ClassDojo and Yale have joined forces to bring Mindfulness to Millions of Kids Around the World!
This week ClassDojo released another set of videos and activities for students! This new set of video's and activities relates to ‘Mindfulness’ for home and school. Its all about taming the beast that exists in us all!
"It has been shown that regular mindfulness practice -- even just a few minutes per day -- improves students’ optimism, reduces stress, and increases students’ ability to feel empathy for others." - Class Dojo
There have been times in almost every students life where attempting a task has become challenging and the want and drive to give up has been at the forefront of the decisions made! In the first video of the series Class Dojo have nailed the idea that giving up is not an option and that being able to "tame the beast" is what should be the focus!
Is this the first you are hearing of Class Dojo or even the Class Dojo Big Ideas series? Then STOP and make sure to check them out!
You can find the whole series of videos and activities here: https://ideas.classdojo.com/
So with that in mind, why not check out the Mindfulness video and activities (below) for yourself! Hey why not approach your staff and use it as a PD option too - I'm going too!
This post has been in the back of my mind since we (Glenda - great friend and fellow Marianne and I) set off to Ireland on the 23rd March this year. The ADEC teaching calendar allows for a one week break between Trimester 2 and 3 and we took full advantage!
The great thing about the friendship Glenda and I share is that we are both so easy, so on that note the only details we had arranged for our week in the land of the shamrock was our flights in and out, car hire and our first nights hotel booking in Dublin, the other 9 days would be as they came!
Our plan for the 9 days was to simply drive, visit and sleep in the towns where we were when night fell and that is EXACTLY what we did. We landed in Dublin with the idea of driving down the south coast making our way to Galway and then back across the country to Dublin for our flight out!
By the photos of each region you should be able to deduce that my favorite area of the whole country was county Galway. What made it so special were our hosts John and Hannah, our personal full day tour of an area that many Irish people have never even visited and the unending beauty of rural living.
Ireland I will be back and it was more than I expected? Totally breathtaking!
9 days, 1574 km, two friends and a LIFETIME of memories!
Have you ever driven somewhere alone, with no one to talk to, no one to sing along with to the latest Ed Sheeran song?
Then look NO further than Bum A Ride.
Bum A Ride was launched with backpackers in mind, it was created as a space to find and offer up rides for those who are traveling all over the world.
If you are traveling somewhere and have space in your vehicle why not offer up that space to someone who may be looking to head in that same direction. You could split the fuels costs or even share the driving! It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make friends you haven't met yet. Bum A Ride has created a space where these ride requests and offers can be shared per location.
We have created communities all over the world, so don't wait, log onto Facebook and search for your countries group, send in a join request and request and offer rides - it's that simple. Our FB communities offer far more than simply just ride requests and offers. So get involved!
Its been over 3 months since my last blog post! WOW, crazy to think that so much has happened since then.
Since October, when my last post was published, so much has happened but I won't bore you with that but there are some cool pics to highlight the last 3 months.
So, what made me sit down and blog today? Well the title of this post should be a dead give away!
I have learnt many things here in the UAE, as highlighted in this earlier post, Lessons from the UAE but one thing I am still battling with is how frustrated I get with my students and the system.
Teaching English as a Second Language is NOT easy. I underestimated how difficult it was to get students to learn and at the same time keep them entertained and stop them from either killing each other, creating chaos or destroying things. Sounds bad, doesn't it? - well today was one of those days. I must admit that it probably isn't as bad as it sounds but today my frustration levels reached breaking point.
I always go the extra mile for my students by making sure that my lessons are fun, interactive and accessible to all - today was no different except the majority of my students were simply not interested in either doing the work/tasks/activities i had planned and were on a mission to just simply irritate me!
Now I know full well that allowing them to get under my skin is a problem that I have to somehow face, but why? Why should I care so much when they don't. Not for me, my classroom, my subject nor their own education. It often comes up in conversations with other teachers that we get frustrated because we care for the students and that goes for all of them, even those that grate our carrots day in and day out. We know that they can succeed, we know that they want to learn (??), we know they are capable but they have a very funny way of showing it!
I'm tired of having to tell kids to:
There has to come a time where the students must get so tired of hearing me say these things because I can tell you that if I have to tell Bobby* one more time to write the date I may just explode?
*Name changed for sake of anonymity.
I try so hard each day to not allow the small things, of which all of the above are, to affect me so much but I wasn't able to get that right today. I'm frustrated, angry, disappointed and dejected but it will be short lived because as soon as I walk onto campus tomorrow morning the biggest culprit will come running up to greet me with a massive fist pump and a bellow of "Hello Mr Crits, nice to see you!"
I'm an insomniac, and to be honest it is driving me insane!
Over the last year and few months, since moving to the UAE, I haven't really taken many photos. This can very easily be put down to the fact that my photography love is sports and well there ain't much of that around here (Western Region!)
So when I couldn't sleep this morning I decided that instead of lying in bed tossing and turning I would find my camera and do a bit of exploring. Luckily or as Murphy would have it, I was up LONG before sunrise so used this as an opportunity to have some quiet, reflection time before the sun popped his head over the rolling sand dunes.
A phenomena that still blows my mind is that of fog in the desert! We are heading into winter here now so our daily temperature is down to between 32 and 38 but by night time it can cool don to anything between 17 and 23. This morning it was a cool and beautiful 22. The humidity was high (naturally) at around 80%.
Over the years I have tested 100s of Classroom Apps and received 1000s of newsletters from all the subscriptions I belong too. Since arriving in the UAE 🇦🇪 I have used ClassDojo in my classroom, initiated it in my school and immersed myself in it . As a result of my addiction to the APP I was nominated as a Class Dojo Mentor and now a Class Dojo Ambassador for the UAE. This makes me extremely proud and this is the first of many blog posts about the APP that has changed my classroom.
Class Dojo was designed as a classroom behavior management tool. However, over the 4 years that I have used and experimented with it, it has morphed into something far more powerful than just simply a behavior management tool.
Class Dojo (CD) is by far one of the best APPs I have been a part of. It is constantly being upgraded, tweaked and improved to include things that us teachers on the front line need and desire. The team of wonderful people at CD feel more like family rather than simply just tech support.
Class Dojo, for me, is the following:
Top 3 tips for successful use of Class Dojo.
