classroom management challenges. a yoga calm-down and a taste of october.

Thursday, October 3:  Today at work, instead of actually teaching, I spent most of my time doing classroom management. My voice was hoarse from trying to talk over boisterous and unruly students and from calling students down for disrespect to me and to their fellow students.  When I left work at 5:30, I nearly drove right past Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, where I have a Thursday night beginner class, because I was so distraught and annoyed that I thought I’d rather go straight home and have a glass of wine than to go to yoga. Luckily, I didn’t succumb to that desire, but instead made myself pull in to the studio, change my clothes and force myself to go to the yoga class.  It was the perfect remedy to a disheartening day.

When I taught at Northern Virginia Community College two summers ago, I had a very grown up class of mostly Korean and Chinese students: my first and most amazing college-level ESL class.  The Korean young men had already served their mandatory military duty and were very keen to learn.  They were studious, personable and bright.  Now, returning to the college after two years away, I find the mix of students has done an about-face.  Where the ESL student makeup used to be about 80% Asians, it is now about 85% Saudis and Emiratis (this is a guess from the makeup of my classes).  I don’t know what happened to bring about this change, but I’m not happy about it one bit.  As I know from teaching abroad in Oman for two years, the students from the Gulf are not serious about study, are very immature and disrespectful, don’t consistently attend class, and are prone to cheating.   I’m not alone in my frustration at teaching these students, as other teachers at the college complain about similar issues.

One of many reasons I left Oman was because of the immaturity of the students and because of classroom management issues.  In Oman, teachers didn’t have the support of the administration: the students were always right, and held great power, because their parents pulled the purse strings.  The main reason I wanted to teach at the college level in general, and not at an elementary or high school, was because I expected NOT to have to deal with these issues since college students are technically ADULTS.  Since Saudis and Emiratis are way behind the curve in their maturity levels, I often feel like I’m dealing with a bunch of middle-schoolers.  It makes my job misery, to be honest.

I know with absolute certainty that I would never return to the Gulf to teach again, no matter how well they pay, because of these issues.  I certainly did not expect to return to teaching these students in such large numbers here in the U.S.  At least in Saudi Arabia, the high pay MIGHT make up for it somehow (though in my eyes, no amount of pay can compensate for having to deal with these spoiled students with their sense of entitlement).  But here in Virginia, the pay is lousy and we’re not even given full-time status.  It’s simply not worth it.

Right now, Asia is looking pretty darn good.

So.  My yoga practice, Asian in origin, was the perfect end to a horrible day.  After leaving the studio, I went to Panera Bread where I treated myself to a taste of October: butternut squash ravioli.  At least a momentary escape from the misery of my day.

butternut squash ravioli at Panera Bread
butternut squash ravioli at Panera Bread

34 thoughts on “classroom management challenges. a yoga calm-down and a taste of october.

  1. Hey, I had those butternut squash ravioli the last time I was at Panera’s!
    Isn’t it ironic that you THOUGHT you had escaped a particular population with particular issues and the issues are confronting you again….what is going on here?
    It seems like I’ve heard about Sun and Moon – who runs that studio? Glad you allowed yourself to go there to destress….

    1. Mmmm, Annette, I loved that butternut squash ravioli and I might just have to make another stop there this week after yoga! Yes, it is ironic about me being unable to escape Middle East students; I wonder what the universe is trying to teach me. Maybe to be more tolerant?? Funny thing is, I used to be so infatuated by Middle East culture and I couldn’t wait to get there. Now I’ve done a total about-face!

      I’m not sure who runs Sun and Moon studio, but there’s one in Fairfax and one in Arlington. I really need to go there now with all the stress in my life!

  2. Have you thought about the international foreign schools? Geoffrey’s students at TAISM are children of diplomats and corporate upper management, mixed nationalities, and he does not have those problems. Although I doubt they would have need for ESL, since it’s rare to have a non-English speaker. Your students sound like what Kat dealt with in US middle schools.


    1. Well, Carol, I don’t think the international foreign schools would work for me for just the reason you mentioned; they would not need ESL instructors. Also, I need to stay home for a while. Besides, I really don’t want to teach children. Really, what I need is to get out of teaching altogether. 🙂

  3. I hope you at least had a glass of wine with the yum yum pasta.
    A friend of mine set up a sailing school for the king/prince/dictat?? of Qatar a while back. He (my friend) is an Olympic sailor, sailed in and managed America’s Cup teams and has been commentating for Sky on the most recent one and he had to flag it because the little entitled buggers didn’t want to learn to sail.
    His contract was for hundreds of thousands over 5 years. He lasted 2!
    I feel your pain and luckily had lovely students. My fav were the Turks. So charming and keen and amusing for some reason.

