A tumultuous first week has come to an end. Thankfully, things are starting to fall into place, but it’s been a dive, face first, arms tucked, into the reality of life in Saudi.
My classroom was made exponentially better with the addition of a whiteboard, with both a black and a blue marker (heaven forbid I lose them). It’s amazing what you can accomplish once you procure a few supplies. I walked to the over to the girls building and raided their supply room, which was more of a closet with a few boxes filled with random materials, and came back with a box of pencils, a large stack of legal pads, half a box of paper clips, and a red pen. The best stolen material being the legal pads, because I finally have enough paper for my students to do work in class, as well as at home. The downside is that I have 12 students, and 10 textbooks. I don’t mind not having a teacher copy of any of the subjects, but it’s incredibly hard to teach anything of value when you can’t assign any work and someone is always left out.
My state of the art classroom. Notice the small whiteboard on the side wall.
The Arabic teacher stole it shortly after I took this picture.
Any reasonable person would assume I could just ask the students to share textbooks, or give two days to complete homework so students could take turns bringing the books home, but they would be sadly mistaken. First, Saudi’s have a hard time grasping the concept or sharing, which usually ends up in a contest to see who can swear the loudest in Arabic. Secondly, half of them can’t read well enough to do any work by themselves anyway. Their English abilities range from speaking perfect British English, with slang well above my understanding, to only knowing how to say the phrase ‘no problem’ without actually knowing what it means.
The upside to all this business is that every day has been better than the day before, and it’s literally impossible (short of being shot or having a student defecate on me) for it to get any worse than it already is. I met several fathers yesterday, and they were very concerned with the well being of their sons. They wondered why they hadn’t had any updates sent home about their students after the first week of school, and were bewildered as to why I wasn’t assigning homework. Their questions were answered as soon as they walked into my classroom and they could see for themselves what I was working with, but as one father said “My son is here because I want him to see how bright his future can be. He’s an investment, and I’m here to get what I paid for.”