This is my last iday diary entry. It is short, on purpose. Only so much of interest can happen in seven-hour plane ride over the Atlantic, and this is going to be short on introspection because I’m still processing a lot about my time over there.
We awoke early for a 7 am drive to London Gatwick, a trip that took about 2 hours. This was a time of goodbyes: Jodie was staying in Bury, of course, where she lives and still works; Ian would be staying with her. Arushi was going home, but our flight was full so she was booked for the next day’s; a separate taxi drove her to a hotel in London. We bid these three farewell and hopped in the van. I took the opportunity to catch more sleep during the drive, while everyone else reminisced about the night they had.
I got to see more of Gatwick airport this time around. We queued through the check-in for Air Transat; the attendant took issue (probably rightly so) with my torn suitcase. Unfortunately, my ineptitude with any manual task meant it took me far too long to wrap tape around the bottom of it. Sorry, physical world. Give me a keyboard and a mouse and I will be more graceful.
Since we actually knew each other now and were together prior to check-in, we took the opportunity to get seats together so we wouldn’t be next to strangers the entire time. Mairwen and I ended up with the two seats in the last row of the rightmost column on the plane. Though I normally take the aisle, I ceded it to Mairwen because her body didn’t feel very enthusiastic about another 7-hour flight. I’m not ordinarily one to gawk out of the window of aircraft, but as it was in the middle of the day, I made an exception and captured some beautiful images of being above the clouds.
The flight was mostly uneventful. They showed Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, which I didn’t feel like watching. I did watch Green Lantern and knitted for a bit. I regret it now—Green Lantern, not the knitting. I read, tried to nap but didn’t, and even taught Mairwen how to play cribbage. (Travel Cribbage app on my tablet for the win.) The plane landed early, which if Twitter is any indication is almost impossible, and we got through customs easily. After collecting our luggage, we bid farewell to each other.
Not sure if I mentioned it before, but Jenny and I actually went to high school together. We didn’t hang out much then or in university, but it was nice to have someone around not only from Lakehead but from Thunder Bay. Her flight back home was earlier than mine—she was flying Air Canada, I Westjet—so we hung out until her flight left. Alas, she had managed to slip away from the baggage claim quite quickly, and I had to track her down, leaving the relative safety of Terminal 3 for the confusing vastness of Terminal 1. Eventually I found her outside a Wolfgang Puck Express, where I ordered a burger and fries combo with a portion size that beggars belief. We took advantage of the free WiFi and chatted for the next few hours. Jenny tried to persuade me of the amazingness of The Real Housewives of Orange County and Jersey Shore, but she was having issues streaming. (I had no issues when, upon my return to Terminal 3, I whiled away another hour watching LoadingReadyRun videos.)
So I had to wait another few hours, and then my own flight left. I much preferred flying across the Atlantic during the day, just after waking up from a night’s sleep, to flying at night after a long day of travelling. Nevertheless, I was starting to feel very tired by the time the plane to Thunder Bay began boarding, and my eyelids were heavy for that entire flight. One advantage to 7–8 hour flights across the Atlantic, however, is that they make the hour and a half flight to Thunder Bay seem like nothing.
Slightly after 11—this flight too was oddly on time—we touched down in Thunder Bay. I met up with my dad, we got my luggage, and once home I collapsed into bed. Well, almost. I tweeted and checked the Internet first, of course, and had a nice, relaxing bath. Then I went to bed and slept through until 11 the next morning.
Last full day in England! This time we left very early to drive to the school I was visiting. It was one of the more distant schools, plus my driver was dropping someone else off at another school. So at 7 am we left the hotel and began the long drive down to Werrington, near Peterborough, so I could see Ken Stimpson Community School. It’s interesting that this school and Thetford were my first and last interviews of the day, respectively. I had ranked them rather high on my own personal list, but I guess I came across well early in the day and at the very end.
With such a positive experience at Thetford, it seemed like I would do nothing but judge Ken Stimpson by comparison, but they really are quite different schools. Thetford is two campuses in a state of flux; it has a frenetic kind of energy from administration to the English department. Ken Stimpson, by contrast, is very orderly. I’ve already remarked upon the campus-like nature of UK schools, but this one felt even more like a university campus. Lots of key fob authentication and basically an entire wing dedicated to staff activities.
