Blog Article: My Time at BHS

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

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By Caleb Warren-Smith

My time at Brummana High School was challenging, enriching and enjoyable. Fresh out of completing my MA degree from the University of Edinburgh, I travelled 4,000 kilometres to face an entirely new challenge in Lebanon. I had studied Islamic and Middle Eastern history at university and was eager to dive into the cultural fabric of Lebanese life. I believed the best way to do this was to teach at a school and so when the opportunity to work at BHS arose, I readily accepted. I immediately found BHS to be an incredibly welcoming and flexible school environment with helpful staff and friendly pupils, all set within a picturesque hillside campus.

From my first week of term I was thrown into school life with a busy schedule of classes and after school clubs. I had come to teach English and coach the rugby team yet I soon found myself teaching Computer to a cohort of Upper Elementary students. This was an assignment which took some getting used to, however, I soon began to enjoy my weekly sparring with Grades 4 & 6. It is a special feeling being a subject teacher to a class, being able to see students proactively exchange ideas and form bonds between each other and with me was something I came to truly value. This experience also allowed me to become much more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people and adapting my delivery to suit an audience – engaging a class of 8 year-olds for 50 minutes isn’t always easy!

I spent over half of my weekly teaching hours in the wonderful EFL/SFL department. This ranged from teaching English Language to History and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to engage with a variety of subject areas. Unlike the mainstream classes, the SFL lessons were often one-on-one and it taught me the skill of adapting teaching material to suit individual contexts and learning needs. It was very gratifying seeing the development of students in an area they had previously struggled. BHS is a school unlike many others I’ve been a part of in that the teachers and the students are incredibly close both inside and outside of the classroom. This is something which I believe makes BHS such a special place, and perhaps why my biggest take away from my experience was just of how fun teaching was.

However, the role I enjoyed most at my time at BHS was in coaching the rugby team. It was incredibly satisfying being able to take a group of largely novice players and, with the help of the other coaches, guide them towards being capable and intelligent rugby players. The biweekly training sessions soon became the highlight of my school week. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share my knowledge of the game, learn coaching techniques from the other coaches and also put the students through their paces with weekly fitness sessions. I shall never forget the two tournaments I watched the teams play in against other schools and the pride I felt in how far they had come – the maturity, intelligence, commitment and athleticism display by the team was a real credit to the school.

It would be remiss of me to talk of my time at BHS and not mention Boarding. I lived in Edinburgh House for the entirety of my time at BHS and thoroughly enjoyed living amongst and getting to know the boarders under the all-seeing eye of Rabih Aouad, the Head of Boarding. It was nice to be able to relax with the boarders in the evening by having dinner, watching tv, playing table tennis, basketball or going to the gym. I was very well looked after with a spacious ensuite room overlooking a pine forest and receiving three meals a day and more from the school kitchen. Living in boarding made working in school incredibly convenient and it also provided the perfect springboard for me to enjoy the rest of what Brummana had to offer. I shall miss my frequent runs up to Mar Chaaya and the views over Beirut from the monastery, and with the Lebanese capital being just a short ride away, I was frequently able to head down to play touch rugby in the week and see friends at the weekend.

There is so much to see and do in Lebanon and I really valued my weekends off exploring everything the country had to offer. I would frequently go off travelling around and with such cultural and geographic variation in the country, I could be at the beach one week and hiking or skiing in the mountains the next. In addition to this, Brummana served as a convenient base from which to go and socialise with friends in Beirut and enjoy all that the Mar Mikhael nightlife had to offer. However, at the end of every weekend, I was always glad to be back in the hills enjoying the views, the clean air and the smell of pine that is so synonymous with Brummana.

I am writing this from the confines of a flat in Edinburgh as Spring brings the trees into blossom. I imagine much like everyone back in Lebanon, I am restricted to the flat save for my daily run around Holyrood Park (perhaps Edinburgh’s answer to the cityscapes and sea views I so loved from Mar Chaaya). I miss Brummana and I miss the freedoms we all once enjoyed but a few weeks ago, however, I take solace in that these difficult times will pass. I am incredibly thankful to BHS for being so flexible and allowing me to leave Lebanon early before the airport shut to be back amongst my loved ones.

However, these challenging days will pass and I am sorry to be missing the exciting advancements the school will make in the near future. The Thursday Talks evening lecture series, the BHS Botanic Garden project and the new BHS Sports Arena are all fantastic opportunities for the school to reach out and be more than just a hub of academic excellence. I hope the coming of the new facilities ushers in a wave of prosperity at an extracurricular level, and I shall be keeping close tabs on how the rugby teams fare in as they host their inaugural tournament on the new turf. I owe much to the kind staff, the pupils and the community that took me in and allowed me such personal growth and an array of new and exciting opportunities in my time there. As an institution, BHS has a lot to look forward to and I look forward to returning to see how well the school is doing in the near future.