Teacher of the Week: Melanie Davis, Brighton College Al AinAugust 6, 2017, 8:00 am GMT
TEACHER OF EAL & RYLE HOUSE MISTRESS
BRIGHTON COLLEGE AL AIN
Why and how did you get into teaching?
I have always enjoyed learning and have fond memories of school, college, university and describe myself as a lifelong learner, knowing that my journey is never fully complete. I was fortunate to have teachers who were inspiring, passionate and believed in me, so teaching was always inevitable.
I began my professional career as a trainer in the UK working with young people who were disengaged, who often experienced social and/or additional learning needs. Throughout my studies I was acutely aware about how competitive the labour market was and decided to develop my experiences by volunteering for various charities. I volunteered as a STEPS (Success Through Enhancing Personal Skills) mentor for Connexions and as a referral panel member for the Youth Offending Team. Volunteering early on in my career allowed me to gain valuable experiences and insights to working with young people and allowed me to begin professional development from the onset. I appreciated that voluntary work allowed me to improve myself whilst supporting and empowering others.
From this initial experience I knew that I wanted to work in an effectual role to encourage as many individuals as possible to realise their true potential and to strive for excellence. It should be a given that pupils feel valued, respected and successful, every achievement acknowledged and celebrated to develop a love of learning.
How long have you been teaching for? How long have you been in the Middle East?
I have worked in the educational sector since graduating in 2002 where I have always had a teaching or training role. I completed my PGCE in 2008 and moved to Al Ain in 2010 when I was employed as a consultant for the public private partnership. The experience of working across four different public schools was a revelation and strong foundation to build my knowledge, respect and experience of local heritage and culture. My most recent experiences working for Brighton College Al Ain have allowed me to develop my skills with a diverse pupil population who create the international population of Al Ain's first and only 'outstanding' school.
What is exciting about your role?
The endless opportunities we have to implement innovative ideas to inspire and stimulate the achievement and progression of tomorrow's generation and future leaders. Brighton College Al Ain is relatively new and the leadership are supportive of contemporary ideas coupled with traditional methods to bring out the best in all of our pupils.
I have been successful in introducing a brand new Careers Information Advice and Guidance programme ready to be delivered next academic year which is aligned to The Association for Careers Education and Guidance (ACEG) framework. It is gratifying to work for a college that not only welcomes ideas, but allows staff to pursue and implement those concepts.
What is challenging about your role?
It is crucial to manage expectations. All stakeholders have extremely high hopes of success and achievement, yet guiding and dealing with individuals who all have varying degrees of abilities, aspirations and interests can be a delicate matter.
There is an enormous amount of pressure on pupils to achieve, yet it can be quite a complex matter to ensure that individual learning journeys are realistic and appropriate to recognise progress and attainment. Building strong and positive relationships with all stakeholders allows for open lines of communication to explore those more complex issues as and when they arise. Having a clear plan for support involves managing expectations and ensuring all pupils move positively through their educational experiences.
What's the biggest myth about teaching?
The myths about short working days and long holidays have to be the most popular. However, another common belief is that inset days are also teacher holidays when in actual fact they account for a small number of professional development hours that teachers complete each year.
It is essential to maintain the most up to date practises, to self-reflect, and professionally develop on a regular basis. I welcome CPD and pride myself on leading by example, each academic year I explore new and existing interests in a variety of ways to include inset days, in college CPD, SPARK, FE courses and those offered online and as webinars. I am a member of the UAE Learning Network and The Society for Education and Training whereby the most recent government initiatives and changes in educational policies are communicated and investigated. Future Learn is a free and reputable means to undertake further study or develop personal interests as all courses are designed by leading institutes and organisations and the fact that they are available online allows expats to always access a form of CPD.
Who has been your inspiration throughout your career? Why?
I consider myself as fortunate to have always enjoyed my education from early years right the way up to studying for my M.A. I have been motivated by inspirational and passionate teachers and truly believe that teaching is a vocation. Now that I am in that role, I consider it a huge responsibility because the love of learning should not really be a case of luck.
