Monday, June 25, 2012

Pros and Cons to Teaching in London from a Canadian Perspective

It's almost Classroom Canada's 5th birthday. I can't believe I've been recruiting teachers to London for that long with this one little agency that could. I am very, very proud of the teachers that have rocked their experiences over the last 5 years and ridiculously excited for the next 5 years.

So, let's look at the Pros and Cons to Teaching in London from a Canadian Perspective:

Pros to Teaching in London:
  1. There are jobs in London.  Let's face it - the Canadian teacher job market has been really tough over the past 5 years (and longer!). We keep hearing that we shouldn't worry because the older teachers will eventually retire and the schools will have a massive need for new teachers, but that simply hasn't happened.  So what's a new teacher to do?  Look for jobs abroad.  London has been a 1st class destination for plenty of Canadian teachers looking for work.
  2. London is a gateway to world travel.  Geographically speaking, it's easier to travel the world from London than anywhere else.  You can head to Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam...even Kenya and Thailand are easier to travel to from London than from anywhere in Canada.
  3. The holidays allow for plenty of travel.  The school holidays are a bit different than in Canada which really works in our favour. Every 6-8 weeks teachers get either one week off, or two weeks off plus 6 weeks in summer.  It's like having Spring Break every couple of months! So for a world traveller, those holidays make everything else worth it.
  4. It's cheap to travel Europe. I personally visited Barcelona, Amsterdam, Vienna (5 times in 3 years!), Paris, Brugges, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Brighton, Cornwall, Oxford. I'm sure I am missing a few in that list!  I went to Barcelona on a RyanAir flight that cost me 1 pence. No joke. With taxes, it was about 30 GBP return flight, and with a hostel that cost about 15 GBP/night  I'd say that was one of the more affordable vacations I've ever had.
  5. You teach with other foreigners. London is an incredibly diverse city, and the schools are no different. The students are from everywhere, as are the teachers.  The experience teachers gain simply by working with people from around the world is something you just can't get anywhere else.
  6. London is a fun city to live in. Now, you'll either love it or hate it. There's no in-between with London.  I love it. Most of our teachers love it and those that don't leave.  It's busy, it's dirty, it's crowded, it's fast, it has a million things to offer you. You can't be bored in London unless you hide in your flat and never leave the house. But then, why go?
  7. You can make a living with supply teaching or full-time teaching. Some teachers prefer to work in a variety of schools with all age groups, and some prefer their own classrooms. Now, in Canada, teachers don't really have a choice what they get to do. They take what they can get (after volunteering for a few years!). But in London, most teachers start in daily supply teaching to get their feet on the ground with the London system and then try for full-time jobs. Some of us choose to stay in supply teaching. I've done both.  I learned that I prefer day to day, as I finish the day earlier & can focus my free time on other things in life besides teaching.  But everyone's different and you have to do what works for you.  The point is this: you have the choice in London (Of course this is only if you're a good teacher! Bad teachers don't get much of a choice here...).
  8. You'll learn how to manage a classroom.  If you've done any research at all into teaching in London, you'll know that the behaviours are tough.  There's no point glossing over this. Just read the Coffee Time Interviews with our teachers to see that 99% of them talk about behaviour management.  So the pro here?  You will be able to confidently teach anywhere after teaching in London for a couple of years.  Tough students? No problem! You GOT this.
  9. You can expand on your teaching abilities. If you're a primary or secondary trained teacher, but have an interest in teaching students with Special Educational Needs, then you can sign up to be a SEN teacher even without a university degree in SEN. In Canada, you would need a Masters in SEN, or at least the extra course work to prove you can work with Special Needs.  In London, the schools are more interested in your experience than your training with SEN, so if you would like to make the switch to SEN teaching, you can.
  10. You can still come home at Christmas or for Summer Holidays. London's not far enough away to miss the big events at home, and it's pretty affordable to fly home when you want to. Plus, the holidays fall around when ours do in Canada with 2 weeks at Christmas, and 6 weeks in July & August. So if you want to jump in that cottage lake over the summer, you still can.
Cons to Teaching in London
  1. You need to arrive with enough money to survive! I always compare it to moving to Vancouver from Toronto, or Halifax to Nunavut. You can't arrive without any savings! You'll be far too stressed about paying your rent, affording to take the underground, getting enough supply teaching days.  Arrive with enough savings and you'll be fine.  How much is enough? Well, that depends on you. I advise 3000-5000 GBP but if you're a shopper or a partier, you'll need a lot more! And if you're great with your money and an outstanding teacher that can walk into any classroom and knock it out of the park, then you might arrive with less.
  2. You need to hit the ground running.  Canadians make great teachers for London schools, but we often need a few months to settle into the system. We tend to ask a LOT of questions. It's part of our culture to ask when we're not sure, and that can make us seem too insecure at first.  Now, there's a fine balance between confidence & "fake it til you make it."  Do your research, be as confident as you can, and have fun with it.  But show your insecurities as a teacher and those students will eat you up!
  3.  Everyone will tell you that London is too expensive. In actual fact, Vancouver and Toronto are more expensive than London right now, but because London used to be the world's most expensive city that reputation still lingers.  It's certainly not cheap, but ... it's no longer the world's most expensive city either. Do your research before listening to the naysayers.
  4. The behaviours are tough.  You'll notice that I put this as a Pro (see #8 above) as well. All depends on how you look at it.
What am I missing? Do you have some pros & cons to teaching in London from a Canadian perspective that you'd love to share? Please share below!

