London Calling

UPDATE: This page will soon be moved to a separate blog.

A running blog of my overseas experiences/adventures in the United Kingdom.

March 4th, 5th, 2011
Departure from Atlanta took place as scheduled. At approximately 5:40 we left Atlanta, flew up the coast of the Untied States, and then across to England, arriving in England at 7 AM there time. The airport experience at Atlanta was a bit of a let down. I didn't get the full experience expected. I went through security, and the TSA agents didn't ask me to step in the scanner or even give me that flattering frisk that I so desperately needed for self esteem. Then the subway system in the Airport was broken so I ended up walking through terminals A-E which was a terribly long way. But anyhow, I sat next to an English woman on the flight over who was, exceptionally quiet. The in flight dinner was decent, ended up watching Inception, TERRIFIC, and Social Network, LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE. I could not get to sleep on that plane to save my life. I had a few beers and nothing helped. I stayed awake the entire time. Upon arrival in London I got the necessary attention I so desperately needed as their customs agent asked me 20 questions. Apparently a 23 year old male, in glasses, a sports coat, button down shirt, carrying a laptop with books, is a risk of British national security.  I escaped from the confrontation narrowly avoiding the groping. The 4 other students and one teacher accompanying me in this adventure piled into our ride, a Mercedes Mini-Van. An Englishman by the name of Roger drove us to Cheltenham. This guy had jet black hair and silver side burns; he looked like a skinny older Elvis. It was an interesting trip full of angry British people blowing their horns at us for cutting them off. We arrived in Cheltenham, probably around 9 or 10 English time. We met our director, Alan Winwood, absolutely pleasant human being and then we met Roger and Pat, our hosts for the trip. They are also simply wonderful people. After spending some time talking we want to buy our bus passes, which were 58 pounds for the month. 100 dollars U.S=54 Pounds. Had lunch at a pub and toured the streets of Cheltenham. An absolutely amazing middle upper class area that is full of historic buildings. We came back and had dinner for the first time, which was pizza, oddly enough. That pretty much raps up festivities for today. We are thinking about going out again for the night and seeing the pub night lives. I do not know if I will attend this though. I am pretty tired and need to do some reading. I will probably end up going however just to sit somewhere, smoke a cigar and have a beer.

March 6th, 2011
I did end up going out last night. However, I finally got some much needed sleep. I was up for over 36 hours for crying out loud. Woke up this morning and had tea with some cereal. Typical breakfast. However, I did catch an hour nap which I feel caught me up to the fatigue I was feeling. Mr. Alan Winwood drove us over to Churchdown for a hike. We walked around this absolutely beautiful little English village in between Cheltenham and Gloucester. We walked to the top of the hill and stood by this ancient church, nearly 1,000 years old, and took pictures. The view was terrific. We could see Cheltenham and Gloucester clearly. Simply beautiful. That is a small description of the church. We hiked back down and had afternoon tea. Which was wonderful? There were scones with cream and jam and pieces of cake. English breakfast tea was served. I have never had milk in tea before but it was excellent. The afternoon was filled with relaxation and talking amongst the 5 of us students. We had salad for dinner. Then we hiked into Cheltenham to have a beer with our mentor teacher and talk about our plans. Tomorrow is the first day of observation at our schools. I do intend on setting up an online photo album here in the next day or so to display pictures.

March 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th.

This was the week of school. On our first day we took the bus into Chosen Hill academy. A Mr. Jeffry tended to us at the school. He is assistant Head Teacher at Chosen Hill. This acts very much like our assistant principal. Chosen hill works at an odd time table which I find rather interesting. It has a tutor class, then two hour long periods. This is followed by a break. Then 2 more hour long period classes which is followed by an hour long lunch. Then 5th period and the day is over. On this occasion, we spent the early periods on a tour lead by 6th form students. This is comparable to the United States’ juniors and seniors. I sat through some classes and witnessed the British method of teaching. At the end of the day, we returned back to the B&B for some rest and relaxation. We had certain events to tend to but they were trivial, such as housekeeping etc.

