Smart Teachers' Blog

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My London Story: What teaching in the UK taught me

Mo on Southbank

Aussie Music teacher Monet Hawkins made the move from Melbourne to London in October 2014, and despite only planning to stay for three months, is still here two years later. Here she shares some stories (and some tips) about what it was like arriving in London, finding her feet, and how the experience has transformed her both personally and professionally. 

When colleagues ask me what I did on the weekend, I have to pinch myself when I reply, “I went to Spain.”

Every time I look up in amazement at Westminster Abbey, listen to Big Ben chime, or am commuting in a downpour near St Paul’s Cathedral, clutching an umbrella, I have to ask myself, “am I really here? Is this real?”. 

My London story was only supposed to be a short one. My original plan had been to live here for three months – do a bit of travelling, pick up a bit of work, get some life experience. But then three months turned into six months, six months turned into a year, and now one year is pushing closer to two.

Moving to London wasn’t simply the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It felt like I had started a whole new book.

Mo with Paddington
Another little dude whose arrival in London spurred the beginning of a whole new book

Within days of arriving, I had made friends to share pints with at the hostel I was staying at. After only two weeks, I had signed up with a teaching agency and lined up an interview at a school in Harrow, North London. Within a month of arriving I had also found a house in Clapham, which I now happily share with three South African girls. It all came together incredibly smoothly.

Teaching in London is very similar to teaching in Australia, aside from a few jargon words that you’ll pick up on the job – e.g. ‘principal’ is ‘headteacher’, ‘CRT’ is ‘supply’, and ‘pants’ are ‘trousers’ (be warned – if you talk about your ‘pants’ over here, it means your undies!).  The school day is structured the same, the subjects are similar and the kids are just as cheeky. They are fascinated by Australia and often delight in asking questions like, ‘‘Did you live in a hut in Australia?’’ ‘‘Have you ever seen a kangaroo?’’

Mo on Santander Cycle

One of my fondest teaching memories was the night I got to play the pipe organ at Harrow School – one of London’s most famous and elite independent schools that was first established in the 16th century, long before Australia was even on the map. Playing that magnificent instrument while my students sang Christmas carols (under the watchful eye of the portrait of former pupil, Winston Churchill) is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Homesickness is the natural, inexorable subplot to my London story. It can hit you hard. But with London being so transient, (I challenge you to find a Londoner who’s actually from London), it’s important to remember that you and half the other locals are experiencing the same pangs for home. Support can be found through the friends you make, the people you live with, the other teachers you meet, and even through online communities like Aussies in London who organise monthly drink meet ups. (For any New Zealanders out there, there’s a Kiwi equivalent, Kiwis in London).

I can’t even remember the person I was before I decided to leave; I’ve misplaced that book. I’ve reinvented everything I thought I was and what I was capable of. I’ve grown so much as a person and my teaching practice has followed suit. Moving over to the UK is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, both personally and professionally.

So where the bloody hell are ya?!

Mo in Spain
(I wasn’t kidding about nipping across to Spain for the weekend)

Ways to cash up on the school holidays (all while still developing your teaching career)

With the end of the academic year fast approaching, the countdown to summer has well and truly begun. However you’re planning on spending your well-deserved holiday – gallivanting across Europe, hanging with friends and family, or simply lounging around London – we understand that the long break can be a potentially daunting time for some supply teachers when cashflow gets tight.

If you’re looking to pick up some extra work these summer holidays, or are keen to find out about ways to subsidise your income throughout term time, here are some flexible, convenient, profitable options that also look great on the CV! Continue reading “Ways to cash up on the school holidays (all while still developing your teaching career)”

Happy #firstdayofsummer London

Happy #firstdayofsummer London ☔️💦🌧⛈😓

A photo posted by Smart Teachers (@smart_teachers) on

Reflections on a Sunny Week

We did it! Smart Teachers raises £1,063.12 for Melanoma UK during Sun Awareness Week, May 9th – 13th 2016. 

When I first put forward the idea of promoting Sun Awareness Week in aid of Melanoma UK here at Smart HQ, I never could have imagined it would go so well.

After losing my father to melanoma three years ago, this was a cause very close to my heart. Not only did I want to help raise money for the nurses that cared for my dad throughout his illness, I also wanted to inform people about the dangers of the sun here in the UK, where (despite the gloomy skies) skin cancer is the most common form of preventable cancer.

