when I can just so I can earn the Aeroplan points. Air Canada is a good option for people flying from Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa. It's not as great for those of us in BC. My flight that leaves tomorrow cost me almost $1400 from Victoria to Vancouver to Calgary to London, return. But that's the price I pay to live on Vancouver Island, and the charters didn't fit my schedule so it was the only option. I have a teacher who left for London last night from Toronto with Air Canada and she paid less than $300 (one way). You get more luggage room which is very important when you're moving to London to teach.
  2. Air Transat - Air Transat is a good cheap charter airline and fine for travel to London. Most of our teachers end up flying with them and think they're okay. Less luggage room, no points and small seats though.
  3. Canadian Affair - A website that specializes in flights between the United Kingdom and Canada.
  4. Travel Zoo - I keep my eye on this one every week. They send me their "Top 20" travel deals and I've noticed that there is usually at least one flight to London in that list. I've been shocked at how good some of the deals are! This is definitely one to watch.
  5. Flight Centre - If you keep an eye on their deals, you can get some really good ones. I just found one the other day (after booking my Air Canada flight) for $99 to London from Vancouver. With taxes, it came to less than $700, almost half my current flight. I should have waited and got this one instead, but hey. That's the price of booking in advance - you never know if a better deal will come.
  6. Hostelbookers - For good cheap hostels, this is the #1 site that travelers in Europe use. My teachers have stayed in Kings Cross and Greenwich by booking with this site, and were impressed that they could pay only 10 pounds/night. I've personally used the site for hostels in Spain and the reviews are accurate.
  7. Hotwire - I use hotwire all the time for my travels now. You can book 4 or 5 star hotels for 2 star prices, simply because you won't know the hotel name until after you've paid. I stayed in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver after speaking at Simon Fraser University and paid 20% of the regular price. In London, I'm staying at a hotel for $49/night in Central London. It's regularly 400 pounds/night - $800! Bargain! Keep your eye on this one for good hotels in Central London that would usually be out of reach.
To learn more about teaching in London, England check out The Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. Also, subscribe to the RSS feed to the right to receive our blog posts immediately.

Any other websites I've missed? Please share by leaving a comment below!

For packing advice, click here. For more about traveling to the UK, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Canadians Miss Most While Teaching in London

I just got off the phone with one of my teachers, Gurpreet. She's at Square One Mall (Toronto) and is doing last minute shopping before she departs to teach in London, England. Her boyfriend lives in Brighton and asked her for a few things from "home".

So what is Gurpreet bringing her guy?

Aunt Jemima
Pancake Mix and Billy Bee Honey Mustard.

I had to laugh! What does this say about us in Canada? We miss Kraft Dinner, Aunt Jemima and Billy Bee. And poutine, but you can't really pack that and bring it on a plane.

So for Gurpreet's boyfriend in Brighton, here's a video on how to make pancakes using flour, eggs, salt - the traditional way. You'll notice the video was made in the UK. The clues are the electrical socket & the Sainsbury's products. Check out the Canadian maple syrup too!

If you missed my blog with Packing Advice, please see it here.

Every culture in the UK misses some sort of food from home. For Australians, it's vegemite. There's even a play in London called the Vegemite Tales. I saw it with a bunch of Australian teachers and it's hysterical. It's all about a group of Aussie's living in London and their adventures and misadventures.

Sadly, we don't have enough Canadians in London to have a play yet, but perhaps that will soon change. I wonder what our play would be called. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