Professionally I have been inspired by Mr Shaun Robison (chief executive officer at BBD Education and partner & director, Education Intelligence Group). In 2010 I achieved lead practitioner status upon completion of an action research project where Shaun was the course leader. He continues to inspire me given that he has extensive local knowledge and experience within the public and private education sectors of the UAE, he supports educational professionals as the co-founder of the UAE Learning Network the largest online network of educators in the country, whereby educators can connect, share and explore upcoming educational conferences. Shaun is an educator who manifests his beliefs and passion into everything he does. He is a fantastic role model who whole heartedly strives to achieve great things. I always speak fondly of my time working with him, learning from him and continuing to be inspired by his endless ideas and projects to provide the best educational experience for all.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement over the course of your career?
My greatest achievement over the course of my career has been the recent publication of my M.A Dissertation "Staff Perceptions of Continuous Professional Development: A UAE study". As an expatriate working at the time of research within a brand new technical school, the case study aimed to investigate teacher perceptions about the provision of continuous professional development (CPD) along with the potential implications for the leadership team. The case study reviewed the CPD that was being delivered by taking into consideration the views and experiences of the teaching staff at the school.
The fact that my research has been published is indeed complementary and recognition of the rigorous structure and method involved in a pertinent section of the education field.
Tell us one way a particular student has impacted your life or teaching philosophy
With so many individuals who have impacted my life it is difficult to identify one. However, I have worked with many individuals who have experienced difficulty in accessing 'mainstream' education. This may be due to the nature of their social or emotional needs, but more recently it is due to language proficiency. I am constantly reminded that pupils no matter what their age are resilient and ambitious when it comes to progress and achievement.
Having worked as a consultant on the Public Private Partnership, whereby the education reform requires teachers to deliver their subject through the English Language, I was absolutely astonished by the level of determination and commitment by those teachers to improve their use of language in order to deliver the curriculum requirements. I would often reflect upon how I would feel if the UK Government introduced Arabic as the language of education. With those reflections came my more proactive approach towards pupil voice and involvement in planning. I had always sought feedback to inform, improve and plan my lessons, but working alongside other teachers who required language and pedagogy support, I decided that action research would allow me to improve my methods and hone my own techniques. From this point on, I have championed action research and have embraced a variety of projects to improve the impact I can have on others.
How do you get students interested in the subject you teach – have you found an innovative way to engage students?
There is no single formula to get pupils interested in EAL or any other subject for that matter. I am keen to build positive relationships with my pupils, by knowing each individual, their needs, interests and aspirations allow me to plan for the most relative and innovative lessons.
I greet every single pupil by name and entry activity as they arrive at the classroom and allow them to leave as they complete their individual challenge at the end of the lesson. Everything else that happens in between varies from rich discussions about heritage and culture, running dictations to develop accurate writing skills, traditional reading sessions in our well stocked and diverse library to audio rich listening activities. I use educational applications such as Kahoot and Quizlett to allow for consolidation and identifying any gaps in knowledge, a Virtual Learning Environment such as Google Classroom or Schoology provides the opportunity for pupils to revisit information, post comments and ask questions related to classroom content or to explore ideas raised inside the classroom at a time convenient to the pupil. By using traditional teaching methods alongside new approaches, tools and applications coupled with pupil data and feedback I am confident that pupils typically engage in and enjoy my lessons.
Are there any specific goals you would like to achieve in your career?
I love teaching and enjoy working within the classroom whether it is as a teacher, consultant or leader. The impact educators have upon individuals is and should be positive, deep and meaningful. I have been accepted onto a training course to become a school inspector and accreditor and in the long term hope to accomplish a role whereby I can support whole school development and education reform. I have a young family and have chosen to manage my work life balance as crucially education relies upon dedicated professionals who can commit their time and energies to the attention and interest of the institution.
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