Archive for September, 2016

My first few weeks in the Emirates

September 21, 2016

I wanted to write to you and tell you that the past two weeks of induction with the MOE has been incredible.  I have taught in 3 other countries and no other job has been remotely as welcoming and generous as this one has been. We have been treated like royalty!

I arrived at the airport in Dubai and was met by a man who helped me immediately set up my phone and exchange money.  I was then driven to a 5-star hotel where about 5 other new teachers were checking in.  We were all pretty tired from traveling so retired to our luxurious rooms and slept.

The breakfast buffet in the morning was incredible—eggs and waffles and salads and muesli and yogurt.  We met other teachers and exchanged stories.  I ran into 3 other teachers from my last job at King Saud University in Riyadh who have also changed over to this job.  There are many teachers here who have come over from Saudi so it was interesting to exchange information about what happened there. All of us Saudi teachers are pinching ourselves at how much different this treatment is from what we have just come from.

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Breakfast!

After breakfast, Yaseer brought us for our medical exam and Emirates ID.  Yaseer was so organized and helpful and all 20 of us were finished in an hour.  My friend and I then went out and hung out at the beautiful rooftop pool for an hour before we got on the bus to Dubai.

In Dubai—surprise!  Another 5-star luxury hotel!  We checked into our rooms and then met in the vast lobby to listen to the pianist. In the morning, another full-spread breakfast and then off for an overview of the program at the MOE building.  Everything was extremely organized and efficiently presented.  The MOE had invited local banks so that we could set up our accounts.  In 3 minutes I had my account set up.  I don’t want to bore you with the days of hassle I went through in Saudi trying to do the same.  It reduced so much “new country” stress to have my phone and bank account set up.  This can be very confusing to do when you are in a new culture.

We also got our locations.  I was thrilled because I wanted to be up near the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah and I got it!  My friend loves Dubai so she was very happy to be placed there.

What I didn’t realize about the area is how close the cities are to each other.  The bus from Dubai to Ras al Khaimah is only an hour and a half and costs 20 dr so it is easy to get from one place to another. A group of us who live in different cities are going to meet up in Sharjah this week and see the art museum. So most of the teachers are really happy with their postings and know they can travel into the city or out to the mountains very easily for the weekend.

We spent the week training in Sharjah—cross-cultural understanding, google docs, a CLIL workshop.  We were all given new free laptops (!) and had help logging into the portal where all the course books and resources are stored. Again, beautiful catered lunches were provided.

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Getting my new laptop

We were all driven into training from our respective locations.  The MOE has provided hotels for us for the week so that we have a secure base to set ourselves up in with housing. A few of the teachers in Ras Al Khaimah have found places at Al Hamra village for 30-40,000 per year.  I found a traditional house in my small community in Rams for 35,000/year. One of the teachers has chosen to stay in this hotel.  I think he pays around 45,000—pool and gym on location.

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Luch during training

After we do our errands and house hunting we meet at the Hilton beach resort which the MOE has ALSO generously provided.  Our most stressful decision is whether to sit by the pool or walk down to the beach chairs.

School starts on Sunday so it will be great to meet our new students and colleagues. As one of the trainers said, this is the pilot year for the program so there is a lot of excitement about being a part of such a bold enterprise. The sheik who has spearheaded this education reform is Harvard-educated and has envisioned an international education for the UAE children.  It is very exciting to be here and part of this mission. In induction we were given an overview of the work that the UAE has been doing with Cambridge to create the curriculum. The sheik’s vision is to have every highs school student score a 6.5 on the IELTS before graduating. They are working hard on clear goals for the English program.

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My school in Rams

My friend and I were sitting by the pool and talking about everything that has happened in the past few weeks.  She said, “I feel blessed to be here.”  Me too. When work starts, there will certainly be challenges to implementing a new curriculum and negotiating different teaching cultures but, as foreign teachers, we could not have had more help setting up the logistics of our job to be well-prepared for our teaching.

Please pass on my huge thanks to the organizers of this program for the truly first-class treatment I and my other teacher friends have received.  It is an incredible part of the Arab culture to be so welcoming and generous to guests.  I’m very grateful for this welcome to the UAE.

Leann Wiley

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Teachers apartment in Al Hamra village

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Local houses in Rams – On the border with Oman