The stresses associated with the first day of school and being a teacher for the first time ever in a new country have passed (just a little), but having time to set up my classroom and organize everything helped put me at ease. Teaching at an all-girls school has its perks; everyone loves pink and purple and fairies and princesses and stickers and glitter and shiny things, so I tried to incorporate as much of that as possible! Rhinestone magnets for my whiteboard which is framed in a pink glitter border alongside pink and limegreen pencil baskets followed by ‘student princess’ of the week which includes wearing a tiara and matching earrings for the day kinda sorta excites most girls between the ages of 6-8 which works just fine for me. My girls are lovely little people and each time I stand at the front of my class staring back at their precious innocent faces, it hits me that I am playing a part in each and every one of their lives that may mold them for better or for worse. Little girls grow up to become young ladies who become women who will oneday become mothers inshAllah so I feel a little obliged to teach them some things unrelated to any curriculum. After 2days of school we now know what the word ‘independent’ means. We’re having some trouble being independent as almost all my girls have nannies and maids who literally carry their school bags for them up until they reach the school doors, but inshAllah we’ll get there!
It’s a different system that what I’m used to; there is only one 45-min lunch break for the entire day and school runs from 730am til 230 pm. Yes it’s long considering I have to be up uber early and get the ‘teacher bus’ at 630 when I should really be sound asleep! This has kind of been written in chunks when I’ve got time and saved in a worddoc file until I add some more, so as of today I have officially finished my first week of teaching! (yay me!) I want to come home to a mom-hug and have her share my relief of completing a kind of big step and accomplishment in my life but I have to resort to whatsapp which kind of stinks:(
The most pressing thing on my mind this whole week which confirmed my thoughts and confusion and anger today, is an invisible yet subtle hint of racism amongst the Kuwaiti people. ‘People’ alluding to the mums and dads of my students who have proven that there is definitely a stigma attached to ‘Muslim’ or Arab-looking teachers. Basically if you’re a Muslim or even have a hint of some type of ethnicity that does not match up to what the authentic American or westerner should look like (in other words if you aint white), you lack the skills, knowledge, and English proficiency to teach their child. And lord forbid you also wear hijab 😮 ! On the second day of school I had a father ask me I was the teacher’s assistant…because I looked Arab and wore a hijab. He then proceeded to remind me today that his older daughter has been at the school for five years and has never brought home as many books as his second grader has been and that no teacher has ever done this, to which I responded that I was not stupid to send home a shitload of books to break his daughters back; her failure to listen to instructions given in class seemed to bypass his intellect.
On the fourth day of school, I had a mother interrogate me as to where I was from, if I was Muslim, if I spoke Arabic, how long I had been teaching etc etc. Feeling unsatisfied with, well, me, she proceeded to file a complaint to my principal that I wasn’t qualified enough to teach her child and she wanted her daughter placed in another class with one of the white teachers. (lol). (yes this really happened). My principal, being of a racial minority herself, thankfully stood up to me, but it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had a white-American principal. I don’t mean to sound racist and I have nothing against people of different races or cultures etc. but it gets to me and confuses me because this is something I would expect back home, in Canada. From say a white parent who had something against a Muslim or a hijabi teaching their child. But the thing is, it’s never happened to me in Canada. I’ve actually never felt, or received any time of discrimination based on the way I look in any Canadian classroom, from people who don’t even share the same beliefs as me. Yet people who look like me, dress like me, my fellow ‘brothers and sisters’ in faith, whom I was so eager to ‘salaam’ and befriend have disgusted me in some respect. That might be too strong of a word, but the attitude and demeaning looks I’ve received equate to such a feeling.
It’s been one week and I’ve picked up quite a lot. There will be no more ‘salaam’s’ to parents picking up their children, no more ‘inshallah’s’ or ‘mashallah’s’ to praise their child. From here on in, ‘hi!’, ‘hello’s’, and ‘see you tomorrow’s’ will be played into effect. And when asked if I know Arabic, I will simply smile and state, “no, I only speak English”.