Category Archives: Teacher Articles

Teaching in the UK ( Part 1)

I decided to write this blog to help fellow teachers who may decide to begin their teaching careers in the UK. This could be for several reasons may be one’s partner has taken up employment or maybe you would like to take a leap of faith and complete your NQT year.

My mission

For me it was the latter, I took a leap of faith to ensure no matter what I would be dipped at the end of the year. I taught in England from 2017-2018, it was my first year out of college. At the time, it was difficult to secure a fixed-term teaching contract in Ireland. I had sent out 200 plus e-mails and about 50 written applications. It became very disheartening not to hear any word back. Then, I decided to take some control back, get a job, and complete my NQT year.

For me, I wanted to experience something new after university. A new country, new experiences, new people, and the challenges that come with that. I couldn’t have anticipated the challenges I faced in that year. They were the biggest struggles but most rewarding obstacles I have overcome in my life. I made memories and friends for a lifetime. I have some crazy stories, to say the least, and isn’t that what it’s all about!

How to start the process?

Agencies

I know people have bad things to say about agencies, but they make the transition to teaching in the UK a lot easier. A good agency will comfort your worries and doubts because there will be plenty of doubts. You do need them to give you a push even if it feels a bit pushy.

Words of wisdom: Don’t settle for a bad location or school. Make sure you’re going to a well-populated and safe area as there are so many dodgy areas in the UK.

Research

Words of wisdom: Research the school yourself and don’t just agree to the first school offered. If the area is bad don’t accept the interview offer. Also, as schools are graded according to Ofsted, I noticed that the best schools to teach in are the ‘good’ schools as the ‘outstanding’ schools have unrealistic expectations. You may end up having no life outside school. Although ‘outstanding’ school might seem like a good option, this is not always the case in terms of teaching and maintaining a work/life balance.

Interviews

This will be mainly be carried out over Skype unless you attend a job fair then they will be completed in a face-to-face manner.

Words of wisdom: The interviewers will always ask you about assessment. Standardized Assessment is the main type of assessment in UK schools. They will ask you about safeguarding which is like the DLP in Ireland. The safeguarding officer/DLP is normally the principal and deputy principal. The rest of the interview is pretty similar to the questions you’d be asked for an interview in Ireland. The agency will assist you in preparing answers for the interview.

Important Information

At the end of the interview, it is crucial to ask the headteacher about what class you may have. In the UK, Year 2 and Year 6 are the two years in which the children complete SATS (National Standardised Tests). Year 1, 3, 4, 5, are a lot of nicer classes to teach as you don’t have to prepare the children for the SATS. The preparation for SATS is a year-long process and is extremely stressful for the teacher and students.

Word of Wisdom: I taught Year 2 and it was the hardest year of my life. I wish someone had told beforehand how extremely taxing it is and I wouldn’t have taken the job. I would suggest you request Year 3 or Year 4 to teach as they are the most relaxed classes in terms of assessments.

Congratulations

Words of wisdom: Enjoy this moment before you begin to get overwhelmed and start doubting your decision.

The move

If you go through the agency, they will either pay for your flight over or refund your flight out in August. So, keep receipts. Now you need to begin looking for accommodation. You might go over before school starts to secure accommodation or go out early August, sort accommodation and stay out there. It’s up to you!

Words of wisdom: The websites that will help are sparerooms.co.uk and myroom.co.uk.

Grant

Words of wisdom: In Ireland, you can apply for a moving grant as you are moving to another country within Europe. The agency will tell you where to claim this moving grant and it’s approx. 1000£. It is such a nice boost as it covers deposits and general expenses.

Accommodation

Words of wisdom: If you are traveling solo, it’s important to live with people your age. Don’t settle living with a grandad in a cheap studio apartment. You will end up sad, lonely, and depressed. This is the most important part of a successful year and settling in period. Remember they don’t have to be Irish just live with plenty of people your age and you’ll have a ball. I got very lucky and ended up living with four girls, we had the best time.

Bank

Words of wisdom: I begged The Ulster Bank to open my bank account before I left Ireland. They refused at first because I was not a resident in the UK. I told them my friend set up one without being resident in the UK and they accommodated me hehehe. Otherwise, the school wouldn’t have been able to pay me for a month or so as they didn’t pay into Irish bank accounts. You don’t need this financial stress, set it up before leaving.

