A day in the life of ... Chris Riley

28th February 2014 at 00:00
Early one winter morning, this English and drama teacher enjoys a picture-perfect commute through the pretty city of Krakow, before trying a little avant-garde theatre with her class

I'm a lark more than an owl, so if I have marking to do I get up at 6am, rather than working on it the previous evening. But if I'm lucky, I won't have to leave my bed before 6.30am.

Even though I live in Poland, I keep a little bit of England with me: I eat breakfast to BBC Radio 4's Today programme. When the racing tips are broadcast, that's my signal to leave for school.

In winter it's still semi-dark when I catch the tram, but light enough for me to enjoy glimpses of Krakow's Old Town as we trundle round the Planty, a beautiful circular path and park. I get off by the Philharmonic and take the chance to stroll along a Planty path before braving a pedestrian crossing (Polish drivers are prone to ignore the lights). I arrive at the British International School just after 8am, in time for our daily briefing at 8.15am.

I pop to the office to collect the register, on the way greeting parents, ancillaries, other teachers and students with anything from "dzien dobry" for a Polish-speaking parent to a casual "hi" for a senior student.

Three times a week, my lessons begin with an International Baccalaureate theatre class, which is a great way to start the day. I have a tiny group, which can limit some of what we do, but this is more than made up for by the depth in which we can explore topics and the trusting attitude we share. Not for every group would I be prepared to roll around on the floor in a drama piece inspired by Artaud, aiming to shock and disturb my audience. But, with these students, it's all in a day's work.

After break, I often teach English to my tutor group of 15- and 16-year-olds. We follow the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus and have just finished units on Silas Marner and The Tempest, which has been challenging since only a third of the class are native English speakers.

Having said that, the English spoken by students who have been at the school for any length of time, regardless of nationality, is of such a high level that I often forget it is their second or even third language. Newer students present more of a teaching challenge and differentiated tasks are often needed. This particular class has 15 students in it and it is encouraging to see how dedicated to success they have grown as exams become a reality.

Later in the day, I might have an IB English lesson or a drama class with Year 9 (aged 13-14). Both bring their own rewards. Year 9 always want a lively warm-up game - not easy in the small space we have, though it's an improvement on the library, which is where I used to teach drama when I first started working here.

Our school is small, with about 200 students, but space is at a premium in what is, after all, a converted apartment block. In spite of this, we manage to combine academic results for older students with a nurturing atmosphere for everyone from nursery onwards. After heading off to universities all over the world, our former students often pop in to say hello during their holidays.

By 4pm, I'm ready to head home and recharge for another busy day.


Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email richard.vaughan@tes.co.uk

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