Please feel free to visit my other personal blog at Anthony’s Abu Dhabi Journey
This is a 2-year account of my teaching/living experience in Abu Dhabi.
Please feel free to visit my other personal blog at Anthony’s Abu Dhabi Journey
This is a 2-year account of my teaching/living experience in Abu Dhabi.
What does this word truly mean? Well, I’m living it because I have NO choice. Although at times I feel uncomfortable beyond measure, I recognize that it’s just me EGO attempting to take control of the situation.
The situation? Well, I’m currently living and teaching overseas in the Middle East and my two-year contract is coming to a close. The school year is over, my accommodation has been emptied, and I’m waiting around in a hotel for my money! Lol.
It’s interesting because I have been eagerly waiting for this moment for about the last six months. However, these final days, and weeks have felt longer than the past six months. I’m currently going through the EXIT process. This consists of my company canceling my visa and paying a brotha the money he’s worked for.
Sounds easy enough right? Well, anybody who has lived in the middle eastern part of the world already knows how complex the simplest tasks are made out to be. I’d go into detail but that would mean I’d have to relive the last grueling four weeks of my life and my current emotional state is fragile. Lol.
Which brings me back to surrendering. So I’ve done all that I need to do and at this point I’m just waiting…..and waiting…and more waiting….and waiting. It has literally been torture on every level because I’m so ready to go home. I have a job waiting for me, a new apartment that needs to be moved into, and family/friends I need to receive love from. I need a hug so bad. I need my normal back. I need an emotional vacation. I need my mamas cooking. I need a good shoulder to cry on. Lol.
However…….I know……that……I……need…to…surrender! Otherwise, I’ll go crazy out here in this hot desert. ;0)
It’s funny because I’ll catch myself sitting around the hotel room in deep thought. I’m usually thinking about relocating back to New York City……..thinking about all the stuff I need to do and then suddenly I’ll get EXTREMELY anxious, sad, angry, or irritated. Ugh….it’s the worst. But I’m smart enough to know what’s happening inside my head. Emotions are simply thoughts in motion. Therefore, I’m trying to change the way I look at things….so that the things I look at change (Wayne Dyer). BUT that damn EGO of mine is always trying to take control. Lol.
I’ve had to accept that I have no control over this exit process. On top of that, RAMADAN will take effect on June 28. Folks who are living in this part of the world already know what that means! You got it….EVERYTHING slows down or is shut down. So with Ramadan fast approaching…..I truly have no choice but to surrender and maybe even participate in the fast. I think it’ll do me some good. :0)
This is myTRUTHmyCLARITY! Consider these thoughts organized…. :8)
It’s still blows my mind anytime I say, “I’ve been living overseas for two years!” I can’t believe I’m actually living a small thought that danced around in my head back in February 2012. It’s now June 2014 and here I am. As you think, so shall you be.
I have accomplished so much upon my arrival here in Abu Dhabi. However, when ever I’m asked about my greatest accomplishment the first thing that comes to mind is completing the two year commitment. With just two week remaining, I stand tall with my head held high…..embracing my newfound confidence. I can do whatever I put my mind to and this I now know to be my TRUTH and my CLARITY.
Folks, I’m going to be honest with you. Living overseas ain’t all peaches and creme, the HIGHS can be really HIGH and the LOWS can be really LOW. Once the honey moon period passes and it hits you that this foreign space is now your home…..boy oh boy……the stages of culture shock are REAL my followers!
I’m so thankful for my job. The time spent with my students was one of the few moments I felt at home. As an educator, I am fortunate enough to have a platform (classroom) to do what I love which is inspiring youth to achieve their BIG dreams. Furthermore, providing them with the resources needed to experience SUCCESS so that they now know what it LOOKS like, FEELS like, and SOUNDS like. Once a child experiences success…I mean truly lives it in my classroom……..the world of infinite possibilities is in their hands….thereby motivating them to shoot for the stars!
