First-hand experience: a day in the life of a UK relief teacherNovember 2013
With work proving difficult to come by in New Zealand, CHRISTIAN BRIENESSE, a history and English teacher from Dunedin, sought teaching and travelling opportunities in the UK.
I’ve just finished teaching six 50-minute periods, and now it’s time for after-school duty. Then it’s back to planning a few more lessons for tomorrow, keeping in mind that some will ace the War Horse test, while three of them have never even seen a horse before. Then it’s off home with some marking over dinner before I go to bed and get ready for the 6am alarm to start another day.
Sounds hectic? Well it is. But not every day. Some days are calmer than others. That’s the reality of teaching in the UK and that is why I came here. New Zealand had very few teaching opportunities for me.
I got in touch with TimePlan, a teaching supply agency, during my final teacher’s college year, and kept in touch even whilst trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get teaching work in New Zealand. Once I knew I was going to make the move, I got all my documents sorted, booked my flights, and left for the UK at the end of March last year. Upon arrival, I organised my accommodation and worked out London’s transport system in true Kiwi style – hopping on a train and seeing where it would take me.
When I arrived, I had my ‘meet & greet’ induction and began doing daily supply (relief) work at primary and secondary schools. The day usually started at 9am and ended around 3.15pm, after which I’d tidy the classroom and mark the children’s work. I’d be out the door at about 3.45pm.
After this, I landed a long-term role at Harrow High School in London, teaching English to students who needed extra assistance to achieve their targets. Although it involved a lot of individualised planning, the school was well resourced, and I could use and modify what I needed to in order to get students engaged. My colleagues, senior teachers, and support staff were very helpful, extremely friendly, and always able to offer assistance when needed.
Worried about moving to a new place and trying to meet new friends? Don’t be. There are so many Kiwis over here it’s easy to meet people from our neck of the woods. Even doing supply work in schools allows you to make new friends and meet other teachers.
One of the great things about working in the UK is that you’re right on Europe’s doorstep. You can literally travel anywhere. I’ve been to Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brugge, and all through the highlands of Scotland (what I like to call the New Zealand of the North!). I’m off to Cardiff this week to see what Wales has to offer, too. If you’re living in London and you don’t want to explore Europe straight away there’s also plenty to do. I have been to gigs, Premier League Football matches, Wembley Stadium, and the Olympics.
I was worried when I first left New Zealand that I’d miss home, but I don’t. I’m simply too busy doing things around London, the UK, and in Europe. There is always lots of teaching work to help me pay for these trips. I’ve never been left hanging by the phone waiting for work. So forget any fears you might have. If you enjoy teaching and want a new and exciting challenge and great travelling opportunities, then teaching abroad is for you.
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