52 Reasons to Teach in London, England

  1. There is a teacher shortage in London.
  2. There is a teacher job shortage in most parts of Canada.
  3. There are more job options for teachers, from supply teaching, to having your own class, to float teaching to special educational needs teaching.
  4. The pay is good for foreign teachers, usually from 115-150 pounds/day (double that figure for Canadian dollars, or click here to get an exact exchange rate.)
  5. You get to live in one of the most exciting cities of the world.
  6. If you supply teach, you can actually have a life outside of teaching because you'll be done at 3:30 or 4:00pm and can go "oot & aboot" in London.
  7. Meet interesting teachers from around the world.
  8. Travel all over Europe & Africa in your free time. Flights are often free with Ryan Air. Top Deck Travel is also a great option for organized, affordable tours with other young people.
  9. Live with other Canadian teachers through Classroom Canada's accommodation (only 450 pounds/month all inclusive, which is less than 1 week's pay).
  10. 13 weeks holidays spread throughout the year. See this blog entry for dates.
  11. Teach students from around the world. Classrooms in London are incredibly diverse.
  12. Teach with other amazing teachers. Most teachers in London are young, and often half or more will be from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and all around the world!
  13. Improve your teaching practice by coming to our Professional Development Sessions about teaching in London, behaviour management, UK curriculum and more.
  14. Come to socials with our teachers. Make new friends you'll have for life.
  15. Travel to Scotland, Ireland, all across England on your weekends. You can get bus tickets for 1 pound here.
  16. Tutor in your free time and earn an extra 800 pounds/month by simply tutoring 2 nights a week and one morning on the weekend like I did.
  17. You can go celebrity spotting like our teachers do. Click here for pictures.
  18. Shop in Camden Market, Portobello Market and Spitalfields Market.
  19. You can buy your groceries in the same food market as Jamie Oliver.
  20. You can live in our accommodations in Oxford Circus.
  21. See amazing live music in places like the Camden Jazz Cafe and Brixton Academy.
  22. Go to see shows in the West End Theatre Area and get half price tickets for your favourite shows.
  23. Eat. Eat the best food from around the world in every kind of restaurant you can imagine. I discovered Ethiopian food in London and sampled more than 5 Ethiopian restaurants while teaching there. Turkish food is also plentiful and delicious!
  24. Try to devour a whole Full English Breakfast.
  25. Learn what the "Heathrow Injection" means and try your hardest to avoid it.
  26. You can learn how to hip-hop belly dance in your free time. Where else will you find dance classes like these?
  27. Learn any new language. You're bound to find someone willing to teach you.
  28. Travel to Brighton on the weekends and experience British beach culture.
  29. Use London slang like, "innit?" and "al'right?"
  30. Watch Eastenders every day after teaching.
  31. Go to Stonehenge. See the big rocks and take pictures.
  32. Go to Bath and spend a full day at the spa like the early Romans did.
  33. Visit Windsor Castle.
  34. Buy a book with London walks and take yourself on a walk once a month. I did one where I learned where the Queen buys her underwear. Seriously.
  35. Have Canadian Thanksgiving in London and surround yourself with other teachers from across Canada.
  36. Brag to your friends "back home" about how you're teaching and making good money.
  37. Post your photos on facebook and have them envy your travels and adventures in teaching.
  38. Did I mention there are plenty of teaching jobs in London?
  39. Boost your resume with experience in inner city London schools. Schools in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa will value this experience more than volunteering in your local school.
  40. Use Interactive Whiteboards every day. Again, schools in Canada value this experience as we are heading in the same direction with technology in our schools.
  41. Learn what diverse schools are really like.
  42. Teach hip hop dance, African drumming, Turkish name it! Schools in London really value your skills and want you to be involved in extracurricular activities. I even started a Hip Hop Dance Club for years 5-6 in my first school and taught myself how from a DVD. It was very funny (I am really not a great dancer, and I'm the first to admit it!) and the students loved it.
  43. London pubs are truly wonderful places. Teachers will actually go to the pub with you on a Friday after school! You won't feel like an outcast for wanting to have a pint (I know plenty of schools here that would frown upon this idea).
  44. Teaching in London is fun and often very funny. You have to laugh easily & often to truly enjoy the experience. It's hard, but if you have a good sense of humour you'll love it.
  45. You'll finally have something to write about in your teacher blog.
  46. Friends and family will visit you in London, England and will want to travel around Europe with you.
  47. With Classroom Canada, you can make new friends that will travel with you as well. Our teachers are in Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and France this week!
  48. You can drink lots of tea in the school staff rooms and learn to say "have a cuppa" and not giggle every time.
  49. You can tell the students to use their rubbers.
  50. You will discover if you're meant to be a teacher within a year of teaching in London.
  51. You can take the tube and buses and not have to spend your mornings in traffic driving.
  52. It's an adventure that will make you a better teacher and person.
Want to know more? Read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.
The American edition is on it's way! Subscribe to the RSS feed to the right.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Professional Development Workshops & Socials for Teachers in London

I'm flying to London next weekend to catch up with our teachers, visit schools, run workshops & hold the first Classroom Canada social of this academic year. I thought you might like to see what kinds of Professional Development Workshops for Teachers are available, and take a sneak peak at our social event.

Professional Development Workshops for Classroom Canada Teachers

Tuesday, November 4th, 6:15-7:30pm

Survival Guide for Primary Teachers with Victoria Westcott

This free workshop will provide primary teachers with the basics to succeed in London - literacy hour, numeracy hour & behaviour management! The workshop is limited to 20 teachers, so be sure to reserve your space now.

Wednesday, November 5th, 6:15-7:30pm

Survival Guide for Secondary Teachers with Sophie Walker

This free workshop will provide secondary teachers with everything they need to know to be successful in London schools. The main focus will be on behaviour management and how to get schools to love you & want you back again and again and how to get them to offer you long term positions. Read Sophie's bio below.

Thursday, November 6th, 6:15-7:30pm

An Introduction to SEN Teaching with Sophie Walker

Also a free workshop! Sophie will cover the basics of teaching in Special Educational Needs and help primary & secondary teachers succeed in all areas of SEN teaching. This workshop is limited to 20 teachers - reserve your place now! It's a very popular session and will fill up fast. Read Sophie's bio below.

Friday, November 7th, 4:30pm - 9:00pm

Classroom Canada London Scavenger Hunt & Social

The much anticipated event is almost here!

We have AMAZING PRIZES, including a Hamper of Canadian Goodies from the Canada Shop, and Travel Vouchers from Top Deck Travel (YES! A free trip anyone?) and more coming. Top Deck has just confirmed that they will be giving a 250 pound voucher to the winning team. Wow!

The event starts at 4:30pm in Covent Garden (exact location TBA). We'll start with organizing into teams of 5-6 people. If you already have your team planned, that's fine. If you don't, we'll get it sorted when everyone's arrived so everyone has a team.

A representative from Top Deck will be on hand to discuss travel plans for the Winter break and offer you some pretty amazing options for travels for your year ahead.


Sophie Walker's Bio
We are so pleased that Sophie Walker will be running the Secondary & Sen workshops.

Sophie Walker came to London for a year nearly ten years ago. She left her native Melbourne where she taught English and Drama at a boys Catholic School, holding the position of Head of the Performing Arts Department for two years.

Sophie left to travel and look for new educational experiences. She started out working in London as a supply teacher, through Classroom, teaching the subjects she was trained in to secondary pupils. Two of her long term placements were a 'fresh start' school in Hammersmith and an about to be 'fresh start' school in Hillingdon.

