On the roadschooling road again…


The original plan for our time in Europe was to homeschool/roadschool M, giving us flexibility to travel and because we couldn’t afford international school fees. However the first month in Spain convinced us that enrolling her in a local school would provide more opportunities to meet other kids, as well as being a much cheaper option for learning Spanish (private tutors wanted €30+ per hour!). We also discovered enrolling her in school would help me obtain my non-EEA family member residency card.

The walk to school

So we found ourselves seeking a school…

First of all, let me explain Nerja is small, mostly populated by elderly expats (friends of ours in their 50s tell me they feel like ‘yoofs’ here), and east of Malaga. This means there is very little info online for parents. Additionally, searching in English produces limited results – we struggled to even locate some schools on Google maps. Posting to the local expat Facebook group received a handful of vague replies as expat/migrant families who are here are either old, or long-term Spanish residents, i.e. they moved to Nerja after living elsewhere in Spain.*

So we had to search for a school ‘on foot’. We started at the school where a work colleague’s child attended, but they had no vacancy. Across the road at Nueva Nerja it was the same story. Here, fate intervened in a bad way, as they kept telling us to try a school with a name we could not understand (it sounded like Whack Him Her Error), but as we already had 2 other schools on our list, we thought we’d try them first before searching for a school we couldn’t even say the name of. We’ve since discovered this (Joaquin Herrera) is the best of an or’nery bunch, and the only school in Nerja offering any form of Spanish language support.**

M ended up at the next school we came across, the local Catholic school. They were initially very receptive, seemed cleaner and friendlier than the state schools (although for an Aussie parent the sporting and playground facilities are abysmal compared to home. But that’s for another post), and most importantly had space for her. The Director spoke no English, so the 3rd grade teacher left her class (unsupervised!) to talk to us. We came back the next day to complete the paperwork. It took over an hour, and again she was asked to leave her class (2 storeys above the admin office) to translate the forms for us. I cannot imagine this occurring anywhere I’ve worked – including China.


The school is the only one in Nerja with a uniform, and the frustrating process of trying to obtain the uniform should have been an omen. M missed half an hour of her first class while we waited for the parent who coordinated it to finish chatting, only to be told she had only 1 pair of shorts & a shirt available, and we’d have to order the rest in, and it would probably take a few months to arrive (from Malaga?? It’s an hour’s drive!). We did manage to find some 2nd-hand uniforms, and met a lovely family in the process, so things were looking up.***

I spent the first day in agony, waiting for the 2 o’clock finish, because we simply had no idea what to expect. Fortunately M came home over the moon, having made a lovely friend who spoke English/Spanish on the first day. This little girl pretty much carried M through her 3 months at the school. On days when her friend was away, M pretty much just sat there, wondering what was going on and was ignored by the teacher.


Right, time to shift my little homeschooler off her laptop. More about the joys of the Spanish (actually, I should say “Andalucian”) education system to come…

*I would not recommend Nerja for first-time expats unless you or your children are already fluent in Spanish.

**Nb: we didn’t move to Spain expecting the government to bend over backwards for us. Also, we did not plan to move to Spain – we are supposed to be in Germany. So we did not have as much time as other expats to research and prepare. Saying that (and I will rant at length in another post), as an education professional who knows firsthand the expectations placed on classroom teachers and schools to provide language support for migrant children in English speaking countries, I am fairly disgusted with Andalucia.

***This family had recently moved their daughter to Joaquin Herrera after some serious bullying incidents at our school. We panicked a bit, but at this point figured we had already organised everything so we would wait and see. Again, fate! We may have been able to switch schools at this early stage 😦



The most important place in town

I’m missing public libraries enormously. There were a lot of sensible reasons for moving back to a school library job, but they faded before the end of the first week. I miss my community. I miss working with other staff. I miss my networks, who haven’t really gone far, but I’m just not part of the crowd any more.

One of the those excellent reasons was to find out whether school libraries were my ‘calling’ and I’d just had some negative experiences, or if public libraries were really my niche.

It is well and truly the latter.

One of the things I used to do while I was a student teacher was gaze longingly out of the window (while I should have been planning to teach Shakespeare to Year 10) at parents, cars driving past, bin men, and longing to be “out there” in the real world.

15 years later I find myself once again staring out the window.

