Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Canadian Teacher in London Describes Her First Few Weeks

Here's a blog post from the Classroom blog in London that was written by Michelle Lawee, a McGill teacher who arrived in London just a few weeks ago.  I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle at a workshop I gave in January and she took the leap into teaching abroad with Classroom Canada.  Over to Michelle...

So, you’re thinking about making a giant leap, moving “across the pond” and teaching in London, England. Two words: DO IT. I wouldn’t call myself impulsive by nature. Sure, I do impulsive things, but I really like to think things through before committing. BUT I am big on instinct and when something feels right, I have to believe it is.

That’s what happened to me after I heard Victoria (Westcott) speak at a workshop at McGill University in November 2012 about teaching abroad and more specifically teaching abroad with Classroom. The more she went into the detail, the more my gut was saying to me “you’re doing this”. It also helped that Victoria was a real person and not just a robot recruiter like many others are. She said it like it was about living in London and teaching in London. I’m always looking for “realness” in people, and the more she spoke, the more real I found her to be. So we got in touch, we e-mailed back and forth and then I had my interview (which really wasn’t scary at all). The best part of all the correspondence was that I really felt like she was getting ME. We would be able to have a conversation about the work, but she was also interested in me (How was I, what was going on in school/life/etc.). What I also found appealing about Classroom was its small size. When I would e-mail other agencies, I always felt like I had to add a reminder of who I was before asking the questions. With Victoria and Classroom, once we were corresponding, I never had to do that. Smaller companies = more genuine connections/relationships.

So long story short, they offered me a contract, I signed it and was convinced to come down in May, right after graduating and begin my career. So far, I am thrilled with that choice (as opposed to coming in the Fall) as I will be all nice and settled by September.

Getting ready for a big move is hard and easy at the same time. It’s hard because London isn’t a drive home; it’s a flight (and an expensive one at that). It’s also hard because packing responsibly is not one of my strengths. But all in all, the getting ready was fairly simple. Victoria was always checking in, reminding me what still had to be done, reminding me to get my forms in order, and helping me stay calm when some of my forms went missing (yes, that could happen). She was an excellent support pre-move without a doubt. It was also nice to be part of the Classroom Facebook group, where all the teachers who are already in London can answer many of the questions you may have pre-departure.

Ok. So now you’re in London! AH. It’s sensory overload here, but a great kind of overload. The streets are bustling with all types of people and now you’re part of them. I met with the Classroom office my second day here to get everything set up for teaching. First, the office is wonderful. All the staff members are super friendly and I really got the sense that they wanted to do whatever they could to make the transition here easy-peasy. I met with the Primary Team, Krystian and Tee and basically told them my expectations and hopes for teaching here. I think that it’s super important to be 100% honest right off the bat about what YOU want. Don’t assume that people are mind readers, otherwise you are setting yourself up for disappointment. So far, they have totally met my expectations and I have been thrilled with all of my placements. The schools I have been at have been wonderful and I would be more than happy to return to any of them!

Naturally, there are some things that well, you just have to learn when you get here and get working. Here are some of those things:
  1. Students here are very accustomed to supply teachers because teachers here get ½ a day a week (new teachers get a whole day) to do planning. Crazy, right?
  2. Primary school teachers teach everything. There is no such thing as “spares”. EVERYTHING. That includes PE, Music, RE and anything else children learn. Yes, PE.
  3. Sometimes, PE is outside. Sometimes, outside in London isn’t so glamorous. Dress properly and bring extra layers with you every day.
  4. The students for the most part aren’t going to be overly phased by your accent. They are quite used to Canadian teachers.
  5. At home, teaching phonics is a no brainer. It’s also a no brainer here EXCEPT that in the UK the pronunciation of vowel sounds IS NOT THE SAME as at home. So, either you say it your way (the kids will say it their way) OR you put on your best fake accent.
  6. Don’t talk about pants in class. Here, pants are called trousers and the term pants refers to underpants. Kids will undoubtedly laugh.
  7. Rubbers are erasers. Kids will ask for them. That’s what they mean.
  8. Kids are kids are kids. They’re hilarious and outspoken and oftentimes too honest. But that’s why we love ‘em, right?
You’re going to be living in one of the greatest cities in the world. Take it all in and take advantage of the millions of things this city has to offer. If you end up staying home all the time, then you aren’t doing this city justice. Buy a good raincoat and a pair of wellies for the wet days and adventure. Every little borough has something new to offer, so explore.


Michelle Lawee

To join Michelle in teaching in London, simply submit your resume & cover letter to apply AT There's just enough time to prepare for jobs that start in September, so don't delay.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

101 Reasons to Teach in London, England

Picadilly Circus

Thanks to Dusan & Katie for this week's guest blog post - 101 Reasons to Teach in London, England!

