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Interview with April Member of the Month: Mayamin Altae

01.05.19

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Author: Nicola Mellor 

We’re excited to introduce April’s Member of the Month, the inspirational Mayamin Altae.
 
May has been an English Language teacher for more than 15 years, working in schools and classrooms in both the UK and the Middle East, while also gaining extensive experience as a researcher in the fields of educational technology and educational leadership.
 
Here’s what May had to say when we caught up with her this month…

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Hi May! Can you tell us a little about your background? 

I am originally from the land of the two rivers, Mesopotamia, which is known to people as Iraq.
 
After finishing my BA in English Language and Literature in 1999, I got married and went to teach in an international school in Dubai. Two years later I became a middle leader, Head of English, and then a mum of two adorable children … oh sorry, young adults now!
 
In 2005, I returned home to the UK and worked as a year 5/6 teacher in West Yorkshire. In 2010, I decided to pursue my studies, so I enrolled on a master’s program at The University of Manchester, where I completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology and TESOL on a part time basis while teaching in an FE college.
 
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In 2003, after the collapse of the Saddam Hussain regime in Iraq and the changes that Iraq witnessed in all the sectors of life including education, I stepped in to help my fellow Iraqi teachers in adjusting to the new curriculum that came with the political change. The new curriculum was totally different from the old one because it came with the latest resources that Iraqi teachers never encountered before. I organised several training programmes for teachers and educational leaders, mainly on how to use the new curriculum and managing teachers’ expectations, which resulted in a great progress. However, that was all interrupted when the so called ‘Islamic State’ captured the City of Mosul in 2012, resulting in a life standstill for more than 4 years. The education sector in the country was in chaos following that and the challenges for the education stakeholders were massive.
 
Being a British Iraqi, that situation motivated me to take Iraq’s education problems to the world and make people know about the unique Iraqi education sector, hence, I started my PhD at Leicester University in order to raise awareness within the research environment about the exceptionally difficult circumstances that Iraqi teachers and education leaders are going through on daily basis. My PhD was my humble contribution to support the education sector in Iraq and also a platform to make Iraqi educators’ voices heard by the world.

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How did you start out in education?

Being a teacher was my dream job since I was a little girl, I think it was because when I used to go to Iraq in the holidays with my mum, I would get all the neighbour’s children and teach them English and I found it really rewarding and fun.

What eventually drew you to teaching and the position you hold now?

I had a hard journey as an Iraqi child, not having to go back to Iraq to see my grandparents and cousins that I used to play with in the streets of Baghdad due to wars, so I put all my passion in education.

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I wanted to send a message to all children and young people who lost their land due to wars or who migrated with their family looking for a settled life, and to all my native British students who I taught for many years, that without education there would be no prospects for them. The only way I could do that was through my work in schools, where I was able to advise them on daily basis.

What, in your opinion, is the best thing about your role?

The best thing about my role is when you see your learners in the street, they come up to you and thank you for helping them throughout their education journey, and especially when you hear about what they have achieved in their life with that big smile on their faces. It makes me feel so humble to be able to contribute to that success.

What are your research interests? 

My research interest falls within the domain of teacher training and educational leadership. I am mainly focusing on developing school teachers and school leaders’ abilities to influence educational policies and inform educational practice.

You’re due to present a paper at this year’s BELMAS conference about the challenges faced by educational leaders in Iraq. Without giving too much away, can you tell us bit about it?

The currently unstable situation in Iraq has dominated the educational scene for the last 5 years. Iraqi teacher leaders are struggling to find their identity as professional educators and to make their voices heard in the post-war context. There are many barriers to modernising Iraqi curriculum and implementing inclusive processes and practices hallmarked by tolerance of all faiths and none, regardless of race or ethnicity.

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You've been a BELMAS member for a number of years. Has it had any influence on your practice? If so, how?

Absolutely, I have developed a lot of skills through networking with education leaders from all over the world and also by exchanging ideas and best practice stories. The great part that I found with BELMAS is that family work atmosphere. I feel that the whole of the BELMAS society is linked to me in one way or another, I feel that I am a member of a group that is part of something far bigger.
 

Can you tell us something about yourself, completely unrelated to education, that not a lot of people would know?

Apart from my obsession with campaigning for women’s rights and being a key speaker in several venues all over the world fighting for such causes, I like flying and I have attended some lessons on how to fly a helicopter, I am still a beginner though! 

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Mayamin will be presenting a paper at the ‘East Meets West’ symposium (led by Alison Taysum), which will take place at the BELMAS Annual Conference in July.

Her paper, ‘Empowering Inclusive Iraqi Teacher Leadership; Languages of New Technologies, Opportunities and Risks’ highlights how Iraqi teacher leaders are struggling to find their identities as professional educators in a post-war context, and explores three ways in which this can be addressed by the Iraqi education system.

To ensure you don’t miss out on her presentation, you can register your place at the conference here

May is currently working on two new papers:

  • ‘An Overview of the Iraqi English Language Curriculum: A Journey Through History of English Language Teaching'
  • ‘English Language Teachers Perceptions and Views in the Use of Digital Literacy in Teaching’

For more on their publication or to keep up to date with any of May’s upcoming projects and events, you can follow her on Twitter @mayamin

huge thank you to May for being April’s Member of the Month. It was fantastic to chat with you and we look forward to seeing you in July for #BELMAS2019!

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