Teachers can help shape the path to a child's future by guiding them in the right way.
In conversation with Connector, Craig McDonald is one of the teachers in Dubai that has been paving the way for students for the past four years.
Although new to teaching in the UAE, Craig has already brought his unique approach to teaching by incorporating interactive elements into his classes, that help keep students engaged.
Teaching Humanities to students at The Aquila School, Craig shares his daily motivation to teach and where his love for teaching came from.
What inspired you to start teaching?
What inspired me to start teaching was quite simply, great teachers. My mother was an amazingly caring primary teacher, and I grew up witnessing how much joy she received from looking after pupils in primary. It had always stuck with me how much effort she put into her pupil's education. In addition to this, the effort she made to care for her pupils outside of the classroom is what stood out. She had a massive impact on not just their education, but their overall lives and she was regarded as a positive pillar of the community for doing this, certainly someone I looked up to and was inspired by.
Do you remember your favourite teacher from school?
In secondary, I had two teachers that inspired me. One was a PE teacher and the other was history. Both drilled into me that politeness and hard work were mantras to stick with in life. My PE teacher often said 'self-praise is no praise', encouraging me to be humble and my history teacher used to say 'a person who puts in long hours will be rewarded in short hours'. Their kindness, morals, discipline and friendliness always stuck with me and inspired me to become a teacher and strive to have the same positive impact on pupils.
How did you decide to teach your current subject?
History is a subject that I have always loved and deciding to teach it was extremely easy for me. For others, a love of history does not come so naturally, and I am often asked by pupils, 'Why study history?'. My answer is, history gives context to everything around you. History helps you understand what your ancestors were like; what your family in forgotten years achieved and how they lived. It explains how everything around us came to be. It contains the most interesting stories, characters and events that ever existed on earth. It helps you understand your heritage, your language, your religion, your country, your politics, your fashion, your food and even your football team. History helps you understand yourself!
Why do you love teaching?
Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite thing about teaching is building relationships. The experience of meeting a pupil for the first time, because often pupils are shy and reserved at first. Observing how that relationship grows as you learn new things together and take on difficult tasks, is incredible. Having such a vital role in someone’s formative years is a tremendous responsibility and is incredibly rewarding.
How do you make everyday classes more interesting?
Every pupil is different and learns in different ways so ensuring that lessons are varied and different to suit these needs is vital. This year, I have attempted to make lessons interactive and make history come alive. For example, we created a mock courtroom and put a slave trader on trial as part of our slavery topic. Pupils had gavels to object with and had to create a legal case as to why the defendant was either guilty or innocent. Other pupils were part of the jury and had to listen attentively before coming to a decision. As part of our topic on early civilisations, we had pupils create speeches about the dangers that the first civilisations experienced. To set the scene we turned out the lights and had a video of a fire on the smartboard. Pupils really enjoyed this as it was something different to the norm.
Finally, in geography we have recently been creating presentations on a country that represents a pupil’s heritage. Pupils were encouraged to share music, clothes and food from their country and bring it in for their classmates to experience. Pupils shared dances, food, clothing, stories and pictures and videos of themselves in their countries which really brought the presentations to life. One of the best things about our school is how diverse we are, and it was amazing to see pupils discussing the history and geography of their countries in an interesting and engaging way.
What is a unique part of the school?
The Aquila School offers the pupils opportunities to really feel like they are part of a community. It certainly offers some unique experiences. There are so many examples I could give which are unique to my time at this school. For example, I have come to school in national dress (kandura) and watched an Arabic teacher sing the national anthem, this allowed our Arabic pupils to teach me about their culture and build our relationships further. I have taken the lead in our school’s drama workshop week, which gave pupils the opportunity to work with their peers from across different year groups and create a show which involved every single pupil in secondary. I have watched professional wrestlers at the school fair. I have experienced an Iftar with the pupils, teachers and their families. Every week we experience a fun and creative assembly which the pupils look forward to every week. Last but certainly not least, I have seen a human-size parrot welcoming pupils to the school. We are indeed a unique school.
The Aquila School