While doing this she lived on friends floors and for a while moved house once a year!

Sophie has experienced day to day supply and long term positions and has also worked as a Hearing Support Teacher for an inner city Borough. She ran a centre for excluded pupils for two years dealing with a variety of emotional behavioural needs. She also worked for Classroom as a consultant in the SEN Section.

Sophie now works as an Advisory Support Teacher for a London Borough, her focus is supporting pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism and are between the ages of 3 and 7. She has recently started her Masters of Education.

Sophie's wide range of experience means that she is in a great position to pass on a wealth of information about surviving (and enjoying) your first year in London.

Victoria Westcott's Bio Just click the link for my bio.

If you're not in London with Classroom Canada, but want to learn more about teaching in London, check out the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. You can also apply for jobs starting in January through

Thursday, October 23, 2008

School Term Dates in London, England, UK

Canadian teachers know that there are plenty of job opportunities in London, but that's not the only reason they teach there. They also go for the 13 weeks of holidays spread throughout the year.

The school holidays are different for each borough, but they all follow a general pattern. Here's how I break it down for our teachers:

Sept. 1st - mid October = Autumn 1st Half Term
mid-October = 1 week break, called "Half term break"
mid-October - December 22nd (ish) = Autumn 2nd Half Term
December 22nd(ish) - January 5th (ish) = Winter holidays for 2 weeks

January 5th (ish) - mid-February = Winter 1st Half Term
mid-February = 1 week break, again "Half term break"
mid-February to April (Easter) = Winter 2nd Half Term
Easter Break = 2 weeks

May - mid-June = Spring 1st Half Term
mid-June = 1 week break, another "Half Term Break"
mid-June - July 22nd (ish) = Spring 2nd Half Term
July 22nd (ish) to Sept. 1st (ish) = Summer holidays for 6 weeks

Your school will give you specific dates, but this is a good guide to follow. Some schools and LEA's (Local Education Authority) will arrange their school holidays around Muslim holidays depending on the size of the Muslim population.

You can see the Islington term dates here. There are 33 LEAs in London, so it would take quite a while to get exact term dates for every LEA. Islington is a large North London borough and a good place for you to start.

There are always 195 teaching days in the year. If you expect to make 115-125 pounds/day (a good starting rate for a Canadian teacher with no UK experience), you just take that number and multiply it by 195. That will give you a salary of 22, 000 - 24 000 pounds (approximately).

Some Canadian teachers make more, but this all depends on the contract and your experience level. Keep in mind that you will pay about 22% in taxes in the UK as well, but you won't be double-taxed in Canada.

To work out what your Canadian salary will be, go to this site and type in your figures. You should expect to make more than you would in Canada, and the cost of living needs to be taken into account. If you're concerned about money, you should get a copy of Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. You'll learn everything you need to know about living & teaching in London, England.

Like this post? You might also like How to Find an Apartment, 10 Myths About Teaching in London, and How to Open a UK Bank Account. Don't forget to subscribe to the RSS feed as well!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Teachers Do in London, England for FUN!

Teachers move to London, England primarily because there are plenty of job opportunities so they know they'll find teaching work right away. But they also go for the fun times to be had in London.

I'm leaving our Vancouver Island office to visit our London office for a couple of weeks and so I've started to look at what I can do in my free time there. It's still a bit early to begin planning, but I like to check out my options anyway.

Here's the website I go to when I start making my plans for London. The Time Out is a weekly magazine that you'll find everywhere in London. It costs about 4 pounds (I think, unless it's gone up in price) which is about $8 Canadian. That seems a lot I know, but trust me, it's worth every penny!

You can also just check online like I do, or if you're in London then you can get a subscription where you pay for one issue and get 8 free. I did that for a few months when I taught in London but found that there was just too much to do that I became overwhelmed with options.

I particularly like their 10 Things to do in London for Under a Tenner.

One of the most common questions I answer over & over is "But isn't it expensive to live in London as a teacher?"

Sure, if you want to live it up in London. But our teachers do quite well. It's only October, and our teachers have already been to Italy, Spain, Scotland, Ireland and all over England. They pay cheap rent in our accommodations and spend their money on traveling and fun in London. To read more about their adventures in teaching and traveling, check out the interviews on the right hand side of this blog.

Also, be sure to get a copy of Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians (the American edition will be out soon!) You will learn everything you need to know to succeed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hey Teachers: Can You Pass This Spelling Test?

School Gate posted a blog entry this week about the Times Spelling Bee in the UK for students aged 11-12. In it, they provide us with a link to a spelling test that teacher trainees take. 11 000 of these potential teachers failed the test last year. EEK!

So, here's a challenge for you, dear readers. Go to this site, take the test and report your results here in the comments section. I'll be taking the test myself later on today and will report my results as well. I'm not the world's best speller (and my grammar ain't all that good either) so I can't imagine that I'll get the best score, but I sure hope I pass!

As Canadians, our spelling can be quite confused. We tend to use American or British spellings, and so teaching in London presents a different challenge for us. Don't use the American spelling! That's the best advice I can give you now anyway.

Good luck!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Teaching in the UK: Assessment for Learning Explained

Assessment for Learning process (or AFL) is now quite a common and popular means of assessing students in London schools.

The Assessment Reform Group defines it as “the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.” This is not to be confused with Assessment OF learning.

Assessment of learning is for the purpose of grading and reporting, whereas Assessment FOR learning calls for a new way of seeing assessment in the classroom. AFL puts the responsibility of learning into the hands of the learners, providing them clear information about how they are doing and what they specifically
need to do in order to improve their learning.

