Thursday, February 23, 2012

...a visit with the boss

Our school had a surprise visitor yesterday.  Dr. Mugheer, the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council and his entourage stopped by for a tour. (Director General is pretty much the same as our Secretary of Education.)  He visited several classrooms, mine among them.  My grade 11 girls were excited--I have never seen them get to their seats so quickly! Dr. Mugheer visited with the girls for a few minutes about upcoming changes and asked about issues they face at school. Their number one concern was the lack of substantial food in the canteen for their afternoon break.  They told him that by the time 8th period rolls around, they are too hungry and tired to focus.  He promised that the issue would be addressed.

While Dr. Mugheer was with the girls, I was talking with a linguist and a reporter about my word wall at the front of the room.  They were concerned that the Arabic translation wasn't quite right on some of the words.  They didn't understand that "close enough" was what we were going for in Arabic--it's the English that I am focusing on. I soon realized that they really weren't interested in a conversation, and decided that, while lovely, educated people, they are not teachers.

My conversation with Dr. Mugheer was much more pleasant.  He is soft-spoken and seems to be a kind man.  He gave me a condensed version of his discussion with the girls, and asked me how things were going.  I told him the truth--it is going well, the girls are learning, and they are a delight to work with.

Needless to say, we didn't get much accomplished after he left.  It's unusual to have men in the building, so to have such an important one, along with five or six others right in our very own classroom, had the girls all a-twitter for quite some time.

Oh, and at the beginning of the year I was told to wear a scarf around my neck at all times in case someone important came to visit.  But--as a non-muslim woman I am not expected to cover my head.  So the "wear a scarf at all times" rule is a puzzle. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 cream

This afternoon my grade 11 girls were talking conspiratorially.  I couldn't get them to focus, so gave them a few minutes to get whatever was so important worked out.  Finally, Esraa looked up and said, "Miss, we want you to go to Baskin Robbins for us." 

My students are farm girls.  They live way out in the toolies and don't have the freedom to just zip into town for ice cream as American teenagers would. And even if they could, there'd be no place for them to go.  The town of Liwa has a grocery store and a gas station, but no fast food and no ice cream parlors.  The town of Medinat Zayed, where I live, is a big city to them.  Here we have the City Mall (a structure about the size of J. C. Penney's back home) with Pizza King and Burger Hut (no joke!) upstairs in the food court, and best of all, a Baskin Robbins just inside the front door.

After some discussion, I finally agreed that I would go and buy their ice cream this evening, put it in the freezer overnight, then transfer it to my cooler in the morning for the 45 minute commute.  I told them to write their order down, and to be specific.  They asked me how much the ice cream costs and I told them I honestly did not know--I had never been to Baskin Robbins.  There was a stunned silence, and then they were talking again.  Qummasha looked at me, puzzled.  "But Miss, we see you eating ice cream every morning!" 

I laughed and told them that it was yoghurt that they had seen me eating--ice cream wouldn't be a good way to start the day (on a daily basis, anyway!).

So right now there are eight tubs of ice cream in my freezer.  The clerk tried to convince me that a large tub would cost less, but I had my orders:  4 large dishes of chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and "nates" (nuts), and 4 large dishes of caramel ice cream, also with sauce and nuts. I think the plan is to put it in the freezer at school until breaktime, but I could be mistaken--it's just as likely that they'll be enjoying ice cream for breakfast.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

...being a creature of habit

There are no assigned parking spaces at our villas. Truth be told, there are no parking spaces, period.  No neat lines telling us where (or where not) to park.  But, for the past five months MY spot has been up close to the building, right under my living room window.  I've noticed that others are creatures of habit as well, and usually park in the same location day after day.  Lately however, someone has been parking in MY space, forcing me to park outside the compound walls.  In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal...or so I thought.  I had to laugh at myself this afternoon--I swung wide to enter the gate and was triumphant to see that MY space was empty!  (No big deal?  Hmmm...I guess it was after all!)

Maybe I should borrow the traffic cop from school and tell the person in the dark Chevy to

taking my parking space! (As you can see, Katie made a new friend while here in December.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

...a carrot

I have been here for six months.  Six months!   August 4th, 2011 seems like an eternity ago.  Life has gotten easier in many ways, but school continues to get busier and busier.  It's mid-year and the push is on to get paperwork taken care of.  We were observed last week and heard through the grapevine that Teacher Portfolios will be checked this week.  (Just what exactly is supposed to be in said portfolio hasn't been shared with us--one of the many things we're supposed to "know" without being told.)  My observation went well and I expect I'll be told if my portfolio is missing something important.  The girls and I are having fun with our chosen theme this trimester (The Cinderella Story) but I still feel like I'm in that mid-year slump. 

It helps to have a carrot out there to keep me going.

My sister Arlene and I have been planning and saving for a trip to France and Italy for the past five years, and this summer is THE summer.  We'll be meeting in Paris on the 18th of July, spend two weeks traveling, then fly home together.  We have a house on a lake reserved for a week in Provence, and plan on going to Venice, Bologna, Pisa, and Assissi, if time permits.  To say that we're excited is an understatement.

My last day of school is the 12th of July and I've been wondering how to spend those days until meeting Arlene on the 18th.  I was thumbing through my Lonely Planet book today and something caught my eye: Fat Tire Bike Tours in Paris.  Yes!  Question answered. I am even more excited, if that is possible!