A day in the life of Adam Bernard

7th November 2014 at 00:00
Inspired by his electrifying surroundings, the new head of English at The British International School of New York relishes the chance to bring the buzz of the Big Apple into his classroom

Three months ago, I packed my life into a suitcase, ready to leave William Blake's green and pleasant land and venture into the city that never sleeps. I was to take on the role of head of English at The British International School of New York, or "Bisny" as we often call it. For me it was the dream to end all dreams and it has matched all expectations.

In London, my days began with a drive in traffic so congested it seemed to add hours to my commute. Now I head off in the morning on a five-block walk to school, through the maze of stunning skyscrapers and high rises that line the way.

Bisny is situated on Waterside Plaza, a small man-made island skimming the lower east side of Manhattan. As I approach the entrance, my gaze is caught by panoramic views of the East River, the silhouette of Brooklyn standing against the morning horizon.

My morning continues with a dose of war poetry. The 12- and 13-year-olds in Year 8 explore verse of all shapes and sizes by writers such as Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon, and then discuss these works in relation to the contemporary novel Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo.

Next it's time to delve into the realm of graphic novels with Year 7, with whom I discuss the power of works such as Maus, American Born Chinese and Superman. And last but not least, my Year 9 pupils investigate the concepts of prejudice and discrimination through the novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher.

When core lessons are over it's on to personal learning, an extremely fruitful venture in which students get one-on-one support from particular subject teachers.

As an International Baccalaureate school, Bisny encourages students to enquire widely across all subjects, to take risks and to be open-minded and principled. The children are active and engaged learners. It's no wonder my days are dynamic, exciting and interesting.

As an English specialist, I have always cared most about developing the innate creativity of my pupils. Freed from the often constraining pressure of Sats, Common Entrance and their ilk, I have been able to think outside the box and focus on the intrinsic experience of my subject - a pleasure denied to many in the education system today.

I firmly believe that this creativity is vital to thriving in New York. Having been here for just three months, I have already experienced the highs and the lows, the hustle and bustle of endless yellow cabs and the overwhelming and electrifying glow of Times Square. New York City exudes energy like nowhere else in the world and it makes me reflect upon the energy of my students - how can they use their imaginations to take on this city and the world?

When Leonardo Da Vinci suggested that the painter holds the universe in his mind and hands he had a point. These children are all artists growing up in one of the most fast-paced, culturally diverse and complex metropolises on the planet - they have a palette of unlimited opportunity and their canvas is endless. An innovative and interactive curriculum is required to prepare them adequately.

My first great love is literature and, since taking on this post, I am beginning to use books as windows to the world. It is my hope that my students can make strong connections which might encourage them to contemplate their surroundings on a deeper level.

New York is a hustling, bustling city: a place that inspires big thinking. Frank Sinatra said that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I couldn't agree with him more.

Your 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 chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

We will give your school pound;100 if your story is published.


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today