How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, February 25, 2013

First ADEC School Faculty Meeting: September 13, 2012

Today I was cleaning out a pile of papers that I unceremoniously dumped when I unpacked upon arriving home in December. I found a little notebook in which I took notes at every faculty meeting in Al Ain. I'm weird like that. I carry a small notebook around with me wherever I go and I write diligently about everything. Upon discovery of this particular notebook today, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I opened it and read the entry from my first ever school faculty meeting at Al Burooj Girls School. If you have ever taught with ADEC, you can probably identify with the following entry.

September 13 2012 
A faculty meeting was called for 12:30. Students have been dismissed early. The meeting room is packed with women as there are no males allowed on campus. The principal is in front of the room seated at a desk. She is speaking, in Arabic, quite forcefully, and I don’t understand one word she's saying. I peep at the other Western teachers. The ones who were here last year sit politely with their hands folded in their laps. The newbie Western teachers look a bit panicked. One Arabic teacher who speaks English tries to translate into English what the principal is saying.

        I gather that Cycle 1 and 2 students are to be dismissed at 1:30 and teachers can leave at 2:00. We are told that Cycle 3 teachers can leave at that time too, but ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) informed us new teachers that Cycle 3 dismissal would be at 3:10 everyday, and that Cycle 3 teachers are to stay until 4 p.m. Guess ADEC forgot to tell my principal this.

     It is very noisy with the principal talking, Arabic teachers trying to talk over her, and a teacher trying to translate for the non-Arabic speaking teachers. The principal pounds loudly on the table to get the attention of the Arabic teachers. This works for about two minutes, then the Arabic teachers get loud again, so she starts pounding on the table and yelling again. I look over at another Western teacher. From her expression I can see that the constant yelling and pounding is giving her a headache. She keeps pinching the bridge of her nose. One of the Arabic teachers claps loudly and the room quiets down again. Seems the Cycle 1 and 2 Arabic teachers are arguing vehemently with the principal. Six women are talking angrily at once. The principal is trying to talk over them. The principal screams, someone else claps her hands, it gets a little quiet, then the noise levels start to slowly re-build, and the screaming starts again. This goes on throughout the meeting.

      I look over at another Western teacher seated near me. She is scratching her head, staring off into space, a slight grimace on her face. The translator tells us that the principal is talking about six committees that are to be formed. Each teacher is expected to join at least one. I have no idea what the committees are. I now know what it is like to feel alien. As soon as the principal stops speaking, a loud debate ensues. The voices grow louder and louder, but then all of a sudden the noise take a sharp turn and the shouting voices grow softer, evolving into soft laughter and giggles. Massive platters of food are carried into the room.

      I think things have calmed down but then suddenly  a few of the Emirati teachers start shouting at the principal. The principal again pounds on the desk and starts shouting over the shouting, so everyone seems to be shouting. Now I’m getting a headache and the room is getting warm. I want to take off my thin cardigan, but know I can’t because I am wearing a short sleeved top under my cardigan. No bare arms allowed. The translator tells us that principal wants us to present small gifts to students for good behavior. The yelling and screaming starts again. This is turning into a Twilight Zone episode.

     I hear the word “ADEC” clearly spoken a few times. The principal appears angry, as do some of the Arabic teachers. I get the feeling that the Arabic teachers are not happy with some directive passed down from ADEC. The Arabic teachers start talking even louder. The screaming crescendos. Then, all of sudden the meeting is apparently over and the Arabic teachers get up and converge en masse upon the platters of food. The food platters are topped with flowers; white lilies and brown tinged drooping red roses. The food is mounded underneath the dying flowers. The women start piling their plates high, grabbing the flowers, pushing each other. I have no idea what has just occurred.

     I sit off to the side in safety with the rest of the Western teachers. I gape openly at the melee, not quite believing my eyes. An Arabic teacher comes over to us clutching a plate indicating that we should go prepare ourselves a plate of food. I am not quite ready to have my arm gnawed off in a battle over rice and goat. I shake my head and protest that I am not hungry. The rest of the Western teachers do the same. The principal waddles over, offering small plates filled with sweet cookies, dates, and chocolates and places the plates before us. We thank her and nibble on the treats. Some of the Arabic teachers start leaving, clutching wilted flowers and Saran wrap covered plastic plates. That’s our cue that we can finally go home.

      On a sheet of paper that I have been keeping notes on, I write “WTF just happened?” in large red letters.


  1. OMG too funny! I'm 'suppose' to be assigned to Abu Dhabi but until ADEC finishes waving its magic wand ...I have been shuttled to Al Ain. I report to Al Burooj today (if I can find it appears no address exists~lol).

  2. Oh, there is no map, honey. You just drive for about 50 miles straight out into the desert after you go through about ten roundabaouts. There will be signs but each one spells the name of the town differently.. There is one gas station between the start of the roundabouts and the school (about halfway). Keep water with you at all times. That little gas station is where I got gas all the time because it was never busy.

    Say hello to Al Nood (12), Maitha (11), Reem (12)!!

    Taryn, the other C3 teacher will help you.
    She's a truly wonderful person and knows the ropes... Just keep your head down and prepare yourself for the WEIRDEST faculty meetings you have ever attended!! Good luck. There are some really great Western teachers there. Kathy, who is C1, is VERY funny and will keep you sane when no one else can. The Arabic staff, for the most part, distrusts the Western staff and about there members of the C3 Arabic staff will try and get you to trade class times if their classes are later in the day (especially on Thursdays) Just politely, but firmly, tell them you can't and state a reason ( a doc appt, plans to meet a friend). You never say "No" because it is rude to them. If you start trading class times they will take advantage of you.

    You will not be teaching the way you have ever taught before. Prepare yourself to be teaching material on a 3rd grade level. The girls love American songs like : The Wheels on the Bus, the Hokey Pokey, Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.. Don't take anything too seriously and just learn to go with last minute changes almost daily. Good luck!!

  3. Thanks for responding Teri. I just arrived at the Danat resort in Al Ain on Saturday and was emailed my placement. I read on another blog that it was a 50 minute drive. Thats probably a fairly expensive cab ride! Lol Im going to stop by the ADEC office this morning. Say a prayer :-)

  4. Go on facebook and do a search for pages for ADEC teacher pages. I know there is a 2012 one.

    There are several people who work at Al Burooj who live in Al Ain that you could possibly carpool with. Ask ADEC for contact info for the HOF at Al Burooj. Her name is Laura and she helped me out the first few days before I got a car.. Don't depend on ADEC too much. "The UAE helps those expat teachers who help themselves" is kind of the mantra.. Depend on the teachers you meet, not ADEC.

    The cab ride would be okay for one day out to the school, and when you get there you could possibly get a ride home with one of the teachers.. But, yes, a cab would be too expensive to take every day. It is imperative that you rent a car asap. And you must get a GPS (Garmin) available at Carefour. With no addresses and everything having the same beige color one can get lost quickly there. The Garmin was one of the best investments I made while there.. The Danat Hotel is very nice.

    I have never heard of ADEC placing a teacher in Al Ain with the intention of that teacher going to Abu Dhabi. You might be at Al Burooj for the remainder of the semester. Take EVERYTHING that ADEC tells you with a huge grain of salt.. Do you know anyone there? If not, I could put you touch with a few people..

    if you email your name and room number to I can have a teacher in Al Ain contact you at the hotel. You'll LOVE her. Her name is Suzanne and she was my BFF there. I still miss that crazy gal. Chin up!! Once you meet the folks at Al Burooj, everything will slowly start falling into place.

  5. are you still in AD? I have my interview soon - any chance we can chat - i would love some tips!