Thursday, April 30, 2009

Funny Rap Video by Social Studies Teachers

It's a bit long, but watch it through to the end to see my favourite bit in the last 10 seconds. If only all teachers had this kind of energy, creativity, technical-know-how and confidence. Happy Thursday everyone.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Classroom Canada Teachers Blog: Teachers Share Stories About Teaching in London, England

Yesterday I spoke with Jodi who is a fellow blogger and one of the Classroom Canada teachers heading to London for this upcoming autumn. We got to chatting about blogging and how hard it is to update frequently as a teacher. I notice a common theme amongst our blogging teachers: they all want to blog regularly but just can't find the time nor energy to do so.

So, we started a Classroom Canada Teachers blog, a place for all of our teachers to share their stories, insights, rants, raves, photos, quotes, questions and so on. Surely, with a group of blogging teachers, it will be much easier to keep updated than with all these individual blogs. I'd even recommend that teachers "recycle" their own blog posts on the Classroom Canada Teachers blog, bringing more traffic to their own teacher blog through links.

Some of our readers here have asked for more stories from our teachers in London. With this in mind, could you read the Classroom Canada Teachers blog and encourage them to carry on sharing by leaving comments? I find that comments really help to spur me on with blogging and I know that our teachers will feel much more inspired to write if you comment!

If you are one of our teachers and would like to contribute to the blog, even if it's only once every few months, please contact me via email (victoria at classroomcanada dot com) and let me know so that I can invite you into the group blog. I am excited for this project!

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Distance Learning and Teacher Certification

Katie Wilson from DistanceLearningNet wrote a blog post for us about distance learning and getting your teacher certification online. I think this post will prove very interesting for students in the US who want to work while getting their teacher certification via distance education.

In Canada, it is still best to get your Bachelor of Education or PDPP at one of the many reputable teachers colleges, but that's just my two cents.

On to Katie's blog post:

Getting your teacher certification online can be a relatively painless endeavor. Here are some helpful notes that may guide you along the way.

Now that you’ve chosen to take the step towards getting certified to become a teacher you will have to outline the exact plan you will use to get there. Keep in mind that all your hard work in planning and goal setting will pay off in the end, so don’t short change yourself and skip good research first.

Two Categories

Those interested in getting a certification to become a teacher generally fall into two broad categories:

1) Those already with degrees.
2)Those without.

It’s easy to understand which one you fall into, but in the case of those who are already actively pursuing a degree it may be a little trickier. Often times, depending on how far along you are with your studies, and what state you live in, you could classify yourself in either category.

1)Those who already have a BA
If you have a Bachelor of the Arts (or Science) in any subject you can become a teacher. Though you will still have to apply and be accepted to an approved certification course, you are not far away from being in a classroom. Most certification programs allow you to teach while you are studying, so you can fulfill all your requirements and still get valuable on the job training.

Certification requirements are largely controlled and dictated by state governments, so according to the region or state you are in there will be specific guidelines that determine how long it will take you. In some states, certification after you already have a BA can take as little as six months; others can take over a year.

Prices for distance learning teacher certification can range up to $6000.00 for the entire course, so be sure you have made a choice you intend to stick with. It’s also important to know that employers and school boards may also affect your eligibility to teach before you are certified, so make sure you are in the know.

2)Those who don’t already have a BA or can tailor their degree plan to get certified.
If you don’t already have a Bachelor of the Arts then don’t fret, you have just as much potential to become a teacher as those who do have a BA. The only major difference is that you will have to spend a little more time seeking out your degree, with a focus on education.

Online degrees generally start in the 15 to 20 thousand dollar range and can take several years, but in some instances can be much cheaper depending on the requirements of the region.

Again it’s important to familiarize yourself with your home state’s requirements, as well as look into requirements of schools and school boards in the area where you want to teach. Getting the right information could save you lots of money and wasted hours of study, so do all your homework and pick an avenue that fits your needs.

This post was contributed by Katie Wilson, who writes about the best ranked distance learning program. She welcomes your feedback at KatieWilson06 at

Thanks Katie! We really appreciate Katie's support and interest in helping our readers understand more about distance learning.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaching Jobs in London, England: Teachers Should Apply Now

May 22nd is the last day for teachers in England to give their notice for September. Then, schools have a one week break (called half-term break) and school starts up again on June 1st, for the final half-term of the year which will end on July 20th. What does this mean for you?

Head Teachers (aka Principals) know what positions they have as of June 1st and madly try to fill those roles before the end of the year on July 20th.

So when should you be in London? The best possible time to arrive in London to secure a full-time teaching position is when the schools know what they need for the autumn. So, that means you should arrive during the last half-term break between May 25th and May 29th, ready to teach on June 1st.

Supply teaching (aka daily supply, day-to-day teaching, TOC, etc) for the last 6-7 weeks of term can be a gamble, because it's hard to say if you will get 5 days a week at the end of the year, but if you want a full-time teaching job in September, then you should take that risk.