I can't wait to share more tips and tricks over the year! - Have any specific requests? Pop me a mail and I will happily assist you!
A north to south cooking adventure is what I embarked on when I arrived in Vietnam. To be quite honest I didn't really look too clearly at my itinerary as I wanted it to just happen!
It all began with a flight from Phnom Penh directly to Hanoi (or so I thought!) Around halfway through the flight we landed, I had been sleeping so wasn't too sure as to what was happening but when I checked my watch I saw that we were only an hour into our 3hr flight, so something must have been up. Anyway as it is with Vietnam Airlines (worst I have flown ever!) we were all shuffled off the plane with our bags and NO explanation as to what was going on.
People were questioning what was going on but no answers were forthcoming, next thing - those of us who came off that plane were given a green ticket and then herded back onto the SAME plane!
Ok now the S.African in me was getting a bit irritated so I stopped walking like every other sheep in front of me and asked one of the hostesses what on earth was going on? Her response was priceless, and I quote: "No Mr we had to drop off a few passengers who are staying in Laos and it is on our way!" I stood simply gob smacked, not knowing whether to laugh or just simply tell her how ridiculous she sounded.
Any way as it turns out that there are only two flights a day from Phnom Penh to Hanoi and they both stop in Vientiane (which is the capital of Laos to "drop off" passengers - weird I know but hey as I have learnt anything is possible in SEAsia!
One of the best parts of Vietnam for me was the markets! I just loved walking around them, often with no intention to buy, just really looking around at what was on offer!
In total I attended 9 cooking course while on my 3 week trip and 7 of them were in Vietnam! Wonderful food, with awesome Chefs! These were my favorites with some pics!
These cooking classes were well worth it and loads of fun. something I will most certainly do again!
From Hoi An, I made my way to HCMC (Hoh Chi Min City) or Saigon as most of us know it, for a 3 day relax, unwind and me time. It had been a busy few weeks so I welcomed the free time to roam the markets for novelty gifts and explore the streets.
Vietnam was great, I can't wait to go back and explore some more!
**To get the full idea of each image please open them up to full screen!
Cambodia is somewhere I never thought of visiting - and if it wasn't for a special friends recommendation, I would never have come here.
I need to preface this post with something: I never did History at school and to be quite honest am not really interested in it at all. Now that that is out the way I can get on with telling you how much I enjoyed the History behind Cambodia and its BEAUTIFUL temples, people and places! As a photographer (action Sport predominantly) I was really intrigued by all the ruins that were once beaming temples of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists.
I broke my time in Cambodia up into 3 nights in Siem Riep (North) and 3 nights in Phnom Penh (South).
My time in Cambodia started with a stay in Siem Riep or as I like to call it "Temple Heaven." I started with a bang walking into the small 'old' or (market area) town shortly after arriving and really having my eyes opened to what is simply designed for tourists. Everything from evening markets selling the most amazing curios to "Pub Street" a street dedicated to pubs, pubs and more pubs. With beers selling for $0.50, they were bursting at the seams with patrons who were very comfortable sitting, chatting and taking in the bustle that was around them. I made my way to a quiet Khmer (local Cambodian culture) restaurant and had some dinner before indulging in a 'fish massage' - we have all seen them. A bath/basin full of fish which eat the dry skin off your feet while leaving you giggling thanks to all the tickling!
The next morning I visited an outlying rural area with numerous temples which are less frequently visited by tourists thanks to the long drive from Siem Riep. The Preah Village area is part of the rural area near to Siem Riep city and contains a plethora of Temples, a quick stop at each really made for some of my best pics from Cambodia!
After a day of visiting Temples in the rural area and ones that are more ruins than anything else I made a trip the next day to the world known Ankor Wat. A really awesome time exploring these amazing buildings.
Ankor Wat and the surrounds are in far better condition than those of the rural areas of Siem Riep - and I have to say, those that are more dated, destroyed, weathered or "ruined" (for lack of a better word) are by far my favourite!
With so many photos and stories to tell about Cambodia I feel like this post could go on forever, so without over doing it here are some of my favourites from the rest of the Ankor area temples.
After what was an exhausting and crazily hot day, I stopped at one of the street vendors outside the last temple bought two bottles of water and a small packet of Cashew nuts as a snack - this would be a moment I would regret for the next 4 days!
After what was a very busy and filled 3 days in Siem Riep I was looking forward to a more relaxed 3 days in Phnom Penh with planned visits only to a Royal Palace and the Killing fields. HAHA this is where that decision of those cashews caught up with me! I had been hit with an unbelievable bout of food poisoning! Between the time of first realising I was becoming ill and getting to Phnom Penh I had a cooking class to attend as well as an hours flight! Probably one of the one occasions where food was not on my mind and the longest hours flight of my LIFE! Without goring you with the details I spent ALL 3 days in Phnom Penh between the bathroom and my bed!
Nevertheless, the rest was probably a good thing (although I would hardly call it rest!), I had been on the go since landing in Thailand the week prior! As this was my first real planned holiday abroad I tried to fit everything into the few days I had in each city - rookie error! Next time - and there will be MANY more 'next times' - I will plan much better with a day or so in between just to 'chill' and regather!
Altogether an unbelievable week in Cambodia and definitely a country I will visit again! Next stop, Vietnam.......
I have heard so much about Thailand, seen so many photos and had many friends visit but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience!
If you have some time, extra cash and adventure - Thailand is a must. To be fair I only visited one area and that was Railay Beach. This is a quietish area in Krabi province. Just FYI it is only accessible via long-tail or speedboat so pack lightish and comfortably.
For my South East Asia travels I am travelling alone - now many people have judged, thrown frowns, questioned and even commented on how crazy I am BUT I have loved it! Been able to do what I want, when and how I want to? Selfish - I know but this is my time!
So I had booked into the Railay Beach Resort and Spa for 5 nights which included breakfast daily - to be fair I have no idea about the costs involved as this entire holiday was paid for by a prize I had won in Abu Dhabi, the only cost to me was my spending money!
SIDE NOTE: I arranged all the places and activities I would do while in Thailand and Cambodia (which is where I am now)
All sorts of Tips
Anyway, enough of that babble, I'm just going to let some of my best photos do the talking!
As a family we have always spent time in the Game Reserve and it has always been Hluhluwe/Umfolozi as our first choice.
