New country, new job, new curriculum
Claire Woodhouse is a teacher from Buckinghamshire, England. She is currently teaching English and Drama at ACS Doha International School in Qatar. Here Claire talks about her experience of moving to a new job in a new country with a very different curriculum:
I decided to move to an international school to improve my teaching skills by learning another school’s education system. I also felt in need of an adventure. I wanted to challenge myself by living and working in a completely different environment – to see if I could!
The teaching and learning environment at ACS International School has really helped me to develop professionally. Not only am I able to teach my qualified subject, English, but also Drama – which is completely new to me! I’m teaching the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which has a very different focus and skill set to the UK curriculum. It took me a while to get used to this way of teaching, as it’s far less data and progress-driven than the UK system, but the benefits are great! I enjoy the cross-curricular teaching and the programme is incredibly flexible. The school provides online IB training and I’m also supported by colleagues, who are always on hand to help me.
Should I return to the UK, I would be happy to teach the IB again – learning the programme has made me a more marketable teacher! Even if I returned to teach the national curriculum, I would still add elements of the IB into my classes. I would encourage students to think more laterally and creatively for example. I also think aspects of the IB programme would be particularly beneficial for SEN and EAL students.
This school differs from my old school in that the hierarchy of management is less formal. They aren’t obsessed with number crunching and data input about student progress – so different from schools in the UK! There is a vibrant, welcoming social life amongst the teachers. Curiously, I’ve noticed that when you remove the constant need for reporting and testing, the students seem to achieve more and learn more profoundly. This is very rewarding for a teacher!
From this experience I’ve gained the ability to become more flexible, adaptable and tolerant, which are not qualities I would have used so much in my old school.
I’ve also become a more attentive teacher. For example, recently my students were part of an off-timetable programme. It would have been easy to not supervise them as much as I would have in formal lessons. But I felt the skills they were learning - teamwork, prioritising time, working with unfamiliar resources – were so important that I involved myself more in their work, to ensure they did the best they could.
Life in Qatar
I love the family-centred culture of Qatar - you often see whole families out together. It’s a very conservative, safe society for women to live in. In my free time I work out, swim, visit different places in the city and socialise with friends.
My teaching timetable is easier than in the UK, so I’m able to socialise far more with my colleagues, which makes for very effective ‘down time’ from work. I spend a lot less time lesson planning and marking than I did before, so I try to use that extra time fully. It’s easy to make friends here because the expat community is so small. I have many friends who are not school colleagues. I don’t think it’s an entirely good idea to only socialise with people you work with...you just end up talking about work all the time!
As I’ve had visitors during the school breaks so far, I haven’t travelled as much as I’d planned. I did spend a week in Sri Lanka with friends over the February half term. It’s a country that’s relatively easy to reach, and quite a lot cheaper than it would be travelling from the UK – I’d totally recommend it! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
Advice to teachers considering teaching overseas
To other UK teachers looking to move overseas I’d most definitely say ‘Do it! What are you waiting for?’, It’s the best career move I ever made! I’ve been challenged by the experience of building a new job and social life for myself, away from everything that was easy and familiar to me.
Teachers International Consultancy was very helpful in my job search. I’d never looked for jobs abroad before and did not know my way around local rules.
After my contract ends at ACS Doha, I am considering applying for other jobs in Qatar. Alternatively, now that I’ve been in the Gulf for a year, I feel happier about looking further afield and am also considering Abu Dhabi, Oman, Kuwait, Dubai or another Emirate!