Every single one of my teachers who arrived at the same time last year secured the positions they wanted. Head Teachers like to see teachers in person and observe them teaching. They want to see what you are really like as a teacher, not just what your resume writing skills are like. Some of our schools are willing to do phone interviews with our teachers, especially when the teachers are teaching full-time here in Canada and can't easily depart to London, but most want to see the new teachers in person.

So, if you're one of those keen teachers who really wants a full-time teaching job starting in September, then apply right away. I know our primary team in London will have enough daily supply work to keep you working 3-5 days/week. If you're a secondary school teacher, then it might be tough with daily supply teaching simply because the schools start to have exams and have less of a need for daily supply. But if you are open & able to teach primary, then you can work in that area while we try to secure you a full-time teaching job in a secondary school. We also have an excellent Special Educational Needs department that manages to place our Canadian teachers into jobs almost 100% of the time.

As our readers know, we have a rigorous selection process and select the best & brightest teachers in Canada. We take pride in that. Our teachers always get work, and that to me, is the most important thing. So, if you are a good teacher with outstanding references, then apply. Who knows? Maybe you'll be on a plane to London in just one month's time. That's how I did it anyway.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Other blog posts that might interest you:
School Term Dates in the UK
Teach in London: When Should You Apply for Teaching Jobs in London?
How Many Teachers Move to London, England with Classroom Canada?
Coffee Time with Jenn (One of the teachers who arrived in May 2008 and secured her dream job with us)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Teaching in Developing Countries

When I did a teaching practicum in Bangladesh, I was the only white & western woman in my group. I was also the only teacher. The rest of the volunteers were from Japan, Korea & Bangladesh. They were mostly students, studying to be doctors & lawyers. We helped to build latrines in the rice fields, where people would otherwise relieve themselves out in the open and on the rice. We also assisted doctors in pre and post-operation for eye cataract surgery. Thousands of locals lined up to see if they had cataracts, and to receive the multivitamin the doctors gave out. It was the most eye opening experience I've ever had.

We had a ceremony to celebrate the volunteer project and the mayor attended. He invited us to have tea with him. When we first arrived, we noticed that there were only 2 chairs. So, we all sat on the dirt floor and the mayor sat in one of the chairs, smiling and asking us questions about what we did and where we were from.

When I said that I was training to be a teacher, the mayor insisted that I sit in the chair beside him. I fumbled for my words, saying "No thank you. I am fine down here," but he insisted. It made me very uncomfortable. Why was I sitting above everyone else? Was it because I'm white and from Canada? I think he could tell I was uneasy.

"No, No! It's because you are a teacher! We treat our teachers with respect here in Bangladesh," the mayor insisted.

Well how about that? Between the choice of doctors, lawyers and teachers, the teacher gets the chair.

Here's a great photography post in the Guardian today about students caught up in an African war zone attending make shift bush schools. Another great Guardian resource is this interactive map with country profiles.

I'm also looking into some sort of scholarship or bursary fund to help a Classroom Canada teacher do a volunteer project in teaching in a developing country. What do you think? This won't happen for another couple of years, but I'd really like to support our teachers who want to volunteer in teaching abroad (Africa? Caribbean? Asia?). I know many of our teachers would love to do something like I did in Bangladesh but are inhibited by the costs they will incur. I was given a scholarship from Queen's university, and I know I wouldn't have had the money to fly all the way to Bangladesh otherwise.

So, if I can help with some sort of fund then I'd be more than happy to. I just can't figure out how to do it, and wish I had the mental brain space to figure it out.

That's where you come in. What do you think? Do you know of some organization or project with teaching that you'd like to participate in? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teachers TV: Videos about Assessment for Learning

I've written before about Assessment for Learning in the UK and how important it is that Canadian and American teachers planning to move to London do their research on AFL and how to use it in practice.

Please read these posts first:
Teaching in the UK: Assessment for Learning Explained
Behaviour Management in London Schools

I've also written quite a bit about how much I recommend Teachers TV for teachers who want to know what it's really like to teach in London.

Here are some other posts about Teachers TV:
Hey Teachers: Watch More TV!
More Resources for Teachers About To Move to London, England

I watched some Teachers TV this morning and thought you might like to watch these videos. I searched for Assessment for Learning and found that they have 21 videos online to view. Most of the videos are only 15 minutes, and you can search for your specialist teaching area like primary, science, history, SEN, and so on.

With my Macbook, my battery overheats when I watch the videos, so if you have a computer that is a bit moody like mine, then try lifting it off the desk and propping it up on a couple of books to let the battery cool while you watch.

I also noticed that some of the videos won't stream for me in Canada now. I tried to watch a video about racism and football (aka soccer) but got a message that says:

"We have detected that you are accessing this website from outside the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, rights have not been granted for international streaming and downloading of this programme."

How disappointing! I would love to be able to post Teachers TV videos here on this blog and even contacted them about this idea but because of international laws, they said I can't post their videos here. So, watch the videos that you can. I really hope the message above won't show up for all the videos. Since I was able to watch the AFL videos today, I hope you can as well.

Watching these videos is by far the best way to prepare for teaching in the United Kingdom.

