I teach science and the theory of knowledge at the British School of Beijing, Shunyi (BSB), but I am also the International Baccalaureate diploma coordinator and deputy head of secondary.
My day begins at 5am when, even in winter, the locals are conducting their morning exercise routines. They sing and chant and shout, while moving their arms in circles and hitting their chests violently. After I ready myself for school, my children must be pried from their beds and put into their uniforms.
I leave just before 7am to take the short trip to school in my tuk-tuk. It’s actually quite exhilarating to negotiate the crazy Beijing streets in my tiny red box, and it feels like a triumph just to arrive at work.
China is a complex blend of sights, sounds and smells; it bombards your senses at every turn. The bad press Beijing gets for its pollution belies a quirky and charismatic city with lots to offer an adventurous soul, or indeed anyone with an open mind. I certainly didn’t expect blue sky and sunshine, but that’s what is on the menu most days.
My first task at school is to clear my inbox and check my calendar. When the students start to arrive, I like to be around to say good morning. With 60 nationalities at our school, it is a virtual rainbow of cultures. This morning, I hear German, Korean, Setswana, Portuguese and English being spoken as I walk down a corridor. Unfailingly, the students have big grins and offer up a, “Good morning, Miss.”
This morning I am teaching ethics in my theory of knowledge class – which means that the students will be debating some controversial topics – and I must make sure that everyone participates. This is easy because classroom management is never an issue at BSB – all you need to do is raise an eyebrow and the students get the message.
Next, I have two lessons of Year 8 science: we are doing project-based learning and the task is to work out how to colonise a new planet. We are encouraged to teach in creative ways, and this unit is designed to introduce IGCSE science topics. It is wonderful to work in a school where the most important thing is that students enjoy their learning and are challenged. Our students get great results, but this isn’t what motivates and inspires them.
On my way to lunch, I see my son in one play area and my daughter in another. It’s nice to be able to have the kids at the same school as me – this is a real benefit of the international schools that I have worked at. In the canteen, I see my husband, who is head of secondary, so BSB really is important to our whole family.
The rest of my day is occupied by meetings. In the UK, I dreaded meetings, but teachers abroad have less paperwork to complete and more time for genuine professional discourse. Colleagues regularly discuss teaching and learning, CPD or how to raise achievement. I feel in control of my own growth in the profession and I try to support my peers in this process as well.
At the end of the day, I hold a fitness class for students and staff. Today we will do some interval training so we can work up a sweat. It’s the perfect way to end the day before I get back into my red box to drive home and see what delicious local food our housekeeper, or ayi (auntie), has prepared.
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