This might sound very similar to the idea behind rubrics. I tried to explain the use of rubrics in my
teaching in London, but found that the other teachers didn’t quite know what I was talking about. Rubrics (while they don’t use the term) would be seen as simply one aspect of AFL (similar to the Learning Objective that each lesson must have). It’s important that you understand the philosophy behind AFL in order to really put it into practice in your teaching.

The Assessment Reform Group wrote a paper called “Beyond the Black Box” which you can find
here. In it, they argue that there are distinct characteristics of the kind of assessment that actually promotes learning. Assessment of learning tests existing learning, or marking and feeding grades back to students. When Assessment for Learning is utilized instead, the students are directly involved in their learning, understand what they are learning and what they need to do in order to improve.

As you learn how to use AFL, your teaching will change. This is a very important skill in your teaching and should not be ignored. Some schools offer excellent professional development workshops on AFL and how they use it in their schools. Some schools will not be using AFL yet, but are likely heading that way.

Also important to note is that many schools in Canada are starting to use AFL and whole boards are implementing AFL as a mandatory school system of assessment. I spoke with some recruiters from BC school boards about it and they are indeed heading that way with AFL.

So what does this look like in practice?
  • Observing your students. Listening to how they describe their work and their reasoning.
  • Using open-ended questions phrased to invite students to explore their ideas and reasoning.
  • Preparing activities that require students to utilize certain skills or apply ideas.
  • Asking students to communicate their knowledge through drawings, actions, role play, concept mapping and writing.
  • Discussing words and how they’re being used.

See, the issue with traditional assessment is that teachers often assess written work and circle all the spelling and grammatical errors, forgetting what the actual learning outcome was meant to be.

That’s not to say that spelling & grammar don’t matter, mind you.

But in assessing whether a student understood a particular science lesson and getting side tracked by their grammar is not an effective assessment FOR learning. The student receives their paper back and sees all the red ink about their terrible spelling, but doesn’t actually learn whether they showed that they learned the science.

So, AFL takes that and turns it on its head. Instead of marking spelling, you’re now highlighting their work to show when they achieved the lesson objective. Their work is now evidence of their learning, and you are simply showing that they learned what you set them out to learn.

This is why your Lesson Objective is so critical!

To understand more about AFL, please read
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

I can't stress this enough - you need to understand what AFL is in practice and how to use it in your teaching so that you are teaching students in the way they are familiar with. When Canadian teachers complain about the behaviours of the students in London, many times it's actually that the teachers aren't using the systems in place so the students become unruly. You'll get there in the end!

So, get the
Guide to Teaching in London and read the chapter on AFL over & over again until it's stuck in your head. Then, go to and watch as many programs as you can about assessment in the UK for your age group. It's the best way to learn what you need to know.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Teach the World in London, England - the Guardian today

Wow - you have to see this.

The Guardian newspaper tracked down one child from every country in the world living in the UK and had them tell their story. This is absolutely brilliant.

Read it. Please.

Teachers in London: Have a Cuppa

Years ago, I went to a presentation by a Head Teacher in London who turned failing schools into outstanding ones. I can't remember his name, nor the names of the schools he worked in. But I do remember one piece of advice that has stuck with me: T-CUP.

T-CUP stands for Total Control Under Pressure. It's simple, easy to remember and it works. When you find yourself in a class that just seems too much to handle, take a deep breath and think "T-Cup" and you'll be okay.

I had a very good Teaching Assistant at one point and she knew me well enough to know when to ask, "Miss Westcott, would you like a cuppa tea?"

It was her way of telling me to chill out, remain calm and in control. No matter what chaos was going on around me I could handle it. I was the teacher in the room after all! She was a brilliant TA and I'm forever grateful for her encouragement of me.

So, to all those teachers who are feeling tired, and wondering how they'll make it to the half-term break (it's 1 week away!), sit down and have a cuppa. You deserve it and the kids will appreciate you maintaining your calm, collected presence.

PS) When I say have a cuppa, I'm not meaning in the classroom. You can get in trouble for the hot liquids in the classroom. Save it for the staff room, or hey, just go to the pub.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Top 14 Favourite Movies Set in London

I did a presentation yesterday at the University of Victoria to a group of well informed, motivated and enthusiastic young teachers. It was great fun, and I was reminded how often I use movies to describe what it's really like in London. I find that it's easier for me to describe what London is like by relating to scenes in movies - the visual memory makes more sense than a verbal one.

So in no particular order, here are the top 14 in my books (because I couldn't narrow it down to 10):

1. About a Boy
2. Bend it like Beckham
3. Bridget Jones' Diary
4. Casino Royale
5. Children of Men
6. Eastern Promises
7. A Fish Called Wanda
8. Match Point
9. Snatch
10. Shakespeare in Love
11. Shaun of the Dead
12. Notting Hill
13. Four Weddings and a Funeral
14. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

How about you? Do you have any favourites you'd like to share with us? Please leave a comment below! Don't be shy.

If you're curious about more movies I recommend, check out this post, this one and this one.

PS) This blog post was inspired by a section in the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. You can download a free chapter here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3 teachers, 3 emails, 3 bits of advice for teaching in London

I love our teachers. Today, I received 3 emails that made me so grateful for what I do.

1. Alex sent me her favourite video on about supply teaching in London schools. She says it made her feel heaps better about going to London to teach. Here's the video.

