Smart Teachers' Blog

An international hub supporting teachers and conversation

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”

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

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.

Asking the right questions

Never assume. Asking questions along the way will not only benefit you, but in turn help the school if you have the information you need.

Starting the day by asking where to get your timesheet signed probably won’t get you off on the best foot. Consider asking these questions…

Supply Teaching Roles

  • What is the marking policy? Do they highlight parts of the Learning Outcomes? Do they have codes used for marking? What colours do they use?
  • What is the behaviour system? Some schools have standard traffic lights, whereas others may have modified traffic lights with a positive side of bronze, silver and gold. Know what to do if a student is not following instructions; what the next step is, if you need to use it.
  • What are the break times, and end of day routines? Do they get dismissed from the class? Do they get walked out to the quad?
  • Where are the fire exits and what is the evacuation procedure? In the event of an emergency, you don’t want to look like Kindergarten Cop with kids running from the building in all directions.

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

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

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.

Embracing the British classroom

When doing supply, usually you will know which year level you’ll be teaching when you’re booked. Only occasionally will you arrive at the school without knowing which class you’ve been assigned to.

In terms of class sizes, the average UK class holds between 20 and 30 students. What’s great about schools in London is that many are culturally diverse, which offers the opportunity to learn about various backgrounds. You can even learn the odd word or phrase too!

group of kids with teacher and tablet pc at school

At the end of the day, just be yourself, be confident in your ability, and maintain strong assertive behaviour management that’s consistent with the school’s policy.

Dress to impress

As the adage goes, first impressions count. You want to send the right message that you’re professional and serious about your position.  Many UK schools are still quite conservative so it’s best to play it safe and overdress opposed to underdress.

Gentlemen: Jackets and ties do make a difference. Every now and then you will get schools that are more casual, but it’s easier to take a tie off than pull one from thin air.

Ladies: Be professional and smart, but also make sure you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing and can move around.


If you’ve just arrived and need to fill your wardrobe, this can be done on a budget. Check out H&M, Zara, Next, TK Maxx, and ye old faithful Primark.

Clothing aside, present yourself with confidence. Being professional and consistent is worth its weight in gold. You have a marketable quality in being a Smart Teacher, so get out there and sell it.

Stay tuned for Part Two, in which Michael will talk about the types of questions you can ask to help you put your best foot forward at a new school.

My time in London: A wild ride… but an amazing one!

As Kiwi teacher Emma Gillies approaches the end of her two years living and working in London, she looks back at her time in the UK and her experience with Smart Teachers. 

To say my experience with Smart Teachers was great would be an understatement. In Auckland, mid 2013, I decided to come to the UK to teach and travel. The lovely Rosie at the Epsom office helped me to start the process, filling out the paperwork, organising visas etc, she made sure everything was done at my end so I could get to London with no issues.

A few months later when I arrived in England, I was completely overwhelmed by the rush of the big city, but when I lugged my giant suitcase into the London Smart offices in Covent Garden bewildered by it all, I was greeted by a warm, smiling, supportive team. I had only talked to Paula once or twice on the phone before, when she secured me my first job teaching one of my speciality subjects in a beautiful town in Suffolk. But when we met I instantly felt at ease – Paula and some other Smarties helped me to set up my National Insurance Number, bank account, umbrella company and loads of other confusing important things you have to do when you come to work here.

Tower Bridge with one of my best friends when I first arrived in London
Tower Bridge with one of my best friends when I first arrived in London

During my first placement, Paula would often call me to make sure I was well, that I was getting used to the system here in the UK and to make sure I didn’t need anything – it was so nice to talk to someone who could understand the struggles of moving to a new country and would have practical solutions to anything that arose.

After my first placement went really well, I was already looking for another job. I was looking for a role after the first term which can be hard to find, but of course, Smart found me another job this time nearer to London in a lovely girls’ grammar school. Continue reading “My time in London: A wild ride… but an amazing one!”

Smartie of the Month – Esther Button

May 2015 Winner – Esther Button, Mission Grove Primary

This month’s nomination for Smartie of the Month is a particularly special one. As well as receiving the highest praise from Mission Grove’s Deputy Head, Kate Jennings, Esther was the subject of a stunning letter of gratitude from one child’s parent, commending her for the wonderful contribution she has made in the classroom.

Esther has being working as a Teaching Assistant in Year 1 (Swallow class) at Mission Grove since the beginning of the year. Of her, a parent writes:

“[My son] has learned so much in this short time with Esther. I have seen improvement and change in him. I would always struggle to do homework with him, but now he likes homework and happily takes his pencil and sheet out of his book bag. After completing homework he says “let’s show Esther now!” which indicates how much impact she has made over him.

He is chatting more at home and gets involved in more conversation. Swallow class went to a trip to Lloyds Park, and usually I attend his trips, but this time I did not have to and my son had a lovely time. He told me where he went and was talking about the trip.

Esther is a lovely individual and kind person who has helped my son a great deal.”

When a copy of this letter came into our hands and did the rounds of the Smart office, we got all warm and fuzzy inside. Whilst we loved receiving such glowing feedback for one of our brilliant (and deserving!) Smarties, it was an equally poignant reminder of just why we do what we do.

To thank Esther for her stellar work, a special assembly was held at Mission Grove where consultant Dan Dunn-Stuart surprised her with the Smartie of the Month award. From the reaction in the crowd, we’re not the only ones to think Esther is a little bit of a superstar…

Dan “party pants” Dunn-Stuart awards Esther “smarty pants” Button

In case the fanfare and the jazzy pink certificate weren’t enough to make Esther feel special, she also bagged herself £50 cash to play with. We were delighted to receive this selfie from Esther and her boyfriend later that evening, enjoying a “drink on Smart”. Love it.

Cheers guys!
Cheers guys!

Continue reading “Smartie of the Month – Esther Button”

Create a free website or blog at | The Baskerville Theme.

Up ↑


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,788 other followers

%d bloggers like this: