Friday, January 30, 2009

Canadian Facts to Tell Your Students When Teaching in London, England

When teaching in London, England it's important that you know some random Canadian facts. Students will assume you're American, Australian, New Zealander or even South African because they have been taught by plenty of these nationalities before. You're unique in being Canadian and let's face it, the world does not know all that much about our country. They will likely know that Canadians like to wear their flag proudly on their backpacks, but won't necessarily understand why.

So, here are some random Canadian tidbits to help you teach your students a bit more about Canada.
  1. 90% of the world's gumballs are made in Canada according to Stuart McLean on his Vinyl Cafe podcast.
  2. The life expectancy of a Canadian female is 80 years, and for a Canadian male it's 73.
  3. In 1988 Palm Dairies of Edmonton created the world's largest ice cream sundae 24,900 kg. (54,895 lbs.) (fact taken from Life in the Twilight Zone blog)
  4. California has more people than all of Canada.
  5. Canada has 3.5 people per square km. The UK has 249.
  6. Lacrosse is Canada's official summer sport, and ice hockey is Canada's official winter sport.
  7. Many Canadians like to read magazines in the bathroom (simply called "the toilet" in the UK, meaning the room the toilet is in). This can be considered absolutely disgusting by others. We even read books like this series.
Here's a video your class will likely find fascinating:

Do you have any other tidbits to share with us? Please share your random Canadian facts below.

Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisfied, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wine and Cheese Events for Teachers Across Canada

Do you think we should hold free Wine & Cheese events for teachers interested in teaching in London, England?

Please take this short survey and share your thoughts with us. It doesn't matter if you live in Vancouver or not, we just need to know if this idea is brilliant or rubbish. If it's a hit, we'll bring the idea on the road across Canada, and then into the US.

Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisfied, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Write a Follow-Up Email After Submitting Your Resume at a Teacher Job Fair

So you met a recruiter at a teacher job fair & need to know what to do next. Maybe you had a great conversation or maybe you just signed up for more information. Your inbox is now flooded with emails from agencies trying to get you to "Pick me! Pick me!" and you just want to know what to do next.

If you don't know what to do at job fairs, please go see my Do's & Don'ts of Teacher Career Fairs and then come back to this blog post.

Here's what you should do after you meet a recruiter that you were impressed by. Tell them! It's simple and it gets you the interview. Is it sucking up? Sure. So what? It works. We're all human after all.

I met Nadia at UBC last Friday and when I opened my email on Monday morning I was pleased to see an email from her. Nadia did everything right at Friday's job fair. She dressed as a teacher, smiled, presented herself with confidence and humour. We talked heaps about London (I can talk a lot in case you haven't figured that out from reading my lengthy blog posts). I left the fair exhausted but excited about a few of the teachers I met that day. I must have spoken with about 500 teachers over 6 hours, with no breaks in that time. But Nadia made me happy that day and again on Monday morning.

I asked Nadia if I could share her email with you dear readers and she agreed.
"Hello Victoria,

I just thought I would drop you a quick email to say how lovely it was chatting with you today. Quick reminder, as I'm sure you spoke to hundreds of keen teachers, I am the English/Photography specialist, lived in Fulham, British-graphic-designing husband, and the story goes...

It was so nice to speak to someone who not only has UK (and Bangladesh!) teaching experience and stories from a Canadian perspective, but also the fact that you own the company and are out there recruiting, opposed to some hired salesperson! Again, I am so impressed with the company you developed. It was great to hear all your stories, tips and advice (particularly the on-side tutoring tip...who wouldn't love to earn a hefty extra bit?). I will be chatting with my husband more about seriously moving back to London and will definitely keep you posted. Should we decide to move back there, I will absolutely seek your help!

I'm sure you met with many individuals today and received numerous resumes, so in case mine may have been misplaced or ended up at the bottom of the stack, I've attached an extra copy! I hope to speak to you soon.

Have a lovely weekend!

Kind regards, Nadia "
There are a few things Nadia did in this email that would work well with any teacher recruitment agency.
  1. She reminded me of our conversation & specifically what would help me remember her (pointing out her subjects, that she's already lived in England, British husband)
  2. She was casual but professional at the same time. She didn't use short-forms (like "u") but still wrote as she would speak, which helps me remember who she was.
  3. She expressed her interest in teaching with us and why she prefers our agency out of all the others out there.
  4. She showed her personality in the email, rather than an email that starts with "I'd like to apply for a teaching position with Classroom Canada."
  5. She re-submitted her CV.
Will I be interviewing Nadia for a teaching job in London, England? You bet I will!

Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisified, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Opening a UK Bank Account While Abroad

Opening up a bank account in the UK can be a nightmare or it can be an easy & smooth process. Canadian & American teachers should take advantage of the current exchange rate & buy pounds sooner rather than later. Usually, the exchange rate for pound to dollar is double. But right now, 1 GBP is $1.73 Canadian dollars. It was $1.67 yesterday morning.

Let me explain. When you open a UK bank account with Lloyd's, you have to send a cheque for 100 GBP to yourself. That's your money & sits in your new UK bank account until you need it (presumably when you arrive to teach in London, England). So, if you go to your bank & get this cheque today it will cost you $173. Or you could get that same cheque when the pound eventually recovers for $200. It's like the pound is on sale!

If you're planning on teaching or working in the UK in the near future, you should just apply for your bank account now. Read this post to see what you need to do to apply for your UK bank account. You don't need to work through Classroom Canada to get the account (although it is easier!). Just quote 222320 on all correspondence & provide all the proper documentation.

Here's some more good news for Canadian teachers. Lloyd's TSB has just opened up 2 offices in Canada.

They now have one office in Vancouver and one in Toronto. This is amazing news for teachers in a hurry to open their UK bank accounts. Instead of sending your documents to the UK, you can now send your documents to Vancouver or Toronto, which is a gazillion times cheaper to send express post. The Lloyd's staff will check your documents to make sure you will actually be able to get a UK bank account and then they courier your documents to the Isle of Man Lloyd's. So in the end, you'll save time & money.

Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisified, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Teaching in London: Sink or Swim?

I visited the University of British Columbia this past Friday to speak with new teachers about what it's like to teach in London, England with Classroom Canada. I met some incredible people and am excited to watch their journeys from teachers college in Canada to teaching in London.

I met one woman who had already taught for three years outside of London. Let's call her Sarah. She was recruited by an agency, brought to the outskirts and left to her own devices. She couldn't even remember the name of her agency (that's how involved they were in supporting her). This isn't unusual. Regular readers of this little blog will know that I am passionate about helping Canadian and American teachers make the transition to teaching in the UK with support. That doesn't mean I hold their hands! It just means that I don't believe it should be a "sink or swim" approach.

So, I asked Sarah if she went to Professional Development sessions with her agency, or if she at least watched Teachers TV on the weekends. She explained that she never had anything to do with the teaching agency after her initial interview & arrival in the UK. She'd never heard of Teachers TV. I hadn't written my book at that point so of course she hadn't read that resource yet. Classroom Canada was an idea in my head while I was teaching and recruiting teachers for Classroom UK.

Sarah had to sink or swim.

You don't.

You don't have to teach through Classroom Canada to get access to all of the information you need to teach in the UK and succeed. That's why I make this information easily accessible to all through this blog & my ebook. I am determined to raise the bar for teaching agencies.

So with all of that in mind, here's my advice for you today dear readers. I watched this video of a History Teacher who wants your feedback on her lesson. She's preparing for an Ofsted visit and wants to go from "good" to "outstanding" - every teacher's dream. Check out the video and please offer your advice. Secondary school teachers should watch the video simply to see what it's really like to teach in the UK. Primary school teachers should also watch the video to get some idea of what it's like for your students when they leave grade 6 (called "year 6) and enter high school.

Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisified, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Do's & Don'ts of Teacher Career Fairs

I have been going to Teacher Career Fairs for 4 years and some common mistakes are made at every one. Likewise, some teachers make an incredible first impression & I'll remember them months later. I'm off to Vancouver tomorrow to attend the UBC Teacher Career Fair, and one of my teachers from last year, Krissy Redekop, has been attending the teacher jobs fairs in Ontario all month.

What NOT to do at a Teacher Career Fair

  1. Ask a recruiter "So, what's the weather like in ________?" Believe it or not, I get this question all the time. Ummm....right - what's the weather like in England? Just like Jamaica! HOT! Okay, I don't say that, but I want to. Don't ask a question that you a) should already know the answer to and b) can find out from a simple google search or guide book.
  2. Do not under any circumstances go up to a recruiter and then tell them all the reasons you wouldn't want to work in their country. "Teach in London? But it's soooo expensive there!" The recruiter then feels they have to convince you why their location is ideal, when really, you should be working at convincing them to hire you. If the recruiter is spending all their time trying to convince you to work for them (talking about how great the salary is, how easy the job is, what you'll get if you work for them, etc.) then you should be asking yourself why they need you so badly. There's a teacher job shortage in many parts of Canada and chances are you need them more than they need you.
  3. Don't dress as if you're still a student. You're on your way to being a professional. Dress like one.
  4. Don't give your resume or contact details to every recruiter at a job fair. We will contact you (particularly teacher recruitment agencies for England & Asia) so don't waste our time & yours if you're not really interested. There are some agencies that will call you every week, early in the morning to "check in". They hope that by calling you all the time they won't "lose" you to another agency. I'm not like this as I don't have the time, and know that my teachers contact me when they need me. I don't worry about "losing" teachers as I have a solid track record with teachers & rarely lose any to another agency. But most agencies aren't like this - so if you sign up to every one, well ... now you know what will happen.
  5. Don't get too nervous! Chances are you'll meet a bunch of recruiters & we won't remember you in a few months. That's the honest truth. So don't stress out too much & just be yourself (the professional, confident & capable teacher that you are).

