Thursday, September 17, 2009

Classroom London Launches a New Blog About Teaching in London, England

I am so excited to share the news with you!

My colleagues in London have started a blog for Classroom London, partly inspired by this little blog of mine.  I love it when more people join the blogosphere, and even more so when they're writing about what it's really like to teach in London, England.

Every Monday and Wednesday, one of my colleagues in London, or their Teachers or Teaching Assistants, or associates in all things eduction related will post on the Classroom London blog.  Then, every Friday, they will post the latest and greatest jobs of  the week.  Not all of their jobs will be posted, but they will pick a selection of jobs that you might find interesting.

The jobs posted will be for Secondary Teachers, Primary Teachers, Special Educational Needs Teachers and Teaching Assistants.  These jobs will be located in London, England and occassionally the surrounding areas.

Please swing by, bookmark it, follow it, spread the word and leave your comments and questions. 

On a side note, I'm off to a conference and will not be blogging until my return to our Canadian office on October 1st.  So, in my absence, please continue to read our teachers blogs (listed on the right hand side of this blog) and the Classroom London blog.  See you soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teachers, Teaching Assistants & Teaching in London: How Do You Sleep At Night?

We all know that children need enough sleep to learn in school.  We tell parents that all the time, and we always know when students have been up too late at night to concentrate in class, keep their heads screwed on straight, get along with each other and all 'round have fun learning in school.  You know those emotional breakdowns over something that would otherwise not be so big?  It's the sleepy-cranks at work.

So, what about teachers and teaching assistants?  What about their own sleep patterns?

We have a group of teachers working full-time in our London schools, and for some of them this is their first full-time, long term teaching contract.  Some of them supply taught, and know the rhythm of teaching life in London, but it's their first full time contract, so the stress can be a lot to handle. 

Others have experience back home, and still they feel the stress teaching in London.  Let's face it, teaching is hard. It's stressful.  We need our sleep!

Our new teachers are slowly picking up days here & there, (it is the beginning of the new year, always a slow time for supply teaching) and we've had hundreds of teachers with other agencies trying to get into our team since their agencies don't have work for them.  We prioritize our loyal teachers first and foremost of course. 

But the point is that it's stressful for everyone in education at this time of year.  Even for us recruitment consultants!  I was up at 4:30 am on MSN with my colleagues in London, who were shouting at me in caps-lock, "GO TO BED WOMAN!", but hey, I wake up, I check email and I got work to do here people!

So, this brings me to you.  What do you do to help yourself sleep through the night?  Do you take sleeping pills like the teachers I know in Ontario with years of experience who still struggle with sleep?  Do you listen to Paul McKenna's hypnotic voice & try to get back to sleep?  Do you count sheep? Or do you just get up, and get on with it?  Or, maybe you sleep like a log and can brag about it here.

Please share your thoughts below! 

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 14, 2009

Supply Teaching in London: How To Prepare For the Unexpected

I've written a few posts about supply teaching (aka TOC, daily supply, substitute teaching, relief teaching, cover teaching) in London schools and how to survive and succeed.

Most teachers who first arrive in London start out in supply teaching, get to know the schools and then find themselves in a long term position (aka LTO, Long Term Occassional, Full Time Contract, Long Term Contract).  It takes anywhere from one day to a whole year, depending on your skills as a teacher and your ability to mix & mingle with school staff.  Your interview skills, how you teach, your subject knowledge, how prepared you seem to be and your behaviour management skills are all big factors in landing that dream job in London.

So, how do you survive as a Supply Teacher in London?
Here are some great resources to get you started:
  • TES Forum - My Supply Pack - a discussion thread about what to bring with you in daily supply teaching at various schools (thanks to Ann for pointing it out).
  • A Simple Guide to Supply Teaching in London - my step-by-step guide to help you succeed in primary, secondary and SEN supply teaching.
  • Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians - 110 page ebook written by yours truly, originally for Canadians and I'm still working on the American edition (sorry for my neighbours to the South, I will get it ready for publishing soon I promise!)
  • How to Survive Your Worst Teaching Day -  Because it will happen to you and what will you do?
  • Teachers TV - watch all the videos about daily supply teaching. As of today, there are 117 videos online and free for you to watch about supply teaching in UK schools.  By far, the best way to learn about what it's really like!
What about you?  Any other advice you'd care to share here with our readers?  Any specific issues you would like me to address here?  Don't be shy! Share your thoughts below.

