How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Incoming Abu Dhabi Teachers Vs. Veteran Abu Dhabi Teachers

Much speculation by the incoming Abu Dhabi teachers is being made on the Abu Dhabi Facebook pages.  The current teachers in Abu Dhabi share their stories and experiences openly and generously on these Facebook pages for those of us getting ready to leave in August. Not all of the stories are warm and fuzzy.  Stories of teachers being hit and spit on by some of the students, stories of out and out blatant academic cheating by the students to which parents and administration turn a blind eye, lack of teaching materials, substandard living quarters for teachers, and no real clear cut method of decimating information to teachers (if an email is sent, it is often sent in Arabic and then Western teachers have to locate an Arabic speaking teacher to translate) are all prevalent.   Obstacles. That’s all they are; obstacles. 

However, when I compare those obstacles to the conditions and situations in which I have taught in Georgia, it becomes glaringly clear to me that I am just trading one set of issues for another set. And there are issues no matter what road in education we teachers choose to travel.  There are no perfect teaching scenarios. I have taught in classrooms with broken air conditioners in 95 plus degree heat for weeks and no one seemed in a big rush to rectify the situation. I have taught using twelve year old literature books that came to my classroom stamped USED and falling apart at the seams. I have taught with law enforcement personnel marching in unannounced to conduct weapon searches (and found them).  I have taught while incarcerated teen boys were pulled out of my classroom so they could meet with their probation officers.  I have taught classes that were filled with 37 students, of which 10 were special education, 6 were gifted, and the rest ran the gamut between the two extremes, and I did it without a state mandated special education co-teacher. I have taught and graded work for two other teachers, in conjunction with my own classes, because both teachers developed health issues that kept them out of work for two months. I have had administrators instruct me to change class grades so the passing scores looked better, and paid the price when I refused.

Yes, it’s been a ride. And the field of education will always be a ride because there are too many variables: revolving door administrators, federal mandates and state policies, ever changing state education standards, overly concerned and not concerned enough parents, and poverty and/or abuse in the homes of some students.  This is only a partial list; a complete list could fill this entire blog.

But there have been students who made it all worthwhile. Students I will remember to my dying day. Students who taught me as much as I taught them. That’s why I stay in teaching.  That, and the fact that  I am only about 50% sane…

So, now I am getting ready to fling myself off into the unknown regions of Abu Dhabi. I read what the teachers who are already there write, but I have to take those writings and points of view for what they are: their experiences.  Just as you can’t relate what made-from-scratch-fifteen-layer chocolate cake tastes like to someone who has never tasted chocolate, the teachers in Abu Dhabi cannot make us, the incoming teachers, understand what they are experiencing. They can sketch out the details, but the actual coloring in and shading will come from what we, the new teachers, experience once we arrive.  What the veteran Abu Dhabi teachers can do is help us green horns navigate technology issues, procure a driver’s license, show us where and how to get utility services, how to obtain internet service, steer us towards the best grocery stores, assist us in understanding Emirate culture and mores, share information on the most affordable airlines on which to fly home for summer visits, point us in the direction of the nearest laundry, reach out to us as friends, as well as co-workers (so many of us are going over without family), and remind us over and over again to drink copious amounts of water and show us how to sneak a gulp of water in a bathroom stall or a dressing room during Ramadan.

There are a lot of us new teachers going over. Around 650 the last time I checked. We all won’t see eye to eye or even like one another. That’s okay. There are 6.8 billion people on this planet. I don’t like or agree with the few out of that 6.8 million people I do know. Many of the new teachers are not going to like or agree with me either. Statistically, out of the new teachers going, I will probably only like about five of them. I’ll be lucky if even one likes me. The minute I turned 50 I morphed into a take-no-shit bitch who finally realized that being “nice” all those years only allowed people to take advantage of me. I am social, I am kind, I am helpful, but not to the point of allowing people to use me or walk all over me.  Gee, I’m probably going to have to pay someone to be my friend in Abu Dhabi...

The teachers who are already in Abu Dhabi cannot hand over their own experiences and assure the new teachers that those experiences will be their own. They simply can’t, and for any of us to expect them to do so is not only unrealistic, but borders on delusion.  Everyone approaches new experiences based on their own points of view that were developed by religion, social structure, family, education, language, and culture.  

Am I scared about leaving my safe and secure home in August for a country over 6000 miles away?  You bet your ass I am. If I weren’t scared, nervous, and apprehensive I would be a fool. This is new territory for me. A new country. New schools. New students. New friends. New weather. New dominating religion. New food. New sounds. New everything. Everything different from what I am accustomed to.  Even I will be different.  There will be homesickness. There will be periods when I miss my husband so deeply that I will ache. There will be periods of confusion. And there will be culture shock.  Massive doses of culture shock.  I grew up traveling with my dad as a military brat, so I hope those past experiences help me deal better with my new adventure. 

A promise to myself: I will stay grounded and realistic, and not allow my head to float into the clouds. I will reign myself in so that I become neither overly negative nor positive, but keep my feet solidly within the borders of reality. I will teach and learn.  

In need of female BFF in the UAE. Must like hard rock and roll and agree that AC/DC was never the same after Bon Scott passed away. Must also believe that all 99% of all Democrats and Republicans are pretty much clueless, that NCLB is and was an unmitigated educational disaster, that Coke is better than Pepsi, and that there is a time and place for the insertion of the word “fuck” into the conversation. Must also be willing to trade books with me (and not romance novels, Twilight, or those new Gray something books), and most importantly, be the type of woman who can unashamedly give in to a good old fashioned  belly laugh over all the absurdities that may come our way.
Services required from mid-August 2012- forever


  1. Your head is already in the right place. While you have a better chance of being placed in AD than Al Ain, I will make sure I get to meet you. Love reading your entries. Wallah!

  2. This article is full of excellent informative content. The points you make are interesting and original, and I agree on many of them. Thank you for writing on this topic.

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  3. never take anything for granted there, stay on Facebook for all info regarding housing, school placements,allowances, move dates, banking, ID cards, etc. Always take ADEC news with a huge grain of sand and surround yourself with people you can trust. And remember, "No problem" actually means there is going to be one helluva problem. If you have any personal questions I'd be more than happy to give you THE REST OF THE STORY (as Paul Harvey used to say...)