United Arab Emirates and Qatar - Sarah Brown

Teaching Internationally Renewed my Passion for Education

Sarah Brown is a secondary school maths teacher from Nottingham, UK. She's an 'empty nester' – her children have left home. She previously taught in Qatar and is currently in her second year at Latifa School for Girls, an international school in Dubai.

Here she talks about the experience of moving to teach overseas:

“Before teaching internationally I was working in an inner city school in Nottingham. I was burning myself out; working from half six in the morning and not finishing until ten at night.

I'd always wanted to work abroad. All my children had grown up, so I decided to bite the bullet and applied for a job in an international school in Qatar.

I enjoyed working with a variety of nationalities in the school and what I really loved was that the students in Qatar were motivated to learn. They looked forward to coming to school and wanted to work hard. This was so different from my experience teaching in the UK! In Nottingham I spent most of my time trying to manage the students' behaviour. In Qatar, I spent most of my time teaching.

Moving to Dubai

After two years in Qatar, a contract came up in Dubai at Latifa School for Girls. Latifa school is for Arabic girls only. The school follows the National Curriculum of England. Although most are fluent in English, it's their second language.

Similar to my experience in Qatar, working at Latifa school allows me to spend most of my time teaching. I have the freedom to be inventive, which I enjoy and always strive to do.

The standard of maths isn't quite as high as in the UK, but this is because it's a small school. The department is very supportive however – we help each other out by sharing and practising ideas. 
Many of the teachers are local and have been at the school for over ten years. They helped me to find my way in Dubai and put me up in accommodation for the first month while I found somewhere to live. We're a big community!

Latifa School for Girls is supportive of me developing professionally. The school allows staff to attend relevant continuing professional development courses. I've completed a Project Management Online course and have started another for Life Coaching.

I'm still able to keep up to date with changes in the curriculum happening back in the UK while I'm here in Dubai. I read blogs such as 'Just Maths' and keep in touch with my old colleagues in the UK. I'm also a member of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), to help me stay informed.

My future as a teacher

The school has renewed my contract so I'm now in my second year at Latifa school. In an ideal world, I will stay and teach internationally forever – I've got another 15 years worth of work and I may as well make the most of it! However, I've got two grandchildren in the UK so will probably go back eventually.

If and when I do go back to the UK I will be more aware of students  in the classroom who speak different languages. When I worked in the inner city school in Nottingham, we had a lot of students from Eastern Europe whose English was not great. I had no experience teaching English as a second language then. Since working in Dubai with students whose second language is English, I'm now more experienced and qualified to do this back in the UK.

I've also been using a lot of memory skills when teaching the girls in Dubai, to help them to remember key ideas and words. These are techniques that I will definitely bring back to the classroom in the UK.

Living in Dubai

I've really enjoyed making new friends in Dubai. I joined the Internations group which helped me to form a social network. I now have a wide and varied social circle – I have Emirati friends, teachers from the UK, and expats employed in other areas of work.

The weather makes a big difference in encouraging people to be more sociable. It's also so easy to try new things out here. I've taken up skiing – there's an artificial ski slope in a shopping mall in Dubai!

It's relatively cheap to live here and this was a motivator for coming here. It's tax free and my accommodation and utilities are paid for by the school. All the money I earn is mine to spend.

I've managed to travel while being here too. Travelling wasn't a motivating reason for me to come but is something I've discovered I enjoy while being here.

I've been to all the different Emirates, Lebanon and to Australia too.  During the next school holiday I'm going to Sri Lanka. Most school holidays I go somewhere else - Dubai is a great base as everywhere is so accessible from here.

Personal gains

I've adapted a new adventurous mindset while being here and I've gained confidence. I'm more confident in myself personally, as a maths teacher and as a leader. I m aware that I can go into most situations and get through.

As for being adventurous, I've taken to carrying my passport inside my rucksack. When I have free time, I'm contemplating going to the airport and getting on a plane and going somewhere - anywhere, for a couple of days! I wouldn't have done that three or four years ago! Now I have a real sense of freedom.

Advice about teaching overseas

My advice for teachers considering teaching internationally is to research the culture of your country and go with an open mind. I did my research and managed to fit into the Dubai culture fairly easily.

TIC recruitment definitely provided me with enough support. They helped me to find a school that was right for me.”

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