Let me set the scene. Its January 2012, I have been a qualified teacher for a month. I’m 22, I have the world at my feet, a burning desire to travel and no idea what I’m going to or how I am going to do it. Fast forward two months to the day I landed in London and my list of worries include:

  • What is an Oyster card? Why is it called an Oyster card? Where will I get an Oyster card?
  • Why does no one talk on the tube?
  • Am I ever going to make friends?
  • Am I going to survive as a teacher in London?
  • Where will I live? Is it acceptable to live in a hotel for the rest of my life? What will happen when I can’t pay for my hotel? Can I claim squatter’s rights?!?
  • Why is everyone so obsessed with coffee? I don’t get it. Coffee is average.
  • Am I going to feel perpetually lost and slightly terrified for the rest of my life?

That was four years ago and I can’t quite believe how fast they’re flown by. I started work as a supply teacher the day I moved to London and worked in every borough, with every year group over a space of six months. I messed up a lot at first; I didn’t understand anything about the UK classroom! It was totally different to what I had been doing on my practicums and every school had a different set of rules. From enormous private schools set on 12 acres of protected land in Harrow to a single form nursery school set in the middle of London’s bustling city, I slowly worked out where I fitted in within the complex schooling system and my identity as a teacher developed and then grew. Every day I became more confident and enjoyed the challenge more and more.  Being a supply teacher gave me the opportunity to explore London, meet incredibly inspirational teachers, made friends, got lost, ate at street food carts and school canteens, and I spent lunch hours shopping and marking. I had wanted an adventure, and an adventure I had.
And then, as these things always happen, I found a little school in East London that I loved, and they loved me. And I’d be requested back there day after day, and then week after week. I found myself looking forward to seeing the kids and the staff and when they offered me my own classroom I jumped at the chance. It was a different kind of adventure, I got to watch a very funny, very curious, very sweet bunch of seven year olds grow up, and I can’t quite put into words how wonderful that was. My heart still wants to burst with pride thinking about the class assembly we rehearsed for hours, or how they took 6 months to call me ‘Miss Kennedy’ and not ‘Miss Canada’ or how each and every child made their expected progress and then some during the year. Being a teacher is the most amazing job and having the opportunity to leave home, travel, have adventures and teach, well it was the best choice I had ever made.
Ultimately, the bits and pieces fall into place, you will find somewhere to live, you will find people who captivate you and become friends with them, you will find the perfect fit school and you will be thankful every day that you took the risk and followed your instinct to teach and to travel. My time as a teacher was the most influential part of my life, and it taught me so much about myself and what’s important to me. Now I work at Impact, helping get teachers to London and finding them the perfect role, I’m trying to ‘pay it forward’ in my own small way.
Things I worry about now:

  • Is there time to get a coffee on the way to work? I don’t think my brain will function without a coffee.
  • Where is my oyster card?!? How have I lost another oyster card this month?
  • Will Pret still have egg and bacon focaccia rolls still? I think I actually need one.
  • If I go to Spice Girls night at Inferno’s will I miss brunch the next day?
  • Am I more scary spice or baby spice now?
  • If there is a coffee bean shortage in the world, will they allow everyone to start work around mid-day not 9am?!?
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