The next day we did the routine all over. This was the first full day of observing. My department decided to get me rolling with information about the school system and lessons as well as assigning me lessons to teach in the upcoming weeks. I observed Mr. Jeffry's class and saw remarkable things. He had discussion classes that were directed towards student interaction. Teaching students analytical methods instead of fact regurgitation. The very heart of what history can teach you were given. It was amazing. The English education system, much to my pleasure, also pushes History a lot harder in the U.K. as compared to the U.S. I observed a few more classes but I didn't really see that the rest of the day. I noticed that the teachers use a lot of group work application. I observed some of the students in doing this. It seemed to parallel students in America. Some students did their work, some goofed off. This continued for the next couple of days. I bounced around from room to room and observed the practices of each respective teacher. Comparably, Mr. Jeffrey probably was one that approached the process of discussion and analyzing. These observations continued through the week. From this point on out, instead of discussing every detail of my day which can be somewhat boring, I will hit on the big events of the classroom and our trip.

I am going to take some time here to talk about what a day is like for a student in England. School begins at about 8:25 or so. The students have to wear school uniforms. The first 30 minutes of the day consist of a tutor session. This is different from what we would assume tutor session means as the students are not receiving special help in subjects. Tutor session is comparable to the "homeroom" of U.S. students. The sit in here, receive certain special instructions and work on school projects they might have. At 8:55 the bell rings and students go to their next class quickly. They are responsible for getting to class quickly and efficiently as there is not a 10 minute grace period. The students will go to two, one hour periods in the morning. After which there is a 20 minutes break. The teachers associate in department staff rooms or the faculty staff rooms. After the break there are two more, one hour periods. Then lunch. Lunch is approximately and hour long. After lunch there is one final period and then the day is over. The students scheduling also operates under a two week rotation. In America, students will have the same class, the same time, each day for a semester. The England system has students at this time, in this class one day, and then at a different times the next. Or they might not have that class for several days. The schedule basically jumps around for a two week period until it starts over again. The students can take more than our usual 4-6 classes in this method. But I wonder if that is really practical. I never saw research as to why that method was used.

We had a rather long weekend the first week. On the 10th, which would have been Thursday, we left early to go and see the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Gloucester . This place was a magnificent spectacle. Amazingly beautiful architecture and sculpture existed within this massive church. Also within the church was the tomb of Edward II. He is one of the few buried outside of Westminster Abbey and Winsor. He was also the one usually depicted as having been murdered by way of red hot poker in the anus. For those that are wondering however, this is the same Cathedral that was used in parts of the filming for the Harry Potter Series. I did see some hall ways that were fairly familiar looking. The cathedral also used to be a Catholic Monastery. This was evident with the hall ways and spaces that would have been working areas for Monks in the halls. After seeing the Cathedral we walked down to the canal locks and saw the canal. We then had dinner at Pizza Express which was incredible.

On Friday, the 11th, we traveled via bus to Oxford. I was really looking forward to this trip. Upon arrival, Bill and I walked down to a pub named the Four Candles. We had amazing fish and chips with peas, and of course, Guinness. After the energizing lunch we made our way to Bodleian library. We walked around in the court yards of this building. There were "quiet" signs posted at every turn. This was a place of solace study. We did not take the tour however, because we wanted to wait on the other party that traveled with us. This wasn't the best of ideas; we took too long at other places and did not get to see the library. However we did make our way to St. Mary's Church and paid to go up into the tower. From here we could see the landscape of Oxford. It was a terrific site. We gazed across the meadows of Christ Church Cathedral, looked down into the courtyard of the library, observed the tower at Magdalen College. It was a site to be had. It was in this church they we actually ran into Mrs. Hartman and everyone else in our company. After leaving the church and finding batteries as my camera died, we made our way to Magdalen College.  On a side note, batteries in England are inadequate. They carry less power than those from America and hardly lasted a day to two days. Anyways, we marched down the road to Magdalen, stopping only once to buy a Cuban cigar. Upon reaching Magdalen, Bill and I went inside and Mrs. Hartman and the three girls made their way to Christ Church Cathedral. Magdalen is the Humanities College. This is where history was taught at Oxford. Upon going inside, I was amazing to see how beautiful that small but eloquent campus was. It had history around every corner. On the side there was a beautiful creek running through the campus with a deer park just beyond it. This college is where certain figures as Oscar Wilde and C.S. Lewis had studied. Bill and I were simply amazed. The most interesting thing was a courtyard in the college with gargoyles surrounding its interior. Seven of these statues were shaped in forms of the seven deadly sins. When we left we walked across the road to a foot path that lead us around the meadows of Christ Church. This was a terrific 30 minute walk with gorgeous scenery and swans. Upon Christ church was in itself an amazing experience to see the history of that old church, as well as the dining hall with paintings of influential figures that had ever been of influence in England and Oxford.  I was excited a stone set in place for Charles and John Wesley, the founders of Methodism. After leaving here, we met with the group again and made our way back to Cheltenham.

