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Teaching and Travelling Abroad

Karen G (B.Ed/B.A/E.C.E 2013) - Supply teacher in England

Karen graduated from the Concurrent Bachelor of Education program in 2013. During her final year in the program she attended one of the career fairs at University of Windsor where she learned about different agencies that provide Canadians opportunities to teach abroad. After researching different agencies, Karen decided to go through to the interview process with Protocol Education and had an in-person interview at the University of Windsor. Once accepted, Karen began the process of getting prepared to move to the UK. She had to research what area she wanted to teach in, as Protocol has several different branches across England. Ultimately Karen chose London. In order to live and work in the UK Karen had to acquire a working visa, a youth mobility visa, which gave her up to two years working in the UK. Karen is currently still teaching in London, England.

Karen, what has your experience been like thus far? Is it what you expected?

My experience teaching in England so far has been absolutely amazing. I have now been working in southwest London for a year and a half and I still love it. I started off doing day-to-day supply at all sorts of different schools during my first year living here. I worked in classrooms of all ages ranging for junior kindergarten to grade 6. In September of my second year here, I took on a long-term position at a school I had done supply at during the previous school year. I worked in a grade 2 class from September to December and it was a great experience where I learned so much. In January I worked in a grade 4 class for a month and a half at the same school and now I currently work at the same school as a regular supply who comes in every day and works in all the different year groups. This is a great opportunity, as I get to know the students and staff around the school and continue to get experience in all ages groups.

What are the similarities or differences between the Windsor/Ontario/Canada context and where you teach now? Are there any interesting challenges that are unique to teaching/working in your area?

While there are definitely some similarities between the school systems in Canada and England, there have also been several differences that I had to adapt to. Although we speak the same language as the children and staff, our accents sometimes can cause confusion as well as some differences in terminology, which did present some challenges. Simple words and phrases that we use could have a completely different meaning; however it is amazing how quickly I caught on to many of these and became submerged into the culture. Another difference that stands out is the presence of teaching assistants in the classroom. Nearly every class or year group has a teaching assistant who helps within the classroom. Having another set of hands in the classroom is so beneficial to the teacher and the students. The way the school year is laid out is also different. The year is split into three different terms, each having a week "half term" break midway through. At the end of each term there is a two-week break, this takes place at Christmas time in term 1, Easter in term 2 and finally summer, which begins at the end of July and is 6 weeks long. 

In the early stages of your job, what did you learn at the Faculty of Education that helped you to succeed? Was there any specific experience you relied on from your time in the B.Ed program?

My first day teaching in England was also my first day teaching as a fully qualified teacher. Naturally I was nervous, but I also felt prepared and confident for the day ahead. The concurrent program gave me ample amounts of practice teaching experience and several opportunities to observe and learn from other teachers. I believe having been in the classroom learning and practicing for the 5 years of my university degree really benefitted me, especially in terms of classroom management. While I did feel prepared walking into the classroom, I cannot fathom the amount I have learned since graduating and being in the classroom teaching. 

What types of opportunities have you had outside of work as a result of your current position?

While working in England, I have had the opportunity to do all kinds of travelling within the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. As mentioned previously, the school year here is quite different from that in Canada and offers several breaks throughout the school year, which is ideal for travelling. I have met so many different people from all around the world. To name a few places I have been fortunate to visit, in my first year I travelled to Munich, Paris, Nice, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Split. So far this school year I have been to Budapest, Vienna, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Krakow, and Brussels.