Posts tagged ‘Teaching’


Today was the first day of class. For me, the teacher. Most of the students had studied there before.



The view from my desk


The view from my desk



I look like I belong in Michael Rappaport’s entourage


I was really nervous. I hadn’t taught before, at least not formally. A few students came very early. I looked at my attendance sheet, and looked back up at the students, who were know staring at me intently. I looked down at my attendance sheet and started to fidget.


The first class went smoothly. I showed them pictures of Minnesota during the winter: the frozen waterfall, the snowy planes, the ice carnival.


We played the name game. Or a name game. Basically, the point of the game was to remember something about every one of the students, including his and her names. I started: my name is Ben and I like to skateboard. Then I pointed to a lecturer at Aden University, who said he liked to read in English and the game was started.


I had a hard time differentiating the four Muhammads, and which one of them said he didn’t like playing soccer. One girl, in a beautifully ornate black abaya, said she liked Hannah Montana, music and TV show (she has a TV show?). Every student after her said her name and then said something like, “she likes” followed by a wry grin and a quizzical expression. ‘Ha—hana’


And then the others would chime in, ‘hanana, hana, hanna, mon-taana’


Eventually everyone could say ‘Hannah Montana’ with relative ease, and I chalked that up as a teaching victory. And pop cultural imperialism, I suppose.



The next class was fifteen minutes after the first one ended. This group included three girls wearing the niqab. At least half, but probably more, of girls and women that I have seen here wear the niqab. I knew that I would encounter this dilemma sooner or later, but as they walked in, I wondered how I would relate to them. How could I gauge their involvement, participation?


They sat together, directly across the room from me, with a desk separating them from the others on each side.


I started my introduction; the spiel about my education, Minnesota cold, languages are hard, I’m terrible at Arabic, I like to skateboard—that’s like surfing, you…oh, no you don’t…ok, here’s a picture…yeah, that stick figure is me—that sort of thing. I explained the lesson, and I made a point of not staring at them but not looking away either. They nodded to say they understood this point or that, and it came time for the name game.


It came to the first of the three, who repeated everyone’s name and what they liked clearly and calmly. She said her name, and I heard her say ‘I like to ride horse.’


‘Great, where do you ride horses,’ I asked.


She looked down, then directly at me, and said more quietly, ‘no, I would like to ride horse.’


We went on. Like the first group, this one was full of enthusiasm and variety. The three girls, separated by a desk on each side, made sure they were heard, and I started to see three totally different people wearing very similar outfits.


We started discussing the lesson, staying in shape. I walked around the room to see how the small groups were doing. The girl who would like to ride horses asked me to define ‘aerobics’. I started stepping in place, grew tired after about three seconds, sat down beside another student, and brought down my arm on the desk of the student on the other side, knocking his stuff over and irreparably damaging his desk. Everyone laughed. The thought it was even funnier when I kicked my desk, knocking over my sunglasses and phone.



May 14, 2008 at 4:52 am 2 comments

Recent Posts

Flickr Photos