Future School Leaders, Natalie Manning

With schools across the UAE celebrating World Teacher's Day on 5th October, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has devoted this week to the careers and aspirations of a select group of Future School Leaders. Today, Natalie Manning, Year 3 Leader at Sunmarke School.
This article is part of an editorial series on Future School Leaders
Future School Leaders
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Future School Leaders
This article is part of an editorial series on Future School Leaders

With World Teacher's Day falling on 5th October, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com wanted to talk to the young(er) educators that have made teaching their career, and have been identified as a future of the industry. In this fourth interview, we speak to Natalie Manning, Year 3 Leader at Sunmarke School.

Natalie, why do you think your team put you forward for this feature?

We have a new Principal this year, Dr Neil Hopkin. It’s only been six weeks or so since he joined us but already he is working to develop me as a leader. I think he has seen that I have the balance of being an outstanding classroom practitioner whilst leading a very successful year group.

I’m definitely ambitious and school leadership is something that I see in my future, but for now I am very happy in the role that I am in. I love teaching and recognise that a more senior leadership role would mean less time with the children… ultimately being in a classroom is what I wanted from this career!

That said, working with Dr Hopkins has given me a new perspective on leadership. He is a hands on as a leader and very involved in teaching and learning. He has just launched a new coaching programme for our Middle Leaders and is putting time and effort into continually improving our teaching. To me, he is a role model for being a school leader who is hands on and in class on a regular basis.

Can you tell us more about your career prior to Sunmarke School?

This is my second year at Sunmarke School and also my second in Dubai. Prior to moving to Dubai I taught in Suffolk, England for five years. My second school in England was in fact the school I went to as a child! It was amazing to go back and work in the place that inspired me to become a teacher.

My experience in the UK was primarily in Years 5 and 6, so it was exciting to come to Sunmarke and move to Year 3. Working with slightly younger children has been brilliant and I’m thoroughly enjoying my role as Year 3 Leader.

Why teach in the UAE?

I’m from a beautiful part of the UK, but it is not particularly diverse. That’s the key thing I love about teaching here, the cultural diversity. Working with students and families from so many different countries and cultures has been an education for me! Not only do I understand more about their lives and home countries, but the different education systems the children may have come from. Learning these things has really helped me to develop as a professional.

In her element: Natalie hopes to keep teaching even as she takes on greater responsibilities with more leadership roles.

One other aspect of teaching here that I love is the fact that it is such a highly respected profession. Parents and students alike respect you as a true professional. Not only that, but the families have high expectations for their children and the children truly want to learn. It’s every teacher’s dream, really!

Natalie, do you think teaching in the UAE has changed your career path?

The National Agenda has definitely had an impact on my teaching. I think the way it has been structured encourages all teachers to be as innovative as possible. Not only that, the pace at which things change and develop in the UAE as a whole is just incredible and I think schools, students and teachers are inspired by that. I mean, look at our surroundings in Dubai…incredible! We see the ambition of the country reflected in the ambitions of our students and, as teachers, we have to live up to that.

How do you see Primary teaching evolving in the next 5-10 years?

Primary teaching is a fast moving specialism.  It is an exciting phase of education to be teaching in. Of course, technology is a huge factor in how things will change in the coming years.  We have come a long way since the days of paper, pencils and textbooks! Nowadays, we want to produce children with great ambitions, innovative ideas and solid skill sets.

What does the next five years hold for education in the UAE?

One thing that is wonderful is that we have more and more local role models. I mean, we had the first Emirati astronaut just a few days ago! By giving children more relevant and local people to look up to, their own ambitions seem less abstract and much more attainable.

The country itself is gaining global attention and will continue to do so with events such as Expo 2020. We took a group of our children to the Expo 2020 site last year and we were blown away by the incredible programme that will be available to schools at very little cost at all. Things like awareness of ecological issues will be prominent.  I think Expo 2020 will be a great event for highly practical learning opportunities for our students.

What makes your generation of teachers different from the ones that went before?

My generation of teachers are incredibly lucky with the resources we have, especially in a school like Sunmarke.  What I have to work with here is just incredible.

My generation have challenges that come from needing to be so adaptable. I am in my seventh year of teaching and there has been a lot of change in that time, a lot! The curriculum has changed and the children have changed. Our students have a lot of input into what and how they learn.

We’re trying to equip them with skills in all aspects of life, which means we need to be lifelong learners - just like them!

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