The overwhelming winner from Friday’s poll was to hear about differences in grocery shopping, so here are my observation based on my favorite daily grocery store in the US (Publix), and my current local grocery store (Sainsbury’s). Grocery shopping is not one of my favorite pastimes, but it’s necessary, so I go when I must. I’ve noticed this has changed a lot since moving to England. In the US, I would usually do one big grocery shop a week, and that was it. In the UK, I go a lot more often, usually two to three times a week. I have to; most meats have sell by dates only a couple of days in the future. Plus, our refrigerator is quite small, so there’s not room to stock up on a lot of goods, and my pantry is just a small kitchen cupboard. The good news is the local grocery store is less than half a mile away, and it’s easy to walk or drive to.
So what are the big differences between the US and UK? I mean, a grocery store is a grocery store. However, there are some things about UK grocery stores that I find odd/different from my prior experiences.
UK shopping carts come in two sizes. I usually get the smaller size. All of the carts are really hard to maneuver, as they move forward, backwards, and side-to-side at will. The thing that throws me off the most though, is that it’s missing the storage space underneath the main part of the cart. Now, I rarely used that space for storage, but I was constantly resting my foot on the bar. I miss that. (Silly; I know.)
The stores are either really big (think Super Target/Super Walmart scale including the range of merchandise), or medium sized. I haven’t been to a store that is similar in size to the standard US grocery store.
All of the cold food is together in aisles in the UK. There are some pictures in the gallery below to show what it’s like. In the US, the cold areas usually line the perimeter of the store, and aren’t all grouped together in the middle.
Eggs aren’t refrigerated in England, and are on a normal grocery shelf. That’s just so weird to me. In the US, eggs are refrigerated. Apparently the difference comes down to how the eggs are prepared for sale. In England, the eggs are not washed, so they retain their protective coating which allows them to stay at room temperature. In the US, regulations state that eggs must be washed before sale and the refrigerated.
The check-out experience is significantly different. At Publix where I primarily shopped in the US, I often had help unloading my groceries from the cart to the conveyer belt. Once they started scanning your items, there were baggers, usually teens, who would bag your groceries, and load up your cart. Then once you had payed the bill, they would push the cart to your car for you, and load the bags into your car. What amazing service! And it made a difficult task a little bit easier and enjoyable. In the UK, you have to unload your groceries yourself (which I would expect), but you also have to bag your groceries yourself! Not only that, but you have to bring your own bags. If you forget your bags, you can buy some, but they cost 5 p per bag. It’s a great way to encourage people to use reusable bags.
Microwave meals: in the US, we eat lots of microwavable meals at times, but ours are usually found in the frozen aisle. In the UK, most microwavable meals are found in the refrigerated section.
In Publix, there is a small English section on the ethnic food aisle. In the UK, there is a small US section in the ethnic food aisle. At least that’s the same. However, there isn’t anything in the US section I would actually it!
These are the main differences I noticed on my everyday shops. Another difference however, is the lack of speciality grocery stores. In the US, there are a lot of specialty grocery stores that focus on more upmarket products or organic foods like Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods Market, and Fresh Market. I haven’t seen anything like this in the UK. However, there are a couple of Whole Foods Markets in London. I’ll have to go visit one and see if it’s anything like the US stores. Watch the slide show below to see a few more differences in photos, and don’t forget the next post will be on Wednesday.
Job hunting for a teacher position in the UK is quite a bit different than it is in the US. Although I wouldn’t say my job hunting experience in the US was extensive, I did teach in two of the largest districts in the country in three different positions. Generally when applying for positions with districts in the US, you fill in one online application indicating the grade level(s) and content area(s) you wish to teach (elementary, middle, or high school), and principals at all of the schools with openings matching your desired areas are alerted. You can also contact the principals directly via email or cover letter to show your interest. The main thing is that you can fill out one application for a large number of schools.
