“And suddenly it was November” – Jessika Rowley 😉
When I wrote my last post Punting? What’s that? Oh- and all the web links., I thought to myself- yay! I’m almost caught up! I can write about September adventures and then I’ll be up to the proper month. Hahahahaha. And then November happened. I started getting regular work. I was working 3 and 4 days a week and there was no time for adventuring and certainly no time for blogging. Last week was exciting; I taught all 5 days. Two years ago, I had taken a 6 month leave from work and then returned last year on a part time schedule, working 3 days a week. To have completed a five day week was a huge accomplishment. I was exhausted but incredibly proud when I got home on Friday.
So while September and October become memories and their adventures remain untold, I’ll give you all a bit of an update on work life (that means this will be a picture-less post, apologies). There’s a teacher shortage in London, in part, I’m told because it’s so expensive to live here but teaching doesn’t pay that well. As a result, and hopefully because I work super hard, I’ve been offered many many full time contracts. I keep saying no because we want to travel and make the most of our time here (otherwise, why bother leaving Canada?). Also, in Canada it was me working the long days. Here, Troy’s job is more demanding and so if we’re both working full time and long days it’ll be so tough. We agree that 3-4 days a week for me is ideal so that I have at least one day to clean up, get the groceries, and do laundry. That way, we can enjoy more of our weekend time together.
It’s been good. I know I have to tell you all about September and October still, and we have LOTS going on in December! We’re going to Germany and to Luxembourg, my little brother is coming from Hungary to visit us, we have two friends coming from Canada to stay with us for almost two weeks, oh yeah, and there’s Christmas in there somewhere. It’s going to be great. So that’ll be coming, but for now I’ll stick with the teacher stuff.
I work for two separate agencies, as supply teachers (Teacher on Call/ TTOC/ TOC/ Substitute) are not part of a union. Agency 1 pays less and is based North of me so the commutes are longer, but from early on they were setting up more work for me. Agency 2 pays better and is based here in Southwark so the commutes are shorter but they’d hardly put me to work despite hiring me much earlier on. In the past 3 weeks, it’s Agency 2 that’s kept me busy, but Agency 1 has now offered me a guaranteed pay commitment. So I’ve got some decisions to make this week! Working for agencies instead of a union is a very foreign thing for me (no pun intended, but that was a good one hey?). Actually, teaching here is foreign in many ways. Ooh! This is the perfect opportunity for my very first blog list!
London vs British Columbia: 11 Notable differences
- I get paid half what I made in Canada. If you forget the exchange rate, and consider that a meal that is $15 in Canada is also £15 in London… actually, it’s less than half.
- There are two separate teacher’s unions and admin apparently aren’t in the know about which union a given teacher belongs to. This means that if one union goes on strike, certain teachers just won’t show up and others will. The “no crossing the picket line” mentality does not apply.
- There is at least one EA (still called a TA here) in almost every classroom. Children with more extreme needs often have one-to-one support. I’ve worked in classrooms with 3 TAs plus me. It’s amazing.
- Children work at communal tables rather than desks, with shared supplies.
- Lunch is one hour long, and every primary school I’ve been to has a canteen, aka: a full kitchen with a large dining hall. In the district I’ve been in the past few weeks, every single child is fed a hot lunch every single day. It includes a drink and dessert, and the meals are things like roast meat with potatoes and veg, or a curry and rice. They are full meals like what we’d expect to see in a Canadian high school cafeteria.
- TAs have varying levels of certification depending on their training; some are allowed to teach classes sometimes. It makes for a very interesting dynamic when you’re a supply teacher in a classroom with a TA who taught the class the day before. And not in a good way
- Behaviour is acknowledged in a very public fashion. Every school I’ve been to uses a “stay on green” system where names start on green and can be moved up or down depending on behaviour. Many schools have weekly “green” awards for classes who had nobody on yellow or red that week.
- On the topic of awards: there are weekly awards for the fewest lates and for best attendance.
- All the assemblies! There are daily 15 minute assemblies before morning playtime, run by one teacher, during which the other teachers don’t have to stay. The assemblies have varying topics. On Friday, it’s a Good Works assembly with the awards, which often include some top work from the children to be highlighted that week.
- Planning! For each core subject, there must be a weekly plan printed and visible in the classroom, with a lesson for each day that highlights the Learning Objective, differentiation and assessment. It’s like being in PDP teacher training for your entire career. But teachers also get their planning coverage in 1-hour plus blocks in elementary school and work in teams, so all teachers for a given grade share the plans and white board lessons and such so there can be a division of work in that regard.
- Meetings: typically, there is a staff meeting after school once a week from 3:30- 5, plus weekly training, and a Monday morning meeting to start the school week. And when there is parents evening, there is no day off in lieu to compensate for working late.
There is so much more. I could write a short book; but those are some of the big differences that have really stood out. It’s been an interesting experience. Discipline is really strict, so I’ve worked in many a classroom where the TA actually talks or yells over me to chastise the kids. I’ve struggled with this difference as my approach is so much like my parenting style; I speak kindly and I reprimand privately whenever possible. I must say, I have also worked with caring, kind and wonderful TAs without whom I wouldn’t have survived the day! They help with daily routines, class expectations, supporting the children, and doing things like photocopying and organizing supplies for art lessons.
It’s been such an adventure teaching within a different culture! Though some may say I’m still speaking english and am lucky not to have to learn a new language… that’s not entirely true. On my very first day teaching in London, my class was gluing a worksheet into their notebooks (no duotangs here!). I said to them “when you’re done with your glue sticks, please put them in the bin.” The class erupted in laughter! “Miss,” one student giggled, “are you sure?” I realized that to them, bin means the garbage. We all had a great laugh at that and they informed me that what I call a bin, they call a tray. I’ve had lots of moments like that. “Miss, what’s an eraser?” “A marker Miss? Like for the white board.” (here, called a felt tip). I’ll leave you with a list of translations, so that you, too can speak like a Londoner! 😉
|pencil crayons||coloured pencils|
|can I use the bathroom?||can I use the toilet?|
|throw it in the trash/garbage||put it in the bin|
Oh! And last but not least, as per the title of this entry: instead of journal/ schedule/ calendar, in London they say “diary.” It’s a whole new world!
Until next time,
Jessika xoxo (or as we say in London, x x)