Car

Words of wisdom: DON’T BRING YOUR CAR. I had so much hassle and expense changing my tax and license plate and registration to UK forms. Please believe me it was not worth it. I had to NCT my car from scratch, contact the car manufacturer to get forms, etc, etc, etc. The whole process cost me 1000 euro and a lot of grey hair. If I were back again, I would have bought a cheap car for the year or maybe a teacher in your school could lend you a car for a while. There are always easier ways.

Starting the job

Get used to feeling out of your depth, confused, overwhelmed, and stressed.

Words of wisdom: Just go with the flow, take it day by day. You will not figure out a new curriculum in the first week and the funny thing is no one is expecting you to. So, don’t be hard on yourself.

Few months in

Even after four months of teaching in the UK, you still won’t have a clue.

Words of wisdom: You are beginning to find your routine and are quickly getting used to things. You still won’t have a clue so keep winging it and going with the flow. Don’t be hard on yourself for not having all the answers.

Relax and Enjoy

Words of Wisdom: This is the best part, you’ve made buddies and are exploring a lot more. If you end up in London, go to parties, go to all the museums, go to the parks, landmarks, streets, and cafes. London is amazing and you’ll have the best time exploring it. Forget about school at the weekends and enjoy the lifestyle because you need to remember you’re not being paid millions to stress about school.

It is over!

Words of wisdom: You will have finally figured out the UK system with its weird and wonderful ways of teaching. Boom! The year has flown by and you will reflect on the highs and lows. Since it is the end of the year, the highs will be greater than the lows. You will be asked do you want a job there next year. Well, that’s going to be your story to tell.

Finally, this is quite a long post, I tried to include all the detail I needed to help me when I was researching Teaching in the UK.

I would love to hear about your experiences! E-mail me at theteachingstyle4@gmail.com.

What about the 9%?

Before all the madness of the will-we-won’t-we open on January 11th, the government were adamant that they were going to reopen schools fully, stating again and again that schools are safe places. We decided we’d ask our Mash.ie members for their thoughts and there was little surprise that 91% of our members believed that schools were not safe to open. However, what about the 9% that didn’t agree? We always find it interesting to hear what the minority thinks because often they make points that we might not think about ourselves. In this article, we’re going to share some of the comments that the 9% made.

The majority of the 9% believed that we had to do whatever it took to keep schools open. Some gave suggestions such as children wearing masks on buses and in class; better guidelines on staying safe to convince teachers it is safe to come to school; extra cleaning and handwashing; parents staying at the school gates; and more honesty about government figures on cases in schools – these were some of the many suggestions made by members.

Some respondents said that schools should be opened and closed on an individual basis. One member remarked that she was in a very small school so distancing was not an issue but conceded she would probably feel different in a bigger school. Another respondent was less sympathetic to teachers citing that there have been no deaths of teachers in schools! We wonder is that was the barometer should be before schools are closed? Personally, we wouldn’t like this to be the reason to close a school.

The majority, however, simply feel that going back to remote learning does not work and we should do whatever it takes to get children back to school. Nobody wants to return to remote teaching. As many respondents said: most teachers would prefer to be in school than do remote teaching.

The reality is that the Irish public do not believe the Minister for Education when she repeats that schools are safe places. This might be the place to start. Why do 91% of us believe schools are not safe? Simply stating it is obviously not working. In our opinion, this is the place to start.

Famous January Birthdays

A nice January project for your class might be to explore the life of someone born that month. Given Irish class sizes, there’s no reason why you could give each child a date in January and have 31 different projects, one for each day of the month. Here are 15 famous people born in January who might be worth doing some project work on.

  1. Greta Thuberg (3rd January)
  2. Isaac Newton (4th January)
  3. Joan of Arc (6th January)
  4. David Bowie (8th January)
  5. Orlando Bloom (13th January)
  6. Mark Antony (14th January)
  7. Martin Luther King (15th January)
  8. Andre Michelin (16th January)
  9. Leo Varadkar (18th January)
  10. Buzz Aldrin (20th January)
  11. Gertrude B. Elion (23rd January)
  12. Virginia Woolf (25th January)
  13. Jackson Pollock (28th January)
  14. Donna Caponi (29th January)
  15. Julia Augusta (30th January)

New Year around the World

You might not be surprised that not everyone celebrates the new year on January 1st. For example, the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated around the world, including Ireland, and probably forms part of your early February planning! Some of you may even be familiar with the Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah, as it tends to happen near the beginning of the new school year in September/October. Here are a few other New Year celebrations that don’t happen on January 1st.

