Thursday, February 28, 2013

Supply Teaching 101: How to Have a Splendid Day Cover Teaching - Part II

This is part II of the "How to Have a Splendid Day Cover Teaching in London" series by our guest blogger & Canadian teacher in London, Dusan Sekulic.  Read Part I here.

One fascinating thing I find about the London Underground is the propensity for people to be silent in the train cars. It is like an unwritten code in the tube, for the most part. Londoners love to mind their own business, generally turning to their iPods or, more frequently, reading the daily news via newspapers, The Evening Standard, etc.  I personally enjoy reading as well, so a semi-library atmosphere in a train that is filled to the brim with people is astounding!

Through the occasional murmur of passengers, many teachers choose to mark exercise books (not notebooks) while on their way to school. However, as a cover teacher, other options present themselves as well, especially since many times it will be your first time travelling to a particular school.

Supply Teachers must show their passport & British Police Check (CRB)

Once you have shaken off the cobwebs of an early morning rising – packed lunch held firmly in your hand and bag filled with your passport, CRB and favourite pen and back-up lesson plans – most cover teachers do different things while on their way to school. I always checked the address of the school I was going to and planned my exact route once I got out of the tube. That way you do not waste any time when you emerge from the Underground. Even though Classroom always sends you a text message with the location of your school, always have your mini A-Z ready with the route to your school planned out. Allow yourself plenty of time in the mornings but, remember, it’s okay if you don’t arrive at 8:15 or 8:30 exactly. Classes normally start around 9am and, again, remember: They are grateful that you can come in and cover for one or more of their teachers.

Mentally preparing yourself is also important, especially when you are first starting out. You are going to a school you have never been to, going to teach students you have never met before and trying, at the same time, to navigate your way mind around different school policies, classrooms and systems already in place.

Remember to breathe.

Take a deep breath, don’t panic.

Once you have reached the school, remember that Reception, Register and staff have a system in place. They have all requested cover teachers before. Reception (The office) will always request your work via (passport) and CRB for inspection and casually, usually with a smile, hand you the list of rooms and subjects you will be teaching that day, accentuated with a flourishing, “Good luck!” You may even get a quick tour of the school if you are early enough. These greatly help!

What follows is a marathon of sorts. You speedily head over to your first class, which probably is not a subject of your speciality. Maybe music. Or perhaps Science. Be ready for it as most of the time you will cover for multiple teachers, not just one. Versatility is key.

Try to mark everything you've assigned that day & leave the class teacher a note.

Once you get to your first class, usually a stack of texts and exercise books will await you with a set of instructions, learning objectives and what the teacher generally wants you to accomplish that period. A class list is also usually provided so that you can do the register (attendance). I recommend you always wait at the door of the classroom to welcome your students. It projects a welcoming, responsible presence on your part.

The day more or less will proceed how you want it to. By that I mean your approach. Students will give you a hard time certain days. You might not accomplish everything their regular teacher wanted you to do with them. Fortunately, most teachers recognize this and will not give the students a titanic series of tasks to finish in one single period that is usually 50 minutes long. Your pupils will be disruptive sometimes, they may take advantage of the fact that you are a cover teacher and pull out every distracting technique in the book. Think for a second when this happens. You probably invented half the tricks they are using and let’s face it: We have all given supply teachers a hard time in the past when we were in school.

These are the days that you have to just do your best, not take it personally, and let any negative, stressful experiences wash off your shoulders. Tomorrow is another day. They are kids after all and, believe me, you will meet plenty of bright, inspiring students willing to put in the effort and passion in their classwork that will remind you why you decided to become a teacher.

"Do you know Justin Bieber?" A typical question for Canadian teachers in London.

Another thing to consider: Students in the UK find our accents fascinating. They are enamoured by North American culture and music and their initial questions, once they get over the excitement that they have a cover teacher that day, will revolve around these topics. Questions about favourite artists, cities in America you have travelled to and what celebrities you like. It’s all natural, teenage questions. Don’t take yourself too seriously when these inquiries come flying at you. Use it to your advantage.

When the final bell strikes to end the day’s toils and you emerge from the school that had consumed the last 7 hours of your life, you may feel exhausted, or fulfilled, or even upset. A mixture of emotions will always surface, especially at the start. Don’t ever feel dejected. Your skills will improve, your confidence will grow with each passing day. Until then, you should always reflect. What did you do well? What could you improve on? Always look to be better every day. With patience, experience and conscientious reflection, you can become an even better teacher in due time.

The tube beckons again, as do the many fascinations of majestic London, waiting for you to explore.

