A Day in a Saudi Classroom

Assignment 4: Narration (Revision 11/30/15)

“Phones off! Phones in bags! Bags up front!”

‘Phone’ was a word that never needed translation, as these items were affixed to my students palms since Day 1. I’ve never seen such an addiction to social networking in my life, as they type pages of texts to their friends two classes over.

“But Teachuh…” starts the chorus of begging. “Teachuh, dictionary..” says Kahloud, as she points at her only lifeline.

“That must be a very long word you’re typing. I’ll be your dictionary.” She smiles at the sarcasm. In all honesty, it would save me a lot  of hassle if they solely used their phone dictionaries. I never quite understood how every semester I’d end up with high-level books for low-level students. Today’s vocabulary lesson was no exception.

“So, girls, how was your weekend?” I predict the responses to be about shopping and sleeping. Yet, I hope for more.

“I go shopping with my sister” says Hanan. “Sleeping… just”, says Noura.

I then look to my favorite (Yes, I have favorites..). Knowing that she’ll give me a unique response, I repeat the question. “How was your weekend, Sumayah?”

“I do nothing. But today, I see my teacher last semester, and she give me a beer!”

With raised brows, I’m sure that I heard her wrong. You can’t even bring vanilla extract into this country due to its alcohol content. Let alone, a beer!

“Umm, she gave you a what?” I casually ask.

“A beer”, Sumayah says nonchalantly.

Eyes to the sky, I’m searching for all of the words I’ve heard misused over these past two years.

“Can you spell it?”

“B-E-A-R” and then she looks at me like I’m the crazy one for not knowing what a bear is. Of course, I can’t explain the difference between bear and beer. The latter was an “Avoid” topic on the Culture Sensitivity List. So instead we spend 5 minutes doing word repetition, by saying everything we know about bears. They will not leave my class saying that Ms. Ashley taught them about beer.

We then start class with a reading about a man with 13 jobs, one of them being an “Undertaker”. This is a new word that takes every bit of effort, from drawing graves to acting out a funeral. After my performance at the front of the classroom, I get baffled stares. Then suddenly my one 40+-year-old, Amani, proudly shouts out.. “Ahhh, Teacher… Undertaker, like WWE!!” The class must not have seen the slight shaking of my head and lack of confirmation, as they erupted in “Ahhhs” and “ohhhs” of instant understanding.

At the bottom of my lesson plan is a space for notes.

Tomorrow: Phone Dictionaries

 

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13 thoughts on “A Day in a Saudi Classroom

  1. lol, love it! Its refreshing to hear the humor, which is pretty much universal. Keep up the good work. I’m very happy to read the positivity. Thank you!

  2. Sounds like a daily adventure teaching in a Saudi classroom. Found your blog through the BGR Feature Fridays. My post was featured a few weeks ago. I’m exited to follow your adventures overseas.

  3. Thanks for sharing! It’s funny how sleeping is a hobby when it is a basic necessity. I’m glad you had your student spell out “beer.” I was starting to worry that someone would call the office and tell on her.

  4. LOL…nice to know that my student’s responses are not the only ones that are “shopping and sleeping”. I’ve taught that lesson about the man with 13 jobs…next time you teach it, tell them the person who prepares the body for a janazah (the Muslim burial prayer). That way they will have a point of reference. If you were drawing graves and such with head stones, they would have no idea about it because in Islam, there are no headstones or funeral processions like with Christian funerals. Happy Teaching!

  5. Good day! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.

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