Teaching Overseas #1: Saudi Arabia

4:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

This week begins a series of interviews that I have conducted with teachers that have or are teaching overseas.  This is a topic that is dear to my heart for several reasons.

There was an opportunity to student teacher in England the semester that I did my student teaching, but I didn't even apply. I now with that I had.

I was accepted to the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in 2009. After receiving my placement, I had to withdraw because the school I was working for laid me off. 

Lastly, one of my three brothers, who you are going to get to meet today, is currently teaching English in Saudi Arabia. I was there when he got on that plane in the wee hours of the morning, and his messages home inspired me to seek out teachers that have or are teaching overseas to have them share their experiences with my readers.

I would like to welcome my brother, Caleb, to kick of this series, 

which he helped inspire.

My name is Caleb, and I am a recent graduate of Central Michigan University. Currently, I am teaching in the Engineering College associated with Albaha University and the Central Library for Boys in Albaha, KSA.

Who are you? Background and Experience
My degree is officially in Religious studies with a triple minor in Philosophy, History and Linguistics. In addition, I earned two certificates; one in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and one in TESOL (from Oxford Seminars).  During my final year in University, I taught an extra-curricular Business English course in a Lutheran Chapel on campus where I developed a love for teaching and built lasting relationships with international students from around the globe.
Where are you currently teaching?  Describe the institution and population.
Currently, I am teaching in the Engineering College associated with Albaha University and the Central Library for Boys in Albaha, KSA. The University environment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is nothing like that of western nations. 

Besides the obvious difference of being divided by gender, the standard of education is nearly non-existent and the requirements placed upon instructors is simply marching through the simplified EFL (English as a Foreign Language) textbook and workbooks. Furthermore, Instructors are categorized and measured by the rapport they build with the student population. 

If a group of students dislike a professor, they can simply request a new one and they will be issued one. Also, the requirements placed on instructors, namely grading, is calculated ONLY by exams and attendance without any freedom to require homework.   
Why did you decide to teach overseas?
I decided to teach overseas to take international experience as well as experience a different culture and to be honest, a large salary. The salaries for teachers in the USA are extremely low given the service they provide, which can be described no less than building the cornerstone of any society by molding the youth and preparing them to replace the existing populace when they become weary. What other vocation could boast such a claim? Unfortunately, teachers and the education system in general worldwide suffers everywhere from corruption and poor administration.
What are your three favorite things about teaching overseas?
I couldn’t speak from anything except my experience here in Saudi Arabia, but the three best things about teaching here are the ability to travel and see so many historical sites, the incomparable large salaries and the overall change of scenery and peace of mind one gets from the hustle and bustle everyone has with a western lifestyle.
What are two challenges you have faced teaching overseas?
The most significant challenge that I have faced teaching in Saudi Arabia is without a doubt adjusting to the educational system or lack thereof. All my life I have complained about the burdens placed upon me by my instructors in the USA and have seen now what happens when nothing is required from instructors and the ignorance it creates throughout generations within a society. Furthermore, I have found simple travel to and from the city difficult being that there is no public transportation system.
What do you believe is one thing  U.S. teachers can do to improve learning based on your overseas experience?
Any teacher could learn to improve by teaching overseas in that they learn to communicate with students in other ways than just lecturing. 

Most teachers can tell you that patience is a virtue in any class room environment and when you and your students literally don’t speak the same language, you become very creative.
How did you go about getting this teaching position?
I applied online through a job offer on ESL Employment and heard back from the company almost immediately.

The rest of the interviews in the series will post on Wednesdays through the middle of April.

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