As part of our on-going series that takes you behind the TELLAL team, we are sitting down with a range of TELLAL mentors, teachers and leaders so that you can get a better understanding of the types of individuals who will form part of your training.  Each of our partners and mentors are selected for their expertise and knowledge, as well as their passionate commitment to share experiences and help others; all in an effort to keep improving educational standards for all.

This week we spoke with Head of Year 11 and Physics Teacher Stephen Bonnar about his career history, what drew him to teaching and what he hopes to bring to his role as a TELLAL mentor.  

Hi Stephen, thank you so much for talking to us!  Do tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been in Dubai?

I am originally from Scotland, but I have been in Dubai for nine years now. 

What do you most like about living in Dubai?

That would have to be the blend of cultures and peoples, the opportunity to travel to places I would not have got to see otherwise and the school I work in.

What are the biggest differences between the education system here in Dubai versus places you have taught before?

In my personal experience, private education is much more prevalent in Dubai, which makes for a huge and varied market place with a lot of competing institutions.  I have found that the expectations on teachers are much higher in my current school than at any other point in my career.  It’s also a thoroughly academic-focused school which is quite different to other institutions I have worked at in the past.

What made you want to become a TELLAL mentor?

I have actually mentored other teachers in my department and year teams over the past few years, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Supporting others in the profession is a very rewarding experience, for them and me!  I am grateful to have the time and experience to be able to help others achieve their goals and find their path.    

What unique skills do you think you bring to your work with TELLAL?

Experience, perspective, creativity, empathy.

What was it that got you into education initially?

Funnily enough, it was sort of an accident really.  After my degree, I thought teaching would be a good temporary role until I decided what I wanted to do for my career; then I totally fell in love with it.  When I look back now, it doesn’t seem so much of an accident and I have realised that so much of my employment and experiences had directly led me to a teaching career.   It is such a social role, that requires you to work with so many different people every day, as well as being very challenging and rewarding.  It is also never boring and you definitely need to build a range of skills; plus you can diversify your career within the profession by choosing paths that include leadership, management and specialist educational areas etc. 

For prospective teachers reading, what form has your career path taken so far?

I have a BSc in Applied Sport Sciences and I specialised in Biomechanics. I initially went into Physical Education teaching for seven years, before making the move to teaching Physics and Science, which I have taught exclusively since 2010.  I have been a Head of Year to the class of 2018-2019 for the past five years and was the International Award coordinator for three years at Jumeirah College.  I am currently completing a secondment to SLT at Jumeirah College where I am analysing the way in which homework is set and used with the goal of forming a more meaningful homework policy.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

Over my career? Changing my skills set when moving between schools to suit the context of that school.  Having taught in Wales, London, Qatar and Dubai you have to adapt very quickly to the bespoke needs and ethos of each school. 

What do you love about teaching?

You never have the same day twice, and you get to work with people. 

If you weren’t in education, what other career path would you have taken?

I can’t see myself doing anything else now, but I have occasional day dreams of an alternate universe where I’m currently an astronomer, a writer, a photographer or I get the chance to indulge in my hobbies professionally!