But what do you think? Do you agree with me? Have you seen any that you would recommend over others? And have you received the same error message for any of the other videos? Please share your thoughts below.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New UK study says Girls Are Dragging the Boys Down in English

This just in: Boys do better in single sex classes in English, but better in co-ed classes in Math and Science. Or so says a new UK study on boys and learning in school.

According to Jessica Shephard in the Guardian today:

Boys do best with "as few girls as possible" in English lessons at primary and secondary school, Steven Proud, a research student at Bristol University, will tell the Royal Economic Society's conference.

But when it comes to maths and science, both boys and girls at primary school achieve up to a tenth of a grade more when there is a high proportion of girls in the class, Proud found.

What do you think? Have you seen this in school yourself? I am always curious when it comes to gender studies in schools as I think they can be dangerous.

What does it really mean to "do better" anyway? Their grades improve, but are they better off for it?

I've never personally taught in a single-sex situation, so I can't judge it from first-hand experience. What about you? If you have, please share your insights below. Even if you haven't, please share!

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Canadians in London: Invitation to the Maple Leaf Mixer

We have a guest blogger today to invite you all to a special Canadian event in London, England. Read on...

Dear Canadian teachers in London!

I am an avid fund-raiser for the Maple Leaf Trust, the charity of the Canadian community in the UK, and would like to extend a personal invitation to you and your friends to come to the Maple Leaf Mixer and enjoy a fun, Italian-themed evening at Fiat's glitzy showroom on Thursday May 7th. The Canadian Women's Club of London have joined up with Network Canada to host 'Sapori di Torino' (A Taste of Turin) with regional wines, Piedmont-inspired canapes and speciality sweets at this must-see venue.

As well as meeting up with fellow Canadians, you'll have the chance to bid for the pleasure of a weekend's driving of the new Fiat 500 and to win raffle prizes - all in support of the Maple Leaf Trust.

We've been feverishly busy rounding up some fabulous Italian-inspired raffle prizes - a food hamper sponsored by Sacla, a £250 voucher off a walking or cycling holiday in Italy, and more!!

A special bonus just for you: if you're a teacher here in London from Canada, and you've heard about the event on this blog, I'd like you to come and find me on the night. Introduce yourself with the magic words of 'Classroom Canada' and I will personally buy you a raffle ticket if you buy at least one more for yourself! As the Communications Coordinator for the Canadian Women's Club, the person at the door will be able to point
you to me.

Please join us from 7:00 - 9:00pm at 105 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QY (just behind Selfridges). Entry tickets, at £15 each, can only be purchased online. For more details and booking, click here.

And because I know that going out can be tough after a long day of teaching, if you show up with a friend, I'll buy them a raffle ticket too! Please email me if you have any questions about the evening, and I hope to meet you on the 7th!

Barbara Richards

I hope some of our readers go to this event & report back to us here on what it's like. I'd love to be there myself, but I'm in Canada until the new academic year kicks off in the fall.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mr. Teacher Interviews Victoria Westcott of Classroom Canada

Last week, Mr. Teacher posted some questions for me in the comments section of this blog. I interviewed him a while back which you can find here, so it's only fair that I answer his questions here as well.

Here goes:

Mr Teacher: How, exactly, do you find teaching positions for the teachers who come on board with you? Are you effectively an employment agency for Canadian teachers in the UK?

Victoria Westcott: Good question! Classroom Canada is a separate company from Classroom UK, but we work very closely together. So what that means is that I focus on finding quality teachers, and my colleagues in London focus on finding them positions in schools. In a sense, that means we are an employment agency for Canadian teachers in London, but also so much more than just the "job hunters."

The long story short is that I used to work in London as both a teacher & a recruitment consultant for another company and then Classroom in my last 6 months in London. The issue I found to be a big problem for me personally is that I was always juggling too many balls in the air. Teaching, combined with recruiting teachers, working with school management to find quality teachers, offering PD sessions for teachers, SATs see where I am going with this I'm sure. It was all just too much.

So, now, I do what I do best - find quality teachers in Canada and focus on preparing them for their journey so that when they arrive in the UK, they are 100 times more prepared than I was myself. When they finally arrive in London, they are very easy to place into positions with our schools. Schools know that the quality of teaching is much better than they have experienced in the past simply because the teachers know more of what is expected of them. It used to be that Canadian teachers would get visas, and then just show up in London with their agency, but this way, they are more prepared before they arrive.

Mr. Teacher: As for quality control, how do you ensure that the teachers you send in to schools are doing a good job and therefore properly representing Classroom Canada?

Victoria Westcott: Classroom UK has the DFES Quality Mark (which I wrote more about here), and Classroom Canada follows the standards and goes above & beyond. This means that I properly interview each candidate, check their references, police checks, education qualifications and then assess whether I believe them to be able to obtain jobs through our services and represent us well. The interview questions I ask were created along with a Head Teacher and former Ofsted inspector. Also, my colleagues in London check in with the schools and have very good working relationships with the senior management of our schools. We hold PD sessions, and I check in when necessary. If a teacher is struggling, then I generally offer advice & guidance where I can. Luckily, we haven't had too many troubles in this area. I am also proud to say that we have at least 95% success rate with our teachers, which means that very few teachers arrive and leave our agency to work for someone else. I think it's happened only one time actually.

