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Teacher Feature - James Bedford

Why and how did you get into teaching?

With a passion for sport from an early age, there has always been a desire to emulate the positive role models I have had in my life. This led me to start my football coaching career early and by the age of 25 I had been a head coach for clubs and team in the states and UK. This love of coaching and developing young athletes led me to the UAE and the draw of working in the large international schools with superb facilities. Having taught PE now for 5 years I have been fortunate to grow as a teacher and lead and develop young athletes and sportsmen and women through structured programmes, such as the one we have established now at Kings’ Al Barsha.

How long have you been teaching for? How long have you been in the Middle East?

I have been in the Middle East for 6 years and teaching in 5 years.

What is exciting about your role?

Working in a through school it is really exciting to see the children develop their sporting skills from a really young age, all the way through to teenagers and young adults. Furthermore, the level of coaches and athletes the region is attracting now is really exciting and it is not uncommon to find ex world famous sports men and women on the fields of youth sport passing on their knowledge here in Dubai.

What is challenging about your role?

The real challenge is to try to find a way in which every individual student can access physical activity to contribute towards an active and healthy lifestyle. For some this will come in the form of competitive teams, where as other individuals may simply find pleasure in other aspects of sport such as training with or social teams or working out in the pool as part of a swim programme. To meet this challenge, we aim to offer a wide reaching and diverse sporting programme which all students can access.

What’s the biggest myth about teaching?

There is a misconception that PE is very much a secondary subject and that skill development takes place in high school through specialist PE lessons. However, research suggests that the optimum age for physical and mental development is between the ages of 7 – 11 (primary years). I believe true skill acquisition takes place even prior to this age and in order to allow students to develop their skills to the autonomous (execute without thought) stage, then specialist provision and coaching should take place as low down into primary school as possible. In the world of football they recognise this with the rule of thumb that the best coaches work with the youngest year groups.

Who has been your inspiration throughout your career? Why?

I enjoy reading biographies of famous athletes, coaches and leaders and often try to take aspects of each of these and employ their style and methods into my own day to day practise. The biggest single inspiration has probably been my very own PE teachers, who helped foster my leadership skills from a young age.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement over the course of your career?

Being appointed as Director of Sport and PE (Whole Campus) for Kings’ School Al Barsha.

Tell us one way a particular student has impacted your life or teaching philosophy

I have come across many ‘natural’ young sportsmen and women who stretch my knowledge on how best to develop their talent. These students come along rarely, but when they do, they test your beliefs on skill acquisition and how we as teachers, should nurture raw talent. I believe one of the main tasks for PE teachers is to foster a love for sport, and if we can achieve this at the right age, the possibilities are endless.

I enjoy finding new and innovative ways to engage students in PE and sport. In PE students learn by doing and it is simply about manipulating the lessons so children can access the learning and engage in a fun activity. One example of this is by playing hangman as part of the scoring system of a match. Students love this variation and it also allows the less able players to feel part of the team, trying to guess the letters or word!

Are there any specific goals you would like to achieve in your career?

The aim now is to continue the project at Kings’ School Al Barsha, continuing the hard work which has brought us many successes in the short few years since we opened the school in 2014.

James Bedford Director of Sport & PE, Kings’ School Al Barsha