The “community” part of the name refers to the school’s integration with the surrounding community. It shares a parking lot with the nearby—I guess you’d call it a “strip mall”, though it’s not—as well as a Tesco’s. Its athletic facilities are available to the public after school hours, and its library is also a community library. All of that sounded pretty cool, and it’s fantastic to see schools that are so interested in being a part of the community instead of a separate little silo where children get herded for eight hours a day.
Prior to a tour, I taught a lesson. Actually, it was hard to call it that. I had twenty-five minutes to talk about solving linear equations to Year 8 (Grade 7) students. It’s not a difficult topic, but twenty-five minutes is barely enough time to get through the introductory material let alone do introduction, activity, and recap! So I struggled a bit with presentation, but I guess the lesson went well, because they didn’t chase me out of the school. The students were very well-behaved. I’m still getting used to the idea that everyone calls you “Sir” or “Miss”.
After the lesson I got a little bit of a tour from the math department head, and then he handed me off to the principal for a more exhaustive walk about the school grounds. Then he took me for a brief drive around Werrington itself, showcasing the surrounding area. It was very comprehensive, and I admit I was impressed the principal would take the time to do that with a candidate. We returned to the school, where I had some time to sit in the staff room and absorb the atmosphere there until the math department head collected me and took me for lunch.
Some more observations on the differences between UK schools and Ontario schools: oh my do they treat their post-16 students well. See, in the UK schooling is compulsory only up to the end of Year 11. Then the 15- and 16-year-olds write their GCSEs and go on with the rest of their lives. (Apparently the government wants to change all this and bring back what are called O-levels. I have no idea about any of this stuff but assume math is the same in England as it is in Canada. Otherwise I’m in trouble, and I blame Newton.)
If one wants to go to post-secondary education, one comes back for two more years (the “A-levels”) and specializes in up to three subjects. Students in these classes are a cut above the rest of the population. They have more free time in their timetable, don’t wear uniforms, and pretty much have the run of the place. Schools give them common rooms, where they can make tea and coffee and hang out between classes. At Ken Stimpson, as we poked our head into the common room, the principal waved his hand at the courtyard beyond some glass doors and said, “Sometimes they have barbecues out there” like it was perfectly normal.
Can you imagine if our Grades 11 and 12 were like that? Neither can I.
Following a lunch consisting of the biggest ratio of fish to chips in a fish and chips meal I have ever had, I had the opportunity to observe several math classes. The material they were covering seemed similar to the Grade 9 Applied students I taught in my first practicum, though the behaviour of these students was somewhat better. I left the school with the impression that I would probably not have much difficulty teaching there.
And so the problem. Both schools made me an offer. Both seemed very eager to have me—not just “we’ll hire you because you’re qualified and we need to fill a spot” but “we’ll hire you because we’ve decided you as a person are someone we want to work with daily”. Ken Stimpson was interested in both myself and another candidate, Mairwen, but we weren’t competing—they were willing to hire both of us and overstaff the math department. Thetford was dangling the carrot of a holy grail of math and English in front of me.
I mulled the decision as we picked up someone else and finally returned to the hotel around 4:30. One of the consultants generously allowed me the use of his phone to call my dad back home. Of course, my dad couldn’t really do more than offer the vaguest of advice—he did not have any special knowledge of these schools—but it was good to hear his voice. I continued pondering as the afternoon wore on and dinner approached.
In many respects, I know I’m extremely lucky. How many people fly to another country to interview for jobs and get an offer, let alone two? (Fortunately, everyone in our little group ended up accepting an offer, so we all had reason to celebrate tonight.) My situation could be a lot worse. Moreover, it was a difficult decision because I could see myself happy in both places. Hence, by that token, there really was no wrong decision.
We went to another Italian restaurant, Ask, for dinner. Their menu was slightly less confusing—though now that I think about it, its emphasis was also heavy on typography and light on the types of photos that I’m used to from menus in restaurants back home. This time I went for a pizza—a classic pepperoni kind called a stromboli—and promptly didn’t eat most of it. I also ordered a strawberry milkshake, but in the UK they have strawberry milk, and I suspect this was used in the making of the milkshake—it was rather vile. Oh well! I took the rest of the pizza to go, and we went out to find a pub.