 

  1. Nowruz is the Iranian new year and is celebrated in mid-March around 19th/20th. It is celebrated by Zoroastrian and Baha’i communities. 
  2. Puthandu is the Tamil new year and is generally celebrated on 14th April. While mainly celebrated in Sri Lanka, it is celebrated in many South Asian countries where there are Tamil Diasporas.
  3. Raʼs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah is the Islamic New Year, which is difficult to pin down to our calendars. The Muslim calendar is a lunar one and thus every year, the Islamic New Year changes on our calendars (although it is always the 1st day of Muharram) 
  4. The Eastern Orthodox Church New Year is celebrated on January 14th in countries such as Russia, Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine, pretty much in the same way the new year is celebrated on 1st January. The reason for 14th January is that this is the first day of the old Julian calendar.
  5. Enkutatash is the Ethiopian new year, which is celebrated in September marking the end of their long rain season and the fields are covered in yellow daisies.

There are many other New Year celebrations that don’t take place on January 1st. Why not explore some others? 

 

The First Number One of the Year

Back in my day, the Christmas Number One in the music charts was a big deal! My teenage years gave me Christmas number ones such as Stay Another Day by East 17 in 1994, and much less Christmassy, Mr. Blobby, the year before. In 1995, I really hoped my beloved Pulp would hit the Christmas Number 1 with Disco 2000 but it peaked at number 7 a couple of weeks before. Again I was disappointed when the “reformed” Beatles released Free as a Bird failed to knock the eventual 1995 Christmas Number One, Michael Jackson’s Earth Song from the peak of the charts. After Jarvis Cocker waggled his bum to that same song at the Brit Awards in 1996, I felt some sort of vicarious revenge.

This was in the age before the X Factor used to produce the Christmas Number One and then Spotify came along and someone called LadBaby seems to have the monopoly on the whole thing. While Band Aid released another edition of Do they know it’s Christmas? in 2004, which reached number one, the last Christmassy song to reach that was East 17, and some people might not consider it a Christmas song – me included. To get an absolutely Christmas-themed number one single, you’d have to go back to Cliff Richard and his Saviour’s Day but who in their right mind would want to do that!

Why am I telling you this on an Irish primary education website? For me, pop music is a brilliant way to cover listening and responding in the primary music curriculum. Ask your average 7-year old why they think Stay Another Day is a Christmas Song and they might puzzle as there’s nothing Christmassy in the lyrics.

However, that isn’t the case for the first number one of 1950 in the US charts. On 5th January, 1950, the number one song in the American charts was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and it sold over 8 million copies!

As we head back to school for 2021, how about finding some of the best number ones from the first week of the year and playing them to your class? What was the number one single when they were born? What was the number one single when you were born? What do the songs tell you about the culture of the time? What was the most popular and influential instrument at the time in pop music?

Here are a few famous examples of the first number one of each year:

  • 1979 – YMCA: Village People
  • 1981 – Imagine: John Lennon
  • 1989 – Especially for You: Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue (Yes, really!)
  • 1997 – 2 Become 1: Spice Girls
  • 2001 – Can We Fix It?: Bob the Builder 👷🏻‍♂️
  • 2003 – Sound of the Underground: Girls Aloud
  • 2010 – The Climb: Joe McElderry (Famous as the first X-Factor contestant not to have Christmas Number One)
  • 2014 – Happy: Pharrell Williams
  • 2015 – Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

You might explore the reasons why the songs were number 1 at the time. For example, John Lennon’s Imagine was number one because only a few weeks earlier, he had been killed, (although I’m not sure it’s a good idea to explore that with primary school children!) More appropriately, you might use the lyrics to explore a world that they might imagine!

What is your favourite new year number one?

The Inclusive Christmas Classroom

It is that time of year that every teacher yearns for but also is somewhat fearful of! It is the run up to the Christmas holidays. Teachers and children are tired, emotional and they want to get to the holidays as quickly and as fun as possible! If you teach in an Educate Together school you may be looking for ideas on how to make your Christmas classroom more inclusive. You might teach in a denominational school and also be interested in seeing what you can do within your own school ethos.

Here are 3 tips for you to celebrate the Christmas season in a more inclusive way in your classroom this December!

