Secrets to Saudi Teaching Success

New Teacher Orientation Set-Up in Riyadh, KSA ~ August 2013

New Teacher Orientation Set-Up in Riyadh, KSA ~ August 2013

I was working on an orientation presentation for the new teachers at our school a few weeks back, when I decided that I could unceremoniously scoop all fluffy talk out of the description I had for a successful teacher in our school and reduce said description to five simple points.  If you want to teach in Saudi, you will either love it here, or you will hate it.  You will either make it, or you won't.  There really isn't anything in between.  So, how can a teacher know if he or she is right for the job?  I think five simple attributes define the successful expat teacher:

  1. Know your Isht - I'm sick of seeing under-qualified expatriates think that they are special because they are western.  If you don't know your flipping subject area, read a book.  Don't walk into a classroom unless you can rock the curriculum.  Period.
  2. Love the Students - Maybe you came because you needed the money or maybe you had some other reason.  Regardless of whether or not your intentions were altruistic when you boarded the plane to come here, know that the kids here are smart.  They can sense it when a teacher cares (just like students anywhere around the world).  Don't be the idiot who doesn't love them with your whole heart.  Realize that if you are hired to teach here, you can probably only be afforded by the elite schools in the area, which translates into wealthy children, which translates into common cases of neglect (busy parents).  You will be, for some of your students, the only support they have in their lives.  Don't screw that up because you couldn't be bothered to care.
  3. Volunteer more Time - I don't care what your flipping contract says.  Work more hours.  It's the only way to get things done and done right around here.  Start a club for your students, organize competitions, tutor the weaklings in your subject area, or simply stay after to help your bosses with their oceans of administrative papers to file and tasks to complete.  Plan your lessons way ahead of time, come early so that you don't have to wait in line for the copy machine, and don't ever refuse to offer help or lend a listening ear to a student who needs you.  Give this time, and be generous with your time.  It's not like you have much of a life outside of work anyways, when you're this far from home.
  4.  Avoid Staff Gossip - If he or she talks trash to you, they will trash talk you behind your back just as easily.  Know that people who like work gossip are nothing but useless poison and you will go nowhere paying them any mind.  Put out fires when you can in the workplace, and when you can't, just distance yourself from those who have nothing better to do with their time than make social messes out of the delicate expatriate framework you navigate at work.
  5. Roll with the Punches - The biggest key to working here is to be fast on your feet.  You will have to bend backwards and forwards to make accommodations and to adapt to the changing conditions around you.  If you are the kind of person who can easily transform himself or herself in order to better suit the expectations and demands of the workplace, you will succeed.  Otherwise, be prepared for a good-bye kick-in-the-rear and a flight back home sooner than you anticipated.
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