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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Lure of the Big Apple
Fiona Addie at home
Will Fiona Addie find New York's schools liberating?
Fiona Addie is leaving the UK to teach at a school in New York. With hopes high, she looks at the challenge ahead.

I woke up, early in January, on a typically cold Sunday morning.

Before I go anywhere in the mornings, I usually flick through the Ceefax pages to see what's happening in the world.

MIAMI MAYHEM
Gary Bicker
I even received a death threat from a pupil who was on probation and a known gang member, just because I had attempted to confiscate his mobile phone

Gary Bicker

This time, one particular article caught my eye. New York City Board of Education officials were coming over to London later in the month to recruit teachers from the UK to work in some of the city's "more challenging" schools.

I stared at the article for five minutes and decided what a great thing it would be to do.

Challenge

That afternoon, I spent a lot of time on the internet tracking down where to apply for a job.

I sent e-mails out everywhere - to the news channels that had run the story, to various teaching agencies, the Times Educational Supplement and to the NYC education board, to name but a few.

The last one struck gold. After a few days, I received a reply asking for my address so I could be invited to the information and interview sessions.

Usually when I have one of my wild ideas about what to do with my life, I have talked myself out of it within a matter of hours, having thought of a million reasons why not to do it. This time, it stuck with me.

Great idea

I suppose when I saw the words "more challenging schools" I should have run a mile.

However, in the time that I have been teaching, I have worked in a few different schools. Nice schools with pleasant students and supposedly not-so-nice schools with challenging students.

Both are great in their own way and different schools suit different teachers. I prefer to work where I have a bit of a challenge, something different with a bit of variety.

I realised I really wanted to do this after only a few hours.

I confessed to my parents what I was planning to do. Luckily, I have the best parents, who turned round and said that it was a great idea, if it was truly what I wanted.

After a few hasty e-mails and phone calls to New York, I ended up with an interview in London, on January 30.

Having been given the choice of whether to go on January 29 or 30, I realised what a great idea the latter was, as I was bombarded with horizontal snow coming out of Covent Garden station.

Strangely calm

I spent the next few hours wandering around the area before the information session began at 5pm, and felt strangely calm as I arrived.

The 20 or so of us who were there were told in no uncertain terms which schools we would be going to. The areas involved were the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as failing schools from across the city in the Chancellor's District.

Different officials told us what their area was like and the opportunities available.

When asked, I decided to apply for a job in the Bronx. I chatted with Nina Stratner, who told me the specifics of the students I would be working with, the ethnic mix and social environment.

New experience

She then offered me a job beginning this autumn. I find out in June exactly which school I will be teaching at.

I fly out on August 3 for a two-week orientation programme, to get familiar with the schools and the system.

Before then, I'm going to try to get out there to have a quick look round, as I have never been near New York before.

I am hoping for a few things from this job. I want a new experience, which I will only be able to have at this point in my life, teaching in a different school system and (although it sounds corny) to make a difference.

Although I occasionally lose sight of that, it's what most teachers should be in the job for anyway.

See also:

30 Jan 03 | Scotland
05 Jan 03 | Scotland
07 May 02 | Americas
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