I'm well-travelled, so when I was first presented with the opportunity of working in Papua New Guinea, I thought, "How wild can it be?" Well, it's pretty wild, even by my standards.
On arrival in the capital city, Port Moresby, new teachers are issued with orientation packs and GPS trackers with panic buttons. You are advised to avoid walking around the city and to be constantly vigilant. Despite this, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Life here is unhurried and there's time to stop and smell the tropical flowers.
For the first time in years, I have spare time. There is no need to burn the candle at both ends; no guilt when I get home and read for pleasure or hang out with my neighbours.
I am woken at 5.30am by the blue-winged kookaburras, which sound like a troop of monkeys chattering - a far cry from the rumbling of traffic on the North Circular in London, where I lived for 13 years. What follows is a mad dash to get ready for work: exercise, feed the parrot and myself, find food and money for the haus meri (cleaner) and in the car by 7am.
At the Ela Murray International School, lessons start with registration at 8am and the teaching day ends at 2.30pm, when drivers and the odd parent arrive to sign the children out. Most teachers deliver a weekly activity, either after school or at lunchtime, and we have a weekly staff meeting from 3pm to 4.15pm, in addition to a planning meeting within level groups.
My school bases its maths and literacy curriculum on the English national curriculum, with some additional units from Canada and Australia. The enquiry units most closely relate to the principles of the international primary curriculum, although they have been tailored to the needs of the school.
The children are kind, caring and respectful, lacking the streetwise attitude of inner-London kids. Management balances the needs of the school, the teaching staff and the children. Parents get involved and attend open mornings to see their children learning. The list of reasons why I love my school is as long as my arm.
The job requirements are obviously the same - planning, preparation and assessment - but the difference lies in the trust shown by senior management. It is expected that records of formative and summative assessments are kept, progressive lessons are planned according to the curriculum and the needs of the children, and appropriate resources are prepared to deliver lessons effectively. But without the demands of management "checking up" by moderating books or planning, I have more energy to put into creative lessons. And not having to submit the same assessment data in prescribed multiformats means I have time to improve my practice.
In fact, I enjoy my job so much that my partner and I have discussed extending my contract. Camping on the beach and up in the mountains features regularly in our recreation time, as does snorkelling among the beautiful coral reefs. For the foreseeable future, this island at the end of the world is my home.
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