Beaches, sunshine and freedom to teach: Teaching in the UAE

Tom Scott talks about being a Head of Department and living in Abu Dhabi

TIC recently helped Tom Scott from Leeds, UK find his job as Head of History at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi. Here Tom talks about his first year of teaching overseas:

“I decided to teach overseas for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I love to travel. Secondly, after three years teaching in the UK, I was ready for a change. A new school in a new location was the perfect set-up!

Teaching History in Al Khubairat

Back home in the UK, I was a classroom History teacher. At The British School Al Khubairat I am Head of the History department.

I expected an increase in workload, but I have more freedom and spare time as there's less paperwork and a greater trust in my ability to get on and do the job.

Even though the school broadly follows the same History curriculum as the UK (the same GCSEs are taken), the students here have different outlooks and backgrounds. They are a global group, and although many students have a British heritage, their knowledge of the UK is different from people that live there. Teaching History has taken on another dimension as I’m almost teaching them about the culture of Britain too.

The school runs differently from my previous school. I feel more relaxed teaching here, as there isn’t the constant pressure of Ofsted, which allows me to focus on the actual teaching.

There are data and marking requirements, but having the freedom to set them as a department means you can tweak them to benefit the teaching of the students, not simply as a box-ticking exercise.

Life outside school

The UAE is a fantastic place to live! There’s something going on pretty much every weekend; whether it’s a day on the beach, exploring the dunes, brunch in one of the hotels, or visiting nearby cities like Dubai.

I immediately had a set of people to share experiences with, as many teachers live in the accommodation that the school provides.

I think it's important to try to say ‘yes’ to opportunities at the start and to try things you wouldn't normally have done back in the UK. At the same time, remember it's a marathon and not a sprint – you don't have to see and do everything in the first two weeks. It's also useful to have a set of friends outside work. I joined a cycling team - I never imagined being able to ride my bike in shorts and a t-shirt through winter!

At first, every experience was new, exciting and I felt like I was on an extended holiday. When it became more 'normal' I started to miss friends and family. I particularly missed aspects of life in the UK after coming back from Christmas at home. Having a quiet weekend to recharge and catch up with friends and family on Skype can help a great deal if you’re feeling homesick. I’m enjoying the job and the life outside of work too much to think about coming home just yet!

Advice to others

My advice to others considering international teaching is do it! Teaching internationally really opens up your horizons. Life can have a habit of getting in the way, so if you think it sounds like something for you then go for it. It's not always easy and don't think it'll constantly be beaches and sunshine. But grinding through the same old routine back in the UK isn't always easy either!

TIC was great. They guided me through the whole process, from preparing for my Skype interview, to helping me through submitting all the relevant documents to my school. They even checked how I was settling in after I arrived.”

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