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Teaching in Qatar
Lisa Pendergast
Scott Walsh, with his Qatari student Saoud

Memorial University Faculty of Education alumni from St. Anthony to St. John’s, and many places in between, have taken their teaching skills internationally to Doha, Qatar, where they are currently employed with the College of the North Atlantic Qatar campus (CNA-Q).

Scott Walsh, pictured above with his Qatari student Saoud, completed a bachelor of education degree in intermediate/secondary studies and a master of education in curriculum, teaching, and learning studies. After teaching in rural Newfoundland communities for a few years, he was ready to take on a new challenge and join the faculty at CNA-Q.

“I felt the time was right in 2008 to take both a personal and professional leap of faith into international education,” said Mr. Walsh. “What awaited me was an opportunity to be involved with a partnership between my home province and a country half a world away with a vision to educate and empower learners to be self-sufficient contributors to sustainable social and economic development of their local communities, the State of Qatar and the Arabian Gulf region as a whole.”

After teaching in Newfoundland for nine years, Paula Hayden moved to New Zealand to teach high school English. Within a year, she became head of the English Department. Ms. Hayden has been teaching at CNA-Q for the past 10 years and she is currently the Chair of the Centre for Teaching Excellence there. Ms. Hayden credits her love of teaching and her international success to the teachers she had growing up.

“The most influential people in my life have been teachers,” said Ms. Hayden. “In my youth, a number of particular teachers inspired me, cared about me, pushed me and supported me. As I considered career options, I knew I needed to be in a role where I could use my talents and strengths to do for others what my great teachers had done for me.”

Amy Ireland is currently working on her bachelor of education (post-secondary). Ms. Ireland was teaching English in South Korea from August 2010 to February 2012. She came back to Newfoundland to complete her master of employment relations and began working as the Human Resources Coordinator/Manager at the Graduate Students’ Union. But it was not long before she felt the need to travel again and she found herself in Doha in August 2013.

 “I felt the pull to move abroad again and jumped at the opportunity to work with CNA once more; especially in another part of the world,” said Ms. Ireland. “During the final semester of my Masters I was offered this position at CNA-Q; I accepted and here I am.”

Janet Keeping was teaching part-time and enjoyed it so much, she decided to pursue her bachelor of education to prepare herself for a full-time career. In 2013, she decided to see what teaching abroad had to offer and she moved to Qatar from the College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s.

“This was an opportunity to experience a different culture, not only in Doha where I would be teaching, but also through the new travel opportunities I would have exploring Europe and Asia during school breaks,” said Ms. Keeping.

Barry Lush has a bachelor of arts and education and is currently enrolled in the master of education in educational leadership studies at Memorial. He is no stranger to teaching internationally, having taught in Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Thailand, Lebanon, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates.

“I moved because after I graduated I was unable to find a full-time teaching position in Newfoundland,” said Mr. Lush. “Also, I always wanted to travel and see the world. In the past 25 years of teaching abroad, I’ve certainly done that.”

These teachers feel that there are many benefits to teaching abroad, such as learning a new culture, teaching others about their own culture and observing how students learn all over the world.

“It is through the students that I have learned many of the ins and outs of the culture, in both Korea and Qatar,” said Ms. Ireland. “They enjoy talking about their country and learning about mine. It is one of the many benefits as an expatriate working in an educational institution.”

“The vast majority of the experiences I have had overseas have been extremely positive,” said Mr. Lush. “I’m fluent enough in three other languages that I can get by in most daily situations, I’ve met some great teachers from a number of different countries, and I’ve learnt about other cultures and the people that create those cultures first hand. What more can anyone ask for?”

“College students here are respectful and appreciative of what we do,” said Ms. Keeping. “I have the highest respect for their achievements, they study in a language that is not their own and the effort required is very significant.”

Teaching internationally comes with a unique set of challenges from culture shock, to homesickness plus all of the normal challenges that come with defining yourself as a teacher.

“Qatar is very much a family-focused culture and as western-based instructors we have to be flexible, patient and conscious of the competing personal and social factors in our students’ lives,” said Mr. Walsh. “An awareness and understanding of these factors enables us to better circumvent some of the challenges one may face in such a diverse teaching and learning environment.”

“The biggest challenge for me has been sorting out just who I am as a teacher (that might have been true even had I stayed in Newfoundland) and how I ‘fit’ into a new cultural environment,” said Ms. Hayden. “I want to remain true to my own heritage and values, but I also want to embrace and show respect for the ways of thinking, doing – and learning – represented in my new home.”

The group feels that the Faculty of Education has effectively prepared them to deal with the ups and downs of teaching, whether in a local or international environment.

“Overall, my experience in the Faculty of Education was great,” said Ms. Hayden. “I felt my learning was less selfish. I wasn’t learning things simply for my own interest, but with an eye to using what I learned for some larger, more specific purpose. I certainly gained the confidence I needed to be a teacher.”

“I am doing my degree online which can be a challenge; however, the program is well organized and the professors are very accommodating,” said Ms. Ireland. “The program is helping me recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I have not only realized development, assessment and delivery methods that are beneficial for the classroom but I have also come to understand those which are not.”

Graduates of the Faculty of Education do not have to feel limited in their careers; there is a world of opportunity out there waiting for them.

“Teaching internationally is an education in itself,” said Ms. Keeping. “We learn from the students and the people we meet in a way no other experience could really match.”

“Accepting this position in Qatar was the best personal and professional decision to date in my life,” said Mr. Walsh. “I never fully realized the true value of my education degree, the endless possibilities that it has given me throughout these years. Canadian born and Canadian educated teachers are highly regarded around the world.”

Teaching internationally is a great experience, but it takes a certain person to be able to do it. Mr. Lush offers a final piece of advice, “If you are flexible, open-minded and able to laugh when things don’t work out the way you think they should, then absolutely, this experience is for you.” 

 

Jun 12th, 2015

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