Tuesday Morning

I'm at work getting ready for class. Four classes today. The semester is winding down, and while the cadets are easily distracted they are at least pretty manageable at this point. I attribute it to the great work I did early in the semester bending them to my will and demonstrating that getting out of line was not worth the effort. At least, I like to think so.

The end of the semester is very demoralizing for the D level students, and me as well as a result. After doing great work all semester and learning all sorts of stuff, they are given tests they can't pass, or even reasonably do well on.

This has to do with the military's obsession with a test called the "ALCPT". This means something like "American Language Competency Placement Test" or something like that. It is used by the Defense Language Institute (of the US military) to place incoming students in classes. Great. Unfortunately, the Saudi's use it as a measuring bar for promotion, placement and what perks you get in the service. Huh?

The test itself is hideous. As a native speaker, you sometimes have problems following what the question is asking for. Frequently they sound like non-sequitors. A conversation is played between to people talking about a car, then the student is asked a question about the weather. Maybe not that bad, but it must be that bad to them.

Particularly annoying is we don't actually teach the course that the test is created for. We teach them a bunch of practical language skills, and then give them this test. Full or words they have never seen, never used, and likely will never need to know. The material I do have to prepare IS full of glaring errors in material design. "Abdo has a pencil. It is her/his/your/my pencil." Every answer is potentially correct. They are looking for "his", but there is no reason to know this. And what the hell language is the name "Abdo" anyway?

Anyway, I could rant on and on about that test. It won't do much good. They get two practice tests, then take it for a real score that stays with them and is compared to what they scored on it last summer. And that's it. One of the more unfair academic exercises we do here.

This has been a good group of students. Teachers here generally dread working with the D level students, expecting them to stupid or unwilling to work. I've found my group has the same poor discipline that all students here have, but a few of them really understand that education is a way to a better future, they just happen to not be at the same level of English as some of their peers. I've liked working with them, as much as my two regular class groups last year. More so in some ways. I'm sure I'll miss them.

Teaching in Saudi can be tiring. Living here can be dull and rather unexciting. Unless you can put yourself into teaching, or whatever your work is, you go crazy. Which is likely why I've seen some of the awful teachers I've seen here. They aren't actually motivated about anything going on, and are just here to get a check.

Anyway, almost time for class.


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