Category Archives: Teaching

MK Bound

Today we arrived back in MK my home for 26 years prior to moving out to Mwanza. We are staying on a campsite to the north of the city.  A picturesque landscape of woodland and lakes near Olney.

It’s the first time back in MK and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends. 

We’ve actually been back in the UK a week now. Surprisingly it has not been the culture shock we anticipated – for me I have slipped back into the UK environment with no real surprises, though it has felt a bit cold. Maybe the 40+ years of UK living have made the experience much more ‘normal’ than I expected after two years on the equator. ​

Having initially stayed with family near Abingdon it gave  an opportunity to visit ex-colleagues in Thame and it was good to catch up and see them. Life has changed little, it seems, though perhaps I detect a slightly greater pressure on all as they embrace the challenges of the British Education Reforms – something I am glad to have escaped.

This week a chance for the kids to catch up with school friends and us all to meet church friends and wider MK friends as well as family. It also gives us a chance to sort out things for our son’s impending entry into University. MK’s reassuring familiarity is a real bonus. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Most of My) Time

 This post is linked to the weekly photo challenge:Time

 This is where I spend most of my time. My waking time at least. This is my classroom – the ICT room known as Babbage. I am Head of ICT here in a faculty consisting of Business and Economics too. 

 Today I have spent a lot of time in this room, having arrived at 6:30am, courtesy of an early morning swimming lesson for my daughter. It gives me an opportunity to put to bed the Reporting Templates for the forthcoming whole school reports. 

As Assessment Co-ordinator my role is to organize the system, so that colleagues can report on their subjects in Years 7-13 across the school. The spreadsheet system is simple enough to fill in but behind the scenes fiendish calculations process the data into reports. I enjoy working on it and I’m pleased with the result it there are glitches to iron out.

The start of school at 7:55am follows with classes in Years 8, 10 and 11. Currently years 12 and 13 are on exams, so a little more time solving glitches on the reports, during my ‘frees’.

Lunch time -and a heavy downpour means I’m not going any further than the Staff Room, two doors down.

I have an after school ‘club’ with my  year 11’s, aiming to give them greater practice and confidence in their practical skills ahead of their exams. This runs until 4:30pm.  

 The clock runs about 45mins slow!
The kids here are brilliant and so much better behaved than in the UK – my job is enjoyable most of the time and certainly working here in Africa has been an amazing experience.

Over 10 hours after my arrival I’m heading home. 

I’m sure many of you work in darker dingier places for longer hours so no pleas for sympathy just a recognition that  we teachers work longer hours than you might imagine. 😉

P.S I still need to mark those A2 and AS exams tonight – at home until late!

If we were living at GMT

It’s strange to think that as I finish my afternoon at school, my erstwhile colleagues will just be starting their lunch break.  It is amazing to think that somewhere in the world some one is waking up at this moment, somewhere else at the exact same instant someone is going to bed. Someone eats breakfast at the same instant as another eats a midday snack, yet another has their evening meal. 

Currently (for the next two  to three weeks at least) there is a three-hour difference between UK time and Tanzanian time, before the UK lurches  forward into BST.  So here is my daily routine converted into GMT.

The alarm goes of at 2:50am and by 3:15am we are up and about. Sunrise is at 4am or there abouts.


After a shower and breakfast we leave the house by 4:30am at the latest. It’s a short walk to school which starts at 4:55am with Assembly or Tutor. Lessons start at 5:15am with a break from 7:45am to 8:05am – a time my old colleagues are getting into work in the UK. Lunch is at 9:45am and afternoon sessions begin at 10:30am. The school day ends at 12:15pm after wich there are meetings or clubs until 1:30pm. Then home and for me Language school (Tue-Thu) from 2pm to 3pm. We tend to eat our evening meal by 3:30pm and sun sets by 4pm.

If we are out at night from 4:30pm until 7pm. If I am working of an evening over a similar time period or an hour later. I tend to go to bed about 9pm , sometimes 9:30pm (which means that sometimes I am blogging /posting from tomorrow as far as the UK is concerned).

Weekends, we get a lie in until 5am on a Saturday when I either head off to Prep (5:30am until 7am) and Saturday School (from 7am until 8am). Then we are often in town shopping until 11am. If the children are off to youth group then it runs from 12noon until 2pm.  We might watch a DVD if we are in  (from 5pm until 7pm). Even though we could watch some UK TV on iPlayer most of the good TV will be on after 11pm.

Sunday church runs from 6:45 am until 8am. Then home for lunch (10am), a phone call home can be as early as 1pm or as late as 6pm varying from week to week. We might go out for a walk from 12noon to 2pm. An evening meal and some TV (DVD’s or iPlayer downloads). Then it’s to bed by 8:30pm or 9pm ready for an early start!