My biggest challenge always began the moment I’d leave my job because I was stepping back into a strict Muslim culture. Initially, I was curious and immersed myself into the Arabic ways but after a year….I just got tired. Lol. Year two was much more challenging than year one. By year two things became clearer (as far as the cultural/religious ways) and they challenged my western ways beyond measure. I thought about going home at least once a day. Not because of any type of negative experience, I just missed my home…I missed my normalcy. I missed the luxury of blending in. My company gives us teachers many opportunities to resign but I had to finish what I started. I was AWARE of the idea that every obstacle posed an opportunity for emotional, physical and spiritual growth. Furthermore, this experience was exactly what I asked for. So often times, I simply invited my EGO to take it’s weak ass out of my head……..I (SPIRIT) was prepared to surrender to the experience and see this journey all the way to the end.
I still don’t know how I’ve managed to get through these past to years which is why I must attribute my greatest accomplishment to my SOURCE. I have discovered a new level of strength, patience, flexibility, tolerance, humility, gratitude, love and peace. I am a new man! More importantly, I have left my footprint within the sand dunes of the Middle East. Although I may never see the results of my hard work while serving here in Abu Dhabi, it is the JOURNEY that has been filled with life changing experiences and opportunities to SERVE…..and for that I am thankful. This is myTRUTHmyCLARITY….. Encouraging all of you to step outside of your comfort zone into the direction of the unknown…… Live on purpose!
-Promotes collaboration among the students because the teacher recognizes he/she is NOT the only educator in the room. Therefore, students sitting in groups be it homogeneously and/or heterogeneously depending on the needs of the students.
-Celebrating student success helps to create a culture that is conducive to learning. As a result, I would also expect to see authentic student work throughout the classroom exhibiting meaningful feedback.
-An effective classroom is lead by an educator who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide his/her students with the supports needed for them to experience success. BECAUSE failure is not an option.
-Feedback is warranted, appreciated and happening regularly in an effective classroom.
-A community of people sharing a space that are learning and growing with and from one another.
-Creating meaningful relationships with your students so that a culture of love, respect, learning and success is instituted within the four walls of the classroom.
-Ultimately, creating a culture of SMILES. Smiles indicate happiness. Happiness promotes an environment conducive to learning where guards come down and challenges are revealed and now viewed as opportunities for growth.
HOWEVER…….myTRUTHmyCLARITY of an effective teacher is that they must have a LOVE and PASSION for the education profession. Educators who HEART teaching possess the drive to MASTER their craft. This cannot be taught……:0)
An effective teacher will ALWAYS create an effective classroom because they are willing to do the work. The secret to success isn’t rocket science…just lots of hard work.
I have been teaching and living in a foreign country for just about two years and the end of my contract is near. Therefore, I feel compelled to give future international teachers some much-needed advice. Where do I begin? Where do I end? There’s so much I can reflect on as a ‘veteran teacher’ in a middle eastern country. Yeap, that’s right! Lol. You are considered a veteran teacher if you made it through a year of teaching and return to do additional years. You become the ‘go to’ person for many of the new teachers. I believe they have hired over 500 additional teachers……probably more than that for the upcoming school year! Naturally, these teachers have many questions and seek veteran teachers via Facebook.
I figured I’d post a few of the most popular questions I have received from teachers who are planning to relocate overseas and teach in The Middle East.
1) Do you have any regrets?
– Absolutely not! This experience has afforded me opportunities I never would have experienced had I not taken this leap of faith. I have grown on so many levels; spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, professionally. More importantly, I now view the world through a global lens. This shift (in how I view the world) has motivated me to continue living and serving on purpose.
2) What was your biggest challenge?
– I had two really big challenges that I had to deal with on a daily basis. The first challenge was surrendering to the culture of this country. Culture shock is very real and there are stages you will go through over a period of time. Get familiar with these stages so that you are prepared to respond appropriately to the roller-coaster of emotions. Over time you will gain a better understanding of the cultural norms and how things work, but you must be patient with the process and simply let go and surrender to the way things are!
