Meet Phil Dust, Dean of Student Activities and teacher at BASIS International School Guangzhou. Phil hails from the UK and is in his second overseas teaching post. Read on to learn more about Phil and the extraordinary support and sense of family he found in the boarding program at Guangzhou.
What made you decide to pursue a career in education?
I more fell into it than chose it, really. In my final year at university, I signed up to study for an MSc in Clinical Pharmacology and planned to work as a clinical research associate. Changing circumstances meant I had to abandon that plan, and I signed up to do a PGCE while deciding where I would go next. Within five minutes of getting into a classroom, not only did I realize I was good at teaching, but I also realized what a fulfilling, inspirational, and amazing job it was. Making a genuine difference in the lives and futures of the next generation was incredibly humbling and satisfying. That was 23 years ago, and I have never looked back.
What influenced you to teach abroad?
I worked for nine years as head of science in an incredibly multicultural school in the UK, where there were 26 languages spoken. This experience motivated me to explore ways of increasing understanding of all these different origins. I applied for and received Comenius funding to run projects across the world for the school, taking students to pair up with peers from over 15 countries. Seeing how an international spin on things made such a huge difference to tolerance and understanding, I felt I had to be part of it, so, I studied for an MSc in International Development Management and headed abroad.
What do you enjoy most about teaching internationally?
Being surrounded by such multiculturalism, getting to know students and colleagues from all over the world. My hobby has always been anthropology. Now it’s part of my job too.
What do you enjoy most about working in an international boarding school?
It’s that extra level of a sense of family. The students turn up to evening study sessions (ESS) in their slippers with a much more relaxed, chilled-back attitude. Whilst I don’t teach ESS, my job as Dean of Student Activities means I am often still at work when the students come to ESS. They are different people then, and it’s wonderful to get to know them on a different level.
When you came to China, what was pleasantly surprising?
Although I never really pay attention to what the media portrays, preferring to find out for myself first, I was struck by how clean, green, peaceful, and safe China is. Guangzhou is more than twice the size of the biggest city in the UK, but you are never more than a short walk away from a park or canal path, and I have yet to see a single piece of litter. It’s quite fantastic. People really take pride in their surroundings, and it’s wonderful.
What type of support did you receive from BASIS International Schools to ease the transition of moving overseas?
Oh my gosh, where to start. Literally everything, all the time, and it doesn’t stop when you get here. The HR crew at BASIS is, without a doubt, the best HR team on the planet, ever! It isn’t just their ruthless efficiency either. They genuinely care about us. New synonyms of the word amazing should be invented to describe the BASIS HR team. Nothing is too much trouble. Nothing is unknown. They just make you feel safe, valued, and genuinely cared for at each and every step of the journey.
What is it like teaching abroad with a family?
I am not the well-travelled one. This is my second overseas posting. My wife was born in Swaziland and lived in nine countries before I met her. I would say she was a significant factor in our decision to make the move. Her confidence was inspirational. The level of tolerance and understanding that comes with such experience is now being taught to our son. He is in his third school, and he’s only 11 years old. This experience has only affected him positively. He loves living abroad, has friends from all over the world, and, as rather a lot of his lessons have been online over the last few years, has also kept ties with friends in other countries far more than I think he perhaps would have, had the pandemic never happened. Silver linings and all!
How has your teaching practice improved during your time at BASIS International Schools?
Honestly, I would say in the planning and subject knowledge. Why? Because BASIS students are so driven, so motivated. You really do teach for the entire session. There is no waiting time, and no class control needed. These students desire to know and understand everything. As a result, you really need to know your subject, to make them have confidence in you.
One thing BASIS prides itself on is allowing you full autonomy to teach how you like to teach. You can be the best you there is. It’s a real pleasure to teach here.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering working overseas?
Stop considering and just do it. The HR team at BASIS takes all the stress and worry out of the situation. Once you are here, they are then complimented by your new, more experienced colleagues. Our first day in our new apartment was when we realized that, despite informing our banks in advance, our bank cards did not work. We were in for less than five minutes before colleagues gave us some cash and placed a large online grocery order for us. With that kind of support behind you, it really is a no brainer.
Phil Dust, MSc.
Dean of Student Activities
Natural Sciences Teacher
BASIS International School Guangzhou