It's now official: We will never have an internet connection at our apartment, EVER! This irritating my wife to no end because I have internet access at work and she doesn't. It's ironic that she's demanding a level of persistence and aggression from me here that would've annoyed her when we were living in Japan.
With regards to my classes, I've had a few people ask me about why I'm teaching Math and not English. Initially, I was hired based on the strength of my English teaching credentials but was told by a friend that if I wanted Math classes, they could probably give them to me based on my teaching credentials. I was hoping to eventually get into teaching Math in an international school wanted to gain some experience here. When I arrived, I asked about teaching Math. Having taught Math in an English as a second language environment, I was offered the choice of a half English, half math schedule or all Math. I gladly chose the all Math schedule. When I took the classes, I had to admit that I would be fine teaching Algebra and Geometry, I would need a little bit of brushing up with Trigonometry and Statistics, and would need some serious review with my Calculus. My director smiled and told me that she didn't think it would be an issue.
I've been told that the students in the program I'm teaching had low English ability, but I didn't realize how true it was until I saw the textbook for Math. In some cases, it's a language issue but in others it's a math issue. A lot of the student's are missing the basic concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In examining how students have been able to get through 12 years of education without understanding basic math, I've been asking around to people who've been here a few years, going so far as to talk to someone who works for the department of education. I've come to understand a few things.
1) The UAE is just reaching their second generation of literacy in Arabic. This means that most of the students' grandparents can't read or write their native language. Before oil was discovered here 40 years ago, everyone was a desert nomad. The students have no books in their homes and no real role models for how or why to study.
2) The students have everything done for them. For the most part they've never had to work for anything. Having been raised in that environment, anyone would have a hard time studying.
3) The UAE has a curriculum that theoretically has the students learning Calculus in their last year of high school. Considering that this is one of the few countries in which students will never encounter a teacher from their own country (most teachers are Egyptian or Sudanese), there's a bit of pressure on the teachers to pass students. From what I've heard, most math education involves showing the students the problem, writing out how to solve that problem, then having the students memorize the work with no explanation of the concept. After years of that style of learning, it's no wonder that the students don't know how to study.
People may wonder how these students are able to get into the school. All Emiratis are given free tuition at our school. Their books are paid for as well. The only thing that they have to buy is the standard-issue laptop that everyone is required to have.
I don't want to sound negative but it's the way it is. The students here are very nice and respectful; they're just not used to having to work. The school I work for does enforce the standards of behavior and what we're teaching. Also, keep in mind that I'm teaching the lowest beginning students. Not all students are at the level I've described. After two years of our program, the students can get admitted into the Bachelor's program. I walked past a classroom today in which the students were learning electrical engineering. To answer another question that I've been asked: No, I don't regret switching from English to Math. I enjoy the change and would probably get pretty bored with the level of English that I would need to teach. Plus there is hope that I'll be able to get into teaching more advanced classes like Algebra and Geometry and get the experience that I'm looking for.