Romania: My first teaching job took me to Bucharest
I feel for every jobless teacher. During my probation year in Scotland, I met some amazing teachers who were working supply (including my own sister) so I prepared myself for the tough fight for jobs as I came to the end of my year.
I started early and made my first application in April. I found that I was always the second choice at interviews - experience was rated over enthusiasm. It reminded me of the chicken and egg situation of my part time job hunting whilst at University; “Oh, we can’t give you a job as a barmaid if you haven’t had any experience as a barmaid!”
I began to look further afield, and found my dream job abroad - in Bucharest, Romania. It was in an international school, with a positive ethos (the onus was on the child becoming a confident young adult, not on getting the best grades in the world) I thought I’d blown my interview by asking if I could restart one particular question - but turns out that I did very well and was offered the job a week later.
I looked at schools all over the world - China, Spain, Greece, Germany, South America. I decided that I wanted to be in Europe, having never worked abroad before, but I really fancied somewhere unexplored. Romania was the most exciting place, particularly when the question I was constantly asked by my friends was: ‘are you a vampire?’
It’s just eight years old. The small campus contains two separate buildings - primary and secondary - and is now at full capacity (250). I loved the idea of making my mark in a very young school. I liked the fact that the primary and secondary schools are interlinked. The nicest thing is that the pupils are truly international - over 30 nations are represented in the school, which is so exciting. English is the spoken language of the school, although pupils also receive weekly classes in Romanian.
The pupils are open, curious, perceptive and fun. Like all classes, there are the ‘naughty pupils’ but a stern warning works wonders. Their attitude towards work is responsible, and many act like school is a summer camp. I got my first EVER round of applause just for telling my Year 8’s that I thought they were a clever, responsible group.
I am teaching a timetable of 24 periods a week, 8.30 to 4pm, all English (except one PSHE class). It is certainly different given that I am teaching the English curriculum as opposed to the Scottish one! Same ideas, different labelling. I teach Years 7, 8, 9, GCSE 1st Language (pupils from years 11 to 13) and A2/AS Literature. These year groups allow me to meet all the pupils in the school and are a source of thought-provoking fun.
Promotion wise, it is a young school and people get promoted fast. My principal teacher arrived two years ago and is now principal of English and head of the senior school. I’m not sure if I would wish such accolades on myself right now, but its comforting to know I am making a real difference to learning and teaching here and I feel supported and welcomed by everyone.
Bucharest is not representative of Romania, ex pats and locals reassure me. Bucharest is dry, dusty, dirty, and full of stray dogs and potholes stuffed with rubbish. Some people are very rude. Some people are very nice. Romania- the countryside - is stunning, apparently. I intend to leave Bucharest during the October holiday. We will have our December team building weekend in the mountains of Vistisoara. How many people can say they’re going to Vlad the Impaler’s house for team building?
Standard of living
My salary is less than I would receive in the UK - 2,000 euros - but goes a lot further. Romania still has its own currency called lei (or RON/Bani). A beer costs around 5 lei and 150 lei will pay for your food and sundries for a week if you are frugal. Restaurants are very good value for money, an average meal for two is about 30 lei. Rent is in euros and has risen spectacularly in the last two years. My rent is 650 euros a month for a one bedroom apartment.
Right now, I’m glad I’m here. My lifestyle has not changed much, except that during August I drank litres of water because it was so hot. So far, so good. Now where is my garlic? Just in case.
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