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