However, many jobs are also secured at job fairs. I was hired for my first teaching position on the spot at a job fair. The interview was short and very informal. I also got my foot in the door for my second teaching position at a job fair. I attended the job fair in Georgia while we were considering a move there. I wanted to see what the prospects were like the area. I met a principal who was interested in me right away. He told me to contact him if I did end up moving to Georgia. A few months later we were living in Georgia, and I was ready to find a teaching job, so I emailed him. I was invited in for an interview. This interview was longer and a bit more formal, and I also met with one of the science teachers. Although I wasn’t offered the job that day, I had a really good feeling about it based on how the interview went. The next day, I was offered the job. My most recent job teaching in Georgia, at Lanier High School, was an internal transfer. I wasn’t changing districts, just schools. So there were no applications to fill out, only a form requesting a transfer. Because I had been involved in establishing project based learning at the middle school level, I had contacts at the high school who were interested in having me work with them there. I had been considering a move to the high school level, so it was the perfect opportunity. In fact, my transfer was approved before I had even met with the principal! I would say I was really lucky in finding such great positions so easily when I was looking the US.
As I started job hunting in the UK, I realized the process was quite a bit different. Firstly, there are no school districts per se. Most schools have moved to a self-governing academy model, which in some ways is similar to the charter school movement in the US. As there is no central district for each county or area, each school lists their individual vacancies and has their own format for a job application. The job applications were poorly formatted Word documents that were cumbersome to work with, and a lot of detailed information was required including a complete job history requiring an accounting of every position you held since leaving high school and an explanation of any gap in employment, even if it was for university studies. Once the application is completed, it is emailed to the school by the application closing date with a cover letter and a CV if accepted. (Some schools did not want to see CVs, which seems very different from always having a resume in the US.)
When the schools receive applications, they review them and decide who they would like to interview. Some schools will contact you via follow up email to let you know they were not interested in interviewing you, but I found many did not respond at all. If the school is interested in an interview, they email you with the interview information. When applying for teaching jobs in the UK, I sent out applications for every position that was remotely close enough to where I knew we would be living. Most of the schools I did not hear back from. One school emailed and said they were not interested at that time, and another school indicated they were interested in interviewing me but wanted to interview in person. At that point, I was still in the US (it was April of last year), and there was no way I could be in England for an interview any time soon.
It was at that point I realized that my job hunt was a bit futile until I was actually in the UK. One component of the interview is teaching a sample lesson, so the school likes to know you’ll be able to come in for an interview. If they see you are residing outside of the country, most won’t bother contacting you. I imagine this may be the same in the US, but I know that my former district recruited far and wide and would sometimes have interviews via web conference.
So this brings me to the story of how I found my current teaching position. I would check the school web sites of schools in the area I am now living to see if any openings were available. If there were, I would complete the application and send off my information. Right before I moved, I noticed there was an opening at my current school. The application deadline was right before I was flying out. In the midst of packing everything up and getting all of the details for transatlantic move with pets, I took some time out to complete the application. (I had applied to the school earlier last year, but I was not selected for an interview at that time.) Since I had already applied once, I only needed to spruce up my application and take into account all of the tips I had learned from perusing UK teaching forums. I sent if off and then worried about getting everything ready for the big move. (The application was due on Thursday, and I flew out on Saturday to give you an idea of the timeline.)
On Saturday, Devon, Newton, Halley and I made our way to the airport and departed for England arriving on Sunday. Once we arrived at our new home on Sunday, I slept most of the day. Between jet lag and moving preparations, I was exhausted. On Tuesday, I received an email inviting me to an interview for a position that Friday. That gave me just a couple of days to prepare a 50-minute lesson on one of the assigned topics. My husband had been saving money by not having internet access at the house, so I spent many hours at Starbucks drinking coffee and tea, eating gluten free snacks, and using their free wifi to create my lesson plan and resources.
On the Friday, I arrived for the interview with one other candidate. In the UK, they interview all candidates on the same date. You end up spending some time together throughout the day, which is interesting and a bit weird to be getting to know the competition. The day began with a welcome and overview from HR. We were then given a tour of the school by two of the students. Next up was the lesson observation where I taught my sample lesson to one of the classes. This was followed by meeting with the science department as a whole during the school break time. Finally, we were each interviewed separately with the principal and the head of science. The other teacher was interviewed first, and I was interviewed second. At the end of my interview, the principal said they could either call me with their decision or I could wait in the staff room while they discussed their decision. I had a feeling they wouldn’t offer to let me to stay if they weren’t planning on offering me the position, so I chose to stay and wait, especially since my phone still had a US number at the time. A few minutes later, the principal came in to congratulate me, and I accepted the position. Amazingly, I found a teaching position after being in the country less than a week. Additionally, I was lucky to find a school who saw the fact that my background teaching in US schools with different practices and strategies could be an asset for the school and not a hindrance.
