Ever fancied working overseas? Then you need to know this…

by | 25 May 2017 | Alumni Stories, CPD, PGCE Updates | 0 comments


In 2010, I graduated from the University of Manchester with a PGCE in Design & Technology and was thrilled to get my first teaching job as a teacher in Construction, Design & Technology in Wythenshawe, Manchester. If you are not familiar with Manchester, Wythenshawe is what I would describe as a ‘real’ area, full of ‘character’ and ‘characters’. An essential part of my lesson preparation was to ensure I knew all Manchester United and Manchester City results and who scored, plus any hot transfer news. This provided me, and the students, with a solid platform to build relationships, to engage them, and usually provide them an opportunity to wallow in supremacy over my team Everton; a ‘Scouser ‘ working in a ‘real’ Manchester school was always going to be fun.

After four years I decided to face a whole new challenge and move to Malaysia to teach at an International school. The school was in a city called Ipoh, approximately two hours north of Kuala Lumpar and two hours south of Penang. Ipoh was a sleepy old town, but perfectly positioned for weekend getaways. The school looked amazing on all promotional material, swimming pools, palm trees, tennis courts all with a tropical rain forest backdrops, however the reality was very different. Some aspects of the school were substandard and had potentially dangerous facilities, variable teaching standards and a reluctance to financially invest in professional development or facilities, which led to what was a very frustrating experience. To offset these frustrations, I met some amazing local and international teaching and support staff and visited some amazing places in South East Asia. At times it felt like a working holiday and a healthy break from the grind of everyday teaching life in Manchester. With the luxury of hindsight, I would have narrowed my search for jobs to a reputable International school, ideally ‘not for profit’ and one which is located in a major hotspot for activities for the whole family.

Following my experience in Malaysia I moved to Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is a great city, I was expecting a warmer, cleaner and greener version of Manchester with a sea view. Again, my expectations were not accurate. I also wish that I had an idea of how difficult and bureaucratic enrolling as a teacher is in Australia and finding a full time permanent job is not easy. I eventually landed a full time permanent teaching post in rural Victoria, approximately 45 minutes’ drive north from the northern suburbs of Melbourne where I live. It’s a well-respected Catholic secondary school with a massive footy tradition although when I say ‘footy’ I mean AFL (Aussie rules football). The Australians, in particular the Victorians are obsessed with it… it is massive!! So similarly to when I was back in Wythenshawe I find myself reading all  of the sports news to establish if the Bulldogs beat the Bombers or if Dustin Martin is signing a new contract with Richmond in order to develop student relationships. There appears to be a reluctance from year 9 and 10 students to work independently or learn new skills, but a passion and curiosity from year 7’s that fills the classroom with a massive buzz of optimism and eagerness to learn. So I feel my greatest challenge may be to maintain their interest in the process of learning, and optimism in wanting to become life-long critical thinkers.

So three schools, three countries and three very different teaching experiences and not for one minute do I regret it. I miss the bold personalities of the streetwise students in Manchester, the focus and work ethic of the students in Malaysia and I’m looking forward to the challenges of a new teaching chapter in Australia.

Darren Nicoll