So here is our life as lived as if at GMT. If you live elsewhere in the world what is yours?

Half Term in the Sun

It’s half term (mid-term break) here in Mwanza. The start of a week’s holiday. February half term is normally the quietest of the breaks, the coldest and dullest (weatherwise) but welcome nonetheless. After the hustle and bustle of Christmas/New Year it’s a more relaxed break.
Of course last year this same break marked the real beginning of our epic journey which brought us across the globe and to different hemispheres (Northern and Western to Southern and Eastern). It’s a year tomorrow that I wrote my first blog post and a year ago the week ahead brought the start of the clear out, as Mum arrived to start the process of clearing the garage and garden.


One year ago this coming week!

Now a year on it’s difficult to believe I am half way through my first year here in Tanzania. Time is really flying.
This half term will be more relaxed. We have plans to visit Rubondo Island at the end of the week with friends and colleagues. More of this later on, but we’re really looking forward to it.

Early in the week we’re meeting up with a couple from St Mary’s our old church (Steve and Judy), they run Wabia Network  (a charity doing work) out here in Mwanza and are visiting from the UK.

The rest of the week remains unplanned which is exactly how I like it. One thing very different to the UK is the weather which is scorchingly hot. This has turned February into the hottest month of the year so far and a complete contrast to February back home.

For my former colleagues and fellow professionals in the UK and to any off work this week hope you have a nice break.

12 Months Ago Today : Appointment

Little did I realise as I turned up for work 12 months ago that it was going to be a life changing day. The thought of teaching overseas had grown in my mind for several months – rekindling a fire which had burned low for the previous two decades.

The previous months had seen me questioning the way British Education was going and despairing at the decisions of my school to downgrade ICT to an option at GCSE. I needed a change and having spoken with Anita in the New Year and having talked through the option with the children I embarked on a lot of research. The first post which came up was in Thailand – I thought long and hard but felt this was not right for now. I then saw two jobs both in Africa, one in Isamilo (Mwanza, Tanzania) the other in Malawi. Funnily enough it was the Tanzanian job which appealed more (given Anita’s previous experiences in Malawi this was a surprise to both of us). We looked at blogs written by ex-pats living there and did a lot of research. After nearly two weeks of investigation  I made the application to Isamilo in the early days of February (just four days earlier).

Everything was unreal even after the interview – as ever I second guessed myself, convinced I had ‘muffed up’ and ruined my chances. At the same time it was still unreal as no one had actually employed me and I was still safe in England – though increasingly unhappy with education there. Then it all changed…. Continue reading

12 Months Ago Today: Interview

It’s hard to believe that exactly 12 months ago I was preparing for an interview for a job at Isamilo School in Mwanza. Having filled in an application form on the Monday I scheduled a Skype interview for 2pm GMT (5pm Local). I was very nervous at the time but warmed to my interviewers and went with the flow. The scary thing was keeping it secret from everyone else (other than my Network Technician who helped with the setup and the cover co-ordinator who needed to keep me off cover. I arranged to be in the Lower School team room well away from the rest of my team at upper school or in Maths. The best laid plans were scuppered by an unscheduled interruption but thankfully the interview was not unduly disturbed but I imagine my colleague wondered what on earth was happening. After 40 mins in which our Skype call held up without interruption I was told that I would be informed after the weekend. In truth I had to wait less than a day, of which tomorrow.
In those pre-blog days some the events are summarised in my earliest posting – Wow!


My old school in the UK

Even now looking back a year there is still a sense of Wow!

A Day of My Life

In the past three weeks I have spent over 12 and a half hours invigilating ICT mock practical exams.
In the next six weeks I will add another 15 hours as the students do the real thing. Added together that will be more than a day of my life sat watching students complete practical tasks at IGCSE, AS and A Level.
In the UK I didn’t invigilate any mocks or public exams, assessment took place by coursework, to be honest I probably spent more that 27 hours marking coursework over the year.

Invigilation can be dull but at least you get the chance to reflect a bit. However, the most exciting part of the practical exam is collecting the printouts from the printer and delivering them to the students, it does break the monotony. I’m sure that it will all be worth in the end – but for now I need to get on and do all the marking.

Decision Days

It’s amazing to think it’s about a year since the job advert at Isamilo, appeared in the TES.

Recently staff have been making decisions in both Primary and Secondary Schools, teachers had to decide whether to renew their contracts or to choose to leave. As such these days were the beginning of the end for Isamilo and the start of a process which will lead to a new staff team in September.

