My first week of teaching in Doha!

I can’t speak for all schools in Qatar but if the first week was any indication of what this school year will be like for this teacher, I am in for a treat.

I woke up this morning with my feelings all over the place.  I woke up this morning missing home.  I wanted to call my sister but it was 3:00am in the states and she would be asleep necessary for work in a few hours.  It might have been 10am and the weekend for me but not back home.  I tried to call my other sister that works overnight but no answer, probably busy at work.

I woke up this morning wanting a lobster and egg omelet.  The kind my husband used to make for me at home for breakfast while my little Zoey would be sprawled out on the cool tile floor, panting, waiting for something to drop so she could gobble it up.  I haven’t eaten eggs in over 2 months or any other animal product other than seafood and the thought of eating an egg makes me cringe.  Then I thought about Ackee and Salt fish.  Ackee, when cooked, looks alot like eggs but it’s actually a fruit from West Africa that is more prevalent in Jamaica.  I had a Jamaican best friend when I was a kid and her grandmother used to cook Ackee; that was my first encounter with Jamaica.  Maybe I am just missing my island.  The island of Jamaica.  I call it mine because I love it so much.

I woke up this morning missing HOME.  Why?  I wanted to leave home for so long.  I hated home.  Is there something missing from here that I can do to make it feel more like home, the parts I miss, or should it feel different since I didn’t like it there?

img_2162Good thing Darryl is still here because he does a great job of trying to make me feel better.  Here is the breakfast he made for me.  It is very colorful, like the Caribbean.  But even he will be leaving me soon to return home.  His medical exam is finally scheduled for Sunday.  Once that is done, it won’t be long ’till we have his RP and his passport will be returned.   Right after that he will be back to work and school and it will be just me and the boys.  I received Zarien’s RP yesterday.  Since he is younger than 14, he doesn’t have to get a medical exam done or fingerprinted so his RP was complete.

My students started this week and the first week is a wrap.  I can’t speak for all schools in Qatar but if the first week was any indication of what this school year will be like for this teacher, I am in for a treat. Week 1 was really good.  I like my students.  Some are really funny.  There are about 3 high flyers so far but nothing major.  My class list has 19 students but two have not shown up yet.  One has dropped as of yesterday; I wonder if I will get any replacements or will I have 17 students for the school year.  Smile!  They seem to be very respectful and some are well traveled.  One little girl loves Target (in America she says). Some have been to Turkey, London, America and Germany.

