TEACHING & EDUCATION

15 hours with an Aussie working at a private school in London

“As my school is in the centre of London we don’t have any outdoor space. Yep, none at all.”

We spend some time with an Australian primary school teacher in London after a day in the classroom.

What year do you teach?

I teach year one with a full-time teaching assistant (TA).

So it’s 7am, what’s the first thing you do ?

Usually I’m sitting in my classroom between 7.00-7.30 each morning. I eat my breakfast at my desk or in my friends classroom for a chat. I then reply to emails from parents, check my schedule and set up the morning activities.

We have 45 minutes in the morning where the kids settle and do things like handwriting and puzzles.

What happens next?

I greet my TA and I let her know what we are learning about that day.

At 8.15am the kids arrive in the classroom. We have a policy where the children come to the classroom independently but every day there’s always one parent who comes with them.

Some of them are very polite, some of them are not.

Are there any differences so far between teaching in Australia and the UK?

Teachers in the private school system in the UK are allotted 20 blocks of 20 minutes a week of PPA (Planning) time that is on their timetables. We are also given extra time that is “grey space” (meaning that the school can take it away).

We don’t use casual teachers at my school, but rather we ‘cover’ each other during these “grey space” blocks. So I could teach a random year 5 geography lesson or take the nursery kids to the park. I find this out in the morning if it is a day where I have grey space.

So what’s the next part of your day?

So it’s around 9am which means we do Read, Write Inc. It’s a levelled phonics program that teaches children sounds and blends of sounds to help them to read and write.

Then it’s break time! As my school is in the centre of London we don’t have any outdoor space. Yep, none at all. So my children get out toys and games and play in the classroom, supervised by my TA.

If I don’t get out of the building for a quick walk at this time I find the rest of the day really testing.

I’m so used to doing playground duty in Australia and having outdoor space.

What do the kids learn after their morning tea?

After the break, we have a maths lesson and we are learning about time. It always baffles me how some children just ‘get’ time and for others an analogue clock looks like an object from outer space. My TA helps me mark their work which is a huge timesaver. 

Then it’s lunch!

My children are taken down to the dining hall to be given their hot lunch. Unlike a lot of British schools, our school kitchen should be awarded a Michelin Star for their efforts.

There is a huge focus on manners and each day one child is chosen as a lunchtime star. On Friday, they sit at a special table with a white tablecloth and the TA’s pretend to be their waiters. It’s very, very cute.

What’s on the agenda after lunchtime?

On Fridays at this time we usually do some form of art activity. Today we are following a guided drawing of a tiger and then painting it. This is followed by a French lesson, which is basically a quick 20 minutes where I can make a cup of tea or photocopy something.  

Next up is our inquiry lesson. This is where science, geography, art and history are all melded into one. This particular lesson is about big cats and why only some of them roar. This is easily my favourite subject to teach.

Then we have what we call Golden Time. The kids can choose any activity in the classroom they would like to do. Sometimes we even get out our disco light and have a dance party.

The kids then pack up and at 2.40 on Fridays we have assembly. This includes musical performances, special visitors and I give out the weekly award for my class.

At 3.25 it’s home time – for them. We walk them down to the front door. Our school has a policy that the children must shake our hand and say goodbye to us. It is amazing to see 5-year-olds look adults in the eye and do this with confidence.

So the kids have left now. What do you do?

Marking, marking and more marking. We need to write a star (something they did well) and a wish (something they could work on) on most pieces of writing they complete.

I also do planning – we need to write a detailed plan for Inquiry and Maths each week as a teaching team. Then we split up the making of resources.

I aim to be out of the building by 5pm each day. I’m more of a morning person so by this time I am completely fried.

How do you feel once you get home?

It really depends on the day. I’m an extroverted person so being around people makes me energised and happy. On days where the children have had an off day I feel deflated. It comes with the territory. Kids are kids.

15 hours with an Aussie working at a private school in London
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