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Meet the Expert: The Dean of Students, David Webster-Gardiner
Name: David Webster-Gardiner
Job Title: The Dean of Students at a private US Curriculum school in Dubai
UAE4Kidz had the pleasure to sit down with David Webster-Gardiner, a British national and Dean of Students at a private US Curriculum school in Dubai, for a behind the scenes interview on what it means and takes to be the Dean of Students.
- How long have you been in the UAE?
- This is my second year.
- What were you doing before landing in Dubai?
- I was in Orlando, Florida, USA, working in the largest middle school in the district. I was a Team Leader and Substitute Dean whilst also teaching English and coaching football.
- How did you become The Dean of Students?
- I fell into it after teaching English as a Second Language to adults - being an extrovert I enjoyed the daily interaction with others, and what more can you do for a person than to teach them English? It seemed like the best field to enter - interacting with hundreds of people daily, while being charged with imparting knowledge to them.
- From being in the middle school classroom, I saw that the Administrators (Deans, Assistant Principals, Deputy Heads, etc.) seemed to have the most fun - dealing with all students and not just those in your class, helping the entire school operate smoothly and carry a walkie-talkie!
- I pursued my Masters in Educational Leadership part-time while working - it solidified my desire to work on a more macro level in a school in a leadership capacity. I saw the position to be the Dean of Students in Dubai and seized the opportunity.
- What exactly is The Dean of Students?
- A Dean is in charge of the pastoral care/welfare of students - from disciplining them, ensuring school safety and helping them achieve in their classes. I oversee all student movements from assemblies to lunchtimes, I am the adult students can approach with their issues.
- Your typical day at school?
- From greeting students on the front step by name as they arrive (keeping an eye out for dress code infractions), I deal with latecomers, and begin contacting parents or responding to emails. Meetings are held with the Principals at this time outlining current issues/projects, and from there I patrol the campus during student breaks. I have teachers assigned to duty areas so I mainly spend this time building relationships with the students - trying to look out for those on their own, talking with students and checking in with them. Obviously, it helps limit misbehaviours the more they see me roaming around too!
- Usually I have parent, teacher or student meetings during a portion of the day or I am investigating either missing grades or students. I will check in with teachers about students, communicate with parents and other stakeholders, and help as needed. I stand on the front steps as students leave each day - wishing them well and being a consistent figure in their day.
- How do you balance between exercising your role as authority and building relationships with your students?
- Approachability is the key. Students know I care for them.
- How are you able to work with fellow teacher in implementing discipline strategies in the daily education programme?
- From the beginning of the year, I work with teachers to establish their classroom expectations - what steps they should take with students to try to settle issues within their own working relationship. We want a progressive discipline model at our school not a 'zero tolerance' approach. Students are humans like the rest of us - we grow by making mistakes and trying again.
- I coach our staff to speak with the students privately first, to explain their perspective and settle disputes. Teachers copy me on their parental communication concerning behaviour which is another step before a student is referred to the office.
- Do you use the same discipline tactics with your children?
- Yes and no. With my children being younger I provide more boundaries and less reasoning with them. It is different at home though as I know the moral code I wish to uphold in my own family - and sometimes my children just need a good tickling!
- As studenst each come from different cultures and homes, it is more of a respectful citizenship that we must strive for.
- Where did you go to school?
- Growing up in the Unted Kingdom, I went to the University of Cardiff, before emigrating to the United States of America and beginning my teaching career.
- I completed my Masters at the American College of Education
- How was "discipline" and detention like back in the day with you?
- I received lines to write by the hundreds, and detentions of cleaning the school - for a while my school didn’t need cleaners as I had so many detentions for tardiness and other mischievous acts.
- As a last resort my school also gave the paddle, although I managed to scrape through without getting a whack (phew!).