It is perhaps more than a little ironic that my last post on here was about getting things done. That was in June. Almost a year of silence…
In January 2015, I found out I had a job in Shanghai and would, therefore, be moving my family of four out of our routine lives in the UK to live in the most populated city in the world. I actually applied for the job on a whim. It was a case of ‘how can we get out of the UK?’ and then I saw the job advert. We didn’t have a bad life in the UK. We are lucky enough to have a very supportive family who were always helping us out, whether with childcare or money. The problem started with Mr Chadd’s NQT year. Thinking of words to describe how difficult it was for him or how much of a terrible impact it had on our family life is hard. Let’s try…. he went to work early, came home late, worked into the night (every night) and all day on a Sunday. He marked and he marked and he marked some more. And then he was told his marking wasn’t good enough, or there wasn’t enough of it or it needed to be in a different colour. He was taking photos of work done as a class or on whiteboards and painstakingly sticking them into the books to prove that the children had done work that lesson. He was writing in their books when they were absent so SLT would have an explanation for the missing work. He was teaching a Thai boy English, he was monitoring and providing vital support for several children who has serious issues at home. He was constantly sending down hexagons (yes! Sending down hexagons!!) to call for help to stop a particularly troubled young boy becoming violent. More than once Mr Chadd became a human shield as children we moved out of his classroom and the situation diffused. Mr Chadd lost weight and became depressed. Our family life suffered and our marriage was essentially put on hold.
Somehow amid all this chaos he began to enjoy the occasional lesson. He was hugely inspired by several literacy strategies that I’ll let him explain because I’ll no doubt get it wrong. He developed as a maths teacher and his students made excellent progress. Was this progress the result of the hours spent marking? Or was it that these children, some of whom desperately needed a strong father like figure in their lives, simply adored him and worked really hard every day. He developed positive relationships with the kids and the parents. He really cared about the well-being of his class but he had to make sacrifices in his own well-being to provide the care they so needed.
I was coasting. Being part time I was able to spend time with our children, with other mothers with pre-schoolers and I was able to be a part-time housewife. The other side of my life saw me working at the school where I’d completed my NQT year. A school where I had some friends but largely kept myself to myself. I was frustrated by decisions made that I had no control over and felt like I spent a lot of time fighting for working conditions I believed were fair. I loved spending that time with my own children but something was not sitting right. I was unhappy at school, I was unhappy at home and on top of everything else we had absolutely no money.
We have never overspent. We have always been careful with money, calculating and budgeting down to the last penny. We even allocated a ‘fun fund’ to allow us to eat out or get a takeaway at the weekends. We didn’t buy clothes, no gym memberships and I would often cut my own hair. And still we were building up debt. As I said we have an amazing family and they always helped us. It couldn’t go on though…
I don’t think I believed it was real until I saw the visa stuck into my passport. However, once we knew we were (probably) going, I started to prepare the kids and we showed them YouTube videos of the city. They couldn’t wait to see the skyline with their own eyes and enjoyed looking at photos of the other students in their school uniforms too. We were keen to know where we would be living and googled for hours and hours to find out more information. We found it really frustrating that we couldn’t find much. I think I was so busy preparing for the move by selling or moving all of our belongings that I didn’t get the time to get too frustrated but we have been saying for 18 months now that we should share our experiences online to perhaps help others in the same position.
So that’s the plan folks. Over the next couple of weeks I will try to describe our move to Shanghai. What did we decide to take? Where do we live? How have we coped with the culture shock and language barrier?
If you have any questions please do ask.