At a young age, Bridge TEFL course grad Madelyn Addatu found her calling as a teacher – a path that eventually led her to earn a doctorate degree and land a teaching position in the United Arab Emirates, where she’s been living for the last five years. She talks about adapting to major changes in her professional life, such as relocating abroad, learning a new curriculum, and coping with the pandemic.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Madelyn?
I’m from the Philippines. At St. Paul University Philippines, an internationally recognized institution in my home country, I undertook a Bachelor in Secondary Education (major in English) for my undergraduate degree and a Master of Science in Teaching (major in English), and eventually a Doctor of Philosophy in Education (major in Educational Management), for my postgraduate degrees.
How did you get into teaching?
When I was a child, I used to write on our doors at home with chalk. I would hold a stick and pretend to be a teacher, just like how a typical Filipino teacher looked at that time. I can still remember how I imagined my students listening to me even though, in reality, I was alone in that corner of our house. I loved explaining things, although I myself didn’t understand the words I spoke. That experience fueled my desire to become a teacher, as well as the fact that my mom and my aunt encouraged me to become one. Their advice brought a tremendous change in my life, which I am always grateful for.
Where did you work as a teacher in the Philippines?
Right after graduating from college, I was hired by St. Paul as a Basic Education Unit teacher. I was assigned to the secondary department after a year, and I was given the opportunity to be the school paper adviser for the primary department’s publication, “The Paulinette.” I was assigned to teach grade 6 students. I taught at St. Paul for four years. While pursuing my postgraduate degrees, I taught the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels at the same time.
How did you choose to teach in Dubai and how did you get your job?
I tried my luck in the U.A.E. when my uncle proposed to help me work overseas. When I came to the U.A.E. in 2015, I stayed in Al Ain, a city in the Eastern region, for a couple of weeks. I was clueless about how to apply for a job. I solicited ideas from my relatives and decided to improve my curriculum vitae. I sent my CV to many schools. I had some interviews and teaching demos.
However, I was invited by my relatives to Sharjah, U.A.E., and since it is near Dubai, I decided to send my resume to most of the schools in Dubai. At the time, it was a bit difficult for me to get a job since I was new in the country. I kept trying.
Fortunately, I received a call from Dubai Modern International School, a semi-government international school, and was offered a job in less than a month. I was interviewed and had my teaching demonstration. However, since I applied during the summer vacation, I did not start work right away. I waited for almost two months for the reopening of classes. From then on, my teaching journey in the U.A.E. began.
How have you adapted to the culture of the U.A.E. since you moved there?
At first, I thought this country is not as safe as it is, but I have learned to embrace the culture and practices of the locals, especially when I started teaching. Most of the students in my first school were locals. Through my experiences with them and the length of my stay in the U.A.E., I realized that it is actually far safer than I hoped it would be. Coming from a different country and being plunged into a quite different setting is difficult. However, with my relatives’ guidance and colleagues’ support, I was able to cope with the changes and challenges that came my way.
What do you like most about teaching in Dubai?
If one is privileged to teach in an international school or a government institution or university, teaching in the U.A.E., especially in Dubai, is worth one’s effort and time because of the remuneration and other benefits the teacher or the instructor gets. More than that are the very enriching and useful training sessions that schools and universities offer to teachers or instructors for free.
Can you tell us about your current teaching job?
I am currently teaching the upper primary and secondary levels at The City School International, a private school in Dubai. The school has branches in the Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. It is geared toward preparing students for the British IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations. Curriculum consultants from the U.K are appointed on a regular basis to assist the teachers in revising the curriculum and syllabus.
Where are the other English teachers you work with from?
Most of my colleagues are from Pakistan, some are from India, and a few others are from the Philippines.
What changes in teaching trends have you had to cope with since you started working in Dubai?
One of the biggest challenges I had to cope with was the change in curriculum — starting with the curriculum of the Department of Education in the Philippines, then transitioning to the American curriculum in my first school in Dubai, and now, for more than four years, to the National curriculum for England that The City School International is using.
I have learned, re-learned, and unlearned a lot of practices and principles from teaching in the U.A.E. I started embracing technology and a variety of strategies I thought I would not be able to successfully implement in my classes. I even had a realization that I might not be able to finish one year of teaching in Dubai, as there were times when I felt like I was not an efficient and effective teacher. I must say I struggled a lot, especially when I was asked to teach more than one subject in different year groups. However, I still chose not to give up teaching because I believe that, despite the trials I have had, teaching is my calling.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected you as an English teacher?
Due to the pandemic, teachers have to embrace the new normal in terms of the delivery of instruction. We have to teach virtually, using a holistic approach. With that, there is a need for us to be creative and innovative in addressing the needs of the students.
What new strategies did you develop or incorporate into the virtual classroom?
In order to stay up to date with the current trends in education, I attended webinars during our summer vacation and tried to explore some useful apps that were introduced by the speakers in preparation for the reopening of classes. Moreover, I am using some apps that are free, as well as platforms purchased by our school.
Even though I am meeting most of my students virtually, I see to it that they get the chance to work in groups and present their outputs in a modernized and creative way. In teaching English, these are some of the educational apps I use: ReadTheory, ReadWorks, Scholastic, IXL, SpellingCity, Quizizz, Kahoot!, and Education City, among many others.
You took the Bridge Master Certificate TEFL/TESOL course. Why did you decide to take this online TEFL course?
Once a teacher, always a learner. In teaching, learning does not stop. Teachers are known to be vessels of knowledge and facilitators of learning. It is my main responsibility as a teacher to constantly enhance my knowledge and broaden my abilities in diversifying my teaching methods in order to cater to the needs and interests of today’s learners.
Taking this course has been my plan for the past two years. While in this field, I get to discover more about good practices and realize some “eureka” moments. However, to me, that’s not enough. I yearn for more knowledge and I want to discover more of what I can do through the guidance of experts with different points of view.
How has this course helped you professionally?
I believe taking this course is a giant leap toward my greatest dream as an overseas teacher. I have learned so many new strategies and simple ways to improve my teaching. The video clips are really helpful as they clearly show the real classroom setting and how teachers manage classes effectively in different situations.
What are your plans for the next weeks or months?
What we are experiencing now is not to be considered a setback but rather an opportunity to rediscover ourselves and become better in our chosen field. The pandemic should not hamper us from achieving our goals. I am still teaching in one of the schools in Dubai, but this time, not all students are going to school and our face-to-face sessions are no longer on a daily basis. Most of the students in the classes I teach opted for distance learning rather than blended learning.
Do you have any advice for English teachers who want to work in Dubai?
Dubai is an ideal workplace for teachers. However, at this time, the government has become stricter in the selection of teachers, requiring teacher licensing and regular attendance of continuing professional development (CPD) courses. If you want to teach in Dubai, make sure that you are equipped with the necessary skills and that you are flexible in many aspects.