I suppose I should backtrack and mention I made my decision before leaving that restaurant. I could have drawn it out, asked for more time, but I’m not that kind of person. I procrastinate in almost everything except decision-making, because I hate making decisions that much. But I won’t reveal my choice just yet. If you haven’t already learned it elsewhere, you could scroll down to the end of the post. For now I need to relate the last part of the night.
Everyone else seemed keen on finding a pub, or pubs, for that authentic English drinking experience. It was our last night in England, after all. Now, I don’t drink myself, and by that time I was feeling supersaturated when it came to socializing … but I tagged along anyway. I wanted to find some place to dance. I love dancing, and those who have seen me dance will understand why I remarked to the others, “You have not seen me dance” as if they were missing some fundamental component of their existence. (They were.)
So we walked around the town centre to find a suitable location. All the bouncers that I’ve seen, so far, wear suits. It’s very classy. The first place we tried was far too classy for us (and definitely neither a pub nor a dancing place). Eventually we meandered back to the Nutshell, where everyone decided to cram inside. (It is difficult to describe, so I have included a photo for your edification.) I chose to avoid the press of somewhat intoxicated bodies against my person and instead relocated to a bench across the street, where I could take some nice video of the surroundings and bask in the cool night air.
After everyone emerged from the pub, we continued walking, but at first we didn’t have much luck. It looked like we might come up empty-handed. Then we found this place called The Gym—small, though everything in England seems small, with a live band. Everyone else started drinking; I started dancing. There were only two or three other patrons in the place at the time, and it was nowhere near the size where I could hope to avoid being noticed. At one point, the lead singer of the band shouted out to me, “Hey, mate, what are you drinking?” Later, he came off stage and told me he had to give me a hug. I guess they appreciated my enthusiasm for their music. (I don’t have enough experience to judge such things, but I thought they were good. They even played some Rush.)
The others were uncool enough to just up and leave in the middle of a song. I tried to dance through such bad behaviour but eventually had to depart as well. We went to another club, LP, which was slightly larger and probably trendier—it had a second floor that wouldn’t open until midnight! Some of us were ready to call it a night, however, so Jodie, Ian, Arushi, Jenny, Mairwen, and I ended up walking back to the hotel.
As we left the club, I reclaimed my pizza from where the bouncer had kindly stored it behind the counter. Outside the club, Jenny looked at the pizza box and then approached me, her expression and voice absolutely deadpan. I wish my memory were good enough to replicate her actual words, but they were to the effect of, “I really want a piece of pizza”, and the complete gravity with which she uttered them just cracked me up. I, of course, shared my pizza.
Back at the hotel, I still needed to pack in preparation for our early departure in the morning. So I ran the bath tub while I packed, had a nice, hot bath, and collapsed into bed. We were leaving for the airport at 7 am, and I was ready to go home.
Oh, and as for the decision … I chose Thetford Academy. I’m not sure I can rationally explain it, though I have rationalized it. Both schools seemed like they would give me plenty of support and would be great places to teach. Thetford had a few more things going for it though: firstly, they seemed genuinely enthusiastic about having me teach both math and English; secondly, they already had a sizable contingent of Lakehead teachers there.
The students at Thetford would be tougher, in terms of classroom management, and I will be honest that this is a source of trepidation for me—my last practicum had a tough class, and I’m still not sure how good I am at confronting such issues. I could have gone the easier route and worked at Ken Stimpson, where such issues seemed fewer. Indeed, that was the kind of school I hoped for when I came over for the iday in the first place … but Thetford changed that. They communicated an effort to break students out of their isolation and get them to think about the wider world, get them to go off to post-secondary education and do great things. Anyone with a brain could teach the motivated, willing students at Ken Stimpson. At Thetford, I can make more of a difference. I don’t know yet whether I’m an amazing teacher or merely a good one, but I do know that I have plenty of passion and enthusiasm, both for my subjects and for learning in general. I can share that with my students, and maybe I can inspire them to aspire. That’s why I want to teach, after all; I might as well choose an environment where such passion is most needed.
