By Soyeon Park
Mr. Rui Da Silva came to the English and History department this year from being an Innovation Director at Dubai American Academy. Passionate about interacting with students and helping them develop to their full potentials, he currently teaches English 9, English 10 and History 9. The Pawprint asked him some questions to have a peek inside his teaching career and life outside of school.
Can you describe the history of your teaching career?
I started my career 20 years ago, teaching English as a foreign language, and then I started teaching English literature as well in schools. I taught media studies for seven years, and some History. Then I got into learning technologies; that’s how I got into innovation. Now I teach English and History to high school students.
Why did you decide to come back to teaching English and History?
I came to DAA initially as a director of innovation, which was a great and interesting role. But honestly, I missed teaching and being in the classroom. I realized that for me, teaching, especially teaching English, is where my biggest passion is.
What is the best & worst part of being an English teacher?
The best part is the students, of course. English is such a great subject because you can talk about anything and interact with students. Any topic, about the past, present, future, our feeling, how we think about society, about all kinds of things. So I think the best part for me is helping people to communicate better, and I love it when I see students develop their language and their ideas, as well, to get deeper and deeper and feel that positive growth that they can express themselves in different ways.
The worst part is that sometimes you haven’t got enough time because there is so much work to do all the time: planning, marking, and then more planning. But I enjoy it honestly; the problem is that you always wish you had more time, so you could do a better lesson. So in that sense, it is a bit frustrating because you know that you can do better if you have more time.
Do you have any of your own “teaching philosophies”?
Yeah, I have two most important ones for me. Number one is, I always tell my students not to go for the emotions, go through the emotions. I don’t want them doing things just because it is part of a test and doing the minimum to get by. I want them to feel it and care. I think when you care about things, you do well, so I want them to care and be emotionally involved in what they are doing. And the second one for me is in English, we often separate critical writing from creative writing, but for me, it is the same. Critical analysis is creative writing, like studying text and analyzing all that stuff. I always think that they are another form of creativity and an amazing one that we should enjoy.
Have you always been a teacher?
Yes! I have always been a teacher.
In what countries have you lived before coming to Dubai, and how is Dubai different from those places?
I started off my teaching career at Japan, which was amazing – it opened me up in many ways culturally and in terms of my teaching career. Then I moved to Seoul, Korea and stayed there for two years teaching at a university, which was also amazing. I went to Portugal for a while, and back in the UK where I am from. Now I am in Dubai, so I stayed in a few different places.
From an experience perspective, I guess Dubai is a little bit weird because when I lived in Japan or Korea, for example, you had to learn a language and a very distinct local culture. It was a buzz; every day you felt that you were growing, and you were learning more and feeling excited. Whereas in Dubai, which is such an international place, there maybe isn’t such a distinct local culture, and obviously everyone speaks English so you don’t need to make much effort. So in one sense, Dubai is easier, but in one sense it is harder because you have to get used to the fact that you don’t have to get used to things. It’s like a strange experience – you are kind of living abroad, but it feels like you are living at home. But now I am used to it and actually really enjoying it since Dubai is such an international place; you are kind of living everywhere at the same time, it’s cool.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time/weekends?
The thing that I most enjoy doing is exercise. Gym, running, swimming… Also watching sports, I love football – I am a big football fan. Another thing is music. I practice a little bit of DJing and guitar – I just love music. I like anything artistic, like movies and studying different genres of films. Anything cultural, like movies, literature, theater, art and so on. I get stimulated a lot by different ideas, and of course, traveling, like all of us do.
What is the craziest experience you had so far?
Probably one of the craziest ones is when we were traveling in Malaysia – it’s a long story – but my friend and I basically got involved in this kind of scam. We got tricked and we almost ended up in this poker game for money. Eventually and luckily we escaped, but this guy wanted to trick us to play this poker game and get some money out of us.
Once I was in Poland, and we got robbed on a train, by gas. The robbers used this special gas that made us fell asleep, and with a knife, they cut my jeans and took all our money and everything – that was kind of crazy.
The last one is not really crazy, but kind of interesting. It was when I was in Seoul, we went to North Korea during the one-day trip to the country. That was culturally super interesting and a weird experience.