I'm woken at 4am by the melodic call to prayer, a sound I've grown used to while living in Qatar. My alarm rings an hour later and I get myself ready, choosing an outfit that covers my knees and shoulders, in accordance with local culture.
I live with 10 of the other teachers from my school - it only takes seven minutes to walk there from our accommodation. At this time in the morning the heat is a comfortable 30C, but it soon rises above 40C (and it's always dusty). I arrive in my classroom at 5.45am and organise myself before the children arrive at 7am.
The electricity cuts out momentarily as the generator is switched on. This can be a pain when I'm in the middle of preparing resources for the day, but it beats having the power cut out when the children are here. Our small British school is expanding so rapidly that our electricity demand is currently greater than our supply.
When my 20 students arrive, they get started on the work that I've set them. I teach Year 2 (ages 6-7), so we still have a few tears in the mornings, but most of the children bounce in with lots to tell me. Unfortunately, punctuality and attendance are not highly valued attributes in Qatar, so I never start my first lesson with a full class.
Our school day is comprised of nine lessons of 35 minutes, with two brief breaks. The short lessons have to be pacy and engaging with quick, achievable activities. The style of teaching in many public schools in Qatar tends towards "chalk and talk", so many of the children aren't used to collaborative learning. I'm trying to build this into most of my lessons and I'm already seeing a huge improvement in students' ability to express themselves. This is a big achievement, particularly because English is an additional language for the majority of them - I try not to forget how overwhelming this must be for a six-year-old.
After assembly, we have literacy, numeracy and a library session. The children love to read but our supply of books is limited at the moment. We've been waiting on an order of more than 2,000 books for the past few months: censorship issues in Qatar mean that books (and films) must be checked before being released, so we're still waiting. You can imagine how frustrating this is.
While the children have their Arabic lesson, I spend some time on planning and assessment. I have these free periods daily, instead of in a block as I would in the UK. This is great for keeping on top of marking but I can never get my teeth into anything substantial in a 35-minute slot.
Then it's time for phonics, science, Islamic studies and history; the children are fascinated by the Great Fire of London. Before I know it, it's 1.15pm and time for the children to go home. I stay until about 2pm, unless we have a staff meeting or it's my day to run the after-school club. Then I have just enough time for a quick visit to the pool before I get down to some planning in front of the television.
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