Another early day for me—this is starting to become a pattern. Breakfast at 7:30, followed by a seminar-kind of training session with a head teacher. He covered some of the terminology in the UK curriculum that we might not be familiar with, and then offered guidance for those of us who had to plan lessons in the next two hours before going out to visit schools. The school I was visiting today did not ask me to teach a lesson. In one respect I was lucky—I had plenty of time to prepare for the lesson I would teach at tomorrow’s school—but in another respect, teaching an audition lesson provides information about how students at that school might react to you as their teacher.
So I worked a bit on my lesson for Friday’s school while the morning turned to afternoon. At noon, we left the hotel and began driving up to Thetford, in Norfolk, where Taylor, Monica, and I would get a bit of a tour of Thetford Academy. Our driver hadn’t been to Thetford before, so he got somewhat lost. We didn’t complain, because this meant more charming English countryside. To complicate matters, Thetford Academy has two campuses as an artifact of being an amalgam of two schools, and we had to find the North Campus. We drove past it once, backtracking when we started seeing pigs in the fields, only to discover it was right on the main road with a massive construction project next to it (new buildings!)—I don’t know how we missed that.
The tour was interesting. My experience with schools here in Ontario has been a parade of single buildings. Thetford Academy and the other school I visited had comparable student populations but housed them in sprawling campuses more reminiscent of university. I wonder how much students (or teachers) enjoy dashing around from building to building in that much-discussed English rain…. Thetford’s North Campus is also the site of some construction, as mentioned above, to the tune of an entire new building and an impressive budget for integrated technology. (The person who gave us most of the tour was also in charge of supervising the build, so he had all the details and all the passion for it.) From what I could see of the classrooms, the technology was on par with what we have in Ontario. After using them in both placements, I’m quite attached to SMART boards, so I look forward to continuing that relationship.
After the tour, we had lunch with another teacher from Lakehead who came to work at Thetford last year. (It was just cafeteria food and not particularly good.) There were four such teachers there at the time (one of the reasons I found the school so attractive as a jop prospect) with another joining in the fall already. I actually knew the teacher we had lunch with—we were in the math program together—so she was able to give us plenty of unvarnished details about what it was like to teach in Thetford and live in nearby Norwich. These perspectives from people who know what it is like but don’t necessarily have a stake in one’s acceptance of any particular offer are invaluable.
Following lunch, the assistant principal and head of mathematics drove us to the South Campus for a brief tour there. This was the same fellow with whom I had talked at the pub last evening. Unfortunately, there were no mathematics classes running at that time, so I had to settle with sitting in and observing an English class. This was still a great experience, but I would have liked to see a math classroom as well. As it is, I watched one of the English teachers lead a lesson on Of Mice and Men (which I had never read). The structure of the lesson was similar to what one might expect in an Ontario classroom, though the goals are much more closely linked to the standardized tests the students have to complete throughout their schooling.
With the tour concluded, we said goodbye and rejoined our driver, who had good timing. I left Thetford feeling positive about the school. However, I still had one more school to see … and if I ended up getting offers from both of them, and I liked both of them, then I wasn’t sure how I would choose.
All the candidates and consultants went to dinner Thursday evening. We went to an Italian place called Prezo’s in the town centre. Very nice decor … and also very loud. Their menu was very nice … and also very confusing. It was difficult to keep one’s eye focused long enough on any one dish to decide whether to order it! I decided I didn’t want anything too heavy, so I went with a lobster and crab tortelli. It was yummy. After I finished my food, the noise was getting to me enough that I went outside for some fresh air. I sat down on some steps across the street and enjoyed the semi-quiet town atmosphere until it was time to return to the hotel.
Interview day. I woke up early—I think around 5:30—to make sure I had enough time to prepare before breakfast at 6:30. In particular, I was worried about my tie, which up until now I had only practised. Now it was time for the real thing. Doing up the top button on my shirt was tricky too, and as I went down to breakfast I felt quite self-conscious. All this fancy dress is foreign to me, but it’s something I’m going to be doing a lot in England—as in, every day when I go to work.