Travelling home to SA for my first summer holiday has been awesome! Along with my Dad, Mum and grandparents we made our way to the reserve just a few days after I had landed! I had booked us all into the tented camps for two nights and I was looking forward to:
Luckily for me number 3 was very easy! It was awesome to spend some time with my grandparents and it is always fun when my folks are around. As you will see later I think the most fun I had was with my camera!
So if you are thinking of visiting South Africa soon and are looking for a great place to stay and the best Game sightings don't go anywhere else but to Hluhluwe/Umfolozi!
Mplia Tented Camps - this is where we stayed! Rustic, self catering with its own resident Hyena!
I hope you enjoy some of my favourite pics from the weekend?
Braaing is something we do often as a family and when in the reserve it is no different until and unwanted visitor approaches! Rather spooky to find that he was very close, closer than we thought! A sighting like this is great BUT we do think it is very dangerous and the park somehow needs to curb his behaviour. There have been numerous reports of him stealing braaimeat off the fire!
To clarify I'm talking about the Hyena and NOT my Dad!
This sighting of Wild Dog is my first in the reserve and man oh man was it awesome! they simply lazed in the sun for more than half and hour while the shutters clicked furiously around them!
With the academic year arriving at a close tomorrow ( to be fair its not been very academic since the 6th of June - besides a week of exams) most Expat teachers were preparing to leave on Tuesday July 5th which should have been our last working day. BUT thanks to the Sheikh and the coinciding Eid break we will officially finish work tomorrow (Thursday June 30th).
This means that many expats have been frantically trying to change their flights to an early time and that includes myself. I was due to fly out on Tuesday evening - the 5th but instead I now fly out on Sunday morning - the 3rd of July which then gives me 3 extra days at home :) - absolutely no complaints there!
Changing plans is something you will have to be up for or used to if you are planning on coming to the UAE to teach. Yet another simple example is something that happened this week. ADEC sent out an "End of year" survey to all staff which needed to be completed. This was an online survey which would take anything from 15 mins to an hour - depending of course on how thorough you were being or how up to date you IT skills were - so many of us diligently completed the survey online once we saw it in our mail inboxes thus getting it out of the way so it would not delay our departure from school. BUT HQ had a different thought.
Only once I had spent close to an hour completing and submitting it were we told that they actually wanted it in a word document which would then be collated at the school level and submitted again. Normally I would have just simply refused and thrown up a stink - the latter I did anyway - but I have learnt here that just going with the flow is SO much easier. So I tried to remember what I had submitted online and retyped it into the word document and then sent it off. At least it gave me something to do!
Besides something to do it was actually quite difficult because in the process ADEC have been updating our PC software to the latest version of Office 365 - this has meant that for around a week I have been without Word, Excel and other office products on my PC so made typing it out a real treat. Head's up - Word online is NOT a great program!
Anyway, with my days in the UAE nearing the end for my 1st year I thought I would let you in on what you could expect, blog wise over the summer holiday as I have some awesome things lined up.
I fly to South Africa on Sunday and have a jam packed few weeks there including:
The I embark on a 3 week jaunt through South East Asia which is made up of:
Finally returning to South Africa for my birthday week and then back to Abu Dhabi for the final year of my first contract.
So a "Jam-packed" summer awaits, millions of photos to be taken, many memories to be made and luckily for you, you will share them with me.
For those of you travelling for the summer holiday may it be just as awesome as mine is going to be! Be safe!
In South African homes, and in particular Afrikaans South African homes hosting and preparing food is always an over the top experience. I can vividly remember my Ouma taking out 'braaivleis' for hundreds even though there were only six of us. There was ALWAYS too much food, in fact when you knew you were going to braai at Oumies and Oups you NEVER ate meals that day because if you arrived at the braai and didn't eat what was deemed 'enough' you always got 'that' look. I mean who wants to hurt their Oumies feelings and not eat. So that's what we did, ate, ate and ate some more!
This evening I was invited to my first ever Iftar by one of my Arabic colleagues.
As mentioned in my previous blog post Acceptance it is currently Ramadan - in brief this means that Muslims around the world are fasting from Sunrise to Sunset.
Having read up about Ramdan and what it entails I have secretly been dying to attend an Iftar to see the wonderful food that is always spoken about and to enjoy/celebrate the occasion with friends. Tonight was exactly that!
Myself, and some EMT colleagues were invited to join one of our Arabic counterparts at his family home along with another Arabic colleague to share in the Iftar with them. To be honest I was as excited as a young teenager receiving his first cellphone but also as apprehensive as an adolescent on their first date! I had probably read too much on the internet - a place where horror stories can very easily become your reality.
It is common in the Muslim culture that men and women do not mingle together. Men will often gather in what is called the "Majlis" sort of like a man cave if you will. A lounge with couches in every corner, flat screen TVs and coffee tables filled with dates and Turkish/Arabic Coffee.
How pleasantly surprised I was! We were welcomed into his home with open arms, shown into the 'Majlis' and some lighthearted conversation took place while waiting for the cannon to go off which signals the end of fast. As soon as the cannon was fired, our colleagues (who had been fasting all day - I really admire them as this cannot be easy and especially here where the temperatures are in the upper 40s for the most part of the day) offered us some dates. These have to be the sweetest most succulent dates I have eaten since arriving in the UAE. While sharing and passing around the dates our friends excused themselves to go and pray. Shortly thereafter they returned and the Iftar began. Mr A (real names not used out of respect) our host, who seems to be a keen chef, arrived with plates full of crumpets which is a common treat, after dates, with which to break the fast. They were filled with cream and crushed pistachios and the base soaked in Rosewater. They were divine and totally moreish!
Then we made our way into the dining room with tables just simply covered in food. The Afrikaans South Africans would have been shown up with the amount of delicious looking food which Mrs A had prepared for us. So as I had read, I expected the men to gather at the table together and the women to be somewhere else. As I understood the women would then deliver the food to the door where Mr A would collect it and we (men) would never be in the same company as his wife let alone talk to or see her. However, we were pleasantly surprised and incredibly honoured to have shared the meal together. She had prepared delicious food. In my excitement of trying everything I totally forgot to ask if I could take photos of the food but believe me you would far rather try it out for yourself than go on my experience.
