You Call That English?

Everything here is held together with scotch tape, donkey spit, and sheer determination.

This isn’t an ‘I hate Egypt’ post either because I’ve actually gotten used to it and am no longer phased by the completely illogical methods through which things are run here.

Now I just laugh and figure out how to still do what I need to do with nothing but a rubber band, a screw driver, and a couple of pieces of extra bubble gum.

Monday evening was my first day of work and would it surprise anyone that I taught two classes on my first night? No? One of the teachers told me he arrived in Cairo Monday morning and they had him teaching classes Monday night. Welcome to Egypt, now get to work. For training I spent twenty of the sixty minutes they gave us asking him questions about the book and the methods the program requires (none.) The rest of the forty we sat around talking about books, philosophy, and world travel.

Then- just to illustrate how small an 18 million person city actually can be- as I stood waiting for the taxi to take me from the headquarter branch (and by branch I mean the original flat the company made into an office) to the branch where I will be teaching a man came up to me and asked me, in Arabic, if I was the wife of Mr. MM. Uhm, why yes, yes I am. He looked vaguely like one of Mr. MM’s many cousins which is what he turned out to be but having only seen me two times and me having no recollection of ever having met him he recognized me. Weird. He is taking English classes at the main branch. And then, while sitting in the evening after my classes were finished the office boy of the branch I teach at mentioned seeing me in Hurghada in January and after some short sleuthing it turns out that he worked the safari that Mom, Maria, Mr. MM, and I went on. Seriously. Two in one day.

Back to English. I got to the office to begin teaching- as I was sure I would be doing- and for my first class I actually had a book to use but no CD for the listening sections. Nice. For my second class I had NO book and NO CD so I basically partnered up with my youngest student and worked with him from his book. Way to plan ahead O’ bosses mine.

Like I said, barely phased me. In FACT- had they actually had their shiz together I probably would have been surprised.

If they have their shiz together for tomorrow’s classes I will be surprised.

All in all I had a good time, its pretty much exactly what I did for two years in the Language Lab way back when. I taught small groups for French and Spanish- we did the book activities, listened to tapes, and talked about language. Thats what I do now in a nutshell. Armed with a white board and some markers (and possibly a book and hopefully one day a tape) I’m leading my students forward into a brighter, English-filled future.

[cue theme music]

It felt natural to be up in front of students again, I really think that teaching is where I should be. Any fear of public speaking that I had pre-Language Lab was gone by the end of my teaching days there. I had never really thought about where I lost my inhibitions but I know that I aced my Speech class even while being the only student wearing a hijab (and actually being one of only two other women on campus who wore one.) Acing public speaking while looking weird: pwned.

Now of course all of my students are curious as to how I came to Egypt, how I met my husband, and how I became Muslim. But they’re fun, and inquisitive, and ready to learn and that makes classes fun. I’m hoping I will enjoy this job, the one foreseeable problem will be that they have you work straight through without breaks. I work three days a week 4-10 and I have a class from 4-6 (I think I will at least), another class from 6-8, and the last class from 8-10. I’m so glad I am not working that schedule full-time.

And yes they’re bringing teachers over from the States and using them for slave-labour. A turn of the tables don’t you think?


10 responses to “You Call That English?

  1. Interesting post, Molly. I always wondered what it would be like teaching English in a ME country. I hope you’ll continue to post about your experiences.

  2. When I was in Egypt, I didn’t plan on working, but I ended up having to, and I found a job at a language nursery. I started right away, with no teaching experience or experience with kids. I was 19 and had hardly seen a kid since I was one… They showed me around for an hour or so and told me to make them draw, practice the alphabet, etc… Most didn’t speak enough French to let me know what they wanted and I knew no Arabic. I was totally confused in this bunch (a dozen or so) 2-3 year olds! I didn’t know what to do with them!

    Needless to say, it didn’t work out… Lucky for me, I found a job paying twice as much and actually suited to me a couple weeks after. For 800LE per month (this is like 3 yrs ago) and 8am-4pm with 3h transportation a day… Not worth it!

    Glad it’s working out for you though! You were prepared from your past experience, lol. I love how you say, “In FACT- had they actually had their shiz together I probably would have been surprised.”

  3. 400 le for a nursery? thats nuts I made 2500 and thought that was too little!!

  4. 10 years ago I think 800 would have been comparable to 2500 now. The Egyptian economy has been hit hard. The nursery I almost lost my mind at was only paying around 3000 for full time. But my sanity was much more priceless.

    teaching adults english is so much more fun.

  5. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’ve been in contact with a Kenyan overseas student who is doing a 4-year computer science degree in Morocco. She told me that many of her professors aren’t there for her or her fellow students because they earn more money doing private tuition. And to think that Islam is commonly cited as a reason for the intellectual backwardness of the Muslim world.

  6. Well, it was 800LE/month in 2006. The tuition there was 800LE/month per kid.

  7. 800 in 06 was way too little.

    Where was the nursery?

  8. YS- Its the same here, in fact Egyptian teachers (I’m talking public school) HAVE to do private tutoring on the side to make ends meet. Their base pay is only around 300LE.
    I make FIVE times that much and I’m only working 15 hours a week.
    Also students here HAVE to get private tutoring to pass their classes otherwise they don’t get high enough scores to enter the good schools and if they don’t enter the good schools they will have NO options afterward. Parents routinely put themselves into major debt just trying to pay school and tutor fees for their children. Its insane.

  9. what’s a turn of tables?

    • usually people from third world countries go to the united states and work like slaves. Here people from the states are coming here to work long hours without breaks.

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