Turns out I don’t suck quite so badly at tying a tie as I worried, and after enough reassurances from others at the table I decided to shut up and focus on getting into an interview mindset. To be honest, I wasn’t all that worried. Thanks to some marvellous practice with my partner student teacher, Erica, I was feeling prepared. I knew how to answer my questions; I was confident in my ability and passion as a teacher; I had this down. Now it was just a matter of waiting.
We were picked up by minibus and driven to the Athenaeum, a subscription club in the town centre that we had passed during our walkabout yesterday. Engage Education had rented the large, ballroom-like room on the first floor as well as the room connected to it by a staircase above it. Schools were arranged in cubicles on the ground floor while we candidates hung out on the floor above. The consultants—employees of Engage Education who worked with particular schools—would come up and brief us on each school just prior to our interviews.
I had six interviews scheduled for the day! Math is in high demand over in England! The majority of them were in the morning, and because the interviews inevitably ran over the generally allotted time, I found myself dashing from one to the next with almost no break in between. I would run up the stairs, down a glass of water, and run back downstairs to deliver the same answers to the same questions all over again. It was intense and exhausting and a little overwhelming just because I felt like I was repeating myself. Overall, however, I think my interviews went well.
In the afternoon I had a long break between my fifth and sixth interviews, and I took advantage of a serendipitous opportunity to touch really old books! The cathedral has an ancient book library, and on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 pm the library is open to the public, with books from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries all on display. But that’s not all: you can touch them. It sounds crazy and sacriligeous, and I was hesitant at first. I got to see a copy of Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, a copy of the Qu’ran, and even some old atlases with intricately drawn and decorated maps. It was an amazing experience. (Photos above courtesy of Jodie!)
One last interview, and then we were done for the day. The managing director of Engage Education (also named Ben) took us to a nearby pub for drinks (I had a pot of somewhat bitter green tea). He happened to invite the interviewers from my last interview to come along, and one of them fell into step with me as we walked to the pub. A math teacher by training, we had had a good conversation about math during my interview, and we continued talking about math and teaching at the pub. After placing my order I sat at the bar and waited for my tea, and he sat down next to me and we continued to talk. I guess this is called networking, and it was weird, but on the other hand it seemed likely he was interested in offering me a position if the next few days went well.
The end of the day featured another dinner at the hotel—thankfully dress down—and we ranked our schools for Karianne and the consultants. They would take these rankings, match them with the rankings of the candidates that each school would provide, and schedule school visits for us on Thursday and Friday. I ended up visiting two schools, which were pretty much my top choices, and they both seemed excited to show me around and have me join their staff. This would lead to a tough decision—but that’s a story for the next few days.
The customs line at London Gatwick grew quickly. There must not have been an international flight for few hours, because few stations were open when we arrived, and several of them were being staffed by trainees. We stood in line, dead tired and late to meet our drivers, waiting to be processed. Karianne advised us not to say that we were “looking for work” (because apparently that’s code for “I’m a shiftless migrant trying to get into the country”) but rather that we were here for “job interviews”. A likely story indeed.
Somehow I managed to get into the country, and then we grabbed our luggage and made our way out into the arrivals section of the airport. Britain! We met our drivers and briefly popped into the Marks and Spencer to grab some food and drink for the ride to Bury St Edmunds—I was starving. There were two drivers, and they decided to split the 9 of us by taking three of us in one van with the majority of the luggage and the remaining 6 in the other van. I inveigled my way into the van with three people on the reasoning that it would be quieter and easier to catch up on my sleep. Arushi and Mairwen joined me and our driver, Howard, who provided some pleasant conversation until our exhaustion caught up to us.
And what a difference the van selection made. Apparently the other van wasn’t just filled with 6 people but blessed with a rather cantankerous driver, his ill-fitting suit and cast-bandaged hand making him look particularly out of sorts. Not only did they continually speed up and pass us, despite the driver’s admission prior to leaving that he wasn’t sure where we were going, but apparently he was playing pop music quite loudly the entire time. I’m happy I lucked into the more serene of the two vans; I had a good nap and was feeling slightly more rested when we arrived at the hotel.
