“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”–Wayne Gretzky
When I decided to move to England, I was admittedly nervous about finding work. I had spent five years building experience and seniority in my school district back home, and was very fortunate to be able to take a personal unpaid leave in order to travel. I really had no idea what the job climate was in England- in relation to the teaching profession or otherwise. Scared or not, living abroad (for me at least) is not a permanent vacation and I had to put my fear aside and get out there. I submitted my resume to a few local temp agencies as a back up plan, and then conducted research on London teaching agencies and applied only to the two I was most interested in, based on the recommendations of friends who have taught here as well as what I found online. I figured I could start there, and apply to others if things didn’t pan out.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was interviewed and hired by both agencies, and immediately started getting some work. I worked every day some weeks and had no calls on other weeks, but I was typically working 2 or 3 days a week by the end of October. I was offered several contracts, but they all wanted a full-time commitment for 1 or 2 years. It was flattering, and even tempting to have such a secure income. But when it came down to it, I knew that the pressures of a full-time teaching position would alter the way I want to spend my time overseas.
Then, in November, I worked at the same school for 3 weeks. Two of those weeks were in 1 class, and 1 week was different every day. Long story short, I was offered a position there doing something called supply and PPA (more on this in a minute). The school still wanted me when I explained that I would no longer be working on Fridays come the new year, and they were supportive of my travel plans. Yipee!! I have a set 4 day a week position, I know what school I will be at every day, and I get to be part of a staff and school community, but I’m spared the pressures and time commitment of having my own class. It is my absolute dream job for this part of my life! And because I am working for the school, but still through my teaching agency, the agency will arrange cover when I travel which keeps the pressure off of me and my school.
I never dreamed I would find such a perfect fit. Even better, I love the school and the people in it. It was built in 1897 in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In brick lettering at one entrance is the word “Cookery,” “Boys” at another. The ceilings are high and I get a great workout going up and down the stairs multiple times a day. It’s definitely worth it when I get to work on the top floor… I love that the rafters show the age of the building. It has been so lovingly cared for and renovated that it doesn’t show its age in many places, which seems to be true of many well-maintained brick buildings that we’ve seen. I love the glass wall and high ceilings in this classroom, to say nothing of the extraordinary view.
One commitment that is new for me is the weekly training. Every Wednesday, from 330 to 5 PM, we have staff training that is directed and set up by administration. This week, the topic was dyslexia. We discussed strategies for identifying and supporting students with dyslexia as well as debunking some of the myths around it (for example, that boys are more commonly dyslexic or that dyslexia is tied to general ability). It is a time commitment I hadn’t expected, but I am embracing it as an opportunity to connect with my colleagues and to develop my professional practice.
What is “supply and PPA” you ask… Supply is the term used here for a teacher on call/ substitute/ TTOC/ whatever it’s called where you live. PPA is the acronym used for planning, preparation, and assessment. Teachers here get their prep time in much longer blocks while someone covers their class (I covered for one teacher for a full week, so I got PPA time on Tuesday. This meant that someone else picked up my students after lunch to teach the first lesson and then our staff language specialist came to teach the second afternoon lesson. My prep time was from 1PM – 3PM).
Yesterday afternoon, when I covered for a teacher to have her afternoon PPA, part of my cover involved supervising the music specialists who come in to teach the music lesson. The music teachers are guests rather than a teacher replacement which is quite a different experience for me. PPA is often given to teachers of the same year group at the same time so that they can collaborate. Canada could really take notes on this one. Teacher share the responsibility of creating lessons and SmartBoard flip charts for the various subjects and then resources are shared among the entire year Group. It seems so sensible to have one teacher create the math lesson for all of the year for us rather than six teachers creating six different lessons. However, I’ll stop here as there are so many pros and cons to both the system and to the way we do things in British Columbia. Creating a thorough and fair comparison would take hours and I don’t think that’s why you’re here!
So far, each day has looked different for me. As I settle into the role and the school sorts out how best to utilize me, it may continue to change or there may be a more set routine. I just roll with whatever they need and I’m grateful to have a placement that is more than I dreamed possible!