I wish I had a penny for every time a student in London schools has asked me “Why are all our supply teachers Australian?” Apparently we are everywhere: Australian teachers who have come over to London for a great daily pay rate and a heap of holidays to go see Europe.
I never used to have any interest in living in London, but after finishing my teaching qualifications at the end of last year I decided to head to London as a base to do some travelling before settling into work in Australia. With no teaching experience I was a little concerned about picking up work in London, but the teaching agencies all assured me that I would be able to find work quite easily.
I arrived in London at the end of January this year after living in Coffs Harbour for the past few years. I knew arriving in the middle of winter would be a little tough, but it was still quite a shock to the system to go from 30 degree days to 1 degree days. Needless to say the day after I arrived I went on a shopping spree for warm clothes (how naive was I to think that gloves are a luxury not a necessity?). I had offers to stay with friends of friends in London, but I felt a little uncomfortable about staying on the couch of someone I didn’t know so I stayed in a hostel in central London. This is definitely something I would have done differently given my time again – staying in dorm rooms with cold showers and filthy kitchens is not a heap of fun, especially when you are getting up in the dark each morning to go to work.
I had planned to do supply work but in my first week of looking for work I went to a job interview through teachweb. I liked the staff and support I got from the school, so I accepted a long term supply position up until summer break. Rick had warned me that it was a challenging group of students at the school and they didn’t disappoint. Looking back I had completely thrown myself in the deep end (new career, new country, new school), but I had great support from the school and great teachers around me to offer advice and support. It was an extremely steep learning curve but a great teaching experience.
Once the summer started I was off travelling and seeing Europe for the first time. Since February I have been to Paris, Italy, Croatia, Budapest, Prague, Holland and Finland, as well as some sightseeing in and around London. Paris and Italy were unbelievably beautiful, Croatia was a heap of fun and Holland was the most laid back and relaxed place I have ever been.
Finland was probably the best holiday as I stayed with a local and so got to really experience the local culture. We spent most of the holiday in the country staying in their summer cottage fishing, swimming in the lake and eating (way too much) great food and experiencing traditional Finnish saunas. Sitting in a sauna with a whole bunch of women, all of us completely nude, slapped each others backs with birch leaves was not exactly what I imagined as part of my holiday, but the ‘when in Rome…’ philosophy to travelling had worked well so far so I thought I should run with it. Unlike France and Italy I had no chance of speaking the Finnish language, although my attempts brought lots of entertainment to the people I stayed with.
As far as London goes, it has been so much better than I imagined. Contrary to popular belief, London does actually see a lot of sun over the summer months and after a cold winter the place absolutely comes alive when the sun is out. London pubs have great beer gardens (why they do beer gardens better than Australia is still a mystery to me), awesome parks everywhere to sunbake in and kick a footy, and great outdoor markets (especially Camden markets) which are absolutely buzzing with such a diverse range of people. Being such a big city there is always something fun to do, with my favourite experiences so far being the rugby 7’s tournament at Twickenham (dress up beach theme, rugby, no line up to get a beer and great people make for a great day out), Kings of Leon in Hyde Park and rowing on the Thames (definitely no Sydney Harbour but it is still nice to be on the water nonetheless).
So for any teachers out there considering the move to London, my advice is to book your tickets now! This is the quietest time for work and I have still had plenty of work, there are lots of other travellers in London and a whole heap of fun to be had. My opinion may be slightly different after a full winter here, but at the moment I am loving it.
Written by Sarah for teachweb