What you SHOULD do at a Teacher Job Fair:
  1. Ask good questions. Yes, there are dumb questions, although I'd never say that to anyone's face. Just see #1 above. Equally, there are very good questions. Joe came up to me at the OISE fair (University of Toronto) in December and asked me about Ofsted reports for schools in London and whether I had any advice for him on how to read between the lines of these reports. I knew a few things about Joe with that first question - 1. Joe knows what he's talking about & wants to know more 2. Joe is smart enough to do his research & wants a good school to teach at and 3. Joe can speak with a principal or Head Teacher with inteligence and confidence. I offered to interview him the next day. Did he get the job? Of course. I'd love to see him teaching in London with Classroom Canada in the near future.
  2. Dress appropriately. To use Joe as an example again, he dressed like a teacher. We even joked about how he was the only one at OISE wearing a tie. Most students just wore jeans and t-shirts, didn't bring their resumes & just grabbed whatever freebies they could get. Who gets the interview? Joe of course.
  3. Bring your resume. After having a brief chat with a recruiter you can ask if they are accepting resumes. If they say yes, pull yours out (ideally not crumpled up in your backpack). You can include a photo in a resume to hand out at a career fair to help us remember you later.
  4. If you've done your research about a particular school board or recruitment agency, let them know. If you want to work for that particular person, tell them. We love to hear this! We also love to hear why you want to work with us. You don't have to be "salesy" - just be yourself. I can tell you that anyone who comes up to me and mentions this blog will have an interview in no time. Pretty simple right?
  5. Keep an open mind. You're there to check out your options, find out more information and hopefully make a great first impression that will lead to interviews for teaching jobs. Never forget that. Yes, your friends will be there. Yes, it can be a social time. But don't let your friends stop you from going to every table & meeting the people that make crucial decisions about your future.
Sign up for our newsletters to read more about teaching in London, England. Download a free chapter of the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. If you like that chapter, buy the ebook! If you're not satisified, I'll give you your money back. I've never had to refund anyone yet so I'm confident I won't have to!

Have you been to a Career Fair lately? Have any advice to offer our readers? Please share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Write a Teacher Blog

As a teacher, recruiter and writer I am often asked for advice about starting a teacher blog. So here are my two cents for you, dear readers.

When starting a teacher blog you have to ask yourself why you want to write a blog in the first place. Are you teaching in a different city or country like the Classroom Canada teachers? Do you want to share your insights into the profession or do you simply want an easy way to tell your stories to your friends & family back home? Facebook helps us keep in touch much better than a blog so if you're only writing to tell your stories to your family & friends, then perhaps you should use Facebook instead.

The best blogs are written by people who know why they're writing & stick to it. Writing can be therapeutic and when you're teaching you need this time to stop & reflect. Story telling is an amazing way to share your insights into teaching. You don't have to be the world's greatest writer, but you do have to know how to tell a good story.

One of the first issues that blogging teachers have is whether to remain anonymous or not. You'll notice that I'm not anonymous on this blog and it's for the simple reason that I'm not actually teaching in a school now. I recruit teachers to work in London, England for Classroom Canada so my teachers need to know me as a person just as much as I need to know them. I posted my photo to help readers feel a bit more connected to me as a blogger. Most professional bloggers will tell you to do this. Sarah Ebner has her photo up on School Gate blog as well.

Miss Snuffy is anonymous. She's made a very conscious decision to share her thoughts & insights into teaching and has to protect herself as a teacher first and foremost. When working in a school, you absolutely have to protect yourself. If you plan to tell stories about your students and your school, you have to protect them as well. Students and parents will google you, and you'll be surprised to find how easy it is to stumble across a blog written by someone who thought they'd never be read by the very people they shouldn't be advertising to.

Urban School Teacher is also anonymous and for the same reasons. He shares his views on teaching in London schools & doesn't hold back. But Teach N' Traveller writer Alysha isn't anonymous. She teaches in Melbourne, Australia and helps other Canadians make the move there. Her life is quite similar to mine in that she recruits teachers and is a teacher herself. She doesn't share stories about her school and her students, but instead offers advice for teachers from abroad considering the move to Australia. You won't find her swearing and you certainly won't find her saying anything that would cause concern for her school.