More stories to come…

To apply to teach in London with Classroom Canada, whether as a daily cover teacher or a full-time classroom teacher, simply submit your resume & cover letter to apply AT 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Act Of Sportsmanship Gives Texas High Schooler Shot At Glory

Teachers take note: You will cry when watching this video of an amazing kid, his inspiring teacher, a great team & an unbelievable moment in time that will restore your faith in everything you do.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Supply Teaching 101: How to Have a Splendid Day Cover Teaching in London

The reaction every teacher wants from their students.

Having a Splendid Day Cover Teaching – Part I

by Dusan Sekulic

You would be amazed how early a person can get up in the morning when they really make an effort. We all have different internal clocks, personal time zones and habits, but when you become a teacher in London your body learns to live with the misty haze and fog of 6:30 am – every day.

This particular time in the morning becomes such a part of you, that even when you do reach the weekends, your body diligently beckons you to open your eyes and rise to the same early tune. There is nothing you can do about it as it becomes so natural to you in time. I find this useful in so many ways. Firstly, you get more out of each day, especially when you discover one inspiring moment how much work and things you can do in a single complete morning. Secondly, and more importantly, this is the time you need to wake up in order to be a successful cover teacher.

Supply Teaching Outfit Found

Starting off in London as a cover teacher is no small task. Yes, responsibilities are at a minimum and there is no lesson planning involved. However, there are other aspects of this role which present certain challenges that must be embraced – the morning being one of them. There is one way to give yourself more time to sleep. Planning and preparation the night before is essential. That involves setting clothes aside that you will wear the next day – For the Gentlemen, this involves shirt, tie and trousers, in case you were wondering. There may be the odd exception, but for the most part the days of casual jeans and shoes with your favourite comfy sweater are gone. You must look professional and respectable, and I wholeheartedly agree with the dress code. Not only will you look sharp and respectable every day, but you will feel more confident in your teaching, believe me.

Don't forget to pack a good lunch.

Making yourself a lunch the night before is also vital. That way you have a meal ready at the stroke of lunch and, best of all, you save time and money. The portions here in quick eateries are not quite as generous as back home and the inflated costs in the inner city do not budge too much. In essence: prepare a lunch.

Make the call & sound alive, ready to teach.

One last aspect of the morning that needs to be addressed is the actual phone call that you make to Classroom or whatever agency you are a part of. This is a critical part that is also very important. Making this call forces you to be awake right away in order to sound decently groggy on the phone while at the same lets the team know that you are ready and keen to go to work.

What makes it difficult is waiting for the call back to inform you that you have work for that particular morning. Yes, it is recommended you wait until 7:45 before you can hit the sheets again in silent slumber. However, 8:15 would be advisable. I cannot tell you how many times I got called much later for cover work. Schools sometimes get last minute notifications of teachers being absent, etc. It happens. Be prepared. Remember, don’t think that they won’t call you just because you know it is too late for you to make it to school on time for first period cover. Schools need someone for the whole day, until at least 3:30 or so. It does not trouble them that much to find a teacher in the school to cover your first period. It is the rest of the day that they are more interested in.

Cover teaching is very much a routine role, at least in the mornings preparing for your day. When you hit the streets to reach your nearest tube station on the way to your assignment that day, it all goes out the proverbial window. You quickly learn about, what I call, the pace here in London. It is brisk. It strikes you immediately when you leave your flat. The people have a sort of, stern focus, in their demeanour. Their faces are transfixed in thought as they race down the streets to the local tube station and work beyond. They are thinking about the job they must do that morning, the leisurely activities they will do after, what song to listen to from their iPods, and the pressing of time, which coincidentally does not allow them to be tired in the mornings. Not ever. Coffee is close at hand and, if not, the pace of their walking combined with the chilling morning spurs them on to alert wakefulness. There is no droopy stroll for a Londoner in the mornings or after work, for that matter – Simply the sound of each rhythmic footfall echoing on the unwelcoming pavement.

As a teacher, you need to enter this rhythm in order to survive each day. There is no time for fatigue or laziness. You just get on with your day. The standards are set high, the challenge is great, and there is a certain grit to the people in the city and you will see it in your students as well. Focus and determination are essential here, and although daunting it may sound, there is no better experience for a new teacher out there. The opportunities abound in London.

You need to embrace it and hold firm. The students await you, as do all the great things that come with teaching here. There is still time to gather your thoughts though, the tube awaits.

Part II coming up soon...


