It’s almost May! I can’t believe how quickly April flashed by. We are seriously counting down the days until our return home for the summer. As of right now, we haven’t booked tickets because we were hoping the school calendar would be shortened. The word is, most students will stop attending school after mid-June. However, our work year officially ends July 13. So, a month with no kids? How much planning and preparation can you do? On asking for clarification, teachers have been told July 13 remains the last work day for us. I guess it’s time to stop hoping and just buy the tickets.
I realized I’ve blogged about vacations a lot recently, and some people might be interested in just how a kindergarten in the UAE runs. I have to say up front that there are major differences at every school. I will try to give a picture of my typical school day, but it will not necessarily apply to any other school here!
I wake up at 5:00 AM these days because I’m getting a ride to school with my head of faculty, who lives down the street. For a while there, I was riding the city bus, which left my block at 5:50 and arrived in Al Rahba at 7:00, dropping me a mile from the school. I would then start walking towards the school and was usually picked up by a co-worker with a car about halfway. Thank goodness I have a ride now! I leave Abu Dhabi Plaza at 6:20, catch the #7 Tourist Club bus by 6:26, and get to Al Manzel Apartments by 6:35. Then Angela meets me in the lobby and we head out for the 30 minute drive to Al Ebtehal Kindergarten.
After signing in and grabbing my props for my KG1 lesson, I go to the gym, which is the central room at my school. The students have arrived by car and buses, and are lining up in the gym by class with their teachers for what is called taboor, which means “line” but is a morning assembly. They recite from the Quran, sing a song, say the UAE pledge, sing the national anthem, and then do some exercises, all led by the gym teacher. Some days, a class will do a special presentation about whatever they have been learning, but most days, we are dismissed by 8:00 to start class.
The KG2 teachers teach Arabic language and Islamic Studies from 8:00 to about 9:00, so the English staff visit KG1 classrooms during that time for an English lesson. KG1 students are three years old turning four during the year, so the teaching is really basic. We are working right now on colors, counting to 20, recognizing numbers, recognizing their names in English, and shapes, just to name a few objectives. I start off with circle time songs and greeting each child. Then I usually have a book or learning focus, then some kind of response time for the kids. It only goes well when the Arabic teacher sits with us for the lesson. The kids just don’t behave without “their” teacher forcing the issue, no matter how fun my lesson might be. So every time she has other things she feels she must do during the English lesson, the kids learn “sit down, please” and “No, no hitting!” instead of whatever lesson I had planned! Next year, we will have English teachers assigned to the KG1 classes, so they will not be mere visitors. I think that will work much better.
KG2 students are four turning five during the year, which is Pre-K in the US. I have to keep that in mind when planning and assessing, especially. The 24 kids I share with my Arabic co-teacher are adorable most of the time. There are a few more boys than girls, and they are really active, but they love learning and games just like kids anywhere. I teach a very short literacy lesson, then have the kids practice writing before snack time. After snack, they usually go to a rotation class: art, music, sports, or library. We have a short time for literacy small groups, and then the kids have a 15 minute recess. They can buy snacks in the gym during recess, but there’s not much else for them to do. It’s a bit more physical than I’ve ever been used to. Maybe because the kids are in an enclosed space, instead of on a playground. It’s too hot here, and our school doesn’t even have a playground! After recess, we come back to class for a short numeracy lesson and small groups/centers. It’s time to clean up at 12:00, and we’re out to buses at 12:15. Some days we go to the computer lab for part of the center time, and the kids absolutely love starfall.com. It’s pretty cute to hear them try to sing along with the dancing bear doing “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” on the computer. The day goes by fast no matter what we’re doing.
The only time the day ever slows down (and time just seems to telescope out) is when my co-teacher leaves the room for an extended period. We are supposed to work together, even during the English lesson, but she is often called away to translate, as she is quite fluent in English. Also, on occasion, “tea time” just somehow overlaps the English lesson, and I manage the kids on my own. I can do it, but I find I have to use plenty of Arabic to keep control. When that happens, I don’t feel bad about it, because my co-teacher would be using Arabic if she were in class. I just make sure to say everything twice, using both languages.
The English staff do most of the planning because we are responsible for teaching and assessing English and math. We have lots of the same resources you’d find in the US, with notable exceptions. Such as a well-stocked library and unifix cubes. The government is said to be in the process of providing better resources, and we have seen some trickle in this year. We have a computer lab with 12 computer stations and two computers in each classroom, but all of the teachers would like to have smartboards as well. Maybe next year!
We have planning time or professional development meetings after school, and are free to go at 1:45. The drive home takes about 40 minutes, so I’m often home by 2:30. What a luxury! I do enjoy my job, every day. That’s the typical school day. I’m sure I’ve left out important information that others would like to know. Please ask me and I’ll try to fill in the blanks.