  1. Learn about Christmas around the world. The website https://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/ is an amazing resource for just that! It is packed with beautiful photos of countries like Brazil, Russia and Ireland all showcasing their own countries unique take on Christmas, covering food, customs and even Santa Claus. Children could design projects on Google Slides and make their own Kahoot quizzes to test each other’s knowledge. 
  2. Teach about the history of Christmas from the history of the Christmas tree, the story of the Nativity and the origins of Santa Claus. Incorporate learning about other Festivals of Lights like Kwanzaa, Diwali and Hanukkah. There are so many common traits within these religions and festivals. Be aware that not all students in your class may celebrate Christmas due to their own family belief systems. Teach from a neutral, objective point of view and encourage questions.
  3. There are so many beautiful picture books that cover themes of winter and tell folktales from all around the world. Picture books are suitable for Junior Infants to 6th Class, everyone loves a good story! Children could practice reading their favourite winter story and record and edit using iMovie, book creator or Green Screen Do Ink app. Here is a brilliant article listing loads of multicultural Winter holiday picture books for you if you need to be tempted to buy more books! https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/multicultural-winter-holiday-picture-books/ 

I hope that these ideas will send off in a new direction this Christmas! What type of activities do you use to promote an inclusive Christmas Classroom?

Late Late Toy Show

One of the highlights of every Irish child’s year is staying up way past their bedtime to watch the Late Late Toy Show. Over the years, trends and traditions have evolved from wearing ugly Christmas jumpers to gorging on special treat boxes. (Far from where I was reared!)

However, did you know some teachers have got in on the act with some great learning resources to support teaching about the Toy Show? Here is a small selection that we found on Mash.

Christmas and Winter-themed Plays

With COVID-19 putting pay to Christmas and winter-themed concerts in the halla mór, we take a look at some plays and performances that might be possible in the classroom. You’ll have to check your school’s COVID-19 risk assessment on performances and singing before you venture, but if you have the space and ventilation, you might be able to get the class performing a piece which you can record and send on to parents. Some schools might even try their luck at charging a fee to watch the performances – it wouldn’t be quite the same but with school often relying on winter-themed concerts for much of their fundraising, it’s not a bad idea! Here is a selection of some of our sellers’ winter-themed performance resources.

Nativity Plays

Other Christmas-themed Plays

Not Doing Christmas?

Featured Seller – Múinteoir Cliona

How about a printable and editable invitation to your class’s winter-themed performance. This free resource is aimed at a Nativity Play but could be adapted.

3 Tips for Halloween in COVID19 Times

One thing we can guarantee about this Halloween is that it will be very different from other years. In this article, we hope to share some tips for Halloween in the classroom for COVID19 times.

Halloween Masks

Who would have thought we’d be wearing masks all the time, and not just Halloween? How about getting the children to create Halloween-themed face masks from elastic bands and paper? While they obviously shouldn’t be used instead of real masks, it’s a fun activity.

Halloween Art

Given the DES guidelines on the curriculum during COVID19 times, the only strand they advise doing is the drawing strand. Ms Kelly has designed a great product for a drawing lesson based on rhymes for Halloween. 

Virtual Halloween Showcase

Many schools would have hosted Halloween parties in their halla mór, or a witches walk, and so on. While we can’t join together physically, there’s nothing stopping us from dressing up and having a Zoom party in between the classrooms.

Autumn Drawing Ideas

As the weather gets cooler and we start feeling the effects of keeping windows and doors open in our classroom, we also have to remember that previous plans for Visual Arts and Autumn may be off-limits. The DES guidelines suggest that for Visual Arts, schools focus only on the drawing strand to minimise risk. Autumn is usually such a nice time for strands such as paint and printing but, alas, this year they may be out of bounds. Here are a few drawing ideas to keep your Visual Arts classes going.

Autumn Colours

Discuss warm and cool colours. Ask children to look and autumn pictures and decide whether the colours of autumn are warm or cool. Ask them to draw things that are generally warm colours – e.g. a fox, a fire, a plum, etc.

Autumn Scene

Show a picture of any autumn scene and tell the children to have a look at the colours that are associated with autumn. Ask them to draw their own autumn scene using autumn colours. Discuss why these colours are autumnal and what colours they might associate with other seasons.

Still Life

Plonk a pumpkin on a table and get children to draw what they see. Discuss the idea of drawing with your eyes and compare results depending on where children are sitting. Look at shape and shading, where age appropriate.