Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Interview with a Canadian Teacher Working in London, England

Time for Another Coffee Time Interview!  Thanks to Dusan for telling us what it's really like to teach in London from a Canadian perspective.

Dusan Sekulic, Canadian Teacher in London, UK

Name: Dusan Sekulic
University: University of Toronto and Medaille
Subjects: English, History and ESL
Ages You Teach: 11-18

1. How long have you been teaching in London?
I have been teaching in London since October 2012 and loving every minute of it.

2.What do you teach?
I teach predominantly English, History and ESL. However, when I first started supply work in London, I was teaching a who's who collection of different subjects. From Geography to P.E., Science, Chemistry, even Music and French. It's been interesting, to say the least.

3.Why did you chose to work with Classroom Canada?
Several reasons. First, it was Canadian based, unlike a lot of the other agencies that are centred here in the UK. They understand a Canadian teacher's needs, background of education and are easily able to accommodate your transition from the Canadian classroom to the UK one (ie. curriculum, certain terminology, what to expect classroom management wise).

Classroom Canada was also incredibly easy-going, encouraging and positive throughout the whole interview process and the preparations for London that followed. At the same time, they are thorough with all the paperwork and documents that are required for you to teach. Classroom Canada are incredibly professional and hold high standards, as every agency should when it comes to teaching.

4. What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
There was no real big adjustment per se, just a collection of new challenges. Obviously classroom management can be tricky at times, but that rests solely on the individual teacher's attitude, confidence and decisions. Every situation can be dealt with in the classroom. The curriculum is certianly similar, however, there were some terms that you have to get used to here in the UK. For example, key words, learning objectives, assessment for learning, etc. Nothing that can't be learned very quickly.

Also, the one thing you really need to keep in mind is that you may not be teaching your 'favourite' or 'specialized' subject any particular day. I once supply taught music all day. Another day you could be covering Year 11 Science in the morning, then spend the rest of the afternoon teaching English to a rowdy bunch of Year 7's. You just never know. You have to be versatile and welcome any challenge.

5. Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
 Wake up at 6:30, lunch packed, dress promptly, ready for the new day and waiting for a call for cover work that may not always come! If I get called in, I'm off to the nearest tube station, reading my book on the way to the particlar school that day. I check in at reception, am handed my schedule of classes to cover (always a wide variety) and I proceed to have an eventful, enriching day, that is always unique because of all the different levels that you may teach.

At the end of the day, I always make sure I tidy up the classroom(s) I have been in, taking care to write a short note to the teacher(s) you covered for that day, explaining how the students were and if there were any difficulties with the lessons. The long (or short) journey home follows, after which you have late afternoon and the entire evening to yourself to explore the city or just relax at home!

6. What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?
I have already mentioned the need for flexibility and versatiliy and the willingness to be open. That includes in the classroom and outside. London can be tricky at times, whether that's securing a flat, getting used to new surroundings or navigating the tube (which is easier than you think!). Don't be scared or too apprehensive. It all works itself out eventually. We can all adapt.

The one piece of advice I strongly recommend is to be positive and never take any issues you may have had at a school back home with you. Yes, you could have challenging students in your classroom. Sometimes it could be just one, sometimes 6. You could have a disastrous morning, but a fabulous afternoon with fantastic students that will make your lessons go smoothly. That's all part of the package and experience when you teach here.

Be patient with the students. They're kids at the end of the day. They can give you a hard time but you have to approach those situations positively and confidently. Don't take it personally and go home dejected and upset. Tomorrow is another day. You made it this far, have faith in your knowledge and abilities.

7. Describe the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your year so far:
 So many funny things happen on a daily basis. The students here are so diverse and unique. They can be quite the characters with great personalities and they offer up a plethora of comical incidents. For example, last semester I supply taught regularly at a particular Girls Academy. Great students, many educational and hilarious days.

One such day, I was covering a large class of 30 excitable Year 7's. The one thing about UK students is that they are on to you so quick once they hear your Canadian accent, for two reasons mainly, I found. One, you come from a country that is close to America (which they are fascinated with) and two, you come from Justin Bieber land.

On this particular day, I had to settle the class down rather quickly as they were getting very excitable once they found out I was from Canada. The first thing I told them was, one, yes I'm from Toronto, Canada (excited murmurs and lit up faces, smiles), and two: no, I have never meant Justin Beiber. The resulting collective exhalation of disappointment and chatter from every student I will never forget!

8. Describe the worst thing:
One day I was covering a Year 7 Science class at a particularly rowdy school. This class had not 1, but about 8 difficult students that I had dealt with before. I set the tone early, and things seemed to be going well. Unfortunately for me, this particular lesson involved colouring pencils (pencil crayons). A whole tray of them that they all had to use to work on their individual projects. On top of that, the classroom was not compact, rather spread out, so even more difficult to keep under control.

Needless to say, an assortment of colouring pencils started to fly through the air within minutes and the day became very memorable for all the wrong reasons! But I got through it. Always remember that when you have your own 'memorable' day. And you will have one. :) Colouring pencils, my worst nightmare...

9. What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?
You're part of a team here and, as such, every teacher is treated like a unique member and is highly valued, each with their own individual needs. It's not just an agency, you work for each other, whether that's filling in the various cover positions each day or securing a golden interview for a permanent position.

Here in London, the Classroom team will always go the extra mile to help you. Whether that's answering your questions in the middle of the weekend, being available by phone and e-mail at all times, guiding you when you are lost in the middle of Brixton or Battersea, or sending you links to helpful lesson plans to assist you in your preparations for an interview next day.

 Also, one other note: be patient about getting work. Don't get angry or upset if you don't get work right away (it took me almost a month to get consistent work). It takes time sometimes, especially for schools to get used to you. In no time they will be requesting you personally and frequently and then you will be all smiles.

10.  What qualities do you have that make your stay more enjoyable?
I'm very open to exploring new things and I love living in a multicultural city. So many different, unique people, flavours and foods. Also, I'm patient (which you will need if you have to travel to a far away school then back) and I love to walk and explore, see the city. Get used to that, trust me. Finally, I like rain and milder weather. London, I couldn't ask for anything more ideal. Enjoy the adventure!

To join Dusan in teaching in London, send your resume & cover to apply AT  We are currently interviewing Primary, Secondary & SEN teachers for teaching jobs that start in April & September 2013.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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