Tag Archives: teaching

Mzungu on a Bike

Apparently on Ukerewe the thought of a Mzungu on a bike is enough to bring fits of hysterics, as if it is something very unusual. I imagine if the islanders ever managed to go to the Netherlands they would be apoplectic.

This weekend I have spent time on Ukerewe, the largest island in Lake Victoria. North of Mwanza, it is a three hour ferry ride to a completely different Tanzania.

Ukerewe is a fertile island and the first thing you notice when away from the little port side town is the shear number of citrus trees. Mostly oranges and tangerines, you can buy a large basket of these fruits for 1000 TZs (about 33p). Apparently the market traders buy a tree for a season and will have sole right to all fruit produced. Mango trees are also in abundance.

My visit is part of a weekend away for the boarding students. Staying at the Monarch Beach Resort, we arrived from Mwanza on the Saturday  morning ferry and we departed on the Sunday afternoon ferry.

In the short time of our visit we have hired bikes and used them to explore the island.
Our first trip took up through the fields and rice paddies and fountains of lake fly hovering in spires above the growing grains. Clouds of these mini-beasts so thick at times you needed to look down to avoid being splatted in the eye. Thankfully these soon passed and we came across the orange groves. Here the round became rougher and with no gears cycling was tough.    

After half an hour or so we came to the base of the view point and we climbed on foot up to some great views of the lake. Here I spotted a cloud bursting rain over the land – possibly Mwanza from its direction.

The evening meal was followed by a bonfire and a chance to relax.

This morning it was back in the saddle for a ride to the King’s Palace. This was a long ride up and down hills on Tarmac before a long rutted sand road and a shorter flooded woodland paths.

By European standards the place was a bit rundown, no stately home here. It was possibly impressive at one time but now has a large colony of bats on the upper floor and a pungent odour. The ride was tough and the backmarkers were eventually picked up in the mini-bus (bikes and all). As I was cycling at the back it included me – but we had s boat to catch and we were running out of time. The highlight of the trip was to see the land in all it’s greenery.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird on a Frosty Morning

A submission to this week’s photo challenge: Early Bird

Taken on a frosty January morning in 2014, these shots from Waddeston, Oxfordshire,  on the way to work but caught in traffic as I waited to cross the junction, the sun rose and caught in its amber light the hoar-frost coating the trees turned orange.


I managed to snap these on the phone as I waited in the traffic jam – a different life in a different world!


A Comprehensive Change

As we approach half term here (1 week today). I thought I’d reflect back on the first term and the differences between being here in a Tanzanian International School and a British Comprehensive.

Continue reading

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

Ta! Ta! Thame

T Minus 31

Today was my last day at work. After 11 years it’s goodbye to Thame and my school. A strange day in so many ways – strange to think I won’t see many of my colleagues again, certainly not in a long while. Tuesday is a day when I teach on both sites – so started at Lower School, depositing the microwave in the team room. Last lessons are always a bit surreal and a bit of a wind down, year 9 lesson 1 then up to upper school for year 10. The last clear out of the office and a bit of work on my leaving speech in lesson 3 then it was all over. End of an era.
The last day of term is a shorter one followed by a staff picnic and leaving speeches. In truth mine was a bit
Long but I wanted to thank the key people including my own team among many others.20140722-165733-61053480.jpg




20140722-165949-61189182.jpg I had some lovely gifts from myteam and colleagues, including an electric bug swat, a life straw, a Swahili phrase book, a device charger, wine and an iTunes gift card.

So it’s goodbye to Thame, next stop Mwanza! We fly out a month today!

Taste of Tanzania

T Minus 36

Tomorrow we are expecting the hottest day of the year in the South East of England, though it’s been hot today (reaching 27°C ) tomorrow may see the mercury rise to 30°C. So hot in fact we have been told we should not teach in the ICT suites.
These rooms, hot at the best of times lack air conditioning and have poor ventilation. The combined heat of 31 PC’s is enough to make the rooms a steady 26°C even in winter. The addition of a hot summers day makes it unbearable. As I ponder this I am fully aware that in Mwanza these outdoor temperatures are commonplace and I will be teaching in a Computer Suite with no real alternative. It remains to be seen what the ventilation is like at my new school. I consider this weeks weather good preparation.20140717-195229-71549089.jpg


Me At My Best = My Best Team

T Minus 37

Last night was my last Faculty Meeting. I have headed up the ICT Faculty for one term short of 6 years, just over half of my time at Lord Williams’s.

It was a strange experience reflecting on the year and proposing actions for the year ahead of which I will have no part.

The ICT faculty is composed of 5 teachers, all specialist. My predecessor used the phrase “small but perfectly formed” which was very apt.

Following last week’s Legoland trip one colleague bought us all a key ring – this is a Lego representation of the ICT Team.

As teachers we spend the vast majority of our days apart, each with our own class of 28 -30 teens. This separateness is compounded by the split site and the fact that most are part-timers. However, it’s a strong team and generally we get on well and support each other. There can be friction at times, even so the key thing is working collectively.

I have always referred to them as Team. Fundamentally because I believe when we are all pulling in the same direction we can achieve more as a group than as individuals. I am the leader of the Team and this means making tough decisions at times, sometimes unpopular decisions, nonetheless everyone has a voice and (I hope) the team feel listened to even when they might not agree.

Thinking about this recently, I suddenly became aware of the fact that a rearrangement of the phrase “My Best Team” becomes “Me At My Best”.

I really believe that my team has been the best and I have been better by being part of the team. As I leave my team in under a week, I leave it in good hands. However, I will miss them.20140715-231359-83639693.jpgMy team (seated) at my leaving do – Punting on the Cherwell River.

