A long Eid Holiday has finally come to an end. I can’t say that I’m all that overjoyed to be back at the Boys’ School, but it was incredibly dull sitting around the compound while everyone else enjoyed their extended stays in faraway places. That, and I had finished all the good bottles of my homemade wine. I was anxious to see what had happened in the buildings over break, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up too high as, after all, this is Saudi.
Before the holiday break, teams of electricians and engineers where wiring the Girls’ School and installing smartboards and projectors in all the remaining classrooms, and were doing so at a very quick pace (by Saudi standards). They were scheduled to start the installation process in the Boys’ section during the first few days of break, and then continue after the holiday ended.
Upon arriving Saturday morning, this is what I found on the journey down the hall to my classroom:
Securely locked away behind glass; to look at, but not to touch.
Just as every essential classroom tool should be.
On the bright side, the projectors are now at least in the building, seeing as it had taken the first 12 weeks of school for them to arrive. Hopefully they will be installed sometime in the near future, inshallah.
The downside to this was the actual work the engineers did over break. They completely disassembled the computer lab, Which, Faraz, our only teaching assistant had spent the majority of his free time putting together, in order to cut access holes for wires and cables. They somehow weren’t instructed to cut access holes to the outlets however, and instead removed all the sockets and replaced them with blank, outlet-free covers, or in a few cases just left the live wires hanging in open and uncovered junction boxes, then moved the cabinets back into place creating a computer lab with no power outlets.
All set back up. Note that nothing is, or can be, plugged in at this point.
Also, there are no chairs for this room.
Continuing down the hall to my classroom, I was a little dismayed by the gradually increasing amount of broken glass I was finding the further I walked. Thankfully, the only damage that had apparently been done was my classroom’s clock falling off the wall. What bewildered me was that the pattern of broken glass looked strikingly similar to someone throwing it with significant force against the ground, and that this very clear pattern was actually outside my classroom door, down the length of the hallway, but I’ve learned by now that questioning things here is essentially useless.
On a positive note, we were greeted with a new teacher from the U.S. who specializes in technology education, and worked surpisingly diligently (or more likely because he’s still a little green to the way of the world in these parts) to reassemble the lab electrical systems and organize all the computers. By the end of the day, he had them all up and running (as standalone units as we have no servers or internet), and was working on a curriculum so we could hold technology classes for our students by the end of the week. Also, the company that was hired to cater snacks and lunches to students started delivering this week. They haven’t yet figured out how to correctly distribute the lunches, arrive at the right time, or even at the right locations, but they did correctly assume they would need more food than was ordered, meaning I’ve gotten a free lunch every day. Not that I pay all that much for lunch anyway. It’s just nice to feel the warm side of karma for a change.
In hindsight, having things go to hell every once in a while can sometimes work out in a positive way. Not having a clock is rather empowering because, now that I have banned all electronic devices from my classroom, I have become the Keeper of the Time, and my students are stuck with my increasingly manipulative use of the knowledge of the time of day. Constantly restructuring schedules, classrooms, activities, and lesson plans means I can’t really plan that far ahead and only really have to worry about things a few days or a week at a time. Not having a consistent way to communicate with my coworkers because of any number of reasons, including not having any administration, leaves me pretty much free to do what I want. Basically, all this makes it easy to do the bare minimum, which is fine, because in reality that’s about the best I can do. All of these things are actually incredibly frustrating, and I would do almost anything to have them resolved, but I’m trying to find the positive in a particularly dim situation.
One of the Vice Presidents came to visit this afternoon, and after pulling me out of my classroom in the middle of a lesson, he eagerly asked how I spent my holiday and whether or not I was enjoying the recent wonderful change in weather. I asked him about the status of all the scheduled installations and my answer was the ever popular, “tomorrow, inshallah.” I talked with him for a time and he eventually asked what I thought it was like to teach given the imperfect situation. Without a second thought I bluntly told him “As soon as you get everything we were promised, I’m sure I’ll be able to start actually teaching, inshallah,” and walked away to get some coffee, leaving him to watch my room.