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 11, 2009

The Feedback is Outstanding! Our Teachers in London Rock.

My colleagues in London, who are mostly teachers themselves, have been sending me emails all week to rave about how amazing the Classroom Canada teachers are.  It's a bit of a frantic time for new teachers to London, with work always being a bit slow in the beginning (teachers aren't sick yet, and they aren't out at conferences or courses yet either) so we know it can be a very stressful time. 

But the feedback from my colleagues is that this particular group of teachers have amazing attitudes and are so easy to work with.  Now that's what I like to hear!

I take a lot of pride in preparing teachers to hit the ground running in London, and in placing teachers right in the centre of London, at Oxford Circus, making it easier for them to take jobs anywhere in the city with less travel time.  Their positive attitudes are definitely catching!  It would be easy to panic, complain about London being dirty (sure it is compared to our clean Canadian cities!), and worry about the teaching itself.

This group is awesome!  They head out to the free museums, go to Brighton, go for a run in Regent's Park, anything to keep themselves enjoying London and these free days before the supply teaching & full time jobs take over their lives. They have organized to meet up at the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden to mix & mingle with the other Canadians, not waiting for the agency to organize a social for them.  I am impressed and very, very proud.  This is why I do what I do.

The above video is for Tyson.  Hope ya'all have fun at the Maple Leaf this weekend!

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 9, 2009

Don't Panic! How to Survive September as a Supply Teacher

We have our Fabulous Flexible 15 in London, ready and eager to teach any subject, any time. They're mostly experienced teachers, so they don't have the panic that a first year teacher has, but they're still nervous about teaching in London, England - a new city & country for most of them.

A few have gone out for trial days and weeks for full-time positions (yes!), and plenty are happy to supply teach until the work picks up and they land the job of their dreams. A few even have full-time jobs already. (Our teachers who arrived last year are mostly in full-time jobs, so they're in schools with their new classes excited to start the year.)

The new arrivals know the work is sporadic in September and wanted to give it a go anyway. We know they are amazing teachers, which is why I selected them in the first-place. So what happens now?

Well, I received my first "OMG Victoria! This city is expensive, and school has started and I haven't had a days work yet, so is it just me? Did I do something wrong?" email yesterday. Not in so many words of course, but that's the gist of the email. I get one of these at the start of every year.

So, I send a polite "Please relax, enjoy this free time, do free things in London, and the work will come" email back. It was only the second day of school after all.

Here are my top tips to help you survive as a supply teacher in September:

1. When you start to get that panicked feeling, ask yourself, "Would I be getting any work in ______?" Insert your home city and ta-da. Instant relief. Your friends are back home and not even on the supply lists (which are over-flowing with perfectly capable teachers desperate for work in most parts of Canada).

2. Do free things! The museums in London are free. Hyde Park is free. Camden Market is free. Jogging along the Thames is free...London is filled with amazing free activities.

3. Wake up early, just in case you get work for the day, and when you don't, just go back to bed
and enjoy the luxury of sleeping for a few more hours. Make breakfast at noon. You will miss these lazy mornings soon enough.

4. Remember, it's not you. It's September!

5. When your teacher friends tell you they got work for the day, be happy for them
. Don't immediately ask yourself "Why didn't I get that day?" My colleagues in London get one day and look at a massive list of teachers who are all desperate for that one day of work. It's tough. They ponder, fret, worry and finally make a call. They lose sleep when you don't get work - they really do. So please, please, please don't add more stress to their day by asking if it's you. It's not.

6. Always remember: The work will come.
It always does. London has a shortage of teachers, and that's not changing because of the financial crisis. Schools are tightening their belts, but they will always need good teachers. You're in the best city to be in for picking up teaching work.