Soon jobs will be advertised, as vacancies will need to be filled. By indicating preferences now the school has time to advertise and make preparations for September 2015. There are always unknowns in this and much as others must have wondered what the new bunch of teachers would be like in 2014, we will wonder the same as the year wears on and familiar faces phase out.

For me the point is mute as I, like others, have a two year contract, but a year from now the decision will be mine which is scary as I am just 5 months in to my contract. Those choosing to move on this year will have many reasons for leaving. Some back to the UK others on to others to International Schools across the planet o many factors will dictate that final decision. We have always hinted that we would want to stay three years, maybe five, but on these decision days it is a time of reflection.

It is a scary decision as those indicating a move will not have secured their next post yet! In a sense it will be a jump into the unknown. much as mine was in Feb 2014 when I applied.


Prep is a concept I hadn’t really heard of before I came out here. It’s a term associated with the independent Sector of Education and here refers to the time given over to Homework for the Boarding Students. Each day (Monday to Thursday) there is a Prep session after school. On a Saturday Morning there is a Prep session for 90mins. Teaching staff here are expected to assist with such duties at some point in the year. As I don’t have a car and as weekday prep finishes after dark the options were limited and so I have volunteered to help out on Saturdays once a fortnight.
This morning was my first Prep session which commenced at 8:30am. Arriving at the Boarding House at 8:25am I met with the Boarding Matron and collected the key to the Library. The students were just finishing up breakfast and then I walked the younger ones to the school a few metres away. The older ones made their own way.
The students settled quietly to task, reading, doing homework, using the computers and in a calm atmosphere with low level chat they got on. It really was a very pleasant atmosphere and enabled me to get on with exam marking in relative peace – so different to cover or homework clubs in the UK! In no time the session finished and so I walked the students back to the Boarding House, before returning to school to assist in Saturday School.


It’s mock exam fortnight here at Isamilo. Week one has just ended and week two follows. With two year 11 groups It has meant a lighter week’s timetable but with it has come the most dreaded task of a teacher Continue reading

End of Term

Finally we’re here at the end of Term One and The holidays are here and I feel ……exhausted.
Today we had an awards ceremony for the first three hours. Sadly Zanzibar (my house) were pipped to the Sports Day – winning more events overall but losing out on coming third more often than Pemba who one overall. The children won awards for outstanding (English, History and ICT for Bex) and most improved (PE for Matt). They also won awards for the school production. In dispersing the awards were musical and drama pieces from various groups of students.
Assembly was followed by two lessons and the ubiquitous Power Cut. Then tutor group parties to complete an early finish of school at 2:15. Three weeks break including a week in Zanzibar to come and a somewhat different Christmas / New Year to usual.

The Show

Tonight is the final performance of this year’s school production, “the Importance of Being Earnest”. This comedy play, written by Oscar Wilde stars among many leading characters our two children. For my daughter it’s her first major role. For my son it follows on from a minor leading role in “The Hunchback of Notredame” at his last school.
The first night reviews were good and with both getting praise from colleagues.
We’re looking forward to seeing the show and will hopefully post some pictures after the performance (after 7:30pm GMT / 10:30pm local).




Sport’s Day

Today there were no lessons. Today there we vacated Isamilo and moved to Kirumba Stadium in the in the centre of Mwanza. This was the former National Stadium for the Tanzania Football Team. Today it was the location of our Sport’s Day.
The usual mix of Track and Field Events from 1500m down to 100m races and everything from Long Jump and Triple Hump to Discus, Shot and Javelin. There are three houses at Isamilo: Zanzibar (green), Pemba (blue) and Mafia (red), all named for the three main Islands off the coast of Tanzania and not Italian Gangsters! The kids and I are all in Zanzibar.
All in all it was a successful day and at last count Zanzibar were ahead, though final results won’t until the end of term once some additional events e.g High Jump are completed. Even the weather was dry and sunny which is amazing given recent events!

Computer Mouse

There’s a mouse in my computer room! Actually there are lots of mice in my computer room but I don’t mean this type.IMG_9601.JPGI mean this type!

So far I have not seen it but it has left evidence.

IMG_9600.JPGThe problem is that mice eat through cables and this one lives near the switch box (basically allowing the computers in my room and other classrooms access to the network and the Internet beyond!) So trouble is coming if we don’t dispose of the rodent.

So we’re setting traps. There’s only one type mouse I want to see in my classroom and it isn’t this.