2. Marianne sent me a 2 page step-by-step set of instructions & handy tips for new arrivals to her building (at Goodge Street -- Oxford Circus area where most of the arrivals in the next couple of weeks are staying). She tells them everything from where to get groceries to what phone plan to get, all so the next person doesn't have to find out on their own. Brilliant!

3. Erika sent me a blog entry for this little blog as well as the photo. She's second from the right and went to London to teach English and History in secondary schools.

This photo looks like it was taken in Brighton (an hour south of London). Here's Erika's blog entry:

Another Story of a Transplanted Canadian in London

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be living here, in London, in the fall of 2008, I honestly think I probably would have laughed in their face. But here I am, sitting in Hackney, typing this out after another busy day of teaching. After seven weeks here, this has become my life. Moving here has transformed my life to the point that it is unrecognizable.

I came over to London at the end of August, moved into an nearly empty flat in Hackney (in East London), immediately left for Edinburgh to attend a friend's wedding, and returned to London after three days to three roommates. These roommates, and the others that quickly joined, have been my lifeline. I could not imagine coming to London alone, having to find a place to stay by myself and not having this immediate support system. I could honestly say that I would've gone home if I wasn't lucky enough to have these different, yet equally wonderful new friends in my life. We are all Canadian, all teachers, and all of us have our moments of homesickness and frustration. Lucky for us, we can pull each other out of these moods fairly quickly and turn those moments into ones of laughter and fun.

Teaching in London is what everyone said it would be. I would be lying if I said it was easy. It can be quite difficult some days. However, after a while, you develop your own unique "tricks of the trade" and coping mechanisms that work for you and your teaching style to make your days easier. I've been lucky to be working full-time at a school in North London (across from a huge shopping mall that I am excited to explore!), teaching a few English classes and doing in-school cover.

There are benefits to doing day-to-day supply, like no planning and knowing that if a school doesn't work for you, you don't need to go back. However, the consistency of a position works for me. I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know the students, and doing the in-school cover is so much easier when you actually know the student's names and the school's routines. No matter how frustrating a day is, I always enjoy walking down the street after school ends, and having students smile at you and say goodbye.

Getting to know the British school system is still something I struggle with, as I don't understand a lot of the terminology! GCSE, SATs, A-Levels, the list goes on! I'm hoping that through exposure, one day I will understand. The classroom management is also a struggle at times, but gets easier every day as I grow more comfortable in my own "teacher skin".

Moving to the UK has other benefits as well, particularly travel! Everything is so much closer here, and it's very easy to go away for the day or the weekend. A few of my roommates and myself went to Brighton for the day a few weeks ago, and had an amazing afternoon relaxing on a beautiful beach! A bunch of us are going to Italy this weekend, and travel plans are well underway for half-term break at the end of October. Even if you have a bad week teaching, knowing that there are new and interesting places to see makes it much more bearable.

So now that I'm more than a month into my adventure here in London, I'm finding myself comfortable in my surroundings. It's a sure clue that you are feeling at home in a place, when it feels "normal" to do all those typical London things: Walk everywhere, swipe your Oyster Card, study a Tube map, say things like "rubbish" and "toilets". Sometimes I catch myself doing something completely mundane and think "Wow, Erika, you are buying groceries . . .IN LONDON." And no matter the difficulties, saying that is a very cool thing. It's a scary thing, transplanting yourself from safe and familiar Canada to the craziness of London, but like I was saying to my roommate Kiran today, I'm very happy with the decision that I've made.

Thanks to Alex, Marianne & Erika for sharing their stories, videos and advice. You're the reason I do what I do, and love every minute of it.

Want to know more? Check out the Guide to Teaching in London.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians

It's ready! I can't believe it. The website was down for a couple of weeks as we updated to a more professional site, done as a favour by a friend of a friend. But it's finally ready to be purchased & downloaded!

Here's the link:

You can also read a free chapter (yes FREE!!!), which you will find here.

Here's what the readers are saying:

"This guide is practical, comprehensive and easy to use. It's full of great tips and clear, straightforward advice—a must read if you're thinking of teaching in London!" —Mika Fryling

"Wonderful! It answered all of my questions. An informative read that isn't too stuffy- it's like talking to a friend." —Leah Harrison

"An animated, informative and succinct guide to teaching in London - no Canadian teacher crossing the pond should leave without it!!" —Nicole Morgan

"I have 10 years teaching experience in Canada and have been searching for a book just like this one before making the big move to London, England. I didn't want to go without knowing what I was really getting myself into. After all, I have a great career going here already. Now I feel like I can really take the plunge! Thank you for making it all so clear and informative. I am so excited to teach in London!" —Jodi Donaldson

“Unputdownable! The definitive guide for Canadian teachers planning on teaching in the UK. This sets the standards for others to follow. Easy to follow and above all else practical and informative"Matthew Peck, Classroom Ltd.

A Comprehensive guide to planning your UK teaching adventure! It takes an honest and realistic view of teaching in England and is full of practical advice for anyone deciding to embark on this opportunity. A definite must have!" Shawna Hill, Protocol Education Canada

Check it out here!

Then when you purchase your copy of Guide to Teaching in London, you get 4 full weeks to decide if you love it. We'll give you a 100% refund if you're not completely satisfied with this survival guide. Take a sneak peak now, buy the book and then decide if you think it's worth the money. If you're not convinced, send an email to: and we'll give you a 100% refund. It's that easy!

If you are a UVic student and plan to come to my presentation tomorrow (9am, room A541) then you can buy your copy there at a reduced price just for you!

