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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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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