Friday, October 28, 2011

October Update

Updating the blog 28.10.11

It's been a while since we updated the blog so here is the latest installment of our adventures in the Middle East.

This academic year has been particularly busy but without the adventures we embarked on in earlier blogs. The year started with the arrival of replacements to the staff who had been moved out at the end of the last school year and, surprisingly, a shake up of the existing staff who, in many cases, found themselves being transferred to other schools or their jobs redefined. Our librarian used to be a science teacher elsewhere in the emirate and the HoD science at our companion school found himself reclassified as a technician at another school further down the road.

We gained four new teachers of English and a replacement IT teacher. Three of the teachers of English have proven to be valuable and positive contributors to the Department who appear to have grasped the principles of the ADEC curriculum and the need to teach the skills associated with language learning which has certainly made the job we have a lot more positive and constructive.

On the other hand the fourth member has proven to be more of an opportunistic entrepreneur than teacher which has meant that I have had to provide intensive one on one PD to an increasingly bellicose and belligerent "teacher" in an attempt to ensure that the boys are prepared for the assessment of their language skill mastery later this trimester. Not an easy ask when one realizes that he defined "cupboard" as a "board in a house on which cups are placed" , questioned the use of "felt" in felt pens as the word was the past tense of the verb to feel and argued that "comprehension" was writing an essay to his classes.

I am now working on developing a series of resources to help the teachers teach English poetry as well as supervise an ECART (research) project on poetry using a web- quest process as the school doesn't have the resources to adequately teach poetry to the different grades. The unit is theme related for each grade but, and it's a big but, the study is limited by the consideration of topics that may or may not be acceptable. Hence we need to check the web links to make sure we don't get poems that talk about "delicate" topics as well as having accessible language that ESOL students can cope with.

There is, however, another issue I need to consider which is that many of the teachers of English have never really read or involved themselves with poetry other than learning a generic statement about poetry forms sufficient to pass an exam so that the skill, required under the curriculum, of reading a poem for meaning and personal response needs to be encouraged among the teachers before they embark on actually teaching poetry. From what I've seen of earlier attempts to teach poetry the lessons have been hunt the literary device exercises without understanding of what the poet is saying or doing through their use.

Socially, Joy and I have been enjoying ourselves in a Cognition quiz team which has had considerable success at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. So far we have won three meals for six at the Club - not bad over the past four quiz nights!

Joy and her friends have been regular mall trawlers delighting in finding unusual bargains in the local shops and markets around Abu Dhabi. We now have a collection of lanterns, table mats and boxes that will be unusual additions to our NZ home when we return from our adventures.

We have, also, been up to Dubai and Sarjah for the odd weekends. We have bought a beautiful big ornamental hanging lantern from the Blue Souq in Sarjah which will pose a problem for us when it comes to hanging it back home. We tracked down a furniture dealer who specialized in ornamental furniture and now are the proud possessors of a brass inlaid wine rack and a distressed dresser that will look really great in the kitchen at home.

We were going to head off to Lebanon for Eid but the decision about its length has been one of rumour rather than clarity so rather than risk booking for the rumoured nine days and being summoned back to work after five days we have decided to stay around Abu Dhabi and explore the UAE while planning for the three week December break. Our present thinking is Malaysia then back here by the 28th December in time to welcome Rebecca for a visit over New Year and half of January.

We are avidly following the news from New Zealand as the country recovers from the euphoria of the Rugby World Circus and enters into the election campaign proper. The opening campaign addresses certainly presented the country with stark and obvious choices - asset sales and borrow and hope with wage cuts for the workers to support continued tax cuts for the wealth grabbers under NACTional or retention of the country's wealth, investment in the country and positive social policies under Labour.

With the social media available to us now we can, at least, do some campaigning for Labour even at this distance!!! Needless to say we will be voting as soon as the overseas voting opens on the 9th of November.

Will update the blog again at the end of the month.

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