PS) For our American readers, we are working on the American edition now. I'm interviewing American teachers with experience teaching in London and including more specific information about visas for Americans. Watch this space!

An Interview with a BC Teacher in London with Classroom Canada

Marijka and her friend Alison graduated from the University of Victoria in May 2008. They started teaching in London with us in September and have been getting 4-5 days/week of supply teaching since they arrived.

Here's Marijka's interview with Classroom Canada. You can sign up to receive these interviews through our newsletters here.

How long have you been teaching in London now?

I have been teaching in London for 3 weeks.

What do you teach?

I teach primary but I also teach in secondary schools when they ask, as I have some experience. (After graduating in the spring of 2008 I went to Prince Rupert for 6 weeks and often taught in secondary schools because less teachers were willing to go there--I enjoyed it though!) At both levels I teach a mixture of everything--whatever the main teacher asks.

Why did you choose Classroom Canada?

Out of the 10 interviews with different districts in BC, a few international schools/agencies, I found Classroom to best meet my ideals for working after graduation. I really wanted to travel before I got too comfortable; Classroom, and more specifically, Victoria Westcott, made it very evident that they took great care in helping teachers find their strengths while also providing a diverse range of teaching opportunities.

On a personal level the agency seems to genuinely care about my well-being, which is simply lovely when you're experiencing new things in crazy London!

What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?

The biggest adjustment I had to make in my teaching here, compared to Canada, was my classroom management strategies. I am still adjusting them, and will be for a long time I'm sure!

While some classes I have had have been fantastic, others have required me to transform into something of a drill sergeant--not something I typically identify with! I found it startling at first at how incredibly disrespectful some students could be.

I am determined to figure out more effective ways of dealing with that. Believe me, it is hard, and you realize how tame the "worst offender" in your practicum class was, and want to hug him/her. On a positive note, I see how my management is becoming more smooth, so that you can actually get into the learning! Baby steps...

Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences:

Wake up sometime between 6 and 6:45 am; at 7 am make a call to the office if you haven't got pre-arranged work (which, thankfully, has often been the case--4 out of 5 days this week are pre-scheduled); be ready to be out the door by 7:30 am to be on the safe side (depending on where you are called you may need up to 1.5 hours to get to where you're going); try to be at the school by 8:30 am, earlier is obviously better; teach all day, mark whatever necessary; make sure you get your timesheet signed (pay day is every Friday); take the bus or train home, and relax/get ready for the next day! Honestly, aside from exercising, I haven't desired to go out at night because the day can be fairly tiring--I save sightseeing and exploring more for the weekends.

What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London:

Don't overthink it! You may stay in your familiar, comfortable place and regret never trying this. I am very glad I have come--already I have learned so much. It is a fantastic city to get to know--and so easy to get around!

I have never been lost, and people are so kind (there are always the exceptions, but they are rare). Hopefully you'll love the diversity and creativity here; the city has a definite buzz. It's amazing to me how pretty much anything goes--especially style-wise!

One more thing: I would have liked to come here completely alone, just to be totally out of my comfort zone, but it's been great to have some friends over here too! You figure things out together.

Describe the funniest thing that's happened to you in your year so far:

So far, the funniest thing happened the first or second day supply teaching. I was in a year 4 class for a bit (I was "floating"--covering various teachers as they went to do prep that day), and I told the students, facing them at the front of the room, that when I raised my hand and placed my hand over my mouth I wanted them to copy what I did to be quiet.

Without hesitation a boy got up and faced the class, doing what I did, very seriously (not) and quickly two more boys jumped up and did the same--I had to laugh because I did say to copy me...But had to put a stop to it before the whole class caught on. I learned my lesson.

Describe the worst thing:

Honestly, the worst thing that has happened was being in a class where the students simply disregarded everything I asked, and literally did whatever they felt like. It was super tough feeling like you had no control, unless you had them sitting with their heads down on their desks while you gave them a lecture on how they need to listen to each other and to me, and learn to consider others, not just themselves, etc.

It is really the worst thing for me when I see that there is absolutely no remorse or apparent desire to even try to respect someone else. No matter how much you may exemplify or attempt to instill those principles, if the desire isn't coming from within, the student won't change.

What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than with any other agency?
Earlier, I mentioned that I had other interviews and one was with a UK agency but I immediately felt like I would be "number". I sensed with Classroom that there would be much more care and attention given, which made me confident to sign on with them. Plus, Classroom is very straight forward and organized, with good testimonies from past or current employees.

What qualities do you have that make your stay in London more enjoyable?
Qualities I have that are making my stay in London more enjoyable include:

1. A willingness to be challenged
2. A desire to try new things in general, but also to go into any school
I'm called to
3. A positive attitude (e.g., not allowing a rough day to get to me, not
taking students' disrespectful manners personally--just jumping back the
next day, knowing it's a new day)
4. Easily adapting to different ways of doing things here
5. A desire to have fun!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Teacher to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Alzheimer's

Lindsay taught in London with us last year and recently returned to Vancouver. She's a fabulous teacher and all round great gal, so I am happy to support her in fundraising for Alzheimer's. I don't normally use this blog to ask you for donations, but I just think Lindsay is doing something pretty darn incredible and if I were you I'd want to know about this.

Lindsay and her fiance joined the Ascent for Alzheimer's 2009 team to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I have to say, I'm impressed!

They are climbing to raise awareness and money to support research for Alzheimer's disease or related dementias. The climb represents the mountainous struggles faced each day by people with dementia and their caregivers.

