It has been over a year since I wrote on my blog. During that time I worked in a small school in Doha teaching Grades 3 and 4 to Bedouin boys. What fun that was! When I met them they were climbing out the windows and running back into the classroom through the door. They had an attention span of about 4 minutes, then they would start yelling over me in Arabic and would not stop. I managed to tame them over a period of 5 months, taking small steps each day and with the help of a Canadian team of teachers who were flown in to help this little school get through to the end of the year (June). These children had met 11 teachers in the year they had attended our little school. Each teacher had left due to poor living conditions, no written curriculum, limited supplies, inability to effectively teach and probably reasons I do not know. So the challenge was in front of us to get these boys through, to give them a positive experience and to all survive!
I had a smart board in my little classroom, some reading books, a set of excellent art manuals, a vast array of maths games- some useful, some not, and many with pieces missing - gone home up the sleeves of little boys!
I decided that I would start with art- so I set up a side room (I was in an old villa) as an art room to excite the boys and to offer a reward for finishing the smallest task first! This worked wonderfully and away we went painting portraits, (the first attempt had the boys picture themselves with cigarettes , bazookas, swords, scars, blood dripping---) , landscapes, people, patterns etc. I found that copying another artist's work was far more successful than having them create their own in the beginning. This showed me that they had had very little or no experience with artistic creative expression. None of them had ever mixed paints to create colours- they loved that lesson!
As we painted they talked- always in Arabic but eventually in English. I had decided that this would be my way in to their hearts and minds.
Eventually they learned to trust me- I was not going to go away like all of the other teachers. I turned up each morning with a smile on my face and off we went. My principal, Robert, was also consistently there at the gate waiting for them with a firm hand and a kind heart. He helped in time out procedures, speaking to parents and settling these boys down. We even had a uniform on everyone in the first few weeks. Before that these guys would be turning up in their thobes (long dresses) and long underpants trying to kick a ball around the concrete playground. - bit of a disaster!