Bad Trip, Good Trip

There are supposed to be some amazingly beautiful caves on Zakynthos, the famous “Blue Caves”. There is also the most photographed beach in the whole of the Med., the Shipwreck Beach. (Why a rusty old boat should be regarded as so photogenic is a mystery.) Well, we were supposed to be going on a boat trip around the island to see the caves and the beach, but we were not collected from our hotel. In the afternoon, we went to the offices of the company that had promised to collect us from Agoulos Inn and take us on this wonderful trip.  Then they promised to take us the following morning. This was the last day of our holiday on Zakynthos. The same thing happened. No one came. We persuaded the nicelady who owns the Agoulos Inn to phone the company and this time they promised to come at twenty past one. Twenty past one duly arrived, but they did not. After we were fed up with waiting, yet again, we returned to our room and prepared to go swimming. Then they finally arrived! Well, the Shipwr…

It's All Greek to Me

We woke up at 3.45 am and, after some frantic packing, we were on the road just after half past four. Soon the horrors of the Sofia ring road were left behind and we were heading south, to the Greek border. The formalities at Kulata did not hold us up for long and we stopped in a lovely field, just off the main road, for a well-earned picnic breakfast. We took the wrong turning in Thessaloniki and that slowed things down a bit. There were lots of tunnels as we drove on through the mountains, past Ioanna and on to Arta. We got a bit lost again in Arta, but finally we arrived at the Marathia Hotel in Chenapolou just after two. What a drive it was!

Greece really is wonderful! The food, the scenery, the language, the weather, the people: it’s all lovely. Now for two little moans. The Greek roads are absolutely beautiful, scenic, almost empty of traffic and well-surfaced. Most of the ones we drove on were dual carriageways and they are obviously a lot better maintained than most Bulgarian r…

On the Cards, Part 2

Going there is usually a KATastrophe. Yes, I am talking about KAT, that most loathed and detested of all Bulgarian institutions, that bastion of bureaucratic bungling boredom and pointless paperwork. The really bad news for any expat in Bulgaria is that, sooner or later, you are going to find yourself in that dreadful place in Geo Milev. The Microwave Woman was actually quite polite and helpful, but we still had to go back again and again, first to the notarius and then to KAT itself. Our BG residency cards were about to expire, we are off to Greece next week and BREXIT is looming ever closer, so we simply had to get our new ten-year BG cards.

Why is KAT so horrible? It is in an awkward place, well away from the centre of the city and all of the MTR stations. The actual building is a dumpy, dull, crumbling concrete construction, with a dark stairwell. The cracks and fissures in the walls seem to suggest that KAT is the epicenter of an earthquake zone.

In order to speak to someone who w…

Making a Difference

I seem to be spending a lot of time reading and commenting on TES articles.

‘Your pupils are never too young to make a difference’
​​​​​​​Sleeping out overnight to raise awareness of homelessness had a profound impact on one school’s staff and pupils
By Emma Sturm

Last September, three weeks after I had begun working at James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh, I attended an assembly for S1-3 pupils. We had a guest speaker, Alice Thompson, co-founder of the Social Bite social enterprise (which has created such a stir by attracting Hollywood starssuch as George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio to Edinburgh to support it). She was an inspiring young woman who talked about homelessness.
She introduced the idea of "The Wee Sleep Out": thousands of pupils sign up to sleep out – a variation of Social Bite’s "Sleep in the Park", for under-16s who want to do their part to help fight homelessness in Scotland. Soon I became the school’s lead on our very own Wee Sleep Out.
I vastly…

A Greener Doobuy?

This article recently appeared in the TES.

'Teaching in Dubai is exciting and energising'

This head of technology spends his days in Dubai ensuring that edtech has a positive impact on both pupils and the teachers

By George Stokes

It was with nervous excitement that, in July 2013, I moved from rainy London to Dubai, with no plan of how long I would stay. I had a sparse knowledge of the UAE but was tempted by the career opportunities and lifestyle benefits of being part of a young, vibrant teaching community.

I currently work at a school called the Arbor School, which is unlike any other school I have worked in before. It opened in September this year and is determined to be different. It teaches the English national curriculum through project-based learning with a focus on sustainability and eco-literacy. Our teachers, students and their parents all believe in the school ethos: education with a conscience. The aim is that when our students leave school, they have a vigorous academ…

LGBT "Education"

This article appeared recently in the TES.

Coming out to my students was one of the most natural things that I have ever done. I vividly remember the first time I told a class. We were studying non-fiction, specifically Obama’s speech on same-sex marriage from 2015, and they were struggling to understand the emotive nature of his speech.
I told them that I’m a lesbian, and how it felt when my then-girlfriend proposed to me before it was legal for us to be married. They got it, and reacted with warmth, respect and acceptance (as well as writing some epic analyses because they could better relate to the text).
They were full of questions – most of which I answered – but after about five minutes they were more interested in getting on with their work.
In all honesty, it was about as eventful as if I had told them I had eaten chips for lunch, but there was a clear respect for the honesty I had shown. I hope that, as a result of this openness, my students feel more comfortable with and accepti…

Going to Guangzhou

Here is yet another e-mail from a teacher who wants to work overseas. Sometimes I wonder where there are any teachers left in the UK.

Hi Simon,

I spoke to you some time ago via TES and email (although, I can't seem to find the email in my inbox!) about teaching in China. I am currently in the UK but you gave me plenty of information that enabled me to decide that it was something I really wanted to do. 

I was looking at a 2020 start but I have been offered an interview for a job at the British School of Guangzhou starting this summer. I imagine that perhaps a candidate has reneged on their agreement to go to the school and so they have had to re-advertise the position at this point in the year. I know you worked in Dongguan (wasn't it?) and I was wondering whether you knew of the school and had any information that could be relevant? 

Additionally, I'm definitely set on heading towards that region of China, but if you were choosing between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, would yo…