Food blog

Numero 1: Vulio

So with a holiday postponed, I find myself with six days and nothing planned.  So whilst pottering through the internet, I decided to think about maybe going for lunch and popped on to TripAdvisor for their recommendations (the food in Rome so far has been hit and miss) and it was then that I stumbled on an idea….trying the top 100 restaurants in Rome and blogging about it.

So with that in mind, today I stumbled off to numero 1: Vulio

Literally a two minute walk from Metro stop Ottivana (and not far from the Vatican) off a small side street, Vulio is quite a small eatery.  Being quite early, I was the second customer but by the time I left, the place was packed.  Vulio is a lunch time place.  It serves bruschetta but with their own freshly baked bread.  There is a set menu but you can play around with it.  I asked for the server’s recommendation and she suggested Caparezza which has the following ingredients:

Pane e Pomodoro, olio evo, origano fresco del Gargano, capocollo di Martina Franca, caciocavallo podolico del Gargano, valeriana e spinacino

I also ordered wine.  I felt really sorry for the server because she was on her own and was trying to take orders and make the food at the same time so there was a wait but not a wait that was insufficient.

The bruschetta came out and it was delicious.  I always feel awkward eating bruschetta with my hands because it can be quite messy but once I got over this self-consciousness, I munched happily away.  The bread was warm and well salted with the right amount of olive oil and the meat absolutely delicious.  I love cheese so that was a win.  It also came with olives and a lovely little piece of crostini which was delicious – I think with oregano.

The other options looked equally delightful and I am really keen to go back and try the bruschetta with burrata.

My glass of vino was plentiful…definitely felt a little merry upon leaving and all in all it was a delicious lunch for a total cost of 8.50 euros which, with the wine, I thought was really reasonable.

Total cost = 8.50


Nearest metro: Ottivano

vulio 3.jpg

Numero 2: Cipasso

All indications for this restaurant were that it was pretty hard to get a table with some reviewers quoting a 75 minute wait.  The trick then is to go slightly earlier (bearing in mind the Italians eat at 9pm on average) and this seemed to work for me as there were a number of tables free which soon filled up after my arrival.

Cipasso is a cosy restaurant with limited seating, hence the lack of availability on occasion but it has a warm atmosphere and the servers were incredibly friendly and helpful.  They were attentive but not too attentive.

My trick is to ask for the server’s recommendations to try and get the best food in each restaurant or eaterie.  Here, I went with Crostini pecorino cheese, black pepper and pears and the veal and beef meatballs with aubergine which I then followed with a panna cotta.  Delicious – every course.  The crostini was soft and easy to eat and the flavours really complemented each other well.  The meatballs were the best meatballs I have ever had.  Usually, I dislike meatballs but, firstly, the meat was really good quality and secondly, adding in the melanzane gave it the right amount of moisture.  Finally, the panna cotta was delicious with the frutta di bosca – I like panna cotta as it feels like a light desert although there was a lot of panna cotta here.

Total cost = 38 euro


Nearest metro: Lepanto and then bus down.


Numero 3: Pizza e mozarella

Many of the top places, as recommended by TripAdvisor are lunchtime places rather than restaurants.  This is one such place.  Tiny with approx. 10 seats, this serves pizza.  To me, as someone who lives in Rome, I couldn’t distinguish it too much from the pizza bar I am used to frequenting.  The pizza was great – I had the mozzarella, basil and tomato pizza and then a red onion pizza and I got free water, which was a nice touch, but this did not strike me as a stand out place.  A nice place for lunch but definitely not guaranteed to get a seat.

Total cost = 3.70


Nearest metro: Barberini or Spagna (close to Pantheon)

Pizza e mozarella.jpg

Numero 4: Pane e Salmone

Not feeling totally content with my lunch choice, I decided to stop off for a drink opposite the Pantheon, which is by far my favourite.  If you are coming to Rome my advice would be don’t eat in the immediate vicinity of a big tourist site…the food quality is not normally as good but the prices are sky high.

I continued on to Pane e Salmone.  I was really excited about their cutting boards because the pictures on TripAdvisor looked awesome.  Again, another small eaterie, I had to wait for a seat but this was perfectly fine.  I could see the workers putting together orders and the range of fresh meat on display.  I was quickly shown to my table and again asked what the server would recommend.  His recommendation was the mixed cutting board containing meats, bruschetta and cheese with pickles.  I opted for the medium sized one (which was ridiculous after already having pizza) and a glass of wine.

Oh my goodness was it delicious!  The cutting board was full with meat and cheese and the bruschettas.  The bruschettas were massively varied – there was a salmon one which was spicy, a mushroom one, an olive one and one with a slice of meat on top.  The meat was really good quality and so varied.  The cheeses were minimum in comparison to the meat but the honey and red onion marmalade was delicious.  Alongside this, there were various roasted vegetables and a little salad.

This lunch was super tasty and probably my favourite cold / bread based lunch thus far.  It was incredibly good value for money and I would definitely look to take guests here – maybe booking ahead if this is a possibility.

(PS. after having two lunches, I skipped out on dinner that evening!)