It quickly became apparent this was an issue that resonated with lots of people across the company, including our very own Paula Sinclair (Smart consultant and founding partner), who unbeknownst to many of us is a survivor of malignant melanoma herself. With our Aussie counterparts all chanting Slip-Slop-Slap, we had all the fighting spirit we needed for a fun-filled week of fundraising. Continue reading “Reflections on a Sunny Week”

Sun Awareness Week @ Smart Teachers

Smart Teachers will be raising vital funds for Melanoma UK during Sun Awareness Week – 9th to 13th May 2016. Help us reach our goal!


For any kid who grew up in Australia or New Zealand in the 1980s (which accounts for a fair few of us here at Smart HQ), the importance of sun awareness is deeply ingrained. The iconic Slip-Slop-Slap campaign was like a childhood mantra, and it was a rare sight to see any kid in a playground without a flappy hat, white zinc lips, and at least a six inch layer of sunscreen.

These days, sun awareness remains a ubiquitous fixture in the antipodean psyche, with skin cancers accounting for around 80% of all new cancers diagnosed in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the Cancer Council’s current campaigns have taken a slightly more grotesque turn since the days of Sid the lisping seagull (or Tiger the lobster if you’re from New Zealand).

Continue reading “Sun Awareness Week @ Smart Teachers”

How to refocus your class after the holidays

Summer term is finally upon us, and after a fun-filled Easter break it’s been two weeks since you and your students last stepped into the classroom. Although that’s not a super-lengthy period, the thought of going back school can be daunting for students and teachers alike. Actually, we’re pretty sure it’s just the parents who get to chill in this scenario!

In today’s post, primary teachers-turned-consultants Kim O’Mara and Davie Thé recount their days of getting a class back on track after a holiday, and share their tips on how to glide back into the classroom like a pro.

Young school teacher

Continue reading “How to refocus your class after the holidays”

A Canadian in London (the other London…)

Laura's headshotExactly one year after making the move from Toronto to London (London England that is, not London Ontario), Laura Clementson demonstrates in true Canadian style just how wonderful living in the UK really is.

When asked to share how my experience of moving to London was a great decision, I jumped at the chance. It’s a pleasure explaining to fellow Canadians why I think moving abroad is one of the best things you can do for yourself, both professionally and personally.

Being in London for a year now, I have endured the many trials and tribulations of moving abroad on my own. Naturally there have been setbacks, and not everything has gone to plan, but there is something so gratifying about moving to a foreign land and starting from scratch. While getting over the humps, you learn not to sweat the small stuff.

Continue reading “A Canadian in London (the other London…)”

An Aussie’s Guide to Teaching in London: PART SIX

Michael Dunn is an Australian trained primary teacher who left Brisbane life for London town. Here is an honest rendition from Michael on what it’s like teaching 10,262 miles from home.

Working with your Education Recruitment Consultant (Smart or otherwise)

Whichever agency you decide to go with, the one thing I would say is to go with a consultant you feel 100% comfortable with, and be upfront with them and unafraid to ask questions. This is your career and life in London – you want to make it as successful and enjoyable as possible. It is their job to help you succeed.

Communicate with them often. Let them know what you’re looking for, what works for you and what doesn’t. They may not know all the answers right away, but they will know what to do to get them.

Early on I made a habit of visiting the Smart Teachers office to meet with my consultant face-to-face rather than over the phone. This made it much more personable to me, and we’re actually good mates now.

Be upfront about the schools you’re working in. They want as much feedback as possible. This way they can match you with a school that suits you best, which in turn will benefit you and the students. Also, ask them for feedback, see how schools are reacting to you.

That concludes Michael’s series of blogs on living and teaching in London. We hope you found it helpful, and would be delighted to hear your feedback! Peace out Smarties x

An Aussie’s Guide to Teaching in London: PART FIVE

Michael Dunn is an Australian trained primary teacher who left Brisbane life for London town. Here is an honest rendition from Michael on what it’s like teaching 10,262 miles from home.

Living in London

Since you’re moving to London and have been attracted to the city for whatever reason, you’re probably thinking that it’s a great city. Guess what, you’re absolutely right. London is a truly amazing place to live, and it won’t disappoint. But as there are (literally) millions of other people who all feel the same way, finding a place to live can be a challenge.

When deciding where to unpack your bags, transport links are probably the most important factor to consider. They will give you a greater opportunity to travel, get around the city quickly, and allow you to be flexible with the schools you can get to.

Having travelled on most of the London tube services, some are better than others. Picking an area where you can get multiple tube lines can be helpful, although it can cost you a bit as well.

Continue reading “An Aussie’s Guide to Teaching in London: PART FIVE”

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