Some of the foods included:
What made the evening so special was the fact that we all shared it together, something I was almost expecting not to happen. To have met Mrs A and shared her wonderful food I feel richer as a person. There was so much food and it was wonderful to share it amongst friends with laughs and stories with not a worry in the world. More people need to experience these types of instances and the world will be better for it. Mr and Mrs A and daughters, Mr S, Mr and Mrs B and Mr D - thank you for a wonderful evening you have made my heart happy my stomach full and my life complete!
Mr B has just sent me this photo which I'm so happy to include as it gives a great reflection of just how much wonderful food Mrs A prepared for all of us!
Since moving to the UAE 305 days ago, I have learnt so much about the Arab culture and religion, patience and acceptance. These three things (I'm not proud to admit it) are areas where I would classify myself as having been quite weak. To be honest I knew NOTHING about the Arab Culture let alone the Muslim religion/faith. Patience and acceptance were also traits I did not posses.
The UAE - as mentioned before - is an incredibly vibrant, accepting and patient environment. I feel like I have grown as an individual, I feel like now I can proudly hold my head up in society as an adult.
In SA, well at least this is true for me, I was incredibly ignorant and somewhat self-centred when it came to other people. Now don't get me wrong I don’t think I had my head stuck in some cloud but I certainly could have made more of an effort to learn about other cultures and in particular other religions.
So for the next month here in the UAE and around the world is a time when Arabs and muslims celebrate Ramadan. Now at this point I feel the need to apologise to all the students I taught back home in SA for being so ignorant and simply unaware! Sorry for being my over-the-top self in class when you were trying to be peaceful, sorry for teaching topics which were somewhat sensitive and sorry for being an arrogant idiot!
Ramadan began on Monday the 6th June and until the 6th July things here in the UAE are very different.
Its only been two days so far and already I have learnt so much. I have a new found respect for the Muslim faith. This is a good time to point out that I have never experienced Ramdan before so I’m a newbie!
So for those of you who aren't aware let me shed some light on what that means:
So what does the mean for us or in particular me? Well in short it means that in order for me to be respectful, accepting and patient I need to ensure that I don't offend anyone!
So only eating in my home, not drinking, eating, shouting, listening to music, loud laughter and smoking (which I haven't taken up) in public. Now the Quran does not say or give Muslims an “out” - they must still go to work and school, life must continue - and it does! However, our school times are different, shopping times are different and in general things change slightly. We start school and hour later and finish 15 minutes earlier - been great to get an hours extra sleep in the mornings, even though my body clock still thinks it good to wake at around 05h35.
I now have a new found admiration for Muslims and the faith. I tried to fast on Monday, I ate my breakfast super early and gave it a bash. I didn't last very long, by 10am I was dying of thirst and my stomach was crying out for something.
So in keeping with the title of this post acceptance is key. I have heard many people complain that this is a terrible time to be in the UAE, things don’t work well during Ramadan, people are grumpy and short tempered (if I came into contact with someone who was, I’m not sure I’d blame them - I’m no fun when I’m hungry!) driving becomes a nightmare or worse than it is already. Having driven to Duabi this evening to catch a flight home I didn't encounter anything out of the ordinary but for increased traffic when people were making their way home to break the fast. If it were me I would probably have taken everything in my way out to get to some food - I mean I do that even when I’m not fasting (hehehe).
I have maintained that we are in a country that has accepted us as workers the least we could do is respect their faith!
So to all my Muslim colleagues and friends Ramadan Kareem, may it be a time of blessing for you and your families. I look forward to continually learning from you and your ways.
Leaving school today I was smacked with utter beauty!
Desert was truly showing off!
If you are in the UAE and have never been out to the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, you MUST make an effort to come out and see Liwa. The beautiful space which reflects emptiness!
Today I celebrate my 5th Birthday. It was today 5 years ago in Groote Schuur Hospital that my new life began.
October 1st 2010 my life changed forever. I am what I am because of that day. I will never forget that phone call, the trip to Eric's rooms, the shudder in my Dad's voice and the tears in our eyes! It was in the 24 hours that followed that I made a promise to myself. A promise I have kept to this day!
I never thought I would see this day, let alone the 2055 between then and now. I will never be able to thank everyone who stood by me appropriately but know this, today I raise my glass thanking you, from me!
I recently wrote this poem and I hope that the title rings true for me!
So in the spirt of the day I though it quite appropriate to share with you a little teaser from the book that I'm writing. So below please enjoy the 1st chapter (unedited - could possibly change) from my book.
(Please note that in the 5 years since my transplant I have not let anything stop me so writing has been slow, but I am working on completing it before the end of 2017!)
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
Twenty two is an interesting age; you are no longer a teenager, so people actually pay some attention when you express an opinion, but in terms of adulthood you’ve only just gotten started so you find yourself at the end of the queue when it comes to how much responsibility you can apparently handle. So, with this perception pretty much imprinted on my forehead, I was happy to approach my life with a healthy balance of youthful exuberance and moderate maturity. Life was good, in fact life was great; I had the best job in the world, a close-knit circle of friends and my whole life ahead of me to explore. That was until the devil ‘came a knocking’ for the second time in my life and I had to hear those soul-destroying words yet again: “You have cancer.”
In 1996, I was seven years old. My world was about all things young boys consider vital; food, play, television and my bike – although not necessarily in that order. When the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was handed down I really had very little understanding of what it meant and absolutely no way of comprehending the impact it would have on the young adult I would become. Six months of chemotherapy was hell and yet these same six months were, in hindsight, absolutely crucial in forging the strength I know I have today. Having had to recently revisited this time in my life I realised that nobody discussed my disease; my parents would not talk about it so our family friends did not talk about it either – I didn’t even talk about it. Non-Hodgkin’s lived in our family home, and he lived there in silence.
As fate would have it my treatment was successful and our deathly house guest was gone by my eighth birthday. For the next fourteen years I met regularly with my oncologist to make sure my cancer was definitely gone. I tend to stress about many things and every check-up found me anticipating the very worst. It was only after a number of false alarms and self-diagnosis of phantom symptoms that my paranoia began to subside and I was ready to refer to cancer as the disease I used to have…
Life moved on; I went to school, participated in a few swimming galas and even won a few races. High school arrived and I made the difficult move away from home and into a boarding establishment in Pietermaritzburg. The transition was really not an easy one; suddenly finding myself in a strange town and living in a new house with seventy eight unfamiliar faces was tough, but my parents were adamant that I ride the storm and stick it out. I will be eternally grateful that they took this stance because by the time I entered 2nd Form I knew I was a ‘College Boy’, (from my basher to my boots) and I had forged strong ties many of which I proudly carry with me even today.
