It has been almost 1 year since I left my job in Melbourne, Australia and made the move to the other side of the world to teach in London. My blog has been pretty quiet in that time. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute here whilst I took a little break from teaching and shifted my focus to travelling.
When I arrived in February, I began supply teaching all over London with Vibe Teaching. Even with four years of teaching experience in Australia, this was one of the most challenging periods in my teaching career. These kids really pushed the limits of my behaviour management strategies and it wasn’t without a few tears. It can be frustrating at times to not know where you are teaching until you are about to walk out the door. Being at a different school everyday means that it is hard to make connections with students and feel part of any staff. But supply teaching has taught me so many things. I now have the confidence to teach in the primary classroom. I’ve realised I actually like it and am actually pretty good at it! Sure there was times, as a trained PE teacher I felt out of my depths, especially teaching British history or phonics with my Australian accent, but I always survived. Thanks to classroom teaching, I have rediscovered my love of early years education which were never my favourite year groups when teaching PE back home. I have become more adaptable moving from different schools with different routines. I have become more resourceful when arriving at a school when there no planning left by the teacher. I have become more flexible, changing year levels half way through the day. I have become more resilient when being called some horrible names and more patient when being spoken back to. Supply teaching definitely isn’t an easy gig, but I was lucky to have a friendly and supportive team at Vibe to look after me.
For the summer term, I took on a part time teaching role in a Year 3/4 speech and language class. I had no experience teaching students with severe learning difficulties and although I only had 10 students in my class, the gap in their learning abilities was huge. I was fortunate to have had an amazing teacher assistant and quickly gained the confidence and the knowledge to be able to support these students. After only a few weeks, I could recognise their individual strengths and areas of need, different personality traits, how to engage them and manage their behaviour and the importance of routines and using technology.
For the first time since arriving in London I had consistency. I had a staff who I could begin to think of as colleagues and it almost felt like I had my own class. We celebrated birthdays (including mine), went on school trips and attended sports days. Each week, I got to mention two students at assembly who had displayed the schools values. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces when they were recognised for their efforts in and outside of the classroom at school. Saying goodbye to my class on the last day of school, I knew I would truly miss them.
In September, I started a new role at a new school and was excited by the idea that I would be staying in London, at least for another year. I was very fortunate to have been offered a PE teaching position at an all-girls independent preparatory school in central London. Half a term in and I am absolutely loving it! I am teaching PE and Games from Reception through to Form VI (4 to 11 years) and am enjoying a different role as a Form VI tutor and head of house. Although I will no longer be in a coordinator position, I am looking forward to having less responsibility. For the last four years, most of my time and focus was on administrative tasks but I know that my teaching will benefit from being able to dedicate much more time to planning the best lessons I can for my students. The school has just introduced iPads so I am keen to assist other teachers and start implementing their use within the PE curriculum. I am also really enjoying my role as a form tutor and being able to support our Form VI girls in other areas of their schooling, especially in preparation for the entrance exams in January. A huge part of the reason why I accepted the position was how strongly my values for girls education aligned with the aims and ethos of the school. I have a lot of confidence in the senior management team and am excited to be having an impact at the school.
The hardest thing about teaching at a new school is not comparing it to your previous school. Although the two school contexts are very similar, it has taken me a while to get used to my new routines and surroundings. Our PE lessons are almost all off-site at nearby Regents Park which means we are on and off buses 3 or 4 times a day. From teaching in the hot Australian summers back home, I am finding it a little tricky to acclimatise to the cold London weather. And after 10 months in this country, I have finally got into the habit of calling soccer ‘football’.
It is bittersweet deciding to stay in London as it means I have had to leave a job and a school I love back home. Firbank took a chance on me as a young graduate teacher and gave me a better start to my teaching career than I ever would have imagined. I am so lucky to have been mentored and inspired by incredibly dedicated and talented teachers. I hope I can return to Firbank when I eventually come back home to Australia and be able to offer all that I have learnt through my teaching experiences abroad.