A day at Highshore - Andre Bienkowski

Andre Bienkowski, our Catering Manager at Yahoo spent a day assisting the teachers at Highshore School and shares his heartfelt experience with us.

We have been working with the lovely folks at Highshore School for almost two years now. They help children with complex educational needs and provide them with the skills and opportunities needed to progress to employment.

We have had several of their students come in for work experience in our kitchens. We also have one student working with our hospitality team one day a week at our client Yahoo - which we have shared with you before. For us this is a meaningful way of offering our help and expertise and making a real impact on the lives of these students. It is indeed heartwarming to follow their progress.

All JH team members are offered a paid day off to pursue voluntary work  of their liking and Andre chose to spend his ‘Volunteering day’ helping the teachers at Highshore.  

Here is his account of his day at Highshore!

For the last 6 months or so, Bradley from Highshore, has been part of my team, on work experience one day per week. It has been a mutually beneficial experience for everyone in my team and Bradley himself. Seeing Bradley become more comfortable in his duties and around us, develop his skills, try new tasks, gain confidence and mature into being fully independent (he now travels to and from work alone) has been fantastic.

Working with Bradley and then meeting his class on their ‘Business links’ visit to Yahoo earlier in the year, made a strong impression on me. I was keen to pay a visit to Highshore School. I wanted to learn more about the students there, the teachers and the challenges that they all face. Taking the opportunity of Just Hospitality’s staff benefit of a ‘Volunteering day’, was the perfect response to this. And on Friday 21st April 2017 I left Yahoo, to spend the day at Highshore School in Camberwell.

Despite having teaching experience (2 years teaching TEFL to middle school students in Seoul, South Korea) I had no prior school experience with complex or mixed abilities and I did not really know what to expect. As such, I was a little nervous approaching the school and it brought back those moments of taking ones first steps into school, university or a new job.

Nick Clark met me first thing in the morning and I was given a quick tour, introduced to the teachers in their staffroom during the daily briefing and given my schedule. My day was split into three - joining 11M in the morning, 10M before Lunch and 11L after lunch for the final session. Literacy, Numeracy, PE, Life Skills and Yoga were my lessons.

I got to see a normal day at the school and was so lucky to join a cross section of abilities and age groups. I really appreciated the planning that went into my experience. Every group was so welcoming and patient with me despite my awkwardness or questioning! Whilst each class was so different in its characters, all the students were equally warm and welcoming or completely un-phased by my presence. By this I felt complimented, it was like I’d been there for months and my nerves from the start of the day vanished within seconds of entering the first lesson. I felt accepted and really felt like I was able to experience a normal day at school.

I don’t feel comfortable writing in detail about the individual students, teachers or the classes - I will save those anecdotes for face to face conversations. But without exception, with every group I was in total awe of the delightful teachers, teachers assistants and students in each class. The challenges faced in each lesson were so diverse, yet everyone was so impressive in how they conducted themselves.

Apart from all of the lovely people that I met, the one stand out and lasting impression I took from the day was the delightful compassion, empathy, patience and smiley faces that I saw everywhere. My memories of my own school days are so positive but I associate all school life with elements of cheekiness, teasing or even nastiness at times. At Highshore though, the old adage of ‘kids are so mean’ was nowhere to be seen. Everyone was just so nice and considerate of one another, with smiles everywhere. Students from different years and age groups all accepted and appreciated each other. Highshore is an exceptional place.

Thank you to Head teacher Eileen, Nick Clark and the senior team at JH for enabling the experience to happen. It will be one I never forget. I was honoured to get a brief insight to Highshore and hope to have the opportunity to help out or be more involved in the future."

We would like this relationship with Highshore School strengthen further and will continue with efforts towards this.

If you are interested in knowing more about what they do or how you can help at Highshore School, do get in touch with them