Total cost: 13.70 euro

Nearest metro: Barberini / Spagna



Numero 8: Rione XIV

Feeling full up with bread and pizza and bruschetta, I decided I wanted to go to a restaurant today and eat pasta.  Usually pasta is eaten every day and I felt like I was getting withdrawal symptoms so I chose to go to Rione.  The outside is nothing to shout about and, had you not done your tripadvisor research, you could easily miss this restaurant especially with so many other restaurants on the same road and this being down the far end.

So again this place is tiny – 10-15 seats max and I headed down fairly early to guarantee getting a seat.  The décor is really nice and there was music playing which created a really relaxed atmosphere.  The server was really lovely and dealt with me in Italian and English – I am trying.

I followed his recommendation for starter – bruschetta with cheese, walnuts and honey which was really delicious.  It could have done with slightly more honey as it really went well with the other two flavours.  I then ordered what has slowly become one of my favourite dishes – Cacio e Pepe – this is a Roman dish of cheese and pepper….it is simple but oh so delicious.  This was definitely the best one I had.  There was not too much cheese so the spaghetti is wet and the pepper flavour was so good.  It was also a really large portion and filled me right up!

To drink I had acqua natural and a glass of vino.

I loved it and, again, this is definitely somewhere I would go back.

Total euros = 20.50

Nearest metro: Ottivano


Numero 9: Borghiciana Pastificio Artigianale

A new day, a new restaurant.  Common themes to the most popular restaurants seem to be the lack of seating.  This restaurant seats 12ish so again is tight for space.  The server was polite but less friendly than the ones I had come across before but this might have been because he was on his own.

Again, I went with the recommendations of the server and this time it was pasta with zucchini.  It was delicious and the bacon was out of this world.  It was incredibly understated- plastic plate and cutlery so no expense spared and because the pasta was a little wet it was harder to eat (the Italian way).

However, although the food was great, the small size of the restaurant and the demand made me feel as though I had to rush.  I had people literally stood behind me waiting for my seat.  This ruined the experience a little for me.  It feels like this place is an eat and go and I like lunch to be a little more chilled.

Feeling the rush, I decided to take some of the deli with me – mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola and something else and zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta which I can’t wait to try.

Nearest metro: Ottivano

Meal: 9 Euro discounting takeaways

3.5/4 out of 5 – not for food but for general atmosphere.







If Carlsberg did inductions…

I gave my notice in at my last school in May. This was at a similar point when a new policy was introduced – the policy that stated that if you were absent after handing your notice in you would not be paid during the last term.

Every year without fail when year 11 went, I would fall ill. Going from 150 mph to a somewhat more relaxed 75 mph meant that my body would collapse from the exhaustion of it all. I fell ill. I had to take two days off school because I could not function. I lost £463 pounds off my wage packet.

I was upset, firstly because I was not being paid. Secondly, because it was ridiculously ironic to me that the only cover it generated was for one lesson and two tutor periods. But, thirdly, and most importantly, it was not about the money. You see, the same policy existed for those joining the school and in the first six months of the job. It was about the fact that this told me everything I needed to know about how a school I once loved viewed its staff.

Given the years I had worked at the school and the personal sacrifices I had made – evenings, weekends, holidays – this was how they viewed me: a commodity within a business. Not as a member of staff who they wanted to ensure felt valued or as someone they wanted to retain or as someone that they wanted to support or as someone that they wanted to say thank you to. And so I’ve left really seeing that as a measure of the school.

Three months on and flip that around to the school I’ve recently joined. Things could not be more different. Our induction process has been phenomenal.

  1. We had a separate induction week to the rest of the school staff. During this time different members of SLT, the IT team, the HR team and other members of staff came to speak with us. All policies were covered and we were able to get a real flavour of the school.
  2. We were issued with a laptop and an IPAD for work purposes.
  3. The HR team gave us a welcome gift pack containing prosecco and other Italian goodies.
  4. Our bank accounts have been sorted and our applications for residency going through.
  5. We were taken out for a drink after work with the most beautiful views of Rome.
  6. We were taken to IKEA to help us furnish our new apartments.
  7. We were introduced to the whole school body in an assembly.
  8. The school ran an evening on Rome to recommend the different things we could do within the area such as the walks we could go on and the great areas to visit.
  9. We have all been observed.
  10. We have all had a medical.
  11. We were taken out to dinner as a group of new staff.
  12. We participated on an amble ending with a trip to an Agriturismo.

So what difference does this make? Firstly, the induction programme I have been through here is the best induction programme I have ever been on.  In constructing an induction period such as this, the message that has been sent is one of care and investment. They have created an induction programme that has welcomed new staff and stated, quite clearly, that they are invested in us. It has helped us to settle in – a different member of SLT has come on the range of activities – and it has helped us to get to know each other as new staff as well. The induction has also supported us with the tricky paperwork needed when you first move country too.

So, in a period where retention is an issue for many schools, thinking about the induction programme as something that goes beyond policy sharing is well worth some consideration. For SLT teams: how have you ensured new staff have felt welcomed and immediately part of your school community? For new teachers: what has your school done to make you feel a part of their team straight away?

Why I think it is important sometimes…to buck the trend

Last week I spoke to my head of department about ‘my’ room.  In fact, it isn’t really my room because we have fewer rooms than teachers but I do do the majority of my teaching in it.  I had started to feel as though I was teaching in a room rather than my room and it didn’t feel very Freya so I asked if it would be possible to make it more Freya without really letting my HOD in on what this actually meant.

