A day in the life of...Colette Lethbridge

7th March 2014 at 00:00
Among the opulent skyscrapers and sprawling malls of the United Arab Emirates, this teacher battles motorways and brutal heat to share her passion for art and design with students

I wake up when the call to prayer echoes outside my window. I am not Muslim, but I use the sound as my signal to start the day. As dawn breaks, I get washed and dressed, then eat breakfast and grab my bag, thrown deliberately against the door so I don't forget it in the early morning chaos.

I climb into the car and head for the five-lane motorway, one of Dubai's most notorious roads, marvelling at the glistening skyline ahead of me. The sun bounces off the mirrored glass and steel; Dubai is ostentatious even at this time in the morning. I survive the madness of the roads by driving a tank of a car, so it is fortunate that petrol is cheap.

I cross the boundary to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah without even noticing, and arrive at Sharjah English School shortly afterwards. The building is just off the main road, and bright yellow buses, parents and drivers (employed by families to ferry their precious cargo to school and back) form a queue, leaving me time to contemplate how lucky my own children were in being able to walk to school.

The students I teach are from a range of countries, faiths and cultures, but they have one purpose: to get the best possible grades at GCSE and A-level (we follow the English curriculum). The school has a friendly atmosphere and the students are polite - they want to do well and are highly motivated. Some have lived in the United Arab Emirates for many years; others have parents working on short contracts in the petrochemical industries or at the nearby university.

My lessons are a mixture of design technology and art. I can usually be found rushing from one to another with folders and resources piled high in my arms. The heat at this time of year is oppressive, relieved only by the cool air pumped into the school to keep its inhabitants calm and industrious.

After six hour-long lessons I am exhausted, but I have shared my passion for my subjects and imparted skills that will hopefully lead my students to success and enjoyment. The children who are keen to learn more stay on for after-school clubs, chatting with their friends while making their own little creations. They're proud that there isn't another design like theirs in the world.

Eventually I head home, passing the cleaners. They manage to smile even though they live apart from their loved ones, sending money home to the people who depend on them. We respect these hard workers, along with the labourers who are building the ever-growing metropolis that is Dubai. If they can smile, so can I.

At home, I have some "me time" and take the opportunity to recharge. It's great to relax by going for a swim or a walk along the beach, even if it is always dark by 6pm.

Some of my students and their parents will be heading to one of Dubai's many shopping malls to browse, buy and eat, which is what this part of the world is famous for now. But all I want to do is go to bed, with a promise to myself of "maybe at the weekend".

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email richard.vaughan@tes.co.uk

We will give your school pound;100 if your story is published.

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