Joined: 02 Jan 2008
|Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 7:07 am Post subject: QU BLUES
|It's great that my colleague is promoting Qatar on his blog (not a bad little country) and even QU is not too bad but the picture he paints about the Foundation Enlish program is a little too rosy and a tad misleading. Things are not quite what he seems to think they are. Yeah, I agree - Qatar is an OK place but you can do the 'been there, done that' scene in 7 days, probably less. It takes approximately 4 -5 hours to go around the whole country. There's not much to do; access to some places is off limits and the resorts overcharge for beach facilities. If accidents are your scene, this is the place. I've seen some doozies and we take our lives in our hands on some mornings trying to get from our compound in the boonies to the campus. Some of the driving is just deadly, literally.
Yeah, it's true that some of us newbies are sort of satisfied with Qatar, but there are still a lot of issues at the workplace that need addressing. As thursday12 said there is a lot of cronyism and nepotism going on. While some of the level supervisors seem to be on the ball, there's at least one who doesn't seem to know how to run a course, and is just full of a lot of hot air. Apparently this person is a close personal friend of the head so that explains that. Luckily I am not teaching that level but the people who are, find this person's bullish management style patronizing and disturbing.
The biggest problem is the curriculum. The students are placed into levels that are too difficult for them. Nobody is dealing with this problem. We need to start with a very basic level course that teaches them how to write properly. There is too much to cover and too many books and handouts. The curriculum is very cut and paste, the whole semester you get 'add this, add that'. Because the courses are not credited, the students have hardly any motivation and who can blame them? We should be doing EAP. At least that would prepare them for their majors. The students are friendly and some of them actually want to learn but the syllabus is very demotivating, they see it as a big obstacle to getting into their majors.
The TOEFL is another huge problem. This is the first place I've ever worked in where TOEFL is used as a placement exam. The management people need to get their act together on this. There are some good placement exams on the market, somebody needs to check this out. The misuse of the TOEFL as a placement exam is a big headache for students as that's all they think about and all they want to get through. It's a major obstacle to teaching.
The orientation and settling in were pretty decent. Most of us got met at the airport. Housing is still an issue as it does seem unfair that single people get large villas close to the campus while families are put in apartments that have no soundproofing and no elevators. The bedroom furniture would look great in a bordello. Ventilation is pretty bad and the halls sometimes smell disgusting.
Then there's the hellish traffic on the way to work. Some of the people in the villas are already cohabiting so it that's the case then one of them should give up their villa for someone else to move into. It really is illogical to give a single person a large villa and put a family in a small apartment - there should be some changes made in this area. Apparently if you are chummy with the head, you can get a villa. That is not how a system should work.
Most of the newbies are pretty unhappy with the workload situation. We teach 20 hours (not what we were promised at the interview which was 16 hours). While it's true that you can get some overtime, some teachers were asked to give up their overtime. And that is another sore point as I've heard the same teachers get to teach the TOEFL and IELTS courses all the time. There should be a rotation system for doling out the extra teaching. One person should not have the monopoly on teaching all the classes.
Evaluation, appraisal and portfolios are another big problem. From the moment we arrived we were told we had to get our portfolios together for the first semester. We already had enough to do what with settling in, paper work for the government and the university, getting used to a new system, getting our accomodation problems fixed, etc. Having to do these portfolios in such a short space of time has created a lot of pressure. People feel overworked and stressed from all of this.
The observations were not so great either. It is very clear that most of the people who do the observations have not received any proper training and are playing games. We should be allowed to watch our observers teach first and then have them observe us. Let's see how they teach! Students have said that some of them are actually not great in the classroom. If that's the case then who are they to observe us?? One place I used to work at allowed teachers to watch the observers in action. We found that a very fair way of dealing with observations.
Then there there is the contract and job security. We were told that we had one year probation and then three years. Shortly after we arrived, we found out there is also a one year contract given to teachers to either punish them, frighten them or get rid of them. One of the teachers that has been fired has actually been the most helpful. This guy is a scholar so how come he gets fired? Something very strange about that.
If they get rid of the TOEFL as a placement exam, fix the curriculum (what's the point of doing a couple of chapters in one book, a couple in another and a couple in another - why so many books - what a waste of money!!!!!), be straight with people about contracts, be fair about overtime, and address the housing issues, well then, yes I can promote QU as a fairly decent place to work.
When all's said and done, there really is not much to do in town. The Corniche is great to jog along. The pictures on the blog are great - the Cornich does look like that - a nice place to go now and then. To sum up, yes QU is not so bad but certain things need ironing out and people need to feel that they are valued and appreciated. If we get thanks instead of knocks, we newbies would feel much better about working here.