Teacher Profile: Casey - Part 4: Living in London and Teaching
My first step in London was to meet with Rick and Carleen from Teachweb to discuss teaching possibilities and opportunities over the next month. By this time it was January 20th 2008, but fortunately I had already met Rick in 2007 and had also spoken to Carleen on the phone and by email. They did a good job in putting my name out to potential schools prior to me being in London, provided assistance with Curriculum Vitae, and spent about ninety minutes with me discussing thoughts and expectations on January 20th; therefore I was ready to go the next day. Throughout the month teachweb found me work every day, there seemed to be no shortage of opportunities. During the month I worked as a supply teacher at four schools – Harefield Academy, Rutlish (Wimbledon, all boys), Warwick (Surrey), and St. Joseph’s (Croydon, all boys). Some mornings and afternoons travel time got close to ninety minutes, but this provided valuable time to plan, think, and see the sights of inner London. Here is a list of my thoughts about teaching in London and maybe some useful tips to consider if you are thinking about teaching in London:
- The school structure and system is different in London to what I was used to in Australia. Generally speaking the school day is set up differently, and the most noticeable difference that I recall was that students had more influence and say with what happens at school (more perceived power).
- The students that I worked with were highly attuned to supply teachers, and consequently being a supply teacher had a real stigma attached to it. Due to this there were times when it was difficult to get students interested, involved, and learning.
- It would be worthwhile to develop some background knowledge of the education system in London, and also doing some homework on the different regions of London (East, West, North, South). The schools that I taught in were highly multicultural, and often this observed students who had difficulty with the English language.
- I am a trained Health and Physical Education teacher, but I taught a whole range of subjects. In PE students hold 99 percent of their interest in football (soccer), so teaching any alternative can be challenging.
- Some days are good, other days not so good – just like any job. I was presented with the opportunity to teach longer term at two of the schools I worked at, and if I was staying longer I would have considered this. My recommendation is if possible, make a longer commitment to one or a couple of schools and work to develop a relationship with staff and students. Over time this will have benefits. Unfortunately due to my short time commitment I as unable to do this.
Throughout the month I met many fellow Australian teachers and New Zealand teachers, each with different stories to tell. The reality is that there is ample opportunity to teach and make a difference in London, persevere and give it time and I believe you will find yourself satisfying work. Throughout the whole process I found staff at Teachweb to be supportive, interested in my feedback, efficient at dealing with any issues, and encouraging with advice and opportunities outside of teaching. They provided assistance with banking arrangements, information about schools and regions, and social functions.
If short term teaching is what you are considering, then in terms of living arrangements something relatively central is my suggestion. This allows flexibility in where you may be able to teach, and usually the road to get there is not too analytical. Emily and I rented a room in Elephant and Castle for 120 pounds per week, and this was sufficient for the month that we were present. My recommendation would be to try and have something close to being organised before you arrive in London, but there are lots of options and lots of Australians in the area (apparently over 400 000 in London). Overall I gained worthwhile experience through teaching in another country, and I feel that I have benefited from it as a professional and personally. Travel tip – try and attend a game of Premier league Football and also the theatre if you get the chance.