    1. I didn’t have a glass of wine with the pasta b/c Panera sadly doesn’t serve wine; however, I did make a stop at a 7-11 for a Bud Light Lime!

      Interesting story about your friend, and I have to say it doesn’t surprise me one bit!

      I love the Turks! I have one Turkish student in my bunch, and she’s a joy. 🙂 So did I miss somewhere that you used to be a teacher?

      1. Trained as a regular teacher. Hated it. Trained with IBM and sold for 20 years. Trained as an ESL teacher, discovered the pay scale and flagged it but loved the idea of the whole thing. So (in theory only) I know what you do.

      1. I’m sure you are, Kathy – I know exactly what you mean by that. On top of which is the disappointment of seeming to have popped from the frying pan into the fire. Chin up … 🙂

  4. Sounds like the reason I quit teaching secondary school here in the UK – too much classroom management, not enough teaching and little respect from either students or senior management! NOT GOOD!

    1. Yes, that’s the reason I would really like to quit! Once again, I’d love to find a job in the field in which I got a Master’s degree: international development, but alas, no one seems to be interested in hiring someone my age!

  5. ouch! sorry about the “kids” you have to teach and your work woes. I have my own work woes but nothing like that!! is there anything the admin at your school can do? or are you stuck handling it on your own? you’re right, you shouldn’t have to deal with those kinds of things! I hope that the discipline you attempted will sink in and that it is better next week.

    I wish I could do yoga again. I had to stop due to tendonitis and I still can’t go due to a flare-up which is due to the stress of my job 😦 Instead, I try to walk a lot to get some sort of exercise to alleviate stress….I’m glad you have your yoga class! it’s a great thing to do.

    1. Thanks for your sympathetic comment, Toby. Luckily the administration does support us, but it still doesn’t change the students’ behavior. Asians would never act like these students.

      I only do yoga once a week, and I try to walk several times a week, when I can wake up early enough to go out in the dark! I need something to de-stress. 🙂

  6. Kathy, It’s nice to hear about what you are doing, though I’m sorry to hear about the classroom issues. You were one of our pro’s at U-Nizwa as far as classroom management! All those skills will kick in again. I’d like to go to Asia too, but I’d like to get the same pay as the Gulf!
    Talk to you later

    1. Hey Gail, Nice to hear from you. I don’t know that I’ve ever been a pro at classroom management, though I do try my best. I find myself in such a bad mood here all the time because of these issues. I really need to find a new job and get out of ESL teaching! I’d take the lower pay in Asia, it’s still better than the U.S. I would NEVER return to the Gulf! Hope all is well with you! 🙂

  7. So sad for you. Going home has not been the welcoming experience you had looked forward to, has it? Well, I am surprised that you have so many Gulf students there, but not surprised at your reaction. If you are going to be miserable, you might as well be well-compensated for it. I wish you were still here in Oman. It really feels like things have changed for the better, though who knows. We started the semester with a fantastic party across the window from your old place, a very positive and unexpectedly kind experience. I can see you making travel plans much sooner than you ever imagined, and I do hope you find a school that will appreciate your incredible teaching skills and experience, and that pays you accordingly. Perhaps you had to go home to find out that the USA is not really “home” for you career-wise after all. You belong to the world, Cathy.

    Lisa “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” – Anonymous “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.” – Captain Jack Sparrow Love animals? Feed and water / spay and release local strays, donate to an rescue shelter, or better yet, give a lonely animal (or two!) a forever home today!

    1. I’m glad things seem more positive there. Maybe more travel is in my future, but it would never be back to the Gulf, and I don’t regret leaving there one bit. I’m just sorry the related culture had to follow me here! No, I don’t quite fit in here, but I am happy to be around my children again, no matter about their struggles and issues. If I ever go abroad again, it will be Asia or Europe. Those are the only choices for me. 🙂

  8. You can always escape into a plate of food, Cathy, but it’s not much of an answer, however pretty. So many dissatisfacions in your life right now, but you can’t really run off to Asia just yet, can you? Gotta finish what you started. Sending a big, watm hug. I feel your frustration. 🙂

    1. No, Jo, I can’t really run off to Asia right now; I just have to be strong and keep putting one foot in front of another. Yes, I have to finish what I started. Thanks so much for your big hug. It means a lot. 🙂 xxx

  9. How disappointing to hear that your new job is not very pleasant Cathy. I hope you are able to work out what you want to do with this soon. In the meantime yoga and delicious meals sound like a great remedy. Take care.

    1. Thanks so much, Carol. I hope things will work out somehow job-wise for me. It really is misery teaching these students. Yoga, good meals and wine ~ all remedies as far as I can see! 🙂

  10. So glad you had the yoga to help with the stress. The ravioli looks pretty yummy, too. I hope the students settle down, and that you’ll have less aggravation.

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