How long have you been at BISS Puxi? I'm one of the longer serving members of teaching staff with this being my seventh year here. I started in August 2008 just before Mr Foyle became Principal and the same time as Mr Lister, Mr Brown and Ms Byfield.
What do you enjoy the most about working here? The range of nationalities is a great thing to be surrounded by and the breadth of cultures that go along with that. Added to that, our pupils are a good humoured bunch and are very willing to work with teachers towards a common aim. In all it's a pleasant spirited school and a welcoming place.
You've been working here a long time. What first made you want to come and live in Shanghai? The first time I came to Shanghai was actually as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher way back in 2002 - my best friend and I weren't long out of university and wanted an adventure. Another good friend was already here and said it was a great place to live. Shanghai was quite different and even more chaotic at that time, but perhaps even more intoxicating than now, with less rules and even more energy if that's possible. The second stint came after I'd gone home and completed my PGCE (teacher training). Being an international school teacher is a lot safer and more secure than the sometimes precarious world of EFL, though I do sometimes miss those more anarchic days!
What is the one thing you couldn’t live without? Hmmm…it's either boxing or books and as the next question is about the latter, I'll pick the former for this one. I'm actually unable to do much personal reading during term times, so most of my reading is done during holidays. Most days I'll do boxing related exercises, whether it's an early morning run, hitting a bag or sparring. It's a great way to balance the classroom environment and of course keeps you in shape. Also I'm a keen student of the sport and I'll watch bouts from round the world, whether they're small hall shows in Japan or big Las Vegas extravaganzas.
What's your favourite book to study with your students? Tough choice - it could be any number from 'The Great Gatsby' to ‘A Hero of Our Time’ by Mikhail Lermontov both of which the students seem to like and respond to. My personal favourite is Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' which can be variously described as 'challenging', 'unfathomable' or 'uncanny.' It's full of meaning beyond and has more in its 80 odd pages than books ten times its length; remarkably it was written in the writer's fourth language after Polish, French and Russian. My favourite writer above all others however is Russia's Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose portrait hangs in my classroom and for the first time this year I'm actually teaching one of his books: it's one of his shorter, more manageable, less psychologically tragic works entitled 'The Gambler.'
Where are you from and what do you miss most from home? I'm from what's known in the UK as 'The Black Country', so called because of the factories, coal and soot prevalent in Britain's industrial heyday. My town is called Walsall, probably best known as an approximate homonym to the Polish capital! Day to day I miss my nephews aged 1, 6,6 and 9: when I'm home I teach them to throw a few punches when my sister and sisters-in-law aren't looking! I also have a niece who's in Year 9 and whose best subject is English which I'm very proud of; her music taste however is slightly alarming with 'Wrong Direction' prominent on her iPod. I also miss the general pleasantness and nice gestures inherent within people from the West Midlands; a definitely underrated trait. Last but most definitely not least is my mother's cooking which I can only describe as incomparable - in fact I refuse to eat out when I'm at home so I get as much as I can of it.