It is so lovely to check in with you again! It has been such a crazy two months since I moved to Dubai to teach here. Every day I feel a little more settled! I will catch up with you in more detail about how I have been getting on soon, but for now, I want to share with you all a catch-up I had with Charlotte, an amazing Key Stage 1 leader and teacher here in Dubai.
Charlotte is 29 years old from Liverpool in England and has been living here in Dubai since 2017 and has been teaching in the same school since moving here. Charlotte also runs the Instagram page @missm_ks1! She went to Liverpool Hope University and completed her degree in primary teaching with theology and religious studies. Charlotte did the 4 year course then travelled and worked teaching English to adults, progressing to then teaching for 2 years in a Catholic primary school, teaching year 4, before moving out to the U.A.E.
Charlotte, thank you so much for speaking to me today! Could you give a synopsis of your journey in your school since moving to Dubai?
I began in FS2 and taught for two years. After my first year I began leading phonics in the school then this role grew to implementing whole school Read Write Inc. and then to taking over English in FS and KS1.
Then, I completed 2 years in year 1 and in the second year of this I became Head of Key Stage 1. This year I have moved to year 2 and I am continuing this leadership role.
I manage a fantastic team of 8 class teachers and 8 Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) and am on the Middle Leadership Team (MLT). I am given 50% time out of class to work on this role.
In November I am beginning my NPQSL which was designed by the Department for Education (DFE) and is delivered through the University College London. This course takes 18 months and is for aspiring senior leaders.
That sounds so amazing Charlotte! You are very inspiring, and I am in awe at all you have achieved in your career in such a short space of time. This is a question I am always asked, so I am interested to hear your experience. How did you get your job in the UAE when you first moved here?
I had been visiting the UAE and Middle East for around 8 years previously as my aunt and uncle moved here when I was 16. When I visited them, I didn’t see it as somewhere I wanted to be living myself until it was when a good friend from university decided to make the move.
I came to visit him in the February and was convinced. I wanted to work in a small school, so I took the time to research ones that appealed to me and visited them on my time here. Applying in February I was a little bit late so I would recommend that anyone new applies in December or January.
I definitely agree, December or January seems to be the best time to start applying for sure as jobs are advertised very early for the UAE.Could you tell us a little about your school here in Dubai?
My school is relatively small for a school in Dubai. When I first moved out here it was just 11 classes and now it has 30 classes. Our school day runs from 7:30 – 2:30 pm and we stay until 3:30 for meetings, etc.
Our school has limited facilities in comparison to other schools out here, but I chose it because it has a UK school feel. We are a community school and children ride their bikes to school straight through the gate which I love. My school is close to the EXPO site, so we are excited to visit frequently this year.
I love that! That was important for me when choosing a school here too. I wanted it to have a small community feel, like we would have in Ireland. Do you live close to your school?
I live in the Dubai Marina. It takes 17 minutes by car to get to school but the metro also goes there directly. The metro costs less than £2 per trip.
I am personally taking my school accommodation allowance and not the school apartment, in case others do this too, do you have any top tips?
My school is not big enough to offer accommodation, so we also get the accommodation allowance. I was lucky to stay with my friend until I managed to get accommodation sorted. I then moved in with a colleague and we are still happily living together after 5 years.
We found our apartment on Dubizzle which is like Gumtree in the UK. We were lucky to find a British landlord who allowed us to do 12 cheques. Many places still ask for big instalments, even as much as the whole year upfront. Therefore, you do need money when you come out as a buffer. F
or bills we pay around (600 AED/ £120) for phones, internet and TV and then electricity and water is around 150 AED – £30 per month but many people have to pay for air conditioning too. We are lucky that our building is ‘chiller free’ so we do not have to pay for air conditioning.
Yes, I have to pay all those bills too, including chiller! It doesn’t seem too bad though, but I am still figuring that out! Charlotte, you mentioned that you are the Key Stage 1 lead in your school. This is amazing! Can you explain what this entails?
This role is to work in the middle leadership team to manage and improve the Key Stage 1 team. This is made up of 8 classes. I am responsible for implementing the curriculum and ensuring it is full of rich lessons that inspire the children. I work with the teachers to support them and improve the teaching and learning. As I am still in class, I also have a clear understanding of how each initiative that I implement then looks in practice. I observe the teachers and give regular feedback. I work closely with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to ensure the whole school is progressing well.
That is fantastic, and again I am in awe! I’m interested to know, what do you think are your main qualities that make you an ideal candidate for being a KS1 lead?
Having taught in both Foundation stage and Key stage two as well, I understand where Key Stage one children have come from and where they need to go.
I am good at listening and I constantly look for opportunities to speak with my team and hear how things are going and how they can be improved.
I am organised, I balance my class teacher role and my leadership responsibilities side by side.
I am passionate about education and about how children should be inspired by their learning every day and want to become lifelong learners.
I think they are fantastic qualities and are all very important. What advice do you have for me, or anyone else that wants to progress in their career in education, particularly in leadership?
The UAE is a great place to gain leadership experience. As the schools are much larger, there are many more roles in management to try. I would say start by being a leader ‘without a title’. Find things you are passionate about and find ways to share this with people. Lead on a particular initiative or a small area of the curriculum then expand into a whole subject and then onto a core subject.
That is excellent advice. Since moving here, I am noticing so many differences, but also some similarities with school in Ireland. How would you describe your life in the UAE in comparison to maybe how your life would be in the UK as a teacher?
I have a much better work life balance. My school is very similar to my school in the UK, but the work life balance is better here because the demands are less as a class teacher, and you can do so much more at weekends.
As a key stage lead, I find the time spent on my work life more, but I imagine that would be the same in the UK.
I think you are right about the weekends for sure. I am finding myself to be very busy during the week with work still, but it is starting to get easier each day. It just takes a little while to find your rhythm, I think! It is a big transition to moving abroad. So, what are your top tips for moving abroad to teach in the UAE?
Do it! It is such character building to live away from the familiar. I feel you appreciate your hometown a lot more every time you go back. It’s great for widening your friendship circle and meeting people from all different walks of life that helps expand your own world view!
I totally agree. I have never met so many new friends in such a short space of time who are all here for a common purpose. It is amazing. Have you any advice for someone who is moving to the UAE alone?
Keep busy so you don’t feel alone! Take time to get to know your colleagues and who you have mutual interests with.
For sure. It is important to try to put yourself out there, even though this is definitely easier said than done! Do you ever get homesick? How do you overcome this feeling?
I would have Zoom call with home, call family or do something fun that I cannot do in the UK to remind myself how lucky I am! You could also plan lovely things to do when you are at home and focus on any visitors that may be coming out to visit.
That is great advice that I will be taking myself! Can you see yourself here long-term/ for many more years or do you have any plans to return to the UK?
Yes, at the moment I do not have any plans to move back to the UK. I love the life I have here and see it continuing.
That is fantastic that you love it so much here! What are some of your career goals?
I would like to move further up the leadership ladder and become a headteacher one day whether that was here or in the UK.
Fantastic, and I have no doubt that you will do just that. Charlotte, I have learned so much from our chat, and I am sure everyone that reads this will too. Thank you so much for sharing all of your experience and tips with us all.On a final note, could you describe your life as a teacher in the UAE in one word?
I hope you all enjoyed Charlotte’s interview as much as I did! It is so interesting to hear from someone else’s experience here and also to see how Charlotte has progressed in her career since moving to the UAE!
I will catch up with you about everything that has been going on for me since moving to Dubai in my next blog post!
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