We've sent hundreds of teachers to London, UK over these past 4 years and I feel like my colleague and I have the best jobs in the world - meeting and recruiting fabulous, dedicated, energetic teachers like Cheryl who is interviewed below for our "Coffee Time" series.
So sit back, grab a latte and enjoy reading about life as a Canadian teacher in London, UK:
University: University of Victoria
Subjects: English, Primary Education PDPP
Ages you teach: Mainly primary
How long have you been teaching in London?
Just over seven months.
What do you teach?
Since moving to London I have taught everything from Nursery to Secondary SEN. In January I began a tutoring position with a Primary SEN student.
Why did you choose to work with Classroom Canada?
I knew going into my education degree that I wanted to travel, and England was definitely somewhere I was interested in moving to. When I found out about Classroom Canada I was very impressed by how informative and helpful they were. After meeting with them I felt so excited about the prospect of moving to London, and comfortable planning my move knowing that Classroom Canada was there if I had any questions.
What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
Everything about teaching in London was an adjustment, but I expected it. I was a brand new teacher coming over here and being a new teacher starting off with supply work in London is not an easy feat! But, after a few days, you realize you really can do it. Yes, there are challenging behaviours and classroom management situations, but there are also days where you can't believe you're getting paid to be there because you're having so much fun. You can only take each day as it comes and try to learn from your experiences, good and bad.
Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
Well... I get up, make coffee, get ready, and give myself about an hour to get to work by train. The one to one tuition that I am currently doing runs from 10:00-3:00 and I get back to my neighbourhood around 4:30. The hours are pretty great! In the evening I usually do some planning, hang out with friends, play soccer, or just relax. Now that it's summer there's more time to get outside in the evenings and go for a walk or lounge in the park, or even head to the pub to have a pint on the patio.
What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?
That if you are patient, easy-going, love to travel, and are open to various teaching placements, you should definitely consider moving here. There is so much to do, so many opportunities to travel, and so much fun to be had. And your teaching experiences will be many things but mainly.. unforgettable!
Describe the funniest thing that's happened to you in your year so far:
One of the best things about working with kids is that you're pretty much guaranteed to have something hilarious happen every day. But one story sticks out as being the funniest - and I like it because I remember at the time being a tad stressed about the situation. Sure enough, soon after it just became very humourous! So, here it is:
I was supply teaching in a year 2 class right before the Christmas break, and was told I had two afternoons to teach the class to sing some obscure Christmas song I had never heard of. The song wasn't even on Youtube! The only way I could figure out the tune (the kids had no clue how the song went either) was to ask for a keyboard and try to play the basic tune on it. Well, I hadn't touched a keyboard in over ten years, so that was laughable in itself. It was even more laughable when I tried to play it for the kids, as well as sing along, and they looked at me like I was a crazy person. Some of them even offered to play the tune on the keyboard for me (I'm sure they could have done much better... but that would have just invited more chaos!)
So, I kept at it and, after a couple crazy but hilarious afternoons, actually managed to teach them the song. Needless to say I lost my voice at the end of the second day.... (Months later I taught at that same school and some of the kids from that class came up to say "hi" at playtime. I asked them how their performance of the song went and they just laughed and said, "It was... umm, good, Miss." Well, I tried! Haha.)
Describe the worst thing:
One of the worst days that I've had actually, by the end, turned out to be one of the best. It was near the beginning of my time in London and I was working as a T.A. for the day. When I arrived, I was given 6 students and told to take them into a separate room and give them a math test.
Well... the math test didn't exactly happen as planned. Within 10 minutes there was about to be a fight breaking out between two pint-sized boys and all I could think as I tried to intercept was, "you two are so adorable, what are you DOING?!?" Well, one of the boys ran out of the room and ran, literally, right into a head teacher. I was left with the rest of the group, who had taken a liking to throwing/karate chopping pencils.
Eventually the chaos died down and we got the tests done (but not without many pencil casualties.) This was the first hour of a very interesting day! But, by the end of the day, I had worked with one of these children quite a lot, and was starting to make some progress. When they were lined-up for home time, he looked up at me and said sincerely, "Thank you for teaching me, Miss." His teacher looked at him in surprise, as if he had never uttered a polite word before. And that's what it's all about; it's those extremely difficult days that often turn out to be the most rewarding. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment. I went back to the school the next two days as well, and each day got better!
What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?
Classroom Canada was so helpful in getting me over to London successfully - helping to find a place to live, work, and a great network of other Canadian teachers. When I met with Classroom UK, they were really friendly and helpful as well. It took a little while to get full-time supply, but it started to pick up after a month or so. Now I have a long-term job that I really love.
There is a chance that work may be slow for the first little while (it may not be, I have friends who haven't missed a day of work since they arrived, it just depends when you arrive and what is available.) Be patient, be open to different opportunities, and it will all work out.
What qualities do you have that make your teaching in London enjoyable?
As I said before, copious amounts of patience is key (but we're teachers, so we're all the patient sort anyway!) Also, I'm pretty easy-going and flexible which has helped me deal with the ups and downs of teaching in London. Most of all, I just love an adventure - and that's exactly what this experience has been!
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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