This is about my time (2010-11) in Abu Dhabi. I am still reading stories on facebook of lives interrupted and teachers still in the Middle East. It is a saga which is fascinating and quite addicting to read. I continue to entertain myself with the saga of divorces, differing political views, and many other oddities which came about as they stay or leave the Middle East. I may need to drop a few on facebook as they are just becoming too silly for me.
There is a funny cartoon about the teacher’s room. The room is blocked off between two walls…only teachers and Administrators are allowed to enter. Off to the side is a student about 8 years old staring at the doorway to the teacher’s room. Above his head is the caption “I wonder what goes on in there.” The images he imagines include a beach, teachers sunning, eating a feast at a long table, etc. It is funny!
What do teachers, instructors talk about? We discuss many things but rarely do we bring bathing suits or have the time to feast on gourmet foods. Usually, we are on a tight time schedule for lunch and some of us have lunch duty or will grab a quick bite before heading off to the classroom. While I was teaching in Abu Dhabi, the Arabic teachers shared a lunch laid out on the floor. Sometimes we were invited to share lunch with them.
Teacher meetings are something that I have not gone to lately as an adjunct. The last meeting that I attended was in Abu Dhabi. The Education Reform Program was still being put in place and there were many firsts. My group was in 2010 and many of the teachers started arriving in 2009, so practices like instructing times, and evaluation of students were still rusty. Mostly at the meetings, I listened to the Head of the teachers and just liked watching the merging of all the elementary instructors from different locations including Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States. I was hired to teach elementary but came from a background mostly centered in secondary education. Prior to the year, I received my professional certificate; I was instructing English composition and literature at a private university. So it was a big change for me. Many of the other teachers came with several years experience teaching elementary along with big suitcases of English materials. At that time, there was one teacher’s store in Abu Dhabi and it was very expensive. So, I mostly watched and learned…learning words to nursery English songs that I hadn’t heard in ages… I felt kind of like that little boy staring into the teacher’s room. I really felt comfortable teaching reading and not some comfortable teaching math or science but there was a very good resource room for science instruction and so I spend much time independently researching materials and lessons for 3rd graders.
It is kind of like making gourmet cupcakes. My husband, Michael is very good with following instructions and has formal training from the military with baking. He baked and decorated cakes his first military term entering contests in France, meeting James Beard, etc. I don’t like to follow instructions for recipes. My background is eclectic and I like to change the rules. I take a recipe and sometimes it is a disaster but sometimes it is a good combination. I approach teaching the same way which makes me a good choice for Education reform programs, alternative school, etc. I am able to meet the program where it is, take my talents and add a bit of this and a bit of that to make it my own. My organization habits were learned from two things: the past decade with my husband, Michael (his superior organizational and leadership skills) and entering new classrooms where teachers left suddenly, subbing, or adjuncting. The best training comes from being on the job. Often when you take a new position in teaching, the learning curve is so steep that the only choice is to sink or swim.