Monday, October 1, 2012
Stealing Internet to Update This Blog. You're Welcome!
Today has been a good day because I have been busy at work. The first four classes of the day were my periods to teach (it changes daily according to some random schedule that I am unable to figure out) so there was no sitting around in the teacher's lounge waiting for classes to begin. That is what I am used to. In my previous twelve years of teaching I hit the ground running around 7 a.m and didn't stop until around 3 p.m- in fact I barely had time to choke down a sandwich. Here, I only teach four classes a day out of nine. I leave work between 1:45and 2:30 p.m. I am in my last class of the day right now and the girls are writing an essay to the prompt: "How do you imagine your life will be in five years, Inshallah". I want to increase their writing skills, but I want them to ponder about their existence, their meaning, their hopes and dreams.
Today, Jamilla, one of my students, attempted to teach me some of the Arabic alphabet. She wrote Arabic letters on the white board and then instructed me to copy them. They didn't turn out as fine lined and fluid as hers. She then told me to copy the first three letters of the Arabic alphabet onto a sheet of paper and she sternly told me that I must study. It is a beautifully written language, more like visual art than a written language. Jamilla recited a poem about a man and river. There was a song quality to her recitation. Her voice rose and fell, and her endearing shyness disappeared in the song.
While walking to my eleventh grade class the other day I discovered that the English Medium Teacher's room had been dismantled. This is the room where the English speaking teachers could congregate, have meetings, store supplies, and have quiet planning time. The desks and teaching supplies have all vanished. There are now cushions and pillows lining the perimeter of the room, otherwise it is empty. When I asked why these items were there I was told that the room is now a "rest place" for the Arabic administrators and teachers. I have never "rested" at work before.
What a concept.
The day started off with my going to the tenth grade classroom to drop off my Mary Poppins' bag before assembly. I walked into the room and Klaitham, one of my students, was sitting in the dark in tears while two of the other girls attempted to comfort her. She doesn't speak much English, and anyway the situation didn't warrant my asking her what was wrong- it only warranted "teacher" hugging her, patting her back, and handing her a tissue. If this situation had happened back in the states I would have immediately thought "boy problems", but not here, They aren't allowed to interact with any males outside of their immediate family.
I went out to assembly, leaving the other girls to their task of helping Klaitham feel better. Right before assembly Klaitham walked out of the classrrom,, eyes puffed, nose red, but emotions under control. She lined up with her classmates. I asked the Tunisian EMT if the girl was going to be all right, She shrugged and said, "Maybe family problems".
Klaitham is now in class taking her assessment exam along with the other girls. She was laughing before I handed out the test booklets, so I guess whatever happened is something she can handle. I don't know what is acceptable and expected in this school and culture of a teacher in this type of situation. In the states I would have been able to determine what was wrong with the student, make an assessment of the need to report the situation to a school counselor. But not here. No one else seems the least bit concerned about my crying student this morning. and I don't know what to do.
The office lady just came in to take attendance. She speaks no English and can be very demanding and gruff. She shoves a piece of paper into my face. It is covered in Arabic writing. She points to lines on the paper and tells me to write something. It takes me a minute to realize she is asking that I write the names of the absent students on the line. Then I point to the number twelve and ask her where I write the number that indicates the students present. After more pointing and re-asking the question in virtual sign language, I finally figure out where to write the number. The attendance lady only comes around maybe twice a week.
The concept of Western education and pedagogy coupled with Western accountability do not cross over well into Middle Eastern culture. Neither does Western time. My students seldom go to bed before midnight.
In the short time I have been here I have discovered that "Inshallah" is a way of life. Everything is left up to the will of Allah. No one here will tell a person, "No", if they cannot do something. To do so would be rude. So they might tell you that a task will be done today or tomorrow, Inshallah, and if it doesn't get done then it simply was not the will of Allah and therefore not the fault of the person. I am starting to truly integrtae this concept and apply it when anyone tells they will do something "Inshallah" (they mean it is likely that whatever you are asking for will NOT happen). Another confusing concept for Westerners is that if we happen to ask "WHEN" a task or deadline will be met, we are met with a vague "soon". Western absolutes, timeliness, and holding to verbal contracts do not exist in the realm of Middle Eastern thinking. That is the first lesson that any Western expat moving to this region must be prepared for. And there is really no way to be prepared for it.
Just checked the weather for today.. a balmy 42 C (108 F).
My girls have been wonderful today. my tenth graders completed an assessment exam with no complaints, and my eleventh grade girls started work on collages about healthy living and completed half of their assessments exams. These are, by far, the easiest bunch of students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching (*disclaimer*: this could change tomorrow). The eleventh grade girls just left and they gave me permission to stay in their classroom to complete my work and writing.
I was able to talk to Jim on my cell phone last night for exactly fifteen minutes. I used up all the international minutes I had on my phone. I'm going to try and skype with him tonight as I have to be out of the hotel tomorrow and my internet is still not hooked up per Etisalat's continued promises.
Just received a phone call from the Carrefour delivery man. I bought a washing machine from them the other day. I have a huge problem understanding thick Indian dialects and that seems to be the only delivery people that the UAE employs. It took me a good two minutes to even decipher what the guy was trying to say/ask.. I'm still not sure, but I think they are delivering my washing machine today at 3:30. More about this later, I am sure...
Posted by Liti