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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 06:58 GMT
My London: No going back
Carlos Muņoz
Teaching in London came as a shock for Mr Muņoz after Spain
Since Carlos Muņoz, 35, came to teach in east London from Huelva, a city in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, in 1998, he has discovered a city he loves and a rewarding career.

After teaching for five years in a Catholic school I went back to university to study English literature and had the chance to come to the UK.

When I arrived my English was the English of books - the old-fashioned phrases you never use in real life - and my idea of England was Miss Marple and Victoria sponge cake.

I made up my mind to settle in London after a few months living in Kent.

I was attracted to the city's anonymity. No-one has too many roots and London is for everybody.

I came from a school where assertiveness, discipline and challenging behaviour were words from Mars
Carlos Muņoz
It has every food and culture, whereas in Spain I had never seen anyone from India, for example. So it was the ideal place to make a new start.

I also like the village atmosphere, the sense of different Londons within London, the way in one day you can be in three different worlds.

But I don't like the feeling of insecurity and the rudeness, on public transport, for example, and I can't understand why people throw litter.

In a city full of possibilities I got a few jobs just to survive, then decided it was my vocation to become a languages teacher.

At the beginning it was hard. My teaching experience was completely different from what I found in an east London comprehensive where pupils have other backgrounds, mainly Muslim, and a high percentage have free school meals.

TEACHING IN THE UK
The most common route into teaching is through a one-year PGCE course at a higher education institution
The Graduate Training Programme is designed to attract career changers who do not want to go back to college full-time
Teachers from another EU country can be assessed as qualified by the General Teaching Council
As I came from a school where assertiveness, discipline and challenging behaviour were words from Mars, London was a baptism of fire.

What at the beginning I thought was rudeness in my pupils was, in most cases, a different way of understanding life and learning.

There are sometimes difficulties in my students' lives that I can't see as they don't reveal what goes on at home (if there is a home).

There are more than seven million stories in London and I am lucky to hear some of them as I work in a school with 1,200 students.

They teach me their values, points of view and expectations. I use my own experience of learning English to put myself in their shoes and try to understand their difficulties, needs and frustrations.

They are very, very demanding and do not hesitate to tell me 'this activity is boring, that's cool, let us work at our pace'. I'll be happy if they understand how useful Spanish or French can be.

'Teaching challenge'

The press only want to talk about failure in schools, but I feel valued and there's a culture of praise where I work. They also recognised my teaching experience in Spain, which wouldn't be the case for a teacher from the UK wanting to work there.

One problem with teaching is I am finding it difficult to get a place of my own.

After four years in my school and sharing flats around London I am desperate to buy my own place, but being single on a teacher's salary means my aspirations are reduced to the size of a shoebox.

But I really prefer the dynamism I have found here to the more traditional style I was used to in my school in Spain. Teaching in London is a challenge but I'm staying! Hasta la vista!


My London is a series of features about life in the city which will be on News Online every Monday. If you have a story suggestion please send an e-mail to: londonnews@bbc.co.uk.




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