The next day, Saturday the 12th, the entire group rode by train to Bath. We went to see the hot springs and old Roman ruins. We also got to see certain aspects of notable author Jane Austen. The town was full of beautiful architecture and culture. We took a free tour early in the morning. This lasted about two hours but was a spectacular event. We were able to see learn about the historic culture of Bath and its hot springs. We were also shown the town, the Circus and
Royal Crescent
in this tour. It was simply amazing. After this we also went into the old Roman ruins. This was like stepping back in time. I was looking at the archaeological ruins of the Roman civilization, including a rather diverse looking god. This was some sort of statue on the front of a temple and archaeologists were having rather interesting debate over the interpretation of this sculpture and of what it was. I saw the spaces that were used to transport water into the springs and it was amazing to see the steam rising off of the water. When I got to the water level, I know you weren't supposed to, but I reached down and touched the water. It was extremely warm. I could see how this place was used for relaxation for centuries.

Sunday the 13th, we went to a professional Rugby game in Gloucester. I play Rugby for the North Georgia club team; it was a thrill, watching these athletes go at it. The game ended with the Gloucester team victorious.

The week of March 14 - 18 was our first and only full week of school. During this week I did a pupil pursuit where I followed one student around for an entire day. This was interesting as it allowed me to observe a student in his day to day activities. It also allowed me to see how teachers were teaching across in other subjects. Also this week I taught several lessons. One of them was on Nazi Germany. But the lesson focused on life for German citizens at this time. I used technology and attempted to emulate the British style of teaching with review writing and some discussion to get the students involved. I also taught lessons on America's Isolation after WWI. I tried to emulate some of the work that the English teachers used in the class. Small group projects, having them write down ideas, or to analyze certain aspects of what I was teaching. They seemed to do just fine, but the answers became stagnated. I started to wonder if group activity outweighs lecturing in the long term. Not saying that one is better than the other, but that they both, if used too much, cause stagnation. I think the real issue in everyone's education is the lack of diversity. Group work is great, but if used too much I think it can cause a hindrance like any other teaching method. 

Also during this week, we had Fish and Chips at Alan Winwood's house. It should have been called Whale and Chips because the cod was huge. But we were able to share some of our experiences and stories. I chose to share one about a little girl in the tutor class I observe that usually sings in class. Which is hilarious, but the teachers usually quiet her down. 

During this week, the horse races were held in Cheltenham, the same week as St. Patrick's Day. It was a party every night. I thought it was interesting to see that side of England. I believe the nation of Ireland would have been deserted this week as it looked like every Irishman was in Cheltenham. Bill, I, and the girls went out nearly every night just to see the population and look at the sites. We went out the longest on Friday night; this was the last day of the race (the big event). The town was electrified with excitement. I have to take some time here to explain something about the English nightlife. Some of the girls in England where rather revealing outfits, but it would seem none of them can dance. They listen to 5 year old rave music and remixes from America and then just jump up and down in place. I thought it was somewhat hilarious. The Irish however were a different story. I was the last to come back that Friday night because I ran into a group of Irish men and women that were out and about, I ended up spending several hours with them and dancing. The girls with them could actually dance. So I spent that Friday night in Cheltenham, swing dancing with Irish people. It was terrific.

Saturday, March 19, our small group took a tour of the Cotswold’s. These were a string of old medieval towns still in existence today. Our first stop, after driving through beautiful countryside was Broadway. This was an amazingly small town. We walked a public footway, about a mile and half (mostly up hill) to get to the tower. This was about a 75ft tower on top of the hill that allowed you to see the scenery for miles around. I bet it took us over an hour to walk up that hill and 15 minutes coming down. After seeing Broadway we loaded up back on the bus, and then rode to Chippen Campden. Here we split up to see different things. I walked up part of the Cotswold’s Way, which is a path that navigates the entire Cotswold’s. You could compare it to the Appalachian Trail though not the length. I came over a hillside and was able to take pictures of the surrounding scenery. I could see the tower I went in at Broadway as well. I walked back down the Way, and crossed through a field on a public footpath. This was an incredible experience as I walked through wide open fields. Eventually I came out on the other side of the town. After reuniting with the group, we went for a quick layover in Moreton-in-Marsh. This was a pretty little village. We stopped here for afternoon tea, and then made our way to Bourton-on-the-Water. This place was like the Venice of England. A beautiful town with a creek running through the middle.  Stone bridges would allow you to cross over the water by foot to the other side. This was a serene town.

