Musings of a first year teacher

27 07 2012

A good teacher is always learning.

My first full year of teaching is now officially over! It’s hard to believe how quickly things have gone this year and how many different stories and experiences I have had. Obviously, I will not be able to cover all of these events in one blog (that would take up my entire 6 weeks off!) but I feel that reflecting on the year that was is an important part of improving myself for the year to come. Unfortunately for confidentiality reasons I can’t name the schools I worked at in a public forum such as this, so you will have to bear with me as I describe my adventures around London.

When I first began teaching October I have to say I was quite overwhelmed. I was entering not just one unfamiliar environment, but several.  It was truly a baptism by fire and I was jumping in with both feet. Not only had I recently moved to a new city and a new culture, but I was also making my first entry into a school environment, in a system and age group that I had not been trained for. This led to somewhat of a rocky start for me especially when teaching the lower age groups as my classroom management strategies that would have worked well for 16 year olds did not quite have the desired effect on 5 year olds! What I did quickly realize though is that it was still teaching and that as long as I kept at it I knew that I would be able to adapt. This didn’t happen immediately however, the learning curve was very steep and those initial days were extremely tough, but I feel as though I made a lot of headway this year and the experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one.

The most unexpected part of the first few teaching days was seeing the amount of poverty that exists in London and learning to teach in an environment I had very limited exposure to growing up on the Westside of Vancouver. The first month in particular was incredibly emotional for me as day after day I would hear the stories of a particular student and feel for them.  In teacher’s college we were taught to make sure we had a good support system during our first year of teaching, but as a supply teacher, and a foreigner, this was a very tough thing to find. I am fortunate enough however to have a strong family background in teaching and this was where I was able to turn to in these first few tough weeks for support. Frequent Skype calls to my parents as well as chatting to my sister really helped me get through those first few weeks.

 It wasn’t until my third or fourth week teaching that I realized that instead of feeling sorry for these kids, I have an opportunity in front of me. An opportunity to make a difference in their lives, however small it may be. This was really put into perspective one day in the staffroom when I was chatting with a teacher at a “last chance” school in Brixton. The teacher explained to me that as teachers it is our responsibility to say to these kids “ok, you’ve been dealt a poor hand in life so far, how are you going to make the most of what you DO have?”  This got me to thinking that I can’t go around feeling sorry for these kids, I need to work with them and try to turn them into respectable human beings at the very least. In some schools I noticed the teaching was not so much about maths, or literacy, but rather it was about discipline, respect, and simply making the right choices. The attitudes many of these schools have taken is one of keeping kids out of gangs, or keeping them away from drugs, rather than pushing them towards (almost) unachievable goals such as going to Oxford or Cambridge.

It wasn’t until around Christmas time that I truly got into the teaching routine and finally began feeling comfortable in the primary classroom environment. By this time I had experience teaching every year group and had lessons to fall back on if need be – a crucial part of supply teaching. In the lead up to Christmas I was working quite frequently at two rather low performing schools, one in Hackney and the previously mentioned one in Brixton. At first these were eye openers for me, but as I learned the personalities of the students I really began to enjoy both of these schools. The teaching was very challenging, and the classroom management had to be top notch, but what I really enjoyed was seeing the improvement. Not only did I see an improvement in the students, but I did in my teaching style as well. The kids, who initially would play up because there was a supply teacher, began to warm up to me and the classroom environment improved drastically. When I moved on after Christmas to higher performing schools I became very thankful I had learned what I did in November and December.

The Christmas holidays hit at just the wrong time for me this year from a professional perspective. I was really starting to get into the rhythm of teaching and despite working at a different school every day I was actually establishing some semblance of a routine. While the two weeks off at Christmas were a planned holiday, the week and a half of very little work that followed it was what really set me back. I began working for a new agency at this time and effectively spent the next few months juggling a few agencies and teaching at close to 40 different schools. That time in January however was the last exceptionally slow period I would have the rest of the year as I spent much of my remaining time with guaranteed pay (giving me financial stability), and once I got over the adversity of my step backwards I was able to really take a significant leap forward throughout the remaining six months.

