A day in the life of Terry Handley

Working in Saudi Arabia demands acclimatisation to cultural norms as well as the weather, finds this leadership coach, who ensures high standards across a school segregated by gender

I teach at Riyadh Schools, which caters for mainly Saudi students, both male and female, on a segregated site. It has 3,300 students from kindergarten to 12th grade and includes a national and an international school. The students come from all levels of society, including many children from the royal family. A normal schoolday for staff runs from 6.45am to 2.30pm, with students in classes from 7am to 1.30pm.

I am a leadership coach and the manager of accelerated learning at the school. My role is to encourage the development of giftedness and creativity across all the school's sections as well as providing guidance, leadership and coaching to the male senior leadership team of principals and vice-principals.

My work day typically starts at 7am, when I meet with my female associate to discuss developments in the boys' and girls' schools. We work out strategies and plan future activities. Today we are also launching a science competition: students have to create an original video in English, lasting no more than 60 seconds, which explains or demonstrates a scientific theory or phenomenon. This year's entries will need to measure up to the excellent standard from last year.

From 9am I work with the school's vice-principals to deliver a training programme. This week we are discussing the development of a whole-school behaviour policy and a system for recording positive and negative behaviour.

At 10.30am I attend a discussion with a group of student representatives to listen to their concerns and gather ideas for the future direction of the school. These meetings take place every week and any concerns or suggestions are followed up with the relevant members of the senior leadership teams.

At 11.45am I observe an elementary school maths lesson for a group of gifted scholars. During these observations I usually contribute to the planning and give feedback to both the teacher and the scholars. I also oversee the presentation of certificates for performance in the "Mathletics" programme.

From 1pm to 4pm I deliver staff training on Assessment for Learning and student-centred and collaborative learning to a group of (mainly) enthusiastic teachers. The session is full of practical teaching tips and ideas, as well as opportunities to try some of them out. Next week's session will be based on feedback from the teachers who have trialled one or more of the strategies in their classrooms.

Is it challenging working in Saudi Arabia? Yes. You have to acclimatise not only to the weather but also to the accepted cultural norms of the society. Is it professionally rewarding? Definitely. The school's staff (a mix of Saudi nationals and expats) are certainly eager to develop their teaching strategies and to deliver a high standard of teaching and learning to students.

Your day

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