Q&A: Paul

Editor’s note: The full name of the subject of this article has been censored for anonymity

Paul, a 28 year old graduate teacher based in Wellington, travelled to the United Kingdom (UK) to teach through Point to Point Education. We had a chat with Paul to find out what his teaching adventure in the UK was like, where he got to travel, what stories he has to tell and what advice he would give to other teachers.

Why did you decide to travel back to the UK?

When I finished my teacher training in 2013, it was really hard to get a job at the time. I was inspired by a friend of mine that had already organised to go to the UK and she left in January 2014. Because I still have British citizenship, it gave me the option to make the decision of leaving quite late rather than have to go through the process for a Visa. So once I had three interviews and 100 CVs sent out and responses come back as no or didn’t even hear back from a lot of them – just decided that the UK was my best bet. Point to Point Education had guaranteed me work, only supply work to begin with but it’s better than what we had in New Zealand.

How would you rate the job market for teachers in New Zealand at the moment?

There seems to be a combination of an oversupply of graduate teachers as a result of universities at the time not capping entry and a lot of older teachers that are still employed. The education system in New Zealand is great but doesn’t come without its flaws. It is improving now, Wellington especially, so I’m hoping the problem will be resolve over the next few years. There are a lot of older teachers still in the job. The government came out to say it is going to get better soon because these people are going to start retiring and making way for the new bunch of teachers.

So you decided to travel to the UK because it was the most convenient option to take and had more opportunity than what you had at home?

Yeah it was. When I was first placed into a school by Point to Point, I was doing PPA cover, replacing teachers that were on release. I was guaranteed two of those classes, so it was at least two days a week, generally with a third, and ready for other cover and general relief of other teachers. It was definitely the best choice I had made.

Have you lived in the UK before you went over to teach?

I was actually born in the UK. We lived with my mum’s family for seven years outside Birmingham and then moved to New Zealand. I’ve been back once in that time. It was a good 13 years since I’ve been there.

Had you taught in New Zealand before?

I didn’t do any teaching other than the placements during my training. I thought about doing some relief work before I left but it wasn’t a guaranteed job, and I got some holiday work over summer with a friend of mine, and stuck with that. It would have been good to get jobs with schools in New Zealand but it just wasn’t easy at the time. My first teaching experience was in the UK and that was quite a shock to the system.

Did it set a standard?

I had to get used to the curriculum there, and I had to get my head around that, so it was probably good doing supply work until I got the full time position but it was still really different to New Zealand, marking, assessment.

Where did you travel to while you were teaching in the UK?

Croatia, France and Italy – Rome. I love Rome. I did a day trip in Paris with my mum because she was study working in France, so I went and visited her and did a day trip to Paris. Croatia I did an eight day trip with friends, both of them are with the agency. Just relaxed, just what we needed after a long year.

Out of the places you’ve been to, where would you recommend everyone go to before they die?

I loved Vanuatu, I went there a while ago, the people are lovely. It’s calm, it’s relaxed, it’s beautiful, it’s just a very simple way of life.

In terms of the last few years in the UK and where I’ve been. Marlow, it’s where my dad grew up and where I was close to. It’s just a beautiful little town right on the River Thames, it’s such a lovely little town, you can do nice walks down the river. I had to live in Marlow for the last month to make it easier for myself, they needed a bedroom, so I lived with my Nan which was fine, but quite often I’d just go for a walk down the river. It’s got some really nice pubs, couple of really nice restaurants. I think the English pub it’s fantastic. For a tenner you can go down and get a cheap meal and a pint, but it’s still good food. Marlow’s still got the tradition behind it, it’s still a little bit posh and still a nice place.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Something that stuck with you, favourite memory from when you travelled overseas.

