This is an 'old but gold blog' that I wrote for another blog but thought I'd share on here so that you can get a better idea of my background and how I came to be a teacher. I hope you enjoy it.
Tell us about you before you came into teaching: your own experience of school,
If you told me that I would be a primary school teacher whilst I was studying in secondary school, I would have laughed and continued playing basketball.
Education was often something I thought about second. I was much more interested in hobbies such as basketball, swimming and playing in a band. Because my mum was a teacher, the thought of the long hours and paperwork put me off the idea of teaching completely.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to do something where I could help. I didn’t really have the best start at A levels. As a result, I dropped out and took a BTEC Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care, with an aim of becoming a paramedic, nurse, police officer, or fireman. I really didn’t have a clue. After a day in college, I would work part-time as a lifeguard and started to teach swimming. On the day I started typing up my personal statement for a university to become an Operating Department Practitioner, I realised I didn’t actually have a clue what the job entailed and had no interest in health care. I happened to discuss this with a family friend whose daughter I taught to swim and she asked the right questions to get me to reconsider teaching.
Tell us about your route into teaching: what is your current role? subjects led? number and type of schools? year groups taught? additional responsibilities/qualifications?
From that discussion, I decided to volunteer in a school and LOVED it! Everyday was full of a happy moment of some sort and I realised that teaching was something I was passionate about. I realise that the story above isn’t the traditional route into teaching but the rest is quite normal. I studied BA (Hons) with QTS at Edge Hill University for three years, an experience I will never forget. During this time, I was lucky that placements offered were local to my area. This subsequently led to me landing my first job at a school I had done placement at.
I spent my NQT year and RQT year teaching in the UK. Despite no experience in Upper Key Stage 2, I spent my first year teaching Year 5/ 6 which was a steep learning curve followed by my RQT taking the Year 5s up to Year 6 in a school with a high proportion EAL with some children who had difficult upbringings within the local area. In my RQT year I was given the role of Humanities coordinator which suits me and I continue this role now.
I made the decision to teach internationally because, well, why not was more the reason for me. I had no reason not to try something different. My international school is significantly larger than the one at home but has incredible resources and facilities that enable me to utilise my qualifications as a swimming and basketball coach while teaching in Year 3.
Tell us about teaching internationally. Is it much different than teaching in the UK?
Teaching internationally is quite similar to teaching in the UK but there are differences.
One of the biggest questions I get is: Is it easier? To that, I always answer yes and no. The hours that I put into teaching with international teaching are generally longer. I’m up much earlier (5AM) and typically, the school day is officially longer. That said, being an international school, there are more specialist lessons. As a result, I find that I have a smaller amount of time during the day to complete admin and planning tasks, something typically completed in my own time as PPA is often minimal. International teaching does come with pressure as many schools are private schools. This means parent’s expectations are understandably higher.
At the same time, I do find that there is a benefit to this as parents generally can’t do enough to support their children
Tell us about your classroom persona: how do you provide an effective and supportive learning environment? what would a typical day look like in your classroom?
Full of beans? I always find this question difficult to answer. I find that children retain information more when they’re engaged through fun, practical activities. Humour plays a part in the classroom. I’m that teacher who stands on the table during a prepositions lesson or throws a ball around the classroom to get responses.
I strongly believe in the importance of a collaborative environment to enable children to share ideas and learn from one another through peer assessment and feedback. In a lively classroom, effective behaviour for learning is critical.
Strict but fair, is a mantra shared by an old mentor which forms the foundation of my classroom. The most important thing to me is relationships. It’s key to ensure I know when children may have ‘off days’ and how I can cater for them.
What is your favourite thing about teaching?
That no day is different because no child is the same. I couldn’t work in a repetitive job. Being a lifeguard immediately taught me that. I love that children bring amazing, different personalities into school and I am blessed with the opportunity to see them grow each day, knowing that I have the opportunity to sculpt their future.
Outside of teaching, what does Dubai have to offer to maintain a work-life balance and wellbeing?
Where to start… Beaches, sun, brunches, pool days, waterparks, HUGE malls, and theme parks, are all within a half-hour drive at most. I do find the significant impact on my own well-being is the sun. Coming out of school or looking outside to the blue sky is a good ‘pick me up’ especially if your day has been difficult.
What's your top tips for trainee, newly qualified and early career teachers?
My biggest takeaway from my NQT year was a lesson from my mentor (an experienced teacher) who said that she, in many ways, was always learning. I realised then that I will always technically be an NQT in some way.
No one has it mastered. You’ll see teachers on ‘the gram’ who appear to be perfect but the sooner you open up to the idea of continual development and minimise the idea of perfectionism the better you become. Always seek to improve on something yourself.
It doesn’t have to be a set target. Ask to watch people teach. Teaching is a magpie profession where you will get amazing ideas from seeing other teachers, not just through social media.
My other biggest tip is don’t be afraid to say no. Ways to say no include: no, no thanks, thanks but not at the moment, or my personal favourite, yes but what would you like me to prioritize to complete that task.
You might also find my guide to support teachers with getting their first teaching job useful.
What are your hopes/aims for your career?
Whether they be short, medium- or long-term goals?
Short term: Seek to be the best teacher I can be by learning from others and researching. Remember the point from above.
Medium term: Give back to other teachers as a mentor figure, whether that be in leadership or through consultancy.
Long term: To develop education by promoting collaborative innovation worldwide… (somehow)
If you're interested in becoming a teacher in Dubai, I highly recommend checking out the guides that I have created to support the process. Guide 1 will support you with understanding the process and getting a job out here in Dubai.
Alternatively, if you have a job lined up already, Guide 2 will support you with the move.