The typical things that teachers worry about,  I don’t deal with here.  I have a helper who sits in the hallway and goes behind the children as they go to the bathroom.  She sharpens pencils, and cleans my room.  She die cuts letters for me and cuts out laminates.  She makes Reading A-Z books for me.  She carries and moves things for me, organizes and sorts things for me.  Well maybe not for me, maybe for the kids.  There is a copy room, where two gentlemen copy, enlarge, laminate and give out supplies on demand and big jobs in time.  There are housekeepers who walk around and just clean all day.  There is an IT room, where two gentlemen set up printers, and show you/me how to use a smart board, work your/my computer and help with all other IT concerns.  There is a printer in a classroom where I can print to, when I want, and pick up small print jobs (in color).  There is a library with two librarians, and lots of books.  The routine books that I read in the beginning of the year, they have them.  I went in, asked for three book titles, and walked out with all three.  The majority of the things I ordered and said you need in a previous post, you don’t even need.  They were right when they said, there is an abundance of supplies and resources in our school.  And most times other teachers are giving stuff away or you can borrow from them.  I stressed for nothing.  I spent a lot of money on ordering stuff, mostly shipping, that I don’t need but I am not sending it back.  I will use it or save it.  But take it from me, SAVE YOUR MONEY.  If you are still wondering what to bring, bring decorative stuff, like if you want a class theme or something and some give away trinkets for the kids (maybe some things that say America or something from your home country with a logo).  That’s it.  We have a Reading A-Z, a Brainpop jr. and IXL online account.  There are probably more accounts that I don’t know about.  There are 3 other first grade home room teachers.  They are all helpful and nice. They are from Jamaica, Lebanon and Canada.  Also part of the first grade team is 2 Arabic teachers, and a math teacher from America.  I teach one English class for an hour a day, 1 Science class per week for one hour, and 2 Walk To Read (a scripted phonics and reading program, completed in small groups) lessons a day- 1 with a first grade group and the other with a Kindergarten group.  On average I teach no more than 3 hours straight or 3 hours in a day excluding the 1 hour lunch and recess time that I cover 4 days a week.  Pretty sweet right. An example of my typical schedule: 7- Meet kids in room, 7-8 prep (kids at math in room), 8 pick up kids and take to PE 8-9 prep, 9-10 Walk to read with a group of first graders, 10-11 cover lunch in class and recess in class (red day, too hot to go out), 11-12 Walk to read with a group of kindergarteners, 12-1 prep (Arabic in class), 1-2 Teach English, 2- wait for parents to pick up kids, 2:15 take kids to the late pick up area and meet with my grade group for a meeting or PD or work in room, 3 out the door.  This past week I didn’t teach for me than 2 hours a day because kindergarten had not started their scripted program yet.  I had to test my kids this week to find their level for WTR while the kindergarten teacher I will be working with covered my class.  Next week I will be covering for her while she does the same and she will be covering for me while I complete Aimsweb.  Aimsweb is new for me as well but I am anxious to learn it since that is how so many schools are assessing now. We are not required to hand in long scripted lesson plans or sub plans.  We collaborate for the big ideas and hand that in. Then we come up with our own learning experiences for our kids. My sub plan was just a description of what to do with my kids when I’m out.  I was given permission to leave early Sunday to take my son and husband to their medical appointments.  That is why I needed a sub plan for whomever will cover my last English period.  Compared to what I am used to, working as a teacher in Philadelphia, this is AMAZING!  I hope it stays this way.  I work 6:45-3:00pm.  The students are gone by 2:15pm.  Other than waking up at 5 am with the sun IMG_2147.JPGevery day, I LOVE IT.  This is how teaching should be.  Let’s see how I feel after a few months.  I still have to run one after school activity, once a school year, once a week for 6 weeks and join a committee.  I’m thinking of a gardening after school activity and I’ve joined the social club (for new teachers that will be joining for next year).  (Maybe I will start a healthy cooking after school activity).  I just thought of that.

Zarien likes his new school Qatar Academy Doha and Zamir does not.  Talk about role reversal.  Hopefully he will adjust. Hopefully we all will.

 

 

 

The Ball’s Rolling

I think I see a light at the end of this Never Ending Story!

“Dear parent of Zamir,

Thank you for applying to Qatar Academy Doha!

It is a pleasure to inform you that your child Zamir has been offered a space in Grade 11 الصف الحادي عشر for the academic year 2016-2017.”

This news takes a large load off of my shoulders.  Both of my boys will be attending the same school.   This makes me very happy.  Doha offers an IB curriculum and the facility is beautiful.  The boys will be in a position to look out for one another and I feel secure with having them together.  Can you see my smile?

Today I went to court for my custody modification order.  My ex-husband has been very cooperative with this whole process.  The judge was like, “You all were my nicest couple today, nothing like all my other cases.” My ex and I were both like, “You should have seen us 10 years ago!”  We don’t get along but we don’t fight or argue either. We’re not together anymore so there is no need.  We don’t have to like each other; respect is all that is needed.  My expectations for him as a father were and still are very high but he is who he is.  I am grateful that he agreed with no qualms today.

Next steps: Take the new order to Harrisburg.  Get a stamp.  Send it off to ProEx documentation authentication.  Send them 36.00 more dollars.  Get the modification order translated in Arabic. Not sure of the cost of that yet.  I’m guessing $90. Wait for FBI clearances and get them authenticated.

I think I see a light at the end of this Never Ending Story!

