First-class travel

28th April 1995 at 01:00
As I lounge pool-side, the peace only broken by laughter and the sound of ball against string from the neighbouring tennis court, I still wonder what it was about The TES advertisement for a Year 5 teacher at the British School in Riyadh that engaged my interest. I am even less able to explain why I applied. But apply I did and signed the contract to begin teaching in Saudi Arabia in January this year.

Any doubts and fears I had were dispelled by my first half-term of teaching. The maximum class size is 20 and, combined with excellent resources, makes for high-quality teaching. Teachers' aides, librarians, computer and science technicians liberate the teacher to focus entirely on developing differentiated learning for all pupils.

There's no more scrambling around the garage searching for apparatus for the next day's science lesson. Gone too are the cries of "Sir, the computer's broke!" as I endeavoured to keep all eight groups on task.

Here the perfectionist in me is satisfied. Faded are the nagging doubts that one group or another would have benefited if only I'd worked for four hours each evening instead of two.

Not that teaching here is an easy option - expectations are high. There's no running away from the national curriculum. It's here, but far more manageable. Specialist music, PE and language teachers ensure quality in the breadth of the curriculum. Class teachers use the significant non-contact time for marking, records and display work.

There's no escaping inspection either. The school, keen to maintain its high standards, regularly invites constructive criticism from inspectors on specific areas.

This is a valuable experience, not a career break, and I'm confident of convincing any sceptical, prospective employer back in Britain that my experience here is far from irrelevant. It's certainly no third-class, educational backwater.

Life here reflects the old adage, "Work hard, play hard". There's a host of activities after school and at weekends. Four-wheel drives and walks through the desert, spectacular scenery and exotic birds have all become new interests. Quizzes, barbecues and even Burns' night celebrations are examples of how the friendly ex-pat community overcomes any local restrictions on our lifestyle. Swimming, tennis and sessions in the gym ensure that I keep fit. The opportunity for travel is immense. I now visit places I've never heard of.

I'm sure overseas teaching isn't the same everywhere and consider myself lucky that the advert I spotted was for this school. It's broadened both my teaching career and my horizons.

My only dilemma now is which part of the TES appointments section I should look at when it's time for my next move.

Mike Glavin teaches at the British School, part of the Saudi Arabian International School

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