Research says that the best rooms for pupils are rooms with bare walls that don’t detract.  The less clutter and colour, the better for the pupil in terms of concentration.

This might be the case BUT, you know what, sometimes there are times when you just have to go against the research.

I like my room to function as an additional learning aid.  We are tasked with creating active readers and crafters of the English language and I like my room to be able to support the pupils with this.

Over the past few weeks, when I have been introducing my THESIS approach to analysis, I have looked around my room searching for my alternatives to ‘show’ and ‘tell’ display only to realise that they weren’t there.  Had they been, the pupils in my class would have been able to be so much more independent in their approach.

So today, I got the first two displays that I have been craving done: my alternatives to ‘show’ and ‘tell’ and the tone toolkit.  During the lesson these displays can be used as a resource to help pupils with the crafting of their writing.  In fact, immediately after putting one of the displays up, one of my year 8s referred to a character as ‘belligerent’ and I know he got this word from the tone toolkit.  Job done.

Over the course of the next few weeks, my connectives will go up and my linguistic and structural terminology boards will go up as well.  Maybe some sentence toolkits and some references to punctuation…

You see…on this occasion…I’m afraid I can’t stick with the research.  I’ve seen the impact of learning walls on my pupils and know they are a fantastic resource in creating analysers of the English language and crafters too.

(Display resources can be found on my general resources page.  Tone toolkit to be added shortly)

Marking and feedback

There has been a sudden surge over the past few weeks of teachers discussing their marking load and seemingly giving up a huge amount of time at the weekend for this.  Here are three strategies that I have employed to reduce marking and feedback time.

  1. Green penning

Green penning has changed my life for the better.  It is an absolute life saver and is a strategy that I have nicked from Michaela.

So, for example, I start every lesson with recap questions to assess prior learning (see my Rosenshine Research Practice blog).  I give pupils 5-10 minutes to complete these questions (using full sentences) dependent on how many questions there are.

Then we feedback.  Pupils share their written responses.  As they do so, they must have their green pens in hand.  They use their green pens to

  1. Tick answers they have got correct.
  2. Correct answers that are wrong.
  3. Fill in any blanks.
  4. Extend answers after class based discussions.

And then every time we feedback during a lesson, the same process is gone through.  Pupils have not only marked their work (ticking where they have got answers right and correcting wrong answers) but through clever classroom discussion, pupils are also able to develop their responses further adding in alternative interpretations and ideas shared by their peers.  Examples below from my previous school but it is something I am doing here, in Italy, too.

That’s it.  Simples but by god does this reduce your own marking as a lot of the work has been marked by the pupils themselves.  In fact, I love green penning so much that I brought two boxes of green pens with me to Italy!

2. Whole class marking

This has been blogged about a lot too and again is an initiative Michaela introduced.  I use whole class marking for extended paragraphs or pieces of writing.  Instead of marking each piece individually, writing the same comment a million times, you take in a pile of responses and use one whole class marking feedback sheet instead.  The Positive Teaching Company has recently cleverly produced books of whole class marking feedback sheets for teacher ease and I would recommend one of these as it keeps all your feedback sheets together.

Whilst reading responses you

  • Note down work that really stands out and needs to be celebrated, explaining clearly what it is that makes the work so successful.
  • Identify the areas of strength you see developing in the class.  The aspects of the success criteria they have really nailed.
  • Identify misconceptions and errors that need addressing in class.
  • Identify common SPAG problems.
  • Identify specific pupils who are missing work or need some form of intervention.

This will take you half an hour rather than the 2-3 hours marking would normally take.  From this, I then plan my DIRT (Directed Improvement and Redrafting Time).

My do it now always focused on core literacy.  For example, placing common incorrect spellings on the board and asking pupils to ascertain correct spelling.  Pupils then copy these words out three times into their books correctly.  Usually, there will be some form of grammar task as well… most common are capital letters for people’s names and apostrophes for omission and possession.

Once this is done, I will go through the task itself and celebrate the excellent work I have received.  I will identify the strengths of the class against the success criteria, celebrating how they have made progress and developed core skills.

Then I will go on to celebrate individuals.  Now what I have noticed here, is that your quiet pupil – you know the one who sits quietly and doesn’t contribute as much – is the one who has excelled and when I first started doing this, I can’t tell you how good it felt to draw attention to and celebrate that quiet pupil.  To see these pupils grow in confidence was a sheer delight.  I inform the class about the excellent work the pupil has produced and explain why a particular section was so good.  Often I will pop the work under the visualiser or photocopy it so that everyone has a copy and then I will ask the pupil to stand up and share their work and we will applaud them for a job well done.

Once I have been through the work, the rest of my lesson will focus on the misconceptions and address these.

I  will re-teach or seek to address some of the misconceptions again if I feel it necessary.  Common misconceptions that I feel the class would benefit from…e.g. embedding quotations or creating judgement statements.

Then, finally, independent redrafting.  In addition, to the whole class marking feedback sheet, I will identify the 3-5 misconceptions and create corresponding DIRT tasks for the pupils to complete.  Pupils will select the task they feel they need to address and work on target area.

