Stop overs in London

After my 10 day stint in Croatia I headed over to London, England, to spend a few, more relaxing, days with my aunt and uncle (who I had never met and were kind enough to put me up and show me around!). Navigating Gatwick Airport and the train station were easier than expected, especially considering everyone spoke English (first English speaking country in 5.5 months!)! I successfully ended up on my uncle’s doorstep, only getting lost once along the way. Safe to say I was pretty stoked about this. My first impression of London was that it was basically everything I thought it would be. There were houses with cute little gardens and coloured doors, and just a lovely atmosphere (keep in mind I was out in a residential area). My uncle’s house was in a little estate and was small and homey. One of the most fascinating things about living and travelling abroad is seeing how people’s lifestyles differ from mine back home.


Just casually sitting on the glass floor of the Tower Bridge!
He was also afraid of heights so the fact that he took this
photo was really kind of him!
My first day in London was essentially an admin day where I got all my stuff sorted after the previous 10 days. The next day, however, I got shown around London! We caught the river ferry from Greenwich to the Tower of London and took some pictures from outside the wall (the line to get in was massive). We then opted to climb the Tower Bridge which gave us some awesome views of London, and allowed my uncle to point out some of the places we would be visiting throughout the day. We walked past the Horseguards and I got one of those awesome I’m-actually-terrified-of-horses-but-I’m-still-going-to-get-a-photograph-with-one type touristy photographs. It was pretty successful, no horses got hurt and neither did I, and I scored a half-terrified looking photograph of me in London!
We strolled to Buckingham Palace, which looked pretty much exactly as it does on every TV program that shows it, but it was strange to be there in person. Of course I saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, walked round Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. London was much calmer than I expected and seemed very normal in an abnormal way. Coming from Canberra, which only celebrated it 100 year anniversary in 2013, I still amazed me how people can live and work in a city with so much history. Plus there are so many palaces around the place, how cool is that. There are palaces too, like royalty just build palaces because they could, I don’t think we even have palaces in Australia.



The next day we took a bike ride along the riverside path up to the Thames Barrier and back. The Thames Barrier looked like some space ship from Return of the Jedi or something. It was awesome and kind of creepy at the same time. It was actually a really nice ride and my uncle told me a whole lot about the area. Later that afternoon we took a stroll through Greenwich Park and up to the Observatory. The park was the classic European park, green grass, and SQUIRRELS!!! I got to see grey squirrels, and got to make a complete fool of myself running down the path screaming ‘Squirrels’ and looking like a complete tourist. They were so cute though, even if they are ‘tree rats’.


So that’s a brief recollection of my trip to London (the squirrels so weren’t the highlight… really)!


Where did five months go…

So today was my last day and I realise that over the past 5 months’ worth of teaching I have learnt so much and shared so little on this blog! In fact this blog became much more of a travel blog than intended (but I guess this is a good thing as it means I did travel a fair bit!) so I have decided to do a post on what my working/volunteering life has been like. I started out with few responsibilities other than turn up to school and go to the classes I was scheduled to attend. After about a month I was asked to start preparing my own lessons. Here are some things that I really enjoyed, hated, worried about, remember etc about being a teacher (yes I’m putting them in dot points): 

  • Being told to teach a bunch of kids would have been scary enough for me when I was in Australia, especially considering my teaching experience is limited to a one week intensive TEFL course, so being in a country where I don’t speak the language or really understand their curriculum or know how to teach the language I’ve been speaking all my life, was actually terrifying.
  • The good news is that I got more confident as time went by, yesterday I even taught a bunch of energetic eight year olds about Kookuburras WITHOUT having a polish speaking teacher in the room!
  • I found that teaching by myself, without a supervising teacher, to be much easier than with a teacher in the room. When I was by myself I felt more confident in my abilities and authority over the class, and I think the kids also viewed me more like a teacher at these times too. All the teachers I worked with were amazing at engaging students and it was easy to feel intimidated by them!
  • Consequently, I tended to feel happier about the lessons I did on my own than while supervised.
  • Sometimes lessons would crash and burn, and essentially leave me wondering why I came to Poland in the first place. I remember have some classes where the students just wouldn’t listen to me, or I just wasn’t prepared enough to cope.
  • IMPROVISATION is your best friend as a teacher. The amount of times I turned up only to be told I was subbing, or to find out that the kids already knew about the topic I was teaching, has taught me how to come up with at least some form of game to pass the remaining ten minutes of class, or  with an entirely new lesson plan.
  • Teachers do have favourite students and classes. I often found myself dreading some classes while getting excited about others. I also had a 4-5 favourite students who always made sure the rest of the class behaved and would greet me in the halls.
  • Sometimes all it takes to make your day is when a 7 year old little Polish girl who barely understands English runs up to you and says ‘Hello Samantha, how are you?” and patiently waits for a response even though she doesn’t understand a word you say.
  • One of the scariest things I encounter was being headbutted by a 6 year old in 0 class as she launched at me screaming ‘I love you!’
  • I now am confident enough to manage a group of 6 year old girls who are dubbed the most troublesome class in the school.
  • 16 year old girls do not change from country to country, and still manage to be intimidating. The best course of action is to our sarcasm them, which in this case was harder than one might think.
  • I can officially navigate Microsoft word in Polish (mainly because I know all the shortcuts and they are the same in Polish as English).
  • Sometimes it’s best not to ask what you are eating until AFTER you finish it or not at all, especially when it comes to a school cafeteria.
  • Pasta and strawberry yoghurt, potato cakes covered in sugar, and crepes with sweet cheese are seen as acceptable lunch meals for children.
  • I refuse to ever eat cabbage or beetroot ever again (okay this may be more of a Poland lesson in general).
  • Most of all though, the thing about being a teacher was learning to both always and never be prepared for anything and everything.
  • And lastly, if in doubt, play hot seat (or have a music lesson where the kids show you all different versions of ‘Let it Go’ on youtube, I mean what I never did that…)

So there are some of my notes on what my life was like at school. I decided to end it there (though I could go on forever) because I think those are the most important things. I absolutely loved my time at this school, the students and staff where incredible. And I did learn that it is a good thing that I never intended on being a teacher, because while I love kids teaching really isn’t for me! 
I will miss these crazy people so much! Thank you so much to
students, to Jon my awesome placement partner, and to
Michelle, Melanie, Mirabelle, Zosia, and Lucja my
amazing host sisters. And of course to Izabel, Joanna and
Alek my host parents and the teachers at my school.