Noticeboard - August
Welcome to the August noticeboard! This noticeboard will be continuously updated throughout the month, so make sure to check back to stay updated with everything that is going on in the Geography teacher community.
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Official August Newsletter
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August welcomes one new ambassador - Hannah Steel. She is a current NQT and trained at UCL for her PGCE in 2019-2020. Make sure to follow her on twitter (@GeogSteel ) to stay updated with her wonderful contributions to the Geography teacher community.
It is estimated that approximately 15,000 teachers leave the UK each year to join an international school. I became one of them in 2017 when I swapped my classroom in Doncaster for one slightly further afield in Dubai.
I had never previously been to Dubai, I knew very little about the United Arab Emirates (Dubai is one of seven Emirates constituting the country of the UAE), and my geography of the Middle East was average at best. Yet when I was offered the job of teacher of geography at one of the leading British International schools in the UAE, something inside me told me I had to take it. And to this day, it is the best decision I have ever made in my life so far.
All teachers who make the move do so for their own very personal reasons. Often exhausted by their experiences in the UK, teachers complain of excessive workload, stress, a lack of work-life balance, funding cuts, the dread of Ofsted, an obsession with paperwork and hoop jumping, accountability, poor behaviour, high staff turnover….I could go on. For me, it wasn’t so much a loss of faith in the British Educational system but more so the lure of being an expat teacher and the life that came with it.
For me it was quite simple: I wanted to work in a school that mirrored my own educational values, in a country that had sunshine and the sea nearby, and shops that stocked Yorkshire Tea! Dubai was my perfect match. I spend most breaktimes with a cup of Yorkshire’s finest gazing out of my classroom window mesmerised by the gentle swell of the Arabian Gulf with the Burj Al Arab standing proud on the horizon.
It is during these moments of quiet solitude that I feel so incredibly grateful for my life in the Middle East, but it was no easy decision to make the move. What I hope to do in this little article for the ECG is offer my humble musings on what you may want to think about if you are thinking about making the move yourself.
1. The School
The same rules apply when searching for domestic jobs. Is this school the school for you? Look on the school’s website, their Instagram, twitter, facebook. Listen to their podcast, subscribe to their YouTube channel, stalk the colleagues on LinkedIn! Do whatever you can to picture the school and truly ask yourself whether you can see yourself as a member of staff proudly displaying its crest on your lanyard. Try not to over think this, a school is very much like a life partner: I think you know within the first couple of moments if you have found a good match. So listen to your heart and trust your instinct.
2. The ‘Package’
Most international schools will offer a ‘package’ which is likely to include a housing allowance, return annual flights, healthcare insurance, school fees for any children you may have etc. These packages vary considerably from country to country and from school to school. Do your research and do not jump at the first package you are offered. It is important you try and estimate the cost of living in the country to enable you to budget accordingly. There are some real ‘bare bones’ packages out there which means the dream of teaching abroad is a much harsher and financially strained reality. Try and contact other expats in the country (Facebook is great for this e.g. the 16,000 strong Brits in Dubai group) to estimate your monthly budget and whether your salary will allow you to live comfortably.
3. For Profit or Not for Profit School?
International schools are often well-funded private institutions. This means that the schools are either profit making (part of the school fees will ultimately go towards a business or individual) or not for profit (this is when school fees are invested directly back into the school for the benefit of the children). This does very much boil down to our individual moral compasses. I personally felt more comfortable working in a school that was not shackled to a dominant global conglomerate. But again, do your research. I think it is important to prepare for a big difference if, like me, you make the move from the state sector. My previous school in South Yorkshire was one with a significant number of disadvantaged pupils and real social issues which all but evaporated when I became a teacher to the private sector. It is a very different place to work and this can take some time to adjust to.
4. The Geography
I am a geographer and so location was an important factor for me. Not only do we have sunshine 365 days a year (minus that one day a year that it rains and the schools actually close…yes, this did actually happen!), but the Middle East is a hub for global travel. I have lived in Dubai for three years now and I have managed to visit over 20 countries in that time across 3 continents including Jordan, Armenia, Zanzibar, Malaysia, Hungary, Georgia, Croatia, Oman, Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique. If travel is a priority for you then check out the flight prices and times from that country to neighbouring ones. Also, how easy will it be for you to get ‘home’ and for family to visit. Trust me, you will be inundated.
As geographers we know a lot about the world we live in, but one thing we often overlook is that our time on it is limited. Fill in that application form, take the plunge, go for it! For me teaching overseas allows me to explore more of this beautiful planet whilst doing what I love- teaching my subject. As a geography teacher, does it get any better than that?