Smart Teachers' Blog

An international hub supporting teachers and conversation

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.

From the first day of Sun Awareness Week, support was strong. After kicking off the week with a Sun Awareness Trivia Crossword to test people’s skin cancer knowledge, Laura and I held a Smart Juice Bar, nearly burning out the motor of the Nutribullet as we blended up a smoothie storm for the whole office. Thirsty work!

Smoothie Morning 2

Later in the week we hosted a building-wide Bake Sale and were thrilled to welcome so many of our Salisbury House neighbours who stopped by to pick up a sweet treat and show their support.

Congratulations to our Best Baker winners Melissa Worman, Bianca Venmans and Kgale Wilson (featuring Simon Glynn), whose secret baking skills won them Slip Slop Slap prize packs kindly donated by our friends at Topdeck. A big shout out must also go to Xenia’s Cake Creations and Chelle Belle’s Cakes for so generously answering our fundraising SOS.

Other fundraisers throughout the week included the silent auction of a Luxury Barbershop Service donated by Murdock London and a stunning original painting by Nikole Lowe of Good Times Tattoo. Thanks also to Animal, Bold Management, and Street Coffee for their kind donations.

Dan Stuart was the lucky winner of this Giant Jar of Smarties with his guess of 1,212 smarties (just 39 more than the actual count of 1,173). Dan couldn’t quite handle all 1,173 smarties himself, but we understand this little lady Isla has been making a pretty good dent in them.


The pinnacle of the week’s charitable activities was the Friday pie-throwing, in which five esteemed team leaders (including Smart’s UK manager and birthday girl, Michelle Tyrrell) had a plate of yoghurt hurled at their faces, at the hand of the highest bidder. A picture speaks a thousand words…


As the week progressed, spirits got higher and determination grew fiercer as we edged closer to our goal of raising £1,000 for Melanoma UK. Donations poured in from all around the world, as did the messages of support, including this touching comment from our friend Sarah at Space & Solutions:

‘As someone who has had malignant melanoma and survived I think that any support for other people going through this is wonderful! Well done Smart Teachers – I applaud you all!!!’

The most powerful result of Sun Awareness Week for me was having a few different people come up to me to say they’d made an appointment to get suspicious moles checked. Having personally experienced the devastation that melanoma can cause, leaving moles you’re unsure about just isn’t worth the risk.

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone here at Smart Teachers who has supported the Sun Awareness initiative and participated so enthusiastically in all fundraising events.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated to our Just Giving page and helped us raise £901.87 + £161.25 Gift Aid (a grand total of £1,063.12). This money will go towards funding vital melanoma research and providing more nurses and support to melanoma patients and their families.

The biggest thank you must go to my colleague and co-conspirator Laura Clementson, who played a pivotal role in supporting my idea and making Sun Awareness Week happen. This lady is amazing, and I couldn’t have it without her.

Jodi Macbeth

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).

Here in the UK, the baking hot sun on our skin is something most of us crave during those short winter days and grey autumn mornings. When spring finally rolls around, and the sun is more than just a light in the sky, every green space fills up with sunbathers who methodically remove all their clothing to expose as much skin as possible, regardless of their surroundings (or the fact it’s still only 14 degrees).


Fair enough, we don’t have a hole in the ozone layer looming over us in London, but do any of us actually think of the damages the sun can still do? A recent internet poll showed that 47 % of women and only 27 % of men in the UK actually bothered to slap the cream on last summer!

Did you know:

  • There were around 14,500 new cases of malignant melanoma in the UK in 2013. That’s 40 cases diagnosed every day.
  • Since the late 1970s, malignant melanoma incidence rates have more than quadrupled (360% increase) in Great Britain.
  • Over the last decade alone, malignant melanoma incidence rates have increased by almost half (46%) in the UK.
  • Malignant melanoma is currently the fifth most common cancer in the UK.
  • The majority of all diagnosed malignant melanomas (nearly 90%) are considered preventable.
Cancer Research Stats
Source: Cancer Research UK

With the sunshine making an increasing appearance as the summer draws closer, there’s no better time to raise awareness.

The British Association of Dermatologists have put together Sun Awareness Week, starting Monday 9th May 2016, to remind us of the dangers and prevention methods. Here at Smart Teachers we will be kicking off a fun-filled, fully-loaded week of activities to raise money and awareness, with all proceeds going to Melanoma UK.

Melanoma-Stop-Skin-CancerMelanoma UK is a patient organisation dedicated to helping skin cancer patients during all stages of their illness. Since launching in 2007, Melanoma UK has grown considerably with the support of friends, family, patients, and families of patients. As well as raising vital funds to provide melanoma nurses and research, the organisation works hard to raise awareness of the disease, working closely with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the parliamentary melanoma task force.