All of this is done in green pen to show response to feedback.

I also photocopy a copy of the whole class marking feedback sheet (minus the identified pupils for further support – a post it note to cover this up when photocopying suffices) so that all pupils have a copy of my feedback.

Job’s a goodun.

Here is an example from the Positive Teaching Company page of their sheet in action.

Whole class marking feedback

3. GCSE marksheets

Now I’ve found that we can’t get away from the fact that some pupils will want to know their exact mark, level, band etc and I think this is useful information for them, so, at times, I will also use a mark-sheet.  Now this would increase marking time but it still does not involve writing any comments and that is where the time saving comes in.

For each unit, I create marking slips with the key criterion.  As I am reading, I highlight in green the marking criteria pupils have hit and once I have finished reading, I highlight in pink, one area they need to improve.  Instant specific feedback and adds all of probably 30 secs per pupil to marking.

I staple this to the paragraph pupils have written.

Marking sheet.jpg

At my last school, when they conducted a book sample, English came out on top for quality of marking and feedback.  It can be done without breaking anyone’s backs or taking up entire weekends.

Ciao Roma…an update…

So it’s been about 2-3 weeks since I last blogged re. Italia. This is because the start of term is always frenetic and I haven’t been feeling massively well. I actually think I have allergies now so something to get checked out.

Being new is hard. That’s my first conclusion.

The induction programme was excellent and, as I’ve said before, we have really been taken care of but, in reality, nothing prepares you for the day to day.

So what am I enjoying?

The pupils are an absolute delight. I have all exam classes this year (the topic of another blog post I feel) and all have been really welcoming. It has been hard walking in to someone else’s class, for sure. Naturally, there are comparisons and, especially in year 13, the previous teacher was so much more of an expert re. IB teaching than I am so I’ve been giving myself a tough time. However, we have found a rhythm and thanks to a few Twitter folk, I am beginning to enjoy teaching Gatsby. A couple of pupils are still weary of me and that’s ok – they are entitled to be but, for now, they are going to have to trust me to get them through in the best possible way I can.

My KS4 classes are absolutely wonderful. Yesterday, I observed them as they wrote in silence for half an hour working on their DROP paragraphs and was grateful for how easy it is to teach them. They will attempt anything you ask of them and really work very hard. At times, as a teacher, you can feel quite redundant. You set a task and the pupils crack on and that is something that I am not used to. In England, there was always someone off task and, at times, it felt like spinning plates keeping all pupils on task and focused. It’s nice not to have to worry about that now.

The pupils are confident articulators. They can really discuss and they listen to each other. I was hesitant of classroom discussion in England because pupils didn’t really understand the concept of turn-taking or listening to each other. Here, pupils debate confidently and articulately and with respect for their peers. I am hoping this will translate well into their writing.

My year 8 class are so inquisitive and eager to please. I am really enjoying teaching them.

I also really enjoy only have 16 odd in my class. It means I can get to know the pupils quicker and really focus on the individual and their development.

Independent study is key and they do it. Again, probably another blog post in this but I really do feel that pupil success is down to how hard the pupil is willing to work for themselves and their own success. I have thrown a huge amount of independent study at my classes and they are rising to the challenge. This certainly increases the breadth and depth of what can be taught and maximises opportunities for further practice. I think we let kids off too easily in England and the lack of independent study or motivation to complete it can lead to us to confining learning to the four classroom walls which isn’t how it should be.

Lunch. Lunch here is 1 hour and 10 mins. This is a delight. Food is provided for free and every day we are treated to two courses – pasta / rice and then meat. The nice thing is you can actually eat and digest it rather than waffle it down and have conversations with your colleagues. It also means that when you have a six period day, you still get a decent break in-between to rest. Coffee and tea and fruit are provided at break-time and coffee and tea after school. We have a bar on site as well which is really lovely.

I really like our SLT. They are a good bunch. There is a level of compassion and care for staff that I haven’t seen in a while. They touch base and check in with you regularly (in the staffroom not in the classroom) and, as I said, the induction programme was brilliant.

My Head of Department. My head of department is lovely. She is kind and really approachable and touches base every day. She is open to new ideas and collaboration and has supported me no end. I feel happy working for her and really really like her.

Tutor time, assembly and department time. We see our tutor groups for 10 minutes in the morning – enough time for notices and a quick activity. Once a week we have a tutorial / PSHE session which is something that has been lost in England potentially. We also have an assembly scheduled into our timetable once a fortnight. A department meeting is also scheduled into our timetable once a fortnight. I like this idea.

So what am I finding harder?

Planning. I love planning, I really do (especially over marking) but here I am struggling to stay on top of my planning as a new member of staff teaching new specifications and new texts. This is a completely autonomous environment and whilst some resources are shared, schemes of work, as we might know it in England, are not as apparent. Again, I think this is worthy of a blog on its own as I consider what I have learnt about departmental planning. But suffice to say evenings and weekends at the moment are taken up with planning and staying on top of it, is something I am finding hard. Living day to day is the new norm.

