My move from Canada to teach in England

Published 9 May 2022
By Brooke Harvey

Brooke Harvey, a Canadian national who moved to England to teach, standing in front of a bookcase.

Brooke Harvey is a lead practitioner of English at a secondary school in Hampshire, part of Bohunt Education Trust (BET)(opens in new window). A Canadian national, she has lived in England since 2019.

What made you want to teach in the UK?

When I did my Master’s at Edinburgh, I fell in love with the culture and knew I’d regret it if I didn’t come back.

I met my current Bohunt Education Trust headteacher and associate headteacher at a careers fair – they’d come to Canada on a recruitment trip. It was important to me that I work for people whose leadership and values I respected. So it was great to be able to shake hands with the very people I’d be working for and make sure those values aligned.

It’s no small feat to move across the world — and no small sacrifice — so I wanted to do it with as much consideration as possible.

How did you manage your move to the UK?

Life here took a lot of figuring out and I did that on my own initially. It was down to small details like setting up a bank account, getting around, the currency, and even which grocery store to go to.

I began to grow roots here the more embedded I became in the wider school and Trust beyond my department. When I think about what truly made me feel a part of this place, it was the support network I developed with colleagues who inspire and challenge me.

What has been the hardest thing about settling into teaching in England?

When I first started, I wasn’t used to how here in England, the performance of the teacher is tied to the performance of the students. That felt quite jarring as it’s not so strongly tied in Canada.

In the early days and months, I was just one step ahead of the students. I was giving lessons on texts I’d never taught or studied before — texts that others in the department had been teaching for years. So much of what was difficult about settling in here was building up my self-confidence and trusting my abilities. It was a steep learning curve!

What has helped me over the years has come largely from the opportunities I have had as a lead practitioner. I have been able to learn from incredibly strong practitioners across subjects, not only at my school but across the wider Trust.

What do you love about your job?

Being a foreigner and an outsider is an instant talking point. It’s like having a secret superpower because it invites a connection with students. Those relationships are the most satisfying aspects of my work.

It’s then about creating an environment that people want to come to, even if it’s just to sit and talk about literature. The fact that we’re comfortable together means we can have strong and insightful conversations. I especially love any opportunity to go beyond the subject, to consider big ideas about the world with them.

During Covid, the pastoral element of my role has been huge. It can be really draining, as is any care-focused role, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. To see students as people beyond our subject, dealing with trauma and strife like the rest of us right now, it shapes everything I do.

What have been the career benefits of teaching in England?

England teaches an entirely different curriculum compared to Canada, and learning on the job takes everything out of you — it is physically exhausting. But it’s been amazing for me career wise because it has given me the opportunity to explore and help shape another curriculum.

I’m constantly comparing the different approaches in Canada and England. That perspective is unparalleled and another sort of perk of being an outsider.

What advice would you give to other overseas teachers?

My advice would be that:

  • moving across the world takes a certain type of person, so it’s good to be very clear with yourself about why you’re making the move

  • you should be in direct contact with the school you’re applying to and form a dialogue with someone there

  • you can love your school and love your class, but leadership shapes everything — make sure you respect and trust the people who employ you

  • you’ll need to put a network in place for when you’re no longer running on pure adrenaline — there’s a bit of a lull and you start to want help and support

If you’re interested in joing Brooke to teach in a world class education system, discover how you can come to England to teach.

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