A friend of mine who is a teacher in Abu Dhabi just arrived earlier this semester, and while I tried to prepare him for the chaos that is part of our arrival into this new land, I know he is still having a rough go of it right now. He’s also having a blast making new friends and discovering the wonders of this place. This is the way it is for most of us when we first arrive. On the one hand, it’s so incredibly awesome, on the other not so much.
I’m excited for my friend and all the new teachers arriving this year, but I also feel for them. They’re nervous, they’re overwhelmed, and they’re wondering if they have what it takes to succeed here. If I had the time to sit with them, I would share what I’ve told my friend.
- Breathe. You can do this. Just don’t try to do it your way right away. You’ll only go back to forgetting to breathe again.
- Go with what you’re being told to do. Don’t waste valuable time questioning your definition of logic. You have a lot to do these first few months, many of which you’ll find yourself redoing several times. Just go with it for now and keep breathing.
- Try very hard to learn how to say a few Arabic words. Start with shukran, which translates to thank you. You’ll eventually learn the common phrases that baffle you now.
- Don’t expect everything to be in order. Your principal may not know you’re coming. Your apartment may not have been cleaned. Your furniture delivery guys may say they’re coming at 4 p.m., only to show up close to midnight, or worse while you’re at work. Things either happen too slowly or too quickly … by our expectations. Remember, this isn’t your way of doing things. you will, however, learn to accept this.
- Most importantly, I’m bolding this: get your classroom management routines in order ASAP. Of course, as a teacher you know this, but trust me you may not know what to do here. Ask your coworkers for tips. Listen, really, to what they tell you. I asked, and I heard the words, but I knew my personality would pull through (like it always has in the past) and that I wouldn’t need to be that structured. I knew nothing, and it took months before I finally managed some sort of order to my day. Luckily, I had wonderful coworkers who shared their best practices and even modelled them for me. If you don’t have that, ask every educator friend you know. Keep asking until you find what works for you.
- Erase “that’s not fair” from your way of thinking. You may want to throw a temper tantrum or two yelling those very words, but you already know it won’t do you any good. Like you tell your students, find a solution versus excuses. You may want to highlight this for later.
- Build your social network. You will need your friends to help you adjust and find the humour with the bad moments. Plus, it’s good to have fun. This is a wonderful place to explore.
- That said, don’t come here expecting it to be all fun and games. We are teaching, and you will have to figure out that curriculum and how to adjust it to your kids. You’ll bring more work home those first few weeks (maybe months) than you expected, but this will eventually balance out.
In conclusion, don’t let my or anyone else’s words stress you out. This is uniquely your experience. You will be the one living this life and none of us can tell you what will or won’t work for you. I can, however, tell you that despite the hurdles I still have to sometimes jump; I truly do love my life here. I so hope you will too.
By Bettina Bennett
Bettina is currently a Cycle two and three educator here in the UAE. She is also a Teach UAE Magazine blogger.