New friendships. When you come from an environment where everyone knows you and you can sit down at a table with anyone to have a cup of coffee to moving to an environment where no one knows you and everything is new can be quite tough. In addition, I am the kind of person who likes to get to know people one on one rather than be part of a big crowd so this is something that I think will evolve over time.

I am, when thinking about the two points above, however, going out on Sunday with a group of expats so looking forward to forming some new friendships out of school as well whilst seeing more of Italy and having a break from planning.


I think I have committed to three further blogs after writing this on teaching load, independent study and planning. J

It all starts with the heart…coaching with Graydin

Coaching with Heart – The Graydin way

So after two weeks of being at my new school I have already had two full days of specialised CPD, participating in coaching training with Graydin thanks to our fabulous Assistant Headteacher, Laura Magew.

What is coaching?

Across the two days of training we all arrived at our own definitions and, for me, coaching is the empowering of others to fulfil their own personal and professional goals by connecting with the heart first, listening actively and asking great questions.

Why is the heart so important?

So the danger with the heart is that coaching can lean towards counselling if the heart is to come into play. However, our emotions are often what prevents clarity and action in meeting certain goals and therefore it is most important to acknowledge these in order to be able to move forward.

That is why coaching with Graydin always starts with the heart. Questions rooted in feelings, desires, dreams, passions, values all enable a coachee to connect with what is important to them and become aware of how in line they currently feel with these.

Questions about emotions and the above can lead to quite emotive moments within the coaching session. There was certainly a lot of emotion expressed in our coaching sessions and, at the end of the day, we were all emotionally drained.

Yet I think this is the part that would have the greatest impact on teacher performance if we were to embed coaching in schools.

This is because, currently, I think connection with the heart is the part we do least well on a day to day basis. Personally I feel that an accountability culture in education has led to the suppression of some truths and if we are to move forward in a healthy and proactive way, it is important that we give time to the expression of emotions and sit with our current states, feeling positive about acknowledging how we feel without fearing judgement. This type of being is something I feel really passionate about – teaching with heart, leading with heart and coaching with heart – and so I felt really inspired by this approach and its possibility.

Imagine the potential if coaching was embedded within a school and staff had that safe space where they could talk about how they are feeling without judgement. From experience I know that just being with an emotional state and acknowledging it and giving it that space then helps a greater sense of clarity with regard to a solution or a goal to emerge, which in turn enables a person to begin to create their plan to move from A to B.

Giving time to this is potentially the greatest thing we can do for our staff.


After the heart come the head questions. Questions that probe obstacles and barriers, different perspectives, options, responsibility and potential. The second stage of coaching focuses the coachee on creating that path to achieving their goal. It is the logical thought process that will help them find a solution or achieve their goal.

Exemplar coaching HEAD questions:

  • What options are available to you?
  • What’s stopping you?
  • What have you tried already?
  • How can you view this differently?
  • What would that look like?


And, finally, enabling people to focus down on steps they are going to take in order to meet their goal and the time frames for meeting those goals with further coaching opportunities to be agreed to check to see whether those goals have been met.

Exemplar coaching STEP questions:

  • What’s the step you are committed to taking?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable?
  • What’s the progress you want to make by taking this step?


During the two days, we also learnt that

  1. Coaching questions focus on the WHAT and the HOW (asking only WHAT and HOW questions is harder to do than you would think).
  2. The coachee should be speaking for 80% of the time.
  3. Active listening is a skill that needs developing. Mirroring words is key.
  4. Coachees arrive at their own solutions. We are definitely not there to offer our own advice…how easy it is to slip into mentoring.

We also spent time on

  1. Self-reflection
  2. Our own fulfilment wheels
  3. And the importance of our own values


What was interesting for me is that there was a real mixture of how we viewed the coaching moving forward. The majority of staff spoke of how they could use coaching to work with students. I am definitely more interested in how coaching can work with staff:

  1. To improve staff wellbeing
  2. With a focus on Teaching and Learning.

I also think our students are so incredible that student to student coaching is a real possibility and feel that our KS5 students could coach our KS4 pupils and our KS4 pupils could coach our KS3 pupils and so forth.


As a group, we are going to meet as part of our carousel sessions and continue the coaching this year in triads which is definitely something I am looking forward to.

Since the coaching session, I have become more aware of how often I coach myself. On the Saturday morning of the coaching, I ended up coaching myself to go – feeling both exhausted and ill beforehand I went through the coaching process to ensure I attended!!

The other thing I have noticed since participating is how easy now it is, during a conversation with a person, to slip into coaching! The trick is to see whether the other person notices 😉

Massive thanks to Laura, Jocelyn (from Graydin who was fabulous) and my school, St George’s (Rome) for this really useful training.

Ciao Roma – week 1 of work

What an incredible first week at work! I felt absolutely shattered by Friday but it has been a week of joy with so many highlights. I’ve also been touched by how many people have contacted me re. working abroad and to anyone who is considering, I would say just go for it! I’m going to blog about a few of my key takeaways from this week.


You walk into St George’s and there is a lot of love. As a new member of staff, we have been taken care of incredibly. The school shipped our stuff over; they paid for our flight; they met us at the airport; they helped sort our apartments; they provided us with a laptop and an IPAD; they took us to Ikea; we were given a welcome pack including prosecco – the list goes on and on. And we have to thank Alessandra (our HR manager) and John (SLT who organised the induction) for this because it does make such a difference. I don’t think they could have done anymore and I genuinely don’t think I have ever had such a welcome.