Those early days, however, were pretty dark and I thought any mention of cancer would isolate me even further, so I didn’t. I made the decision to continue the silence around my disease and not share my experiences with my peers, but as they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.
There is a special kind of heat that ‘Maritzburg experiences; it’s a little like attempting to breathe through a wet balaclava. It was on one of these particularly hot and sticky school days that I found myself in the upper fourth form science lab. The lesson was LO, or Life Orientation, and the teacher taking the class was one of the first adults who had really made me feel that I belonged at College; that I mattered and that what I had to contribute was of value. It was this feeling of acceptance that prompted me to reveal my ‘secret’; that three-minute-moment is as clear to me today as it will be in twenty years time.
I was trembling uncontrollably and I thought my voice would surely betray me, but somehow I worked my way through the whole story even though I was unable to meet anyone’s gaze. I clearly recall looking down at my hands that were damp with perspiration, fingers interlocked, and being aware of my heart beating so strongly that I was certain everyone in the room could hear it too. There was a rushing sensation in my ears and all kinds of mixed up thoughts and emotions were fighting for space inside me; I had told my secret, I had shared a vital part of me with these people, with these friends!
I sat down, uncertain of what to do next, and then I heard the teacher call my name so I raised my eyes to meet hers and saw that she was barely able to hold back her tears – that moment seemed to last an eternity. I slowly began looking around the room and saw that many of my classmates were struggling to keep their composure, some were even crying openly. It was when they all started clapping that I realised my cheeks were also wet with tears. From then on I was far more at ease when people asked me about my experiences and finally being able to surround my cancer with words rather than with silence was more liberating than I could have ever imagined it would be. Thank you Dee Dickens; teacher, mentor and fellow colleague…I hope you know.
The next five years at College were some of my best and it was during this time that I decided that I really wanted to use my childhood battle with cancer as a means of helping others in any way I could. I made the decision to enrol in the First Aid Society and the four years I spent working alongside Alisa Greyling and the Sanatorium sisters these years were incredibly rewarding and emotionally draining, sometimes in equal measure. I was awarded with Honours for my service and, later at my Matric awards evening, I was presented with the prize for Service to the School; I had made my mark and I had been recognised – how far I had come from that frightened seven year old boy fighting for his life against a disease that knows no compassion.
Fourteen years; fourteen years looking ahead, living life and finding my balance. Fourteen years that saw me attend Varsity College and embark on a Bachelors Degree, make some great decisions and some stupid mistakes. Fourteen years during which I have loved and lost, learnt and laughed. Fourteen years of being able to call myself a ‘Survivor’ and then that call came…the unwanted house guest was back and this time her name was Leukaemia…
To those of you who are regular visitors - welcome back! Apologies for the delay in updates lately. If you are a new reader or possibly even a new ADEC/ UAE teacher recruit this post may be quite rewarding (or at least I hope so!)
I have now been in the UAE for 9 months and I would like to highlight 9 lessons the UAE has taught me.
These are in NO specific order!
1. Our Home countries lose out!
In order to get these types of posts/jobs you need to have a great interview. I've realised that the interview panels are looking for certain aspects in Teachers which then results in a positive outcome. So without being arrogant or forward if you have the job or have been offered the job you showed something special. You may be a specialist in your field, you may have a certain area that is your focus, you may have brilliant ideas or you just may be a really good interviewee! My point is this, if our home countries realised what we were and treated us accordingly then we would NEVER have looked for these posts. It took me a long time to accept that my previous place of employment didn't attempt to make counter offers or even try and retain me, I was hurt, as is the case with almost every teacher I have spoken to here. I'm sorry to say this but it seems to be the reality: our places of birth, the places where our loved ones are, the countries we call home, the places that made us who we are, are the ones that lose out not us! I used to feel guilty leaving and coming here but not any more, I've realised that they lost out not me!
2. Home will always be home!
Since arriving in the UAE in August of 2015 I have not been back home. For me it was a necessity! I promised myself that I wouldn't return home for at least a year. My reasons for this were to be able to move on! My relationship with my school was almost a marriage, and my leaving a divorce. I lived on campus for almost 13 years ( 5 years as a boarder/school boy and then 8 years as staff member) it was my home! Everything I did was for or about school! I loved it. So I will almost make my year as promised but for a month or so but I can categorically say that I have moved on! Having said that I can't wait to go back home! Green hills, schoolboy sport, family and friends, rain and grass are some of the things I'm looking forward too. The UAE is my new home BUT it's not the same as home home, and will never be!
3. We are spoilt in the UAE
Before moving to the Emirates I had probably stayed in 3 hotels in 26 years and if you asked me to name them I probably couldn't! The lifestyle here is almost Kardashian like (without the raunchy side I'd say) Staying in a hotel every second weekend is NOT uncommon! Shopping in malls every weekend and a different one at that is NOT uncommon either. We are spoilt here, we are paid well, and we get to enjoy all of it! There is so much to do here, even those of us out in the West have a great time with the spoils the UAE has to offer from desert safaris, brunches, night life (in the city of course), dune bashing, quad biking, desert bonfires, camel racing and the list goes on! It's almost as if we are on an extended holiday.
(Disclaimer: this is a choice you make. Some teachers will disagree with me but that's ok. I made a choice when I came over that I would not work at home, just like accountants don't crunch numbers when they leave the office I chose not to do school work at home! So from whatever time I get home I do what I want and when I want! It's a holiday basically!)
