What I am learning

Having taught in International schools with their diverse populations for some time, and before that in Montreal with its gentle mix of cultures I have never, until now taught in a school with single ideology. Now my class is full of students of one faith, one culture, one nationality and one common background.  At times it unnerves me, sometimes I am surprised but most often I am quietly jealous of their sense of belonging.

There are things that are certain. Every Friday they will gather with their whole family at the grandparents’ house for a lunch time meal.  Every summer they will leave Bahrain and visit London or the States. Every weekend they will see the same friends and family that they have been seeing for all the weekends of their lives. Each school day they will come and sit beside a friend they have known since kindergarten. They will probably leave for university but then almost definitely return to live close to family. They will marry someone they know, or who is at least known through association.  Each day, at some point, maybe for some during school in the prayer room, maybe for others later in the privacy of their home, they will pray. But for all religion is not only a quiet focus in their lives but a central source of purpose.  During one of my outside duties I observe a number of students, certainly not the majority, but a handful, walk over to the prayer room, remove their shoes and enter for about 5 minutes. And I am always surprised. That they take time away from their already short lunch break, that they find comfort and solace in the simple act of homage and that religion shapes the structure of their days.

My own prejudice led me to believe that living amongst a singular ideology would cause single
mindedness, therefore closed mindedness. But in the majority of cases that is not true. Of course there are some who live with a naïveté that borders on precious. In the words of one student:  “for the high class women bringing up children and cooking are not their tasks, they are the jobs of housemaids”. They are all comfortable; struggle is not in their vocabulary. They have sense of us vs. them, they are deeply proud and protective of their Arab culture and hate the way the Western media portrays them and ‘gets it wrong.’

But there are many who struggle with the daily injustice they see before them, who are thinking and critical young adults, more aware than many I taught back in Montreal. They have an awareness of their culture that rests within the certainty off all it offers them.

Often I feel I am the student. But isn’t that the way real teaching should be?

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3 Comments

Filed under Miss Teacher

3 responses to “What I am learning

  1. I enjoyed reading this. Every time I move to a different country I realize how wrong I am about what I think I know. As a teacher you often have a great opportunity to learn about a new culture because teenagers are such a wonderful source of information. (Okay, I’m telling you what you already know.) I’m not a teacher, but I have expat friends who are and they tell me the most fascinating things they learn from their students.

    Yes, there is comfort in the way you describe your students’ lives, the predictability, the routines, the security of family nearby. Wandering expats often do not have this type of stability in their lives. I for one don’t even have a “home” base and don’t really know where I belong anymore. I love my expat life, but at the same time I regret not having real roots anywhere.

  2. cassandra

    Beautifully said by you and Miss Footloose. The question of “where is home?” is one element that brings expats so close so quickly. I now live in my home country- feeling like an outsider. I miss the life of an expat. The openness, the family you create with ones around you. Thank you for sharing your world. As always- its written so well.

  3. This is absolutely wonderful. Yes, I think we assume shortsightedness whereas we should realize solid foundations actually make the flight from them easier, and often higher.

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