During Sun Awareness Week, Smart Teachers will be spreading the word about the importance of changing UV habits and improving skin health. Amongst other activities, we will be doing a raffle with loads of fantastic prizes, a bake sale, a dress down day, and best of all… a team cycling challenge.

Depending on how much we raise by Friday the 13th of May, we will cycle:


Help us reach our goal! As well as raising vital funds for Melanoma UK, you’ll be making us sweat! Please visit to donate!

Keep an eye on the blog, and follow us on social media for rolling updates from #SmartHQ.

Thank you for your support. And from all of us here at Smart Teachers… don’t forget to SLIP SLOP SLAP!



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

So, it’s Monday morning. The coffee you just slammed in the staffroom has yet to take hold, meanwhile your students are buzzing around the room chatting amongst themselves, not looking to take their seats any time soon.

Kim suggests using the buzz to your advantage and kicking off the day with a physical activity. This gets the students to listen to instructions and keeps them energised. Who knows, it might even help you get energised too! After a physical warm up, kids are ready to sit in their seats and focus.

To get the brain juices flowing and students engaged, Kim recommends giving them an opportunity to share their holiday experience. Get the students to write or draw about how they spent their two weeks’ freedom.

“By getting students to share their personal accounts, it gets them to speak from experience rather than imagination. It also makes the activity more inclusive for those who aren’t as creatively inclined.”

Happy and carefree childhood

This can become a multi-exercise activity. After students have put pen to paper, you can get them to either share it with the class, or break into small groups and have them read their partner’s page. “Aside from the educational benefits, it can give them a real sense of pride.”

Kim emphasises the importance of getting students back into a routine. After two weeks’ holiday they’ve had a lot of freedom, and boundaries need to be re-established. If you can do it in a relatable way, students are more likely to fall back into the swing of things.

Smart consultant and primary teacher Davie Thé agrees. He believes getting back into a routine straight away is the most effective way of breaking the lazy habits students may have picked up over the break.

“The holiday recap is an easy way to warm students up first thing Monday morning. If kids say they did nothing over the break, challenge them to be creative and remind them that everyone has their own unique story. It doesn’t have to be a holiday tale to be interesting.”

It’s not just the students who have been out of routine for two weeks, but you as well… and us too for that matter! If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’ll have noticed that the Smart Teachers’ peeps have been making the most of the break themselves, trippin’ all over the UK and Europe.

“As soon as you get back into the staffroom, it’s like you haven’t been away’’ says Davie. His top tip for getting back into the swing of things as a teacher? “Coffee…lots of coffee.” (We’re genuinely not sure if he’s joking. We expect not.)

Quick tips

  • Make students feel welcome
  • Start your class with a warm-up, both mental and physical
  • Get back into a routine straight away, but be mindful patience may be required
  • Reinforce expectations
  • Get them involved via personal accounts of their holiday
  • Try moving classroom furniture; creating a new environment can spark inspiration
  • Have a bit of fun… just a little

Got any tips of your own? Please feel free to share in the comments below, or post them to our Facebook wall to share with other teachers in the Smart community.

Good luck everyone, and have a great first day back!

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.

Moving to another country is exciting. Although the unknown can be scary, you have to think of it as a positive. The possibilities of not knowing the friends you’ll make, the people you’ll meet, or the places you’ll go are endless. You could do all of that back in Canada, but realistically you’re much less likely to given you’re settled and already have a core group of friends.

Standing in front of London’s iconic landmarks, I was reminded of just how unique and beautiful London is. It truly is a remarkable city because as I mention in the video, every borough has something different to offer for everyone.

It’s true, London is an expensive city to live in so it’s important to make a budget and see which area offers the most bang for your buck. Make sure to incorporate socializing and travel into your budget. The European weekend getaways are worth your closet looking a little less full.

Whether you’re exploring London or any other city, sometimes it’s nice to have travel buddies.

Although I’ve always considered myself to be an outgoing person, I truly have broken down certain barriers and have pushed myself past pre-existing comfort zones. When you arrive to another country with only a handful of contacts, you push yourself to meet people.

Admittedly I had just met the people I’m sitting next to while in the pub and asked them to be in my video – they were visiting from South Africa. If anything, it proves the point that you’ll meet people from around the globe and just never know who you could be sharing pints with.

If I can offer any sage words of advice, it would be to take the chance. If moving abroad has been on your mind, chances are that it will always be and as the cliche goes, it’s better to have the ‘oh wells,’ than the ‘what ifs.’

Laura Clementson



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.

