Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A brief post...

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.~ Dr. James Comer

This quote sums up my teaching philosophy yet I find that too often this is what is falling by the wayside in my classroom as well as some of my colleagues due to pressure from E-Cart etc. Some of the pressure is because we did not have our students for two weeks and at week 3 the pressure was on to dive into ECart. As I am home sick the last two days, my main concern was for my girls and who is in the classroom with them (or that no one is >.<), not that they will be behind. I do not want the tenuous tapestry that we are weaving together to bridge our two worlds to be marred. I will return on Sunday hopefully with a reminder of why I teach, not what I teach.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have spent the last couple of weeks musing about the idea of privilege and it's many facets, especially here in the UAE. It is true that as a westerner I am afforded many privileges just by the fact that I come from a place that is respected. However not all nations have this same status. This is truly one of those places where the class system is visible daily. Pakistanis, Sri Lankians, Phillipinos, and many others suffer injustices simply based on their status and are often ignored or degraded for no reason. This is hard for me to see but I try my best to not adopt the “when in Rome” ideology so many do. I know that time will help to mitigate the circumstances that these people find themselves in and I can only lead by example.

I also am privileged to be a part of the lives of my students and to see them as very few people ever will. I came here knowing that I would probably be teaching all girls in a high school setting and that they would girls that had little interest in going on to university. To some degree this is true. Many of my girls are excited to have a home with many children and feel privileged to be building UAE society. But many of these girls also see a world outside of the home and wish to be a part of it. I get to not only learn their hopes and dreams of the future but also to see as few will ever do. The school is all women (ALL women!!!) and so they are free to shed their abayas and their shaylas and be themselves. I sometimes have a hard time recognizing the ones who usually wear the shayla when they come up during canteen duty without it on. Many choose to cover because they are saving the privilege of their face and hair for the one who they will marry. For many it is their choice and not their families. Being covered does offer protection form a culture where staring is accepted behavior from all men. I also remember that I am here not just for them but for their children. The reform for education is to last for 10 years. In this time, some of these girls will have children entering kindergarten. If they have had a positive experience with English then they will encourage their children to learn more and be able to help.

I truly feel that this whole adventure has been a blessing and that I am privileged to be here at this time. I am grateful for the experience and will enjoy it as it comes. Masha'Allah!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A quick update

I can hardly believe that it is September 15th and I have been in the UAE for 5 weeks. I would love to say that time has flown, but really it just languishes here and it seems as though I have lived here forever. I need to get a bit better about writing and plan to write at least weekly from here on out. I have had some great blog post ideas but they have floated away into the ether.

Yesterday was the first day of school. It was mostly unremarkable as many students were absent or busy doing things other than coming to class. I will be teaching high school girls, probably 11th and 12th grade, although that may change. The girls I met yesterday were very sweet and kind. I know some of it is the novelty of having a western teacher and that may change as they deal with us daily. The schedule is reminiscent of the one I had at my former middle school were we see the girls on a rotating basis. I will see each of my 3 classes a total of 8 times throughout the week. (Still haven't seen exactly how it works yet!)

I really do like it here a lot. It is different yet similar. I think that is where people get confused. The amenities are much like they are in the west but the standard for public behavior is more conservative and the young'uns sometimes forget that part, particularly those who teach girls. We are an influence on the culture whether we mean to be or not and it is easy to not notice who is watching, especially when they are covered. I have always been conscious of my public behavior, even more now than before.

Soon K will be here and it will be a little less quiet in my apartment. Currently I have opted to not have a television and I find that quite freeing. We will see if it lasts.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm really, I am!

Asalaam Alaikum and Ramadan Kareem!

Well today ends the second week in Abu Dhabi. I landed safe and sound on August 6th after an uneventful 13 hour plane ride. We were whisked from the airport and taken to The Yas Hotel on Yas Island Abu Dhabi, home of  a Formula One racetrack and marina. Check it out here! The hotel is about a 30 minute plane ride from the city and is quite apart from almost anything! 

For the past two weeks we have been shuttled to and from medical checks, police checks (at 2AM!), and an overview of our role here. I feel blessed as I have a placement in the city and have had an altogether smooth process thus far. 

Abu Dhabi is a pretty amazing place and we have felt quite welcome here. I have not taken a lot of pictures as we have been either very busy or very tired. Hopefully the next update will be a bit more detailed! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

The "golden ticket" arrived yesterday afternoon. I am Abu Dhabi bound on August 4th. So it is REAL. I have been so jealous of the other LTs (that's licensed teachers) posting about their tickets. But now I am in the club!
The emotions that swirl around inside you at this point are amazing. Plus the hundred things I have been avoiding as I fritter my time away on Facebook have now got to be accomplished in about 14 days. I look forward to sharing this great adventure with you! Now off to pack and plan!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

B O R E D!

Today has been a BORING one. No news from the visa front although I actually don't expect to hear anything until July 20th or so (yes that is is just a random date. :). So I sort through stuff, pretend to list things on ebay, read books and just hang out. This is the first time in 10+ years where I am without a summer job. It is okay, I really wish I had motivation to complete tasks! 

Some things I have learned about my new home:

  • December 2, 2011 will be the nation's 40th birthday.
  • The locals are called Emiratis
  • Their currency is pegged to ours at 3.67 USD = 1.00 AUD (or Dhiram)
  • The Louvre and the Guggenheim are both opening branch museums
  • The UAE is a HUGE shopping destination
Here is a map to see where we will be:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Things They Carried

So much has been said on "the facebook" about what my fellow teachers will and will not carry with them as they travel to the UAE. As I read through those bits and pieces of home that we strive to fit into the limited baggage we are allowed a few things come to mind.

The first is the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. We too carry the tangible and the intangible with us. Some of deciding to take pets because of how much they mean to us, our children really. Or the pictures of things to remind us of home when all we see is sand and sun and maybe camels. I plan to bring the boulder people (a collection of rocks from the shores of Lake Superior {ask K about the boulder people}). A bottle of shells from the MANY trips to the beach. I am still debating on whether or not to add the fish bowl and the frog box, we are trying for the minimalist here.

But the it is the intangible that makes a mark that others may only sense when we read the posts and talk of the unknown future. The guilt of leaving the beloved pet behind, knowing that the goodbye may be the last one. The heartache of missing  myriad family functions and milestones. The elation of finally being free to travel to places once thought beyond our grasp. The worry of  the possibilities of what may be when we get there. I too have some of this in my baggage, more than I let on but it is there.

So we sort and we pack and we decide what is essential and what is discard-able. I think of the numerous times I have packed and moved and the enormous need to keep all of what I have because in some ways it defined me. Looking back I think it was fear of the unknown that kept me with my stuff. As I purge the belongings I have, I realize the stuff is just stuff. My memories, my friends, my family, they are what is important.