Mr. Teacher: How do teachers in Canada find out about you?
Victoria Westcott: I go to some of the universities in Canada, as does Krissy Redekop. She taught in London with us last year, so she knows the process from a first-hand perspective. We can't make it to all the universities, so we concentrate on BC and Ontario where there are job shortages, but our teachers come from across the country.

I also deliver PD sessions here in Victoria and am considering branching out a bit more with this idea. I focus on teaching in London and specifically what it means to be an inner city school teacher in London from a Canadian perspective. That certainly helps us to find quality teachers as well.

I wrote the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. I don't really advertise for it, but when people search for resources like this, they tend to read it and then decide to apply to Classroom Canada. I don't even really mention Classroom Canada, except in my "author biography" but I still find plenty of great teachers find out about us through the book.

Finally, our teachers tend to be very well researched, so they search online and stumble across this blog and they ask their friends which agency is best. Word of mouth is very positive for us, so I find about half our teachers come through friends of friends. Since that was how I found Classroom (London) in the first place, that makes me proud of the same word of mouth for Classroom Canada.

Mr. Teacher: Have you considered branching out and dealing with other countries in addition to Canada?
Victoria Westcott: Yes, I have actually just started Classroom America, although I don't have as much time as I would like to focus on our neighbours to the South. The reason I focus on our two countries is that there is a real lack of information for us over here. The Aussies and Kiwis tend to know heaps of other teachers that have already been to London so they get their information through their mates. We are such massive countries, and so spread out so I find that the information is seriously in need over here.

I also used to work as the International Recruitment Manager for another teacher agency before joining Classroom. I had to coordinate the recruitment in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa & Australia and honestly, I found that I couldn't do any of it very well. I prefer to specialize and do what I do well, rather than spreading myself too thin and doing it all not so well.

Within Classroom, we already have Classroom Australia and Classroom South Africa so we don't have a need for those countries. There are of course plenty of other countries in the world that we could focus on, but with visa restrictions, the top 4 are always Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Mr. Teacher: What is your own teaching experience and do you still teach?
Victoria Westcott: Good question. I have 3 years teaching experience in London. I started in Essex, in a very tough school where almost half the staff were brought in from overseas. I taught year 5 there. Then, I moved to Central London and taught with daily supply teaching. Within a month or so, I started working for the same agency that brought me over as a recruitment consultant and a teacher. This meant that I went to schools as a supply teacher, but also to represent the agency & help them find appropriate teachers. I took on some long term contracts particularly in Year 6 and with SATs preparation in Brixton and Hackney schools.

I do still teach here in Canada, although not in the traditional sense. I just don't have the time. So, I tutor grades 5-10 students in math in the evenings, and really, it's just for fun. I really love teaching & miss it, but I think I've found my true calling with helping teachers make the move to London.

Mr. Teacher: And finally- what prompted you to do this job?
Victoria Westcott: Another excellent question! It's a long story, but I'll try to keep it short. It was a round-a-bout journey!

I used to work with Youth Challenge International as a Volunteer Selection Coordinator. I volunteered in the rainforests of Costa Rica for 3 months when I was 18 years old, as part of an international team of young volunteers. This experience prompted me to get involved with recruiting other Canadian volunteers and finally I ended up coordinating the selection weekends. YCI had these 3 day weekends where 18-25 year olds worked together to build latrines, help with trail building, and all round work together. That was where I learned how to interview properly. I also learned how to observe people in challenging circumstances and see how they did in the real world of volunteering abroad. It was a fabulous experience!

Anyway, I ended up at uni, and worked as a bookstore manager & events coordinator for Octopus Books. It might seem unrelated, but for me it all makes sense. Octopus is a political & academic bookstore, and it was there that I learned how to talk to professors and students and work as a middle-man between the two. I managed to get 100 professors to order their books through us, which meant dealing with thousands of students as well. It's really not that different from working with Head Teachers and Teachers!

Then, I did a brief stint as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Ottawa Fringe Festival, another job which involved recruiting volunteers. I loved it, and found that I was pretty darn good at it, but the pay was not so great.

Finally, I ended up in teacher's college, convinced I would become an inner city school teacher working with kids from around the world. It seemed to make the most sense. I did one of my teaching practicums in Bangladesh, helping to build latrines and assist doctors in pre-op and post-op surgery for eye cataracts. I also coordinated a summer curriculum camp, which once again involved recruiting and selecting teachers, as well as training and supervising the new teachers in practice.

So - finally I ended up in London with a Bachelor of Education in 2004. My resume screams "Inner city! Put this woman in the diverse classrooms!" but my initial agency made the error of just finding me a job, any job. This is typical with Canadian teachers as we are so desperate for teaching work, so agencies can put us into the toughest of the tough and we don't tend to know any different.

