A day in the life of...
It's a bright autumn morning in Tokyo, which means that my hasty breakfast comes with a distant view of Mount Fuji and the promise that the humid haze of summer is almost over. On my 25-minute walk to school, busy cosmopolitan shopping streets give way to quiet side roads and alleyways before opening up again on to impossibly crowded crossings and wave upon perilous wave of pavement cyclists.
As principal of The British School, an international all-through institution, I preside over two campuses, one for primary pupils and another for secondary. I begin my day at our Shibuya site, where the unfailingly smiley security man seems as happy to come to school each day as the children. Here we teach pupils up to Year 3 (age 7-8) - I stand at the school door each morning, welcoming them as they run, scoot and cycle gleefully down the hill, leaving mums (and the occasional dad) trailing haplessly in their wake.
My idiosyncratic and largely ineffective fitness regime means that I have never used the lift to my sixth-floor office, so I am slightly out of breath as I sit down to sift through the morning's emails. Moments later I find myself holding my breath as the first significant earthquake of the new school year sets the window blinds swaying and triggers the alarm.
Fortunately, we held a drill on Monday so even our newest and youngest students take it in their stride, calmly and quietly kneeling beneath their desks, waiting to see if they will be instructed to make their way to the evacuation point. The tremor is a long one, but it passes and classes return to normal. Another adventure to discuss on Skype this evening.
By late morning, I'm ready to take the train across to Sangenjaya; the kanji [Japanese characters] literally translate as "the place with three tea shops". This is where Showa Women's University hosts our secondary school site. There's a girls' high school here too and, as usual, I'm amazed at the transformation that these quiet, reserved young ladies undergo when it's time for softball.
I pick up lunch on the way: karaage-bo [deep-fried chicken] and tuna sushi rolls. Another reason to shun the lift.
Last week, the entire secondary school decamped to the Japanese Alps to start the term with some adventurous activities in one of the country's most beautiful regions. The hiking, kayaking and mountain biking were fun and our keen young scientists enjoyed launching their water rockets across the lake, but it is time to settle into the academic routine now.
We have just introduced vertical tutoring and revamped the house system, our Year 7s (age 11-12) are all equipped with mini iPads and we are introducing BYOD (bring your own device) for the older years. We also have 100 more students than last year.
The rest of my afternoon is taken up with meeting staff, who are keen to share their impressions of the way it's all going. And how is it going? Quickly, very quickly - like everything else in this incredible city.
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