The other realisation I have made is that my skills, my abilities, my ‘talents’ if you will, are best suited for public libraries. There are reasons my most recent job (in a public library) was the longest I’ve ever stayed in one workplace. I LIKED IT. I WAS GOOD AT IT.

So, here I am in the 2nd month of a 2 year contract, wondering what an earth I have gotten myself into!

Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town

School and one week down

We have survived our first week.  Luckily we ran into someone from school’s HR as we were walking out the gate to the beach yesterday as turns out she had all the other new teachers on a bus to take us for phone and bank setup.  Heads up would’ve been good!!

Feeling a lot more connected now I have a Chinese mobile, but apparently the one the school have arranged for us has really crap data (we checked, it does) but we have to wait a month before we can get another SIM.  Mine seems to text and slooooowwwlly surf the web, but it won’t call certain numbers.

New staff induction for the second half of the week.  The school has been here since 2006 but this building was only constructed in 2011.  The school has gone “up a level” each year – this year we are up to level 4 and there are 2 more above that.

School playground, looking down to local school
School playground, looking down to local school

Got my first glimpse of my library, and me my new assistant, who it turns out is not my assistant (although she would fit this description in Australia) but is actually the “Senior Librarian” while I am the “School Librarian” or “Teacher Librarian”.  A little…interesting, but we shall just roll with that for the time being.

3 new expat teachers and their groceries
3 new expat teachers and their groceries

Have had dinner out a lot so far as we still haven’t quite got all we need to cook at home, despite the nearest supermarkets being a lot better than what we had access to locally in Ningbo.

So glad we don’t have to sit on a bus for an hour to get to a decent shop, although it sounds like a lot of the clothing stores are on the Qingdao side.

Had street BBQ with a few of the teachers the other night – great food and nobody got sick, hooray!

Street BBQ - amazing
Street BBQ – amazing
Street BBQ - literally in the street
Street BBQ – literally in the street
Street BBQ - the hot fridge
Street BBQ – the hot fridge


To encyclopaedia, or not encyclopaedia?

In other matters: I want to buy an encyclopedia set before Christmas.  I did post this to the Oztl discussion list a while back and received a mixed response, including the following gem:

ningbo worldbook

Our library has been challenged as to whether any encyclopedia is necessary, as we have access to wikipedia. This from someone at the head of educational policy here!!!!! TL – NSW

Gar.  I have had a few challenges to the idea, the first from the Principal who wanted to know why we needed one when we had internet access.  Another teacher thought it would be unecessary expense.  Interestingly this teacher was from lower primary.  Other teachers – especially those in the senior classes, are really keen for any reference material in the library.

This is one of my main reasons for pursuing this.  We currently have so little in Non-Fiction/Reference that no matter how many books I purchase I will still just be scratching the surface.  With changes in teachers we also face changes in topics.  An encyclopedia is the best way I can think to cover everything and do it quickly.  From that base we can continue to build up other resources.

I’m also keen (when computers do make their way into the library) to provide access to an online encyclopedia – another version, so kids can see the differences in coverage and viewpoint.

I am also keen to demonstrate to kids that the computer is not the font of all wisdom.  I anticipate these encyclopedias being pretty popular.  It will be interesting to see how long it is before they start wandering upstairs…

I’m leaning towards World Book as that is what my last school were using.  I seem to recall their 2009 copy costing thousands but I’ve found a 2009 set on Amazon for about $900.  I think we have a copy of Encarta floating around somewhere so maybe that will be our online version…

Housekeeping, Chinese style

“We don’t clean walls in China, we paint them!”


I had asked for some creme cleanser and a cloth to clean the grimy handprints off the large, white pillars that surround the library.  First the ayi went off her nut when Library Aide D asked her for cloths (apparently she said “I don’t have any, ask the office” but there was a LOT of shouting and it went on for ages and D was still shouting as she went back to the office…)

So now we are painting the pillars.  I don’t mind painting them in fact I am keen for them to be painted.  I do have a strong desire for them to be painted/cleaned/whatever BEFORE the end of time…and without having to leap over half a million plainly bizarre excuses.  I should be getting used to it, but honestly, ‘we don’t have non-toxic paint suitable for painting near children in the whole of China’ and ‘yes, I know red and blue make purple but they don’t mix paint here.’

We have purple ceilings in every classroom.

Every classroom.