I was placed in Essex and found the school to be the complete opposite of diverse. It was a real struggle for me. I managed to convince the owner of the agency to hire me and let me help him place teachers where they would be better matched. With my background and history in volunteering abroad & helping to recruit volunteers and teachers it just made sense that I make the switch into recruitment. I continued teaching a few days a week in inner city London schools, just to keep my hand in it & to be a better recruiter by knowing the schools and teachers first-hand.

I worked with that agency for a couple of years (eventually as the International Recruitment Manager) but was unhappy with the agency. I just felt like I was always arguing, and trying to change things from within.

I met another Canadian teacher who worked for Classroom, this company I had never really heard much about. They hardly advertised at all, but my friend could only say positive things about them. I approached them, asked if I could work as a teacher & recruiter with a view to opening up a Canadian office. They agreed to see how it would go for 6 months.

It was a perfect match! Classroom UK lets me just get on with what I'm good at - dealing with teachers over here. They place all of my teachers into jobs that are the perfect matches (all within reason of course!) and I am ridiculously happy because I finally found the job where I can focus my energies and laugh every day. Classroom UK is happy because the quality of teachers that I send is so high. Our schools are happy because they get teachers who don't show up and ask a million and one questions that they should already know the answers to. Our teachers are happy because they have a sense of community with other teachers and are never just left on their own like I was in my first year in Essex. That just doesn't happen with us.

And so it goes. How's that for a long winded answer? ;-)

Any other questions for me? I hope I helped to clarify what I do with Classroom Canada. Please share your questions or thoughts below. I really appreciate all the comments I receive here. Feedback is great as well!

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Generation Web 2.0: Teachers & Word of Mouth

I don't pay for advertising anymore. I did when I first started Classroom Canada in July 2007, but in the past year I've made a very conscious decision to not advertise at all. In the recruitment business, that's a whole new ballgame!

So why not advertise? Because I know that the Classroom Canada teachers talk. Let's face it, all teachers talk! If they have a bad experience, they'll tell everyone they can. That's how I heard so many horror stories about teaching in London schools. I'd go the pub and meet other teachers and hear all about how their agencies suck, how they don't care about them, they lied and said they'd get them a job or accommodations or hold socials and professional development sessions.

After being in recruiting for 5 years, I know which agencies I trust and which ones I would avoid at all costs. I know because I'm a teacher and I talk to other teachers.

So, with Classroom Canada, I trust our teachers and know that if we do right by them, they'll do right by us. It's simple right? I interviewed a teacher just the other day who said she did a whole bunch of research online and tried to find someone who would say something negative about their experience with us, and she could only find positive. That made my day!

I'm a bit cynical and know that at some point, someone, somewhere will say something that's not so great. But the vast majority of our teachers will say they had a good experience teaching in London with us because we're honest, we care & we put that little bit of extra effort into making sure their experience is a positive one.

Thanks to all those teachers and bloggers and education enthusiasts out there who read this blog & share their thoughts on teaching in London. Twitterers, facebookers, stumbleuponers...all you Web 2.0 folks who continue to share information, advice, feedback and guidance - you're changing the way we view the world. And it's getting better every day.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Resources for Teaching in London: Canadian Books for Kids

Some of our teachers are packing their bags to arrive in London in the next couple of weeks and others will arrive in September and October. They all want to know what to bring.

Here's a book I love to throw in my bag and keep on hand while teaching in London schools: Find Out About Canada by Sue McMillan. It's only 64 pages and spiral bound, so a light addition to your suitcase.

I wrote the following review on Amazon:
This is a great book to explain all things Canadiana to someone from another country. It can be used for students in Kindergarten because it has plenty of visuals & you can use it in read-a-loud. But you can use the book all the way through to adult age students. I can particularly see it being used for grades 6-10 with reading comprehension, ESL, EAL etc.

It's very much written for a non-Canadian audience, and I love it for my teaching in London, England. When I have a few spare minutes, I can pull out the book & start a focused discussion on something Canadian - the students love it and so do I.
Other than one or two good Canadian books, I recommend bringing your teacher resources on a USB stick and saving your bookmarks on Delicious so you can access your favourite web based resources wherever you are.

Here is a blog post about packing advice as well.

What do you recommend? Are there any great resources out there that you'd like others to know about? Please share your thoughts below.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teacher Stress: Are There Jobs for Teachers?

And so it begins again. Teachers are graduating from teacher's colleges across Canada and they're worried. They have one week left to go, some of their friends have jobs but most of them don't. Are there any teacher jobs out there?!

Yes. There are. Should you stress about finding a teacher job for you? No. Stress won't help you here. Solid research, determination, professionalism and a total commitment to finding the right job for you are the areas you should focus on. Worrying won't help, and only gives you an air of desperation.

It's only Wednesday, and I've already had 3 emails this week that sound something like this:
"Hi Victoria. I heard about you and that you have jobs for teachers in London. There are no jobs in ________ and I'm really worried. Can you tell me more about your jobs?"
Sometimes these emails include capital letters, but they often don't. Just "i want a job." They don't bother to attach their resume or cover letter.

I know I sound cheeky, but please please please put yourself in my shoes, or at least put yourself in the shoes of recruiters in education in general. Would you hire you right now?

