This blog is written by a Secondary PGCE and M.Ed in Practitioner Inquiry alumni whose career pathway has taken him from North East England to the United Arab Emirates. Here he reflects on his career thus far and how his approach and mindset has its roots in his work on the Newcastle University M.Ed programme.
When I first started teaching, I was motivated by the challenge of teaching young people to think critically. I was always passionate about learning about other cultures, people and places and the opportunity to work on a government reform project focused on developing teachers’ pedagogy back in 2008 was too good to turn down. So I took the opportunity and moved to Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. Al Ain is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates and has the largest population of Emiratis. I originally planned to stay for a year and return to Newcastle in an expanded role. As part of my role in the project, I was able to complete my dissertation for my M.Ed on ”The Impact of Thinking Skills in a UAE Context”.
Since then, I have worked as a teacher-trainer, school improvement partner, higher education director and project director for a British educational operator and an Indian investment company. I am also the Co-Founder of the UAE Learning Network – the largest network of teachers in the country, a member of the Education Intelligence Group and I served as a panel member on the Education Matters Show for 3 years on Dubai Eye Radio Station. I have worked in the classroom developing teachers’ pedagogy and I have also written government tenders, business plans for large scale education reform projects and new build projects. I take great pride in knowing how a business plan and feasibility study can impact on the outcomes within a classroom and how a teacher can be equipped to deliver an innovative curriculum from a commercial perspective. I call it the physics of education – knowing how all of the parts impact on each other and understanding how to leverage different components to get better outcomes for the children in the classroom.
Aside from my professional life, I have learnt and been immersed in Arabic and Emirati culture. Learning and living with another culture can be incredibly challenging but I have learnt so much about myself and others that I can only say that the experience has been incredibly enriching. My wife and I both completed our PGCE and M.Ed at the same time and we have shared this adventure together here in the UAE.
The international sector should not be looked upon with rose tinted glasses; like everywhere, it has its benefits and its limitations. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly from many angles with respect to international schools so making the decision to teach abroad should not be taken lightly.
I have just recently conducted the first ever UAE Teacher and Educator Survey across the country. The findings have shocked certain sections of the industry here as they challenge the status quo but we have also highlighted the sector’s biggest challenge – retention of teachers. My intention for completing the survey was to give teachers a voice as they are often un-heard and on the fringes of the industry here, as it is purely market-led. I still remember and smile about the activity I did during my PGCE at Walker Technology College to gauge the teacher-voice within the school. Working with and alongside teachers has been my constant passion since completing my PGCE and M.Ed and at my core, is everything I learnt at Newcastle
As educators, we should not underestimate lived experience. The international sector is awash with opportunities that may offer a glimpse into another world that may change your worldview on education.
Shaun Robison is currently completing his PhD in Education with Newcastle University on “Professional Learning Re-Constructed through Narrative Enquiry in the United Arab Emirates”. He has a passion for professional learning and teacher-training.
You can follow Shaun on twitter @shaun_robison