The love for staff was in abundance at the INSET day with whole staff. Now I know I have to temper this because the nature of your results can affect the tone of the first day and apologies to anyone going in to tomorrow with the fear. But here staff were celebrated and thanked countless times – not for the outcomes, it has to be said but for supporting the pupils to achieve those outcomes.   In addition, individual pupil success stories were shared with such love. Yes, those with exceptional performance were mentioned but actually more time was given to those with a real narrative to tell of hard work and perseverance and how that (thanks to the student and the staff supporting him/her) had paid off. I love the fact that St. George’s is a fully inclusive school.

One thing I adored was that the premises manager and the ICT manager spoke. I’ve been to countless INSETs where they are thanked by the SLT but, here, both were given floor space to talk through what had been done through the summer and I thought it was a really wonderful way to do things.

It is ok to feel overwhelmed starting a new school.

When you are a new member of staff there are so many different pieces of information you have to be given and you will meet so many different people. I read Rob Ward’s fantastic piece last week about introverts. I am a massive introvert, in reality. Around large groups of people I don’t know, I do just want to run away and hide. When I start to get overwhelmed with information and new stuff, I retreat into myself. So I had that moment this week, on Wednesday when I could feel myself going into my shell and just being very quiet. In fact, I was just distilling and thinking and distilling some more and that’s ok. I had a little tear at the end of the day because I felt overwhelmed and because I was struggling with my confidence and then went out for dinner and drinks and all was fine with the world once more. I write this though because it is normal. Last week was the honeymoon period of settling in and travelling around – where you still feel a little like a tourist – but moving abroad or moving into a new school isn’t without its challenges and it is important you prepare yourself for those. I think also that switch from school to school can affect your feelings as you go in. St George’s is so completely different to my old school and whilst, I thought I had been through my three months recovery from that, certain things came back to me and hit me and made me quite emotional. It’s important, in reality, I feel, to take everything day by day and be prepared for those highs and those lows and deal with each as they arise but know that having lows as well as highs is completely normal.

It makes all the difference working in a supportive school.

My new head of department, Fran, is incredible. She has held my hand throughout this entire week and supported me, every step of the way. No question is too silly and nothing is too much trouble in terms of help. I already adore her. The department I am in is beyond lovely. It is very experienced and full of strong women which I adore. Many of them are older, like me, which I am sooooo pleased about. I think it says a lot about an international school when they recruit experienced members of staff and retain them for anything up to 25 years! And we have the most fantastic guy in our team, Jaco, who has me in absolute stitches every single day. I haven’t laughed so much in ages and I so enjoy working with him. I adore our SLT. Adore them. Sensible, reasoned, caring, nurturing, well-read, informed (I could go on) people. Adam, who is the Head of Secondary just spoke with such love and passion for the school, I could feel myself tearing up. Paul, who leads on Teaching and Learning, is just fantastic and ran a brilliant session in which we were made to really feel free to be the teachers we wanted to be and presented a range of opportunities for us to get involved with for our own professional development. (No performance related pay, either – hurrah!). John put together an incredible induction programme which was both informative and yet nurturing at the same time and Laura has just been an incredible support as I move into a more KS5 focused role. Giuseppe also gave me a dongle so I now have wifi at home so he is also now my hero. The staff this week have been on hand to help at every point and I’ve been asked countless times if I am ok yet they also leave you to breathe and crack on. It really couldn’t be more perfect.

Settling in

Yet forming relationships is a really interesting part of working internationally. When you begin a new school, there will be a number of new people who also join alongside you. There can be a tendency to unite as a group and form friendships really really quickly that are quite intense and full on. Fundamentally, staff can function as your family would back home. And it is was weird this time because I didn’t want to throw myself in as much and I could feel myself holding back. Maybe it is because I am older, maybe it is because I am an introvert. I definitely think I am a slow burner. So I’ve been more hesitant in joining the new group, who are lovely, because I want to take my time to settle in here. I also want to form friendships away from school so I am hoping to go to some of the expat events and meet Italians who can teach me Italian. Yesterday, I met one of the ladies who has an apartment on my floor. Her name is Rosa and she is 91. She was so lovely and told me if I needed anything just to knock on her door. I am determined that I am going to make friends with all the Nonnas in my apartment block so that they can cook me some traditional Italian grub!  Again, it is important to approach in a way that is comfortable to you and there is no doubt that a group of new people starting together really offers a comfort when you find yourself in a new country all alone.

Work begins

Now the work really begins. Thrown into the new IGCSE and the IB and all things IB related. Again, this can seem overwhelming. But it is important to take things day by day. There is a tension between learning a specification and the pressure (I put myself under) to maintain those incredible outcomes. And it will be hard graft in year 1 as these things happen. I’m incredibly excited for the challenge though and now can’t wait to meet my classes on Tuesday. I love the IGCSE spec and I love the IB so really looking forward to learning those over the course of the year.

The school are very relaxed about planning and how you approach things is up to you. Fundamentally, we are told what we are teaching and outcomes and then it is up to us. There is an almighty sense of freedom which is both amazing and scary. Now that I have settled in, I will return my focus in blogs to teaching and learning so watch this space.

