Last Sunday marked the one month anniversary of my trip to London, and while I wanted to take time to reflect on that month it is rather difficult when one is as busy as I have become this past week. I began work on Monday and have also managed to make a few friends in the city, so my days of teaching are now often followed by social events in the night time. It makes for long, but very fun and interesting days. There is a lot of information to update all of you on, so I will try and do so in the timeliest manner possible.
My venture into the world of the London educational system began with two days of observation early last week. A friend of my father’s is a Headmaster at Queen Elizabeth Barnet School in the very North of London. This was not only my introduction to London schools, but also my introduction to the world of commuting in the London rush hour. I set off 6am Monday morning along the Piccadilly branch of the London Underground, standing up most of the ride, for a 1.5 hour commute under the city. As I arrived at the school, a bit fatigued already from the craziness of rush hour, I came to realize this was quite a posh London secondary school and I was in for a bit of a treat. The two days at QEB turned out to be much more than that as I was able to do some active observation and also to develop a bit of a connection with those in the History department. It really solidified my belief that down the road, secondary school is the environment in which I would like to teach. That however, is not quite what I am currently doing!
As I mentioned previously in this blog, I was hired by a couple of teaching agencies here in London and, after completing the mountain of paperwork, I began work for one of them on Monday. Redbox is predominately a primary school agency but for now it pays the bills and will hopefully give me the experience I need in London to improve the resume and to better me as a teacher. I didn’t find out I was working until 7:30am Monday morning when I frantically had to get up and make my way to West London to fill in for a sick teacher. As I got to the school I found out that my first teaching challenge would be Year 1 or Kindergarten as it would be known in Canada. I was a bit ambivalent as to what I might do with 25 five year olds on my hands so naturally I sent a hasty text to my Kindergarten teaching sister in New Zealand. The immediate response from Louise coupled with my experiences at the YMCA in recent months allowed me to recoup my confidence and as I regaled the class with the tales of Billy the Duck and his fear of swimming, I realized that I could do this. It definitely helped that the students were very good and seemed to really enjoy my reading (I suspect it was the accent).
The last two days have been spent in East London, an area with a worldwide reputation for being a difficult place to teach. I had been warned by person after person about some of the horror stories of East London and as I walked into the Year 2 class on Tuesday I was again a bit nervous about what I would face. It didn’t take me long to realize that at the end of the day, they are still kids. They may have trouble listening or might be a bit more rough than their Canadian counterparts, but they still enjoy having fun and still have the innocence that most kids do (with some unfortunate exceptions of course). Don’t get me wrong, it is a tough teaching environment and classroom management is a must, but it IS achievable, and down the road this will make me a far better teacher.
With the exception of flathunting, the London experience is going relatively smoothly. The lack of a flat is actually not much of an inconvenience anymore as I am rarely at the hostel except to sleep and am up early enough where I am not competing for a shower, but it would be nice to get settled and to finally set myself up in a bit of a community. The goal is to join a rugby club after Christmas and to really set roots somewhere so I can begin living a bit more like a local and a bit less like a tourist. I have spent a few nights in the last couple weeks looking at places, but nothing has been right for us as of yet. Fortunately the hostel I’m staying in has been very accommodating and the staff members have actually become quite good friends.
I consider myself quite fortunate that I came to London during as big an International event as the Rugby World Cup. Not only does it happen to be one of my favourite sporting events in the world, but it has also allowed me to develop a connection with people that I otherwise may not have. Rugby is always a good starting point in a conversation these days, and as the games have become more and more significant I have manage to immerse myself in the rugby world. As I discussed previously there are a ton of New Zealanders in London, and being part Kiwi myself they are the crowd I have befriended every Saturday and Sunday morning as the knockout stages progress. I have gotten to know quite a few on a personal level and am hoping that these international bonds can continue after the tournament draws to a close. The rugby itself is also worthy of a blog, and maybe if I get the energy I will write about it next week, but as for now I will stick to the London experience.
London life is for the most part going positively, but every now and then something happens just to make me realize that I still am relatively new to this city and still have a lot to learn and experience. The best example of this took place last night as I was on route from East London to West London with a quick pit stop in Central London in between. To put it bluntly, I got lost. I didn’t just get a little lost, I got very lost. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been so tough (albeit a lengthy commute) but the issue began because the destination I was trying to get to was Queens Road in London. Now there is a Queens Road in just about every city I have ever visited and naturally London is no different. The problem arose from the fact there is a Queens Road in just about every borough of London! This not only confused me, but also confused my Blackberry GPS which ended up sending me all over the city on national rail trains I’d never seen and into districts I had barely heard of. The icing on the cake to all of this was that I was heading to West London to have dinner with a former GEOGRAPHY student of my father’s from St. John’s College, Oxford. Needless to say there was a bit of ridicule from both him and my father! Fortunately the experience was followed up by a wonderful dinner and a
much easier journey back to Hammersmith that night.
While I feel as though there is endless amounts I could write about I should stop this blog entry here in the interest of the sanity of the reader! I have been absolutely awful at taking pictures but will try and make more of an effort as I approach Half term. I hope that you are all well and think of you all quite often. I am very excited to see what the next month in London holds as I become much more settled and the money from teaching provides me with more opportunities.
Keep in touch!