Beginning of the End!

T Minus 45

ACE week is a different sort of week at work. An alternative curriculum week at the end of term in which students learn in different places. Today I am at Legoland Windsor with a bunch of Year 7’s. A place I shall visit twice more this week. 20140708-110645-40005653.jpgYesterday I was at Marlow Camp, the annual Year 8 residential under canvas on the banks of the Thames. Sailing and what euphemistically called a hike but in reality was a moderate walk. It’s a different kind of week, with different kinds of pressures.

Today has been fun so far – height restrictions on the students meant that I had to go on the Pirate Ship (twice) and the River Rapids. I’m not sure it’ll be so much fun by Friday. My role is to supervise a group of students and to act as a contact point so now I am sitting on a bench waiting for their next check in at 11:40 and blogging.


20140708-115805-43085964.jpgI think what makes this all the stranger this year is the fact that ACE week always heralds the start of the end of term. Although we return to lessons next week it won’t be quite the same. Of course this year is my last ACE weeks and so this really is the beginning of the end. Strange times indeed!

Bad Headache! Tough Day!

T Minus 50

A busy day and a tough day. A couple of hours sleep/rest and I ‘m feeling better now. But…

Non teachers may scoff, but working with groups of teenagers is challenging at the best of times. When you have a pounding headache from the word go and feel like you haven’t slept, it multiplies the issues. My classes today were fine, thankfully not too noisy and generally well behaved. In fact the vast majority of students at my school are well behaved, but there are always a small proportion of students who aren’t.

On a Thursday one of my roles is Senior Staff Duty.

Basically this role (undertaken by all Heads of Faculty, Year Heads and SLT) is a roving trouble shooting roll which deals with wider disciplinary problems away from the classroom and allows teachers to teach. This year my role has been at Lower School.

Today was one of those days when I walk in to the office and hit the ground running. Two separate incidents needed dealing with there and then, both needing witness statements from all parties and calling for various students. There’s a lot of detective work and questioning to get to the truth and it takes time (all this with Headache pounding away in the background!).

A full hour and 15 later I returned to my cold mug of coffee which I promptly poured down the sink. I’d missed break! Headache pounding still more, I returned to my classroom to teach Period 3 (class was absolutely fine, but even so!) then commuted to Upper School to my office – intending to mark exam papers but failing miserably. Realising this might soon become a migraine I arranged cover for last lesson and drove home while I could.

I rarely take time off and only do so reluctantly. However, you know your body and I know that a migraine was a definite scenario if I hadn’t stopped.

I think the pressure of everything is getting to us (Anita and I) a little – we definitely need a break – though to be honest I’m not sure where it’s coming before we leave the house.

The headache’s gone and there’s a pile of exam papers needing to be marked. So better get on with it before it’s too late.

Another Last!

T Minus 66

So today I have had my last Parent’s Evening of the year and as a consequence the last in the UK. I’ve had classes in every year group this year meaning I have attended Parent’s Evenings for years 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with parents and have some productive conversations but it makes for a long day. I’m glad this is the last of the year. 🙂 -especially on a gorgeous summery evening. I’m on a break half way through there’s an hour and a half to go and I’m looking forward to the end.

Another last on the road to Mwanza!


T Minus 100

Today marks two milestones. As you can see it is 100 days until we fly . It is also

Continue reading

That Friday Feeling!

T Minus 112

Finally Friday. Continue reading

Unpicking the Strands

T Minus 116

It’s not until you decide to move you realise exactly how much you are tied to a location. Moving country even more so.

Continue reading

Windows on My World

T minus 127

I’m in work today marking coursework, not much fun but it has to done! Here is the view from my office window.


The trees ahead change with seasons and it’s nice to see the Red Kites landing in them and soaring majestically overhead crying as they do from time to time. Elsewhere squirrels and blackbirds scurry about and usually between breaks gulls land to pick up scraps left behind by typical teenagers, though not today as it’s holidays and the school is virtually empty and eerily quiet. It’s a lovely campus to work on and I will miss it, my office too.

Enough distractions I’ve got another sort of Window to open (Microsoft!) and more coursework to assess. 😦

Africa Time – Ups & Downs

Interesting blog – a ‘take’ on African life in general – although being at an International School might mean more structure.


T minus 181
Back home after a busy working day today.

In a sense today was more about life in the present rather than life in the future. Getting up at ridiculous o’clock for morning commute, travelling in the light (for a change), then assessing, planning, carrying out break duties and bus duties, sorting out emails, meeting with colleagues, drinking filter coffee! The usual daily mundanity of the routine of a teacher/ Head of Faculty. It is strange to think that some this well practiced routine will soon be changing – not the tasks themselves but the location and the routine, and definitely the commute where a 50 minute car journey will be replaced by a 10 minute walk!

I am still very excited about this change and what it will mean,
it is difficult to concentrate on the present when the future looms large ahead, but I need to. Tomorrow night is Year 9 options evening, a new experience for me as ICT has hitherto been a core subject. My team and I will be aiming to recruit as many as we can to both ICT and Computing. It is strange that I will not be teaching them, whilst thousands of miles away, in Mwanza, other students have been or will be making a similar choice, students I have yet to meet – such the nature of change!

More changes.You may have noticed the countdown (T minus ??? ) has gone up. It’s not a time warp as the date for flying has moved back. This still to be confirmed and complicates things a little as my sister in law’s (Fiona’s) sister (Janet) gets married on the same day – meaning it probably will not be possible to be seen off by family sadly 😦

So the new date for flying will be the 23rd August – which will be after Matthew’s GCSE results which will be good 🙂 Hopefully good for him too!

I keep promising not to post and wasn’t going to today but who knows what will grab me next?