  1.  Museums are free.
  2. You earn pounds instead of dollars. Ch-Ching!
  3. Once you get the hang of the transportation system, it is so easy and efficient.
  4.  It doesn’t rain as much as you think.
  5.  Unlike in Canada, where there are 1 or 2 days off in a month, in London the school year is longer but there are longer holidays, e.g. 2 weeks off for Christmas, 2 weeks off for Easter…
  6. There are historical landmarks all over the city.
  7.  Shopping on Oxford and Regent street.
  8. The theatre is amazing.
  9. If it suits you, you can eat and drink in the theatre, like you would at the cinema.
  10. You are a train ride away from Paris.
  11.  You are a couple hours flight away from all other European gems.
  12.  The double-decker buses. You can sit on the top level and have a nice view on the commute to work.
  13. You don’t need to know how to drive because public transportation takes you anywhere you want to go!
  14.   The rain is usually more of a drizzle.
  15. Lots and lots of markets that sell food, clothes, spices, antiques, art, etc.
  16. You are living in the city where hundreds of movies have been filmed. Go to the locations where your favourite films were shot.
  17. Hyde Park
  18. Walking through Hyde Park and imagining being J. M. Barrie or a character from Jane Austen’s novels.
  19. Sherlock Holmes
  20. Even if you don’t live in the city, the tube makes it so that you’re never that far.
  21. You can watch a play at the Globe for a decent price and imagine what live theatre would have been like in Shakespeare’s time.
  22. London is such a multicultural city so you will not feel like a foreigner. Most people living in London aren’t from London anyways.
  23. The London Eye provides spectacular views of the city.
  24. The food is affordable.
  25. The food is diverse.
  26. Your students will be diverse. London schools are extremely multicultural.
  27. You can travel by boat on the River Thames.
  28. Many celebs live/have lived in London. You can go to the same place where Princess Diana had tea or shop at the same stores Gwyneth Paltrow does.
  29. The bridges. There are so many bridges on the River Thames. Old ones, new ones. So you can cross from one side of the Thames to the other as often as you’d like.
  30. There is a teacher shortage in London so you will get work.
  31. Apparently it rains less in London than anywhere else in the UK.
  32. The Premier League.
  33. London is rich in history. Historical landmarks are on every corner and many legendary artists, writers, musicians have come from London.
  34.  Music. There are plenty of concerts, live shows and the like all around London.
  35. There are hundreds, no thousands, of pubs.
  36. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. This place brings out the child in everyone. Adults and children can both revel in the lights, food, and fun here.
  37. Christmas in London is magical. The lights and decorations on Regent and Oxford street, the displays in the shop windows…
  38. Despite the British tendency to put pork and meat in every dish, gone are the days when vegetarians had no place to go in London. There are plenty of vegetarian options in London, and as mentioned before, an array of multicultural foods to indulge in.
  39. The Queen lives here.
  40. Drinks are (generally) affordable here. Even cheap.
  41. Even if the tube is packed, everyone keeps to themselves and you don’t feel invaded.
  42. If you like tea, you belong here.
  43. If you like castles, you belong here.
  44. If you like palaces, you belong here.
  45. The architecture. If you look at the top of the buildings in the city, you can pinpoint what time period they were from. Even though they house a modern style Topshop or Starbucks underneath, they
  46.  Lots of beautiful outdoor space. Be it the paths in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, or Hampstead Heath, you are never far from beautiful green space right in the city.
  47. It is warmer here than most places in Canada. Winter is never as cold, summer is never as sweltering.
  48.  British accents. 
  49. British expressions.  
  50. It isn’t hard to find accommodation. It seems like people are always moving in London, so it is perfectly easy to find new living space and to switch bills over.
  51. There are so many free things to do in London. If you are strapped for cash you can still enjoy the vibrancy of the city.
  52. The nightlife. After work the night begins. Clubs, pubs, theatres, restaurants, concerts, live shows. Anything and everything to entertain you.
  53. If you supply teach, you will really be able to take advantage of this nightlife because your days will end somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30.
  54. Libraries. I don’t even know why someone would bother going to the bookshops here when they can get a library card and have free access to thousands of classics. Not to mention cheap DVD rentals.
  55. Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park. This has existed for a long time. This is an opportunity for any given person to be a public orator in the park, expressing their opinions on any given subject, usually political, cultural, or religious. Things can get really heated. Grab yourself a bag of popcorn and it’s a show.
  56. “Tired of London, tired of life”. There is a certain energetic vibe and buzz about this city. It really makes you feel alive. It may not be the city that never sleeps but it is certainly not a city that lets you rest.
  57. If you tire of London, or need a break, you are a train ride away from Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, Brighton, the Cotswolds, Wales and Scotland.
  58. Teaching in London means teaching among young, dynamic teachers. It is really refreshing to see teachers under age 35 here in London who are skilled and comfortable in their profession. Get used to it.
  59.  On the weekend you can take advantage of small tours about the city.