The next day, Sunday March, 19, the group of use made our way to Cardiff. This is the capital of Wales. This was an interesting town. I was able to go in Cardiff Castle. Which is fairly new by Britain standards. Within the walls of the Castle was the Old keep. This keep was an ancient example of old stone architecture. Built in close proximity of Roman ruins, the keep sat on a small hill surrounded on all sides by a moat. It was truly an amazing site. So much history. After the keep, Bill and I walked down to the bay. We crossed through what looked like a government housing project. It was full of Middle Eastern peoples. This was truly an interesting dynamic to witness. The bay was quite interesting, food, bars, churches, opera houses, the National Assembly were all located in this pristine area. I went inside of the National Assembly which was quite an interesting place for government. After this venture, Bill and I had a hamburger in a diner that was modeled after an American diner of the 1950's. This was quite an experience to have. After our group left Cardiff for Cheltenham, he was dinner in Zizi's. This was a pizza restaurant, in an old Episcopal Church. The oven was on the altar.

March 21-23 was our last days at our respective school. During this week I taught 3 more lessons. These had to do with Prohibition in America, rise of Organized Crime, the Jazz Boom, Consumer Boom and Development of Cinema. This was a pleasure to teach. I was able to put together photos and sound bites, of the time. I even created a 5-10 minute short video of the America Cinema, evolving from the silent movie era, to the talkie (Jazz Singer) and the explosion into musicals. I also played a little jazz music for them. I think the students seemed to have a pretty good time learning this material. The students, who ride the public bus with us to and from school, told me that they enjoyed my teaching. That was a real pleasure. At the end of the week, I observed a Religious Education class. This is a class in England where students have to learn about the different religions of the world. I think this is an excellent idea. To educate the youth on the different religions of the world. I would take this a step further and implement a general humanities class. Here, teachers could educate students not only on various world religions, but also different cultures and practices. During the Religious Education class, I was able to ask the students about some of the things they were doing and what they had learned. I even looked at some of their recent projects. They had created a DVD case, as if it were a movie about Sikhism. That was a real thrill.

In closing about the classes at Chosen Hill. I thought it was like comparing apples and oranges, in relation to comparing the British and American Education. The students were the same however. Teenagers, are teenagers, are teenagers. One of the student teachers commented on how "mature" they all acted, more so than American students. I didn't find that plausible after witnessing one student break wind in class. The experience in Education was good overall. I saw strategies that I would like to integrate, and some strategies or methodology that I would rather leave in England. "They can have it." (To be explained shortly)

The teachers at Chosen Hill were nice, thoughtful, and for the most part helpful. In a break down of who I observed the most, Mr. Jeffry in my mind was the best teacher. He was very engaging with his students. He asked questions got them involved, got them thinking, analyzing, interpreting. It was certainly a thrill to see that class. Despite Mr. Jeffry's seeming uneasiness around Mr. Winwood, overall I think he was some an ok guy on a personal level. Ms. Katie Griffiths and Ms. Elizabeth Griffiths in my mind had somewhat dull classes. They talked at the students and usually didn't get a high level of engagement from their students. This is where the "they can have it" phrase comes from. I do not fill it necessary to implement this type of teaching into my lessons. Group activities are good, but when you spend 20 minutes talking AT students and then tell them to work on their projects, I do not feel that is an adequate job.  Ms. Katie Griffiths, personality wise, was kind and generous. She seemed to be a decently pleasant person, at least in person. Mrs. Elizabeth Griffiths, who was the department head, to me was somewhat of an interesting character. She was rather nice to me and other in person, but I noticed in private she wasn't above talking ill of others. She also explained to me the class system of British citizens being measured in social status or family name rather than on money. Then she explained to me how she was educated in Private Schools. I wonder if she was somewhat insinuating that she was Upper class. She did act rather snooty at times, and appeared to be real put off if she was required to do something that was not on her agenda. My GAPSS observations caused quite a stir because she wasn't told she had to do those, and seemed to be against them for that very reason. I think this type of incompatibility is best left outside of the school.

