The only way was Essex…
I travelled over to UK on Friday morning 22nd August via ferry with my car full of history books, clothes and whatever other possessions I could fit into it. Accompanying me was my friend, Dave, whom I was dropping off to Luton on my way to my ultimate destination, Essex. It is here that I begin a new chapter in my life at 30 years of age, in the city of Chelmsford.
Why have I upped and moved country while other friends of mine settle down into jobs in Ireland, buy houses and meet for a quiet few drinks in the local at the weekend? I don’t know. But the answer lies somewhere between my love of teaching and lack of available teaching posts in Ireland. I won’t spend my time writing about where to lay blame for this lack of teaching opportunities in Ireland, I can only think about how I can approach this new chapter in my life and get the most out of it.
To those Irish-trained graduates about to start teaching in the UK, I’d like to share some of my experiences with you. It is a daunting prospect: the application process is laborious; interviews are stressful; and emigration in general is a sad and difficult process. I can only imagine there are hundreds of teachers about to start teaching in the UK, who did not plan their career trajectories this way. Having said that, there are certain things you can do to make sure your experience teaching in the UK is a fulfilling one. I know this, because having experienced a year teaching in the UK after graduating as a teacher from University College Dublin in 2010, I did very little to ensure I had a fulfilling first year teaching in the UK.
Firstly, I taught history for a year in Kent directly after graduating. It was a miserable year for me: I was homesick, and I never took the opportunity to try and live the same sort of life I was living in Ireland. I was homesick because I never felt like I did at home. I returned to Ireland a year later in 2011 a broken man. My advice to those of you about to start teaching in the UK is: make sure you do whatever it takes to feel like yourself in the UK. Join a local club that you were in back home. If you frequented the cinema in Ireland, make sure you find your local cinema and use it. They may seem like simple things, but it’s something I neglected to do my first time around, and I never gave myself a real chance to settle down.
Secondly, make sure you are ready for the academic year. If you have not got access to your school or classroom or timetable yet, insist upon getting access. You will need to be fully prepared and in the right frame of mind before teaching students, so don’t be afraid to take control of what you need to do in your school. It may be overwhelming starting in a new school and meeting new teachers, taking up a new curriculum, but your students are not to know that.
Thirdly, do your best to accept visitors from Ireland as often as possible, because it will make you feel like yourself. Try not spend your weekends cramming in planning or marking books; meet up with like-minded people and take a break from the schoolwork. Your teaching will be influenced by how comfortable you are with yourself, so make sure you always look after yourself! There were some weekends in the UK where I spent them entirely to myself, and as much as I like time to myself, I began to get cabin fever at times.
When I was offered a job teaching in Chelmsford, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was relieved that a school offered me a job after three years away from teaching history, but was also worried about leaving behind friends, family and loved ones. Now, as I type away in my new accommodation, I still worry, but I also know that I’m not a million miles away from home. To Irish-trained teachers in the UK, look after yourselves, and look out for others like you, because I’m sure we’re not too far away from each other.
Blog article courtesy of Aidan Harwood