Lindsay's fiance lost his mother gradually to the disease and she passed away February 2007.

As such, Lindsay and her guy are doing this climb in her honour.

It's an incredible challenge to reach Africa's highest peak at 19,340 feet - and they hope to raise $10 000. They're funding their own expenses to Africa.

Please donate here to support their amazing efforts. I hope to post pictures of them here when they've completed the climb.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian Teachers in London, England

This is the first holiday away from home for the vast majority of our teachers. To celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, I'd like to offer my 10 thanks to all teachers in London, England:

1. Thanks for choosing to teach with Classroom Canada. Your dedication & loyalty is overwhelming.

2. Thanks for telling all your friends about teaching in London with Classroom Canada. Word of mouth is the #1 way that other teachers find us, and frankly - it's the best way.

3. Thanks for your enthusiasm and passion for teaching in inner city London schools. It ain't easy (and to quote one of my students, "Ain't ain't a word Miss!").

4. Thanks for making friends with each other so quickly. Your support network is incredible. I hope you're all having turkey dinners this weekend together.

5. Thanks for your laughter.

6. Thanks for your encouragement of me with Classroom Canada. I couldn't do it without you.

7. Thanks for sharing photos of your travels and adventures in London with everyone in the private members facebook group.

8. Thanks for coming up with funny and creative techniques to manage your classrooms. For example, Alison has been singing opera in her supply teaching instead of shouting at the students. I think that's a brilliant idea and if I could sing, I'd follow her lead.

9. Thanks for doing interviews with me about your teaching in London. (See the right side of this page for the interviews).

10. Most of all, thanks for teaching. It's as simple as that.
We need teachers like you in this world, and particularly in schools in London.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Resources for Teachers About to Move to London, England

1. Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.
All 110 pages are jam-packed with everything you need to know about teaching in London, England. Written by yours truly, edited by Jennifer Westcott and designed by Caroline Bishop. Sadly, the website is down today but I have been assured it will be back up by Monday.

2. Living in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians by Network Canada.
I can't say this enough - get this book. Every question you have is answered and more! Health care, apartment hunting, job hunting, where to go oot & aboot,'s all in here.

3. TES Connect
The TES - or Times Educational Supplement - is a newspaper dedicated to teachers & education. Their website is packed with useful information for all teachers. The community is a place where you can discuss issues and post your questions and is the place I recommend for you. You can also see jobs posted by schools across the UK. If you're keen to apply, please read this post first.

4. The Guardian Newspaper - Education Section
Regular readers have likely noticed that I am often inspired by what I read in the Guardian. I love this paper. Yes, it's lefty and I'm okay with that. There's also the Times (which is where the TES originates), but I prefer the Guardian. We just don't have anything like it in Canada (seriously, the Globe & Mail and the National Post just don't compare). You can get a weekly Guardian sent to your home in Canada, which sums up the events into a neat little newspaper, but costs a fortune. I read it online, and try to go to the Education section a few times a week.

5. Canuck Abroad
Canuck Abroad is an online forum for Canadians scattered around the world. The Canadians in the UK section is where you'll find people just like you either already in the UK or just doing their research.

6. Teachers TV
This is probably the best resource for you and shouldn't be way down at #6. Here you can watch real teachers in real classrooms and the issues they face. Learn everything by watching television. Really, this site is brilliant. I have to admit that my first reaction to this station was "Oh ya right - in my free time away from teaching I'm gonna watch tv about teaching". Well, I was wrong. This channel (only available in the UK) and website is brilliant. How else can you see what it's really like? Watch more tv!

Have I missed anything great? Please let me know by posting your comment below. If you like this post, you might like A Simple Guide to Supply Teaching in London, 10 Myths About Teaching in London, Important Words to Know and Typical Interview Questions for Teaching in London. Subscribe to the RSS feed as well!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Movies About Teaching in London: Happy Go Lucky

Mike Leigh's new film, Happy Go Lucky is about an overly optimistic teacher and looks brilliant!

Check out the trailer here. If you've seen it already, please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Here are two more movies I recommend about teaching in London: Notes on a Scandal, and Fever Pitch.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bloggers Choice Awards & My Nominations for Best Education Blog

The Bloggers Choice Awards allow readers and bloggers to nominate their favourite blogs. I've nominated 3 blogs for the Best Education Blog for 2 reasons:

1. I like them
2. They relate to teaching in London and are therefore great resources for you.

In no particular order, here are my nominations:

To Miss with Love

Miss Snuffy's self-description is "I'm a black teacher in inner-city London and here are some of my stories... I love my job and I love these kids. But boy, do I sometimes wonder why..."

I love her blunt writing style - she does not hold back! A quick note on anonymity - I completely support blogging & also teachers maintaining their anonymity in blogging. I love being able to read a blog by a teacher that doesn't hold back. If your name is attached to your blog, then your students, their parents, other teachers and everyone else will read it.

So, to Miss Snuffy - thank you for your stories and for telling them from your perspective with honesty and humour.

I love the names she gives her students as well, like "Barbell," "Grimace," and "Pretty Boy."

To vote for To Miss With Love click here.

Mr. Teacher

Urban School Teacher's self-description is "As a dedicated learner, I am committed to and very serious about my role as a teacher. I love my job but it often drives me crazy. My intention with this blog is to give people access to the world inhabited by teachers and their students, to vent my many frustrations and furies, and to give everyone with an interest in education an idea of what is really going on in our schools."

I just found this blog a couple of weeks ago and so far I love it. Again, it's written by an anonymous school teacher in London telling his stories from the front line.

To vote for Urban School Teacher click here.

School Gate - Times Online Blog

I just went to School Gate to get the link and found they've posted their 7 best teacher blogs. We're clearly on the same page! Miss Snuffy & Mr. Teacher are in their 7 best blogs to read as well.

Here's the self-description: "The author, Sarah Ebner, is an experienced journalist who has been shortlisted four times at the British Press Awards, in 2008 for feature writer of the year. She was a producer and occasional reporter for BBC Newsnight, and also edited Sarah has two children and lives in London."

It's quite different from the first two and a very good read as well. It will help you understand the issues surrounding the education system in the UK. To vote for School Gate click here.

If you'd like to vote for our blog, please go to this link. Every vote is helpful and brings more readers to this blogging community.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Classroom Canada's London Scavenger Hunt

This just in - The Canada Shop in Covent Garden, London has offered to provide us with a Hamper Gift Basket for the winners of the London Scavenger Hunt. Thank you Canada Shop!

For those of you participating in the Scavenger Hunt on November 7th, you now have even more incentive to race through the streets of London as fast as you can. It will be silly, outrageous and the most fun you've ever had with a group of Canadian teachers in London! Guaranteed.

The gift baskets from the Canada Shop contain goodies like your favourite Canadian chocolate bars, Kraft Dinner, Lays Potato chips and possibly even good ol' Canadian beer. We won't know for certain until we see it, but I know it will be fabulous.

I will also throw in some copies of the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. I'm also speaking with travel companies in London about more prizes, so watch this space. Perhaps a free trip will be included as well!

PS) For those of you interested in teaching with us, please apply asap - jobs in January are plentiful but going fast!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Teach in London: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed

Last year, I went to the University of Victoria to their education recruitment fair. That's where school boards and teaching agencies set up tables, hand out brochures & freebies and talk about what positions they are hiring for. 7 teachers from U.Vic are now teaching in London with Classroom Canada because of that one event.

Because of the recent success of those teachers in London, England I will be speaking at U.Vic for a special workshop/presentation.

This time, I'll be speaking about the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians and about our teachers in London with Classroom Canada.

The presentation will be on October 15th at 9am in one of the classrooms (TBA). If you'd like to attend, please send me an email to: There's only room for 40 teachers, so please reserve your spot in advance.

Also, in December, our cross-Canada extravaganza begins again! I will be traveling across the country speaking with teachers and doing interviews along the way. One of our former teachers, Krissy Redekop, will also be at the fairs talking about her teaching in London and how you can get a teaching job with us.

Here are the dates we've booked so far:
Mark your calendars, tell your friends and come meet us in person at any of the above universities.

PS) Experienced teachers: email me first & I'll arrange an interview time for you there.

Friday, October 3, 2008

An Email from A Canadian Teacher About to Depart for London, England

"Hi Victoria,

I just wanted to share with you a horror story from another agency. My friend from high school heard about this particular agency at an education fair at Brock university.

They set her up to go to England to teach, let her know there would be lots of work and plenty of opportunities to meet other teachers. She would be working and living in Kent.

She goes to England and has to stay in a hostel while she looks for a place to live. Everything is expensive or disgusting etc.

The agency does not find her any work in the two weeks she has been in Kent and when she asked the UK rep about socials and opportunities to meet other teachers they said that they don't do that.

She has since returned home and is considering Classroom Canada (because she talked to me and asked me all about Classroom) for a January return to the UK.

When I heard this story I had to tell you.

Thanks for being part of an agency who cares about their teachers.


Wowsers! Thanks for sharing this story with us Leah. Sadly, this story is one I've personally experienced and part of the reason I love what I do now. It's teachers like you that help me do what I do best - create a sense of community for our teachers in London so no one ever feels like your friend did.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bus Ticket Bird: A Creative Lesson in Classroom Management

If you're considering teaching in London, but have heard some really frightening stories about the behaviours of the students, read this story first.

Ben was a teacher from New Zealand and I had placed him in a really tough inner city school. He was young, hip and up for the challenge, but even he admitted his struggles in his first week. The students were pretty typical children in an inner city school - they didn't want to work, wouldn't listen and were sick of being yelled at by adults in general.

Ben took the bus to school every day. So one day, on his way to school, he made an origami bird out of his bus ticket. He was occupying his hands while his brain got to work on finding a solution for the behaviours of his class.
When Ben arrived at school, he decided to use this "bus ticket bird" as an incentive with his students. He knew it was all about tone of voice. Kids get excited about the littlest thing, as long as teachers use their voices to make it exciting.

So in his best excitable teacher voice, Ben asked the class, "Who thinks they can win this very special Bus Ticket Bird?"

All the students looked up. What? What's that in Sir's hand?

"This bus ticket bird is soooo special, only the best behaved child will get to keep it. At the end of the day, I'll decide who worked their hardest, tried their best and was a great friend to all the children in the class. That child will go home with bus ticket bird!"

And you know what? He had a great day. And every day after that was also a great day. Ben found the simplest solution to his classroom management problem.

Now that's great teaching.

Liked this post? Read this one about rules, and this one about behaviour management.
Be sure to read Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians (the American edition will be out soon).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Google Turns 10 and Starts Project 10 to the 100th

Google turned 10 years old the other day. To celebrate, they've come up with Project 10 to the 100th.

It's a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. As teachers in inner city schools, I know you have fabulous ideas every day. Even if you don't, your students do. Check it out & spread the word. Feel free to post your ideas here as well!


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