Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saudi-Not for the faint of heart

So I've now been here for just over a month. A what a month it's been. I've made some fun friends and work with some very cool people. I've had some fun tromping around Riyadh, and some not so much fun being told I'm not allowed to eat in a restaurant because it's men only.

But all of this has been overshadowed by the huge frustration that is my working environment. The administrative aspect of my job is an unqualified disaster, and makes the day to day job a struggle. I come home most days absolutely gobsmacked by the inefficiency, lack of communication and apparent disregard for the well being of the students. This makes getting anything done challenging; I am still teaching without any basic resources other than a whiteboard and marker. My girls STILL don't have textbooks, because they have been changed now for the eighth time or so. I now am theoretically supposed to teach them two textbooks worth of material in the next two weeks. Now, I don't care if you're Superman--you cannot teach or absorb that much language in two weeks. Oh, and I don't have the textbooks either to start even trying to formulate a plan. And so I plan to do my own thing and hope for the best. If they can't be bothered to give me resources, then I can't be bothered to kill myself planning to stick to a syllabus that doesn't exist.

The girls themselves are really fun, and they make the administrative struggle worth it. For the most part they do really want to learn, though I have a few girls who couldn't care less. Homework seems like it's kind of a foreign concept, and they don't see any problem with copying each other, which is something we have to work on. They also have zero critical thinking skills, which we are now trying to develop. We started talking about argumentative essays this last week, and by then end of the week, my girls asked me, "Teacher, you really like to argue, don't you?" I think it's just not done here. But if I'm supposed to be preparing them to operate in the global community, then by golly they need to learn how to make a logical argument!

I usually end my advanced class with 10 minutes or so of free discussion. I try ask them questions about Saudi Arabia, and they love to educate Teacher about how things are done here. I've learned all sorts of really cool things, about camping in the desert, camel farms, Jenadryah festival (the big cultural celebration in late winter), and engagement customs. It's great, because they are so proud of being Saudi, and it really gets them all talking. They all want to teach Teacher!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blackberry Nation

Well, I guess I'm now a real teacher! I started in the classroom last Saturday, and have taught taught taught! Well, maybe not that much. Usually only about 45 minutes a day, because everything is in massive states of confusion. Right now, I'm teaching without books, without a schedule, and with a super mixed-level class. That's made for rather interesting going, but so far no disasters (please, God, let there not be any disasters!!).

The girls are really sweet, and overall like to participate. They call me "Teacher" which freaks me out a little bit, but I'm getting used to it. Yesterday, as soon as I walked into the room, they said "Please teacher, no grammar today. Our brains are tired!" So they only got a little bit of grammar, and a lot of homonyms. With the other class I taught, we just did icebreakers (because it was my first day with them). There were lots of Yemenis, which was surprising. I asked them about Saudi, and they ALL wanted to talk, which was wonderful! It was great speaking practice for them!

They have lots of practice talking, because these girls are GLUED to their Blackberries. They have them on lanyards and wear them as necklaces. This, I think, will be one of my biggest struggles as a teacher. The fight against the texting in class! In other news, I got my skirt/dress to wear to school, after being told I couldn't wear pants. I actually really like the dress, even though it's hot pink and has blue pomegranates on it. :)

Today I took a field trip to downtown Riyadh. We went into the Faysaliyya and Mamluka towers, and got to look out over the whole city. It was pretty cool, cause you can see quite far. Then we walked around a little bit. I went into a record 3 malls today. That's a lot of mall time.

The other big excitement is that a) we got new couches today, and they're really uncomfortable (yes, this counts as excitement) and b) I met other teachers!!! We'd felt a little sequestered in the hotel, but now we've made contact! Hooray! Tomorrow will be filled with lesson planing, and hopefully another field trip. We have a vacation (!) in just about a month and a half, so I have to start plotting where I want to go. The adventures never cease for Jenny of Arabia.