I have a new work, as my students would undoubtedly say. I now teach, or referee the flirting sessions of sexually frustrated, upper middle class Syrian 20 somethings, at the American Language Centre. Working there is kinda a cross between being a sixth former, a demi-god and everybody’s bitch. Until now, as my students would also say, I haven’t decided whether I want the job.
We have a great kitchen and sitting room to hang out in and ‘plan lessons’ while actually making ‘English teacher jokes’ and bitching about our students. At the moment the teachers divide roughly equally into three categories, those that are half Arab/ half English speaker (all combinations accepted), those that are married to, divorcing or the parents of Syrians, and random Brits. The chilling and drinking tea is the sixth former part of the equation and the highlight so far.
The ‘teacher’s room’ is also home to some fantastic resources and the ‘part timers,’ who are employed to do the teachers photocopying, know where all the books are and generally run everything. The female part timers in particular seem to think the divorces and randomers need lots of looking after and are always bringing in puddings and sweets for us. This is the demi-god part and is also great.
But the students, oh the students. Lots of them are pretty annoyed the moment a British teacher walks in to the room as they want to learn ‘the American accent,’ and are not shy about saying so. They don’t seem to think a quick explanation of dialectical diversity in the US and the use of the definite article in English is an appropriate response to this statement, but I don’t know what they think is. I mean me putting on an American accent wouldn’t be very convincing, and I’m not exactly gunna say ‘Ok, I’ll just pop out and find an American who’s free now.’
Then there’s the breakdown of the class. One of Syria’s most popular soap operas features bad girls tricking good girls into prostitution, hymen reconstructive surgery and poor boys sucking rich ones off in toilets, passionately platonic extra marital affairs and lots of heart-break. The characters all know each other from English class (the teacher is a real ESL teacher at Berlitz). Half my students seem intent on making their own version which is very annoying for the poor kids (I say kids, the majority are roughly my age, a chunk younger than my nice, respectful Merkz students) for who the cost of the course represents quite a sacrifice and who are learning English in an attempt to improve more than their social lives. Then there are the two types of men who are not used to being told what to do by young women and don’t like it now, the spoilt rich 20 something ones and the middle-aged business ones. The former, who live with their parents and can’t cook salad, are particularly annoying. I mean, they might be men, but I’m an adult. This is not to mention the ones with annoying ‘American’ mannerisms, who wander in with a cheery ‘yo mother from another brother,’ for their mates (I’m teaching a low-level this term) and the nervy girls who talk very very quietly or people with irrelevant (or at least incomprehensible to me) grammar questions. Did I mention we spend alot of time slagging off our students?
My experience isn’t enhanced by the fact that the only person on the staff that I don’t like is my trainer. She’s kind of distant, both literally and emotionally. Its kinda my fault that we’re not working well together, I assumed that she would take the lead in arranging the daily meetings, lesson planning sessions and class observations that form week ones training schedule, but I was wrong, I’ve hardly seen her and I’m out of my depth. The other teachers say she’s on my side, as she only ever says things like ‘you want to improve because you need the money’ I’d hate to see her with someone she’s got it in for.
The director spoke to me, my students have mentioned I’ve skipped loads of the curriculum, and he asked me why I wasn’t using the communicative activities or the DVD. I was like ‘What communicative activities? There’s a DVD? Who knew?’ but in rather better English. My trainer, my boss and I have now had words, so I’m pretty confident week two will be an improvement, but suffice to say I haven’t made a good first impression.
As the centre is right next door to the American Embassy, in the Jordanian Ambassadors basement, I was worried that I’d end up redundant if anyone set fire to the embassy, but it turns out that I get is free evacuation to the country of my choice should the US pull out its citizens, so now I’m kinda ‘bring it on Ya Soreya, I wanna holiday on Obama’s dollar.’