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!

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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