Monday, June 18, 2012

3 Strategies for Better Classroom Management by Guest Blogger, Denise Durkin

I am excited to have Denise here today to share her insights into better behaviour management strategies. 

Over to Denise...

3 Strategies For Better Classroom Managment 

By Denise Durkin, M.A., Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
Classroom management, like most forms of management, has a lot to do with relationships.  There’s the obvious relationship between the teacher and the students, but it’s also important to think about the relationships going on within a child – how his different needs interrelate, and how the balance or imbalance of these needs affect his emotions, behavior and learning.
Here are 3 strategies for targeting some of these needs your students have to be sure they are in balance so they can happily focus on learning.

1.       Make Emotional Connections – Want more respect and compliance? Making emotional connections with your students creates bond that helps them feel cared for, liked, and validated.  Students need this to be more inclined to listen and work with you behaviorally in the classroom.  When you can, connect one-to-one with your students and ask about their interests or what they might be thinking and feeling about a particular activity or lesson.  Use warmth, humor and appropriate personal story telling to show students your more “human” side, and ask them to share their own stories.  Doing this in context with a lesson makes the lesson more relative to them so they’ll remember it better, and, deepens this connection between you.

Note: an important perk is that when you include self-reflective questions for students to answer as part of this process, it beefs up their social-emotional development. 

2.       Give Your Students Control When You Can, and Target Their Physical and Creative Needs – When all control is taken from them, when they are uninspired and fidgety, students can act out. Be sure to rotate activities to keep students feeling interested and balanced, and allow them to make decisions as often as you can.  A few  examples:

a)      Depending on your school’s structure, aim to alternate teacher-directed activities with student-directed activities (meaning the students choose them) throughout the day, and/or as related to learning pathways in a single lesson.

b)      Target students’ physical and creative needs by alternating “contractive”, focused, quiet, seated activities with “expansive”, creative arts-based, social, and/or gross motor activities whenever possible.

c)       Research and implement one or more Service-Learning Projects your students choose. Service Learning Projects make lessons fun, create vital connections between students and their community, and deepen their intellectual, creative and physical learning by putting new skills to actual real-world situations.  Community service learning projects are great for building empathy, compassion and social awareness.

 3.       Be The Balance You Wish For Your Students – As a teacher, you are shaping your students’ development on many levels.  If they do not have strong socially-emotionally balanced role models in their lives, they will often look to their teachers for this kind of role model.  Your students pick up on your attitudes and energy, and learn to emulate the way you perceive and relate to others/them. When you present yourself in the most balanced way as someone who likes them, shows them respect, and supports their holistic individuality while balancing kindness with clear, firm boundaries, your students will respond to you with respect and compliance because they feel emotionally safe. Their emotional safety and internal balance is at the heart of respectful relationships and good behavior.

For more information and to ask Denise a question regarding children’s self-regulation, please visit 
Thanks Denise!  I'm curious what our readers think about these strategies, and in particular - do you think they work in inner city schools in London?  What strategies do you use in the classroom?

Monday, June 11, 2012

5 Tips & Tricks on How to Rock a Video Interview for Teaching Jobs Abroad

There's no doubt about it - interviewing for teaching jobs overseas can be very stressful. You're worried about each answer, and you might not even be certain that you want to teach overseas. The more teaching experience you have, the more interviews you've gone through, the easier it gets.

