Of All the Schools in Bucharest, BSB Stands Out

An interview with Carl Helps, Class Teacher and Primary Maths Curriculum Coordinator

Carl Helps joined the British School of Bucharest in 2019, as a Primary School Teacher and our Primary Maths Coordinator. Carl attended Liverpool Hope University, where he obtained his BA (Hons) in Sports Studies and subsequently completed his Postgraduate Certificate in Education with Masters level at Keele University. Carl started his teaching career nine years ago. He gained experience in the UK and joined us from his first International British school posting in Jordan, where he was a teacher for Year 5 and Year 6. He was also Upper Key Stage 2 Phase Lead, overseeing both these year groups' planning, and the delivery of the curriculum using the UK National Curriculum framework.

Why did you go into teaching?

Becoming a teacher was not my first career choice. From a young age, I wanted to be a police officer. I was (and still am) fascinated by criminology, and I wanted a job that felt like I was making a difference. When I reached the age where I could apply, I discovered that my eyesight did not meet the requirements, and as a result, I had to choose a new career path. Thankfully, I had always volunteered and enjoyed working with children and therefore felt that the next best career in making a difference would be by becoming a teacher.

What made you want to join BSB?

Having worked in an international school in the Middle East, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and excitement of living in a new country and wanted to do so again. However, I wanted to be a little closer to England, as I have a huge family, with which I love spending quality time with - especially my nieces and nephews – who are all growing up too quickly. Joining BSB meant that I had the perfect opportunity to work in an international school, but also be able to visit my family a little more. Of course, out of all the schools in Bucharest, BSB stood out. Not only because of the beautiful buildings but also because of its value of being a community-spirited school. I have always worked in smaller schools, where you feel like part of a family, and this is extremely important to me as a teacher.

In how many countries have you lived?

I first worked in England, then in the Middle East where I worked in Jordan and now, of course, Romania.

Which school, where you have taught, was most different to BSB? From a cultural and sociological point of view.

My first teaching post in England was at a small school close to where I grew up, and as a result, I taught some children whose parents were my classmates. Apart from making me feel exceptionally old, I also felt quite privileged.

The school was situated in a developing area, and unfortunately, when I started at the school, it was not achieving as well as it could be. But with a lot of hard work, excellent guidance, and outstanding determination, resilience and dedication shown by the children, parents and staff, the school improved immensely. Ultimately, it was recognised for not only its academic achievements but also for how much it contributed to the community. I definitely learnt a lot from my experiences there, which undoubtedly shaped me into the teacher I am today.

What do you believe is the most important thing to understand when trying to teach pupils in the Primary stages?

Learning is a journey. In Primary, you are bombarded with new information every single day, and it takes time for this to embed. Therefore, you revisit things again and again and again and sometimes, again. Eventually, it's there, as a little golden nugget of knowledge, that you can use whenever you need it. Even as an adult, I find myself scratching my head when solving maths problems or checking over my spelling - they're hard! My learning journey is ongoing, and this is the same for the children in Primary.

In your opinion, how does Maths help a child’s personal development in Primary Years?

In my opinion, Maths helps children understand and make sense of their world around them. By developing an understanding of Maths in Primary Years, prepares children for a bright future. It introduces them to concepts, critical thinking and essential problems solving strategies, and that can be transferred into other areas of life. For me, when I find Maths tricky, I like to imagine a world without Maths and picture all the things that I wouldn't or couldn't understand or make sense of. What would the purpose of a rugby game be? How many brothers and sisters do I have? How much did that object cost? How much medicine do I need when I'm ill? All this reminds me of the importance of Maths and how we can't live without it. This is what I try to help the children understand, as I know how invaluable Maths will be for the future of everyone I teach.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

When I couldn't be a police officer, I reflected on what I had done in my life and who had helped and supported me. I thought about all the fantastic teachers that had guided and inspired me when I was in school. Those teachers that had gone the extra mile sat next to me and helped me understand difficult concepts, supported me and helped shape the person I am today. I have nothing but happy memories of my teachers. If you ask any of my family or friends (or my class at the beginning of the year), they will tell you how terrible I am at remembering names - not the best quality for a teacher! But I do remember those teachers' names vividly, some of whom taught me 31 years ago.

If you weren’t a full-time teacher, what would your dream job be?

Knowing that I can’t be a police officer, I think my next dream job would have to be in the medical field. Of course, being a doctor would be exciting, but I like the idea of being a paramedic and dealing with many different people under different circumstances every day.

What are you enjoying most about Bucharest so far?

Bucharest is a beautiful city, especially the old town. It is full of history and character and has so many places to visit and explore - I am only at the beginning of my adventure, and I can't wait to see more and more of it.

And finally: tell us something unexpected about yourself.

On the day that I was invited for an interview at BSB, I had to postpone, as I was on my way to the starting point to compete in 242km relay race, from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. The race began at 4pm, meaning that my team and I ran throughout the night. The roads were pitch black, and we were surrounded by nothing but sand. Thankfully, I complete the race without too many injuries and did so with great success - as we finished in second place!

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