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.


  1. I have just one caveat about this list - yes, many schools have TAs in the classroom, but not all of them :). I've been in classes where I've been all alone, and others where I've had 3 other adults with me. It really varies according to the school. Also, secondary schools rarely (if ever) have TAs.

    Along the same lines, you'll find schools that don't have Interactive White Boards in every classroom. I've found this to be the case in a lot of Independent (private) schools.

    As for Learning Intentions (L.I.) - they're also called Learning Objectives (L.O.), and they're usually accompanied by S.C. (Success Criteria - what the pupil needs to do in order to successfully achieve the LO). I've also seen WALT (We Are Learning To), WILF (What I'm Looking For), and TIB (This Is Because) - these 3 normally go in a set.

    And a few things to add to the list:

    - Chart paper doesn't exist here - ask for chart paper in a school and you'll get lots of blank looks! Another standard piece of equipment in Canada that doesn't seem to exist here is the overhead projector (even in schools that don't have IWBs) and the blackboard (it's whiteboards all the way - I've seen a blackboard only once since moving here).

    - Construction paper is called "sugar paper".

    - Indoor recesses caused by rainy weather are called "wet play".

    - It's "pupils", not "students" - students are in College or University, or what tutors call their charges.

    - It's a "lesson", not a "class" or "period".

    - A lot of teachers seem to discourage the use of rubbers (erasers). I can't tell you the number of times fights break out amongst pupils because they're all trying to use the one rubber that has been allowed to be stocked in the classroom!

    - "Joined up handwriting" is encouraged (or cursive, as Canadians know it), and it's different from the cursive we learned in school!

    - "Card" is what the British call the stiff paper Canadians associate with bristol boards.

    Enough rambling from me! :)

  2. One suggestion relating to Learning Objectives (LO's) or Learning Intentions (LI's): Students are expected to copy these from the board at the beginning of every lesson, as stipulated by Ofsted. I hate coying for the sake of it and of course so do the kids. Therefore I have come up with an alternative: At the beginning of every lesson I talk to my students about they have learned in recent lessons and then about what they will be taught in the current lesson. At the end, on a rotational basis, one student writes a short paragraph on the class blog about what has happened in the lesson, giving deails on topic, exercises, homework etc. This takes care of the LO/LI requirement without any copying!

  3. Wow - thank you Anonymous & Mr. Teacher for your thoughtful, detailed comments. Great to see the discussion continues!


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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