Teaching in Qatar offered me invaluable opportunities
Teacher BJ Jumnadass talks about his new life teaching in the Middle East
BJ Jumnadass is a teacher from Toronto, Canada who left home to teach in Qatar. His first international school job was teaching the IB PYP at the International School of London Qatar (ISLQ), in Doha. After ISLQ, BJ spent three years with the Supreme Education Council of Qatar (SEC) as a Teacher Advisor. He now teaches English and Humanities at the Community College of Qatar. Here BJ tells his story:
“I decided to leave Canada and teach internationally for several reasons. I wanted the opportunity to travel the world, gain international teaching experience, and to explore different cultures. Working abroad at an international school provided me with many great and invaluable opportunities that I would never have had if I'd stayed at home. I've taught students from all over the globe. I've shared my Canadian culture with my class, and learnt about different nationalities from them. Like me, many of my student's parents at ISLQ received job offers abroad, and took the opportunity to experience life as an expat. I had a great relationship with them. We could all relate to living in another country, we shared stories and built trusting relationships with one another. I even regularly played recreational ice hockey with several parents!”
Developing new skills
“I've gained many new skills while teaching overseas. The experience has taught me to be more patient and understanding. Many of my students and colleagues in Qatar speak English as a second or other language. In order to communicate with them best I have to employ different teaching and learning strategies, such as the use of visual aids.
Another technique I've learnt since teaching internationally is the KWL technique. I ask students what they know (K), want to know (W) and have learnt about a topic (L). I use KWL before, during and after lessons. I find it a useful technique because it helps students to become both active and reflective learners.
I've also managed to gain some professional development while living overseas. I've obtained an ICT Certificate and a Certificate in Secondary English Language Training (CISELT). This PD was provided for me free of charge at ISLQ school, and offered to all teachers. If I was in Canada, I would have had to pay for these myself, and used my own time to complete the courses.
My advisory role with the Supreme Education Council of Qatar was also a great opportunity for me. It allowed me to work alongside second language teachers and observe, mentor and provide feedback for them.”
Life and Culture in Qatar
“While I was at ISLQ, the school provided an apartment for me in a great part of Doha that made it easy to explore the city by foot. Living in Doha has provided me with an insight into past and present Qatari culture. I regularly visit the Museum of Islamic Art, and also like to experience different Middle Eastern cuisines. Machbous is a favourite local dish of mine. It's made with basmati rice, pine nuts, raisins and meat or fish.
During my time at ISLQ, many social and cultural events were organised for teachers.
I took part in field trips, including a trip to Souq Waqif - meaning 'standing market' in Arabic. The Souqs are known for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts and souvenirs. The field trips were great as they gave me the chance to meet local Qatari people.
From my experience, most international schools provide social gatherings throughout the academic year and the opportunity to get to know co-workers outside of the classroom. There are often many activities for new teachers held in the first week at school. These might include desert safari trips, dinners, tours of mosques and museums.
I've had the chance to travel during the school breaks and holidays. Since working internationally I've been able to visit Sri Lanka, Dubai, Oman, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Europe.”
The importance of support while moving overseas
“TIC Recruitment was able to assist me in finding the right position and ensured an easy transition when I decided to move abroad. They were there through the whole process and were available at anytime if I had questions. In addition, Mr. Andrew Wigford (Director of TIC) visited me at my school in Qatar to make sure everything was going smoothly. This type of support was welcomed and appreciated. Moving abroad is a challenge, but with TIC’s support I felt safe and knew I made the right choice.
I plan on staying overseas for a few more years. Once my travel bug is cured I would like to return back to Canada!”