TeachingTraveling.com: Curious about what it’s like to teach at an International School in Dubai, and travel on every holiday?
Read on for the story of Kristy-Lee Adams!
Kristy, tell us a bit about your background.
Kristy: I’m an Australian teacher who really hasn’t been teaching for long at all! I always knew I wanted to travel, but never really knew how or when I was going to do it. It took my pioneering fiancée to nudge me over the edge, and after I finished my university studies in 2008 I moved out of my comfort zone by heading interstate. I kept my bills paid as a teacher aide and part time bartender for most of 2009 in Melbourne before jumping on a plane to Dubai with my fiancée. I’d never visited the United Arab Emirates before, so it was a very big adjustment to pack up and move.
After I arrived, I applied to a range of schools that were taking up applicants to fill “runner” positions, covering those who had just packed up and left the country without notice part way through the academic year. I took a position teaching English and Humanities in a very small private school (only 150 students) where I really learned how difficult it can be breaking down the cultural barriers of education and motivation in the Middle East. I have to admit, it was really tough; the commute was exhausting, the classes and students were very challenging, and it was only my second short term contract as a teacher. I learned a lot, and I learned fast!
Since then, a new academic year has begun and I’ve now finished my first full year of teaching English in my second Dubai school: a wonderful International Baccalaureate school with students who love learning and make every lesson so much fun to teach!
There’s still a lot of pressure on teachers here as parents pay A LOT of money for education in Dubai and most classes have non-native English speakers from 10 or more different nationalities, all taking an English as a first-language course.
But, these are all experiences that I know will help boost my resume anywhere else in the world, and I love learning about the histories and backgrounds of all my kids; they’re a huge bunch of travelers themselves!
TT: Fascinating! Tell us more about your travels.
K: The wonderful thing about living in the Middle East is the access to cheap, fast and easy travel. When you live in Australia, your travel dreams are built around huge eight or nine week adventures because it costs so much just to get a flight out of the country! Not so from Dubai.
Since arriving here, we’ve travel to a myriad of “little” countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Nepal as well as a bunch of other bigger ones like England, Scotland, France, and the United States. I remember booking the flights to Kuwait for only US$24 each way, and that was in the days before Christmas! With such opportunity and access, every Muslim holiday or long weekend, I will usually be found at an airport somewhere.
One of my most memorable trips however, was a school trip that I lead in India for the International Award program (formerly Duke of Edinburgh). I took seventeen 15-17 year old students hiking for 45km in the rural surrounds outside of Mumbai, returning to the heart of the city for some urban adventures on the same night of the Cricket World Cup Final. The atmosphere was PHENOMENAL!
My colleagues and I took the students out into the streets after the game finished at midnight to see the celebrations of a home country winning the World Cup in their national sport. We were not disappointed!
There were firecrackers, people dancing and celebrating in the streets, auto-rickshaws flying past, motorbikes loaded up with people trailing flags behind them, and my own students crying out Indian chants. It’s a memory I will never forget, and it was wonderful to share it with students who were also well versed in travelling thanks to the expat-travel culture in Dubai.
TT: Love it! How did you find the money to fund this travel?
K: Thankfully, the opportunities to earn and save money as a couple in Dubai are very good: far better than they were in Australia, which is why we have chosen to stay for an extended period of time. Initially however, it was hard work, and a second job and the sale of my little car got us out of Australia and into our travels.
It took a lot of motivation to give up many of the fun and exciting things that Melbourne had to offer, but we always kept the bigger picture in mind. I found that the initial set up costs to move here and create a “home” were crippling, but now the pressure has eased off and there are far more opportunities to enjoy this country and those around us.
My fiancée and I are looking forward to a trip home to Australia and New Zealand to visit family this summer, followed by a short break to Sri Lanka or Pakistan during the Muslim celebration of Eid. Then we’re planning a three-week over Christmas and New Year but are not sure where to. We could roll a dice! Making plans to travel out of the country is such a huge motivator to keep working hard while you’re still in the country!
TT: Yes! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
K: I’m definitely more flexible and feel that I’m thinking more about the world context for the content of my classes. In Australia, it was easy to go with State-set texts and work on very “Australian” things. However, in an international school, you want to take time to consider the different backgrounds of all the students.
The texts we address try to include many nationalities or cultural ideals, and we give as much room and flexibility as possible for students to express their own histories and experiences, and in a way that is most comfortable for them. I am definitely getting better at negotiating assessment tasks, rather than just setting them, I have learned SO much from my students and am grateful for their stories and ideas every day.
TT: What a fantastic description. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
K: Personally, I’ve come to realize that I can do pretty much anything I want if I put my mind to it. Three years ago I struggled with the idea of moving interstate and all the paperwork and hassles that might come with it, yet last week I hopped on a plane to spend five days wandering around Mumbai on my own.
I’ve got a greater confidence to tackle the challenges I face when I travel and I am open to more experiences. I value the world more, and the people in it. I have a greater appreciation for the fact that the way we go about our lives in the West is just one way of many and love every opportunity I have to see the others ways of living, loving and learning around the world.
TT: Amen! What advice do you have for other educators who are dreaming of travel?
K: Take a few steps back, check the wind speed, and LEEEEEAAAAPPPPP!
Don’t let all of the “what ifs” hold you back from throwing yourself out there and doing what you love, whether it’s traveling, teaching, or both.
You will be so much richer for the experience and it will always add to you as a person.
TT: Thanks so much for this excellent tale, Kristy! (And that photo of the bedazzled fridge is priceless.)
Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this intrepid traveling teacher?