Monday, June 7, 2010

Coffee Time with Classroom Canada - Sam from Vancouver

Name: Samantha Ghoukassian
University: Simon Fraser University
Subjects: English, Learning Disabilities
Ages You Teach: Key Stage 1 (Elementary trained teacher)

How long have you been teaching in London?
I have been teaching in London for 9 months.
What do you teach?
I teach a year 1 class (which is grade 1 in Canada).
Why did you choose to work with Classroom Canada?
A friend who graduated from the teaching program with me had been teaching in England and loved it. She had nothing but good things to say about her experience with Classroom Canada and she gave me Victoria’s name and number and forwarded the website to me. I figured if she had a good experience, then I would too.
What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
The biggest adjustment for me was the amount of paperwork that is required in London. I meet with the year group at least once a week, after school for 2 hours. I also meet for professional development trainings with the rest of the school, once a week for two hours. We have ongoing pupil assessments to write and currently, I am working on end of year reports. Hey, I don’t complain though, since I signed up for teaching after all. I figure you have to take the good with the bad. Luckily, it is mostly good!
Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
Get up and run out the door, with cereal bar in hand, and catch the central line and then, district line all the way to Becontree Station. Start the morning with Reading and Spelling Workshop and Maths. The afternoons are filled with the ‘other’ subjects’ which are called the ‘creative curriculum’ here. After school is done, there are meetings till 5:30, at least twice a week. Off home, pop in Tesco to pick up some groceries. Then, rest and relax for an hour…ending the evening with my PUSH to get myself to go to the gym. The weekends are full of fun trips to the colourful markets of Portobello, Camden, Brick lane and Spitalfields, as well as enjoying the fabulous parks and pubs. There is always something to do.
What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?
Get ready to push and squeeze on the underground and try not to get too uptight about it. With 61 million inhabitants on such a small island, people congestion comes with the territory. Make the most of your time here; see places, both local and “on the continent” as they say here. Just this year, I have been to Berlin, Stockholm, Madrid and Paris as well as various U.K sights. So, put some money aside for travelling because this is the time to do it. Finally, find the balance between work and life. Work is important, but to be good at your job, you need to be healthy and balanced, socially and culturally.
Describe the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your year so far:
A funny experience happened recently when a kid in class, whose name is Allagie (pronounced Allergy), finally decided after 2 years of school that he didn’t want to be called that anymore. “Miss”, he said. “My mum calls me Al- lag-ie. So after two years at school, all the children had to change the way they said his name. This was funny for quite a while, especially when a kid named Jamie asked me if he could change his name as well. So I called him Jammy. The rest of the kids thought this was hilarious!
Describe the worst thing:
I think the worst thing that happened was whilst I was supply teaching. After a day with year 5 students, I was fed up. The behaviour was abysmal and the work produced was not much better. I was so exhausted my head felt like it was going to explode. After school, the regular classroom teacher asked me to stay and mark a ton of work. Far more than was reasonable. I stayed 2 more hours. There were so many crosses, I thought I was playing Tic Tac Toe. This kind of scenario happens to everyone at least once. I like to think of it as character building.
What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?
Classroom Canada found me a full-time job within three months of being in the U.K. I am currently in this position till the end of the year. Also, they are the only Canadian agency so they enabled me to stay in touch with other Canadians. I especially enjoyed the annual scavenger hunt (I was on the winning team! Yea!)
What qualities do you have that make your stay in London more enjoyable?

I like to make new friends, visit new places and learn something new every day. So, at the moment I am having a great career enhancing adventure and I am happy that I came.
Thanks so much Sam!  I especially liked your point about having a work-life balance and that the best teachers have a balanced life. 

To apply for a teaching position this autumn, just email your CV and cover letter to apply AT classroomcanada DOT com.

Resources for Teaching in London
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

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