I love our teachers. I really do. Classroom Canada teachers are amazing, resourceful, intelligent, dedicated and determined. That's why they work with us! They seek us out because they want more than just a teacher job. They want the job, and the full package of accommodations with other teachers, a support network they can rely on and a sense that we know them as individual people. Not just as numbers in a crowd.

When I get an email from someone who clearly hasn't done any research and is just freaking out that they won't get a job, it makes me feel as though I am just a number in their crowd of recruiters. You see, it goes both ways. But what do you think?

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Canadian Teacher Does Research on Areas of London

To follow along from yesterday's theme where I "stole" from one of the Classroom Canada teacher's blogs, here is another steal. Jodi & Tyson are from Winnipeg and they're planning their upcoming adventure into teaching in London with us in the fall.

I really like their blog so far. They post regularly and share their insights into everything involved in preparing to depart for London. Here, they share their insights into neighbourhoods in London:

"Compared to Winnipeg, London is a HUGE city, with a population of over 7 million and a Population density of 4,761/km²

According to UK National Statistics:
"In Inner London the population density (people per square kilometre) was highest in Kensington and Chelsea with 14,676 in 2006, and lowest in the City of London with 2,678."

However, in Winnipeg we have a population of under 700,000 and a population density of 1365/km². This is a stark contrast to the city of London, and I often try to imagine what a city with a population density of 14,676 would look like compared to what we know in Winnipeg.
Then I found this website that has short (2 min) videos of about 20 different areas/neighbourhoods in London. These were great for seeing what London looks like, besides the usual -Big Ben, London Eye, London Bridge stuff....

One thing that seems daunting about moving to London is finding a place (area and flat) to live. Everyone has an opinion about this, some about where they have lived or where they have visited, and areas they would never walk after dark. Often in online forums and discussions there is conflicting advice about which areas to live. Overall, the areas of Chelsea, Notting Hill, and Kensington seem to stand out as the most liked, most expensive and safest (? conflicting evidence on this as well, I read one post that stated there was no safe place in London, anywhere...!) The same could be said about Winnipeg, or any city for that matter. But, I am sure we will find a safe, affordable and likable place to live and explore. Somewhere near the Camden Markets would be cool!"

Thanks to Jodi & Tyson for allowing me to steal this blog post & share with you here. I really enjoyed the 2 minute video clips as well.

A couple of my thoughts re: neighbourhoods to live in London.
  1. It's more important what tube line you are on than particular neighbourhood. For example, I avoid the Northern Line at all costs as it is the most unreliable line. Most Londoners will tell you this, except those that are die-hard Northern Line supporters. If you are living near the Northern Line, but there are other lines to take, then that is fine. I lived in Finsbury Park area and had 3 options for tube lines. That was fine. I also avoid living in South West London (Parsons Green is very popular for example) on the District Line because when it's down, it's really down. Also, that line goes through Earl's Court, which is like a bottle neck tube station - you're almost guaranteed to be stuck there a few times a week, waiting for the trains to pass so your train can get through. While the neighbourhoods are lovely along that line, the trouble with the tube hardly makes up for it. SO, which line should you live near? Ideally, more than 1 line and ideally the Central Line. That's why Notting Hill is so popular - you have 3 lines there, Central, Circle & District. It's in Zone 1, so close to "downtown", close to Hyde Park, and all round a good neighbourhood by Canadian standards. But, yes, pricey! So, many go to Shephard's Bush, a couple of stops over (and where Ewen McGregar crashed his motorbike in Long Way Down).
  2. It's also important which zone you live in. London is broken down into 6 zones, with zone 1 in the middle, and it goes out ring by ring til you hit Zone 6. Classroom is in Zone 1, at Oxford Circus, which is where our accommodations are as well. This means that most of our schools are in zones 1-3. So, don't live in zone 6, even though you think it is cheaper! You'll pay more on the transportation, and be miserable with the travel you have to do. We always recommend that you live in zones 1-3 for that reason. Realistically, most of our teachers live in Oxford Circus (zone 1, right downtown), or anywhere in zone 2.
I hope that helps as well! Any other thoughts on neighbourhoods for teachers to live in London? Please share your thoughts or questions below. Please read this blog post as well: How to Find an Apartment in London.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Canadian Teacher's Perspective on Teaching in London, England

Heather is one of our Classroom Canada teachers in London and a fellow blogger. I asked if I could "steal" her most recent blog post called "Here vs. Home: Educational Edition" and she agreed. Thanks Heather!