  60. If you can get past Ryan Air’s travel conditions, you can fly to many places for cheap, cheap prices.
  61. If you are flying, there are plenty of airports around London, and there are trains and buses to every one of them.
  62. Teacher shortage in London means you actually have career options here, which is unlikely in Canada. Long term, short term, permanent, it’s all up to you here.
  63. Go to tkts in Leicester square and get discount tickets to theatre shows the day of.
  64. Take advantage of the free walking tours in London such as the Jack the Ripper tour where you get to trace where the grisly murders took place.
  65. Whatever you choose to do or teach when you come here you will be boosting your resume, because you will actually be working in your field, and you will most likely be getting valuable and diverse experience.
  66. If you are lucky, you may get to teach your preferred subject. I was lucky enough to secure a long term position in the subject I studied in University. In other words, I landed my dream job, something that never would have happened in Toronto.
  67. Learn to drink your tea – or other caffeinated beverages – piping hot the way they do here.
  68. Visit the iconic Fortnum and Mason, where the royals visit and Princess Di used to frequent for tea.
  69. You get to don your trench coat and nice fall-wear for many months of the year.
  70. The weather is more temperate here, which means the temperature won’t be 25 degrees one day and 8 degrees the next day (cough, Toronto, cough).
  71. Stonehenge. It is not that far and it is worth going.
  72.  You will likely meet teachers in London from all over the globe.  Not only will this make you feel less like an outsider but it will enrich your experience teaching.
  73. London may not be seen as the fashion capital, but it is fashionable nonetheless, so you can indulge your sense of style among the high streets of fashion, the vintage shops, or the markets in the East end.
  74. The greenery in London is impressive in a city this expansive. It also makes for a great departure from the busy, cosmopolitan feeling of London. Tranquil parks like Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill are like urban getaways.
  75. Catch a classical musical performance at historical St Martin in the Fields in the heart of London.
  76. Greenwich. 
  77. The naval museum.
  78. The Queen’s Palace.
  79. The Planetarium. 
  80. The churches, which are historical and cultural monuments. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, Temple Church are among some of its finest. You can go at visiting hours or sit in one of the services.
  81.  London is a venue for famous sporting events: tennis at Wimbledon, football at Wembley, the 2012 Olympics at the O2 Arena, Twickenham Stadium for rugby, the list goes on and on.
  82. TimeOut London is a great resource for things to know about and things to do in London. It includes best cheap eats, nightlife, theatre, beauty, etc.
  83. When your friends or family come to visit you in London they will be so impressed by the city, and maybe a bit jealous of you.
  84. If your friends and family don`t visit you in London, you have the option of visiting them because you will have 13 weeks of holiday throughout the school year.
  85.  No matter your experience here, you will grow as an individual by making the move to London. You will learn more about yourself and develop your skills as a teacher.
  86. Visit one of the many art galleries the most well-known being the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. You can check out galleries and up-to-date exhibits on the TimeOut London website.
  87. Barbican Library for free access to books, periodicals, and cheaper fare on DVDs, CDs. The library seating area overlooks a lake and neighbouring gardens. And a hidden fact, the music library has a piano which is free to public use.
  88. Barbican Centre (which houses Barbican Library) always has interesting things on. It holds contemporary and classical musical concerts, art exhibits, film screenings, and theatre performances. The building is equipped with coffee and food areas, and a martini bar on the second level. There is even a nice arboretum on the top level.
  89. It’s not as expensive as you would think in London. Even so, you are earning more here than you would anywhere else. Mentally convert your hard earned pounds into dollars and you will feel satisfied.
  90. If you chance by the East End, Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford is the largest shopping centre in the EU.
  91.  Night buses help you get home when you’ve been out long past curfew.
  92. Night buses are highly entertaining.  We've had many a long conversation with the most unusual & interesting people on the night buses!
  93. If you work day-to-day supply, you can take advantages of the weekdays you don’t work. Be a tourist and go to your desired destination during off-peak times.
  94.  If you are lazy or don’t have time to grocery shop, many grocery stores, like Tesco, can delivery your groceries to your home.
  95. School trips! You will not have to pay and you’ll get paid to visit something new and interesting in the city!
  96. There is a great sense of esteem in saying you work in London.
  97. When you return home, you get to say "I taught in inner city schools in London" and everyone will know what you mean, or at least pretend to know. 
  98. You might even get teaching job interviews when you return home, as you'll return a more experienced teacher than when you left.
  99. Forget volunteering - you get to actually work. And get paid. As a teacher. Like you trained to do.  
  100. Single? Fall in love with dating in London.  There are more single people in London than there are couples.
  101. And finally - Why not?  What's stopping you?

Know another reason to teach in London? Please share your thoughts below!  To apply for teaching jobs that start in Sept/Oct 2013, simply submit your resume & cover letter to apply AT


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