So that’s my story about the differences in finding a teaching job in the US and the UK based on my personal experiences. It’s been relatively easy for me each time, and I’m sure it helps that I teach science, a high need subject area. I don’t know everything about the processes at all schools, but I do feel I have a pretty good grasp of the major differences. I think we could learn from each system. For instance, teaching sample lessons during US school interviews could be very beneficial. I know this does happen in some areas of the US, but I never experienced it myself. In the UK, a common application form for all schools would be helpful, as filling out individual applications for several different schools, each one formatted and ordered just a bit differently from the others was incredibly time consuming. Each application would take at least two hours to complete, and there must be a way to make this process more efficient.
I know I have a unique perspective on the experience, and it’s not everyday you get to see two completely different education systems. I’m interested in hearing what types of experiences you may have had applying for teacher jobs in the US, UK, or somewhere else in the world. Please share in the comments below.
Finally, I thought I’d give you the opportunity to vote on the topic of Monday’s blog post. The poll will stay open until 11:59 EDT on April 23rd. Please take the time to let me know what you’d like to hear about next!
Devon, Newton, and Halley enjoying British sunshine.
Moving can be stressful. Moving to another country can be very stressful. Moving to another country with a large dog and two cats in tow can be incredibly stressful! Getting ready for the big move to England was an adventure, and this part of the story focuses on getting my dog (Devon, golden retriever), two cats (Newton, white and brown tabby cat and Halley, tuxedo cat), and myself to England.
There are really only two options for getting to England: fly or sail. There is a ship (the Queen Mary II) that has kennels for animals while making the crossing. We considered this option, but you had to book at least a year in advance, and we just weren’t in a position to plan that far ahead. So, flying it was going to be!
But before we can book flights and even think about all of the travel arrangements, the animals need the correct paperwork, inoculations, and microchips to gain entry into England! The entire process from meeting the entry requirements to booking flights and actually traveling was a multi-step process that took several months.
Make sure all animals have an international standard microchip that scans properly. Devon’s had been placed by the vet, and his met the standard. The cats were adopted from a shelter, and their microchips were the US standard not the international one, so the cats each had to have a new microchip implanted.
Make sure everyone has an up to date rabies shot. This must happen at least 30 days before they fly. Since our cats were indoor cats, they hadn’t had one since we adopted them, and Devon was overdue for his, so this was next on the list. Items 1 and 2 were taken care of at the end of March.
Determine airline to use for transporting the pets. I wanted to be on the same flight as Devon, Halley, and Newton, so that limited my options flying out of Atlanta to British Airways. Thankfully, they had lots of great reviews for flying pets as air cargo.
Newton tests out Devon’s crate
Measure pets to determine what size crate each one would need. It was easy for the cats as the IATA laws require cats to travel in medium sized crates even though they could get by with much smaller ones. However, this meant no need to attempt measuring the height and length of two cats! The Devon did need to be measured from floor to top of head, nose to tail, and floor to top of his legs. This was a little tricky, but not too bad. This information was used to select his crate size. The requirements are that the dog can stand up without hitting the top of the crate and turn around in the crate. Devon is a pretty large golden retriever, and he was just a little too tall to fit in a size smaller crate, so he would need the largest dog crate available.
Determine cost of flying pets and the booking processes. When flying a pet as cargo internationally, the fare charged is based on the volume the crate takes up and the weight. That’s why we had to determine the crate each pet needed first. I emailed the cargo division to get quotes. (It costs a lot of money to fly pets, but Devon was the most expensive!) Eventually I called to book their flights, but found out they don’t know if they will have room until two weeks before departure! So, that means waiting until you have a better idea of when you’ll be leaving!
