Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with Victoria Westcott about Teaching in London, Movie Making and Entrepreneurship

"It's the hardest work I've ever done in my life, the most risky and yet, completely exhilarating."


The good folks at mo.com just did an interview with me about being an entrepreneur, Classroom Canada and movie making in my spare time.  Check it out here and if you like it, please leave comments & vote for it.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Get Health Care When You Move to the United Kingdom

I answer this question almost every day:
“Victoria, what do I do about health care when I move to the United Kingdom?”
And my answer is always,
“Nothing.”
Well, okay, it’s a little bit more complicated than nothing, but compared to everything else you have to do to move to the UK, like get a visa, a UK bank account, and get a flight, you would think that health care would be just as hard right?

Well, this is one of those rare things that are actually really easy to deal with when you move to the UK. See, you will be paying tax in the UK when you move there. You aren’t double taxed by Canada and the UK, nor by America and the UK. So, you pay taxes in the UK when you work there and not at “home.”

Since you’re paying UK taxes, you’re entitled to UK health care. It’s called the NHS, which stands for National Health Service. Here’s the step-by-step:
  1. Once you have an address, you can look at www.nhs.co.uk and look for your nearest doctor and dentist by typing in your postal code.
  2. Call the doctor nearest to you that is accepting patients. Get an appointment to register for the doctor.
  3. Go to your appointment.
  4. When you get sick, go to the doctor. Easy-peasy. Birth Control is free, and prescriptions cost 6 pounds each.
  5. If you get sick between your arrival and getting an address & doctor then you can go to the hospital and they will treat you there.
  6. When you leave the UK, you do need to get health insurance for your travels. So, if you plan to spend a weekend in Paris, don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip, which you can purchase within the UK from a hundred different agents. You can also purchase insurance from the USA or Canada, but be prepared to spend more if you do that.
That’s it, that’s all!
Any other questions or advice to share about moving to the UK? Please share your thoughts below!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Revisiting My Favourite Coffee Time Interviews: Coffee Time with Maggie

If you look at the top of this site, you will see our Testimonials Page, in which we have a collection of interviews with our teachers.  We ask the same questions of all of the teachers in London, and are always so excited by their responses.

This interview with yet another one of our fabulous Canadian teachers in London had me laughing and cringing at the same time. I'm sure you will too when you reach the Purell part. Read on my friends, read on...

Name: Maggie Liu
University: University of British Columbia
Subjects: Physical Education and Social Studies
Ages You Teach: I have primarily taught Key Stage 3 and 4 (Secondary) but I have also taught Key Stage 1 and 2 (primary)

1. How long have you been teaching in London?
I've been in London since October 2009.
2. What do you teach?
I have supplied for Key Stage 1-4 (Primary and Secondary Levels), but I am currently teaching a year five Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) class.
3. Why did you chose to work with Classroom Canada?
In Vancouver, I met a few teachers who had already worked for Classroom Canada and their genuine and positive feedback about their entire work and life experience in London reassured me that Classroom would be able to provide me with the support I needed to make the big leap.
4. What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
Grasping the numeracy and literacy curriculum, learning how to plan for a Special Needs class and carrying out assessments for pupils in a SEN class. Apart from that, repeating "good sitting" and signing "sad" for when one of my pupils hits another child in the class.
5. Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
The weekends are what London is all about (for me, at least):
  • Wake up between 9-10a.m. and relax with a cup of tea and breakfast.
  • Consult my 1000 Things to Do in London book to plan out my day.
  • Visit the local produce market stalls down the street for an assortment of one pounds bowls of fruits and vegetables.
  • Accomplish Part 1 on the To Do in London List
  • Eat lunch at a food market (option 1: three moroccan curries and couscous; option 2: seafood and chorizo paella; option 3: freshly melted emmental cheese on boiled potatoes)
  • Accomplish Part 2 on the To Do In London List
  • End the day with cooking a recipe from my Jamie Oliver cookbook and relaxing with the flat mate or meet up with fellow Classroom Canada teachers at a pub.
6. What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?
Make Goals. Plan to accomplish at least 1-2 things each week. Don't let yourself fall into feeling like you're not taking advantage of living in this great city. Believe me, it can and will happen!
7. Describe the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your year so far:
Refer to the next Q & A...
8. Describe the worst thing:
Having a pupil's saliva flicked from five feet away landing in my mouth. How do you Purell that?
You just have to laugh when things like that happen.
9. What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?
I felt comfortable letting Classroom know if I was concerned about the amount of work I was getting and they were very receptive to me being so honest. The staff genuinely care for their employees' best interests. The consultants are dedicated to following up with requests, inquiries, concerns and even just to ask how your first day went at a new school.
10. What qualities do you have that make your stay in London more enjoyable?
Knack for discovery (with the help of my 1000 Things to Do in London book). I'm a child in a new playground, but instead of hours of self-directed entertainment, I have months!
Thanks for sharing Maggie. Good luck finding a Purell product that will clean a student's saliva from your mouth (ew...and yet, so funny!).