It wasn’t until April that I was able to find another school where I felt as comfortable as I had in Hackney. I spent a lot of the winter visiting schools for a day or so but finally after 3 months I began working a lot at one school in Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets is a very interesting community located right in the heart of East London. While many east London communities are known for their behavioural issues and low performance this borough is overwhelmingly very respectful and the students are quite eager to learn. At this particular school this was even more profound as it was extremely well run and demanded a lot of everyone, supply teachers included. Sometimes high expectations lead to high rewards, this is what worked for this school, but at other schools around London this theory would have been tough to duplicate.

It was in Tower Hamlets that I finally began to really feel accepted at a school. The staff treated me as though I worked there, the students seemed confused as to why I always wore a “visitors” pass, and I even began helping out with the after school programmes.  This was easily the school I most enjoyed going to and it led me to develop as a teacher in many different ways. The classes I had at each level were so well behaved that classroom management became rather different. I could allow the students much more independence and freedom while still maintaining control, something I much prefer to do as a teacher. This school is also where I was able to try many different techniques of teaching. I was able to figure out what worked for me, and what I could make work with a few improvements. This will undoubtedly benefit me down the road.

If there is one thing I learned that stands out above all the rest this year it is adaptability. When you are teaching you need to be able to adapt in almost every situation because of the simple fact that every child is different. Certainly routine and consistency are important parts of a classroom structure, but any teacher that is not able to change something that is clearly not working is not going to be successful. Supply teaching was an excellent way of learning that flexibility as I would have to learn the dynamics of the classroom, the school, and the borough I was in that day to truly be able to run my classroom effectively. No two days are ever the same as a teacher and no two students are ever the same, which is one of the things I truly love about the job – it never gets dull.

My first year of teaching was certainly one that I will never forget, it was emotional, difficult, rewarding, exciting and interesting but most of all I truly feel that teaching is the vocation for me. I never once dreaded going to work, as I did so much during my construction days, and even on those days that didn`t go well I would still leave the school knowing that I truly love what I do. Not everyone gets to work in a career they enjoy and I consider myself very lucky I have this opportunity. While I feel as though I have learned a huge amount this year by no means is the learning curve anywhere near complete – it never will be. Next year I hope to secure my own classroom long term and that will no doubt be another steep learning curve, as will getting back to teaching secondary school, something I really want to do. I hope that next year will be as enjoyable as my first one!


A Day in the Life of a Supply Teacher

17 12 2011

Over the past few days I have been reading George Orwell`s “Down and Out in Paris and London” and have been inspired to discuss my own experiences in a new city and a new environment.  I, fortunately, am not as down and out as Orwell was during his time, but I do think I have an interesting topic to write about as I discuss my typical day in London.  My in depth descriptions of experiences by no means rival Orwell’s, but I do hope they provide you with a bit more understanding of my life in London.  Every event in this account has happened to me at one point or another since September, but not all on the same day.

Its 6:29AM Monday morning, I am awake but reluctant to leave the warm comfort of my bed until 6:30 rolls around and “Beethoven’s Fifth” rattles my Blackberry.  I get out of bed slowly, and check my phone to ensure that it is in a live zone. The reception in my house is simply awful. The all brick architecture that is so prevalent in the UK is not conducive to cell phones and forces me to rush outside when I receive a call, and to place the phone in certain areas, known to have better reception just to receive texts.  As I get dressed and eat my breakfast, my morning progresses at a rather leisurely pace. I am in no rush, for I have not yet been told where, or if, I am working and there is not much I can do until I know. I finish breakfast about 7:35 and just as I am considering lying down for a nap my Blackberry buzzes! A text!

I run to my phone and learn where I will be working. I have been assigned to a school in Camden and  I have to leave immediately to catch the correct train. As I scramble to gather what I need for a day in the classroom, I take a quick look in the mirror in hope that I look respectable, grab my IPOD, and fly out the door.

