Casino teacher Timothy Walsh dressed for the winter chill in front of the spires of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.
Casino teacher Timothy Walsh dressed for the winter chill in front of the spires of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.

Teaching in Russia a test

WHACKING a cricket ball over the Kremlin’s spires was not on his sporting agenda, nor Aussie Rules on ice in the middle of a bleak Russian winter, but for Casino’s Timothy Walsh his physical education classes in Moscow have been a challenge.

The teacher accepted a job in Moscow 12 months ago, but left the minus-25Celsius chill to holiday back at the family home overlooking the Richmond River.

After studying physical education and modern history, Timothy went into teaching with a plan to have a trade that would make him employable in Australia and overseas so he could travel.

While teaching in Brisbane he applied for and was accepted to teach sport at the International School of Moscow, which is located on the 1980 Olympics site.

Timothy lives in a post revolution walk-up apartment building whose previous residents included former Soviet-era political leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov.

With a love of history, a passion he shares with his father, Casino lawyer Peter Walsh, Timothy was easily enticed to Russia.

Despite not speaking the language, Timothy was undaunted because it was too good an opportunity for his professional development, combined with the financial incentives and being a great kick-start for his dream to travel.

As the head of the school’s phys-ed department he designs the programs his Russian and overseas students use

The children he teaches are not only Russian, but of mixed parentage from affluent backgrounds who have drivers to take them to school in European brand luxury cars.

Their sheltered upbringing isolates them from some of harsher realities of life experienced by the majority of struggling Russians.

Timothy says the children also aren’t as independent as the Australian children he has taught.

“It takes longer to push these children into independence. In Australia we value independent thought. It takes children over there longer to do that.”

Timothy readily acknowledges his school is different to the experiences of every-day Russian school children between the ages of seven and 17.

There is no prep school for youngsters and the length of school education is shorter.

Compared with the Northern Rivers lifestyle, Timothy has discovered it snows in Moscow for six months of the year.

So he has had to adapt to the Muscovite reality of leading a life spent mostly indoors, wearing up to four layers of clothes, and keeping his students active indoors.

“You go outside (in winter) only when you need to go out.

You go quickly as you would literally freeze, whereas our culture is about living outdoors. But in summer Muscovites take advantage of being outdoors, enjoying riding and walking in the parks.”

Timothy is still coming to grips with the sheer physical size of Moscow and its millions of residents, but enjoys the ease of getting around using the hundreds of train stations on its vast underground metro network.

“They call them the palaces of the people. Some are very ornamental and beautifully decorated,” he said.

With so much ‘living history’ around him, and depending on the season, Timothy and his partner Anna Sanderson spend their weekends exploring and sightseeing, utilising the winter months to visit Moscow’s world-famous galleries and museums.

“Russia is still raw and is a challenge. Things don’t get done easily, which is half the fun,” he said.

Following his family break, Timothy returns to the freezing Russian winter for another year of teaching.

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