Saturday School

After over three months here Anita and I thought it about time we visited Saturday School.
This is a charitable outreach by the school into the local community providing free education to local children. Each Saturday Morning the school opens it’s gates for two hours to provide lessons in a range of subjects including English, ICT, Art as well as sports such as Swimming, Football, Basketball.
These activities are mostly run by students who plan and deliver the lessons assisted by a very few teachers. The students seem to enjoy the classes and most come back week by week to do things that otherwise they would possibly never get to do.IMG_9514.JPG






Charity Fair

Today was the date in the Calendar when the school holds it’s annual Charity Fair in aid of Saturday School. IMG_9472.JPG On Saturday mornings Isamilo opens up it’s facilities on to local children to provide free education, including computing and English as well as swimming. The Charity Fair is open to the whole community and each tutor group runs a stall. Other stalls are run by local artisans or by parents, The visitors pay s modest entry fee and then buy tokens which are used as tickets for the various stalls. Unfortunately, Anita (Malaria) and Bex (UTI and Amoeba infection) were both too poorly to come do it was just Matt and I who went. Matt was helping to run the “Sponge The Teacher” stall, of wich more below.

My tutor group ran a stall whereby people paid for water balloons which were then thrown at members of the group. A hit gave points which led to receiving a bookmark or sweets.

My role was to wander through the event making sure things were OK (which they were). Which gave me a good chance to see all the different activities. Other than this there was the “Sponge The Teacher” stall in which I participated. This was great fun but very wet. A token bought 3 wet sponges aimed at your head which peered through a hole in a board.

The day finished off with a raffle. I had bought a single ticket – Peach 66. I so wish I had got a strip as Peach 65, 67 and 69 all came out of the bucket. Even so it was a great afternoon and the rain held off until after 6 when we’d finished.

Staff Room Visitor

T+ 16

Following from my earlier post. I came across this chap as I entered the Staff Room during a free period this morning.



IMG_8726-0 IMG_8728-1

He didn’t stay long though.



I wonder what the monkey thought as he  sat there – what was it that drew him – was the the chance of a free meal of something or other or just inquisitiveness. He sat for a moment in the tree gazing back through the window and then with a great bound lept up into the tree and was gone.

Monkey Business


It’s not every day that you come out of the Staff Room and encounter a troup of monkeys bounding across the roof, or look out of your classroom door and see the same monkey troop sauntering through the grounds and opening up the rubbish bins for food. Such is life here at Isamilo School. In so many ways my daily job is as ever, bar the aging technology. However, you really feel you are in Africa when you see sights such as these.

First Day

T + 10

So the time has finally come to do what I came here for; to start my professional career overseas; to actually teach some students some ICT in my classroom. 🙂

As much as INSET days are useful, actually getting down to the job is much more my “cup of tea”.

My timetable is mostly year 10 to 13 with one year 9 class. The day is made up of 7 periods plus a morning and afternoon registration. The day starts with registration at 7:55, I wanted to entailing a 7:15 departure for the 10 min walk to school to get in early enough. Getting up in the dark (sunrise is at about 6:50am) for the first time in months was a challenge, but sunrise is quick here so it is broad daylight by 7am.

I have a year 10 tutor group. Today was a tutor session followed by an Assembly conducted amidst a horrendous downpour reminiscent of my time in Lord Bills. This is supposed to be the dry season so the weather is very unusual at the moment.

Later I met my year 11 class, unfortunately my HDMI laptop doesn’t interface with my classroom projector and two-thirds of the classroom computers weren’t seeing the network hence no logins. After a lot of sorting by the Network Technician we sorted out the logins, but you need to be prepared here – I taught HTML coding and by the time the logins were sorted the we were able to do some coding. The class (of 10) were much better behaved than in the UK, and in our double we got a long way and were experimenting with hexadecimal coding and fonts by the end.

My other lesson of the day was Year 13 a small class (3 students) and again were working well.

Early days and I am sure that more trying times will come.

I ended up leaving earlier than expected due to power cut, which is still ongoing. As I write it’s an hour before sunset – it’s going to be an early night I think 😦

IMG_8600 IMG_8599


T + 4

We have had our first two days of Induction at Isamilo School. The first day involved a relaxed tour of the school which is set in pleasant surroundings. With a role of less than 300 overall the school is smaller than a single year group at my previous school. Both primary and secondary are sited on the same plot and there are classrooms (named after a prominent figure in that field of study) for each subject but usually only one. However, there are two ICT rooms Gates on the Primary Side and Babbage on the Secondary. Both have a reasonable number of computers for the class sizes which I believe number in the region of 15 students.














We followed the tour with a lunch at Isamilo Lodge Hotel. The food was excellent but the service was painfully slow – it felt like almost two hours for food, but it was a good chance to chat with new colleagues and to find out about the place.
The view from the verandah at the hotel is amazing.

Today we have had a health and safety chat and this afternoon we have a trip into town to sort connectivity 🙂