"I posted a while ago about some of the general differences that I noticed between Canada and the U.K. This post is the same kind of idea, but with a specific focus on the things I notice are different in schools here vs. home. Not an all encompassing list by any means, but a bit of a heads up to the adjustments I had to make when I arrived. Enjoy!
  • Paper sizes have different names. Normal, letter sized paper (8.5 by 11) is called A4. Bigger paper (11 by 14) is called A3. Don't ask me why the bigger paper is 3 and the smaller paper is 4.
  • Periods (as a form of punctuation) don't exist in the UK. They're called 'full stops'.
  • Erasers do not exist either. They're called 'rubbers'. This also means that the verb 'erase' does not exist. When asking a class of Year 4 students to 'erase your white boards', expect them to look at you like you have 3 heads.
  • There are Learning Intentions with every lesson that you teach. This is written right after the date, in their workbooks. e.g. for a literacy lesson a it could be 'L.I. I am learning the features of non-fiction text.' followed by the work for that lesson.
  • It's not math. It's mathS.
  • In mathS, when multiplying a decimal by 10, 100, 1000 etc. - instead of moving the decimal point to the right, you move the number to the left. When I taught a lesson on this, the teacher had a power point slide that said "THE DECIMAL POINT DOES NOT MOVE!!!" This shook me to the core.
  • Don't expect to be the only adult in your class. Each class has a teaching assistant (TA), and depending on the profile of your students, you could have some people in for one on one support.
  • The date is written differently (all over the UK, not just schools) - the number of the day comes before the month. eg. April 3, 2009 is 3 April 2009.
  • Teachers get specific time out of class to do planning, assessments and marking. This is called PPA (planning, preparation and assessment). If you are the PPA teacher (like me this year) you are the one that covers the class while the teacher is out. Plans are left for you.
  • Smart Boards, or Interactive White Boards (IWB's) are standard in all classrooms.
  • You never have more than 7 weeks of school without a break. I've mentioned this before, and I totally love it. Breaks are longer as well - like the Easter one. We break up on Wednesday the 8th (a little odd, something to do with being in a Catholic school) and aren't back until the 23rd. Whoo hoo!"
If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Questions for me or for Heather? Please post them here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

From Kerouac to Today: Thoughts on Teaching

"...he was a teacher, and it may be said that he had every right to teach because he spent all his time learning."

From Jack Kerouac's On the Road, via Mr. Teacher's blog.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Books to Inspire Teachers: Work Hard, Be Nice.

I was delayed at the Los Angeles airport yesterday, on my way home from a short holiday to sunnier lands. I wandered into a bookstore & spotted this book: Word Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America by Jay Mathews. I finished half the book on the plane back to Victoria and am so excited for Easter weekend when I can finish the other half.

The book tells the story of two inspiring young teachers with a vision that "All Children Will Learn," and that inner city schools can produce incredible minds and talents. Mike Feinberg & Dave Levin started the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) where students attend school from 7:30am until 5:00pm, on Saturdays and for 3 weeks in the summer. It sounds very similar to the academy schools in the UK, although I have yet to finish the book so I'll report more on that later.

One of my favourite aspects of their teaching is their use of songs & chants to teach all things - times tables, capitals, science, behaviour...They tap into their students lively & active learning by using songs. I wrote a bit about my own personal experience with singing in this blog post.

Here is my favourite chant that the KIPP teachers use:

The more you read, the more you know.
Knowledge is power,
Power is money, and
I want it.

You gotta read, baby, read.
You gotta read, baby, read.

No need to hope for a good-paying job.
With your first-grade skills you'll do nothing but rob.

You gotta read, baby, read.
You gotta read, baby, read.

You'll rob your momma, you'll rob your friends.
Don't you know you can learn?
Don't you know you can win?

You gotta read, baby, read.
You gotta read, baby, read.

(page 116, Word Hard, Be Nice by Jay Mathews).

It's a very American chant, so wouldn't really work in London and probably not in Canada, but I love it anyway.

What do you think? Do you have any recommendations for great books to inspire teachers? Please share below.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Break in the UK: Teachers Get 2 Weeks Off

One of the many benefits to teaching in the UK is the number of holidays teachers get. To see the school term dates, click here. Basically, every 6-7 weeks teachers get either 1 or 2 weeks off.

Today is the last day of the second term, and so begins a 2 week holiday for teachers and students. Our teachers are off to Greece, Paris, Ireland, Scotland, and plenty are staying in London to enjoy the spring weather and just relax.

I take the same holidays as our teachers, but just less of them. I am off to Los Angeles to soak up some sun and take a short break from doing interviews, checking references and all round preparing teachers for London. I'll be back in the office next Thursday.

So to love you and leave you, here are some of my personal favourite resources for teaching in London, England:
To apply for teaching jobs with a September and October start date, just send me your resume. I'll call you when I return from holiday.

Enjoy the spring wherever you are!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teacher's Training in Canada: How Do Teacher's Colleges Compare?

I interview teachers across Canada for teaching positions in London, England. I've been doing this for almost 5 years now, so I'm in a unique position to comment on our teacher's colleges and how they compare. Some teachers graduate fully prepared for teaching and sadly, some graduate without any clue as to what the "real world" of teaching will be like. So, here are my thoughts on a few that really stand out.

Queen's University
This is the university that accepted me into teacher's college (Ottawa U & Nipissing both put me on waiting lists), so I am obviously biased here. But even if I didn't go to Queen's I would notice that their training is quite different than other universities across Canada.

