One of the biggest dangers facing a successful college such as KYUEM is to become complacent. Having just achieved the best ever results at A level in the college's history, the pressure is now on us to maintain the same high standards.
More than ten years ago, I was involved in hiring experienced teachers to work on an ambitious teacher training programme that would lead to the first professional Bachelor of Education degree in the United Arab Emirates. I can vividly recall interviewing one candidate who had a wealth of experience and was also highly qualified. I asked him what his personal and professional goals were for the year ahead; in what new directions he was hoping his teaching would lead. He looked at me rather blankly and said he felt that with all the experience he had gained, he felt there was nothing new for him to learn. That sentence alone immediately denied him a place on our programme. I firmly and passionately believe that if ever the day dawns when I think I know it all, that will be the day to quit teaching forever.
Lifelong learning is more than just a fashionable term. The teaching and learning experience runs both ways if it is ever to be successful. Yesterday, I was in class with a junior group of KYUEM students taking English Literature. For ninety glorious minutes I was able to immerse myself in my own specialist subject, in the attempt to impart some knowledge that will be of use to them. The real joy, however, was not to be found in telling them things that I knew but they didn't. It was in the shared experience of asking their opinions and comparing them with mine in a historical, literary and cultural context. I will be taking this class every week for ten weeks. I have every hope that they will contribute greatly to my own education.
Teachers, like doctors and most other professionals, need to keep their knowledge and competencies up to date. One of my heroes, Dr Samuel Johnson, when asked about friendship, replied to James Boswell: "A man, sir, should keep his friendships in constant good repair." I would like to extend that to education: teachers should keep their professional competencies in constant good repair.
One of the ways in which we all try to achieve this is by devoting time to Continuous Professional Development. CPD can take many different forms. It may simply involve keeping up to date with the latest trends in international education by reading the relevant journals. It may mean attending conferences or exhibitions. One of the best ways of encouraging effective CPD is to organise courses and programmes that are particularly suitable for your teachers and staff.
To that end, during this semester I will be delivering a course of leadership training for all our Heads of Department. They will be required to set aside a couple of hours each week to attend a class and work together on a variety of challenging tasks, all of them related to running a successful academic department. In this way, we hope to maintain the highest levels of academic competency in all our subjects taught to A level.
By never being entirely satisfied, and striving for excellent results in all our subjects, we intend to keep complacency at arm's length. Additionally, we must always be on the lookout for new ways of teaching and to keep abreast of all that is best in international education. Our students deserve nothing less.