By Simon Blower
When I left my Deputy Head’s role to work on Pobble full time, I didn’t really consider the implications this would have on my opportunities to travel around the world and see so many places. As a child my holidays were limited to trips around the UK and the odd trip, in my teens, to the Mediterranean. I became a little more adventurous as an adult, with exciting trips every summer holiday (one of the benefits of having a partner who is also a teacher) but had never really been that interested in travelling for work.
This all changed in 2014. Having had a little bit of interest in Pobble from some schools in the UAE, I set off on my first International business trip to Dubai. The idea was to explore a new market and look at the implications this might have on Pobble moving forward.
I learnt three things very quickly on that trip:
1) Ensure you have a basic understanding of the country you are visiting; the UAE for example was very different culturally to the UK and even working Sunday to Thursday still takes some adjusting to.
2) There are an incredible amount of British teachers, far braver than me, working internationally. They are still regularly in touch with people at home and always excited when new initiatives from the UK arrive, particularly ones they’ve already heard of through other teaching friends.
3) Children are children wherever you go, getting excited about the same things and fascinated with new ideas. I’m lucky to be enthusiastically greeted as Mr Pobble in all the schools I now visit and children, even those who’ve worked with us for years, are still proud to be published on the Pobble site.
“I have been working at Kings’ Dubai for five years now after teaching for two years in Swindon, England. For many of us we plan to come out to Dubai for a couple of years to have fun, save some money and enjoy the sunshine, but after five years I have no plans to return home. The children here are given amazing opportunities-incredible specialist teachers, whole school house days, inspiring visitors and trips that enrich the children’s learning. All of these experiences give the children a holistic education where they have the opportunity to discover their passions and strengths. At my school our motto is ‘The Best By Every Child’ and we really do everything to cater to children’s individuals needs. As a teacher, we need to be very aware of what is happening across the school and be wise with our time to ensure we meet all of the learning objectives. There is also a lot of freedom in international schools in terms of the way we present the curriculum to ensure the learning is purposeful and in a real life context. We do have inspections every year that naturally creates added pressure however it is during this time that there is tremendous comradery amongst the staff as we all unite together and support each other towards a common goal. I feel very lucky to be living in Dubai and working in such an amazing school with wonderful children. I would advise anyone thinking of working abroad to go for it and research schools carefully to find the one that is right for you.”
Safia Muzaffar, Teacher at Kings’ Dubai
Over the last four years I’ve had opportunities to teach pupils and work with teachers in over 10 different countries and learnt so much. I’m regularly asked by teachers in the UK what is it like to work in an International school. I’ve only got limited experiences, but in many cases, the schools I work with strike as me brilliant places to work. Things move quickly and schools are keen to stay in touch with recent trends, they rarely stand still. Mobility is much higher both amongst staff and pupils which can make life challenging for school leaders but also means every year is different. As a huge sports fan I’m often amazed by how much sport goes on. Many of the schools have specialist sports coaches all the way down to EYFS.
One thing that always strikes me, is that most teachers work very long schools days, but where possible they really try and strike a good work life balance. They work extremely hard in the week, with much earlier starts than in UK schools but they do seem to be able to switch off at the weekends. Following international teachers on social media, I regularly see teachers going on mini breaks, participating in sporting events themselves or simply socialising.
The teachers definitely earn the rights to relax! Staff in the British curriculum schools I work in are still very much held to account by results particularly as parents are paying fees for their children to attend. In many of the countries I work inspection is annual and often a week long process. Having worked closely with a number of schools going through these inspections I know how challenging they can be. On a positive note, teachers always know this inspection will be annual and feedback often leads to very clear next steps for the school and a clear vision for the next 12 months.
“Teaching internationally has broadened my horizons on both a professional and personal basis. Working with teachers, families and children from such a vast range of cultures and experiences has allowed me to view teaching and learning through many different lenses. Sometimes, it is easy to forget the many challenges that face UK schools; however, the ever-increasing demands of international private schooling have brought entirely new skills and qualities to my teaching. Significantly, it has made me appreciate the remaining constants: the children, their creative capacities and their natural instincts for learning.”
Sam Bowen, Jebel Ali School
Like most new experiences there are pros and cons. My advice to anyone considering moving to an international school: do your research, visit the country in advance and use social media to connect with teachers already working in the region you are exploring.
Having had a peak into life in an international school, if I was in my 20s again or my family situation was a little different, I’d certainly be tempted to take on the challenge and explore the world a little more. Instead I’ll continue to enjoy, what I believe is, the best job in the world. Travelling across the UK and internationally helping teachers and inspiring children to write. I’ll also continue to do what every good teacher does and take ideas from colleagues to ensure I become an even better professional.