Prioritising Happiness

Sinead Avitabile, Foundation Stage Teacher and Happiness, Wellbeing and Mindfulness Leader at GEMS Royal Dubai School talks about how teaching came naturally to her and how her focus is on fostering the well-being of her students and her colleagues.

How did you get into teaching?
I fell into teaching almost by accident. My mum is a teacher. When I was in secondary school, I had to do work experience and I wasn’t sure what to do; I went to her school out of ease. I instantly fell in love with the idea of being able to help the children grow in their own way. I then did a three-year degree in Education. I have taught in Ireland, England, France and now the UAE and the main thing I’ve learned is that children learn best when they are happy and cared for.

What attracted you to teaching Foundation Stage and Early Years?
I love the idea of Foundation Stage as a basis for the children’s whole schooling life. We build the base for everything they learn in years to come. In Foundation Stage there is magic in every achievement the children make. They begin the year not even recognising a letter and end the year being able to read, or a child who did not speak develops the confidence to raise their hand and offer an answer. The children form their personalities every day before our eyes and to me that is magic!

What do you do in your current role and what do you most enjoy about your job?
I am a teacher and the Happiness and Wellbeing Leader of GEMS Royal Dubai School (RDS). I have the best role — showing people how to look for happiness in every day. It is my first year in this role and I can honestly say I have loved every second of it so far. I have learned so much about well-being and the role has greatly improved my own. Happiness and well-being are areas I always felt are of paramount importance to the children in my class, so I thought, why not do the same with my colleagues too? We have our Happiness Day at the end of March, a really exciting day for everyone. Well-being is something that is really important to us all at RDS and you can definitely feel that as you walk into our school.

What is RDS’s approach to Early Years and what makes the school stand out?
Our team believes in a child-centred approach; every child learns differently so we like to follow how they learn and what they like to learn. We all believe in ‘explorative learning’ where the children learn through real life experiences and through our guidance. I think what makes us stand out is our strong, dedicated team who will stop at nothing when doing the best for the individual children in each class. Our knowledge and perseverance have been commented on by visitors to our school, and these are characteristics that we are really proud of.

What would you tell parents looking at school options for their young child?
Look for a school that centres its ethos, teaching and learning around your child. This way you know your child’s individual needs will be met. I think the best way to get to know a school is to go on a tour – you will instantly get a ‘vibe’ and know your child will be happy there.