A day in the life of...
Depending on the time of year, it's usually still dark when I get out of bed at 5.30am. In the winter, I'm greeted by the Fajr call to prayer, which coincides with my alarm. By the time I leave my apartment in the Maadi area of southern Cairo, sunlight is creeping over the minarets. I savour the quietest time of day on the city's normally busy streets.
I have an arrangement with a very punctual taxi driver, who takes me on the 40-minute journey to St Fatima School, where I've worked for the past four years. I am one of two Year 6 literacy teachers tasked with preparing students for the Cambridge International Primary Checkpoint exams.
The school day starts at 7.15am. I climb the stairs to prepare my form room and lesson binder. Then, at 7.45am, the PE teacher's whistle tells me it's time to head downstairs and collect my form group from the playground. All classes have about 24 pupils, but the form lines are much shorter in the mornings owing to the infamous Cairo traffic.
Before we head upstairs, we line up, salute the flag and sing the national anthem. This felt unusual to me when I first joined the school, but it's just part of the daily routine now.
I check that every student is prepared for the day, complete the register and head off to my lessons. I teach 29 classes a week, which is exhausting yet extremely rewarding. We have two 30-minute breaks a day, during which I work on preparing students for the end-of-year musical. I also have two after-school sessions on this project a week. I enjoy every minute.
Egypt largely offers teaching positions in private schools, and the parents are very involved as education is a "paid-for" service. I spend a lot of time responding to messages from parents and sometimes meet with them to discuss their child's progress.
By the time I head home, Cairo has been transformed into a bustling, noisy city, so my journey takes far longer. I don't get angry at the traffic any more - it's just part of my working day.
In the evenings, I spend time in shisha cafes with friends or have a quiet night at home. Weekend trips to the Red Sea are affordable, as are journeys to the desert to spend a night under the stars, so I get out of the city whenever I have the chance.
For a new teacher, Egypt is a place to gain valuable experience and I have taken advantage of this over the years. Many schools recruit teachers with no particular age group in mind, so there is always an opportunity to work with different stages on different subjects. I've taught in primary and middle schools, designed whole-school behaviour policies, managed a school library, been in charge of purchasing resources and even had the chance to co-lead the musical.
Some schools would employ specialists for these tasks, but I've been fortunate enough to be able to dip my toe into so many different waters. Enthusiasm goes a long way here, as does a can-do attitude.
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