Yesterday, I had the pleasure of supervising a group of Grade 10 and Grade 11 students at a Model United Nations (MUN) conference at the Dubai International Academy. It brought back many memories and made me feel very nostalgic for my own MUN days.
Walking around and entering every council/committee, and seeing the students engaged in debate and rebutting each other’s points, and amending resolutions etc., also made me think about how such an experience teaches them ‘life-skills’, because I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t learned such life-skills from things like MUN, participating in plays and musicals, the school band, the basketball team etc…
It also made me reflect on my teaching, and how far I have come from starting off as a teacher of economics, business studies and statistics, to becoming a performing arts teacher who teaches both drama and dance. Several times I get asked “why did you make the switch from teaching economics and business studies to teaching the performing arts?“
My only answer is: I got tired from teaching curricula and teaching to a test/exam, and I prefer to teach life-skills. Having taught subjects at the senior level in both IB and IGCSE, realistically my main focus was preparing my students for the exam at the end: how to interpret exam questions, how to structure the perfect answer to get the full mark, how to write the perfect extended response etc… But life is not an exam. Learning how to interpret exam questions is not a life-skill, it’s an academic one, and it only prepares students for university. But there’s so much more to life than going to university.
However, as a performing arts teacher, I present my students opportunities to work cooperatively in groups, to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills, to develop their reflective abilities, to develop their self-confidence, to practice empathy, to learn how to give constructive feedback, and how to receive feedback; and these are all life-skills that they will use no matter what their path beyond school becomes.
One of the most inspiring people in my life is my younger brother. He is my best friend and one of my role-models. My brother is just not academic, and he hasn’t been very successful at university. But at a very young age, he decided to start-up his own business: a company that trains and prepares delegates for worldwide MUN conferences! He took his passion and love for MUN and decided to make money out of it! How inspiring is that?
While I still enjoy teaching economics and business studies (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t), I am grateful to be a teacher of life-skills, and not just a curriculum.