4. The classroom atmosphere is different!
Teaching ESL (English second language) is not what I initially expected in fact it wasn't what I expected at all. Is that a bad thing? I'm not sure. Do I feel like I was sold a product which has turned out differently ........ Maybe! Am I sad I chose it.... NO! The students here (I am referring to mine and mine only! I work in a school of approx 180 boys from Gr 1 - 12 so I am NOT the norm) are great on the whole! You will always get one or three that are difficult but that's life. The first couple of days are difficult, you trying to figure them out they trying to figure you out, it's almost comical really! What I have come to realise is, after chatting to some of my kids, that these poor guys have had almost 6 English teachers in the last 5 years. They have to learn a different accent each time as the teachers come from all over the world! As teachers we try and decipher what they are saying due to language barriers. It's tough don't get me wrong but my goodness is it rewarding! When I have a 14 year old jumping up and down repeatedly because he achieved 10/10 for his spelling test for the first time it is truly magical! As mentioned in previous blog posts the education system here is only 6 years old and constantly changing so it makes the classrooms a very interesting place! The kids love rewards (stickers and stamps) and taking them away is almost detention like! If you are coming over be prepared for different - not bad, horrible, uneasy or unworkable just different!
5. Academic stimulation is somewhat lost.
Coming from a highly academic environment back home to my little school was a shock. Kids arriving at class at the start of the year/trimester with no books, pens, pencils, bags etc was weird! As mentioned the school system is only 6 years old there is still a long way to go. Now don't take the title the wrong way. Academic stimulation is different for everyone. For myself as an example I taught across 3 subjects when back home and was kept on my toes by students who were academically far superior than I remember myself at that age. We would have arguments and discussions about topics which would result in lengthy debates and finally a truce. That for me is academic stimulation. Here it is different. In my English class I'm not teaching Shakespeare's Sonnets or Jane Austen's texts but rather sentence construction, reading skills and spoken abilities. These are a totally different type of challenge especially when I have students who are not at that level. The stimulation has to be created by myself in the classroom. I have to come up with different and multiple ways of teaching verbs for example. Something I would have maybe spent 20 minutes on back home takes me a week here! As mentioned before the classrooms are different but a good different! Keeps you on your toes!
6. If you aren't open minded and flexible this is NOT for you!
I can't stress this enough. I see so many teachers here who don't have these characteristics and they are the ones who are having tough times. (Now some people might take offence to that, and I'm sorry but it is how I see it) I thought it was me when I accepted my offer but Twas not the case. I had myself wound up by the simplest and most petty scenarios, and often at that. You have to be able to think outside the box, you have to be able to operate outside the box. In fact just stay outside the box. It's not the same! It never will be. Things change weekly, sometimes daily. It's not worth being worked up about. Be flexible, choose your battles. Stay open minded! Learn the phrase: No Problem!
7. Patience is key!
You just simply have to be. If you find out 15 mins before going home that you have to stay at school for a meeting - No problem. If your class doesn't pitch to your lesson on time - no problem. If your class doesn't pitch at all and you can't find them and then find the whole school in the gym hall - no problem. If you prepared a test and everyone knows but suddenly that grade has a field trip - no problem. I think you getting my drift!
8. You will love the challenge!
Over the last week I have spent 3 x 45 minutes lessons trying to get my kids to understand and create their own slogans. Now this may be an easy task you would think but when I have kids who can't speak or understand English well, it is difficult. Besides the slogans I also have kids doing Grade 1 sight words and In the same class students who could write me a 300 word essay! It's almost like those mixed bags of sweets you get at sweets factory. You will come up with 100 ways to teach the same concept but inevitably you will have to redo it! Teaching here is not about how smart the kids are is about how smart you are in getting the concept across!
9. Negativity is everywhere!
Now I understand that some may say that these last few points were negative but they are not! Well I did not intend for them to be perceived that way! As I mentioned in point 7 patience is key. We are all different! I don't work at home, I know teachers that do everything at home. I have a wonderful school I know teachers who say they have terrible schools. The way we interact with each challenge we are faced is personal. Yes sometimes I feel down and negative but when I realise it I chose to fix that. I'm naturally a positive person - don't think I had much of a choice there. Naturally different people will have different views. Chose the opinions you find valuable and sift though the negative ones. We have bad days, we all vent frustrations and emotions. Some of us just chose not to live in that space!
So in these 9 months I think I have learnt a lot about myself. I have become far more relaxed in general, far more patient and definitely a better teacher! I can't wait to see what these last few weeks of the year are like and can't wait to see my family and friends back home!
I have just completed one of the most awesome holidays in the last few years. For our Spring Break (Easter Holiday back home) we were given a week off school so instead of flying to some exotic country like many of my friends, I chose to stay in the UAE and instead fly my parents out here for an awe-inspiring, busy and totally over the top UAE holiday.
So without boring you with a detailed day-to-day recount I will instead tell you about some of the awesome places and activities we visited.
The term 'brunch' is not a new term to my ever expanding vocabulary. However, as the English language will have it many words hold more than one meaning.
On on arriving in the UAE people were raving about brunch. "You must go there, that one is great, value for money, cool vibe!" To say I was sceptical initially about eating breakfast and lunch around 11 am would be an understatement!
Little did I know that brunch holds a totally different meaning here.
Besides all you can eat goodness and grapes and hops to go with it, it is a party during the day. I'm not going to spoil it for those who are coming or are here already.
Looking for a great brunch, these are the ones I've done and they are winner!
Coopers - Park Rotana
Courtyard - World Trade Centre
Lots can be said about Abu Dhabi! It is the capital city of the UAE and a city that most people don't really know about. When you ask people or tell people you work in the UAE they all respond:
"Wow that's awesome, it must be so cool living in Dubai?" - well the short answer to that has always been "Yes it is!" the truth of the matter is this: Duabi is great, in fact its awesome. I like it best because I visit and when I've had enough I go home!
Thanks to the crazy storm we had here this week (Desert Storms) we were given Wednesday and Thursday off so as ADEC staff we had an awesome long weekend (unexpected - which made it AMAZING) I decided to check my Entertainer App (2 for 1 deals) and see which hotel in the capital had deals on offer. I found one and booked. As I type this I'm sitting in the 4-star Marriott Courtyard Hotel at the World Trade Centre Mall loving life.
So the Entertainer works like this for those deal 'virgins' out there: You pay for one and get the second free. It's as easy as THAT. Just logon and see what available and pay. So I paid for the first night and stay the second night FREE - Who wouldn't want that type of bargain! You would be stupid not too? (I think!)