The rest of my days in England, March 24-26 were spent in London. The first day we arrived by van, and checked into a rather small roomed hotel. It was decently cleaned and price but definitely fit the stereotype of a European Hotel. The room had 5 beds in it. I thought that was quite interesting. It was a small room, but it was only a place to sleep as all our time was spent outside. The first day we walked around, Buckingham Palace,
Piccadilly Square
, St. James Park, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. This day was just spent as a relaxation day. To close it, we walked to the Hard Rock Cafe. Which was quite an interesting experience to see the guitars of Eric Clapton, Jimmi Hendrix, Beck, Paige, Lennon, Harrison....the list goes on. The food was pretty good too.

The next day was our all or nothing day. We all bought ourselves tickets to ride the underground, and we all started at the Natural History Museum. I was interested in seeing the Darwin exhibit. This was in fact, really amazing. After seeing this exhibit, I rode the underground to the British History Museum. There was too much to see in so little time. I spent 3 hours inside and did not see everything that I wish I had. The Rosetta stone, Mummies, Viking armor, Roman armor and remains. I had to stop taking pictures, there was just too much to see. After my 3 hours inside I rode the underground to the London Tower. This was probably my favorite thing to see while in London. The tower was an amazing complex full of history and prestige. I took the small Yeoman tour when I arrived there. This was quite interesting, I heard amazing stories and events from the Beefeater. The tour allowed me to go in the chapel, which housed the grave of Anne Boleyn and other queens of England that were executed during the reign of Henry VIII. After the tour, I went into the outer walls of the Tower, making my way through the Medieval Periods. Here I saw a replica of Edward I, bed chamber and throne. Then I walked around to the bloody tower to see the instrument of torture. I went inside another building where they housed prisoners. Then I went into the building that housed the crown jewels. This was an amazing show. I can imagine that this would be similar to Americans, traveling to view the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. After the crown jewels I went into the tower itself. I spent about 3 hours at the complex, all the way to closing time. So I was the last person to go inside of the tower for the day. This was equally amazing as I was able to see the armor of Henry VIII and other kings of England. At the end of the day, the group came back together at the National Portrait Gallery. I was able to see Rembrandt, and Da Vinci. This was truly a remarkable site to behold.  We ended our day with a pub dinner. The next day we had to rise early to get to the train station. From here we took a train to Gatwick, in order to get our hotel close to the airport. Afterwards, we took a cab back to train station at Gatwick, and took the train back to London. Here we split up again, I went to the Imperial War Museum, where I was able to see exhibits on WWI, and WWII. I ran May way to St. James to see the changing of the guard, but I was unable to make it. There was a protest about public goods and services taking up the entire road. I was so disappointed. Walking back to the underground, I made my way back to
Piccadilly Square
, and ran into the counter protest to the protest. They were headed the same direction I was so I jumped into the street and marched. About one half a mile later I got out of the group, got back on the trolley and was gone. It was only later while at a pub that I saw those protestor had gotten violent and started throwing rocks. That would have been terrible if a customs agent had my picture with those people. After getting back on the tube I rode up to Old City and visited the John Wesley Chapel. Being a Methodist I felt this was like a pilgrimage. After this, I went back to main part of downtown to reconnect with the group. We ended our night with a fish and chips dinner at the William Shakespeare pub. After which we rode  the train back to the airport. Bill and I had a beer in the hotel lobby, reminisced on the trip. The next morning we were up and moving towards the airport. Checked our baggage and went through security. This time through security, I got the full frisking when the buttons on my pants set the metal detector off. I got the full frisk out in public. One word that describes it, magical. Then we had to wait an hour at the terminal as they repaired something on the plane. We were off towards America. To make up time, the pilot was traveling something like 600 MPH at 33,000 feet. This was quite an amazing flight. To look down and see the ocean as if it were a painting on the floor. We were so high up that you could see the sky turning from blue to black. Several hours later we landed in America. It took me longer to get out of the airport in Atlanta than it did to get in it. I remember in Britain, the U.K. citizens basically fast passed the security checkpoints and were on their way. I had to stand in line and explain why I left the country, then I had to claim my baggage, then I had to re-check my baggage. Then I went through security, and then I went to the front to get my bags again.

Overall I fill the trip was an amazing experience and allowed me to grow. It broadened my professional horizons, allowing me to see different strategies abroad. I would most assuredly like to try it again someday.

Blog Archive

You May Also Like