David Cooksey has taken up a post as principal of the brand new British International School of Uppsala in Sweden. Over the coming months he will share his diary with ISMP, documenting the joys and challenges of moving from his current home in Jordan to establishing a school at his new northern posting.
He is accompanied on his adventures by wife Mariam and his two Jordanian rescue cats, Clover and Coco.
July 14th, Uppsala, Sweden.
I am finally in Sweden. I arrived in the middle of a heatwave – it’s hotter here than it was when I left Jordan. What did I do to deserve this? It was hotter during the night than it normally is during the day at this time of year. I end up grappling with the window locks desperate from some cool air.
Now the furniture is going in, the British International School of Uppsala is at last beginning to look like there really will be a new school ready to take students on 19th August. I can remember the date easily enough, it’s my Dad’s 100th birthday and I won’t be there.
Because of Covid and all the travel restrictions we haven’t seen him since early 2020, the last time my wife Mariam and I were in England. That seems the best part of a lifetime ago now.
I have to get used to working Fridays again. Having been in Jordan for the past three years I’ve just got used to a different working week. Still, at least now I stand a chance of no longer getting Sunday and Monday mixed up.
“It’s costing us almost as much to move the cats as it is to move the two humans.”
I have a big discussion on the phone with the lady who is looking after moving our cats from Jordan to Sweden. That’s the thing that has worried me the most, moving the cats. It’s also costing us almost as much to move those two as it is to move the two humans.
But they’re our babies and worth every penny. They are a pair of Jordanian street cats who speak English and not Arabic and are moving from the desert to (nearly) the Arctic Circle. I wonder if they realise what’s about to happen to them. They’re definitely not going to be happy when they find out.
I have been using some of the time to meet prospective parents. A school tour had to be cancelled because the lock was broken on the building, but they seemed happy to chat with me on a picnic bench and talk about life in general.
“Showing a teacher around the building, I felt rather like a proud dad showing off his new baby for the first time.”
I have also got to meet one of my new teachers for the first time. Everyone I’ve appointed so far has been based on a Zoom interview so to actually meet one of them for real was a nice change.
I even had the chance to finally show them around the British International School of Uppsala and felt rather like a proud dad showing off his new baby for the first time. It was nice to see someone else as enthusiastic about the place as I am.
I think that we’ve now been given a fantastic opportunity to rethink how and what we teach these children. I always say to people: look at a school gate at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning with a bunch of 5-year-olds who can’t wait to get in the gate. Fast forward to 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, the same school gates but this time a bunch of 15-year-olds who can’t wait to get out.
“It’s exciting but at the same time terrifying; I don’t want to let students, staff and parents down.”
What do we do to these young people in the course of those 10 years that completely flips them? I now have the chance to do something about it. It’s exciting but at the same time terrifying; all these people – students, staff, parents, all looking at me and all waiting for me. I hope I don’t let them down.
The rest of the week disappears in a flurry of emails, plans for open days, and chasing up late payers (“Oh, sorry, I thought the invoice was due in August”). I’m now doing all the stuff that has been done by other people in the past. And house hunting in the evenings so the days are long.
I have an hour on Skype every night with Mariam, who is still in Jordan, and annoy the cats because they can hear my voice but can’t work out where I am. Still, I will be back to Jordan on Saturday for the final push.
I’ve made an exciting start to my next big adventure and can’t wait for the school to open in a few weeks.