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The importance of school holidays

THE bells could be heard chiming from the Abbey nearby in the beautiful city of Bath in England. In front of me, a steady procession of locals, tourists and citizens from all walks of life wandered amongst the historic buildings, shops and cafes. Spoken Italian, French, English - among other languages - could be heard in the air, a gentle intertwining of laughter, exuberance and excited deliberation about where to eat. I spared a glance upward, noticed that the skies were clear as the birds soared past majestic spires above. The River Avon continued its gentle flow through the city centre as I took another bite of my panini. This moment best summarises my life as a teacher living in the United Kingdom.
Everyone has heard of the tidy and mouth-watering assortment of weeks off that a school teacher has in the UK. It is beyond comprehension. Words that come to mind include: dream job, amazing, unfair. What you quickly learn teaching in inner-city London is that you earn those weeks off.…
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The joys of parent-teacher nights

HAVING freshly emerged from the second of three parent-teacher evenings scheduled one spring term at my previous school in London, I noted that it was past 8 o'clock at night. My stomach demanded food, further lesson planning awaited me at home, and my arms had already started groaning in discomfort with the weight of 30 exercise books that had to be carefully marked.
Nevertheless, you will find no intended hint of sarcasm in the title of this post. Simply put, I love parent-teacher evenings. I find them stimulating, enlightening, and one of the best ways to communicate some of the most important educational information you want your students to know, along with their parents.
Parent-teacher nights were like one big comic book convention. Each teacher from every subject had their very own table in the dining hall. They encircled the middle of the hall, forming a perimeter of knowledge and experience. In the centre was a cluttered collection of chairs - some full and some empty - …

The Cons of living in Tokyo's share houses

WE'VE all been there at one point or another in our busy, eventful lives. Sitting in our rooms, on the couch, in the kitchen, outside a public stall, anywhere really. Sitting or standing, and waiting. Waiting for someone to finish using the bathroom. It could be your brother, sister and very likely a friend or stranger. It's just a regular part of life. What really matters is the urgency of our visit to the toilet - how desperately we need to go at any given moment. And that is where the issue becomes more complicated, especially when living in a share house in Tokyo.
I've always been open about the fact that I like share houses. The benefits of living in one - particularly when living abroad - are immense. However, certain negative points do pervade this style of living, one way or another. Issues such as conflicts of space, noise, privacy and general upkeep and cleanliness are the biggest ones that I have come across during my habitation in several share houses.

The Pros of living in Tokyo's share houses

I AWAKE to the sound of my neighbour yelling in frustration and disbelief. Hurriedly putting on my slippers, I exit my room and confront him with honest intentions and a desire to help. I ask what's wrong and he tells me:
The remote control for the TV does not work.
So begins another glorious day in Tokyo. Amid the yells of my Slovak/Swedish friend - "Duuu-shan, I'm just an old man who wants to watch the news in the morning. Why doesn't it work? I don't understand why! Duu-shan!" - I can't help but enjoy the surreal moment. This man who always makes me laugh every day. This daily dose of randomness and newness. It all points to one thing - the beauty of Tokyo's share houses.
As far as I was concerned, moving into a share house was the best way to start my life in Tokyo. It offered several key advantages that I think are particularly helpful for a foreigner moving to Japan - either in their first adventure overseas or as a seasoned veteran of this wor…

Why asking students for book recommendations is a good thing

ONE bright afternoon at school, one of my Year 7 students approached me after class to ask me one of the greatest questions anyone could ever ask an English teacher: "Sir, what books do you recommend I read?" This was followed by, shockingly, "I am reading Pride and Prejudice right now, but I also like Charles Dickens." Here was a student, in Year 7 mind you, so keen on reading and expanding her mind, whilst surrounding herself with only some of the best company of authors already.
I needed a moment to recover from her question.
I next thought, how do I answer this enquiry? So many novels, so much literature at the tip of my tongue, and my mind kept spawning more suggestions with each passing moment. However, these were books that I enjoyed reading growing up. Perhaps she would not share my admiration of them in the slightest bit. What genres does she tend to favour? Maybe it's not science fiction after all, maybe it's not Tolkien. I needed time to prepare…

Teaching English in Tokyo

I WILL get straight into it. Finding a teaching job in Tokyo and going through the overall process can be complicated. There is a different system to contend with, foreign language and culture. A mixed bag of uncertainties and new things to learn. The good news: it all depends on you. Here is a brief overview on my teaching experience in Tokyo.
When I first started looking for a teaching job in Japan, the first and most important decision I made was committing to working and living in Japan. Before even beginning my visa application, sending out any CVs or cover letters, I sat down and had a conversation with myself. At times, out loud, but for the most part I outlined all the pros and cons of teaching in Japan - what the benefits to my career would be, what I could bring to schools in the Far East, as well as what skills and experiences I could pick up if I were to live and work in Japan. Not to mention the rich cultural and linguistic learning that I would go through in a new, quit…

Being honest with your students

REMEMBER Teacher's College? A period of hectic chaos for many apprentices of education. The hours were long, the student teaching memorable, and the lesson plans carefully thought out and carried out, for the most part. We were assessed, scrutinised, commented on. Given advice. Most importantly, however, we learned and improved as teachers and individuals.
I broach the topic for two reasons: One, it was inspiring and a revelation to see so many NQT (newly qualified) teachers in the London schools I taught. They had fresh energy, were innovative and really wanted to teach and help their students, even when they had more harrowing, challenging days at the "office". They worked hard in their respective teacher training programs, and it was so gratifyingly obvious. Two, I came across a great post by a teacher who wrote about his freshly appointed student teacher's first day and the initial, first impression he made with his new students. It's an honest, humble messa…