Zones are important. The closer to central London you are (Zone 1), the better you are for transport but also the more expensive it is. I would say limit your parameters from Zone 1 to Zone 3. There is a bit of a trade-off between living expenses and travel times.

Personally, I went west, although there are loads of Aussies living south of the river in Clapham. (Scratch that – there are Aussies living EVERYWHERE in London. Your Aussie twang will fit right in wherever you wind.) You’ll also find younger crowds in the up-and-coming boroughs or east or north London.

What’s neat about London is that each area is quite unique and offers something different. Smart Teachers has actually compiled their own little Guide to Living in London which may be worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Once you’re on the ground and going to various room viewings, you’ll get a sense of vibe in each borough, and which one suits you.

Helpful links:

Spare Room

Using public transport in London

In a city as large as London combined with the amount of people using it, transportation can seem overwhelming at first. However, it won’t take long to learn just how efficient public transit here is.

You’ll quickly grow accustomed to navigating London’s labyrinth of tube lines, rail links, and double decker buses, and in time you will accept the fact that issues will arise and they are sometimes simply out of your control, so you’ve gotta go with the flow. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always best to give yourself a few spare moments, especially if you’re going to somewhere new.

Mind the gap

Before you start minding those gaps, I strongly suggest downloading Citymapper on your smartphone. Not only will it provide you with a variety of efficient routes, including transportation times and updated delays, it will also provide you with the cost of your journey.

You may think it’s better to appear independent, but it honestly is better to communicate with your Smart consultant if you’re in need of directions.

They will not only navigate your route, but they can also save you a bit of time by calling the school on your behalf to let them know if you’re going to be late. It’s better for them to know you’re on your way than wondering whether or not you’re actually going to be there.

London transport website:

Stay tuned for the final part of Michael’s series, where he will bare all and talk about the best way to work with your recruitment consultant. 

London Christmas Lights

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

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.

Preparing for lessons

It’s very rare that you’ll arrive at a school to find that no work has been left for you, but if it does happen, be prepared! Here are some tips for preparing emergency lessons for various year groups.

Have an online resource set up to include maths and literacy activities. One great site to gather resources is Symbaloo. Set up an account and bookmark useful YouTube videos and websites.

For numeracy, you could refer to something like Khan Academy to explain mathematical processes, or alternatively the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.

For literacy, World of Tales is great for narratives and folktales that you could unpack with any year group. You could also take an online reading of a picture book from YouTube.

Exercises you could do with a picture book:

  • Retell the story using simple sequencing
  • Conduct a character analysis
  • Present an argument for a specific character
  • Change an element of the story
  • Transform the story into a different form such as a play or short film.

Think about the language features you could look at, e.g. sequencing, words/time connectives, exaggeration, and descriptive words.

Always come equipped with some educational games up your sleeve. These come in handy when you walk through the classroom door in need of time in order to do some last-minute planning. Games can be as simple as word exercises (e.g. take the word ‘championship’ and see how many words you can create by swapping the letters around), or card games (e.g. use the numbers on the board to make the highest and lowest number).

Be able to switch on a dime. The curriculum is similar across the board, but there are some differences as well so be adaptable. When covering other classes throughout the day, make sure to ask the permanent teacher what they want you to cover with the students and the way in which things should be done.

As you get more supply work under your belt, you will find most schools are doing similar topics and activities. Continue to gather ideas and resources wherever you go because schools are receptive to initiative and fresh ideas for improving lessons. Continue reading “An Aussie’s Guide to Teaching in London: PART FOUR”

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

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.

Managing the teaching workload

No one wants to be working hours upon hours unnecessarily, so you need to be clever with the time that you do have. Utilise your breaks in the day wisely. Yes there will be times when you will need to work overtime (we all do). Can you use the EA to help you along the way? Try to do as much over-the-shoulder checking as possible. Not only are you able to correct mistakes, but you’re also able to explain corrections to the students.

At times, you can mark while students are working, especially during literacy maths. Try to get at least half done during the lesson, it does save time. If there are strong students in the class and they’ve finished their work before others, see if they are willing to peer mark. It’s always good to engage the students.

Maintaining a positive outlook

Maintaining a positive atmosphere = effective classroom management.

This is why it’s good to recognise positive behaviour and praise when possible, while keeping negative responses to a minimum. However, don’t be afraid to stop and warn a child for disruptive behaviour if need be.

Your integrity is important. If a concern arises in the classroom, try using the sandwich model to address the problem – highlight the positive, followed by the negative, sandwiched with another positive.

I have found it useful to keep a behaviour journal throughout the day to pass on to the teacher, to not only keep the student accountable, but yourself as well.

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

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