Made in the heat of the moment

30th December 1994 at 00:00
Like one-third of Britain's married men, I was suddenly single and free of family ties. I would not see my 40th birthday again and I was at a career crossroads - well, more of a roundabout with interesting exits.

I had been teaching for 14 years and though trained in the physical sciences had become a head of computer studies. That was back in the days when the head of department was chosen for a lack of techno fear and an ability to locate the onoff switch.

From a department of one - one person, one computer and one ex-rental TV - the subject grew to become an option for GCSE, then an A-level option and proceeded to play a significant role as IT for all amongst the younger pupils. Having reached the ceiling of the school, but wishing to remain in the classroom, it was decision time.

Deputy headship didn't attract me and it was too early to retire. Straight on was a dead end at the same school and the prospect of getting more tired, more bitter and more cynical.

To the left and right were more interesting routes. One led out of teaching - which I did try - but I was turned back by financial reality and I missed the classroom. The other was on the back pages of The TES - the overseas posts.

I decided I wanted somewhere warm and stable with a substantial tax-free income that could all be remitted to my new offshore account. Warmth is easy to find; you just limit your choice to the tropics. Finding a stable government is more difficult.

The final requirement for somewhere tax-free led my search to the Middle East. First, an examination of The TES; then to the geography department to locate such places as Doha and Ras-al-Khaima.

I did get an interview. Not, as I would have hoped, as part of an all- expenses paid trip to the sun. It was in Solihull though at least it was expenses paid.

I was successful and by the end of January I had an offer of a post in the Gulf as head of a computer department. That was nearly three years ago and I'm still here.

The climate suits me though it does come as a shock when I return to the UK at Christmas and have to scrape frost rather than sand off the windscreen.

The money is useful and now I can take the sort of holidays I used to dream about.

The most important change has been in my commitment to work. The students are highly-motivated so rather than being strangled by paperwork, I am now fired up by students' work.

It's given my teaching a new lease of life. I regularly work in school till late in the evening and at weekends. For once I find the work very rewarding.

I wish I had made the change much earlier. But it is comforting to know that I can now look at the world map and, wars and weather permitting, go anywhere.

Stephen Potts is a teacher at The Continental School, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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