7.Don't run around registering with a million and one agencies.
It happens. You get worried, so you think: Okay, well if this agency doesn't have work, then I'll register with a few more to increase my odds.

Why not? Well, it often backfires. For example - we had a trial day for a teacher on Tuesday, all lined up for an amazing job at a school I've personally taught at and would accept in a second. It's an ideal situation. Like I said before, we have plenty of teachers who would love work right now. So, we pick the right teacher (who we will call Teacher A) with experience in that year group, set up the trial day, and then find out that Teacher A has an appointment lined up already.

An appointment - now, that could mean they have a day out teaching with another agency but they don't want to tell us, or it could mean that they are registering that day with another agency and don't want to tell us, or it could mean they genuinely have an appointment that they could cancel but don't want to.

Regardless, we sent Teacher B, who had no appointment, wanted an interview and was ready, eager and more than capable. Teacher A missed a great opportunity. Teacher B is ecstatic.

So, yes, you can increase your odds by signing on with more than one agency, but that lack of loyalty will get you in the end. It always does. Lying doesn't work!!! Just be honest. If you're freaking out and need to sign up with another agency, be honest about your intentions and tell both agencies what you are doing. We don't like it, but we're not stupid.

With Classroom Canada, it's very rare that we ever lose a teacher to another agency, so I'm not worried about it. The truth is that I receive at least one email a day from a teacher who is working with another teaching agency and doesn't like them, and they've heard brilliant things about Classroom Canada and want to switch. The power of word-of-mouth works in our favour and that's just the way I like it. Thanks to all those who spread it - you know who you are! :-)

8. Make new friends. Get to know them, and appreciate that they are in the same boat as you. If you're one of our teachers in London, we have a great network of teachers for you to get to know. Take advantage of that free time & spend time getting to know your new community. These are the people who will travel with you, be your shoulder to cry on, and take you to the pub when you just need a night out.

9. Spend time outdoors in the beautiful autumn weather that will very soon change to rainy-London-winter-blues.

10. Take off! Go to Paris, or Barcelona, or Amsterdam, or Prague...Use that credit card and spend the same money you would spend in London over the weekend in another city in Europe. Sure, it's spending money you don't have (yet), but hey, if you've got the time, why not? You can stay at the cheapest hostels, or even camp-out, buy food to prepare yourself and pinch pennies as you go, but at least you can travel while the work is slow. If you don't get a call on a Friday morning, then you have 3 full days of adventure! Just be back in time for Monday morning in case you do get that important call at 7am.

11. Read, read and read some more. Read blogs about supply teaching, read about the UK curriculum, read about behaviour management and just keep reading. It will only improve your teaching when you do get work.

12. When should you panic? If not now, when? October. If you still don't have a steady stream of work and it's the middle of October, then yes, now you can start to worry. Ask others what you're doing wrong. Ask your consultant if they've had any feedback from schools about your teaching. Go to PD sessions and become a better teacher.

Any other tips you can share to make this time a little easier for supply teachers? Please share your thoughts below!

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 7, 2009

Do Teaching Assistants Make a Difference?

According to Judy Friedberg, of the Guardian,
"Teaching assistants do not boost pupils' progress, though they do help to reduce teachers' stress levels and improve classroom discipline, research shows."
I find it hard to believe that pupils' progress doesn't improve with TA support. This contradicts so much of what we think in our teaching and planning.
"Primary and secondary pupils supported by teaching assistants (TAs) actually make less progress than those of similar ability, class and gender who do not get such assistance, a study by the Institute of Education has found. But the students are less distracted and disruptive, leaving teachers free to work with the rest of the class."

What do you think? Would you agree with this study?

PS) I just found this discussion online in regards to this very issue.

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 4, 2009

Professional Development Workshops for Teachers in London, England

Every year, Classroom Canada and Classroom London join forces to help our new teachers adjust to life in London with a week of professional development sessions. We offer these sessions after the first half-term break, which is when a large group of our teachers arrive in London to start teaching.

Check 'em out!

