1. Break: there is no lunch period at my school in the UAE but there are two scheduled breaks with time for breakfast, lunch or snack. These breaks also allow students time to submit assignments or complete homework/projects and study. During break, some teachers may have: coffee, tea or spend time planning. I use my breaks to sit outside in the sun and reflect on the work I’m doing. Some of my best ideas came to me in this fashion. Reflecting on my American experience, I rarely had enough time in my schedule to eat my lunch. Most lunches included: planning, administrative duties, tutoring, or meeting.
2. Prayer Break: aside from a mosque on school grounds and a prayer room, there are clear expectations that religion is valued and time is set aside for prayer. If you don’t want to pray, you can meditate or just take a moment for yourself.
3. Bells are suggestions. Students don’t rush out or pack up at the bell… They complete their assignments. They leave when the teacher permits them to go (seriously). In my USA teaching career, teachers always emphasized dismissal was NOT the bell but it didn’t matter. Students found ways to pack up or quickly jot things down for a speedy exit. They usually only had 3-4 minutes before the next bell and a class that would begin promptly. This start would include late scolding.
4. Community building among colleagues
With so many backgrounds teaching in one place, teachers bond across differences and are eager to share their language, food, culture, and knowledge. Every morning teachers kiss (4 times each) and shake hands. Each time, eye contact is made and we say, “good morning” before a whole school assembly meeting. In the US, everyone seems to be rushing to the copy room before the line accumulates or the machine jams.
5. Less competition! People are valued for their expertise and expected to share their gifts. There’s less of a sense or competition between colleagues but a mutual understanding of strengths and weaknesses.
On the flip side, there’s no place like home. I enjoy teaching in the UAE but I learned how to be a great teacher in the USA. American teachers have a confidence that they carry in their classrooms abroad. There’s this unwritten expectation that American teachers in the UAE are the leaders… That doesn’t always mean they are in positions of power with salaries and titles to match but that’s another blog!
Disclaimer: this blog comes after being here for one month and teaching for 3 weeks. In my short time here, I’ve stayed in 3 hotels in 2 emirates and I’ve visited others. I ate at several venues and establishments. I’ve attended 4 professional development sessions from the British Council to Macmillan at local area colleges and resorts.
Note: I’ve been teaching grades 6 through 12 English and Reading Intervention. I really enjoy the 8th and 9th grade curriculum. Next trimester, I will teach grade 8 and 9 English.