It is normally a 20 minute walk to Highbury/Islington station, but today I will have to cut that down to about 14 minutes. I have quickly learned the shortest path to the station, and my walking technique is similar to that of an Olympic speed walker. As my journey commences I can’t help but notice it is a cool, crisp day, wind blowing in my face, slowing down my commute. I consider myself fortunate that I remembered my scarf and remind myself that I must buy some gloves as winter creeps in.  As I hurry past the tennis courts and the fields of Aberdeen Park, through the picturesque autumnal trees that I don’t have time to appreciate, I run into congestion and have to start making my way through groups of people walking at a snail’s pace, taking up most of the footpath as though they own it. Eventually I make it to within a minute or so of the station when I come to the last hurdle…a roundabout. I take my life into my hands and, with my head on a swivel, I dart between cars coming from all directions and cross the road as swiftly as I can.

Before entering the Tube station there is a crucial step to take.  Without breaking stride I tread past the pile of free newspapers, grab my copy, and continue on my way towards the train. As I am walking I take my oyster card out of my wallet and get ready to scan it as I dash through the turnstiles. Unfortunately, the person in front of me puts a wrinkle in my efficient, even frenzied, progress as they have no money on their card and are having difficulty comprehending why they are being denied entry. I shuffle my way over to the next line, scan my card, and continue on my way.

Through the turnstiles, I enter a sea of people all heading towards the same Victoria line train I aim to catch. I can see that an earlier train has just left so I know that there will be a couple minutes until the next one. I spend these two minutes ensuring that I stand where a door will open when the tube comes to a stop so that I have every chance of getting on the train. This is a little bit of wisdom, a “trick,” that comes from riding the tube every day; many people ahead of me simply stop as soon as they reach the platform, thus losing precious yards and seconds in the race to get aboard before the conductor says; ”Mind the Closing Doors”.

As the tube approaches a gust of wind blows through the platform. Being underground can be unbearably hot some days but whatever the temperature this gust is actually quite refreshing. The tube comes to a stop and as passengers exit the train I spend those crucial seconds scoping out a good place to stand (I have no chance of getting a seat). Today, there are no good spots and I will be lucky to get on the train at all! I squeeze on as the last person, missing entrapment in the closing doors by an inch or less. As the train departs I feel rather claustrophobic standing nose to nose with a rotund, middle aged English bloke, sweat beading down his bald head and dripping onto his suit.  Judging by the smell of this man’s breath I would wager he had baked beans on toast for breakfast, along with some coffee.

I manage to wriggle around to get enough room to at least glance at my paper. It’s tough to actually open it so I just read the front and the back pages full of headlines about the latest gossip and football news.  A s the tube continues on past Central London the crowd slowly starts to disperse.  I can read the paper with ease.

After a quick transfer of trains I reach the tube stop nearest my-school-for-a-day at about 8:15. This is my first trip to the school so I have to put my geography skills to the test. The agency generally provides me with basic directions to the school, but these are often tough to follow as many tube stops have multiple exits. Fortunately I have my London A-Z and GPS on my Blackberry to guide me, and I find the correct streets.

On arrival I am required to sign in and am given a four-page document to read about the behaviour management policy of the school. I am informed that I will be teaching year 6 and that school starts at five minutes to 9:00. It is 8:45 by the time I get up to my classroom and I have yet to be told what I am supposed to be teaching the students. There has been nothing left for me, so I  run into the next room and ask the teacher there if he can suggest what might be appropriate. Reluctantly, he agrees to help me out and provides me with a worksheet for the students to do during the first hour.

At 8:55 I head downstairs to pick up the class from the playground. Part of my job is to make sure that they are in a proper line and are not fooling around. As soon as I start asking them to get into line I am bombarded by students all asking me the same question. “Sir, are you American?”  I explain that I will talk about myself when we get upstairs, they cooperate, and we make our ways to the classroom with relative ease.

Once I get the students sitting down, I introduce myself as Mr. Wynn and explain I am from Canada, not America. This naturally draws a few snickers and I hear a few kids mutter under their breath “more like Mr. Lose”.  Ignoring those comments, I move on and begin with the register. This also leads to great hilarity as I struggle with a few of the names on the list. It is a remarkably diverse class with names such as Tuesday, Princess, Abdullahi, Sumayah, Fatima and Nimrod but I eventually get through the list. Before we move on a couple of hands shoot up and the students have questions for me. I already know what they  are going to be, but I have to let the students ask, in case they have legitimate enquiries. As I anticipated, the  first question is “do you know Justin Bieber?” and the whole class erupts into laughter. It actually loosens the class up a bit and makes them a bit more comfortable with an unfamiliar teacher.

