Saturday, January 12, 2013
From My UAE Journal: October 22, 2012
I now have sixteen girls in my 10th grade class, and while I still think that individually that they are sweet girls, collectively they are cruel, immature, and pushy. These are fifteen year old girls and I have to get onto them constantly about hitting one another, and I'm not talking about a slight tap. They whack the hell out of each other. Hard. Today, one girl hit another girl in the arm so violently that it made me clench my teeth. I told her, "It is mean to hit. In American school you would get in trouble for doing that. Do not do it in my class again". She squared her shoulders, looked me in the eye and stated, "You are in UAE, not America". Touche. Slam dunk. Score one for her.
The class has become so disruptive (the mix has changed with the addition of three additional girls in the past two weeks) and loud that starting tomorrow, no more games (and I don't mean that symbolically or metaphorically). I have been playing Teacher Says (my own version of Simon Says), singing songs (If You're Happy and You Know It is their favorite), and doing other fun activities at the end of the class periods. No more. I've got them good and hooked on the game and songs, now they'll have to earn them back. Bad teacher.
Again, they are so immature. They behave more like eleven year girls than their true age. I have had to shift how I relate to them. I have to pretend I am teaching fifth or sixth graders.
They are also so far behind in their English skills from where ADEC thinks they are. The ECART packets (work packets that the girls must complete each semester) are way too difficult for them. The girls can't even write a simple sentence in the past tense. I am working daily on simple verb conjugation and the correct usage of articles and prepositions, and in May they will be tested on writing an in-depth narrative. It's not going to be pretty. I have my work cut out for me.
I have been paying special attention to the UAE teen girls when I am out and about. They desperately attempt to emulate their mothers and the other adult women in their families. They walk around in their flowing black abayas and sheylahs, their makeup perfect, butterfly fingers constantly adjusting and patting the sheylah, cell phones clutched tightly in one hand (this is the one aspect that reminds me of their American peers), and an oversized brand name bag (Coach, Louis Vuitton) draped almost too casually over their arm. In comparison to American teen girls who make it a point NOT to emulate their mothers in any way, shape, or form, and in fact would probably accept a slow painful death before doing so, these girls are pulling out all the stops to dress, behave, and carry themselves in the same manner as their mothers.
In my education and psychology courses I was always taught that teenagers create their own mode of dress, clothing, music, and language as a way of making the final break from their parents on the road to independence. So what does it mean that the teenage girls in the UAE emulate their mothers so closely? Nothing? Everything? What does it ultimately say about the culture here? Does it speak volumes of the fact that females have little control over their lives in this extremely male dominated and religiously conservative society? Am I just reading too much into it, as I have a habit of doing.?
Posted by Liti