Monday, July 6, 2009

Coffee Time with a Special Educational Needs Teacher in London

Occasionally, we ask our teachers in London to answer some questions for you, dear readers. To read other "Coffee Times" just look to the right of this blog.

Sarah is one of our amazing Canadian teachers working with Special Educational Needs students in London - a challenging task to say the least.

She works with students that have been excluded from mainstream schools, what many would label the "unteachables". Not Sarah of course!

Read on to see what Sarah has to say about teaching in the UK.

Name: Sarah Newton

University: Trent University

Subjects: History and Drama

Ages Taught: Intermediate/Secondary

How long have you been teaching in London now?

Almost one year.

What do you teach?

I teach in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Lewisham. A PRU is a school specially designed for those students that have been both temporarily and permanently excluded from the mainstream schooling system. I teach anything and everything. I have 10 - 15 students with 1 - 2 Teaching Assistants. I teach the students math, science, English, history, computers, and even drama. I also teach food technology - yes that is basically home economics, and although I was terrified it turned out to be my favourite subject!

Why did you choose Classroom Canada?

I actually heard about Classroom Canada through a friend I worked with at the YMCA in good ol' Peterborough, Ontario. After looking into it I chose Classroom because I found it to be the most welcoming agency that I applied to. Victoria is an absolute star, her personal experiences with teaching really demonstrated her knowledge with regards to teaching in London.

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

In all honesty, my subjects didn't really require all that much adjusting. The largest adjustment for me was probably the language I used while I was teaching, where things like erasers become rubbers,and the bathroom becomes the toilet. I was also teaching inner city kids that used so much British slang that for the first 3 weeks I literally had no idea what they were talking about. Eventually I began speaking the lingo though, and that was just a laugh for everyone.

Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences:

Wake up at 6:30 and grab a starbucks before jumping on the tube with my 'good morning' playlist blasting on my ipod. Get to school and teach 8 lessons with a lunch duty included, and don't forget the lesson prep and meetings after school. If its a quiet night at home, head to the gym, play some singstar and head to bed OR meet up with friends in central London, have some dinner and drinks before heading home. Weekends on the other hand are a whole new story!

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

Be prepared for a whole new teaching lingo. Bottom line - treat everything like it's brand new and don't forget your sense of humour and then things will be great!

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

There have been loads of funny things that have happened to me, but I think the first real culture shock I experienced was during a camping trip. I was walking home and saw something that was black and white - my first instinct was that it was a skunk. Then I thought, "Wait - wrong country, must be a fox," but when I got a little bit closer I realized it was a massive fox.

As I crept closer I realized it was a BADGER! And I had no idea what to do. Had it been a bear I would have been prepared but a badger? So I just walked passed it, about a foot away. Then the next morning I was informed that badgers are in fact very dangerous animals, and next time I see one not to go near it. So just watch out for the badgers!

Describe the worst thing:

The worst thing took place during one of my food tech classes. We were making apple pies, and one of the older boys came into my classroom and grabbed a knife. I couldn't convince him to return the knife without stabbing me, so I let him leave the room with it but went right to my head teachers office and sent him after the boy.

The boy never hurt anyone and he was just crying out for attention, but the reason why this was so terrible was because there was no PA or intercom system put in place - so I literally had no way of calling anyone for help. It was scary but a part of the job.

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

The staff are brilliant. They are friendly, funny, and actually helpful. When I go to the agency, or ring the agency, I feel like I am visiting friends rather than agents, it is an amazing feeling. They are fantastic listeners and never rest until I am happy.

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

I am just a very outgoing and laid-back person with a great sense of humour which has made my stay extremely enjoyable -especially because the 'Blame Canada!' jokes just make me giggle. I am also very independent so travelling around the city has been a fantastic adventure for me, rather than a painful task. I keep an open mind, and try new things - which is why my stay has been so great!

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.


  1. Great read! I've heard really good things about special needs schools in England. It's something I'd really like to try :)

  2. Hi Kirbie,
    Yes - it's something I wish I had done when I taught in London. I didn't know I could, as we need so many more courses under our belts over here before we can work with SEN.

    Why don't you send me your CV and I'll see if Sarah's school has a spot? They are really impressed with her, and tend to take my word for it when I say a teacher is good.

    :-) Cheers


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


Related Posts with Thumbnails