Saturday, June 18, 2011

Odd oddities

It should come as no surprise that I expected some obvious differences between my American students and my Saudi students. I went from a coeducational classroom to a single gender. I knew there would be wardrobe changes, girly behavior for miles, and an abundance to language barriers. Those expectations have been the case just about every day since we arrived in the Kingdom. I figured otherwise, the students would be the same as everywhere else.

To a degree, that is true. I've shared stories of how my Saudi students have reminded me so much of my American kids. But there are a few oddities that my girls have that are so funny, I have to share. I have no idea if this is the case with all Saudi students, or if mine are just especially quirky, but these little peculiarities are often very entertaining.

They're perfectionists! You'd never believe it based of a cursory glance of the litter strewn about the floor and playgrounds, but when it comes to their work, my students are total fussbudgets! I have my students make a lot of graphic organizers in my class, just quick charts and bubble maps and things like that. I don't like to make the copies for them because I think having the kids actually do it will help them associate the skill with the logic behind why we use graphic organizers in the first place. But heavens! As soon as I said, "Make a T chart," the rulers were out and the anxiety went through the roof!

It's exam season again, and I proctored a geometry exam today. I was given a spiral pad of graph paper for the girls to use, and had to tear each page out individually. Nine times out of ten, as soon as I gave the paper to a girl, she got out her ruler, used it as a tearing edge and took off the little paper tabs that are left behind when you tear a sheet out of the spirals. So funny!

Everything has to be in pen. I think this is the fault of my girls' former teachers. Personally, I avoid using pens unless I have no choice. I make lots of mistakes, and I like the way pencil lead looks on paper anyway. As a teacher, I don't really care what my students write in as long as it's not an obnoxious shade of pink, purple or green. Blue or black ink pens, or pencils of any kind are totally good to go in my class. I have literally answered the question, "Can we write in pencil?" almost everyday since the school year started. One time I actually had a student respond with "You're so kind!!" when I told her she could write in pencil! I guess using graphite isn't common practice with their other teachers.

Everything is subject to white-out. Although I broke this habit with some of my kids by the end of the year, this quirk has slowed down so many lessons and tests this year. Despite being told repeatedly that they can just scratch out their answers and write the correct word, my students insist on whiting out every possible mistake! Even on simple worksheets that are meant to be a quick classwork assignment. And everyone hates the smudge that results from hastily writing over semi-dry correction fluid, so my girls will wait for it to dry completely before correcting their mistake. They don't use a little white out, so they often have to wait for a while.

The nose bleed fake out. Teacher/mom friends: When a child approaches you with a panicked look on her face, cupping her hand over her nose, what do you assume? She's got a nose bleed, right? Not the case in Saudi Arabia (with the exception of one student who actually would get nose bleeds in the winter months). The sniffle doesn't exist here, so if the girls have even a modicum of suspicion about the status of their snot, the hand goes over the nose and they simply cannot function until they have a kleenex.

In my world, if you get a simple little nostril blockage--possibly post sneeze-- you just sniffle a bit, perhaps swipe the back of your hand across the ol' schnoz. You don't interrupt class and give your teacher palpitations by giving the impression that you're oozing blood from your nose!

A tenet of Islam is cleanliness, so I assume this compulsive need to prevent any hint of snot anywhere south of the septum (not even outside the nostrils!) is borne from that.

It's been an interesting year, to say the least, and getting used to the little idiosyncrasies of my Saudi students has certainly added to the challenge.

And to the humor.

Vicariously yours,

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