Quickly after register I attempt to transition the class into starting our literacy lesson and ask them to explain to me what they have been working on. I am told by one student that for literacy the year 6 classes actually split into sets based on ability. I am also told that I will be teaching the bottom set. I quickly get the students to head to their appropriate classroom and as other students come in and sit down in my classroom I can see immediately that they are laughing because they have a supply teacher today. Generally kids of about 10 or older see a supply teacher as an opportunity for a day off and particularly enjoy giving the teacher a hard time. It is my job to keep them on task as best I can and to ensure that they do work. I knew that this would be a tough task today, and was I ever right!

As I calm the class down and begin the session things appeared to be going relatively smoothly. The kids are listening attentively and seem engaged in the topic, until, all of a sudden, a boy, Michael, jumps up and sprints across the back of the classroom. I stop talking mid-sentence as the whole class turns just in time to watch Michael, his face bright red with rage and his fists flailing, run and punch Robert, a boy half his size and seemingly perfectly innocent. Robert reacts by quickly leaping from his seat and the two boys engage in a full fist fight. As I make my way to the back of the classroom to break up the fight the class erupts in a chant of “fight, fight, fight, fight” to which I have to raise my voice “ENOUGH”. Fortunately I am blessed with an exceptionally loud voice and this allows me to keep control in most any situation. The chant stops immediately and the boys look up at me worriedly, knowing that they are in major trouble. I quickly send Michael to the head teacher with the Teaching Assistant, and I send Robert over to the side of the class to cool off. No sense in talking to him while he is in a rage. It takes a little while for the class to refocus, but eventually I get them working and have a chat to Robert. An eventful morning!

As our literacy lesson comes to a close the next challenge is to get the students to line up to go downstairs for recess. This would have been no problem with the original class, but as this is the lower ability set I anticipate it might be an issue. I ask them to line up sensibly and properly. They are year 6, and should be able to do this. As they begin pushing and shoving one another vying for that elusive first spot in the line, I order them to sit back down. We try it again, and again they are forced to sit back down. By this time they have wasted 5 minutes of their 15 minute recess. Finally, on the fourth try, they get it right and we head downstairs.

Following recess I head back downstairs to collect a new group of students for Maths. This is the middle set of students which in many ways is the toughest, as the range in abilities is incredibly large. As I set up the lesson and get the students working I notice a boy who is not listening and is not making any effort to get down to work. As the rest of the class begins working I head over to him to ask what the problem is. His response is simply “you can`t make me work, you aren`t my teacher“ He follows this declaration by throwing his books onto the floor and kicking them under his desk. I respond straightforwardly by telling him I am his teacher today and if he doesn`t work I will have no choice but to tell his regular teacher. Reluctantly, the boy nods his head, picks up his books and gets to work.

Eventually, the morning draws to a close. By now it is 12:30 and I have the next hour off for lunch. I confidently walk into the staffroom and make myself a coffee, but then comes the important decision of where to sit. I often find that the staffroom is far and away the cliquiest part of the school. All of the teachers sit together at one table, all of the teaching assistants sit at another, and there is usually another table over to the side where the supply teachers sit. Occasionally, if I have had a chat to a staff member I will make an attempt to invade the permanent teachers’ table, usually with odd looks being shot my way in the process, but today is not one of those days. I will sit at the supply table and keep to myself, hastily eat my lunch, then head back to my classroom for the afternoon.

Halfway through my lunch I am interrupted by the head teacher, who informs me that I am no longer teaching year 6 today, but instead, I will be teaching year 2 for the afternoon.  This is not actually  a great surprise to me, as it is quite common to be switched at lunch time, but it does have an effect mentally. Teaching 10 year olds and teaching 6 year olds is quite different and I will have to forget the arduous morning in order to have a fresh start and a good afternoon.

