Mon Oct 3, 2022
With Gaia, I have always felt like my personal life and personal passions are seen as an equal priority to my job, and as a result I am able to give my all to my lessons and my students without feeling burnt-out and overwhelmed by my job.
As I write this blog, I’m hovering some 38,000 feet above the Aegean Sea. I’m currently doing a month-long solo trip around Europe, before returning for a visit to the UK after being abroad for almost four years.
So far I’ve done a week stint in Istanbul, ten days in Cyprus visiting grandparents, and am currently on my way to have a quick break in Rome - and from there, I’ll be nipping over to Lisbon for a long weekend before reuniting with some of my oldest friends from Manchester for a week to attend a destination wedding In Madeira. Then, I’ll be touching down on British soil once more for a few weeks before returning back to Sri Lanka, a tropical South Asian island that I’ve completely fallen in love with and now call my home.
It’s the second week of the new school year, and I am a homeschool tutor to a lovely family of sisters based in Saudi Arabia. This is my third year of teaching them, though here’s the catch - I’ve never actually met them in physical form. I have also never met the School Principal that runs their school there, and I have also never met Kirstin (founder of Gaia Learning) in real life either, despite having been working with her since March 2020. I will be meeting her for the first time once I’m back in the UK.
It’s 8:30am as I write this on my flight, on a Monday. Technically, I am supposed to be teaching right now. I initially managed to schedule all my flights for weekends, however I decided to reschedule my flights to spend a little more quality time with grandparents in Cyprus, who I hadn’t been able to visit for years due to the pandemic. Monday was the only viable flight-change option for me. Luckily, this isn’t an issue at all when working for Gaia; we’re set up so that lessons can be taken by any of our talented teachers. All I had to do was schedule someone to take my classes for the morning, and due to our innovative online system, the other teacher is able to see exactly where I left off with the student and is able to take my student through the lesson plan I have set up for them.
“Have a great time with your grandparents! How exciting! Take plenty of pictures! Safe travels!” Was my boss’ response when I told her I needed to rebook my flight. No reprimanding over missing a work day, no days taken out of a holiday allowance. Gaia lives and breathes the concept of ‘flexibility’, both with students and parents and with their team too. Family and day-to-day life is considered just as important as work, and I can attest that this genuinely, absolutely works. The students, parents and teachers all feel like their time is respected and valued, and so when we meet for lessons, everyone feels fully ready and focused for the day.
When I land today, it’ll be in Rome. I’ll explore the city for the afternoon, then in the morning I’ll be jumping back into the school week as normal, teaching from my AirBnb (or perhaps a quiet cafe with good WiFi, cappuccinos and pastries if I fancy). Next week I’ll be teaching from Lisbon on Monday, and then from Madeira for the rest of the week. The time difference means the school day is finished by midday, so I’ll get to enjoy the rest of the day with friends and exploring a new part of the world.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have (virtually) met Kirstin, the founder of Gaia Learning, two years ago. Not only do we share an ambitious vision for re-structuring the way that education works, but we also believe that the best teachers are ones who are able to flex their schedule in order to prioritise their real life as well. With Gaia, I have always felt like my personal life and personal passions are seen as an equal priority to my job, and as a result I am able to give my all to my lessons and my students without feeling burnt-out and overwhelmed by my job. Over the years, we have both stepped in to support each other’s lessons when personal emergencies have arised; there’s no need to ‘tough it out’ at Gaia. We get the space to deal with the difficult situational or emotional challenges that life throws at us from time to time. This absolutely extends to the needs of our students and their families too - everyone is allowed to take the time they need to deal with real-life and stabilise before returning back to work.
Becoming a digital nomad without ever meeting anyone in person is still a new concept and I have seen first-hand through my peers how challenging it can be to be hired remotely without ever setting foot in an office. There seems to be a bizarre stigma attached to people wanting to travel and live abroad whilst still retaining a stable job or career with UK-based companies. It’s a shame really, as people who have a good work-life balance make for far more reliable employees and have much higher levels of job satisfaction, and anyone who is willing to live in new places and commit to work as well as play are likely highly creative and out-of-the-box thinkers, able to ‘thrive in challenging environments’ - everything asked of us in job advertisements these days, but when it comes to people who actually live and breathe this in their day-to-day, companies still seem hesitant to hire someone without ever meeting them. I hope to see remote working become normalised and encouraged by more and more companies in the coming years.
Being a digital nomad and travelling like this is exciting for my students too; they’ve explored much of the world with me, via webcam - I’ve shown them the peacocks and monitor lizards that wander into my garden in Sri Lanka, a stunning cityscape view of the Petronus Towers in Kuala Lumpur, white sandy beaches in Thailand, and cobbled streets adorned with fuschia and violet bougainvillaea trees from stone-built cafes in Cyprus. Seeing me as a teacher living out in the real world also helps them to build a more three-dimensional picture of me as a teacher; rather than someone chained to the desk at school, they see what it’s like to be a young adult in the real world and hear the challenges and complexities that come with that. Again, at Gaia, we want kids to not just learn about their subjects; we want them to learn from us about real-life as well.
Humanities tutor and head of Wellbeing.