Wrapping Up the Women's Class

I taught the womens' class for about five weeks, three evenings a week. It was very challenging and at times very rewarding as a teacher. Some of the challenging parts included:

- video failure
- audio failure
- students opting to reschedule

I sat in a different room from the students, so at a minimum audio was required to interact with them. Invariably settings on the microphone and speaker would cause problems. I would be too loud, then I would have an echo, then I couldn't be heard and so on. Other times, the video wouldn't work. This wasn't as much of a problem as you might expect. I couldn't see them anyway, and them seeing me wasn't that necessary. I did use a whiteboard part of the time, but it was seldom required for class.

Not being able to see my students is VERY frustrating as a language teacher. I'm used to a lot of non-verbal feedback, that I then use to encourage verbal feedback. As a result, I wasn't getting visual feedback, and they would be reluctant to speak when I would check in. I taught a lot of the time just hoping they were getting it. Not good in a language learning environment. A physics teacher might be able to get away with that, but as a language teacher you can only assume they did not get the lesson.

Toward the end of the class a holiday for the regular Saudi school system came up - spring break in Riyadh - whoo! Anyway, the result was no one wanted to come to their private school at that time, and the lesson before the break had only two students.

Student attendance was maddening. I would start on time, with only two students. The rest would show up as they liked, then complain that class would end at the scheduled time. This flexibility of time is something throughout Saudi culture and very, very frustrating to the outsider.

Overall though, the women students were some of the best I have had in Saudi Arabia. The top students were working, engaging and doing everything they could to increase their ability. You can get very frustrated teaching in Saudi, but groups like this give you hope that things here will change for the better, even if it takes time.


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