The afternoon starts off in much the same way as the morning. Again I am bombarded with questions about Justin Bieber and am forced to explain that I am not his father, his brother, or his biggest fan.  The plan for the afternoon is for the class to have PE. As a supply teacher this can be a good or a bad thing depending on whether there is a PE teacher or not. Today there is not and I am forced to think of a PE session on the spot.  It turns out I have more time to prepare than I thought, as the kids take an eternity to change into their PE kit. My session is not amazing by any means, but I take the kids through a full warm up and stretch, then play games such as British Bulldog and Everybody`s It tag. This fills the time and the students thoroughly enjoy running around and learning a new game. It is now time for the kids to change back into their school uniforms and get ready to head home!

Home time is a very interesting part of the day as each school treats it very differently. Today`s  home time routine is a good one, where the students simply sit at their tables, I read them a story and the students leave one by one, with the help of the teaching assistant, once their parents show up to get them .

Once all the students are gone I am free to head off for the day, unless there is marking to do. Today there is no marking and I happen to be in one of my favourite parts of London. I decide to go on a bit of a stroll through Camden and the overwhelming amount of markets in the hopes that I can find a deal on anything from clothes to books.   One of the major benefits of teaching in a different area every day is that I do get the chance to see different parts of the city and actually get to interact with the kids and parents that live in those communities.

As I eventually make my way back to the tube, the atmosphere is a little more relaxed than in the hustle and bustle of the morning rush hour. I get to the station around 5:00PM, just as the afternoon rush begins in London. As I make my way to the train it still feels as though we are cattle being hoarded into a confined space, but perhaps people are not as determined to catch that specific train as they are in the morning. in the afternoon rush it is not uncommon to see a busker playing the saxophone or guitar. Generally they play upbeat rock songs trying to create a positive vibe so that you will give them money.

The tube ride home is always much less stressful for me personally, because I know where I am going. The morning is a bit of a panic but in the evening I can relax. I pick up the free evening paper and board my train towards Islington. As we move along the Victoria line we are constantly reminded by tube staff to `mind the gap` and to `mind the closing doors`. As we approach Kings Cross-St Pancreas we hit a red signal and the tube is stopped for a few seconds. Nobody seems to mind too much, but the driver feels the need to come on the intercom and fully explain the problem. By the time he has explained it we are moving!

I typically get back to the Islington area about 5PM but I am running about half an hour late today. I now wind down my day the way I wind down most days, by heading for a workout at the gym then heading home to cook some dinner. I will be tired tonight, but tomorrow is another day – another part of London, and more than likely another question about ….Mr Bieber.

True London

12 11 2011

As I approach two months here in London I am starting to realize that I have become a bit slack in updating my blog, so I have devoted much of this weekend to catching up on it. There is a lot to discuss, and for the sake of your sanity I think breaking the topics up into different posts is probably the best idea, thus allowing you to read about what interests you.

The first entry I write today will focus on my life as a supply (substitute or reliever for those around the globe) teacher in the various communities in East London.  I will do my best to bring some levity to this blog post, but unfortunately it is not the most enjoyable topic to discuss.  I feel, however, that I do need to talk about these aspects of London and my experiences, in order for you to truly understand how my time is going here and just how much I am learning.

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, I am working primarily in East London with my agency. I am currently still doing day to day supply but have frequently been asked back to two communities in particular, Hackney and Brixton. These are two of the notoriously rough suburbs of London, but in many ways I have grown to really enjoy working in these environments. The kids are so full of personality, they learn things so quickly, and the classroom is an incredibly diverse place. I have learned an amazing amount working in these schools already, and if I can get the opportunity to work their full time I would jump at the chance.  That being said, there are some incredibly trying aspects to the job.

This week in particular was a very trying one for me, and it had very little to do with my teaching skills. Much of the adjustment to this job is adjusting the environment in which you work and this week has been something that was a necessary step for me in doing just that. I spent the first two days of the week teaching reception (preschool) this week.  The kids at that age are so fun and so eager to learn. I was very reluctant to teach reception but I was glad I got the experience to sing the songs and teach the phonics the kids learn at that age. The biggest dose of reality I got during those two days however was when a few of the kids in the class came up to me near the end of the day, gave me a big hug and said “daddy?”  It was something that was a dose of reality for me, because as they looked up at me with big grins and hope in their eyes I had to tell them I wasn’t their dad and that I wouldn’t be back there tomorrow.  I got a chance to talk to the Teaching Assistant about it near the end of the day and she explained, just as I had feared, that those kids didn’t have dads, or any male influence in their lives, and they had grown attached to me in that short time.

