Rebecca Taylor always wanted to live and work in London. Did her first teaching experience bear out her dreams?
When I was growing up I always believed that London was the place to be for money and opportunities. Having decided to be a teacher I chose a BEd course which offered London as a possible place for a final teaching practice to find out whether my belief was true. I found that teaching opportunities and life experiences can be very rich in the capital for a new teacher.
For a start many of the boroughs offer great incentives to get you up there. Some will pay you for the month of August before you begin - an absolute life saver. Some will pay your relocation costs and contribute to your rent. Some will offer an additional retention point on your pay scale. And you get the inner London or outer London allowance, which makes a great difference to your pay.
Finding a place to live in London may seem daunting but if you are going to work for a particular borough they may hold a list of reputable landlords and flats available in that area. If possible it is best to share a place because not only does it cut costs but London can be a lonely place without a friendly flatmate. I always felt food was slightly more expensive in London but your tastes do change when you start working and you no longer have to put up with the standard student beans on toast.
What you do have to account for in your budget is Tube or bus travel, which seems expensive if you are not from the capital. Tube travel is an art. You can tell the more experienced travellers by the fact that they are stuck into a good book or are listening to their personal stereo. They don't get wound up by having to sit in a tunnel for 20 minutes. When you are thinking of all the things you need to be doing in your classroom before the children arrive Tube travel can become very frustrating when there is delay after delay. I soon caught on and didn't go anywhere without a good paperback in my bag.
I remember one fateful morning when a person jumped in front of the train. I didn't get to school until 8.50am and I thought I was going to get into big trouble, but the head very calmly told me to go and have a cup of tea while she took my register. I became an expert on the London Underground map and can still recite all the stations on the District Line. Security alarms were another hazard and at that time there always seemed to be scares during Friday's rush hour. This meant the weekend did not always get off to a good start.
You have to get used to being surrounded by crowds of people on the streets and on the Underground. You sometimes really long for solitude and peace and quiet.
But weekends can be wonderful in the capital. After the stresses and strains of teaching it is marvellous to be able to lose yourself in the numerous art galleries and museums.
You get to experience all the national events such as the London Marathon and Remembrance Sunday, which you may only have ever seen on the television. You can never be bored in London with so much going on.
Teaching life in London is exhausting, demanding but very rewarding. I worked in a bilingual school where there was a wealth of languages and cultures among the children. I was able to experience first-hand their celebrations of the festival of Diwali, Guru Nanak's birthday.
Some children had just recently arrived in the country and had very little English. lt was a great insight into their cultures and gave me great admiration for the children who worked so hard to learn English.
Progress was slow and before I could start even teaching about the properties of shapes to a Year 1 class I had to first teach the names. I learned to speak very slowly and use lots of hand actions. Anything I taught the children or showed them always raised a great look of astonishment and delight. Getting one of the children to make my hair stand up on end with a balloon to explain static electricity is just one of many examples.
I found myself on a very young staff so there were always lots of staff socials to attend after school hours.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and after my second year of teaching the surf was calling from Bournemouth. Spending the weekend on the beach seemed a preferable option. Teaching in London is definitely something to experience, though, and I would certainly recommend it.
Rebecca Taylor teaches at Court Hill First School in Poole, Dorset