So, first decide why you want to write a blog, whether you will be anonymous or not & then decide how often you will post. This is crucial.

I post every day, Monday - Friday, except when I am at universities doing job fairs or presentations, or during my holidays. I treat blogging as a part of my job so I stick to it. I have regular readers that I know about from using Stat Counter. This tool shows me how many pages my readers view, how often they visit & how long they stay on the blog. Without this tool, I probably would have quit by now since most readers don't leave comments. I have some readers that have visited the blog more than 100 times and since I've only posted 115 times I know these are people that are dedicated to reading my blog. They might be other recruiters keeping an eye on the "competition" (which we all do by the way - I know exactly what other teacher recruitment agencies offer so I can always stay one step ahead).

I like to think that my readers are other teachers doing research into teaching in London, England. That's the purpose of this blog after all. The point is - if you know why you're writing & you're passionate about your subject, you'll stick to your blog. You don't have to post every day like I do. But you do need to post on a regular basis even if it's just once a week. You should post on the same day so your readers know when to check in on your blog. Respect your reader's time! They check in and when there's nothing there they get bored & move on.

Don't write the "I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long" apology. Regular blog readers read this all the time. Don't apologize, just write. It's your blog after all.

Discuss issues that you would want to read about. Share stories that you wished you had read before going into teaching in the first place. That's what your readers are looking for. They want your story, the brutal and the beautiful. Post pictures & videos and link back to other teacher blogs. Share the love! Blogging is about being part of a blogging community so check in on other blogs & tell your readers what you read. Post comments & participate in discussions on other blogs.

When I check out how people are finding my blog there are a few common keyword searches. "Teacher blog London", "Canadian teacher blog", "Canadian teachers in London", "Teacher stories London", "American teachers in England" -- those are by far the most common keyword searches that I get. So my readers are people looking for the real story written by teachers about what it's like to teach in London, England. I try to deliver.

What do you think people will type into google to find your blog? Keep those words in mind in every post & use them often, but don't be boring! Don't just use keywords so google will find you. They aren't stupid & neither are your readers.

Any other advice you'd like to hear or share? Please leave your comments below. Do you have a teacher blog that you think my readers will like? Share it in the comments section as well.

Also, sign up for our newsletters & get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians by yours truly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How to Get a Teaching Job in London, England

Every once in a while I read my teacher's blogs and ask them if I can share their insights with you here. Reba is a teacher from BC with a great attitude towards teaching in inner city London. Her story is very similar to most teachers that do really well - she stayed positive, took the lead and got the job she wanted.

Before she tells you how she got a teaching job in London, here are some of her insights on London's duality:

"...And yet, I've managed to overcome my struggle with its duality. East London is very different, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The multiculturalism of the area is incredible, but also at times disheartening when you feel like even more of an outsider, an intruder even, simply walking down the high street. It can be a little strange when you're on the bus, and are the only one speaking English, and yet it is still kind of neat to be the only one speaking English on the bus. While I still absolutely detest the dog poop on the sidewalk, and the fresh spit gobs everywhere I go, but my street, in reality, is actually pretty cute, and is nicer than a lot of the other ones that I've seen - it has trees! Our local shops and their keepers are beginning to get to know us (well, sort of. The movie store guy basically knows us, and the corner store guys at least recognize us). And I'm beginning to recognize (and I'm sure be recognized) the regulars at the gym."
Reba then explains to us how she went from supply teaching across London to having her own class in a school she really wanted to work full-time in.

'Where I'm going with this? Who knows. I just am getting to the point where I like living in London, save for the nasty weather. Am I enjoying teaching? Yup! Shocking isn't it? Even more shocking is that I was hired on at a school! I never would have thought when I first arrived that I would ever be in this position.

To rewind a bit, I ended up teaching the Year 5 class that I have previously mentioned until the end of the term (aka Christmas break). It continued to be a challenge up until the last day, but I really did enjoy being in that class. A whole bunch of the kids (actually probably close to half the class) gave me Christmas cards, and were really sad that I was not going to be teaching them after the break.

Anyways, on the last day of school I went to thank the Head Teacher (principal) for having me at the school that long, as anytime I'm in a school for longer than a couple of days, I like to thank them (even though for the most part, they aren't the ones who decide who they get!). She basically said that they'd ask for me if they needed a supply teacher. So I was stoked about that.

Well, at the end of the day, the Deputy Head Teacher (vice-principal) asked me to go see the Head Teacher before I left. When I did that, she asked me if I would be interested in a position that was coming up at the end of February, to which I replied, "OF COURSE!" Okay, so maybe I was a little more diplomatic than that, but basically, I had a job offer that I was not going to turn down.