Resources for Teaching in London
Classroom Canada
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Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Monday, February 13, 2012

How Teachers Can Get Free Gift Cards to Amazon, Starbucks & Paypal


Teachers in London save money by being smart about their purchases, using sites like Groupon for entertainment deals, and booking flights through discount airlines like RyanAir.  Now they have Swagbucks - an easy way to collect points for doing things you do online anyway (like searching & watching videos). 

In just 2 weeks, I've already accumulated enough to trade my points in for a $25 gift card to Amazon, without doing anything differently than I normally would.  To be fair, I spend an awful lot of time online - much more than a typical teacher would, but even if you don't spend that much time online you should be able to accumulate enough points for a gift card eventually.  You can also just trade in your points for a paypal payment, although your points go further with a gift card to Amazon or Starbucks.  And if you love things like trading cards (Really? Do people still collect baseball cards?), then take a look at the swagstore & you'll see plenty of things to strike your fancy.

I'm a big fan of getting stuff for free.  If you are too, then sign up here.  I'm planning on saving up enough points to give at least one gift card to a charity at Christmas.  By then I should have a few hundred dollars worth of Amazon cards, which will go a long way to buying books for schools.  Of course, I'll probably buy myself a few books too. 

By the way, Swagbucks works in the UK, the USA and Canada.

Resources for Teaching in London
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Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Foreign Teachers Can Decorate Their British Classrooms

 
Here are my top tips & tricks to decorating your UK classroom:

1. ASK! Ask your team teacher, or leader, or Head of Department. It is very likely that your school has policies in place for how you should decorate your classroom and you should follow those.

I made the mistake of going in all gung-ho to my first UK classroom and spent weeks before planning, cutting, arranging and all 'round getting ready. Then school opened and I quickly learned that all my hard work was for nothing. My school already knew how they wanted their classrooms organized, and I should have waited to find that out. So, be patient, lay low, and wait. Then ask.

2. Bring some Canadian or American displays to show off where you come from. It's more than likely that your new class is completely unaware of your country. So, for Canadians, that means they will assume you're American, or even Australian, New Zealander or South African because they see more of those nationalities teaching in their school.

For Americans, I'd focus on the people and how there are so many different types of Americans. They don't usually know that! It helps the students to see that America isn't just a white/black country and there are many languages spoken, just like London itself.

3. You can assume that you will have a Book Corner. How will you decorate this corner? What you teach will make a difference. I teach primary, so here's my example:

I decided to make mine a football pitch theme, and stapled astroturf to the wall. I made soccer balls and hung them from the ceiling. Each time a student finished a book, I gave them a piece for a 3-D soccer ball that they would eventually make into their very own soccer ball to hang from the display. They loved it and I liked that math, physical education and literacy were all linked together. On each blank section, they would write the book name & author. So in the end, their soccer balls showed what they finished and helped motivate them to read more.

You don't have to put this much work into it! Be creative & have fun with it. It's your reading/resource corner so make it your own.

4. Don't assume you will have a teacher desk. In fact, many Head Teachers (aka Principals) are anti-teacher-desk. They think it means you will spend your teaching time sitting at your desk, when you should be moving around the classroom interacting with the students. But you do need a place to store your things. Work around it, and find somewhere in your classroom where you can find your plans, assessments, calendars, etc. Your plans need to be on display for the Head to find, as well as cover teachers and your team teachers and teaching assistants. So don't lock them away!

5. Your students need to find their things easily, quickly & quietly. For primary, the students usually have little buckets, or cubbies. But at their desks, they won't have much in terms of storage for pens, pencils, rulers etc. It's not like Canada! They don't bring their own supplies, so you have to have a place where they can find these things.

Most teachers use small containers on each table group where they keep pencils, rubbers (aka erasers) and rulers. BUT if you have a tough time with behaviour management, and your class is particularly unruly, don't assume that they will take care of these supplies.

I gave my students their own pencil sharpeners, and assumed that they would understand when to sharpen their pencils (they were in Year 5 and ten years old). They sharpened them into tiny little stubs and I had to run and ask for more. I was horrified when I was told that it was my responsibility to make sure they didn't ruin the pencils and my class could have no more. How embarrassing! They also ripped the rubbers into little bits and every time my back was turned they had these things flying around the room. The other teachers just took away the rubbers and didn't allow them in their rooms at all.

See what I mean? It's not Canada! So, you need to think this through. How will they sharpen their pencils? Will you label each pencil with the student's names? My Head Teacher suggested I do this.

