04 Dec 2018

UK teaching exchange: a life-changing opportunity

PDHPE Teacher James Walsh spent a year at Dulwich College in south London as part of a teaching exchange. Black and White caught up with him to learn more about the experience and how it has impacted his work now that he is back on campus at Newington.

What did you teach at Dulwich College?

Physical Education

What inspired you to take part in the exchange?

The chance to step outside of my comfort zone by teaching a different curriculum in a different country. My wife Jenna and I have always been curious about living abroad and therefore the chance to live on Europe’s doorstep in one of the most marvellous cities in the world was a once in a lifetime opportunity we couldn’t say no to. We made a pact to say yes to everything and spend every cent we earnt to ensure we had the most incredibly memorable year ever. We did just that!

What were the similarities between your exchange school and Newington?

Both Dulwich and Newington are well established and respectable independent boys’ schools with long, proud histories. Both schools place great emphasis on academics, co-curricular and sport pursuits as well as educating the whole boy. Boys enjoy coming to PE/PDHPE lessons and sport sessions as they know it is fun, challenging and there are many associated lifelong benefits attached.

What were some of your favourite moments about your visit?

  • Arriving for Dulwich on my first day and feeling that sense of being new, unsure and nervous again.
  • Making new, strong, lifelong friendships with great people. The British are the most hospitable people – we were treated like a part of the family and it made our time at Dulwich truly special.
  • The chance to teach a different curriculum, learn from new people and bring back new ideas.
  • The time to reflect on why, how and what we do at Newington.
  • Being invited onto two school trips – a football tour to San Sebastian, Spain and a Skiing trip to Sestriere, Italy.
  • Having our families visit for three weeks at Christmas.
  • The opportunity to travel extensively through Europe & America – New York/Boston and Hvar in Croatia were highlights!
  • Numerous Snow days.
  • A tour of Lords with a retired English test player (Ashes winner and centurion at Lords, Bill Athey).

How has this Professional Development opportunity impacted your work now that you are back at Newington?

The staff at Dulwich pride themselves on working hard, much like everyone at Newington. They also place great emphasis on using the breaks in the day and after school hours to stop work, enjoy each other’s company and socialising together. Given that their total curriculum is Physical Education, I have brought back (shamelessly borrowed) numerous ideas of how we can improve our practical units in PDHPE. It reaffirmed how important my role is as a coach and teacher and how influential I can be in the lives of many young boys. It has given me clarity about where I want to go and what I want to achieve in my career and I look forward to doing that here at Newington.

As a parting word, Jenna and I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Dr Mulford and the Newington community for allowing and supporting such a life-changing opportunity. We learnt so much, personally and professionally and are different people having had the experience. If any staff member is considering an exchange, please come and chat as I would be happy to twist your arm and tell you to do it!


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