To apply for a teaching job in London with Classroom Canada, simply submit your resume & cover letter to apply AT

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Canadian Teacher in London Goes on Holiday Around England

The Calm after the Storm

by Dusan Sekulic
Bath England © Waiheng
The bells can be heard chiming from the Abbey nearby in the beautiful city of Bath. In front of me, a steady procession of locals, tourists and citizens from all walks of life wander amongst the historic buildings, shops and cafes. Spoken Italian, French, English can be heard in the air, a gentle intertwining of laughter, exuberance and excited deliberation about where to eat. I spare a glance upward, notice that the skies are clear, the birds soaring past majestic spires above. The River Avon continues its gentle flow through the city centre as I take another bite of my Panini. This is my life as a teacher.

Everyone has heard of the tidy collection and mouth-watering assortment of weeks off that a school teacher has in the UK. It is beyond comprehension. Words that come to mind include: Dream job, amazing, unfair. What you quickly learn teaching in inner-city London is that you earn those weeks off. Every single day. Particularly if you have a long-term placement in a school of certain pedigree. You start early, you come home late. You lesson plan in the little time you have to yourself at home, and diligently mark the work of students during any remaining time. Consuming food is lost somewhere in the chaotic process.

© Masta4650
Teaching is certainly unique and cannot be truly compared with any other job. It simply cannot be. However, as most know who have been in this profession, you like doing what you do. You scrape and claw your way to some balance, you feed off of your fellow teachers’ strength in overcoming worries and stresses, and you work together. Then, just when you think you are going to break – like a boxer desperately fending off a vicious attack in the latter rounds of a fight, seconds left – the stroke of term’s end strikes. You close your laptop, you shove the exercise books into the dusty closet and you smile. Your life is yours again.

Capitalising on these breaks takes on many forms. You have the weekend go-getters, dashing off to Holland or Tenerife for the weekend, for instance. Then you have the hostel backpackers, their ventures a little longer and certainly eventful. The Ryan Air intrepid voyageurs are my favourite lot. They are dauntless in the face of last minute bookings, no luggage, embracing the random locations and unknown airports in order to get close to the cities of their dreams at a fantastic price. You learn the grasp the bargains in London whenever you can.

There are also those, like myself, who love to explore the local cities, culture and landscape. As everyone should. I find the whole of the United Kingdom absolutely fascinating. The variety in towns, villages and cities is immense. Stately mansions and woodlands pepper the landscape. Medieval architecture and ageless Universities. The history beckons you at every turn. That is just one way of looking at it, though. There is so much to see and do.

Oxford University © Sampete
I had been to Oxford earlier today, basked in the presence of grandeur and that splendid institution of knowledge in the city center. The picturesque Cotswolds and surrounding sceneries guided the imagination and resonated with such beauty. Celtic traditions and Saxon artifacts could be found at a moment’s notice. Protestant churches and burial mounds welcomed my wide eyes of inquisition. There is always something new to see, to learn about, and to inspire us. What more can one ask for? Ah yes, the mysteries of Stonehenge awaited me later today.

Teaching is such a rewarding profession, in the way you shape young minds and also personally. You teach and watch the young generation – our future – falter and flourish. You have an insight into such a variety of personalities, inspirations and hopes. If one of your students fails or gives up, it bothers you and upsets you. You feel responsible, but you always try again.

However, teaching is as much about you exploring your own path of further growth and discovery as it is helping your students begin their own journeys of knowledge and understanding – whether that is through reading on a daily basis, participating in extra-curricular activities that help the community, fundraising or just traveling. It is there to be done, opening our eyes and fulfilling us.

Sitting outside the café, I think back to a 1707 quote from Dr. William Oliver I read while exploring the famous Roman baths in the city:
“If they can’t be cured by drinking and bathing here, they will never be cured anywhere.”

I feel much the same about these half-term breaks. If this time off, filled with travelling and self-betterment does not cure the ailments of stress and burdens that teaching inevitably brings about, I do not know what else will.

I smile as the bells continue their joyous ringing.

To apply for a teaching job in London with Classroom Canada, send your resume & cover letter to apply AT

Friday, February 15, 2013

School Holidays in the UK

It's half-term break in London right now, which means that teachers & students get one week off mid-way through the term.   Canadian teachers take full advantage of these frequent breaks to travel around the UK and Europe, usually on the cheap with airlines like RyanAir & travel groups like TopDeck & Contiki.

To see the Half Term Holidays & School Term Dates for the next few years, just see this site: 

Now, it's a bit difficult because there are 32 different boroughs in London, which means 32 different school boards, all deciding their own term dates.  But you can roughly plan out your year according to a very basic breakdown of the school year.

