Teaching in Doha

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Teaching in Doha – What is it like? What should I be aware of?

The SeekTeachers™ team continues their quest to give you the “real deal” insight into the working life in various areas.  This time round we got the “low down” from a very experienced senior teacher in Qatar, Doha. There are definitely some golden nuggets to take away from this blog!  Here is what he has to say…
Patience and tolerance are probably the most important qualities you will need both at school and away from work. Patience with both your school administration and life in Doha itself. You can expect your school, like so many others, to be run by a Director of Schools, yes there will be a Principal, but he/she will not have the autonomy that you would expect in Western schools. The Principal is there to carry out directions and instructions from the Director, who invariably is not Western and has very little educational management background.  There will also be the Qatari owner, who will have his say in how things should happen.
Remember, Qatar is now officially the richest country in the world (based on income per capita) and is set to become even richer. Qataris are smart businessmen, look at how they bought Harrods, most of London’s city center property and whole addresses, how they bank rolled Barclays Bank during the recent crisis and how they have massive shares in UK businesses, e.g Sainsburys, which is over 1/4 Qatari owned. Anyway, your Principal will have to get along with the Director and owner in order to survive (there have been instances when Principals have argued or said “No” to either or both and they have then found themselves on the next plane home!) This can make many Principals very nervous and stressed individuals and can make them appear to be on the side of the BIG Boss/es. Try to understand the position they are in before you start venting your frustration at them.
Yes, you will go through an awful lot of frustration. The list is long – frustration with obtaining necessary paperwork from the school, frustration with maintenance at your accommodation (the usual line from workmen is they will come “after 4.30″, but they fail to be exact or even say which day), frustration at language barriers, frustration at children in your lessons who do not really want to be at school and who get no support from home so your efforts seem wasted, frustration with their parents who will expect to see you 5 minutes before you are due to leave school and will want to spend an hour telling you that their child should have scored 98% in a recent test and not the 96% that you gave him. So tolerance becomes crucial.
Remember, you are in the country as a visitor. You are providing a service but you are being paid for that service and you are being provided with many “perks” with that job, so you are expected to “sing for your supper” an awful lot. When you feel your blood beginning to get warm (which actually has nothing to do with the temperature being 40 degrees plus), take a step back, breathe slowly and remember that in the bigger picture of life what you might be expected to do or have to do is not that difficult really.
But there are many, many positives to working in Doha. Not just no income tax, but when you sit down and work out what you would be paying/have deducted from salary back home - National insurance contributions, VAT, rent/mortgage, Council tax, very high utility bills, petrol costs etc. You can have the “Prada/Armani/Gucci” lifestyle if you want but you will pay for it. Alternatively, you can choose materials and have clothes made very cheaply but made very well. If you want brand name food items you will pay for them but different food stuffs and different meals are much more affordable. Why go to the international hotels and spend a small fortune on an even smaller platter of international cuisine when you can explore small, “backstreet” Thai, Sri Lankan, Indian, Turkish, Lebanese, Moroccan eating places? Take that tolerant attitude you are developing when you stand outside one of these places thinking about going in, strike up a conversation with the waiter or manager, he will be very genuinely interested in you and if you show an interest in him you may get treated that little bit better than others.
You can save money, you can transfer money very easily; you may wish to consider sending savings to an offshore tax-free account. If you decide to stay for a length of time you can get loans for car purchases.  Remember cars are cheaper than in the west and generally bigger with more extras being included as a standard. Repayments are very reasonable, as in theory there is no such thing as interest in Muslim law (although this is often disguised as administration charges). You will also get a decent price when you want to sell and in some cases, car dealers will guarantee to buy back.
Explore other countries - Flights to and from neighboring countries in the Middle East are generally affordable, so look to visit places you wouldn’t normally go to in your holidays. Make your provided accommodation your home. Get yourself to the Souks and buy some rugs (not necessarily silk but good strong wool), have a bed (and other furniture) made and delivered, look for wall hangings, use different materials for throws and covers, check that you can decorate the walls and get one of the maintenance guys from school to come and do it for a very cheap price, ask the cleaners at school if they would be interested in cleaning your place once a week and doing the ironing. In short, you will get out of your Middle East experience what you put into it.
The Interview Stage
Your interview may be very short, but don’t be put off if it is so. Directors/Principals are incredibly busy and will have decided if they want you by discussing your CV before hand. Make sure your CV is professional and clear, with a photograph (not a social snapshot). Do your homework on the school and lifestyle in Middle East.  You can guarantee one question will be “Why do you want to work here?” Be clear in your answers, you may be dealing with someone whose English is a second language. Be polite no matter how you’re spoken to and treated, by this I do not man be a “yes” man/woman but don’t vent out like you would back home, it won’t get your very far here.
Have questions you want answering, but avoid asking about salary. This will be brought up by the school. Don’t be afraid to negotiate but remember you don’t want to be greedy and your salary will be tax-free, rent free and your flights will be paid for. Finish by asking the interviewer what will be the next step/stage be: Will you receive a contract through email? When will you get your flight ticket and itinerary? Where will you be teaching in the school? (i.e age groups, subject etc.). This shows you’re keen and eager to the employer and increases your chances of being made an offer.
As with any country, there are pros and cons. This blog highlights exactly this but you should do your homework before you tread into the unknown. If you like would to discuss something specific why not drop us a comment and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Teachers looking to work in Doha also have to get their documents attested. Your SeekTeachers™ consultant will be able to help you with this.