The second challenge was my biggest challenge. The challenge of being so far away from everything and everyone that I know and love. I genuinely missed my family and friends to death. As a result, I have and still experience a whole new type of loneliness. But I’m grateful for it because it has forced me to really appreciate the company of myself. This new and enriching relationship I have with myself has afforded me a newfound spiritual connection with my source. I needed this time alone to really get to know me and the one above. Point to ponder: They say a person begins to feel lonely when they no longer enjoy the company of themselves. Ways I dealt with this challenge included Facebook, Skype, Magic Jack, Voxer, and Text Now which all kept me in constant communication with everyone. Additionally, I made an effort to create new friendships. However, be VERY careful about who you surround yourself with. It’ll make or break your experience. Needless to say, it helps to chat and hang out with people who can relate to what you are feeling. Also, I have come to realize that our thoughts are just thoughts. And when you are feeling a particularly way it is simply a thought in motion. If you change the way you think, you change the way you feel. I have found a few ways to dismiss the negative thoughts. However, sometimes I simply allow for them to just pass. It takes a lot of practice, but after 2 years I’m managing my negative thoughts a lot better than I used to in the past. Lastly, I constantly remind myself that I am serving for a purpose greater than myself. I am living a dream that is dreamt by many. I tell myself to be in the moment and embrace it……why? Because this too shall pass…so live on purpose!
3) What is your best advice for an incoming teacher?
– Expect nothing and everything all at once. Lol. It doesn’t make sense right? Lol. Welcome to life overseas! A person who can keep an open mind and exercise infinite patience, flexibility, and tolerance will be able to embrace the foreign experience.
4) What’s your most memorable moment over this past year?
A) My mom taking her first trip overseas to visit my new normal.
B) When the plane landed in this foreign country, it symbolized the start of my journey.
C) The first day I met my students and they looked at me like I had five heads.
D) Being able to afford trips to places like Sri Lanka, Paris, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, ect….
E) The first payday. No taxes taken out of my check! Incredible!
F) The day I met Abdullah (Emirate) and he introduced me to his family.
G) The day I walked into my free two bedroom, 2 bathroom villa.
H) The day I realized I was making an impact globally.
I) The moment when I realized how blessed I am to be an American.
J) Immersing myself in the many cultural activities in the this foreign country.
There are so many memorable moments! I could go on forever but I think you get the picture. :0)
5) What was your teaching experience like?
– I felt like a first year teacher all over again. Why? Because my students didn’t understand much of what I was saying. I had never taught English as a second language and was shocked that the school didn’t provide me with an Arabic translator. I had to exercise humility and be willing to ask for ideas, strategies and resources. A teacher who is truly reflective and open to stepping outside of their comfort zone will exhibit success in the classroom. Point to ponder: your number one priority is to find some way to develop a relationship with your students. Without that, you will fail. You do whatever it takes to win the kids over and then keep doing it! Trust me, it’s the only reason I had a successful 2 years in the classroom. The kids liked and respected me as their teacher and friend. More importantly, they knew I cared.
6) Do you think I’m making the right choice by going to a middle eastern country? I’m so scared!
-Relax! Your feelings are normal. We all were feeling what you’re feeling and it’s okay. You’re making a big move in your life so naturally you will begin to experience every possible emotion. I will leave you with this thought; they say a person doesn’t truly start living on purpose until they begin stepping outside of their comfort zone. The choice is ultimately yours and I invite you to change your fears into curiosity. Only then will you afford yourself life changing experiences.
This is myTRUTHmyClarity…. ;8)
Tough love through authentic praise, meaningful consequences and consistency
Energetic presence with much creativity
Attitude of optimism and will do whatever it takes to ensure all students are successful
Caring heart and passionate nature
Hopeful and willing to make the most of the resources that are available
Eager to set all students up for success
Ready and prepared to exercise much flexibility and patience
Serious about safety and creating a classroom conducive to learning
Teaching is the type of profession that will always bring about new challenges on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. My favorite teacher (sarcasm) is the one who will claim 25 years of experience yet he/she has been teaching the same exact way for each of those years. In this case, I’d push back and say he/she actually has one year of teaching experience. A great teacher is reflective and recognizes that no one group of students is the same. Therefore, if a teacher finds himself/herself teaching the same grade level and subject, modifications and adjustments MUST be made in order to meet the group exactly where they are. Teach on purpose!