A Very Basic Breakdown of the School Year in the UK

First Term AKA Autumn Term:

The school year starts the first week of September (this year it was September 3rd, next year it will be September 2nd).  It runs through to Christmas, with a one week break in October, called "Autumn Half Term Break."  This break usually falls in the last week of October running into the 1st few days of November.   Teachers travel to places they've never been, like Scotland or Paris.  The weather is lovely in autumn, and most stick to fairly quick destinations to travel to and save the sunnier shores for the next break.

Then, 2 weeks off for Christmas holidays, just like in Canada or the USA. Teachers either fly home, go skiing/snowboarding in the Alps, travel to cities they've never been to (Vienna is lovely at Christmas time, but really - anywhere in Europe is gorgeous for Christmas). 

By the way, most Canadian teachers will arrive in London in this first term, usually in October as September is a slower month for daily supply teaching.  Most teachers start in daily supply for a couple of months & then go for long term jobs that start in the Second Term. 

Second Term AKA Spring Term: After the Christmas break, (or Winter Break as they call it), the Spring term kicks off and runs through til Easter.  Again, there is a Half Term Break mid way through the term, usually the 3rd week of February.  This is when teachers start needing some sunshine!  The winter-lovers will head to the Alps again, but most will go to warmer shores like Spain or Portugal.  That vitamin D goes a long way to push teachers through to summer! 

Then, Easter Break which is 2 weeks.  This is a lovely long break, and some teachers just stay in London to relax & enjoy the spring climate (the sun finally reappears after a dreary grey winter!), and others will travel home or around Europe again.  Because it's 2 whole weeks, the more adventurous will travel to further lands, like Africa to see the pyramids or Thailand to relax on the beach.  London really is right in the middle, so it's easy to get anywhere from there.

Third Term AKA Summer Term: After Easter and until the 3rd week of July, this is the term that feels the shortest & the longest depending on how well behaved your class is.  Summer is so close, and yet - can feel so far away.  Again, there is a Half Term Break, but this time it's in the last week of May.  Teachers will travel wherever they can as the weather is pretty good everywhere in Europe at this stage.  Some will have to be writing report cards, so often they stay behind and work over the half-term break, but I always advise the travel over the work - you need that break to be a more relaxed & less stressed out teacher. 

When the year is over, it's 6 weeks off for summer.  It goes by really quickly.  Some Canadian teachers return from London to work at their summer camps or summer jobs, and some just relax at their family cottages or family homes.  Plenty of Canadian teachers stay in London all summer though, so you will have people to continue your travels with, or just enjoy everything the city has to offer in the summer time. There are so many great free activities in London in the summer, it's hard to leave it.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
— Samuel Johnson

To apply for teaching jobs in London with Classroom Canada, just send your resume & cover letter to apply AT  

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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Joys of Parent Teacher Nights

by Guest Blogger, Dusan Sekulic

Having freshly emerged from the second of three parent-teacher evenings scheduled this month in my school, I note that it is past 8 o'clock. My stomach is demanding food, further lesson planning awaits me at home, and my arms have already started groaning in discomfort with the weight of 30 exercise books that must be carefully marked.

Nevertheless, you will find no intended hint of sarcasm in the title of this post. Simply put, I love parent-teacher evenings. I find them stimulating, enlightening and one of the best ways to communicate some of the most important educational information you want your students to know, as well as their parents.

At my school, parent-teacher night is like one big comic book convention. Each teacher from every subject has their very own table in the dining hall. They encircle the middle of the hall, forming a perimeter of knowledge and experience. In the centre is a cluttered collection of chairs, some full and some empty, intended for the use of the parents to sit on for comfort as they await their interview time slots with various teachers. The time slots had been carefully planned out weeks before. In truth, the schedule goes out the window the minute the evening begins. Instead, parents line up in anticipation at each station, report cards ready in hand, and their ears ready for every tantalizing piece of information about the schoolwork and behaviour of their children.

Tonight was parents evening for my Year 7s. They are anxious, nervous and impatient about what judgement they will be given by each teacher. The parents, that is. The students, some terrified, some passive and complacent, are at their honest best. Most will sit quietly during their session, nodding their heads – not really listening at times – and will offer up some of the most sweetest, innocent smiles you will ever see. Questions abound of the behaviour of little James and little Sarah. Glaring looks at little downcast faces when they find out how distracted their kids can get during class sometimes. And, of course, one of my favourite reactions from some parents: “Wait until you see what happens to your X-box when we get home...”

During it all, though, there is a genuine need and desire for the parents to want to see their kids succeed. They want to push them and ask what it is they can do to help make that happen. It was so encouraging and delightful to see just how much parents care about their children and their education.