The Never Ending Story

…I feel like this paperwork is a never ending story with twist and turns and that I will never accomplish my goal.

I love the movie, The Never Ending Story.  I remember my mother took me to the movies to see it when I was a little girl.  I was fascinated by the thought of one’s life being read by someone else in a story.  I used to believe that people, somewhere, were reading about me and my life.  I guess that is kind of how a blog is.  Anyway, in the movie, Atreyu, the Native American Warrior, was trying to save Fantasia but he kept hitting brick walls, in a sense. Every turn he made, he had to overcome another obstacle, in order to stop the ‘nothing’ from engulfing his world.  When he finally arrived at the empress, he thinks he failed his quest but in reality the whole journey was necessary.  Right now, I feel like this paperwork is a never ending story with twist and turns and that I will never accomplish my goal.

Where do I start?

The last time I posted about all the paperwork, I was in the process of requesting our FBI clearances.  Well, on a day in which Darryl was working from home and I was off, we went to the Philadelphia State Police to get fingerprinted, only to find out that they no longer do fingerprinting for employment abroad.  We left there feeling disappointed but not discouraged.  I called around and found out that the Abington Police still do the fingerprinting for a $20 fee each.  So that’s where we went.  Afterward I called the FBI, just to confirm our applications were complete before sending them off. I was informed that there is a 13-15 week processing time. (Can you see me with my mouth open?) So I sent off the applications, fingerprints and $18.00 money orders.

All of our new passport have arrived.  I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to take our trip to Canada but the passports came in, that same week thankfully.  Darryl’s state criminal clearance finally came in the mail.  The boys old school never responded to my emails so I searched and found their report cards and scanned them to QA Doha and QA Sidra schools.  My ex-husband signed the sponsorship letter and I had both the letter and and divorce degrees translated as requested.  I used ABS Translation Interpreting Services, Inc.. Aram was very quick with the turn around of these documents and super nice.  I definitely recommend this company.  I paid $98.00 for the translation of these documents, only to be told that my divorce decree was not sufficient for sponsorship of my sons because it didn’t mention a custody order.  So getting that translated was a waste of time and money.

Everyone got their blood work and medical forms completed.  I found out I have high cholesterol.  So now I take a pill a day for that. While seeing my GYN she discovered a lump in my right breast.  I had to go get a mammogram and ultrasound just to be on the safe side.  Took care of that and got a clean bill of health.  Thank God.  Even went to see the Dermatologist. So I’ve been poked and prodded by everybody.  But I’m happy to say, I’m in pretty good health.

I located my custody order that was agreed upon in mediation, but it was hand written. That didn’t go over well.  I spent a day down town at Family Court getting a copy of the official custody order, and requested a modification of the custody order (at the request of my Qatar hiring manager due to the weekend visitations).  The copy and hearing request cost me approximately $45.00.  I was told I would get a court date in the mail probably for some time in July and in order to request an expedited court date, I would still have to wait until I receive the official court date.  At that time, I could return to Family Court, pay a fee, and prove reason for expedited service or enter a custody stipulation with required paperwork (for a fee, I’m sure).   A custody stipulation is an agreement between my ex-husband and I, signed and submitted to court to modify the current order and then signed by the judge without a court hearing.  I have spoken to my ex-husband and he is being really supportive and agreeable.

As of now, the only things I am still waiting for are: FBI clearances, a Court Date for modification of custody and a Judges signature on my custody stipulation.  In the meantime, I am beginning the authentication process.  My degree, transcipt and state criminal clearance as well as Darryl’s have been notarized.  Tomorrow I will be driving to Harrisburg to get these documents authenticated at the state level. Then I will be sending them to a company to finish the authentication process. Sure I could just send them to the company to complete the whole process, but this way I save myself a few dollars.

And in this story there is some light:

“Dear parent of Zarien G,

Thank you for applying to Qatar Academy Doha!

It is a pleasure to inform you that your child Zarien has been offered a space in Grade 8 الصف الثامن for the academic year 2016-2017.”

