Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A day in the life...

4:45 am - my alarm clock goes off. If I'm behaving myself, I'll get up and work out. I'm not usually behaving myself, so this is usually when I hit the snooze button and turn over.

5:06 am - The call to Fajr prayer starts.

5:30 am - I'm in the shower.

5:36ish am - The recitation of the prayers begins from the mosque a block away. This mosque is usually the last in the neighborhood to start. I amuse myself by imagining the imam rushing out of bed each morning and running to the mosque to get everyone started. In my imagination, he's as much of a morning person as I'm not.

5:45 am - The Mister's alarm clock goes off.

6:00 am - I'm out of the shower and continuing to get ready for work.

6:10 am - The Mister finally gets out of bed. Ideally we're walking out the door in 5 minutes.

6:21 am - We're walking out the door.

6:41 am - We've survived the commute to work once again and I'm clocking in to work. The mister and I have said goodbye in the parking lot. No hugs. No kisses. Just wishes of "Have a good day" and we're on the way to the separate doors of our two schools in the same building.

As I dodge my way through elementary girls hula hooping in the primary section of the school (hula hoop is so in right now with the 6-10 crowd), I have to stop and wait for the crowds to part. Slowly. Conversations and camaraderie are very important here, and people can't be bothered to be conscious of others around them. The children here are no exception. I often get the stink eye when I say, "Excuse me" and ask the girls to get out of the way. How dare I interrupt her very important conversation square in the middle of the hallway?!

7:00 am - The doors to the hallway leading to the high school clusters are opened the girls pour into the corridors. The decibels climb dramatically.

7:15 am - The warning bell sounds. The girls continue their conversations.

7:20 am - The final bell rings, signaling the beginning of the first period. The girls are still talking in the hallway. One or two begin to enter the cluster. Exasperated sighs leak from the teachers' chests.

My class schedules are bizarre, to put it lightly. On Saturdays I have all 3 of my sections in 80 minute blocks. I only have 2 forty minute periods free. My lightest days are Monday and Tuesday when I only have 2 of my 3 sections and I only teach for a total of 2 hours. I love Mondays and Tuesdays. I am able to get so much planning done and even sneak a few quick glances at Facebook.

A real annoyance is the fact that there are not enough classrooms for each teacher to have one of her own. So while I'm not teaching, another woman is using my room for her class. When she's in my room, I'm occupying her desk. When she finishes, I get booted off her desk and back into my room.

10:08 am - Recess. There's no real lunch schedule, so we just set the girls loose for 30 minutes. The canteen is open and the girls are urged to go outside to each and run off some energy. Following these instructions often proves to be optional. It depends on which teacher is on duty during recess.

12:47 pm - Prayer break. The girls that are eligible head to the lockers, get their abayas and then go to the large assembly room where prayers are conducted. If a girl is on her period, she is unclean and therefore cannot perform the prayers. These girls roam the halls, finish homework and generally hang out.

2:27 pm - The final bell rings and a mass exodus begins. The students generally take their time getting their bags and heading to their drivers because most of them have brothers in the boys school who don't get out for another 13 minutes. Others run out quickly to catch the chartered bus that takes them home to the suburbs.

The teachers high-tail it out of the school like it's on fire! I've seriously never seen a school clear out as fast as this one does after dismissal! When I asked my colleagues why none of the teachers stay late to get work finished, I was told that the non-Saudi women aren't allowed to hire family drivers, so if they don't get out to their hired taxis in time, the driver will leave them stranded at school. I'm not sure what the Saudi women's excuse is.

2:40 pm - The Mister's last bell rings. I've usually settled into a conversation with the last stragglers in the English department and often miss his call when he's heading out to the car.

2:51 am - The call to the Asr prayer begins. Everything closes, so any hope of stopping for an after school snack is dashed.

3:00 pm - I finally clock out for the day and head out to the car.

After school, we generally take a nap, work out if we're feeling motivated, or have various classes and meetings. My former colleagues in Nashville will be interested to know that I meet in a PLC every Monday afternoon. On Tuesdays we have Arabic class, and most Wednesdays are TARA meetings.

Overall, our work week is very busy. And that's a day in the life of an international teacher in Saudi Arabia.

Vicariously yours,

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