Why did you choose to teach in Australia?
When I was in college, my friend and I discussed going to Teacher’s College in Australia. At the time we just wanted to go for the experience and explore a part of the world we’d never seen before. However, that was at the start of the program we were currently taking. By the end of that program our personal situations had changed, stopping us from leaving Canada. Since then, Australia had always been at the back of my mind. Although I already had a job as an Occasional Teacher in Canada, I had this feeling that something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it. When I finally reached a point in my life where I was financially stable, mature enough to be on my own and in search of something I wasn’t finding at home in Canada, I decided to look into teaching opportunities in Australia.
What made you choose anzuk as your preferred agency?
During my research into Australia, I started to ask my friends and colleagues if they had experienced, or known anyone who had experienced, teaching opportunities in Australia before. I received varied responses but one stood out to me. One of my colleagues shared with me that her friend worked for this agency called anzuk and it was absolutely amazing. At first, I was a little hesitant to trust an unknown agency because, shortly before this, I had received a call from an unknown agency asking me to work for them in the UK. I quickly came to the realization that I never applied to such an agency and instantly became apprehensive about all overseas agencies. After this I told myself that I would only consider an agency that I contacted myself.
It wasn’t until I contacted the Canadian Manager, Gillian, that all of my worries disappeared. She made answered all of my questions from my point of view. As a Canadian teacher herself, who has also done some work in Australia, she understood what position I was in and was able to cater to my current situations. Speaking to her was that final push I needed in order to say yes to Australia because I knew I would be well taken care of. Ultimately, it was Gillian’s dedication to me and reassurance that this was the best choice I could make that made me choose anzuk.
How did you find the transition and registration process with anzuk?
The registration process did take some time, but it wasn’t difficult by any means. I started the process over a year and a half ago so my memory of it is a bit cloudy. However, I do remember that it required the basic personal documentation such as an updated criminal reference check, school transcripts, resume, identification, etc. But I also had to complete my VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) registration as well as apply for my Working Holiday VISA. After completing all of these, I was put into contact with Rob, an Australian consultant, who conducted an online, Skype interview with me and took me through everything I needed to do/know when I first arrived in Melbourne.
Upon my arrival in Melbourne I had an interview, in person, with Rob, and Gillian who happened to be visiting at the time, and they placed me in an area that they thought I would do well in. As it turns out, I am currently working at one of those schools right now and have just resigned my contract for one more, full year in the same grade level.
How did you find the support from anzuk?
Without the help from the anzuk staff I probably would have been too overwhelmed and may have given up. However, the staff at anzuk took me step-by-step through the process, from start to finish, taking away all of the stresses I had before applying. Not only did they help me get set up with employment opportunities, they also gave me suggestions about where to live, when to arrive, and what are the first things I need to do when I first arrive in Melbourne, including setting up a meeting for me with a bank on the first day I arrived. They did all the ground work for me so that when I arrived, everything just fell perfectly into place.
The best part, is that most of the staff at anzuk were teachers, or had some teaching experience in the past. This made it very easy for them to relate to any of the hesitations I had, before and after I started working. One thing that I really appreciated was all of the positive feedback I was given along the way. Along with the emails they sent to the whole CRT team, I also received the feedback they got from some of the schools I had worked at so that I knew, first hand, what their opinions of me were. This really helped encourage me to continue doing what I was doing and it made it all worth it at the end of the day.
What are the biggest differences you have found between teaching in Australia and Canada?
There are so many differences between Canada and Australia, such as, the breakdown of the school calendar/holidays, the forms of assessment used, the Australian lingo (i.e. “Prep” actually means kindergarten not teacher prep time) and so many more. However, I think the main difference would definitely be the shared classrooms here in Australia. I was very much used to the individual classrooms back in Canada where we had a lot more privacy and didn’t have to compete with the noise level of the class next door. So it’s no surprise that I was a little thrown off when I first came to a school here and worked with two classes with no wall separating them. I got used to it eventually, but it did take some time. I currently work in a grade 3/4 class with no wall separating my neighbouring class. However, my partnering teacher and I have worked very well together this past year and I’ve really come to enjoy the shared space now. I almost like it better than the individual classes because sometimes when you think you’ve lost all control of your students, you can look up and see that even an experienced teacher has the same problems sometimes.
Also, the Australian curriculum is quite different than the Canadian curriculum. I find the Australian curriculum to have fewer sub strands which makes it less intimidating. Australian schools also, generally, don’t use textbooks and don’t like a lot of worksheets. They use a more hands-on approach, student interest approach. This wasn’t a problem to plan for most subjects, except for math. Back in Canada, all teachers would be provided with the Nelson Teachers Guide for Mathematics which gave very explicit teaching instructions for math lessons. Math was never my strong suit so I always felt comfortable teaching it in Canada because the work was pretty much done for me, down to what questions I should be asking the students. However, in Australia I had to find all of these lessons on my own. Luckily I have an amazing team of teachers who have been doing this for years and have been more than willing to share their collected resources with me.
What did you enjoy most about teaching and living overseas?
There are so many great things about living in Australia but I’d be writing a novel if I were to talk about them all. The main difference though is the lifestyle. Life in Australia is so much more laid back and relaxed as opposed to Canada. Although Canada is a great place to work and live, it seems as though the mindset many people have in Canada is that they live to work, but here in Australia their mentality is you work to live. When I first got hired by the school I currently work at one of the first things my principal told me was “Your weekends are your weekends”. They don’t take their work home on the weekends and they would never expect us to. This has really helped me balance my work life with my personal life and has stopped me from getting too caught up in my job.
Another great part of living overseas is all the people you get to meet from around the world. The first house I lived in when I arrived in Melbourne was a shared house with 12 people living in it. I stayed there for one month but met the greatest people, whom I still keep in contact with today. I then moved into a smaller unit with 3 people, where I have been living for over a year now. Although most people I have met are on some sort of Visa and only have limited time here, it is nice knowing I have accommodations practically all over the world.
Lastly, and without getting too deep, I enjoyed the independence and new sense of self I found after leaving Canada. Although I did come across some speed bumps along the way, it was so rewarding knowing that I was able to get through them on them all on my own. Moving here has really pushed me outside of my comfort zone to meet new people, live on my own (with new people) and make a whole new life for myself. I even did my taxes, by myself, for the first time ever. When I think back to all of the things I’ve accomplished in the past year and a half, I get this huge smile on my face because now I know what I’m truly capable of.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of making the move overseas from Canada?
The best advice I can give someone is that if moving to Australia is even a consideration for you, then just do it because you definitely won’t regret it. It will provide you with the best experiences and memories that you will cherish forever. So far, I’ve had nothing but great experiences here since the day I first arrived. I was very hesitant of doing this all alone before I came but now it’s the best decision I ever could have made. Also, once you get here, have an open mind and the intention to have fun, not just to work. I’ve learned that I used to take life too seriously, which is what got me looking for teaching opportunities outside of Canada in the first place. However, I will warn you that Melbourne does get colder than you think during their winter. I did not know exactly how cold winters were because I always just associated Australia with nice, warm weather all year round. I left most of my winter clothes at home and then had to buy a new winter wardrobe when I first got here. That being said, winters are definitely not as bad as Canadian winters.