Teachers reflect on UAE lessons

As the school year comes to an end, three education professionals look back on their contrasting experiences.

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ABU DHABI // A professional development regime that is “second to none” helped a newly-arrived American cope with life and work at a boys’ school in the Western Region.

“John” said his first year was quite challenging, mainly because his pupils were, for the first time, learning core classes entirely in English as part of the New School Model.

But he was able to meet the challenges, he said, thanks to the training offered by the Abu Dhabi Education Council and the support of his principal.

“We had about two weeks of training before we hit the ground at the school,” John said. “The professional development has been second to none. I speak really highly of what we’ve had and, you know, I guess a lot of people can talk negatively about it but I think that’s their own shortcomings.

“I think Adec has done an excellent job providing the curriculum for the teachers and the students and matching it to the students’ abilities.”

John’s only gripe was being stationed in the Western Region for his two-year contract, when most of his colleagues ended up in Abu Dhabi.

But even this worked out in his favour, he said.

“I don’t have a lot of opportunity for shopping and for going out and socialising with my friends who all stayed in the city. On the other hand, I was able to save a lot more money being out here. It’s had its pros and cons.”

Working as a teacher in the UAE is nothing like “Danielle” imagined it would be.

“With everything in the UAE, it was very, very confusing at first and still is,” said Danielle, a South African who completed her first year here as a Grade 3 teacher in an American curriculum private school.

Before arriving, she said, she expected to be teaching a classroom of disciplined pupils who were well-behaved and courteous in accordance with Islamic traditions and morals.

“I’ve never had kids speak to me the way they do and I teach eight-year-olds, mind you,” she said.

Danielle, in her 20s, worked as a teacher in rural South Africa where class sizes were large, resources scarce and the potential for danger high.

She looked forward to working in the UAE’s progressive and safe society, but said the work culture and lack of support from administrators and parents dampened her enthusiasm.

“A lot of the time they mistreat us. I think because they know we’re expat and we come from a foreign country, they see us as their nanny because the nanny also comes from a foreign country and she is expected to do everything for them,” said Danielle.

“It’s not what I expected at all. I expected that as a teacher, I would have full control of my classroom.

“I just expected to have more authority as a teacher. I didn’t expect when I came here that teachers are watched more by management than the kids are.”

Australian teacher “Thomas” said the private school for which he worked did not offer any sort of induction training, which led to problems.

“We have had teachers coming to school in see-through blouses and tops where the undergarments and bare skin are clearly visible,” Thomas said.

And he said there was no clear instruction on how to handle special education needs pupils.

“There seems to be a culture of hiding a child’s obvious learning difficulties as the subject is seen as too sensitive to broach with the parents and so we have dyslexic students and other special needs students being left behind because no one will address the matter,” Thomas said.

He and Danielle said they planned to leave the country at the end of their contracts.