Joined: 22 Oct 2002
Location: Los Angeles, California
|Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2003 1:24 am Post subject: Still Here After All These Years...
|I have spent the last hour or so reading the experiences posted here. I would like to comment about/add to what I have read, but first, a little info. about myself. I am an American. I have been living in the Middle East ever since June 1981 (Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE). While living in the UAE (since 1991), I completed an MEd in TESOL from Newcastle University with distinction. I have taught English in all three countries to just about every educational level (primary, intermediate, secondary, and post-secondary). I have taught EFL and ESL. I lived through the Gulf War. I've seen a lot and I would like to share a little of what I've learned or come to know - those of my own experiences and the experiences of my colleagues/friends.
First of all, teaching all by itself is a really tough job, no matter where, or with whom. Obviously, the environment within which one teaches has an enormous effect on one's ability to put up with the stress of the job itself. So, what about the environment here in the UAE?
Teaching in K-12 private schools in the UAE: a generalization...
The kids are mostly great; no better or worse than you might find in the U.S. or Canada. The majority of parents will appear to be uninterested in the progress of the education of their child. (Worst-case incident [true story]): A parent was called in to take her sick daughter home. She checked in at the office and was allowed to go to the child's class to pick her up. A few minutes later, she returned to say that her daughter was nowhere to be found. It turned out that she was looking in the First Year classes, when her daughter was actually in Third!!) There are exceptions to this parent thing, and they will generally be obnoxious and completely unrealistic. Fortunately, they are the minority. Administrations will also be completely unrealistic and manipulative. The textbooks will be the syllabus, or you will be provided with some vaguely written 'curriculum' and told to use this to 'guide' you. Basically, you're on your own, which can actually be a good thing, if you're the type of teacher who is resourceful and creative. Most schools come through (at least eventually) with their promises of pay and accommodations, but the Savvy Traveler poster was correct in saying that you should have photocopies of ALL important personal papers and documents, not to mention 12 passport-size photographs. (Trust me on this...the voice of experience.)
Teaching in language institutes: Don't do it here.
Teaching in tertiary institutions (post-secondary): I've read a lot about the political posturing that occurs in these institutions. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but in my limited experience, doesn't this go on to a greater or lesser extent in ALL universities? (I was employed as a university teacher for a year in Egypt, and as a visiting lecturer for Newcastle University for 4 years; my aunt, the former Dean of the Education Dept. of Illinois University.) Basically, you need to be flexible. Don’t rock the boat. Being in such a beautiful, modern country, one might get lulled into a false sense that forthrightness and democratic management styles would be the norm here. It isn’t.
HCT has a good package (one of the best in the Gulf area), but there really are substantial ‘problems’ with the management situation. UAE U. is generally an interesting and fulfilling place to work, but they are also re-structuring. This can cause disruptions and confusion. AUS has a breathtakingly beautiful campus. I have not heard of any glaring problems there, except for the first couple of years, when they seemed to have no direction. I do not have any personal info. about AUD. (Pretty campus though, right next to Hard Rock Café!) Most people I have talked to from Zayed University, MLI and the Petroleum Institute are either satisfied or completely happy with their positions.
BTW - It IS correct that it is against the law here to criticize the government, as it is in most of the developing world, Islamic or non-Islamic. There is not such thing here as job security, either for us or for them. If you have a two-year contract, you may leave after one month. Likewise, your employers may dismiss you at any time. They are not required by law to provide a reason for your dismissal. In spite of this, many people have successfully worked here for years (like me).
Where do I work? I have had a varied list of worthwhile (AIS, Qatar) and truly awful (AIS, Abu Dhabi) work experiences in the M.E., but I am now employed by an organization that encourages professionalism, appreciates innovation, and supports research and other types of professional development. The students are a pleasure to teach, for the most part, and I feel great. YAY! The UAE Institutes of Nursing.
Finally, as professional educators, I sincerely believe that it does not serve the purpose of providing an informative forum for discussion for us to engage in personal attacks against individuals who post here.
I hope that my lengthy post has been helpful.
Oct. 31, 2002
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Posted: October 31, 2002