And bookshelves…cor, I love me bookshelves

Yes, thanks to Emily and our trip to Ikea, I now have bookshelves and the lounge of my living room is beginning to take shape. It’s silly but it does make all the difference to create a home out of your apartment and I am really starting to feel at home. I still need two more bookshelves but already the difference is staggering.  I love my apartment and I love the area in which I live.


So all in all this week has been brilliant – induction, laptops, IPADs, drinks over Rome, meeting new people, excellent outcomes, brilliant HOD and department, trip to Ikea, dinner and drinks with DD, staff BBQ, new specs, shared planning, new classroom, free delicious lunch, Wi-fi, more vino and dinners out, fresh markets, brioche. LOVING LIFE.

Now it is time to meet the students…


Ciao Roma part 2

I’ve just finished my first week in Rome and what a week it has been!

My shipping arrived and although I culled 300+ books, I still seem to have a fair few.  These were just teaching resources I couldn’t part with and so, again, I am super grateful to my school for shipping them over.  I am also grateful to Next.  I am incredibly body conscious because I am fat.  A good size 16, mainly because of my butt and so at home I would live in denim and jumpers and hide as much of my body as possible.  Yet, in a country that is a consistent 32 degrees, this isn’t an easy thing to do.  So to Next, I thank you.  I now have a wardrobe filled to the brim with linen and am therefore feeling much cooler.

I was so anxious about my weight moving over to Rome with these idealistic pictures of Italian women in my head BUT living in a larger city means you get to see all shapes and sizes.  I’m not the biggest (I’m definitely not the smallest) and the heat means that you just got to get out there and have it on show!  I reckon I have probably sweated off a good stone at the moment just walking in the heat and seem to average 10000+ steps a day so in no time I am certain I will lose the weight.  The aim is 2-3 stone this year and I am determined this will happen.

However, I don’t think it matters what size or shape you are to be saved of an Italian pastime I had forgotten about: the Italian stare.  Boy do they stare.  It could be my size.  It could be my pasty white complexion.  It could be the sweat that is pouring off of me or it could just be the way things are.  I have, regardless, perfected my teacher stare for the streets with, at the very last moment, a sneaky smile snuck in which throws the Italians off guard.  It seems to work.

Don’t be fooled though!  One utterance in Italian, one pathetic attempt and they will thank you for it.  Every Italian I have conversed with has been utterly lovely and utterly patient.  My Italian is crap.  I have the basics but by god do I lose a conversation after the third word which is an interesting point after all the talk about vocabulary in England.  I now find myself in the same position.  The grammar and conversing is fine but you need the words first to be able to do it.  So inspired by Juliet Roberts (because who isn’t, quite frankly?) I go to my local cafe with an Italian newspaper and my Italian dictionary and try to deconstruct one newspaper article identifying the key words.  Impegnato – busy was the last one.  This is something I am determined about.  I am going to learn the language.  When I was given an English menu the other day, I asked for an Italian one because I need to learn (although I nearly did order crocodile so you do have to be careful!)  If you are put off moving to another country because of the language barrier, don’t be! I would recommend moving to a bigger city because everyone here speaks English- I am just determined not to let them speak it to me and learn Italian.

Which ties into where I live.  I live on the outskirts.  When I first got my job, I was asked where I wanted to live.  To be honest I had no clue.  I didn’t really know a lot about Rome having visited for a day only.  I knew I didn’t want a long commute after last year but also knew that I wanted to have easy access to the main station for those weekend getaways.  I also knew that the younger staff tended to live closer to the city and staff with families closer to the lake.  So I went half way.  A 25 minute commute on the metro to work and a 20 minute commute on the metro to the centre.  I love it.  I am out of the way of tourists – ironic I know – and the hustle and bustle and live within a true Italian community.  It is quieter and that suits me at my time of life, although I’m not dead yet.  There are fresh markets, supermarkets, a number of bars and restaurants and all the shops I need.  The price difference is also insane between where I live and the centre: 1 euro 90 for a cappuccino and brioche in my neighbourhood versus 5 euros for a cappuccino in the centre.  It is also a 10 minute walk to the metro which is wonderful.  250 euro for an annual pass compared to the 860 back home.  It’s quick, clean, air-conditioned and, for the most part, you can get a seat.

The key difference is the outside living.  The weather is beautiful and so the opportunities to be outside are abundant and this really does make a difference to your well-being.  This week the ferie- holidays- come to an end for Italians so everything will start to open again.  Italians take their holiday in August so many places are shut.

Having said this I have bedded into the Italian routine well.  I go out first thing before it gets really hot, take shelter around midday – may be with a siesta (I’m getting older) and then head out again early evening with most shops open to 7.30pm.  I have got used to making coffee (senza sugar) on the stove and sweep my floors continuously like all good Italian women do.  I’m eating lots of mozzarella, drinking lots of fresh juice and enjoying the odd glass of vino.

I have also now visited some of the key sites: Vatican, Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Parco Borghese and the Pantheon.  The Pantheon was absolutely stunning and I sat for a good hour marvelling at it.  And that’s it as Juliet Robert says in Eat Pray Love ‘I want to marvel again’ and what a week of marvelling it has been.

