Discovering the world

If a team of people sat in a room, with a blank piece of paper and tried to think up “the most stressful week away with students that a teacher could have”, our week in Beijing would probably be it by Dan Blakemore, Vice Principal of Harris Academy South Norwood

Harris South Norwood students explore the Great Wall of China

The plan: meet at 3:30am, a coach load of students, visas, a journey to the other side of the world; to a country where the language holds zero similarity to English – but when I look back on our time in China, it was anything but stressful.

When planning to take students abroad, one should remember that they too are terrified of getting lost so don’t want wander off too far and the vast majority of students are genuinely lovely young people who want to be strong ambassadors and impress the people they meet. Also, seeing students embracing a priceless experience such as a week in China isn’t stressful – it’s inspiring.

Some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences which our students embraced were:

  • Walking around the huge, imposing Tiananmen Square, and hearing about its rich history
  • Climbing Jingshan Park for panoramic views of Beijing
  • A martial arts lesson from a Kung-Fu master at the Temple of Heaven
  • A tasting class for traditional Chinese tea
  • A stroll around the frozen lake of the spectacular Summer Palace
  • A Chinese cooking class with some lovely local restaurateurs

However, it was very clear that there were two things that students enjoyed the most. Firstly, shopping Beijing style! The 5-6 opportunities they were given to spend their Yuan, once the embarrassment of bargaining was overcome, they lapped up. Secondly, and by a unanimous 37-0, the Great Wall!

This was something that will be burned into the memory of every student. It’s difficult to put into words just how amazing it is; it feels as though history is seeping out of the mortar, and the views are like nothing else most students have ever seen before, or are likely to see again.

Sometimes being a teacher is tough; it can be hard work and stressful. But not always. Sometimes it can be an absolute privilege, and this was certainly one of those occasions!

Harris Academy South Norwood
Cumberlow Avenue
South Norwood
SE25 6AE
t: 020 8405 5070

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