Curricula or life-skills?


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.

My brother and I 🙂


So, our school provided a team of teachers an opportunity to attend a great training/PD delivered by Apple-recommended trainers. We attended intensive trainings in iBooks Author, iLife apps, as well as iTunesU.

The one that stood out the most to me was the ‘iTunesU bootcamp’, as the school dubbed it. Having been an iPad coordinator at my previous school, most of the iBooks Author and iLife stuff I knew from before, but iTunesU was completely new and unexplored territory for me. 

As trainees, we were expected to have come out from the bootcamp with a fully designed iTunesU course that we can start delivering in the near future. As a drama teacher, at first I sort of struggled: how do I create an iTunesU course for my drama/performing arts classroom?

However, eventually I got inspired and created my first ever iTunesU course covering improvisational theatre and Commedia Dell’Arte, over a period of ten weeks. The process of creating the iTunesU course and delivering it through that platform really forced me to evaluate how I already use iPads in my drama classroom. While I’ve always made use of students’ iPads to allow them to document evidence of their rehearsals and performances, and to self-assess and peer-assess each others’ work, the iTunesU platform allowed me to streamline the process into one that facilitates the process of building a portfolio of all their work throughout the course. I created a template for that portfolio on ‘Book Creator’, which the students will download and ‘open in’ Book Creator, and then add all their work throughout the course on that portfolio template.

I must say I really enjoyed the bootcamp and the whole process of designing the iTunesU course, to the extent that I’m already designing my second one!