I believe in living my life with purpose and intent. I don’t expect everything to be profound, and I’m not particularly a serious person, though I definitely have a serious side to me. in fact, the term “fun-loving” has consistently been a common adjective attached to people’s impressions of me, and I think it is accurate. This “fun-loving” quality is a part of my authentic approach to things as I live with purpose and intent.
In addition, I am what people might call a “self-starter”; I am intrinsically motivated and able to work well on my own. I am disciplined and committed to seeing ideas and projects to completion. But at this point in my life, I am tired to doing things all on my own. I firmly believe in that “two heads are better than one” and I thrive on interactions that facilitate bouncing ideas off others and collaboration as ideas develop.
In my current situation, I am terribly missing the “team” component in my work. In my role as “Lead Teacher”, I am isolated and separated from the flow of work; I work alone most of the time and struggle with a lack of information and a lack of cooperation. Day after day, I work alone. Day after day, I can feel the creative synapses in my mind as if they are coated in mud: heavy, lethargic, weary.
The work week runs from Sunday to Thursday in the Arab world. Friday is the Holy Day. The school day is from 8:00 am to 3:05 pm, with 8 class periods per day. Until recently, Thursdays had only 7 periods, allowing students and staff to leave at 2:20 pm. As a part of the Ministry’s reform program, they wanted to incorporate club activities into the curriculum, so this term, on Thursdays, they added an extra period for clubs. I knew that because I’d received an email with the announcement; at our school however, no clubs were established.
There are currently 3 Western teachers at my school. We had heard a rumor amongst the Emirati teachers that club activities would begin “soon”, but never knew when, or what clubs, or how we could add our ideas and offer input to the program. We asked our colleagues many times, and each query was answered with “we don’t know.”
As the weeks wore on, the three of us discussed amongst ourselves what we might like to do for a club activity; we were enthusiastic about exercise and sports, crafts, music, story-telling, video projects, and the like. We were looking forward to the opportunity to connect with students in a fun way, sharing common interests and doing productive work. We received emails from the English language branch of the Ministry saying that clubs should be in place and that we were required to participate, but at our school, clubs had not yet begun. We continued to ask, and we continued to discuss and brainstorm our roles, and we continued to wait.
Then, one Thursday morning in mid-October, one of our Emirati colleagues came into our teachers’ room to tell us that we’d been assigned to clubs that would begin in 15 minutes. The other two Western teachers had been assigned to the “Recycling Club”, and I was assigned to “Creative Writing”.
I was devastated. Not because I didn’t want to do creative writing; I would have been fine with that, but because 1) there wasn’t time to prepare, 2) we hadn’t had the choice, and 3) I was on my own. All the teachers were grouped into pairs in their assignments – all except me. Of course, I was also disappointed that we were never asked to suggest clubs (all local teachers had been given the opportunity to suggest their ideas several weeks prior). I was disappointed that we were never given a choice as to which club we would like to lead (all local teachers had selected their top 3 choices via a form that was circulated at least two weeks before). And the perfectionist in me was frustrated that we had been denied the opportunity to prepare. Fifteen minutes?
Fifteen minutes later, the bell rang and students filled the halls. I went to our assigned rooms and waited. Students wandered around for a while, slowly meandering into one room or another asking each teacher what club was in that room, until eventually the halls cleared out and the school became quiet (~ish). I sat alone in the classroom thinking of what I could do if, and when, anyone came. Near the end of the hour, two students came to me and asked what I was teaching. They scrunched up their noses when I said, “creative writing”, discussed a bit between themselves, and then decided to come in and join me. They had no paper, no pens, and no ideas. Neither did I.
I asked the students questions about stories they liked, and then we began to weave a creation of our own, taking turns adding details and interesting twists to the plot. There was no writing involved, but that was fine as we had begun the thinking process. Soon the bell rang and the girls scampered out. I promised to bring supplies the following week so we could put our ideas into writing.
The clubs have never met again.
The term is now over.
I believe in living my life with purpose and intent. I don’t expect everything to be profound, but I do expect to find a way to make sense of the things that I do. This clubs experience continues to evade all my attempts to put a purpose on it. If this was just an outlier of a cluster of experiences, I would simply shrug my shoulders and think no more about it. But this is a typical example of my days’ activities. Day after day is filled with meaninglessness that emerges out of a fog of confusion.