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I have travel taught for a few years, I most recently spent time teaching and mentoring on the Hawaiian Islands, specifically the island of O’ahu. My reasons to begin travel teaching stem from personal challenges and setbacks as well as spiritual motivations. My teaching path has been anything but orthodox. I have owned my own health business in the past, worked with and trained private security in two fortune 500 companies, trained police officers on Jui Jitsu techniques, self protection and gun retention technology. I also have been blessed to have the natural ability to oil paint. I have had a showing at a gallery in Michigan where I sold many paintings and donated the funds to a charity organization that I support and was founded by a friend of mine in the city of Detroit Michigan. I have always enjoyed teaching and working with people, so transitioning into the education field was natural.
Teaching in the UAE
I moved to the UAE nine months ago from O’ahu after spending time with family and friends in Michigan. I teach cycle 2, 6th and 7th grade boys in the West region of Al Gharbia, Abu Dhabi. The cultural differences of the West are in stark contrast to the twin cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The West region is best describedas rustic and slow paced. I live approximately 115 Kilometers from the city of Abu Dhabi. From my flat’s window I can clearly hear the call to prayer, which is 5 times a day for the Muslim followers, the first being just before dawn. I find it soothing and comforting… it also reminds me to say a prayer when I hear it. I hear roosters crowing in the distance, and an unobstructed view of the sunrise and sunset, as most buildings are below 3 stories out West. I live in Madiat Zyed, the capital of the West region, although ‘capital’ may be overstated as it is truly a small country town by most ex-pat standards. Populated by expat teachers, many ADNOC (oli company) employees, a few train and engineer builders and many local emirati. The experience of living, working and traveling the roads in the West is a true cultural UAE experience. All shops are local, there are a few franchises in the small city mall (the cube), but generally it is a local shopping environment; it can make things interesting! Arabic is spoken freely and English is difficult for most in this region, camels are a common sight here and often seen crossing the roads when heading to the large sand dunes or with trainers heading to the camel race track for a work out. I have had to learn a new level of empathy and patience, lessons I have learned well and ones I will take with me as I continue my world travels.
Educationally, the UAE / ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council), system is very young, and with all young things that are growing and learning, mistakes are made, hopefully (inshalla) learned from so they are not repeated. The education reform in this young country (only 42 years old), statistically started 7 years ago, that said, they are realistically at a two year starting point now. Cycle 2, 6th grade is the lynch pin for the NSM (New School Model). All eyes are on us this year. The learning outcomes (LO’s) are advanced, even for native English speakers. This causes a huge divide between what is needed for resources and what is actually given to the teachers in the class room. The reform is a disjointed and ungainly process, but it does move inexorably forward. I have learned from my teaching and life experiences that what is often best for the many is not often put into practice, hence the need for an education reform and often sluggish exhausting days of teaching. When in the UAE it is important, very important, to remember that we are guests in this country, courtesy, friendliness and an openness go a very long way here, especially for the men. So, come knowing that things are very different but also know that you will have the experience here that you choose to have, so decide on a positive one and stick to it.
The Strongest Steel is Forged in the Hottest Fire
On a more personal note, I, along with many, have had a few bumps on the transition to the UAE and the West region. My teaching assignment was scheduled to start in August 2013, I did not arrive until Oct 18th 2013 …so the patience lessons begin from the start. As teachers we all know starting in the middle of a school year is difficult, compound that with limited to no English language acquisition, large class sizes and no formal discipline policy in schools… I walked into the fire on the first day! My personal challenges continued the second week in the West region. A faulty wiring job in my new flat caused a fire while I was teaching at school. I came home to discover it myself. I had just finished purchasing and setting up the entire place 4 days prior. My new couch, T.V., refrigerator, bed and many personal items brought from home, documents (my passport was with me at school), IPhone, pictures were a total loss. Again, I stress, choose to be positive, find the ‘why’ and forget the ‘how’. Unfortunately renters insurance does not exist here, so there was no recompense from ADEC or the UAE. I believe that ADEC wanted to help me, and this will sound strange to the non UAE resident, but there simply was no format, method or box to tick to move funds to help me. I admit, I am an optimist and generally a positive person, but I questioned myself… was this a sign? Should I leave? Can I continue with even less than I came with, which was not much to begin with? I felt discouraged, upset, and quite frankly angry and used up. Fortunately I found the spirit to continue and have found many lessons learned from the tragedy… ‘the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire’ (lol , pun intended).
It's all a Matter of Attitude
As I write this I am still rebuilding my new life here. A fire of this magnitude takes more than physical possessions, if you allow it, it will leach from you your spiritual commitment to yourself and to others. I was doubly blessed one week later. New friends had a Christmas party over the winter break. They took up a collection of funds for me… now these are young teachers I had not met yet and I was not even in attendance. The spirit, in which they freely gave to me, a stranger, moved me beyond words. The monetary gift not only helped me with immediate necessities but also ignited the embers in my beaten down spirit… a small flame began to grow and I was once again on my way. Miracles come in many sizes. I am now friends with the teachers who supported me and gave to me. Great people I probably would not have met, who enrich my life, if not for the tragedy of a fire. There are too many experiences to relate in one writing, every day in the UAE is different and an adventure. I hope, in a small way, you found this useful and interesting. As alama Likumn and much Aloha.