Monday, September 10, 2012

Day One At the Campus

            This day has been an education in more ways than one. It was my first day on campus and it seemed that no one knows I was there. I went to the HR department who demanded I fill out a ton of forms that I have already filled out a bunch of times. I get to work on that, and then I can't connect to the internet.

            One of the HR ladies has the code and won't tell anyone and has disappeared.

            I happened to run into a different HR person because she wanted me to go around to all the classrooms and take attendance. She noticed that she didn't know who I was and as an HR person, she should know. When she found out I was new, she looked aghast and said no one had told her I was here and that she was supposed to debrief every new teacher.

            She proceeds to give me this spiel, a lot of it I have already heard, but this one includes the caveat that my CV and diplomas have to go to the head office for approval before I am officially hired. This is not something I was told before – I figured if they were flying me out here, they had already hired me.

            But this seems to be par-for-course with overseas language gigs – in fact, this was the situation in Korea, though no one ever told me that to my face. You generally have a probationary period during which they can fire you if they want to.

            This is going to give me some sleepless nights, I can tell, but if nothing else I have had an interesting experience.

            Since it was mentioned that part of the assessment of whether I get to stay or not is taking initiative with professional development, I tracked down two of the three PD sessions going on and attend them. One is about professional development. Very meta.

            But the other is specifically about how to teach students from the Kingdom. I found out that there are a lot of things I am not allowed to discuss with the girls. This, I'm sure surprises no one.

Something I am not allowed to discuss:

-        Music (music is more or less illegal here. Very footloose.)
-        Displeasure concerning the abaya (outer, choir robe-like covering) and the hijab (head scarf)
-        Politics/religion (obvi.)
-        Superstitions (this includes everything from Greek gods to wearing your pyjamas inside out in hopes for a rain day. Everyone knows it is Allah who makes the rain fall.)

            Other things that are severely frowned upon is putting the spotlight on a student – here, saving face is also a big deal; making a definite statement without adding 'Inshallah' (if God wills it/God willing) on the end (for example: “You are definitely going to make a great doctor”); and finally, saying you achieved something all by yourself because you are so awesome. The general feeling on this is that you always owe your success to Allah and pretending otherwise is borderline blasphemy.

            It seems that there are a lot of teachers here who have no classes, and more are arriving every day. All I am required to do for the next couple of days is show up to work and pretend to be busy. The last part is optional.

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