A day in the life of...
It's been nine years since I exchanged the predictability of life in a Liverpool school for the unpredictability of international education. Although I have swapped chip shops for barbecues and drizzle for humidity, my job still has similar ups and downs. It also has enough perks to keep me here in Texas, at the British International School of Houston, for the long term.
As I write this, I am sitting in an air-conditioned Chick-fil-A (a fast-food restaurant specialising in chicken sandwiches) enjoying my weekly "nugget night" with my daughter.
In many ways Houston is a great place to live, but it's not necessarily a great place for tourists. The cost of living is low compared with the rest of the US and the city has fantastic options for eating out and socialising. But there isn't a lot to see - apart from the Johnson Space Center, of course.
Houston also presents challenges: the city is notorious for its traffic and it rarely disappoints. Most mornings are spent staring at someone else's rear bumper as we slowly edge closer to our destinations.
But getting to and from school is usually the most stressful part of the day. School life is a constant joy. A culture of achievement is promoted mainly by the students, who help and challenge each other in a friendly and supportive way. It still amazes me how welcoming and inclusive they are.
That's not to say we don't have cases of unpleasantness, but they are rare. A generosity of spirit permeates the student body, and our young people have a social conscience that prompts them to take action when disasters strike around the world. Taking into account the privileged lives they lead, this is uplifting.
Most students are British expats whose families are involved in the oil industry, but we also have children from the Netherlands, Australia, India, Brazil, Colombia and the US. The student body changes all the time because of the nature of the industries their parents work in - families often move on after two or three years.
The school day begins for teachers at 7.40am, when we either attend a meeting or prepare for the day ahead. The students' day starts at 8.25am and finishes at 3.25pm, although most of them attend extracurricular clubs three days a week.
We offer similar team sports to UK schools, and stage productions and musical events that would not look out of place in a comprehensive in England. However, the level of engagement and enthusiasm is strikingly different. Here it's cool to be the kid in the choir, popular to play a part in a production and dapper to dominate in debating. That's not to say this doesn't happen in UK schools, but it wasn't the case in my experience.
The students I teach history to are likely to go on to become engineers, doctors and lawyers. My aim is to ensure that they go into those occupations with an understanding of the world, so they can change it for the better.
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