Thursday, March 20, 2014

Musings from the 1st Week of School

I was soooo nervous about the first day of school, which is odd because I've been an educator all my life. Would I have girls or boys? Which grade level would I end up with? Will the staff hate me on sight? Will I commit some cultural transgression and be immediatedly sent packing by the US?

As it turns out, my fears were all unfounded. I was placed at a girls' school a few miles outside of Al Ain itself in a small city called Al Hayer.  I immediately felt warm when I walked in.  The walls were full of student work and excited girls of all grade levels bustling through the hallways.  There was a morning assembly that consisted of music, light movement meant to get the body and mind going, and celebrations of student work.

My head of faculty picked me up, so I ended up starting my day with her and then shadowing other teachers the rest of the day.  My principal was absent so no one had any idea where I might be placed initially. I wanted the middle or high school girls, but there were no guaranteees.

I spent quite a bit of time with the middle school girls and they were full of questions!  How old are you miss?  Where are you from? Where did you get that purse and those earrings?  What part of Africa are you from (I'm from Chicago. Insert quick history lesson here_______________).  This is just a sampling.  The funniest conversation is below:

Student: How many sons do you have?
Me: None
Student: How many daughters do you have?
Me: None
Student: Well do you at least have a husband?
Me (laughing to myself): Yes, I at least have a husband.
Student: Good!

Here's another one:

Student: Miss, how old did you say you were?
Me: I didn't
Student: Well, how old are you then?
Me: How old do I look?
Student:  Twenty something maybe?
Me: I love you!

Relationships are important here. It is quite common for people to ask you what would be considered personal questions back home.  Get used to it or come up with a response that you feel comfortable with. Get accustomed to walking slowly through the hallways and shaking heads.  It is expected and will help you to navigate your new surroundings. Listen and examine everything going on around you and don't panic if you make a mistake.

I almost walked out of the building during the national anthem unknowingly.  The student at the door, wasn't able to communicate well but she looked panic-stricken. I simply stopped moving.  She looked relieved and kindly opened the door after the anthem was over. You will save yourself and your sanity by watching people's reactions around you for what's appropriate and what may not be.

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