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Stephen hails from  Newry in County Down, Northern Ireland. His first valuable experience of working with children came when he was fifteen and volunteered at a local summer scheme in his home town. This was the beginning of something great. He loved working with children and the staff knew that and always supported his enthusiasm. At the age of eighteen, he moved to Liverpool, England where he completed a BA (Hons) degree in International Journalism. Once he completed his degree, he moved to a small village in Asturias in the North of Spain to teach English as a foreign language.

He arrived in that rural village in Spain without being able to speak a word of Spanish, which was really frustrating at the beginning, however, through participating in sports, he met a lot of friends from whom he learnt the language. After about a year and a half, he became quite fluent in Spanish. This gave him a great sense of achievement.  Stephen credits this experience with helping to develop his ability to assist the multilingual students he now works within Dubai.

After four amazing years in Spain, He decided it was time for a new challenge and so he returned to Liverpool and completed a PGCE in Primary Education. Upon completion of his final university placement, He was employed as a Year 3 teacher at Blessed Sacrament Primary school, where he spent two fantastic years before moving to Dubai in 2014. Stephen is now a teacher at Ranches Primary School, Dubai (RPS) and he shares with Teach Middle East Magazine what makes him tick as an educator.

What do you enjoy most about being an educator?

I love making lessons really enjoyable and exciting. Going that extra mile to get that WOW reaction from the children. I believe that one of the greatest things about primary school teaching is the ability to be creative with the curriculum.  At RPS we love to immerse ourselves in learning and to bring lessons to life. From reenacting the World War Blitz to Pearl Diving in the swimming pool. Making education fun and meaningful is what I love the most about my job.

What are three challenges you face in your role as an educator and how do you overcome them?

The teacher to do list. The reality is, the teacher to do list is ever growing and it can be difficult to go home with some items incomplete.  For me, the key is to prioritise, be realistic with your tasks and allocate your time wisely.

Work life balance. It is easy to comprehend but can be challenging to implement. At the end of the school day, it may seem like the right idea to work on into the late evening, mark those books and plan those lessons, however, sometimes you just need to do something for you. I think that when you allocate sufficient time to your job and to your personal life you will be happier overall.

Technology. Getting the balance right. Despite being a massive advocate of using technology to support children’s learning, I am also very cautious with it. I think that overuse of technology can be harmful to a child’s sensory and neurological development. Getting the balance right is a challenge not just for our pupils but even for us as adults. This is an area I hope to research further in the near future.

What are your two favourite EdTech tools and why?

Seesaw is my favourite app. It is versatile and easy to use for teachers, pupils and parents. At RPS, it is used as a pupil journal to store work, as a flipped learning tool, as a platform for digital feedback, as a means for children to vlog about their school experiences and much, much more. It really is a fantastic app.

I also love Book Creator for its ease of use. It allows children to be creative using different forms of media. Children can use text, audio, images, and video to make their own eBooks. It can also be used to create posters, sets of instructions, science plans or investigations and so much more. It is also a powerful tool to help those children who need extra support in reading.

How do you help fellow educators to share good practice with each other?

I have always enjoyed a wander around the school visiting other classes and talking to teachers from different year groups. I think it is a subtle but effective way to gain insight into the professional practices of other teachers and a great way to share ideas. Twitter is also a very powerful tool for showcasing modern teaching practices. I often use it to read educational research and access lesson resources. It is a refreshing and reenergizing form of free CPD.

What do you do for fun or to unwind after a long day at school?

I like to keep fit. I am interested in all types of sports and there are lots of opportunities to experience new sports in Dubai; it is a great way to meet people. I have also recently adopted a Labrador puppy so spending time with him has been very entertaining.

What is the one thing about you that would surprise your colleagues?

I am extremely competitive. I think my colleagues see me as being a very calm and relaxed person who encourages children to win with grace and to lose with pride. But I hate losing.

What is the best professional advice that you have received and how has this helped you?

The importance of self-reflection and work-life balance. I have learnt how important it is to be reflective when things are going well and when things are not. Being reflective has encouraged me to be more productive and to manage my time better. It has also helped me to identify when I need to take a break and unwind. By doing this, I believe I can be more productive in school and disconnect more easily in my downtime.

By: Leisa Grace Wilson