So it was off to the capital for me! Loving life. So coming to th city is always great - even if only to get out of our small little desert town! I did;t have any specific plans for things to do, in fact I had none. I was just simply going to relax and watch TV with some room service. After checking in I decided to take a drive to a really upmarket hotel in the city where my folks and I will be staying while they are here (13 days from today - I can't wait) WOW, can't wait to stay there it is exquisite. While being shown around by the staff they handed me a magazine which I flipped through and saw 3 things that caught my eye!
So an all together great day out today with my trusty camera at my side! So glad that I have brought it out again. First times really since I have been here.
Rain, clouds and cool temperatures were something I had resigned to not seeing that often while living here in the desert. However, in the last couple of weeks we have had a few instances of rain but nothing like last night!
A storm had hit Al Ain earlier in the afternoon and I had seen pics on the net as well as Facebook but never expected to be hit by the same storm. If you read my post yesterday (7 months), you would have seen that I was enjoying an awesome fire and quiet braai on my roof. A mere hour after that havoc was going on.
This was from outside my kitchen door on my little balcony.
This is from the door to the roof where I was happily braai'ing.
So when I woke this morning at 05h00 to ready myself to work, I was pleasantly surprised by a text message saying that all Abu Dhabi schools were closed today due to inclement weather. A luckily for that.... you will see why later.
So after a well needed sleep in, I took to the streets with my camera to capture some of the damage and cleanup operations taking place in our little town, Madinat Zayed.
All images were taken with the express permission of individuals in the images as well as Police on scene.
Water delivery trucks in the area were kept exceptionally busy, trying to pump water from the streets and then going into the desert to dump it. So wonderful to see how many police officers and municipal workers were out on the streets trying to clean up. Yet again, the people of the UAE doing everything and anything to help each other.
So after spending a few hours out this morning taking some snaps I made my way home and began working on this post.
Then it all started again. I was able to catch this early footage and pics from my phone.
Don't worry I'm not going to bore you with all the things I've done in the 7 'short' months I've been here.
Instead I'm going to drive you crazy and jealous with all the things I plan to do!
So now that you all hate me, may I take this chance to thank those people who made my life tough back home for giving me this new amazing life! You guys rock!
In true Huysamen style I'm celebrating with an awesome bonfire on my roof, braai'ing a steak a little later and sipping on a cold one!
As my Dad always says: " I wonder what rich people do for fun?"
I set up this blog when I arrived in the UAE for one reason and one reason only and that was because when I had made the decision to leave where I was and move to the UAE I searched the internet (as only I can) for info on teaching here, teaching for ADEC, teaching English as a second language (ESL) and living in the Emirates and in particular Abu Dhabi.
Little did I realise that Abu Dhabi was not what I thought it was. Abu Dhabi is a city (the capital) as well as an emirate (province/county/state) so even more to my surprise I didn't really find anything, that I felt, was real, up-to-date and informative, that was probably because I didn't understand what I was looking for.
Now I hope that you are reading this because you are about to make that leap or thinking of making that leap.
I'm going to try and give you as much info packed into a less than 20min read! Apologies if I jump around, I often just type as it comes!
Living in the Emirates
No matter where you come from living in the Emirates as an expat will NEVER be home, you will forever be a visitor in another mans land. Now don't get me wrong, you can make it home. I have. I have everything I may ever have had back home, my home (Villa) is kitted out with everything I need and even more things I probably don't need. No matter which country you go to you will always be a visitor so it is no different here. I have mentioned in other blog posts that never have I met more friendly and welcoming locals, the Arabic culture is one that I'm happy to be learning about. They are welcoming, open and extremely friendly.
The Emirates is based on Arabic culture and Islam. So what does that mean? It means that the majority of the inhabitants, around 95%, are Muslim. So the easiest way to explain this is, when you visit a guest or establishment in your own country you behave according to their rules? If you do the same here you will have no issues.
You are able to buy alcohol, as long as you have a legal licence which are extremely easy to get, as long as you supply the correct documentation. The Emirates is exceptionally welcoming (I can't say this enough!) the state is very liberal. Of the population here around 50% of it is expat so the locals are very accommodating.
There are sections in some supermarkets where you are able to get products which aren't part of the Islamic culture, and as long as you are respectful you shouldn't have any problems. Well I haven't!
Accommodation is more often than not in some sort of high-rise building (if you live in the city) or Villas if you are placed out in the West where I am. What does it mean? Well you won't have a garden or anything similar to think about. There is sand all around you. My building has 8, 2 bedroom apartments in it and there are 12 buildings like it in my 'complex'.
Driving - this is a scary task at times. Besides being on the wrong side of the road (if you coming from South Africa) drivers here are quite impatient, and to be honest I think I too have become quite impatient on the road. Often you will be flashed by big SUVs on the road to move out the way and even more so if you are in a smaller car than theirs. Speed is regulated by radar/speed cameras but very rarely is it observed, except when nearing the radar!
Teaching in the UAE
From what I have seen, researched and observed there are two options to teach in the UAE:
I work for ADEC, so thats all I know. I worked through a recruiter, Sharon. She was brilliant. They did everything for me: documents, prepping, mock interviews and arrangements. Find them at www.teachanywhere.com
Once you have a letter of offer, things start happening quite quickly. VISA and ticket arrive and then you are off - (it can at times take a long time to receive your VISA and ticket but believe me the wait is SO worth it!) Once you get here you are treated like royalty. 4/5 star hotels, all paid for. You go through a week or two of orientation and training and then you are placed. Check out early bog posts for day to day details:
Probably easiest to just go back and read all the posts.
Teaching for ADEC
This is a bone of contention for many people I know who came over in our group. You will be placed where ADEC need you so you have NO choice in where you live or work. Thats the reality. There are 3 places you could end up:
Now a piece of advice from me is this. If you decide to make this move, you must have a goal in mind. Either:
Now many people here are open about the fact that they are here to save money and go back home, thats great! I'm not here for that! I'm perfectly poised to travel the world and now that I can afford to I am, and do all the things I wasn't able to while back home. Always keep this in the back of your mind. Don't come here or accept the job if you aren't happy being placed out in the West!
I mean it! The West isn't as bad as it sounds BUT it is not the city and it's not as liberal. I love it though. Its quiet, you make awesome friends, and not so awesome friends.
It's as simple as this "The West is what YOU make of it!"