The next few days were spent teaching a year 5 class and the situation was not that much different to the one I had faced earlier in the week.  As I was making my way through an English lesson, trying to encourage the students to work I came across this one boy who was just sitting there, not working at all. As I went over to him I could see that there was something wrong and crouched down to ask him the problem. It turned out the boy had not only failed to eat breakfast; he also had not eaten dinner the previous night and was basically too weak to do any work.  At lunch time I thought I should talk to someone about this and went to another teacher in the school, who had previously taught the boy in year 4. She explained to me that the boy was from a single parent home, but his mother (the single parent) was severely disabled, so he was essentially raised by his grandparents who were struggling to support even themselves. While the family did have some food, the boy often gave up his meals so his brothers could have more food, as he felt it was more important.

Through further discussions with teachers and other staff I have come to realize that this is quite normal in communities such as this. Many of these children have never met their fathers and live in a home with no structure or discipline. Some have mothers who are either into alcohol or drugs, while some others have mothers who are working 15 or 16 hours a day just to provide their children with a slightly better life.  After hearing these stories, I felt horrible being the teacher that was telling these students to do their work, or to lineup properly, or to stop talking, but as I thought about it more, I realized it is exactly what the kids need. They need an environment where they have to listen to an authority figure; they need an environment where they can learn respect, structure and discipline. This is much more about what teaching is in these communities.  While Math, English, Science and all the other subjects are taught, the focus on discipline rather than academic achievement is what is stressed in these schools.

Despite the poverty and the lack of discipline in these communities, the kids are a breath of fresh air. In many ways they are very challenging to control, but when you do give them an activity they enjoy they are very creative and very engaged. They also are not shy in challenging the supply teacher by any means. In Brixton this week, as soon as I opened my mouth to introduce myself one kids arm went up…”are you Mr. Bieber” he asked, having obviously heard my accent. This naturally got a rise out of the entire class, and even a smile out of me. There truly never is a dull moment in my job, and always something to think about.

I am also learning an incredible amount about different religions and cultures. Many of the schools were closed last week for the Islamic holiday Eid, and many of the classes I taught were based around Eid and the culture. I think I was learning much more than the students! The interesting aspect to day to day supply teaching is that every day you have to learn a new disciplinary system (school policies) and you have to learn a whole new routine. It is a great way for me, as a relatively experienced teacher, to learn what works and what doesn’t in these systems and what routines and systems I would like to employ once I do get my own classroom. The negative part of supply teaching however outweighs that immensely. As I described earlier, it’s hard leaving some kids after only one day, especially when I feel like I could get through to them or be a positive influence in their lives.

I feel as though my “honeymoon” period in London is coming to an end, as I get more involved in the school system and hopefully find a permanent job, my perspective on things will certainly change. This week has already shown that. Anytime this week that I’ve missed a tube or had something not go my way I really just can’t help but stop and think about how lucky I am to be here at all. How lucky I am, and all of you reading this, to have had all the opportunities we have had in our lives. Long term I think this is going to be a tremendous experience for me and will only benefit me down the road as I move into different aspects of the educational sector.  I feel as though things will get easier for me as a long term teacher in these communities so I hope that I can be lucky enough to get an opportunity. If not, I have already learned a lot and the experience has been worth it even if I were to return home now.  While the honeymoon may be over, I think the best times are still ahead here in London, and as I begin to feel more like a local I am starting to enjoy this city more than I ever thought possible. You will see evidence of that in the next couple of entries I write!

As for now, this also being the day after Remembrance Day, I think everyone should just take a brief moment and think about how lucky they are to have had the chances they have in their lives. I know I have been thinking about that a lot this week!

Teaching and Learning

19 10 2011

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.

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