I’m from Ireland and I arrived in the UAE 9 years ago, straight out of university. I wanted to work, to travel and to meet new people so I took a chance and a job at a school in Ras Al Khaimah.
Deira International School (DIS) is my third school in the UAE, and I have been here for five years. I was initially attracted to this school by its huge potential and it hasn’t disappointed! The school has invested heavily in my personal development, I am now an IB Diploma examiner and I am just about to complete my Master’s Degree in Finance and Economics. My current role is IB Diploma Co-ordinator, something I was appointed to after a number of years in the IB Career Programme team.
Since joining them IB Diploma team, I have looked at leveraging what we can do within the Al Futtaim Group [Deira International School is owned and managed by the not-for-profit Al Futtaim Education Foundation, itself a member of the multi sector Al Futtaim Group].
What my experience in the IB Career Programme team taught me is that as a qualification it provides a great balance between academic and vocational learning. I think that I was appointed to the IB Diploma Co-ordinator role because I want to bring that career related focus into the whole of the IB programme.
This summer, we had the soft launch of our internships with the Al Futtaim Group for the Diploma students. We will be rolling out more in 2020. It’s one of the key selling points for our IB programme and such a huge benefit to the school, but I want to take it even further and bring solid career experience to our Year 10s and Year 11s.
For me the absolute number one thing about teaching in the UAE is the students. The opportunity to build rapport with students here is just exceptional. They are so enthusiastic about school and really ambitious for their own learning.
We have 120 IB students here at DIS and it is a pleasure spending time with every single one of them, really. I think the surprise for new teachers in the UAE is to move to a place where the schools are such caring environments and to see how much joy such aspirational students can bring.
I don’t think of ambition as in terms of my career, but in terms of the impact I can have on the students. I was eager to take on this new position, as being IB Co-Ordinator I can have more of an influence on the students day to day well-being and attainment.
Now my number one ambition for me and for the school, is to have the best IB Programme in the UAE, it’s that simple.
In terms of moving towards more senior leadership positions, that is something that will come naturally, if I perform! All teachers know that the trade-off for leadership is less time in the classroom and right now I just thoroughly enjoy being around our students every day.
Overall the standard of UAE education is rising, fast.
There’s been a big shift in last five years with so much investment and so many new schools. It’s more competitive between schools and that is really driving standards up. The end result is that students are going to get a better experience and as a teacher, that is exactly what I want to see.
The change is already happening! We are moving away from the idea of teaching students what was typically “high school level” Business and Economics. We recognise that we need to build on our student’s research skills and really contextualise what they are learning.
In short, we are taking university level work and building those skills and that knowledge down to IB level. I believe schools should be trying to create the best entry level curriculum for university. If we can achieve that, students will perform better at university, because we have already equipped them with great research skills and the ability to take on board higher level academic work.
Teaching for me is all about the relationship you build with your students. It doesn’t matter which generation you come from, you will get the most out of your students if you build that rapport and connection with them.
Having said that, my generation has been lucky as we have more access to resources and support to keep learning and upskilling ourselves.