You see, over the course of the month at this school, let's call it X Primary for the sake of the conversation, I began to feel like I was actually a part of the school, rather than a stranger at the school. Mind you it's not hard when a heap of other Canadians, most of whom are already your friends, work at the school, but that's besides the point :) I kept getting invited to school events, and eventually, I started going to them. By the time the last day of term rolled around, I had started to make friends at the school.

So now, here I am, knowing that from now until the middle of May, there are only two weeks where I am not booked. I start my new job at X Primary sometime in February, after the half-term break I'm assuming, and have been booked at a school way out in Zone 5 for the remainder of January. YAY! The best part is, the position ends after the Year 6 standardized tests are over, as I'm taking over a PPA (Preparation, Planning and Assessment) position, for a friend that is taking a position to help students prepare for the tests. That means that Reba's Eurotrip of Awesomness is still a go! But more on that later..."

What I really like about this story is that Reba took action. She didn't just supply teach & go home at the end of the day. She sought out the Head Teacher & said "Thanks!"

If you want a full time teaching job, follow this advice. That one kind word of thanks eventually turned into a job offer that Reba couldn't refuse. I am always amazed at how many teachers don't do this. Sure, it's a little intimidating, but how many times do you think a Head Teacher in a tough inner city school hears "Thanks for letting me teach at your school. I really enjoyed it!"? If you were in their shoes, would you hire that person? I know I would.

If you want to keep reading Reba's story, check out her blog. Some of our other teachers write blogs & I've posted them on the right hand side of this blog. Also, subscribe to our newsletters to read interviews with our teachers and get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"I don't mean to be rude but the American accent..."

Ask any Canadian abroad what it means to be Canadian, and nine times out of ten the answer will be "not American".

I've been mistaken as an American a million times over, and I'm always quick to correct the error. But today I am proud of our neighbours in the South.

I had promised myself to keep my politics out of this little blog of mine, but I just have to say it. The American voters have redeemed the States by electing Barack Obama. Today I am proud. Call me an American today, and I might just say "Sure." Hypocritical? Perhaps. But the hope that has been instilled the world over by this one man is enough to make me not care if I'm mistaken for an American.

Let's face it. To most people in the world, Canadians & Americans are exactly the same. We sound the same, we like the same entertainment, we eat the same food and we look the same. Canadians wear their flag to announce their "non-American'ness" but really - to most people around the world, we're pretty darn similar.

I can safely admit that I don't have the world's quietest voice, and I seriously developed a neurosis about speaking too loudly on the underground while living & teaching in London, England. Brits are quieter than North Americans as a general rule. So hearing a Canadian voice on the tube is just like hearing an American one - too loud.

Most of my family are from England and we can tell the difference not by their accents because they've been in Canada for so long, but by how loudly they speak. I think the British members mumble, and the Canadian & American family members shout. That's my family anyway.

Some of my teachers have mentioned this difference in volume between our cultures in London, England.

One of my teachers even had someone walk up to her on the tube and say, "I don't mean to be rude, but the American accent..." and before she could finish her statement, the teacher interupted her to say, "I'm Canadian." She shut her down before the rude person could say she was too loud, too nasal, too American. We had a good laugh at this story & I related my own stories of being told to "shush" and how I have to force myself to speak quieter than I usually do, especially in my teaching. Take a London classroom and speak louder than the students are used to & you've got a behaviour management nightmare before you've even taken the attendance. You've disturbed the balance. Chaos reigns. So, I just speak quietly. Or try to anyway.

But today... well today's a different day. Today the Americans have Barack Obama. So call me an American, call me too loud and I will still be proud. Bring on the change Americans - bring on better education, universal health care & a new sense of hope.

For all those North American teachers out there that want to teach in London, England, please check out our website & the book, Guide to Teaching in London. Sign up for our newsletters & share your thoughts below!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Does Poverty Equal Low Performance in UK Schools?

Here's a question for you. Do you think that a poor area of London will only produce low academic results in school? Many do.

Just google Hackney & Brixton and you'll see what I mean. There are plenty of teachers out there that won't go near those areas as they think the students are too tough to teach. They are the "unteachables."

The children's secretary Ed Balls disagrees and said yesterday,

"Don't tell me that poverty means low performance... In the end, if there are excuses, we have the power to say that's totally unacceptable."