Naturally, there is also the pressure that parents bring to the table. Certainly, they want their children to succeed at school, and it is your responsibility to make sure that happens. Your responsibility, and inevitably your fault if they fail. However, after just one of these parent-teacher evenings, one finds out just how many parents do not actually feel that way. Not one bit. They understand that their children are just as responsible for their own marks and efforts as you are.

When the time comes to meet the parents of your own students – whether in London or Canada, or beyond – make an effort to relax and enjoy it. Forget about the full day of classes you have just taught, or the dinner you must prepare at home in a pinch. This is a night for you to meet some lovely people and see your students in a different light. You get a glimpse into their lives at home, and have a chance to chat with your partners in ensuring that their education continues outside the classroom every day. Namely, their parents.

It is an opportunity for you to really establish what your students need to work on and improve, as well as talk about what they are doing exceptionally right in the classroom and how to make sure they continue doing so. Remember, always end each talk with some positive comments. It will mean the world to both parents and children. A delightful evening, indeed.

To apply to teach in London with Classroom Canada in either April/May or Sept/Oct simply send your resume & cover letter to apply AT  Interviews are quickly getting booked in for next week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Friendly Reminder for Teachers #2: Read Something New!

Last week, guest blogger, Dusan Sekulic, shared his Friendly Reminder #1: Teachers, Be Honest with Your Students.  This week, Dusan looks at bright spark students & enriching their minds and yours.  Over to Dusan...

Photo by ImageryMajestic


A Friendly Reminder for Teachers #2: Read Something New!

The other day at school, one of my bright Year 7 students approached me after class to ask me one of the greatest questions anyone could ever submit to an English teacher: “Sir, what books do you recommend I read?” This was followed by: “I am reading Pride and Prejudice right now, but I also like Charles Dickens.” Here was a student, in Year 7 mind you, so keen on reading and expanding her mind, whilst surrounding herself with only some of the best company of authors already. I needed a moment to recover from her question.

I next thought, how do I answer this enquiry? So many novels, so much literature at the tip of my tongue, and my mind kept spawning more suggestions with each passing moment. However, these were books that I enjoyed reading growing up. Perhaps she would not share my admiration of them in the slightest bit. What genres does she tend to favour? Maybe it's not science fiction after all, maybe it's not Tolkien. I needed time to prepare my response, so I settled for: “Come back tomorrow after class, and I will give you a list of books to consider.”

That evening I pondered several things, but the one reflection that came to mind foremost was the common practice of teachers to continually select literature and materials in their lessons that they had themselves done so many times before. Content that they were so familiar with that they could arrive at school twenty minutes before class started and have a tattered copy of reading comprehension questions for a particularly well known novel ready for the photocopier's bright lights.

Why the stagnation? Why the laziness and desire for routine? We have all been guilty of it before. I know we have our own lives to live after school, but why not take a delightful evening and read a new novel or a new poem - old or new - then come up with fresh, insightful activities for your students to work on? Not only will it stimulate their minds, but ours as well! Reading something new for the betterment of our students. We get to enjoy our profession even more.

I know it might not always be possible, as there are usually certain curriculums in place throughout most schools and teaching boards. Also, it is more time consuming. Nevertheless, that is not always the case. We have opportunities to select some works to study. At the very least, passages to be analysed for content, themes, sentence structure and so forth. Making it work within the boundaries provided by the school. When you get a chance, take it.

Which brings me back to my bright student's request and another thought: Too many times we choose to have our students study literary material that we know in all its intricacies and that we think they would like. Yes, they are fantastic books, but we should also make a better effort to discover what genres and titles our students like – no matter how silly we think they are – and incorporate them in our lessons. At least every so often.

The classics and time honoured traditional literature will always be there, ready to be explored when the time comes. Perhaps it is I who needs to ask someone, a student perhaps: “What new treasure do you recommend I read?”

-Dusan Sekulic

If you enjoyed reading about Dusan's teaching adventures, and want to know more about teaching in London and the jobs we have on offer, be sure to sign up for this week's webinar Teaching in London 101.  Space is limited. Use discount code "friend" to attend the webinar for 50% off.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vancouver Island Teacher Makes the News

From VIU News, Feb 1 2013
Jeff Saunders is one of the Canadian teachers who arrived recently in London to start his teaching career and he's already made the news.

If you want a teaching job in London like Jeff, just send your resume & cover letter to apply AT classroomcanada dot com and one of us will get back to you within a couple of days.  Some teachers head over to London as quickly as Jeff, and others take about 6 months before they can arrive in their new city. We are interviewing teachers for jobs that start in April and May, as well as September and October 2013.


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