I am not sure how to start this blog, largely because I really don’t want to do that “Hi, we’re Paul and Sarah, and we’re teachers!” thing. So, while we ARE Paul and Sarah, and we ARE teachers, I don’t really know the best way to impart that information, so I’ll move on. In 11 days, we will be leaving the UK to begin a new adventure: living and teaching in Shanghai.

Shanghai’s seal

We are extremely excited about it all, and so we’re going to use this oddly titled (more on that later) blog to keep our friends and family (plus anyone else who is reading this) up to speed with what we’re doing in ‘The Paris of the East’. This is apparently one of Shanghai’s nicknames, and I would like to reassure you all that I will not be using it again. A lot of you reading this will know us already, but in case you don’t, here’s a bit of background explaining who we are, and how we got to this point.

Sarah and I both studied English Lit at Newcastle University. We met at university in January 2004, just after Sarah had returned from a term at McGill University in Montréal (the Paris of Québec, possibly?). When the possibility of studying abroad had come up, I’d thought about applying and then sort of backed out in a ‘lazy student’ sort of way. I already regretted it a bit, but listening to Sarah talk about how much she’d enjoyed it really hit home what an amazing experience it had been. As early as our second date, (oh yes, having met her, I asked her out and she said yes which was brilliant) we talked about how amazing it would be to live abroad one day. We’re both interested in travel; but while we like being tourists, it was the thought of living abroad one day and becoming fully immersed in a new culture that really excited us.

Anyway, a quick summary of the next few years takes us to London, sees us quit our jobs and re-train as teachers, move back up to Newcastle, apply for a few jobs internationally only to be told we don’t have enough experience yet, move schools domestically, travel quite a lot, talk about moving abroad one day, get promotions and so stay put for a bit, and (most excitingly) get married. All of this was fairly adventurous in its own right; but the more our careers progressed domestically, the less likely it seemed that we would end up abroad. We both wanted to do it, in theory, but it was becoming easier and easier to find reasons to stay put. It’s amazing how quickly a comfort zone can be established, isn’t it? With the prospect of a future in which we talked sadly about how we’d ‘always wanted to do that but just never had the chance/time/etc’ hanging ominously in the background, along came the summer of 2015 and a driving tour around Europe which reminded us of how much we loved the adventure of being abroad. Upon returning home, we decided enough was enough, that talk was cheap, and that it was time to start being proactive about our careers in international teaching by actually trying to start them.

We got in touch with the Council of International Schools and saw that they had a recruitment conference in London in January 2016. While they’re not paying me to say this, I feel I really should say how helpful they were during the process of applying for a place at the conference. There’ll be time enough in the future for a more detailed blog about that process and how it all worked, but suffice to say it was a fantastic experience, and one which opened our eyes to a world of potential opportunity. We realised that just being at the conference gave us a kind of optimistic energy that we hadn’t even realised was missing. We were lucky enough to talk to Heads from right across the globe about their schools, and after a fairly intensive round of interviews, able to accept an offer from Dulwich College, Shanghai.


And so here we are, 11 days out from the start of a whole new chapter. That covers everything I wanted to cover in this first blog post, except for one question which I am anticipating and so will pre-emptively answer here:

Why call your blog ‘Take the Whole Chair’?

At the end of the school year in 2015, the year 13 students who were leaving did their ‘last day pranks’. As part of this japery, they stole the chair from my classroom. Well, they didn’t steal it so much as take it hostage and demand that I complete certain tasks before they would give it back. Once it had been returned, I was talking to one of my English Lit students (and heist mastermind) about the prank and she admitted that originally the plan was to just take the wheels off the chair. However, once they tried to take the wheels off, it became clear that this wasn’t going to work, so in her words “we just thought, ‘**** it, take the whole chair.’” As English Lit students, we are always keen to find metaphor in every nook and cranny, and so this instantly struck us both as quite a good motto for life – and was something I mentioned to Sarah as we sat in Five Guys in Soho (I really can’t recommend their burgers highly enough, by the way) trying to decide where we should go to begin our careers as international teachers. She agreed that we should take the whole chair, and so we did.

More soon, bye for now!



Author: PS

English teacher in Shanghai.

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