Saturday, August 30, 2014

1st Day of Work!!

My School!
First day of work!! The students don't arrive until Sunday which is the beginning of the work week here, but the teachers start a week ahead. I was in professional development the beginning of the week, but on Thursday, I got to see my school! The 2 ladies who led my PD were so awesome btw. They gave us the new school curriculum, which is based on student centered learning with lots of room for presentations and projects which is exactly how I teach so I am really excited to get into the classroom! They also gave us a ton of info about the culture and how to teach to our particular high schoolers. It was very informative and I came away with a ton of lesson ideas and classroom management tips.

I asked the ladies if they knew anyone at my school that I could maybe get a ride from and they sent a mass email to people for me so I could get a ride! So nice! My school is in Baniyas and I live in Abu Dhabi. Google maps says about 35-40 minute drive depending on traffic. Some teachers were complaining about their commute being an hour or an hour and a half. I think they have never lived in a big city before, because an hour or hour and a half commute is not a problem at all for me because that's how long my commute was in S. Korea and San Francisco! Especially if your drive is in your own car or with a ride share and not on public transit. As long as there are no adjama's to grab my arm and physically drag me out of a seat they want, even though there are designated seats for them in the front of the tram (S. Korea!) and no fat, homeless guys with shirts 3 sizes to small (so you can just picture the huge, hairy gut that is escaping from said small shirt!) carrying a huge orange bag filled with the lord only knows what, and screaming about how Wells Fargo bank stole thousands of dollars from him that he somehow managed to save while living in his yellow van parked in the lovely neighborhood of Golden Gate park (San Francisco), I think the commute here is totally doable!

So I got a ride with a lovely lady who said to meet her in front of the holiday inn hotel, which is better than any holiday inn in USA and is massive, at 7:20am.

Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi
So, of course in my excitement, I am there about 10 minutes early! So I wait in the lobby of the hotel. We are supposed to be at work at 8 so I'm thinking the ride can't be quite as long as google maps has said. At 7:18 the girl gives me a call and says she will be a little late, around 7:27 or so. At 7:43, a lady comes walking up to the door and says, “Are you Ayanna? I'm here to fetch ya!” So I pile into a very small rental car with 3 other ladies and off we zoom! In between getting the dish about the school, I am trying to pay attention to the way we are driving. After the 5th round about I just say forget it! There's no way I would ever be able to make it to this place by myself!! So we finally arrive at our destination, a few minutes after 8! So it takes way less time to get there than I thought! Score, cus I like to leave my bed at the absolute, last, possible, minute in the mornings!

My lovely driver takes me around to meet folks. I meet the principal and the 2 vice principals who are lovely ladies. I am at an all girls cycle 3 school which is grades 10-12. There were other people in the principals office as well, but I have no idea who they were or what positions. Several ladies would shake my hand and say nice to meet you but not give me their names or their positions so I guess I'll have to figure that out the hard way! I have learned through my years of teaching that it pays to be extra kind to certain people. Of course I am a ray of sunshine to everyone who meets me.

And our lovely PD teachers told us 5 people we should really get to know at our school. Of course principal and vice principal, the secretary, the social worker, the head of Islamic studies, and the maintenance people. More than 5, I know, but these people can really help a new teacher out of every jam it is possible to get into!

The culture here in UAE is one of gift giving, so I brought little things from San Francisco to share with people. I gave the principal a book of the touristy spots of SF and the vice principals some Ghiridelli chocolate, yum yum! But they kind of looked at the tiny foil wrapped squares like, what the heck is this?? But I said, chocolate, and they got it! I met a bunch more people who were just a blur of faces at this point. And then she showed me to the EMT (english medium teachers) office. Nice open space crammed with desks and papers, papers, papers, papers! Then we head off to a meeting in the downstairs meeting room. I joined the other EMT's who sat in the very back at the last table. All of our Arabic counterparts sat in the front, not close to us. Normally, I am a sit in the front row type of girl, but I just went with it. Turns out, our first 2 hour (yes, 2 hours!) meeting was, of course, all in Arabic! The girls said to get used to that, because all the meetings are like that. It will be great to help me learn Arabic. One of the ladies could actually interpret, up to a point, and then she was lost. But that little bit was good to hear. The Arabic teachers were constantly talking during the meeting and seemed very excited. The noise level went up and down as the principal spoke. Sometimes it appeared she was yelling and I was like, are we getting in trouble, but then she was smiling as well. When the talking got too out of hand, she would bang her hand on the table three times and everyone would be silent. Teachers continued to arrive late and would go to a table and kiss the other teachers in greeting before sitting down. I was thinking, if this is what a meeting with the adults is like, how am I possibly going to get my students to be quiet! The whole meeting was very animated with some of the teachers calling out things, and the women laughing and talking, some sleeping, interesting to watch. Eventually, I took out my kindle and read, so I could see these Arabic meetings as good extra work time in the future.

After the meeting we went back to our EMT room and our HOF, Head of Faculty, who is Emirati said she would tell us the meeting in a minute. So, cool, we do get a translation! In the meantime, I decided to explore the school a little. Now, everyone who knows me knows I am directionally challenged. I mean, I still get lost in San Francisco and I was born and raised there! So my plan was to stick to the floor I was on and not stray too terribly far. Well, I only made it next door! Luckily, the room next door to ours is the Islamic teachers room! I peeked in the door and there were about 8 ladies talking and I walked right in and said, As Salama Alaykum! They were very excited and a few asked if I was new. I said yes and they ushered me over to this table they were laying out with a feast! I stood around the table with them and the few who spoke English asked me a few questions, where I'm from, how long in UAE. And then they told me to sit, sit and proceeded to prepare me a plate! They had this wonderful thick bread, and they cut it with their hands and put falafel inside with tomatoes and lettuce. Then they added hummus and some other native dish that was like a condiment to the sandwich and passed it to me.  Can I just say, so delicious! The falafel was seasoned with some different spices and the hummus was seasoned as well. Then for dessert they had small pieces of baklava from Jordan.  I still had a few pieces of ghirardelli chocolate left so I shared that with them.  I told the ladies that I would need them to help me learn Arabic and they said, yes, yes, of course! We teach you some Arabic, you teach us English, come whenever you want!  They were so nice I didn't really know how to extricate myself from the room, but eventually I said, well, I have to go check with the other teachers, and I said my good-byes and left.  I will definitely be making my way into their office again!

I also wandered into the library where 4 women were sitting on the floor behind the desk putting on make up!  When I came in they all said, hi, and one lady jumped up to tell me she was the librarian.  She asked if I was new and said, let me show you around my library.  She showed me where all the leveled readers were and also told me to come anytime for anything.  She said, I'm studying make up so, I help with your make up, I only know eyes right now so I will do that! And she told me to come study Arabic and whatever else I need.  One thing the people are here is incredibly friendly!

When I went back to the EMT office, we were getting ready for a meeting with our HOF.  She basically went over everything that was said in the Arabic meeting and said she would do that for all the meetings.  

First day of school with the kids is Sunday and I'm excited and nervous! Wish me luck!

Ciao for now!

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