Some of you may be wondering about my actual job. I teach English at UAE University in the URGU (University General Requirements Unit). Most students entering the university take UGRU classes (Arabic, math, English, and IT) unless their test placement scores allow them to begin studying in their chosen major.
Female teachers in the UGRU department teach on the female campus. Male teachers can teach on either the male or female campus. There are significantly more female students (75%) than male students (25%), so perhaps this policy is done out of necessity. Female teachers in other departments can teach on either campus, and students in the graduate level can take mixed gender classes. This is a picture of the main entrance onto campus through the Crescent Building. If you want to proceed to the female side of the campus, you head to the right. The male side is to the left. And yes, there is actually a wall that divides the two sides. The first picture was taken off UAEU’s facebook, but the second picture is one that I took myself last week as I walked to work (my car was being serviced).
I teach an integrated skills class (reading, grammar, speaking, listening) to level 1 students (there are 3 levels). The work week in the UAE is Sunday-Thursday, and I teach from 8-12. Of course, as with all teachers, that doesn’t mean I only work 4 hours a day. The rest of my day is filled with office hours, committees, meetings, professional development, lesson planning, and marking (aka grading). This is an unflattering picture taken by my coworker/friend/office-mate, Christine. She said she thought I would like an action shot of me in my office. I think I was trying to figure out how to track/report student attendance.
What are the student like you may be asking? Well that is a good topic for another blog. I consider myself knowledgeable and culturally aware of students from the Middle East because of my experience teaching them at Portland State University, and well…. my own personal experience, but these students are in a category of their own. Therefore, they really deserve (earn/require) a post all of their own.
The thing that struck me with the most awe on my first day teaching was the swarm of blackness. Thousands of women all walking through the corridors wearing their abayas and shaylas. As there is no sense in even trying to rush through the throng of women, I have learned to move at their pace (or more often than not going the long way through the sun where the crowd is less dense). This also means learning that there is no concept of pass on your right in the halls or on the stairs, that it is perfectly acceptable to sit on the stairs and expect that the other students will squeeze past you, that it would be rude not to stop and kiss your friend’s cheeks, and that walking in high heels wearing a long abaya requires taking slow, methodical steps. I wish I could capture the mass chaos of the transition between classes, but since the women don’t like to have their picture taken (culturally unacceptable to have their faces shown to men), it makes it a little difficult. The picture below was the best I could do without breaking the rules or offending anyone.
Well that is the nuts and bolts of my work day. I could write more about the university itself (as my employer) and my coworkers, but I have to save something for another day I imagine. Besides, I need to stop procrastinating and go develop a lesson plan for my upcoming observation. Wish me luck!