We've recently introduced video interviewing for our teachers, so that they can interview for teaching jobs in London from anywhere in the world.  Most of these teachers are still in Canada or the US, about to head to London for the new academic year, but some of the teachers are already teaching overseas, in places like China, Korea and Australia. 

The video interviews are especially useful for teachers who have to deal with time zone differences, and want to interview in their own time from the comfort of their homes. We also send these interviews directly to Head Teachers & Principals that are looking for teachers for the next academic term, which saves the schools travel costs & valuable time.

Now that a handful of teachers have already done their first video interviews, I can offer you some tips & tricks for knocking your video interview out of the park.  You have one chance to impress, just like you do in an in-person interview, but there are a few things that are different in a video interview.

Tips & Tricks on How to Rock a Video Interview for Teaching Jobs Abroad
  1. Dress to impress. Dress as you would for an in person interview, and make sure the background is clean & professional.  One male teacher did his interview with a shirt & tie, and had his diplomas on the wall behind him. A great example of what to do!
  2. Keep your answers short & succinct.  In person, you're given social cues during an interview where the person interviewing you nods their head, says "yes" or "I see" so you can tell when you've answered the question. But in a video interview, those cues are not there. So you have to determine if you've answered their question.  It's best to keep your answer short & to the point, use one example to illustrate the point and finish it in less than 1 minute if you can. Some questions ask for more detail (like "Describe a successful lesson you have given & why it was so successful"), but most can be answered in 30 seconds to a minute. 
  3. You only get one shot to answer the question & can not press "stop & re-record." Just like in person.  Try to practice doing a teaching interview with friends & family so you're ready for any question that gets thrown your way in a video interview, just like you would for an in person interview.
  4. Try to use the local terms. For example, in Canada we say "grades", but in the UK, they say "years."  We say primary/junior, the British say 'Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2."  We say "math," they say "maths."  When you're interviewing for a teaching job in London and you're not there yet, it will feel awkward to use their words at first. So practice this with a friend (ideally someone from England who can correct you when you use Canadian words as opposed to British!). 
  5. Check your spelling & grammar for the essay. We ask one essay question that you can answer in the length of time you need, so there's no reason to submit anything less than the best possible answer.  What we are checking is how professional your written communication is, and what your beliefs are around inner city teaching. Make sure you double and triple check your spelling & grammar so you give the best possible impression.
Here are the video interview links so you can get started whenever you're ready:

Primary Teaching Interview
Secondary Teaching Interview
Special Educational Needs Interview

Follow the tips & tricks above, and let me know what you think of the process when you're done. I'm really excited about this new software, but I also wonder if there are some teachers who will prefer in person or phone interviews instead?  Please share your thoughts below!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Video Interviews for Teaching Jobs in London, England

I’m really excited to say that we’re trying a new technique to help the Canadian teachers get hired by schools in London with video interview software.  We’re the first ones to try this & I think it’s going to help our teachers get hired into long term jobs while they are still in Canada – which I know a lot of teachers would love!

All you have to do is take an interview while sitting in front of your webcam (ipad, PC, Mac...) as if you were in front of the Principal.

You can do it in your own time between now and June 15th.  We will be trying this same interview technique with all applicants so if you have already been selected to teach with us don’t stress at all!  It’s just one extra tool to help get your foot in the door of our schools in London.

Here are the interview links:

I recommend that you give yourself an hour, dress as you would for an in person interview, and make sure your webcam & microphone are working well. I have to use my headset as my PC has pretty awful sound on its own, so do test your sound out first.  The software should walk you through the process.

You have until June 15th to do the interview for jobs that start in September 2012, so be sure to set aside one hour and really go for it!  You will upload your resume and we'll be in touch within 7 days of watching your interview. We'll check your references in that time too.

If you are selected to teach with us, then we'll start contacting schools right away to give them the link to watch your interview in their own time. 

Let me know if you have any questions at all.  I'm also curious what your thoughts are about this new approach to interviewing. Does it make you feel more comfortable or less at ease? Are you excited or scared? Please do let me know your thoughts. Thanks & good luck!

PS) The sooner you get your interview done the sooner I can send it out to schools. Right now, they know what vacancies they have for September so it’s a prime time to get your interview in front of their faces. No pressure of course, but the sooner the better! J


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