On Wednesday afternoon, one agency rang to see if I’d be interested in teaching in an East London school on Friday. I would be teaching year 1’s in the morning, and year 3’s in the afternoon. Of course I agreed, It’s about time I started earning my money instead of living off my savings. I got the address, contact details, and the tube line that it ran off. ‘Great’ I said. ‘I’ll be there.’ One catch, the school was on budget constraints and had a deal with the agency that their relief teachers only got paid £110 instead of the standard £122. I agreed to the different fee, because as I mentioned before, it’s about time I actually got some work, and I was willing to take anything.
I spent Thursday evening carefully planning things for these two classes to do. I sorted through my books, found my Aussie and Tassie flags, and had literacy and numeracy tasks for both these classes to do while I was there. I thought the lessons that I planned would be engaging and interesting for the students. In short, I did exactly what I did at home, planned a whole day of relief using my own resources, without needing to rely on the classroom teacher to give me ideas. It’s just not the done thing in Tassie.
In the end I had my hand-luggage heavy laden with all the things I thought I’d need for Friday. I picked the bag up, rembering the strain it caused my arms that lasted for days after I landed at Heathrow airport, and I decided that yes, I could handle carrying that around all around Rotherhithe, blindly looking for a school that I never even knew existed until Wednesday.
I got there an hour early, at 7am. To get there that early I had to get up at 5:30am. I was under the impression that the journey would take that long and I wanted to be safe rather than sorry on my first day of teaching. I actually found the school easily and waited around for the gates to open. The staff were friendly and supportive, but were a little taken aback when I told them that today was Day 1 of my teaching career in England. A couple of them exclaimed in exasperation that the agency always did that to first timers – send them to one of the toughest schools around.
I was not amused.
You don’t need to hear all the gory details. Suffice it to say that some children were injured thanks to another student (which I really couldn’t have prevented); the grade ones I am used to turned out to be Prep aged childred being pushed to do grade 1 work, and under no circumstances were they allowed to (heaevn forbid) play; the teachers had their own plans of how I was to spend my teaching time, down to the minute, rendering my heavy hand-luggage I’d carted around with me all morning useless; I could only remember a handful of names at the best of times (some of them I couldn’t even pronounce), and all of the children I taught all day were rude, disobediant and loud.
The funny thing was that when I talked to teachers or teaching aides throughout the day, they all said ‘Oh you wouldn’t get anything like this in Australia, would you?’, almost as if they were bragging.
They have no idea.