My youngest son has been accepted.  The Admin at Doha along with the Admin at my son’s current school arranged for him to take the admissions test at his current school and he did well, I assume.  My son said he thought he did well and well this email proves it.  I am so proud of him.  One less thing to worry about.  My oldest son will complete his test tomorrow.  I truly hope that Doha is a good fit for my boys.  I have heard mixed opinions about the school but the campus is beautiful and I like the programs I’ve read about there.

So as you follow along in my Never Ending Story, I ask that you root for me, like Sebastian did for Atreyu. This journey is necessary!  Only 4 months to go until the new chapter begins.

I guess 3 times is a Charm

Finally, I got my offer letter from ADEC yesterday. I know I already accepted a position with Qatar so why am I so happy to get this…

Dear Kennesha,

Teach Away would like to congratulate you on receiving a letter of offer from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). Please be advised that signing a letter of offer secures your position for an August Term 2016start, provided you meet all visa requirements….”
Finally, I got my offer letter from ADEC yesterday.  I know I already accepted a position with Qatar so why am I so happy to get this… Well if you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’ve applied to teach in Abu Dhabi three times.  I was turned down twice and low and behold, they said YES, on the third try.

The other teachers that I speak to on occasion through text also received their offers.  Congratulations Nancy.

The wait was so long….But I am sincerely happy for them! I can always visit my new friends in Abu Dhabi.

In the meantime, the paperwork continues for Qatar.  One of the most daunting task has been schooling for the boys.  I have applied for admissions for them at Qatar Academy Doha and at GEMS for my youngest son, since GEMS only goes up to 10th grade at this time. I’ve also received an email from Qatar Academy Sidra with the necessary paperwork to complete for enrollment.  I’ve looked at other schools too: American Community School of Qatar, American School of Doha.  But their tuition is above what Qatar Foundations will reimburse for tuition and that somewhat defeats the purpose of choosing Qatar so I will stick to where they will pay the tuition.

 

It is also difficult to process all the paperwork when you have to wait on businesses, postal service and other people.  Fortunately, my ex-husband and I are in an ok place.  I picked him up so that he and I could take care of the paperwork that needed his signature.  Without hesitation he handed over his passport so I could make a copy (yes they requested a copy of my ex-husband’s passport to confirm signature matches); he signed the applications for new passports for the boys; he signed the letter saying he gives permission for me to sponsor my boys in QATAR.  Now that the letter is signed and I located our divorce degree, I have to send them off to be translated into Arabic.  Once they come back, I can send them off with the other documents to be authenticated.

My new passport arrived yesterday with 24 pages, more room for stamps.  I am hoping the boys passports arrive within the next few days.  I need their birth certificates to go in the stack of papers needing to be authenticated.  They had to be sent away with the passport applications. The boys have both gotten their physicals and blood work back.  Mine is complete; I just have to go back to the doctors to have him complete the paperwork, since the lab forgot to check for my blood type, and since it had been more than 72 hours, I had to go back and get poked again. !OUCH!  My husband still has to get his blood work done. My FBI and criminal history report has arrived.  Still waiting for Darryl’s Criminal history report to arrive. The boy’s current schools sent over their transcripts and grade reports.  I am still waiting for the charter school that they attended 2 years ago to respond to my email for their grade reports.  That is the difference in Private and Public schools, Professionalism and ease of receiving responses.  The boys need 3 years of grades.  I will probably just wind up locating their report cards from 2 years ago.

I’ve told my jobs that I won’t be returning for Fall.  Thank goodness I don’t burn bridges when it comes to money, because they told me I can always come back.  I’ve also told the teachers I coach and the principal at the school.  Needless to say they were all happy and excited for me.

In the meantime, I am trying to get my house in order, cleaning, buying bins, organizing. My basement is full of early learning and elementary supplies.  This is giving me an excuse to CLEANU UP.  I’m also shopping for 100% cotton, rayon and linen clothing.  This is giving me an excuse to SHOP.  Like I need an excuse for that.  lol. Till next time…