How will you determine what the tables are called? For math, you might want to label the tables "squares, triangles, circles" etc and then label your containers accordingly. For literacy tables, you can call them "question marks, full stops (aka periods), exclamation marks..." and label the tables just like you did with maths.

For secondary, hopefully you won't need to micro-manage to this extent! But again, they won't have pencils & pens (although they should at this point) so you need a good stock that you can keep track of. Know how many you give out and how many get handed back in.

For me, this is the kind of stuff that I am really bad at. So, if you're like me, take the time this summer to find other teachers who are the opposite and ask them what to do. The micro-managers do these things naturally and their lives are made much easier when schools starts because of it! So just ask, and if you think it's too silly or too much, do it.

6. Hang pictures of home. When you're having a horrible day, there's nothing better than looking up and seeing your loved ones staring out at you, reminding you that you are loved and you are a dang good teacher. Don't forget it!

That's all I can think of for now. What about you? Any other advice for our readers who are about to teach in London? Please share below!
 
Resources for Teaching in London
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Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Monday, February 6, 2012

12 Typical Interview Questions for Teaching Jobs in London, England Or Anywhere Else Overseas


Teaching in London will present a different set of challenges than you are likely used to "back home". Your interview with a school or with a teaching agency will likely focus on this adjustment at least a little bit.

Here are some typical interview questions for teaching in London, England:
  1. Why do you want to teach in London?
  2. Tell me about your teaching so far.
  3. What were the students like (socio-economics) and what kind of schools (private, public, rural, inner city, small, large, etc) have you worked in?
  4. What are you ideally looking for (long term, short term, daily supply, subject/age specifics)?
  5. If I were to call another teacher that you worked closely with, what do you think they'd say about you?
  6. Why did you leave your last school?
  7. What involvement have you had in extracurricular activities?
  8. How do you ensure that all students are actively involved in their learning?
  9. What experience have you had with IEP's (Individual Education Plans)?
  10. What experience have you had with students with Special Needs in general or EAL (English as Additional Language) learners?
  11. Describe a successful lesson you have recently given. Why was it so successful?
  12. Walk me through your classroom. What does it look like?
The person interviewing you is trying to get a good sense of your experience, who you are as a teacher, how well you interview and where they can best try to place you at a school.

The best way to prepare for an interview for teaching in London is to actually sit down and write down your answers beforehand. Now that you know these typical questions, you should be off to a better start than most others anyway.

Also, dress as you would in any other interview, and don't eat food during the interview. Sadly, I've had people show up in their sweat pants (and no, they're not gym teachers) and eating muffins. This does not give the best first impression. If you are a professional teacher, then dress and speak like one. I also think it helps to dress professionally even if your interview is on the phone as it gets you into a professional teacher mind-set. 

An interview with a Recruitment Consultant is very similar to an interview with a school, so use that interview as a good trial run for the real thing. It might be a bit more casual to make you feel more comfortable, but that should help you rather than hinder you.

If you know of any other great interview questions, please add them in the comments section.
Resources for Teaching in London
Classroom Canada
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Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pros and Cons to Teaching in London, England


I wrote this post a few years ago, but it still comes up as one of the most popular posts from this blog, so here it is again.

I heard today that the people who write lists are happier than people who don't. I have no proof of this, but hey, I'll go with it.

I'm writing a book called Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians and it's absorbing every bit of creative energy that I have. So, writing a list makes sense to me today.

I answer this question almost every day: "Why do Canadian teachers want to teach in London?" So, here is the answer in a handy little list.


Pros to Teaching in London, England

  1. You will make new friends from around the world
  2. You'll work and live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world
  3. You earn pounds rather than dollars (so double your earnings!)
  4. You can start your teaching career or advance your career
  5. International experience looks good on your resume
  6. Inner city school experience looks even better on your resume
  7. You will have a social life outside of teaching
  8. Travel Europe during your 13 weeks of holiday/year
  9. Travel Africa (it's much closer to England than it is to Canada!)
  10. Speak with an “accent”
  11. There's so much to do in your free time (museums, art galleries, parks, pubs, events, music...)
  12. If you want to teach in inner city Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver or any other major Canadian city, then your resume will speak volumes.
Cons to teaching in London:
  1. Money will be tight when you first arrive (Canadian to pound exchange rate)
  2. You'll be away from your support network (friends, family)
  3. You won't know for certain what your job will be until you arrive
  4. You will likely have to supply teach before you get a full-time contract (this is also a pro depending on how you see it)
  5. The teaching itself is challenging, especially in your first year (the behaviours are more challenging than you would be used to in Canada in general)
  6. Everyone will tell you that London is too expensive (everyone but teachers that are actually living there that is!)
Resources for Teaching in London
Classroom Canada
website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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