We were staying at a Ramada Inn outside the town itself. We got our own rooms, and after we checked in I went to mine immediately. It was about what I expected in terms of amenities, though the kettle and complimentary teas were a nice touch. (Sadly, I never actually took advantage of that kettle—by the time I returned to my room for the night I just wanted to go to bed, and in the mornings I went straight to the dining room for tea with breakfast. Maybe next time!)
The washroom was a little weird: no facecloths, and there were separate cold and hot water taps, which made washing one’s hands a rather challenging experience. A bath was foremost among my priorities; however, I opted to shower instead. Normally I eschew standing in running water as a method of bathing, but my hair was greasy and I didn’t think the sink would work well for washing it, so I bravely stepped into the bath and examined the plumbing. It took me entirely too long to figure out the mechanism by which one switches from the bath faucet to the shower head, and during that time I got entirely too much water on the bathroom floor. This bathroom and I were not off to a good start.
After an invigorating if frustrating shower, I emerged cleaner but still somewhat tired. I met up with several of the other iday participants—Ian, Braedon, Matt, and Taylor—because they had indicated they were walking into the town centre for a little exploration. I wasn’t that interested in exploring at the moment, but while unpacking I had discovered I was missing a toothbrush, so I tagged along. Ian had actually lived in Bury St Edmunds as a child, and once we found our way along the path back to the town centre, he played a bit of a tour guide. (We even saw a beautiful poppy field. No one in an enchanted sleep though.) Eventually we met up with his wife, Jodie, a Canadian teacher living in Bury and already working with Engage Education. She was also participating in the iday to find a full-time position for the fall.
Ian and Jodie showed us around the town centre. We lingered in the Abbey Gardens, walking through the ruins of the monastery destroyed by rioting townspeople in the 14th century. The flower beds in the Gardens are beautiful and obviously regimentally maintained. Then we wandered up a few side streets—paved with cobblestones—and visited a few shops. I bought some cookies from a bakery, found a toothbrush in another store, and snapped some photos, including one of the world’s smallest pub, The Nutshell.
Dinner was back at the hotel. After dinner, several people elected to return to the town centre. I chose to go to the other way, venturing down to the nearby Sainsbury’s (less than a 5-minute walk), just to see what it was like. Then, quite tired, I returned to my room. I hung my shirts in the bathroom with the shower running for a few minutes to remove any errant wrinkles; meanwhile, I took advantage of the free WiFi to check my email and reassure myself the Internet was just where I left it. Then I collapsed into bed to have my first good sleep in 36 hours.
I had to be up bright and early the next day to prepare for a gruelling day of interviews. I was more nervous about whether I would be able to tie my tie.
Last updated Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM
In order to better cover my experiences in detail, I’ve decided to write a post for each day I was away in England, publishing it on the same day this week. I also recorded video footage that I hope to have edited by the end of the week! Without further ado, here’s what happened on Monday.
My flight from Thunder Bay to Pearson left at 6:30 Monday morning, so I was up a few hours before that to finish packing and prepare for what I knew would be the longest day of travel I had ever had. After much Youtubing about folding my sports coat properly, I zipped up my suitcase and headed out in the rain to the car, where my dad was waiting to drive me to the airport.
The flight to Toronto went without incident, and we landed slightly before 8. My flight to England wasn’t until 10 pm. Fortunately, I had arranged for one of my friends from professional year to pick me up. After a brief tour through Terminal 3 to see where I should go that evening and a stop for an unsatisfying breakfast sandwich, I returned to the arrivals area and lurked there until Hélène arrived. We left Pearson along the 401, and I gawked at the busy traffic and tall buildings all the way to our destination: the Ontario Science Centre.
I recall visiting the Science Centre once as a child while staying with my grandparents in Waterloo. However, I don’t recall much about it. So visiting it again as an adult was great. First we hit up the Space exhibit, because it’s the Space exhibit. Then we returned upstairs for the next performance of Star Trek Live: Starfleet Academy, a half-hour interactive adventure involving Vulcan temporal agents, a megalomaniacal Romulan with a bad accent, and lots of Starfleet cadets. The educational component of the experience seems mostly a general feel-good story about human spaceflight combined with some specific information about things like the International Space Station. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I’m not just saying that because Sovak chose me as the first participant in the adventure!