Read this article in the Guardian for more information. The government is coming out strong against schools and administrators making excuses for their poor performances. No doubt this will cause much discussion and controversy in the coming months. Teachers will demand more support and the government will say it's providing support & funding. Everyone will feel the pressure to perform. As usual, education is incredibly political in the UK. Check out this post about Canadian newspapers vs UK newspapers to see what I mean. Also, check out Sarah Ebner's post about what parents are doing in reaction to the government shutting down one of their favourite schools.

See my previous posts about academies in the UK, and 10 Myths About Teaching in London. Get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Teachers in the UK: Networking with Other Canadians & Americans

Social media has completely changed the way we move to other countries. Now you can network online with others who have "been there and done that" and people of like minds who are also going through the same steps that you are.

So to help, here are my favourites for networking with other Canadian & Americans in the UK:

  1. Canuck Abroad - Here's an online forum for Canadians scattered across the globe. The UK discussion group is quite active & any question you have about moving to London has probably already been asked & answered in there.
  2. London Expat American Meetup - a place for Americans to network and get together in London.
  3. Network Canada - this is a non-profit group for Canadians living in London. They're also the authors of Living in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. They hold monthly social events which are quite popular.
  4. Classroom Canada on Facebook - I have to post this one of course! Here's a place to ask questions, meet other teachers, look at teacher photos and get an idea of what we're all about. We also have a private members facebook group for our selected teachers to meet each other & share ideas/resources.
  5. TES Community Forum - The Times Educational Supplement (TES) is a newspaper and website. The Overseas Trained Teacher forum is very active and a great place to discuss issues with teaching in the UK as a foreign trained teacher. A quick note: I find quite a few of the comments to be very negative against teaching in London and the UK in general, so try to take everything said with an open mind. Some people use online forums as venting grounds.
  6. Canadians in London Facebook Group - Today this group has 780 members. I just saw a post about a flat in Shepherd's Bush (West London) for rent so it looks like a great place to meet others & ask for help with finding flatmates and flats. I know most of my teachers have joined the group.
  7. American Expats in London Facebook Group - There are a few of these groups on facebook for Americans in London but this one has the largest number of members (1046 today).
Have I missed any websites that you'd like to share? Please post them in the comments section.

First time here? Sign up for our newsletters and get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians by Victoria Westcott.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Take Attendance with a Smile

When I was teaching in London, I started a new tradition in my classes. Let me paint a picture for you.

Schools in London are incredibly diverse. I regularly had 22 students in my classes, and of those 22 at least 15 were from other countries. Sometimes all of the students were from abroad. Many were EAL learners (English as an Additional Language) and sometimes more than half of the class had IEP's (Individual Education Plans). I usually had a Teaching Assistant, and often the TA spoke another language on top of English.

Taking attendance (called "the register") can be a nightmare. Luckily, I was able to pronounce most of my students names. Most foreign teachers stumble with all the different names. When you take the register in a primary school, you have to also take the lunch register. Students tell you whether they will be having a hot meal, packed lunch or home dinners. You then tick all the appropriate boxes, and mark the students down for free meals when they get them (decided by the government, based on income levels).

This can take 10-20 minutes depending on your class! It should only take about 5 minutes maximum. Don't worry, you'll get better at this.

I only taught at one school that used their interactive whiteboards for taking attendance and it was an absolute dream. Imagine a computer screen where you simply look at the board, notice who is absent and tick those boxes. Ask if anyone is having anything different from usual for lunch, tick the boxes and ta-da! Attendance is done in less than a minute.

Usually, teachers in the UK start their day by saying "Good morning..." to each student. The student replies "Good morning Miss/Mrs/Ms/Mr (insert last name here)". When I first started teaching in London, I thought this routine was sweet but over time it became repetitive and boring. So I changed our routine to celebrate the diversity of London.

I printed out this list from a website that shows you how to say Good Morning in most languages. Every day, I'd choose a different student (by alphabetical order) to choose the language we would learn. So every day, my class learned how to say Good Morning in a different language.

It was great fun & while it did take a bit longer to get through the register it made it more interesting for all of us. When a new student arrived, sometimes we already knew how to say Good Morning to them in their language. Imagine how that felt for a student fresh off the boat.

Do you have any other ideas you can share with us? What do you do with your class?

To read more about teaching in London, subscribe to the RSS feed on the right hand side of this blog, and sign up for our newsletters. Get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians and save yourself months of research.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Speed Stacking in London Schools

Have you heard about Speed Stacking yet? It's all the rage in London schools . It's basically a game where students take cups and stack them (like a pyramid) as quickly as they can. Incredibly simple, the sport is catching on in primary & secondary schools across London. My year 6 students a few years ago absolutely loved the competition.

According to Speed Stacks, Inc. Sport Stacking helps promote:
  • hand-eye coordination
  • ambidexterity
  • quickness
  • concentration
...skills needed to excel in most any sport or life.