Global awareness is an essential element that I would like to be a part of my proposed academy. I believe awareness sparks profound curiosity which is a beautiful thing that will afford our scholars the opportunity to explore, inquire, learn and experience the many wonders of the world. As global citizens, we have an obligation to continuously step outside of our comfort zones in order to evolve and expand our thinking. This is when learning truly begins!
Another essential element I would want integrated into my school is a HOLISTIC APPROACH to teaching and learning. Any child that walks through the front door or sneaks thorough the back door, will be embraced whole heartedly. There will be an academic, social, and emotional component all of which will EQUALLY be addressed. Each of these components will be infused into a rigorous and meaningful curriculum. The social and emotional piece will be targeted through advisory sessions, community meetings, mentor programs, counseling services, ECT. Scholars will also be taught how to get aligned with SELF and become more compassionate beings in order to be productive citizens of the world. After school programs and service learning projects will branch off of all these components. Most importantly, a SAFE space will be fostered throughout the academy affording our scholars the opportunity to open up and reveal their truest self so that all of their individual needs will be addressed.
Meeting every scholar exactly where he is at will be an essential component of our academy. I believe in individualizing each scholars educational journey through differentiated instruction and assessments, goal setting, data talks, authentic relationships, and a student centered learning environment. Additionally, scholars will be an active participant in their educational journey. They will be expected to know their current performance levels, where they need to go, and what they need to do in order to exhibit success. More importantly, regular data talks and goal setting with their advisors will ensure they are able to articulate the steps needed to get there. Celebrating each and every success of our scholars will promote a collaborative approach among all the stakeholders of our school community. Additionally, the strong awareness of their abilities will ensure they leave our academy wanting to become productive leaders of the global world.
Please note that I continuously refer to the academy as OUR academy because I plan to foster a professional learning community. I believe that it takes a village, and every member of the team will play an integral part in the success of the academy and in the success of every scholar. Additionally, our students will be referred to as SCHOLARS due to their evolving love of learning. Lastly, our school is referred to as an ACADEMY because we will specialize in producing lifelong learners working to serve the needs of the global world.
I’d like to formally introduce you to the ACADEMY in my HEAD:
***GLOBAL VILLAGE ACADEMY***
As I think, so shall it be!
Consider these thoughts organized…. :0)
– He walks into the classroom, shakes my hand, and takes his seat.
– He places his notebook and three sharpened pencils onto his desk.
– He writes his heading along with todays learning objective at the top of a blank page within his notebook.
– He begins the opening activity without being prompted.
– He actively listens and participates throughout the lesson.
– His class notes are legible and he is able to explain and discuss what he is writing down in his notebook.
– He uses a special sign/gesture indicating to the teacher that he needs a five minute break.
– He returns to the classroom (without incident) and quietly begins his independent practice assignment.
– He continues to work quietly and is eager to share his responses with his peers.
– The teacher has him come up to the front of the room to share/celebrate his work with the class.
– He returns to his seat and respectfully asks the teacher to check him off for completing his work.
– The end of the period arrives and he runs up to the teacher eager to receive his color for the day!
– The teachers asks him what he thinks his color should be and why?
– He responds by saying GREEN because I did my best all day!
– He smiles when the teacher agrees and marks the green color onto his behavior sheet.
– The student startles his teacher as he begins jumping up and down.
– He then waves goodbye to his teacher.
– The teacher smiles and then calls the student back into the classroom and says, “Now that I’ve seen you at your best, I expect no less! Continue to raise the bar.”
It is times like these, I KNOW I am doing exactly what I was designed to do. TEACH. This profession isn’t easy by any means. Not only are we expected to TEACH but we must also CREATE an environment that is CONDUCIVE to LEARNING. Furthermore, teachers must find a way to CONNECT with EVERY student in the classroom and FOSTER a HEALTHY relationship. It is no easy task. However, today I CELEBRATE because I have made a breakthrough with my most challenging student. There is a MUTUAL respect that now exists between us both.
What’s my secret? The relationship I was able to establish is the key. And understand that it took time to get the key to open the door. Don’t force it, just look for opportunities to connect with the student outside of your role as an educator. Swallow your pride, check your ego at the door, establish clear boundaries and show him/her that you care. It will all pay off, just give it time.