Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Guest Blogger Michelle Lawee on Teaching in London, England - 6 months in

Somehow, it has dawned on me that I have been living and teaching in London over 6 months. How did that happen already? It’s corny and cheesy, but time really does fly (especially in a city as amazing as London).

I came in May 2013, started supply work right away and then was offered a long-term at an AMAZING (it’s an OFSTED Outstanding school) school, where I am currently working full-time. I have my very own class, 30 five and six year olds who are some of the most hilarious children I have ever met. And that is why I’m here, really. The kids. SO here are 4 tidbits of advice for you to get you started over here:

Myth #1:
‘Kids in England are way harder to deal with than kids in North America’

In some schools, yes, you can meet some really challenging kids. But isn’t that the same as anywhere you go to teach? Not every school is going to be amazing. Not every class within a school is going to be amazing. All it takes sometimes is one tough kid and it could really make your day a tough one. But from my experiences over here, the real truth is kids are kids. It’s as simple as that. And it’s imperative that you always keep that in mind!

I’ve definitely been exposed to all sorts of schools that I would never have seen if I were still in Montreal. But that is also because London itself is so eclectic and no borough is the same. Each one of them is unique in every aspect, so naturally the schools and the student bodies will vary. But bad? No.

Truth #1:
‘Fine tune your behaviour management skills and become an almost savant with names’

Figure out what kind of behaviour management you’re most comfortable with and PERFECT IT. Obviously be aware that depending on where you go you may have to tweak it, but you should have your thing! Maybe you’re keen on using the cloud and shooting star, some mini stop light system, or maybe you know you’re just very good at being firm. But I have found that the BEST way to keep your class under control is learning as many names as possible before morning break. I know, sounds insane. BUT trust me, there’s something a lot more effective about saying: “Lucy, I have asked you to stop talking” vs “Hey you/pigtails/blonde-with-bangs stop talking!” Also, it is very likely that when you come in for day-to-day, there will be a class system or even a school wide system in place for behaviour management. Don’t be shy, ask someone (best bet: the class TA).

Which brings me to…

Truth #2:
‘Your most vital asset in successful day-to-day supply (and in short-term, long-term and permanent placements) is the CLASSROOM TEACHING ASSISTANT’

Thank you ENGLAND for giving every class a TA for at least the morning. Sometimes, you’ll have more than one (if that’s the case, it’s probably because you have a 1:1 or Special Needs TA). They are what keep the class together and running smoothly. I honestly don’t know what I would do without mine. When you come in for supply, they are the ones who know everything about the way the class works and they can easily give you a low-down on which kids could be pickles. TA = tree of knowledge.

Truth #3:
‘Make yourself known at a school (especially if you like it) but don’t be the know-it-all because in fact, you don’t’

I would say probably by morning break, you’ll know if you like a school or not. If the answer in your head is YES I LIKE IT HERE, it’s really important that you socialize with the staff and find the time to seek out the admin people and the school head.  And no, it’s not guaranteed that the head will come find you. They are all extremely busy, so don’t take it personally. But if you want to go back to a school, it’s crucial that you make those connections! Don’t be shy, just let them know that you really enjoyed your day and would want to go back!

Right, so if you couldn’t tell, I could go on and on and on about all kinds of advice…but truly the best advice? Come to London and experience it all for yourself. If you’re curious about a bit more information regarding the move over and the first couple of weeks, you can check out a post I wrote earlier for Classroom on the Classroom blog.


Michelle Lawee 

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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