Teacher of the Week: Jane Barker, Kent College DubaiJune 18, 2017, 4:25 am GMT
HEAD OF BUSINESS STUDIES
KENT COLLEGE DUBAI
Why and how did you get into teaching? How long have you been teaching for?
Growing up, I spent hours helping my Mum, a primary school teacher, make resources and organise activities. Going to university, I vowed never to go near the education sector and embarked upon a Business Studies course. After graduating with a first class honours degree I went on to become a buyer at the Asda Wal*Mart head office. I loved my time there: the buzz of the trading floor and the thrill of success. Then I met my future husband Matthew, who was a Geography teacher. His passion for his job eventually rubbed off on me and we travelled to Mombasa, Kenya to spend two years working in an international school. I fell in love with teaching and returned to the UK to take my PGCE in Business Studies. I graduated with a distinction and secured a job in a challenging comprehensive school in a small town in Yorkshire. I went on to spend a further six years as a part time Business Studies teacher and raise our two children. This is my 10th year in teaching, six of those years were spent in the UK, three in Bahrain (working at the British School of Bahrain) and this has been my first year in Dubai.
What is exciting about your role?
I teach key stage 4 and 5 so I send a lot of my pupils off to universities around the world. I absolutely love to stay in contact with them and hear about their successes in further or higher education and even about the jobs they have worked towards. I especially love it when a student takes a Business route in their education and career. It is so exciting to feel that you have helped to shape someone's life.
What is challenging about your role?
Keeping it exciting! I want my lessons to inspire and interest my pupils. It's not always easy to do this when you are teaching financial ratios!
What's the biggest myth about teaching?
That Geography teachers all have patches on the elbows of their blazers! I had to say that as my husband is head of Geography here at KCD and he definitely does not sport a blazer with elbow patches!
Who has been your inspiration throughout your career? Why?
My husband. I have always seen Matthew be a fair and honest teacher whose favorite moto is 'Keep It Simple' – he is a trustworthy teacher who inspires his pupils to go on to be better versions of themselves. He gives me great advice about all matter educational and I look to him to get ideas of how I can be a better teacher.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement over the course of your career?
Securing my current job at KCD where my whole family can attend. I have a really good work life balance: being a mum and a full time teacher can be tough but having the children here in the school means I can be really involved in their education whilst being able to commit to my career and be the best teacher I can be.
Tell us one way a particular student has impacted your life or teaching philosophy
Working in a school in the UK, I had a student who had lots of family problems – we regularly had multi-agency meetings to try and determine how we could best help him and his brothers. Both of his parents struggled with substance abuse and I remember that he had to use the school showers as he didn't have toiletries or clean towels at home – it was a very sad situation. When it came to exam results day, the Year 11 pupils all sat down together to open their envelopes. I happened to sit next to said pupil and when he opened his envelope he burst into tears. I knew he had worked hard so I was surprised that he was so disappointed with his results. I looked at his paper and it was full of As and Bs. I was confused and asked him why he was crying. He managed to say "I've done it, I've broken the cycle"…. needless to say I, amongst many other teachers, cried along with him. I think back to this pupil and feel proud that I had a small part in helping him get his life on to a positive track. It also reminds me how important a teacher can be in a person's life.
How do you get students interested in the subject you teach – have you found an innovative way to engage students?
Lots of games and activities (clearly that comes from all those hours helping my Mum!) even with my key stage 5 pupils. I spend time making resources so that my pupils learn through play – often not realising that they are learning. I make a lot of use of Twitter to gain ideas along with Pinterest and other blog sites. I try to integrate technology into my lessons: being certified as a level 1 Google Educator helps me to make the most of the Google Apps for Education. I encourage all of my pupils to work collaboratively and to be independent thinkers – technology can really help develop these skills. I also try to encourage my pupils not to spend too much time dwelling on grades, but rather to look and respond to feedback to focus on how they can keep improving and growing. Business can be really exciting if you look beyond the text books so lots of exposure to real businesses is always a winner when it comes to engaging pupils.
Are there any specific goals you would like to achieve in your career?
My passion lies in teaching and learning and helping other teachers to create exciting and inspiring lessons. I would love to be in a role where I can develop this passion and use it to impact on the learning of all pupils in a school. Ideally I would like to stay here in Dubai – I don't think I could go back to the British weather.
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