Monday, November 2nd 2009: Classroom Canada Run With Richard
Richard Gilbey is one of the founders of Classroom Ltd and an all 'round great guy. He's also an avid runner, and often jokes that he'd love to take our teachers on a tour of London with his favourite jogging routes. I finally took him up on the offer and I'm amazed at the positive response from our teachers! I had no idea we had so many joggers in our bunch, or people who are keen to give it a go anyway.

So we're doing a 5km jogging tour near our office in Oxford Circus. You can sign up here if you'd like to join us - all are welcome!

Wednesday November 4th 2009: How to Survive & Succeed With Sophie Walker

Sophie Walker returns to deliver another free workshop for our primary & secondary teachers in London. This workshop will help all new-comers understand the ins and outs of supply teaching in London, with a view to securing long term employment as well. Please read Sophie's bio below.

Seats are limited! Sign up by emailing me (victoria at classroomcanada dot com).

Thursday, November 5th 2009: SEN Survival Tips & Tricks with Sophie Walker

Sophie Walker offers another free workshop for teachers that are keen to work in Special Educational Needs in London. Whether you have experience with SEN or not, this is a great workshop to help you understand all you need to know to succeed in our SEN schools in London.

Seats are limited! Sign up by emailing me (victoria at classroomcanada dot com).

Friday, November 6th 2009: Classroom Canada London Scavenger Hunt
You can't miss this incredible event! It's always a huge hit, and this year will be even bigger and better than last.

We meet at a pub in Central London and I organize the teachers and teaching assistants into small teams of 4 or 5 people. I give them directions and a set of instructions and they have about 2 hours to get as many items checked on the list as possible, all while running around the streets of London of course.

This year, we have Classroom Canada teachers who completed the event last year, so they will be involved as team leaders, or I will handicap them in some way (Three legged race perhaps? Potato sacks? Something equally silly I'm sure).

We also have prizes from Flight Centre, Topdeck and the Canada Shop which are highly coveted by the winning teams. To sign up for this event, please click here.

Anything else you'd like to see on offer this year? Please share your thoughts below!

Sophie Walker's Bio:

We are so pleased that Sophie Walker will be running the workshops again this year.

Sophie Walker came to London for a year nearly ten years ago. She left her native Melbourne where she taught English and Drama at a boys Catholic School, holding the position of Head of the Performing Arts Department for two years.

Sophie left to travel and look for new educational experiences. She started out working in London as a supply teacher, through Classroom, teaching the subjects she was trained in to secondary pupils. Two of her long term placements were a 'fresh start' school in Hammersmith and an about to be 'fresh start' school in Hillingdon.

While doing this she lived on friends floors and for a while moved house once a year!

Sophie has experienced day to day supply and long term positions and has also worked as a Hearing Support Teacher for an inner city Borough. She ran a centre for excluded pupils for two years dealing with a variety of emotional behavioural needs. She also worked for Classroom as a consultant in the SEN Section.

Sophie now works as an Advisory Support Teacher for a London Borough, her focus is supporting pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism and are between the ages of 3 and 7. She has recently started her Masters of Education.

Sophie's wide range of experience means that she is in a great position to pass on a wealth of information about surviving (and enjoying) your first year in London.

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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, September 2, 2009

Blogging for Teachers: Why I Blog and Why You Should Too

I was inspired by Siobhan Curious' piece today to write this particular blog post. Siobhan has been a guest blogger over at Sarah Ebner's School Gate blog and finished the series today with a post about blogging and how it saved her teaching career. I'd like to further the discussion by showing how blogging has saved my recruitment career and my passion for helping teachers move to London.

As far as I know, I'm the only education recruitment consultant (for the UK anyway) who blogs.

I've actually been blogging since 2005, when my friend from teacher's college suggested that I start one to tell my friends and family back home about my experience teaching and living in London, England. In those days, I was really struggling with my teaching career and had just started working as a recruiter for the agency that brought me over (not Classroom). I was trying desperately to make changes to the company, to make it more supportive & successful and kept butting heads every move I made.