We also checked out Mindstorms (which discusses the workings of the human brain), had lunch, and briefly wandered through a few other areas. Perhaps the exhibit I appreciated most was the one on the “truth”, which encourages us to examine our biases inherent in our perspectives. I expected the straight-up informative exhibits from the Science Centre; I didn’t expect but was pleasantly surprised to see something a little more philosophical there as well. It went over the heads of the kids who were more fascinated with the fancy door mechanism at the entrance of the exhibit. But it had plenty of cool and thought-provoking displays for adults who may have been exposed to “science” all their lives but never questioned what assumptions get put into the science they learn.
Eventually we left and went to a nearby park. I wanted some fresh air and sunlight before resigning myself to eight hours in a plane! Hélène and I sat at a picnic table and played cribbage (she won, handily). In the parking lot nearby, a black SUV sat idling for the entire time. We kept giving it sidelong glances, wondering who would be so inconsiderate as to leave their car running while unoccupied. As we prepared to leave, Hélène boldly decided to peer into the SUV’s window. I was not in favour of this on the off chance it contained some kind of dead body. In fact, it contained a somewhat live but sleeping body (though Hélène’s movement caused him to wake). This solved the mystery of the idling SUV and reassured us that the vehicle was not empty (still, who idles their car in a park while napping?).
We left the park to go to Scarborough and Centennial College, where our mutual friend Katie is teaching classes. We picked up Katie and went to a nearby Swiss Chalet for dinner. Although we have one in Thunder Bay, I haven’t been to Swiss Chalet in a long time, but this one was good. It was nice to see Katie again, and getting to hang out with these two friends was a great way to spend my free day in Toronto. Around 6:30, Hélène and I bid farewell to Katie, and we drove back to the airport.
I checked in with Karianne, our handler from Engage Education, and checked in with the airline, Air Transat. Then I grabbed myself a cup of tea and whiled away another hour using Pearson’s free WiFi. Finally it was time to go through security and prepare for boarding, which is where I met the rest of the participants in iday.
The flight itself wasn’t that bad. I ended up on an aisle seat in the middle three seats of the plane. The fellow to my left was in IT and noticed my Android tablet, so we had a nice little discussion about Android versus iOS and agreed that we preferred the open ecosystem of the former. Always good to meet another Android enthusiast! However, given the late night nature of the flight, the cabin lights dimmed soon after takeoff, and most of us slept—or tried to. I nodded off for an hour or two, but for the most part my sleep was stymied by a sore neck. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a comfortable position; I resigned myself to reading and listening to podcasts.
When we landed in Gatwick it was 10 am Tuesday morning, London time. Which means this will be continued in tomorrow’s post.
It’s been an interesting few weeks. I have a lot I want to blog about—my new tablet, Mass Effect, books, leaving the art gallery, etc. Despite my free time, I keep finding ways not to do it. So far.
I’d love to talk about how much I’m enjoying my Asus Transformer Pad, but I don’t have time. I need to go to bed. Tomorrow morning I fly to Toronto, and from there in the evening I’ll be bound across the ocean, to England.
I’ve mentioned this a bit on Twitter, but not so much here on my blog: I’m actively looking for teaching jobs in England. By “actively” I mean going to England to do it. One of the recruitment agencies is paying for my flight over and has set up an intensive day of interviews, followed by one or two days of visits to schools. It’s an extremely cool event with the potential to land me a full-time job for the fall. I’m excited—and terrified.
Moving to England feels a little out of character for me. As I came to terms with having to move away at all to get a job teaching, however, I decided that England is the best option. That doesn’t stop me from thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” immediately after I tell someone I want to work in England.
I’ll be back Saturday, June 23—hopefully with a job. And the week following shall be devoted to blog posts! I had to shop for suits and ties! Until then, I’ll be inundating Twitter and hopefully Flickr with as many thoughts and photos as possible every time I can find some free WiFi.
Finally, I need to note that today was my last shift at the art gallery. I left my key behind. I’ve worked there continuously for six years, with the exceptions of the last two summers, when I was doing research. I’m not quite sure how to describe my experiences there—they were formative. I know it’s time to move on, but I’m going to miss the job and my coworkers so much.