They have 2 things going for them in particular - an alternative practicum and a placement office. The alternative practicum is a chance for teachers to expand their skills and do something outside of traditional teaching. It is also well funded for students with OSAP debt, giving them opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise. In my case, I went to Bangladesh for a three week practicum and helped to build latrines, screen for eye cataract surgery and assist the doctors with pre and post operation work. Certainly different than typical teacher's college right?

The placement office at Queen's helps teachers to write resumes and prepare for interviews. The team (Elspeth, Alan and Sharon) does an outstanding job at preparing teachers, so when I go to interview them, they sound professional, confident and capable of teaching in any school. This is probably the #1 reason to go to Queen's for teachers college! You need to know that when you graduate, you will know how to get a job at the end of it all.

2. McGill University
McGill is a lot like Queen's in that they also have staff on hand to help teachers prepare for the job hunt. Antonella Nizzolla works with teachers and helps them make good choices about where to apply and how to be successful in their applications. Kind of like a guidance counsellor, Antonella knows her stuff and is excellent at her job. McGill grads always interview incredibly well and their teaching experience in London has been excellent. Their resumes are always well written, and end up on the top of the pile.

3. OISE - University of Toronto
OISE is massive, which I would normally say is a problem, but in this case, it works for them. The best & brightest get into U.of T. so you know that the teachers who get into OISE are in an elite class of their own. But it's not just that they are academically smart that puts them above the rest. They are also professional, capable, and very well researched. They have an 'inner-city' cohort that teachers love. In my world, that's very important. Inner city school teaching is different from the suburbs. It just is. So, it's always refreshing to interview teachers from OISE as I know they know what I am looking for when it comes to inner city school teaching in London.

4. University of Victoria
Again, I'm biased here as I live in Victoria so spend a large amount of my time with U.Vic grads. 10% of the graduates from last year are teaching with us in London this year. That is a very high number! The real reason I like this program is that it's small (about 100 teachers in each program) and the faculty clearly really care how their teachers do. Every time I visit, they ask about the teachers from last year. They know where each and every one of their teachers is now, which says a lot about their staff. The teachers are usually very well prepared for interview and do incredibly well with teaching in London.

5. Nipissing
Nipissing makes this list because they have one really good thing going for them - their focus on technology in the classroom. Every teacher has a laptop and is tapped into technology throughout class. The downside to this? Well, let's face it - they're on facebook and twitter when they should be participating in class. So, I've interviewed some that are outstanding and others that are...well, not so much. I love that Nipissing grads already know how to use Smart Boards (IWB's) as we use the same technology in London. That really helps when they arrive and are thrown into a classroom with an IWB.

I spend more time in BC and Ontario than anywhere else, so can't comment on most other provinces education programs. What do you think? Do you think another university should be in this list? Please share your thoughts below.

Also, here is a comprehensive list of all the teacher's colleges in Canada.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Classroom & Behaviour Management: What Secondary School Teachers Can Learn From Primary Teachers

There's no doubt about it: teaching in London can be challenging. It doesn't matter what you teach, or who you teach, you're going to have good days and bad. Some days you'll hold back your giggles in class, until you arrive in the staff room & share your story about the funniest thing that happened in class that morning. But other days, your students will fidget and their finger tapping, foot stomping, pencil flicking, rubber throwing (erasers, not what you think of as a "rubber"), will drive you up the wall.

So what should you do?

Well, to start, check out this video with John Bayley on Teachers TV. Then, read the comments that other teachers have left and share your own thoughts.

One thing to note is that primary teachers deal with this kind of behaviour all the time, but in secondary we often assume that students already know how to behave in class. The reality is that grades 7, 8 and even 9 are not all that different from grade 5 and 6.

I really had to change my own teaching style when I worked in London, England. For example, in Canada, I assume that by grades 5 & 6, students know how to enter the classroom calmly & quietly. So, when I was observed by an Ofsted inspector in London, she offered me some very simple advice: sing to them. She wanted me to fix my "transitions" and help the students to enter the classroom after break (aka recess) and from other classes. I laughed. I was teaching grade 5, not kindergarten!

You see, my class was energetic. Our playground had virtually no activities, resources nor games for the students. Not even a soccer ball. (This was unusual for UK schools. I was just in a very different school in my first year.) So when the students went out to play, they were bored & fights broke out. When they returned to my class, it always took ages to get them to calm down, sit in their desks and get on with the learning.

So, I followed the inspector's advice & reluctantly started to sing. You know what I sang? "The more we get together, together, together...The more we get together, the happier we'll be. Cuz your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends, the more we get together, the happier we'll be."

If you know the song, you also know that it's usually sung with kindergarten students. My class didn't know that, and they loved every minute of it. It reached a point where they entered my classroom singing the song every time they came in, and all told, it only took about 1 minute to get them in, sitting & ready to learn. It was amazing!

I learned to use primary age transitional activities for my junior classroom. Secondary school teachers find the same issue. Grade 7 & 8 teachers look to primary teachers for advice, and guess what? It works!

So, if you want my advice, check out the Bayley video & watch all the others on Teachers.TV. You can also read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians by yours truly.

What about you? Do you have any good classroom management tips for energetic classrooms? Please share them in the comments section.


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