Tuesday 14 May 2019

Amazing Amy Explores London


Hyde Park


It’s me again, the Secret Teacher, here to tell you more about the first steps in my journey as an overseas teacher in the UK. When I last checked in, I was telling you about my induction day at my first full-time teaching job in London. If you need to catch up, you can find my last post here and if you’re completely new to my story, you can read from the beginning here.


Let me take you back to the induction day: I’d met my Head of Department, John, and several of my other colleagues in the English Department. I’d made a quick friend in Shannon, who was a fellow international teacher in London, hailing from Ireland. And now it was time for me to meet the Head Teacher, Dawn.


I studied the notes I’d made on the lesson I’d watched earlier in the day as I waited outside Dawn’s office. I’d never really acted out in my high school years, but I imagined the nerves I was feeling as an adult waiting outside the Head Teacher’s office weren’t far off what it felt like to wait outside the Head Teacher’s office as a misbehaving student!


The office door opened and a woman with glasses and bouncy brown hair smiled and welcomed me in.


“Hello! It’s lovely to finally meet you. How are you settling in?”


We talked for half an hour, my nerves slowly dissipating as I talked Dawn through my day. She was incredibly kind and welcoming and as I left, she reminded me not to hesitate to ask for help if I needed it. I was starting to ease into my position, feeling less like a visitor and more like a real part of the team with every minute that passed.


I returned to the staff room to collect my bag and check in with Shannon and John. Shannon was teaching her final lesson of the day by the time I got back but John was there, with a pile of documents in front of him. He let me know that he’d be reviewing some of my lesson plans tomorrow to make sure we were on the same page before I stood up in front of a class. No pressure then!


On the tube home, I pored over the notes I’d made on Shannon’s lesson plan again. I was eager to get back and begin my preparations for John’s review the next day.


Just as I was settling in at my desk to open Uteach Lessons, Martina appeared in the doorway.


“Hi! Want to come on a little adventure with me?”


“I’d love to, but I have to plan a lesson for tomorrow.”


“Me too, but the weather’s so nice and you’ve only seen a tiny bit of London — let’s go for a walk and we can find a coffee shop to work from later. Bring your laptop!”

Lesson planning in the sunshine definitely sounded a lot more appealing than lesson planning from my bedroom. Pretty soon, we were on the tube on our way to Hyde Park. I had seen lots of photos of it online when I was researching teaching jobs in London but even so, I was quite amazed when I finally saw it in person. It was massive! And so, so gorgeous.


As we strolled past manicured lawns and bursts of colourful flowers, Martina grilled me about my first day. I told her about John, Dawn, Shannon, and the lesson I’d sat in on.


“That was the biggest adjustment for me. Lesson planning is so different in Spain.”


Martina explained that she’d been taught to work mostly from textbooks and that lessons were a lot less structured than they are in the UK.


“Here, it’s more focused on the students. You have to check their progress as you go — you can’t just do a whole lesson and not stop to make sure they understand what you’re saying.”


We continued through the stunning gardens, past a gleaming lake that twinkled in the sunshine (and was named “the Serpentine,” according to Martina). Arriving at a coffee shop near the tube station, we settled into chairs near the window with our cups and pulled our laptops from our bags.


With my heavily annotated copy of Shannon’s lesson plan on the table and Uteach Lessons on my laptop screen, I set about constructing my own. One of the books I was going to be teaching was “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley: a personal favourite of mine. Because I was determined to do it justice — and because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist — I read over and edited the finished lesson plan three times before offering it to Martina to check.


“The structure looks great! You’re a natural.”


“I just have good resources — but thanks, I’ll take the compliment!”


We carried on with our lesson planning session until our cups were empty and the sun had begun to retreat. We packed up and began walking towards the tube station. Martina’s phone buzzed. It was a text from our roommate, Hannah, who works as a chef at a trendy restaurant in Shoreditch.


“Oooh, Hannah’s brought some food home from work for us!”


“That gives me an excuse to not eat the sad little salad I made this morning. Perfect!”


At home around the kitchen table, Martina, Hannah, and our other roommate, Laura, and I tucked into plates of melt-in-your-mouth beef and creamy potatoes. I laughed as Hannah told me stories that sounded like they’d come straight out of “Kitchen Nightmares,” and giggled as Laura told me about a cute new guy that had started at her office. This was starting to feel like home.


Finally, I retired to my bedroom, eager to show my Head of Department what I’d been working on. I’ll let you know how that went — and what my second day as a full-time teacher in London had in store for me — next time.


Until then,


The Secret Teacher, Amazing Amy xo

Do you ever plan your lessons with colleagues or friends? What resources do you use to help you? Tell me in the comments!


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