Students compete against each other and even go to other schools just like they would with soccer or any other sport. Check out the video above to watch the sport in action.

It's always a great idea for teachers to get involved in extracurricular activities, so if your school doesn't have speed stackers yet, you could be the first to introduce the game to your school.

Don't delay - get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadian Teachers. Want to teach in London with Classroom Canada? Apply today. Sign up for our newsletters & the RSS feed at the right hand side of this blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Interview with a Canadian Teacher in London, England

Tim is a fabulous teacher from Toronto and agreed to be interviewed for you, dear readers. He now has experience teaching in Special Educational Needs and Mainstream Secondary School teaching. Our schools have great things to say about Tim's success in his teaching, so read his advice below.

Name: Tim
University: University of Toronto HBA, Trent University BEd
Subjects: Intermediate/Senior, with concentrations in History and Geography
Age groups taught: Since I've arrived in London, I've taught Year 7-12 (Grades 6-11 in Canada)

How long have you been teaching in London?

I arrived in the wonderful city of London in August, 2008 and have been teaching full time since the first day of term in September

What do you teach?

I spent four months working at a Pupil Referal Unit (PRU) in southeast London. A PRU is essentially a special educational needs school for students with behavioural, emotional and intellectual difficulties, or students who are not succeeding in mainstream schools. I was working with a variety of students in a one-to-one and small group setting in Years 7 to 12, covering all subject areas. Since the new year, I've switched to another extended position at a comprehensive high school in north London, teaching Geography to Years 8, 9 and 10 students.

Why did you choose Classroom Canada?

To be honest, Classroom was not the first agency that I interviewed with. I had limited to no success securing a teaching job in London through another agency, who tried to encourage me that I should work in a rural setting. I am lucky enough to have family all over the UK and knew from several family vacations and visits that the excitement of London was definitely for me. A good friend of mine (who is also employed through Classroom) gave me the contact information for Victoria Westcott at Classroom Canada and things quickly fell into place from there.

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

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times - teaching in London is NOT teaching in a Canadian classroom. The students are far more challenging than my experience in Ontario classrooms and required me to step up my classroom management strategies. A lot of the lower level interventions that worked effectively throughout my teaching failed to get any response from the students in London. A far more direct style of classroom management is required to gain the attention, motivation and focus of students. Remember that reflection is actually crucial in improving and maintaining your teaching practice (I know, you feel like you've reflected to death in Teacher's College, but it really does enable you to treat the next day with a better set of skills than the previous day!)

Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences:

I usually get up around 6, get ready for work and jump on the train. I chose to share a flat in London with the aforementioned friend and have about an hour commute to work from there. I generally teach from 8:45 to 3:30. After work, I try to get some lesson planning/marking/prep done, as well as enjoy the city of London. On weekends, I make sure that I take in all London has to offer;culture, theatre, pubs, travel, any and all things to maximize my experience; THIS IS LONDON AFTER ALL!

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

Remember that, no matter how long you stay or what you teach, you will always be able to say that you lived in London, which is truly one of the world's great cities. I've had the chance to travel and see a bit of the world before moving here, and its a remarkable city. Live life to the fullest while you are here, and remember that no matter how tired you are, you might never have a chance to see that particular show, or check out a particular exhibit, or get away for the weekend to Europe. Remember: never regret what you do in life, only what you don't do!

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

Honestly, if you don't have a sense of humour, you will never survive teaching (but I'm sure if you are reading this you already know that!) I had a particularly challenging student on one of my first days at my new Geography position who was not paying attention and was extremely disruptive to others. He put on what I would call an extremely bright pink sock that reached passed his knee. He pulled this up over his
school uniform trousers. Being the Canadian that I am, I asked the student to pull his pants down. The entire class erupted into laughter; even after five months in London, I still hadn't been able to change my vocabulary. In the UK, pants refers to underwear (boxers or briefs) only, the uniform pants would be called trousers. Clearly, I was not asking the student to strip down in this way, and the class luckily laughed it off as an example of me being from Canada!

Describe the worst thing:

I'm a pretty positive person, but I've definitely had that attitude tested a few times. I've faced students who have become seriously disengaged with education and teachers in general, which is very hard to swallow when you are a new, enthusiastic teacher just breaking into the profession. I've been verbally assaulted by a parent who essentially told me that the state of the education system in the UK was failing because so many foreigners without the same values and ideals were teaching their children. After trying to politely explain to the parent that in fact, my parents were both born and raised in England, so clearly I had such 'British' values, the parent became further enraged. If I didn't have a sense of humour, I would clearly have let this get to me, but instead, I was able to laugh it off over a few drinks later on with some other members of staff.