The one thing that always comes to mind with Croatia is the Saturday morning we’d organised a boat trip, and it took you out past one of the islands where you did a small cave dive and we’d had a standard couple of drinks the night before, nothing crazy, just what you have on holidays. So on Saturday first thing getting on a boat, this isn’t the best idea, but we’ll go with it. It’s nice and sunny, decent weather, not much wind, water was calm. And the first thing they gave us on the boat was this shot of tequila. It was definitely going to help my stomach. That was how it started, but how it ended. The cave dive was a bit rough for me because I’m not much of a swimmer. But it was beautiful. We swam out from the boat, you get to the edge of the island and you just have to dive underwater to get to the cave, and that was fine. Then you have to swim back to the boat and that’s when my legs started getting tired. You go from there to another island, they feed you on the way, grilled fish. Ended up at this island where you grab a beer and calamari. It was not served as you get it in a restaurant. I’ve eaten a lot of calamari since, but not like that.

Other than your cave diving experience, what was the craziest thing you’ve done while travelling?

One good experience was definitely the Rugby World Cup. I watched a game in an Aussie pub in London, a lot of Aussies and Kiwis and a lot of British and Welsh, so it was a really weird experience, just the different groups of people. And then obviously Wales beat England, and the English are just ridiculous. Not crazy, but definitely an experience I enjoyed.

If I was a teacher and I was with Point to Point Education and I was just about to go over and we had just met. If I asked you for one piece of advice before I left, what would it be?

I think the biggest thing was just keep an open mind. Ask for help. Getting used to the curriculum and all the marking. If I didn’t ask for help I would have been stuck. And I had to keep reminding myself of why I was doing what I was doing and keep going. I think the best piece of advice I could give was just find the enjoyment in each day. Don’t let the big things, little things get you down. I had a really great bunch of kids, so even after a crappy day with heaps of markings or politics coming down from up top the kids would just put a smile back on my face and it would remind me of why I was doing it, why I wanted to be a teacher.

How did Point to Point Education help make this possible for you?

When I didn’t get the job at the school where I was doing my supply job at, both Carly and I were both unsure because the idea was that I would do the build up, the day to day work with the idea that come the new school year I’d go full time. So Carly and the others were very supportive, they were like right, don’t worry, we’ll get out there, we’ll find you another job. Carly went straight into it. And even then once I had the job, she was constantly checking in, seeing how things were going, and just making sure that I was still alright. So there’s constant contact. So the job hunting was brilliant. Carly and someone else comes over to the UK and go to the school and come in and see how you’re going. They just really look out for you and make sure you’re still positive about the whole experience.

What was your favourite word that you’ve learnt overseas?

Basically. A lot of my students start a sentence with basically and it did my head in. I would ask a simple question and a kid would put their hand up and there was this one boy in particular who would say “ok, basically.” I don’t need basically, just give me the answer [haha].

What is it like being home?

I missed New Zealand. Everyone I grew up with, all my friends and family are here. And it is hard with the job situation. But there is part of me that misses the UK. I don’t know why, I think it was just the people I was working with. Even each day I’m here, it seems some of those experiences were unreal, even now I’m like I can’t believe I actually did that. Three, four years before I left, I would have never imagined I would have gone off to the other side of the world for work. It still just registering on me that I actually did it.

Would you recommend Point to Point Education to your colleagues?

Yup. If any of my friends looked into doing this experience I would definitely recommend them to Point to Point Education. A friend of mine went over with another company and they dropped my name in with them and I had a chat with someone at the agency which was fine, but they just never felt like friendly. For them it just simply was business, and even then they kept on hounding me with emails, I’m still getting emails from them now even though I’m not in the UK. And I’ve told them a few times I’m not there anymore.

Would you do it again?

Yup, yeah I would. I want to get myself set up here in New Zealand and get my career underway but in say two, three years it’s still as it is and I’m bouncing between jobs, I might go back.

Paul had an amazing time on his teaching adventure in the United Kingdom. He was able to fast track his career while also getting to enjoy the UK and Europe, travelling to France, Croatia and Italy.

Point to Point Education were able to help Paul secure a supply job, and then a full time position. We make sure we are there for the teachers and keep in contact with them throughout their placement.
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