Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
writer, educator, traveller
and all round good guy.
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January 2010


Blues programme, Birmingham City programme, Blues v SpursThe Return of Suzhou’s Prodigal Sun – Part 16 – There’s Just No Place for a Street Fighting Man!

This is my last day in the UK for a while and I’ve attempted to clear up some of the paperwork required for the forthcoming months. Of course, the big news is where we’re going to be working next year, but I’ll save that for page 2!

Andrea and I would both like to thank Bram, Rachel, Mom and Dad for putting us up over this quick visit to Britain and thanks as well to Bruce, who tried to offer us a bed but our visit was curtailed for family reasons. It’s been good to catch up with old mates, even if it has been for short periods of time, and great to take in a couple of Birmingham City games.


So, let’s start with the job situation. I do hope that Andrea has been able to inform her own family before I let this information slip out. From August this year Andrea and I will be working in Doha, Qatar, at the International School of London, Qatar. Avid readers will note the recurrence of a certain oddity, which appears to be following us around. At SSIS the school title included the word “Singapore” yet the school was nowhere near that city state and nor is ISLQ anywhere near London, it’s in the Gulf. If I wish to further confuse things I could point out that my first international school had a campus in Arusha, Tanzania yet was called the International School Moshi. It’s all a bit much isn’t it? Perhaps we’ll see out our days in the Cook Islands International School located in Nuuk, Greenland.

map of qatar, qatar map

We’re both very excited about the new challenge although we will be very sad to leave behind so many good friends in China. It will be six years that we’ve been here and the majority of people have been delightful wherever we’ve been. However, one reason for coming into international teaching was to experience different cultures and environments and if we hadn’t moved on at some stage we would have been neglecting that aspect of our life plan.

The job fair in London was very interesting and not quite what we had anticipated in that schools were queuing up to interview us and we didn’t have to put any effort into arranging to see them. We interviewed for Switzerland, Poland, Qatar, Yemen, Zambia and the Philippines, with a few others thrown in, for some schools, like those in the Bahamas, Jordan and Saudi Arabia we declined interviews, for a variety of reasons. Quite obviously the International school of Manila was very high on our list and we were quite surprised, after being invited for interview, that they did not offer us employment, this also happened with Switzerland and Zambia. Quite why wasn’t entirely clear, although we have our suspicions, but having said that we’re entirely happy with our choice and I look forward to some constructive teamwork again.

There are three ex-colleagues working in ISL Qatar; Martyn and Jill Shadbolt from Suzhou and Barby Tops from Guangzhou; they should help us bed in a little. We know it is going to be a very different environment, but so was Africa and so was China. We know the weather is foul in summer and the place can be a dustbowl, but the winters are supposedly lovely. We know some of the rich local kids can be disaffected, but then we’ve had some of that ever since we both started teaching, most recently with some of the not-so-rich Koreans. We know the school has only been open for a year and a half, that there is a need to organise and establish, but we’ve helped with that before and are happy to work with the MYP programme again, where most of our recent experience (good and bad) will stand us in good stead.

It was delightful to see Elaine Whelan, our Headteacher from Guangzhou, at the job fair, she was very enthusiastic about supporting our applications to various schools; it’s good to know that some administrators have a grasp of what constitutes a good teacher.

There were only half the candidates at the fair than there had been three years ago. Obviously many more jobs these days are filled through video interview, something which we would have been very happy to have done and saved ourselves a few thousand dollars. Although we had tried to pursue this route unfortunately those schools we were interested in had not played ball! We knew only one teacher at the job fair, Emma, who had worked in Primary at SSIS, spent three years in the Bahamas, and was now looking for another posting. The Bahamas had proved costly and she put us off the place; weird isn’t it; most people would kill for a few years in the Bahamas!

The fair ended up as a day of interviewing, a day of watching presentations and waiting and a third morning of waiting. We had secured two job offers early on and simply wanted to be aware of our all our options before deciding. In the end we declined Warsaw in Poland, which had two major drawbacks for Andrea, the climate and the fact they taught the English National Curriculum.

So...a new adventure awaits!

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