Lisa Melbourne: an educator in London
London is a hugely appealing city for Australian educators. Lisa Melbourne is part of the senior leadership team at a primary school in central London. I caught up with her to talk about travel, education and her Instagram, which features some of London’s best coffee shops.
Many Australians find the transition from Australia to London overwhelming. I asked Lisa to describe her experience.
"Before moving to London, I worked the western district of Victoria at a small rural school. The population of the town was 169, and the total number of children enrolled at my school was 90. My class only had 11 children - I remember the teaching agency advising me not mention that fact! In London, I found myself responsible for more children than there were then people in the town I left.
After a rural experience, I wanted to be right in the middle of London’s hustle and bustle. I thought "I'll only be here for a year so let's make the most of it!" I googled London and selected Marylebone."
Teaching in London allows Australians to gather new skills and enjoy affordable travel to Europe. I asked Lisa to describe her teaching experiences.
"I've taught Year 4, 5 and 6 in London and I've been a leader in many subjects. If you are a leader, you can lead anything! Even as a Deputy Head, I still maintain my connection with children and I love teaching.
I use to say I came to London to save the world. I'd like to think I've made a difference to many children. I love the children I teach. The tougher the kid, the more I like them. I'm passionate about what I do and want to make a difference in a child's life - inspire them for life.
Keeping teachers in the profession is difficult and especially so in London. But my inspiration is seeing the results and children who you've taught come back, years later, to say "thank you."
Lisa grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Altona. I asked her what inspired her move to London.
"London found me. I had no intention of working here initially. Once I finished at Melbourne University, many fellow graduates headed to the UK, but I decided to work in Victoria, Australia.
However, my constant travel bug and desire to see the world was never far from my mind. Having taught in America for a bit, my sights were set on an international school in Italy - and it represented a great way to use my dual citizenship too!
But unfortunately, it was recommended to me that I needed English curriculum experience and where could I get that? The UK, of course. So I packed my house and life into one large suitcase and 10 years later I’m still here.
I've never planned things in life and, like my father, I'm happy to see where life takes me. I won't rule out working in Italy one day, you just never know. “Things happen for a reason” is my philosophy."
Moving to London always has its challenges. I asked Lisa how she managed the transition.
"With my travel magazine, TNT, in hand and my openness to new experiences. I was excited to be in London.
The first week was so hard. I arrived on a Thursday, enrolled with a teaching agency on the following Friday, and started teaching on a Monday. What was supposed to be a two-week supply teaching role turned in seven years!
I cried for the first week and woke every day thinking, "Why did I do this?" Everything was hard - children, teachers, curriculum, acronyms, travelling on public transport. Everything!
I bluffed my way through things but I was hard working, determined and lucky enough to work with amazing teachers - many of whom were Australians - who guided and nurtured me to the English ways!"
I wondered what Lisa would say to other Australian teachers thinking about working in London as teachers.
"Please come! Do it and say yes to a chance to take on something new.
Living in London is full of adventure. It’s a place where you can be open to new ideas and try new things. You'll get an experience that you'll never forget. You'll work alongside many different people and make friendships that will last a lifetime.
Australian teachers are well trained, hard-working and they have a highly regarded can-do attitude. I receive emails every day from agencies promoting their teachers and many teaching agencies actively highlight if the candidate is Australian."
Given her current role as a deputy head teacher, I wondered how Lisa's passion for education first emerged and how was it nurtured.
"My nanna inspired me into teaching. Having migrated to Melbourne from Europe my nanna became my best student. I played 'teachers' in her loungeroom! As a bossy but well-meaning nine-year-old, I took my 'teacher' role very seriously.
I remember quite vividly giving her spelling tests, writing tasks and maths test and being very strict with her.
If she was a good student, I'd let her do some art! Clearly that was my passion and funnily enough many lessons ended with art!
Her patience and wisdom were outstanding and I still recall tears rolling down her face with laughter, especially when I told her off in front of all the other 'imaginary' students. Poor nanna, she really was a dream student!"
I asked Lisa if there was anything she wished she had realised ahead of her own move to London. I loved her reply.
“Yes. Keep hold of your work-life balance. Never ever take a bag of books home to mark on the tube. Indian food and cider put on weight. And bring your own coffee!”
Noting Lisa's passion for coffee, it was not surprising to discover that she also runs a popular Instagram feed featuring coffee shops across London. I wondered what other parts of London she enjoyed.
"I love the parks, afternoon teas, pubs and markets but my favourite experiences come from the people I met, love and laugh with!"
Follow Lisa here:
Editor's Note: Lisa Melbourne works in a London school and uses pseudonym to protect her privacy. If you would like to contact Lisa about her work, please contact Julia via Australian Women London and she will put you in contact.
Acknowledgement to Lisa for use of the images in this article.