#TeacherTips – Finding Balance

Claire Smith - Work/Life Balance

We work with teachers from all over the world, as well as thousands of teachers right here in the UAE; as students on our courses, as trainers and mentors and the numerous teachers who work with us in the TELLAL office.

All of this means that we know exactly how hard you all work.  There are so many misconceptions about being a teacher, mostly including holidays and half days, but in reality, your day doesn’t stop when the kids go home. Most people don’t understand the hours that go into lesson planning, meetings, curriculum proposals, after-school activities and, of course, the personal worrying you do about how to engage students that need it the most.  On top of all that, so many of us spend extra time investigating and researching new teaching methods and educational innovations that might help us make more of a difference in our classrooms. 

These are just some of the reasons why we are so dedicated to finding ways to help you out and offer advice and tips on how to get a better balance of work and down time.  Not only do you deserve to spend some time on yourself, but a happier, healthier you will make you a better teacher and supporter for your students.  This week we talked to Head of Year 1 at GEMS WSO Primary, Claire Smith about her tips on achieving that work/life balance and how to make sure you get the time you need to rejuvenate and grow. 

Hi Claire, thank you so much for speaking with us!  Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and how you came to Dubai?

I actually graduated in 2003 and taught in Scotland for 12 years, teaching a range of age groups and working as an English co-ordinator. It was in 2015 that I moved to Dubai.

What got you into education?

From the age of 5, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved school and did work-experience in my final year of secondary school at a local primary school before starting my BEd (Hons) course.

What do you like most about being a teacher?

I love that whilst I am in my 15th year of teaching, it is still different every single day! I love making a difference for children and their parents. I love how things can change and this really keeps it fresh as a profession.

What do you find the most challenging?

The main challenge is ensuring that I meet the needs of every student in my classroom, all of the time. I am very lucky to have an amazing teaching assistant who supports me with this.

What is the biggest misconception about teaching?

The biggest misconception is that we work from 9-3 and play around with sand and glitter!

What are the unique attributes of teaching in the UAE?

I love teaching children from all over the world, I am constantly learning from them. It is incredible learning about the customs and traditions of different countries from a 5 year old!

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

I make lots of plans, so that I have always got something to look forward to. We also have a lot of visitors, so it is always great to see family and friends here. My son is an amazing distraction from work, there is nothing like a game of ‘WWE Monopoly’ or an evening swim to help you switch off. At work, I try to stay ahead so that I can have a few ‘laptop free’ nights during the week…this isn’t always easy!

What do you like to do most with your off-time?

Spending time with my husband and son. Dubai is an amazing place for families and we love it! I enjoy a little trip to my local spa at least once every two weeks and the ultimate treat when I can is a whole spa day; it is bliss to read a book by the pool in the sunshine! We also enjoy travelling during the summer.

What tips would you give new teachers for setting a balance from the start?

Have a ‘to do’ list and prioritise what you need to do and when you are going to do it. Make plans with friends that will allow you to switch off and ensure that you always give yourself a few nights off during the week. Sleep lots and try to find your personal way to relax. 

What advice would you give teachers who might find themselves struggling with their work load or disconnecting?

Talk to someone in school and make a change. Look at how other people are managing their workload and take on board some suggestions; your team will always be keen to support you. Try something different if you are disconnecting, there are so many ways to keep teaching fresh.   Never be afraid to ask for help or advice.  Everyone feels overwhelmed at some point and they might have a tip that could really help.

Shanti Clements
Head of Leadership Academy
#TeacherTips – Finding Balance
With more than 24 years of experience in the field of education, personal development and leadership research, Shanti joined TELLAL from her post as Principal at Beauty Point Public School, which she transformed into one of the highest performing schools in Australia.
#TeacherTips – Finding Balance

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