Next week (tomorrow) the real work begins.

Ciao Roma!

So I thought I’d write a little blog about my arrival in Rome. A bit of a diary but it could be useful for anyone considering a move abroad…

The whole experience is incredibly surreal.  I got my job at St George’s quite late in the day so the transition has been fast paced.  I handed my notice in with two days until the deadline so much of term 6 was ensuring things would tick by without me.

The first three weeks of the holiday were spent packing up a three-bedroom house.  By gosh, this was harder than I remember from the first time round.  You don’t realise how much stuff you generate over the years.  My advice would be to tackle one room at a time!  Sadly, you have to be ruthless and for me the two hardest things were giving up my cats (who have gone to a brilliant new home) and giving up 300+ books.  You just can’t take it all with you!  Have three bags at the ready – bin, charity/sell and ship.  This worked a treat and I maxed my bus pass out in the last few weeks, taking items to the charity shop.  I also maxed out Facebook.  The selling groups on Facebook are fantastic and it all helps because you can’t forget the fact that you are going to have to build from scratch again once you arrive in your new country.

My school were so supportive and helped to ship some of my items across which meant that I could take the bulk of my teaching resources and some well-chosen books.  I will be forever appreciative of this because not all schools are as generous.

Things to keep with you are items you need for topics you are teaching straight away and clothes!  The first time I moved to Italy, I can remember my suitcase weighed a ton (like 32kg) and I brought with me the most ridiculous amount of toiletries. My older wiser self had learnt that you can buy almost everything abroad. Do seek advice, however, on specific items. For example, paracetamol is very expensive in Italy so I brought a lot of paracetamol with me!

Also important to remember is that in your last few weeks, you will be in demand as family and friends will want to catch up with you one last time before you set off so ensure you leave plenty of time for this and say goodbye to everyone properly.

And then it was time for the off! Lugging two suitcases, a rucksack and a bag was an adventure, but help was at hand every step of the way and my new school organised for someone to meet me at the airport which was a brilliant relief. I spent the first night in a hotel as it was a Sunday and I didn’t want to inconvenience my new landlord/lady on a Sunday. I didn’t realise how close to the Vatican my hotel was so took a stroll and popped inside.

I’m not a religious person really but the churches in Italy are so stunning. There is such a sense of tranquillity and peace and calm as soon as you walk in. Even more so when you walk into the Vatican. There was a service of some kind going on and listening to the choir was just a moment. So beautiful.

I went for what I thought would be my dinner and ended up at a fab place where I ordered a cocktail. I forgot that in Italy when you order a drink, they bring you snacks. Except this place brought snack after snack after snack after snack. I ate pizza, pasta, risotto, bread…I was so full, I didn’t need to order dinner and the cocktails were fab too.

On the Monday I moved into my apartment. My landlord and landlady are fantastic. My landlady had sorted everything and then spoke with the gas and electric company which I was incredibly grateful for as my Italian is limited. My apartment is fantastic – it is so light and so bright and airy with so much room. As long as the commute works fine, I can’t see myself moving from here. The area I live in is great – there is a market 5 minutes away where I can buy all my fresh fruit and veg and fish and meat and shops lining a street. The metro is 10 minutes walk away so will be braving that over the next couple of days. It is perfect!

The first few days are spent organising yourself. There will be things you will need to buy for your new place and this isn’t always as easy as it sounds when you aren’t fluent in the language. Yesterday, I popped into TIM (phone/internet company) and was unbelievably lucky to come across a young man who spoke brilliant English and helped translate stuff for me. It was the same at the market – you suddenly realise how inadequate your knowledge of the language is even when you are trying to do the most basic of things – e.g. buying a bunch of grapes. But, for me, it is frustrating not to be able to speak the language and think quickly on my feet. I want to go beyond the functional and become fluent, which will take some time and practice and so will ensure I commit to do this.

It has been so lovely though to come across familiar loves once more. These range from simple brioche con crema which you cannot get in England and are so tasty to the incredible thunder storms in the afternoon/evening. My love for Italy is still deep and it really feels like I have come home.

And now I have a week until school starts with our induction programme. It may surprise people, but I am not going to rush to do any sight-seeing. This is because, I am not on holiday here (as I have to keep reminding myself). I live here now, and I would much rather spend the next couple of days getting to know my neighbourhood and bedding in. I also have a job to do and am spending some time, just like everyone else, getting ready for the academic year ahead. My job is my number 1 priority and I have all the time in the world to see the incredible sights that Rome has to offer. Also, it is incredibly hot at the moment and I need to give my body some time to adjust to the heat so intend to go into the centre of Rome at the weekend when it is cooler.

Tomorrow my shipping arrives and I cannot wait to unpack my books and finish getting myself sorted. Next week, I’m hoping to visit Ikea – I definitely need some bookshelves….

At the moment, I have to keep pinching myself that I am here, that this is happening to me. It all feels like a dream. I am genuinely happy and excited at the start of my Italian adventure – second time round. I have to thank Paul Ryan and Marco Gemelli for taking a chance on me and allowing me to come home.

To those of you who are thinking about taking a similar leap, do it. Life is too short to press the pause button.



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