I received my teaching degree from Lakehead University in Canada. That was in 2011. For 5 years after that I did not step into a classroom. My degree was going to waste in my eyes, as it was very difficult getting a job in Ontario. The market is flooded with desperate teachers. Colleges continue to pump out teachers yearly. And our union, The Ontario College of Teachers, come and make presentations at these colleges, saying that they are here to protect us and the one thing that they were working very hard on, was creating a designation that we can then put behind our names – us teachers would be as highly respectable as Doctors when people see O.C.T. behind our names. This was the whole presentation that they gave when I was attending Teachers College. Highly informative (please note the sarcasm).
When deciding to move to London, I was not sure what I would do for work. The idea was exciting. I had looked into a bit about managing flats, as I had received my designation as a Property Manager of Condominium’s in Canada, and thought that might be an option. But since we were so busy getting everything in order for us to move, I did not have time to really think or look into it. We had money saved up so that I could take a month to get settled and start looking around. That definitely is not what happened.
My brother and I landed on Friday the 15th of January. On Monday the 18th my husband called me to say that his work mate’s wife was a deputy head at a school that needed a replacement teacher asap and that I was to call her and arrange for me to come see the school that week. Scary. I went to visit the school on the Wednesday for a tour and was told that if I wanted the job I should plan a half hour lesson for the next morning and an interview will take place after. I had that night to figure out what to teach and somewhat prepare myself for an interview in which I could not remember anything of what I was taught in teachers college. I was offered the job (I think they were desperate?!). That Monday, I would start at the school. After teaching 6 months, I noticed there were quite a few differences in teaching in England as opposed to Canada.
1. Team Teaching
The greatest thing about teaching in England, is that you have a team teacher. This pretty well saved my butt. In London it seems there are always two classes of the same year group. My Year 4 teaching buddy had been teaching there for 5 years and this was his first year teaching Year 4. Every Friday afternoon, we had off to prepare lessons for the following week together. I have heard this is not always the case with other schools. We were fortunate to have our whole planning time chunked together and not sporadically throughout the week. He helped a lot with the planning. At the beginning, he pretty much took the reins until I started to get on my feet. There was a room dedicated for planning and we would get onto our computers and try to nail out the weeks worth of planning done by 5:30 pm. The only downfall is that our slot was on Friday afternoon and you are knackered (for my Canadian friends – this means exhausted). It also doesn’t help that all the other teachers in the school, who are all roughly the same age, want to head to the nearest pub for a pint (or two, or three, or four!). To be honest, we would sit at our computers starring at the screen not having any motivation and look at each other and say “There is always Monday“. Cheers Jason!
2. Teaching Assistants
There are still assigned TA’s to each Year group. It used to be that you would have a TA for each classroom, but that has changed.In the school I taught at, you have a TA that is shared between your Year group for the mornings only. That is when you were teaching your maths and English and you would need more assistance. As well, the TA would switch reading books, handling all the administration junk – permission slips, change the bulletin boards, do any photocopying that you needed and help out any students that needed a little extra assistance or push. Of course this is all changing and they are looking to have TA’s only to take out students that need extra help (as is done in Canada). I am sure it won’t be long that TA’s will be out of the classroom altogether. Not too sure how the teachers will react.
3. Moving up the Ranks
I have not quite figured this part out yet. It seems you move up in salary for how long you have been a teacher. I know one teacher who is from Canada and has been teaching here for 9 years has reached her maximum salary. The only other way to increase your salary at that point is to become a Phase Leader. Phase Leaders are those in charge of their Key stage group. There is Key Stage 1 which is Years 1-3 and Key Stage 2 which is Years 4-6. You would then hold monthly meetings with your teachers to relay information from the Head Teachers or to get an update on what teachers have been finding difficult or anything we need to improve on. They also would check in on your teaching and if you had any problems, you were to go to your Phase Leader. I am not too sure what the point would be as this would only provide you with 2000 pounds more onto your salary a year. At the school I was at, I could see that at times a lot more responsibility would be pushed onto these Phase Leaders. Another way of earning more, is to move your way to the top by becoming a Deputy Headteacher or a Headteacher. I do not think there are actual qualifications to be a Headteacher. At one point I heard that you needed to at least teach in each of the Key Stages before you could become one. I am sure the more experience, the better your chances, but I do not think it is like Canada, where you need to have a certain about of Additional Qualifications (continual learning courses where you can become an expert at either maths, literacy, etc).
In Ontario, there is one union, The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) – see rant above. They apparently are working for the teachers and are there to protect you. I am sure they are doing their fair share of work and the only reason I am saying that now, is because here in England, there are a bunch of unions that you can join. If one union decides to strike and make a demand that either wages are not fair or workload is becoming too great, well there would maybe be a few teachers this would affect per school. Does not make quite an impact when for example in Ontario, all teachers must strike and they will be penalized if they do not.
I have changed gears and have been supply teaching for 5 months now. I highly enjoy it, but it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Here in England, there are several different agencies that provide supply teachers to schools. TimePlan and Protocol are a couple that you can choose from. I am with TimePlan and have had no problems with them. Your daily rate is dependent on your experience and can increase depending on whether you receive a lot of call backs. I would be interested to know what Agencies are charging schools per day for one of their teachers.
All in all, teaching is teaching. Kids are kids. Teachers are tired and overworked, but the push to make a difference is what keeps us ticking.
If you’re thinking about teaching in England and have questions, let me know!