Alexander Graham Bell once said, ‘when one door closes, another opens’ and that certainly applies for Carlos Lopez.
“I am a little strange in that I hadn’t ever had any urge to travel overseas, then the opportunity arose to work and travel so I took it! I felt if I didn’t do it now, I might not ever do it,” he shares.
Now working as a maths and science teacher at St Thomas More Comprehensive School in London, Lopez says launching into the unknown has proven to be a confronting, yet ultimately fulfilling, career move.
“The challenges are many. Coming from overseas and settling into a new country is the first hurdle. The education system is obviously different and you have to get your head around terms like GCSE, KS3, sixth form – how they work, who will do them, when – as well as school policies and priorities.”
Despite having to wrap his head around such various cultural nuances, Lopez has adapted well to his new role and is relishing the opportunity to teach in a school that holds great expectations for its students.
“Because the school is regarded as ‘outstanding’ in all aspects, good behaviour is paramount, which often means being particularly hard on things like addressing teachers, talking in class and even uniform,” he says.
“I had to quickly alter my teaching style, which was decidedly less harsh, to fit my school environment and thankfully found that it was well within my ability.”
Since touching down in the UK, life has certainly ramped up a level for the teacher, who arrived with a mere two weeks to organise permanent accommodation before stepping into the classroom.
“Because I arrived on a Tier 2 General (shortage occupation) visa, I had a limited time frame ... I chose to rent a studio on my own and settle in. I have kept any exploring to Saturdays, as I am usually busy marking or preparing for school on Sundays,” he notes.
When it comes to divulging the biggest difference between the Australian and British ethos to education, Lopez says it all comes down to figures.
“There is a much greater focus on student data and targets in the UK. Australia is heading in that direction – I’ll reserve my opinion on that for now – but is nowhere near as preoccupied with it as the UK education system, at least in my experience so far. There also seem to be greater demands of a teacher in the UK (which are) usually implicit,” he adds.
For those teachers toying with the idea of relocating for a working stint in the UK, Lopez highly recommends the potential move.
“I would definitely recommend giving it a go if someone is ready for the commitment it takes. The opportunity to travel to so many places during the holidays is a great incentive.”