Wait for your visa to live in England to arrive. This took a couple of weeks longer than I was expecting, but I finally got word my visa was approved the day after Memorial Day.
Arrange flights – called the airline cargo division, and was able to book the pets on the flight I was hoping to take in June. Believe or not, you don’t pay for the flight then. You pay for the flights when you drop them off, so they can weigh and measure in person before calculating your final total.
Book your own flight. That was probably the easiest part of the entire process.
Purchase crates (one each), crate mats, food and water containers, and approved crate screws for the flight. Thank you Amazon!
Book vet appointments for health checks and paperwork filling out.
At the vets for paperwork completion
Got to vet appointments and have USDA and EU paperwork completed. This wasn’t too difficult except that I decided I could take all three of them to the vet by myself at the same time. Somehow, I managed!
Book an appointment to go to the USDA office in Georgia to have paperwork checked and signed off. I booked this for the day before our flights as it was the only available slot.
Email paperwork to the USDA office to check to make sure there are no errors before you get there. I did this and received a reply that everything was okay.
Take Devon back to the vet for a tapeworm treatment that has to be given within 72 hours of the flight.
Do a dry run to see how you will fit three crates, three animals, three adults, two suitcases, and two carry on pieces of luggage your dad’s car.
Make sure your husband rents a vehicle large enough to fit the dog, cats, and crates for when he picks you up from the airport.
Go the USDA office to have your paperwork checked and signed off on. Wait forever as they were short staffed that week. Freak out when they tell you there is a problem with your paperwork. Panic and assume you’ll miss your flight the next day since you don’t want to fly without the pets. Calm down when they tell you it can be fixed without driving an hour and half back to the vet’s office. Call the vets to fax over the needed information. Wait some more. Finally get paperwork signed off on. (Did I mention my parents had to drive me as by this point one of our cars had already been picked up to be taken to Savannah’s port in preparation for shipping to England, and I had sold our other two cars?)
Finish packing and clearing out your house. Don’t forget to pack food for the dog and cats so they’ll have something familiar to eat for the first few days in a new country and some favorite toys.
On the way to the airport
Pack up the car. We figured out that Devon’s crate would not fit in the car with everything else assembled, so we left it unassembled with top sitting in the bottom. Convince Devon that he can jump up into the SUV even though he’s only ever ridden in a car before. Fail at convincing. Try lifting an 82 pound dog into the car, and don’t get too far. Finally convince Devon he can do it with a huge push of help from my parents and me ready to sit with him in the car. Loading everything else wasn’t too bad, but it was one packed car!
Drive to the airport in order to drop off the animals to the air cargo hanger at least five hours before our scheduled departure time.
Arrive at the cargo area and assemble Devon’s crate.
Go into cargo area and show paperwork to the agents. Have them look through your paperwork and find a sheet that the USDA office didn’t date (even though they were checking everything), and be told by the agents that if you fly, your animals may be refused entry when you get to England or be quarantined and fined. Start to freak out. Try to verify by having them contact the Animal Reception Centre in London. The agent told me I could speak with them, so I did. Since the paper without the date was a USDA one that was not needed for entry and the EU papers were complete, find out there won’t be a problem on arrival.
Waiving goodbye in Atlanta
Bring the Devon, his crate, and the crated cats into the building for check in. Devon had to stand in front of his crate for a photo for the records. Get everyone weighed and checked in. Get Devon into his crate. (I thought this would be one of the most difficult steps, but he just hopped right in!) Then, watch them wheel away your precious cargo, and hope and pray they get on the plane and you reunite safely in London.
Head to the passenger terminal and check in to your flight. Spend as much time with your parents as you can. Finally, head through security. Be waived to the side in security to have your bag opened and checked because something set it off. Be asked why you are traveling with dog and cat food, and then explain they are flying as cargo. The TSA agent was very nice, and wished me luck on the flight.
Wait for board of your flight at the gate, and board at the allotted time. Find your seat in the plane and settle in for a long flight.
Realize that you all have been sitting on the plane for a while, but it seems like there is something causing a delay. Hear pilot come over the intercom indicating that they are having trouble closing the cargo doors, and that is the hold up.