I wasn't a particularly positive person and was all 'round having a rough time of things in London, so blogging was my way of venting my frustrations and talking about my personal life. Needless to say, it wasn't a very good idea. I started various blogs anonymously. People I didn't want to read them eventually found them and figured out who I was and it made matters worse. I never wrote about the schools or students, so it mostly just affected my personal life, but it wasn't a whole lot of fun. It didn't help that my personal life was also a big ol' mess at the time.

Anyway, here I am today, writing a blog about teaching in London from a Canadian perspective and I have to say - I love it! I love that I don't have to hide who I am, and that you all actually read this thing! I love that teachers from coast to coast, and in areas that I don't even visit, manage to find this blog and end up eventually teaching with us in London. I love that our American neighbours to the south read it and that I can help them by simply writing. It's the easiest thing to do, and it makes a world of difference. I like to think so anyway!

Siobhan had this to say about blogging for teachers:
I’d recommend blogging to all teachers who want to make sense of their teaching experiences. A blog can be public or private. Even if you write only for yourself, or allow access only to close friends, it provides perspective, much like a diary does: writing about a problem makes it more manageable. If you make your blog public, it can also provide help: if you put some effort into reading others’ blogs and responding to their posts, they will do the same for you.
I couldn't agree more.

We have plenty of teachers who blog and plenty who just read the blogs and leave comments. I highly recommend that teachers blog but... be very careful about how you do it. Is it for therapy like my initial blogs? Or do you blog to help other teachers understand the process you go through? Who is your audience? Parents of your students? They will find your blog. So will your students.

Siobhan Curious uses a fake name, which makes a lot of sense if you want to blog about teaching. If you want to blog about traveling and being a foreign teacher in the UK like some of our teachers do, then you will probably keep your writing fairly safe and not rock too many boats.

I personally use my real name, and post in online forums as me. I know that people will see my name & Classroom Canada and know that I am clearly biased towards my little company. I'd rather that they make that assumption than use a fake name as other recruiters do, but I have been criticized for posting at all. Some people just hate teaching agencies and think we shouldn't post in teacher forums. I disagree, but I've worked for not-so-great agencies before so I get where they're coming from.

Here are some other teacher bloggers that I recommend you check out:

Classroom Canada Teachers Blog - This is a collective blog written by a handful of our teachers and teaching assistants.

Across the Pond - Jodi & Tyson are a teacher/teaching assistant team who just arrived in London last week and have been writing about their process from the beginning. They found my blog & apparently decided to go to London because of it. I love these guys!

Heather in the UK - Heather is one of our teachers in London, and her writing is beautiful. I wish I could write like her and I wish she posted more often, but she is a very busy Canadian teacher traveling all around Europe and teaching in London, so I am just happy she writes at all.

Bryn the Brit - Bryn is a teaching assistant and so much more. She teaches swing dancing and drama and writes about her adventures in this new blog. Please encourage her by leaving comments!

Just Take Me Where I've Never Been Before - Erika is in her second year of teaching in London and I'm so happy that she's finally started her own blog to tell her tales. She's a fabulous writer and has a very witty style. In her own words: "Everyone who reads this should know that I am in London for my second year of teaching and exploration. This will not be a documentation of my adjusting to life in the UK. I've done that already." I love this and really hope she doesn't mind me posting it here.

Get an Eyepatch Man - Amie and Morgan just arrived in London and love food more than anyone else I know. I love food, so I really love this blog. They seem to be writing mostly for family & friends, but since they haven't made it a closed audience, and I think they're brilliant, I am sharing it with you. Hope that's okay with them!

Where is Kirbie? Kirbie is a teacher from New Brunswick who will soon be moving to London. She writes about the whole process of moving to the UK and has a clear writing style that I really enjoy. I can't wait to read the posts she writes when she eventually gets to London!

There are a tonne of other blogs that I read, but this is a good list of Canadian teachers in London anyway. Please check them out, leave comments and encourage them along. If you'd like to start a blog yourself, check out "How to Write a Teacher Blog."

What do you think? Do you blog or just read blogs? Please share your thoughts below!

To become part of the Classroom Canada team, 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.


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