Monday, August 5, 2013

At Term's End

Rapeseed fields in England are a common summer sight.


Guest Post by Dusan Sekulic

They say the summers in London are not as ferocious as most hot or extreme climates in the world. I rather think it is a matter of opinion or personal tolerance. I’m not quite sure who said that original weather commentary about this great capital of England, I only know that it does not apply to English classrooms in English schools.

The summer (and final) term in school can be exciting, everlasting, tedious and fun, all in one. Not to mention…long. They go all the way to the end of July. On the one hand, teachers are scrambling to mark final tests, finishing Year End reports, lesson planning for next year, and dealing with said heat issues in beautiful old buildings from the 1800s. On the other hand, the day to day lessons can be more relaxed, the students slightly more fidgety – in anticipation of the summer vacation – yet more cheery at times. And of course, there is a more realistic, tangible countdown occurring in your head, awaiting that final bell and long exhalation of ‘teacher freedom’.

Having now spent a full year in London’s school system, I can certainly say that the experience has been absolutely invaluable and one I will surely always remember.

Having emerged from the stagnant heat of my classroom in London, it is hard to believe that not long ago I was bogged down in a congested teaching system back home. Options limited, prognosis grim, the leap to the majestic land that is the United Kingdom was a gamble in itself. Here in the inner city that is London, I had my first taste of a school system that was more challenging, yet richly rewarding. Burdened by new terms and systems to learn, but at the same time, feeling welcomed as a sought after, young teacher with a sliver of experience.

At the start, each day felt like a monumental climb in itself. Cover days after cover days. Wearing you down. Different schools, different staff, more curious systems. Endured, surpassed, knowledge and experience accumulated. The opposite of idle stagnation and struggle in Canada, here the challenge was to be thrown right into the fire, to fend and learn for yourself in schools that were different, yet similar in many ways. Classroom management became a skill in itself. Subjects had to be taught in a stimulating fashion. Learning objectives had to be met. Meeting new teachers, hearing their stories, understanding and immersing yourself in the education of different students in another system of education. Yet, students and teenagers nevertheless. Wanting to learn, fascinated by your accent, being challenged every day to reach and exceed their individual targets. And you, an educator learning to embrace your craft. Tune it, adjust, discovering its frequencies and uses. Strengths and weaknesses. This was the adventure.

And when a full-time long term position eventually came after a few months, it was excitement anew. The dream was right around the corner. Your own classroom, students, staff room. Extra-curricular activities, after school events, grasping the small, yet vital, intricacies of an English school, filled with unique staff from all corners of the world. Memories made, truly never to be forgotten.

As the Sun sets on this first adventure, I can confidently say that the hurried, busy pace of London’s schools and the city itself is the ultimate learning quest for any teacher. Especially at the onset of a career at the beginning stages. Somewhere between stepping off the plane and exiting a school after your first day of cover, you remember why you became a teacher. You forget all the worries you had before coming to a new country, face the reality of this challenging profession and just do the job you love. It is not for the meek and you need to learn to push yourself, be patient and adapt. But the rewards are boundless. Confidence and assured preparedness.

You are ready for anything.

Hopping on the newly arrived double decker bus, on the way to the tube and back to the city and my welcoming flat, I smile and pull out a book to read. No more deadlines, reports or schedules for the time being. Free time to relax, contemplate and reflect on a successful year.


And of course, where should I go to this summer vacation?

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