Wait even longer. Worry about what is going on. Have the pilot come over the intercom again explaining that the hold up is due to the fact that a dog and two cats are traveling in the cargo hold today. As the animals are loaded last, some luggage had to be rearranged because suitcases were against the dog’s crate, and that is not allowed. Feel relieved that you know your dog and cats are on the flight, and apologize to your seat mate as you have inadvertently caused a flight delay.
Prepare for take off, and get ready for the eight hour flight.
Eight hours later, arrive in London. Disembark, go through immigration, baggage claim, and customs. Reunite with your husband.
Animal Reception Centre at London Heathrow
Head to the Animal Reception Centre. Find out that they have arrived and are doing well. Feel relieved while waiting for the paperwork to be checked.
Find out there is a problem with your paperwork (!) even after being checked by the vet, the USDA office, and the airline. The good news is that it can be fixed by talking to the vet, but because of the five hour time difference, the vet’s office doesn’t open for five hours, and they tell you you’ll need to wait unless you can get in touch with the vet sooner. Call the emergency vet’s office to see if they can get in touch with your vet. Have the vet text you back very quickly and give the ARC agents a number to phone. Get the missing information validated, and wait for the rest of the paperwork process.
This is what a jet lagged dog looks like
Finally reunite with your dog and cats! The cats were super anxious, and Devon looked jet lagged, but everyone survived the journey!
Load up the car which involves disassembling Devon’s crate, putting both cats in the same crate, and disassembling the other one in order to get everything to fit in the car.
Head to our new home.
Unload, relax, and start getting to know our new home.
When I was researching the process for getting pets into England, I found that there are agencies that will rent crates, take care of all of the paperwork, and help with the entire process. I thought I could handle doing it all on my own. Obviously, I did, but not without quite a bit of hassle and many very stressful moments and near panic attacks. In retrospect, it probably wouldn’t have cost that much more to use one of these companies, and if you’re contemplating a transoceanic move, you might want to consider them as an option.
The good news is that Devon, Halley, and Newton settled into their new lives here really quickly. The climate agrees with them all very much, and all three of them are super happy and content. I didn’t mention it before, but between the time I had the initial microchips and rabies shots done in March and leaving in June, Newton got really sick. He stopped eating, lost a lot of weight, and ended up with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). After spending way too much money on trying to get him better, I told him he could either give up, or start eating again (the “cure” for this disease), and come with the rest of us to England. Well, he obviously chose England, and you would never know now how close he was to dying. He loves his freedom here in England as he gets to roam outside, explore, and even catch mice! He loves living in England!
I hope you enjoyed this (very long) story of our moving adventure to England. I want to let you know that I never would have been able to do this without the helps of my parents. They were a lifesaver many times! So, don’t think you can make a big move like this without a lot of help! Look for Friday’s post all about the differences between finding a teaching job in the US and finding a teaching job in the UK.
This weekend, we finally went to the movie theater to see Beauty and the Beast. (I’ll leave comparisons of US vs UK movie going experiences for another day.) Beaty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney animated movie since first seeing it in high school. I even had it on VHS (and have it on DVD now). So seeing a remake (or alternate version) of a movie I love while living in my alternate reality was a bit surreal.
As a teen, I identified with Belle – the odd girl who didn’t seem to fit in, nose stuck in a book yet with head in the clouds wanting more. As I watched the movie on Saturday, I realized I’ve had adventures in the great wide somewhere – more than I could have ever imagined when I first saw the movie. (You can read all about past adventures on this blog.) Plus, I’m living a pretty huge adventure right now – living in another country.
Living in another country makes you more cognizant taking time to explore. We don’t know how many years we’ll live in England, so we want to make the most of our time here. For example, over my two week Easter break from school, here are just a few things I’ve had the chance to do:
take the train to Brighton with former colleagues and students visiting from Georgia
explore the British Museum (I love the Greek statues)
ramble around the Tower of London
walk along the River Thames
use various forms of transportation around London including trains, the tube, boat, and buses
walk around National Trust property Snowshill Manor
explore the gardens of National Trust property Hidcote
eat a cream tea sitting in the sunshine
drive through the Cotswolds
see the Rollright Stones, a collection of ancient stone monuments including a stone circle
drive by Stonehenge and visit its gift shop.
