A day in the life of...
I leave my flat in the Dutch city of Leiden at 7.30am each day. I cycle south out of the city, along a bike path bordered on one side by a major arterial road and on the other by a canal full of ducks, swans and herons.
I pass open fields and cycle through the picturesque village of Voorschoten, reaching the British School in the Netherlands (BSN) at about 8am. The journey perfectly encompasses the intertwining of rural and urban life that makes this country such an interesting place to live.
I've worked as an English teacher at BSN since September 2014. The senior school sits on a spacious green campus, with playing fields and an eco-garden. The site was recently expanded to accommodate the growing numbers of students arriving from the three BSN junior schools further down the road in The Hague.
The school day starts with registration at 8.45am, followed by the first lesson of the six-period day. I teach English to Years 7-11 and also have a Year 13 A-level English literature class. It's a busy schedule but it allows me to get to know children across the whole school and they're a lovely bunch.
The intake is mixed ability and comprises more than 80 nationalities - the fact that so many students are multilingual, or have lived in multiple countries, adds to the international character of the school.
I have small classes of about 20 and the freedom to choose my own curriculum, which means I'm able to try lots of new and exciting things. A project on poetry in other cultures has been a particular success with my 12-year-old students. They had to read out poems in their home languages before writing and translating their own pieces. They were incredibly excited to show off their cultures and learn more about those of their friends. The whole experience was very moving.
The school day ends at 4pm and I usually stay for an hour to finish marking or planning. I rarely take work home, so my evenings are mine. Sometimes I'll join other teachers from the school for the weekly pub quiz or jump on a train to meet friends in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Delft. I seem to do a lot more with my evenings than I did back home in London. I'm not working less, but the general pace of life is more relaxed here and I'm definitely less exhausted at the end of the day.
When I first started teaching, I swore I'd never work in a private school. I felt I ought to be working somewhere difficult, somewhere I could make a difference. However, coming to Holland has made me re-evaluate what that means. The students here come with their own issues and challenges, and they need support just as much as those in an inner-city comprehensive.
I've waved goodbye to quite a few pupils this year when they moved to new countries, and I have welcomed others arriving. The resilience they demonstrate is admirable and I hope I've been able to ease the transition in some small way. Because at the end of the day, wherever you go, kids are still just kids.
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