What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than with any other teaching agency?

As mentioned before, I did try out another agency before ending up with Classroom. Classroom has been extremely helpful, honest and straight forward on both sides of the Atlantic. They are always willing to listen to your problems and genuinely care about your experience, teaching day, and feelings toward your placement. From what I've been told, this is rare and definitely something that Classroom excels at! I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Classroom to anyone who is looking to gain employment here in London.

What qualities do you have that make your stay more enjoyable?

I'm one of those people who refuses to let anything get him down. No matter what is going on, I'm able to remain positive and keep things in perspective - even if today was awful, tomorrow is another day and things can be different if you believe it. With that said, having a great sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself when things are going rough is invaluable here. Be open to new experiences, try not to do the 'but this isn't what they do inCanada' thing, and remember: THIS IS LONDON!

Sign up to receive our email newsletters & read more of these interviews. Be sure to get your copy of the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

To apply for a teaching job in London, England please send your resume to

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bullying in the Classroom - Jewish & Muslim students in the UK & reactions to Israel

The above photo is being passed along through facebook so I thought I'd share it with you. I also want to point you in Sarah Ebner's direction today. Her blog post about bullying in the classroom and the situation in Israel is an excellent examination of how children in the UK are affected by the situation there.

I'm curious about whether this bullying is global. Do you have a story to share about bullying as a result of the conflict in Gaza? Please share it below.

Technology in the Classroom

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Behaviour Management in London Schools

Here's a great resource for you to check out. Teachers TV is a website & television channel in the UK that teaches us how to be better teachers.

Most American & Canadian teachers who want to teach in London, England ask me for help in understanding behaviour management issues. It's hard to explain exactly what to do. Just read the interviews with our teachers on the right hand side of this blog to see how each & every one of the teachers says they had to change their behaviour management techniques and that it was the hardest adjustment to make.

Want my advice? Watch more tv.

Watch this video of an Australian teacher in London who forgets to just be himself. He follows the "no smiles til Christmas" approach and frankly, his lesson isn't all that engaging & the students in the video are typically showing low level disruptions in response. He learns to use a more positive approach and to show his own personality (which isn't the stiff one he is trying to convey in order to control the student's behaviours). Watch it to learn what he does to improve his teaching in a London school.

There are literally hundreds of these short television programs on for you to watch & learn how to change your own behaviour management techniques to prepare for teaching in London.

And of course, read the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. Save yourself months of research & time and get the real scoop on what it's like to teach in London, England.

If you've been watching Teachers TV and have a video you think other teachers would like to see, please recommend it in the comments section below. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UK Government Agency Ofsted to Fire Boring Teachers in the UK

Here's an interesting article in the Guardian today. The UK government agency Ofsted wants to rid schools of teachers who bore their students. It's a very controversial issue that will be debated in the coming months.

Basically, the idea is that students misbehave because lessons are boring. Teachers are to entertain the students to engage them and keep them motivated to learn in school. Many new teachers from North America will agree with this, particularly in Canada where there is a wide divide between the teachers who have been working for years and are protected by the union (and are therefore very difficult to dismiss) and the new graduates who are desperate to try out their creative techniques but can't get employed.

In the UK, there isn't a job shortage like we have in Canada so the issue is quite different. There is a teacher shortage and so we specifically recruit Canadians & others to teach in London, England. But still, the debate about getting rid of boring teachers continues.

Check it out here. Also read Phil Beadle's follow-up article here. I've posted Phil Beadle's teaching advice in this blog before which you can find here. You can also watch videos about teaching in the UK on Teachers TV.

Want to learn more about teaching in London, England? Sign up for our newsletters, follow this blog (see the box in the top right hand corner of this page), and read the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

Monday, January 5, 2009

How to Apply for Teaching Jobs in England by Email

I receive thousands of resumes & cover letters a year from teachers eager to work in London, England. Some are great, some are not. Email has changed the way we apply for teaching jobs & so I've decided to share with you 2 emails I opened this morning (of the hundreds I have to open today). Names & details have been changed to respect privacy.

Here's the first email:
"i am interested in speaking with an agent to help my boyfriend and i find wonderful teaching positions where we can enjoy europe and yet make lots of many to pay down our student loans. can u help us?"
This teacher signs their name and includes an image of a pint of beer.

Here's the second email:
"Attached is a copy of my resume, cover letter and certification. I am available for contact Monday to Friday 11:00 am to 4:00pm at (555-555-555). Thank you for your time and consideration of my application to teach in England.


I now have the choice to open each email's attachment and phone the teacher for an interview. Which teacher would you want to teach your children?

I wrote more about how to apply for teaching jobs in the United Kingdom in the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.


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