And these are just a few things I’ve done over the span of a couple of weeks. Since moving to England in June, I’ve had numerous chances to explore and find adventure in the great wide somewhere. Let’s see where the adventure continues to lead!
I’ve decided to work on posting a new update/story every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ve been making a list of US vs. UK topics to share about from driving to shopping to school schedules and weekend activities. Look for Wednesday’s post all about how this adventure began: the flight to England!
Since June (2016), I’ve been adjusting to a “new normal” (one of my husband’s favorite expressions). Perhaps I’ve been reading too much fantasy/scifi lately, but I feel like I’ve been plucked from my normal, comfortable reality to a slightly different, alternate one. There are so many things about living in England that are the same as being in the US, but often with a small, subtle (or not so subtle) tweak.
For instance, before I left Georgia, I sold my lovely red 2007 Mazda 3. It was nearly 10 years old, but it didn’t feel that way to me. After a few months without a car in England, and right before school began, my husband bought me a car: a blue 2007 Mazda 3. So much about this car is the same as my old one, but with some significant differences, the most obvious being the side of the car the steering wheel is on and the color (colour?).
Over the next months, I plan to share my adventures in this alternate reality. There will be stories of everyday life, grand adventures, and how teaching in England compares to teaching in the US. I hope you’ll join me as I share my stories.
Last week, the multimedia students (which include several of my former students), my colleagues, and students completely surprised me with this beautiful video sendoff. I asked one of my former students who does a lot with our video program if he could help me with a video. So, they also conspired to make this, the final episode of the We Are Lanier documentary program they developed this year.
As teachers, we often don’t realize the impact we are making. I feel like this year I have been blessed to really see the difference I am making. I feel a bit like Mr. Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus, except I didn’t have to wait until I retired to see the impact I made on some of my students.
I work with the most amazing fellow educators and students. What we have in our CDAT program at Lanier is truly special. I will miss them all so much when I am in England. Now, I just need to find an equally amazing place to teach in England!
I love the Maker Movement. It affords kids opportunities to create and do amazing things. We provide them the tools and the space and allow them to be creative, to put their own spin on learning.
Last year, we hosted our first Maker Fest. We held it at our school and called it the CDAT STEM Maker Fest. It was a fun event, and the maker spirit was really fostered in our students.
This year, we had the opportunity to partner with our city in order to host the Sugar Hill Maker Fest in front of city hall. Once again, it was an amazing experience, and it showed the maker spirit. This time, it included community makers, vendors, food trucks, music, and our fabulous students.
However, what I have realized watching the progression of our Maker Fest is this. We are not just allowing our students to be makers. We are making leaders. The Maker Movement is just as much about character development as making.
Last year, our juniors worked through the planning. As it was our first year, the teachers did a lot of the support work. This year, the now seniors along with some juniors and sophomores continued with the organization of the event. Our students met with city officials, planned the event, worked on advertising, and organized the logistics so the day ran smoothly. Although we as teachers were there and participated, we did not have an active role in the planning. Why? They didn’t need us. The experiences from the year before helped them to learn and grow. Hosting a maker fest helped us to make student leaders.
Tonight, I attended the Datties, our annual CDAT awards ceremony. It was an incredible, well planned, and organized event. It started with a dessert social, then followed with awards for high achieving students, student and teacher superlatives, and our favorite: paper plate awards. The planning has been in the works for months now. But the most impressive thing is who planned the event. The event was an overwhelming success because two young ladies in the junior class made it that way. They took care of every detail. Organized everything from sending out surveys for awards, creating certificates, lining up presenters, and ordering cake. I love that we have an environment where students are encouraged to develop their leadership skills and given the avenue to put the skills into play. We had so much fun tonight sharing stories, eating and laughing with our students, and recognizing everyone’s hard work and unique contributions to CDAT.
So, when you think about the Maker Movement, I want you to consider another scenario. It definitely helps foster the maker spirit in our students. But remember, it can also make our makers into leaders. What can you do to start making leaders in your school? And remember, kids these days are amazing; let’s continue to provide them with incredible opportunities!