Normally the weekend here is just Thursday and Friday, but this weekend we also have Saturday off, as it’s the country’s “National Day” (al-yawm al-watny). It couldn’t have come at a better time – the first week teaching at the university was a lot of work! I’m sure next week will be a lot easier though, since everything will be familiar this time round and I’ll know what to expect. Plus – as predicted, the teaching hours have been reduced! I’ll still be teaching three lessons a day, but now they’re only going to be an hour and a half long, instead of an hour and forty-five minutes. Moreover, they’re still rounded up to two hours – so we will still be getting paid overtime hours. Not bad!
So I teach three lessons a day; one in the morning (8:00-9:30) and two in the afternoon (1:00-2:30, 3:00-4:30). That means I get a comfortable three and a half hours break for lunch! The company policy on how you spend your office hours when not teaching is very flexible. We can pretty much spend it however we like, as long as we are reachable by phone and can be back at the school within ten minutes. So far I’ve been going out for an early lunch with my colleagues at 11:00 and coming back at around 12:00. There are also plenty of shops nearby to explore. One of my favourites is the “5 Riyal Store” (their equivalent of a dollar store, but even better value for money). They have two of them near the school and one is absolutely massive! I enjoy practicing my Arabic there too and the shopkeepers get a real kick out of a westerner speaking their language!
I teach two groups of 22 students. One group I teach both in the morning and afternoon and the other I teach only in the afternoon, while another teacher takes them in the morning. Overall, they are a very pleasant bunch of students. It’s immediately obvious the difference between the keen, inquisitive students sitting at the front and the lazier, dozy students sitting at the back – with a gradient of ability in between! So I’m thinking I might try to mix things up a bit and move some students around!
Instead of shared tables, the students have individual desk-chairs, which are nowhere big enough for all their books and notes. Also, the current seating arrangement is rather rigid and ineffective, as it is simply four rows of chairs, lecture room style, heading to the back of a long, narrow classroom. It’s not very well suited for group discussion, so I might also move chairs around to make it more “participation-friendly”. I mentioned this to the “Academic Supervisor” (our immediate boss) and he said that he encourages all teachers to be as creative as possible with the classroom set-up. Apparently the guy who last taught in my classroom was famous for occasionally standing on his desk to address the students! So who knows what I’ll do to top that… I feel an “Oh captain, my captain!” moment coming on!
There is one slight hitch, however ,with being too creative in the classroom. Most classes, including my one, have a CCTV camera installed! The footage is constantly monitored by the management on a computer screen upstairs. The camera itself is positioned above the whiteboard, facing the students, so it doesn’t actually pick up the teacher at the front of the class. Really, it’s primary purpose is to monitor the students – to make sure, for example, that the students are in the class when they are supposed to be and they look like they are working. We’ve been told that one of the worst things you can get caught doing is letting students out of class early, even if it’s just five minutes early. Apparently, some teachers have actually had their pay docked for doing this, so I’ve been very careful not to do the same!
Oh! A mosquito just landed on my laptop! That’s not very encouraging! I haven’t really seen any until now, but apparently we’ll see more the closer we get to winter. Fortunately, Malaria is not a problem in this country, but I think I’m going to have to stock up on some more insect repellant, in addition to the ant-killing powder I already purchased for the ants in our villa.