It's no secret that ADEC pays the best, and at the current rate of the South African exchange rate my "salary" changes everyday. Brilliant! The ADEC system is one of the biggest academic reforms in the world, the system is based on outcomes or objectives which students must master. Education is very new in the UAE so it is still in its infant stages however, we are running here!
Depending on where you are placed :) you will have differing class sizes and demands.
For example if you are in the city (Abu Dhabi/Al Ain) or major West towns you will teach one grade and have multiple classes which will range from 20-28 students per class.
Men teach boys and Women teach girls in separate schools.
Where I am in the Far West (miles away from the city or town I live in) it is very different. Depending on your subject and cycle (phase) you could teach one class across 3 grades. So I teach grades 6, 7 and 8 English with 7 students, 12 students and 12 students respectively. Smaller class sizes are great as they are easier to control, boys of 12-15 years old! Each school and area is different and you will not know what you are getting into until you arrive for the first day of school.
If you want a change, and a major one from what you are currently doing, sign a 3 year contract with ADEC and change your life, no matter how you look at it!
In the next week or so I will be putting together a more detailed post on the Western Region and things to do here!
Until then .....
I'm an emotional person at best. I felt it necessary to share how I'm feeling right now at this very minute.
I'm sitting at my desk with a mountain of marking in front of me but chose to take 5mins to check something out.
Wow. I'm crying. Not because this clip isn't beautiful, it is. In fact it's the most raw, real and emotional clip I've seen in a while but rather because my brother is home with my parents and the three of them are together.
Love you guys, can't wait for the four of us to be together again!
Been a bit homesick in the last week or so and even more so today.
Man I hope no one walks into my classroom now as I look like a wreak! Have a look at this.
An untidy mind. What is it? Why does it happen and WHY to me?
With negativity owning the sphere of social media and in particular South Africa at the moment it is of no surprise that my mind is messy! I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to social media. Should you ask me why I would probably not be able to answer that convincingly. However, following my Letter to Mr Zuma, I have been following social comments quite closely and have decided to share some of the best ones I have found:
An school mate of mine, has encapsulated my exact feeling so brilliantly. What I appreciate about this post is the quote which he completes his thoughts with:
“A man who blames his environment for his lack is a coward, a man who creates a new environment from where he is lacked is a hero. Be a hero!”
I agree, instead of standing back and accepting what is happening why don't we all act as hero’s and start creating new environments for ourselves?
It reminds me of an issue I faced while working in SA as a teacher. One thing that really irked me was the lack of accountability students and kids in general had. Often on a Monday morning I would be faced by very innocent faces carrying very somber and poor excuses of why their homework had not been done, or why their projects would be late. This lack of accountability is something, I feel, that is modelled, not learnt. Those somber faces would always be backed up with really well worded emails from Mum or Dad ‘confirming’ the story - what are we teaching our kids? We need to make mistakes, we need to fall, we need to be punished for things we do wrong.
South Africa needs to stand together on the other hand, why aren’t there people standing up for those people who are acting as ‘hero’s’, those students who are standing up for their rights? What is happening, those that are making the mistakes aren’t being punished and those that aren’t are?
A friend here in the UAE has recently shared her insight with me. She shares a pertinent thought:
“What is happening is not racism its prejudice, we have this innate fear of the unknown or the lack of understanding of each other and maybe we should start to understand each other first and put aside or colour barriers and the sins of the past, thats what is slowing down the future.”
She is quite right. These student protests are not creating new environments they are purely reactive on the past! Come on people!
Social media at the moment is totally dominated by these posts, and often its not uplifting or positive in any way! Having said that I have been watching with interest the goings on at some Afrikaans universities where they have taken to faith to create some sort of positive in this very negative situation.
To draw connection back to accountability and parents, citizens need to stop making excuses for the mistakes they haven't made, they need to stop covering up. The parents of our country (government) need to stop with the cover ups, they need to out, they need to allow accountability to take its course. The majority aren’t making the mistakes but they are the ones paying for it!
Let the students do what they do best, socialise and create their lives, not have to fight to stay in lectures! - If only we did that when we studied? :)
Dirty mind cleared, somewhat. May your weekend be blessed with only good things. May your social media feed be filled with positivity, I’m certainly hoping for that, for mine!
A big thank you to Ryan Campbell who shared this as a response to Lwazi's post above, so so true!
Just today I learnt of an ex-student of mine who lost his father as he was shot in front of his family at a braai in KZN, all because of a botched robbery/raid. Now there are a number of factors/people that could be blamed for this but what good would that be, it's never going to bring Ray back.
I know I'm not qualified to be giving this advice but feel I need to:
Dear Mr. Jacob Zuma
Please sir, we want some more! We want more love, more peace, more care and most importantly more control.
I'm a proud South African, a South African who has learnt so much about his country by not living in it for the last 6 months. Our country is beautiful, its plentiful and it's in trouble. You don't know me and probably never will, but I'd like to tell you about the country I live in , for now.
Its just as beautiful as ours, has diverse cultures, multiple races and a past. There is just one difference and that is that this country has respect for all its residents, whether local or not. I wasn't born here, I mean I've only been here for 6 months so couldn't have been. I have not been treated differently since my arrival, in fact I have been treated like family, like part of the furniture. To be honest I think there is just one simple phrase which sums it up: "I'm respected here!"
I think SA is in trouble and I know that there are people who can help fix that. We need to respect each other. That means owning up to our mistakes, accepting our differences and acknowledging that we can't do everything on our own.
I have a thought, and I would like you to just think about it.
If we respected each other as individuals and not by race or social class we would get a lot further. What do I mean? Well to be fair I'm a visitor while working here on a contract. However there is one major difference and I've already mentioned it! I'm respected!
SA is hung up on the past, not sure why because it can't be changed, just like people can't be brought back from the dead, we cannot change what came before us but we can change what is to come before us.
South Africa is going through a rough time at the moment and as a "Saffa" looking in from the outside it looks rather grim:
So what is my solution? It's simple really. South Africa needs to base it's growth on:
I know this will be difficult initially but make it happen, bring in respect for those people around us. We won't have students ripping down statues or paintings, poor people won't be forced to steal or kill to survive, government workers won't need to be corrupt and most importantly it won't be about race!
I love my country and I hope it will make it through his tough time!
P.S - if you respected yourself you would step down and let someone else have a chance in the hot seat.