December 2011, had I any inkling of how Qatari and other Arab students, and their parents, would make me hit bottom — professionally and personally — the following spring, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for another year at Qatar Academy.
In the post Qatar…From Afar: Long Flight to Freedom, I mentioned how one of the many ways the students did that was by conspiring “to make me look bad […] by making up complaints about lack of proper communication.”
Reproduced below is an email I sent a counsellor, following a conversation we had had the previous week about one of many unending and unfounded complaints made by some Year 12 Chemistry students. (Yes, I have all the emails from my time at QA.) Email clarifications — such as this one — to counsellors and administrators featured regularly that spring!
(NB: I have redacted above and withheld below the names of the counsellor and the administrators and have also redacted the surnames of the students, but have kept the first names of the students as they appeared in the email.)
Subject: For your information.
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 7:48 AM.
To: [A counsellor]
CC: [Three administrators]
Dear [Name withheld],
Following up on our conversation, last Thursday, I just don’t understand how it is possible for ANY of the year 12 students to say that I haven’t been communicating information about deadlines and expectations properly or in a way that they can understand or access! Here are the details of the information provided to them. I would appreciate your sharing this with them. (Incidentally, Mariam, who came in when we were talking, and went away saying that she would come back with the write-ups, she never did.)
To begin with, here’s a screenshot of the relevant section on the Moodle containing details of the deadline and expectations (in red) for the most recent lab report–Redox design lab report. (And the expectations this time weren’t any different from that for the last lab.) These details were communicated to them in class as well, of course!
Nasser, Amna, Karen and Mariam didn’t submit the write-up on time, and only two (Richard and Maha) turned theirs in to Turnitin.com. See below for screenshot of turnitin.com record for this lab.
Following that, I extended the deadline, which
- I communicated orally in class [emphasis added]
- I had it projected on the board while I was telling them, and followed it up by [emphasis added]
- email from the Moodle. [emphasis added]
I do all that to make sure that they get the information.
Following that, about five more submitted their write-ups in to turnitin.com (see the screenshot of the relevant page from Turnitin.com). Of the four that hadn’t submitted a hard copy, only one, Karen, brought hers in. Nasser, Mariam and Amna didn’t.
I again reminded them of the need to submit hard copies. One more, Amna, brought hers in five days ago!
I think I know why, in spite of all the effort I put into trying to get across notices and information, they still came to you complaining that they didn’t get these notices. The ones who complain that they don’t get the necessary information are firstly, absent regularly. Secondly, they don’t access the Moodle regularly. The last time seven of them visited the page was more than 20 days ago–see below for details. As of last Thursday, the last time Buthaina had visited the page was 96 days ago!
Hope that helps clarify things a bit.
To state it bluntly, these students essentially lied to give the counsellor the impression that I wasn’t doing my job. In reality, I would go above and beyond my call of duty. I would often bend over backwards to accommodate them. And yet, let alone get thanked for any of that, they conspired, regularly, to discredit me and humiliate me, just as Mohanad, one of their classmates, describes in detail here and just as the QA student comment left on The Washington Post article describes. One of the students named above capped off the year by mocking me from the stage at the “Leavers’ Dinner” that May.
And if all that didn’t sound crazy enough, one of the parents of two students I taught complained to the administrators constantly saying how I wasn’t a good teacher and how her children getting poor grades in assignments was entirely my fault. (The two kids often failed to even submit assessed work, and when they did, they would be plagiarised.) And yet, in private, she begged me to tutor her children privately! (See image below.) How screwed up is that?!
(Complaints that spring culminated with a parent threatening to bring up, with the board of directors, the issues “they” — the students and parents — had with me, unless I was either removed from the classroom and/or fired.)
And here’s another one. Winter of 2013, I caught a girl cheating, red-handed, in a test I was supervising. But the school decided not to take any action because the parents turned the whole thing around: they accused me of making physical contact with the student!
Cooked up allegations reached a whole new level in April 2013, of course, when a parent of a 12-year old got me not only fired from my job but also jailed.
And why was I treated so badly by those students and parents?
Because Qataris viewed my being there not as much to be a teacher and provide education as to do their bidding, just like the rest of the Nepalese in the country. (Many of us in the teaching fraternity in Qatar, including those from the West, used to call ourselves “glorified nannies.”) I was no different from their Nepalese security guard or driver or maid or cleaner or construction worker or even the engineer who worked in their office! (Yes, I do have stories about engineers!)
As far as they were concerned, all of us Nepalese were the same: a people at the bottom of the heap.
Why then would a Qatari or an Arab student at Qatar Academy, or their parents, treat me any differently?!
The other reason was that they knew they could get away with it and they did.
Is it any wonder, then, that those in Qatar treat so much more inhumanely others who don’t have support of any kind from anyone and are unable to stand up for themselves, namely the uneducated, unskilled Nepalese migrant laborers?!
Having said all that, the behavior of Qataris and other Arabs described here and elsewhere in my blog is NOT characteristic of every Qatari and Arab student, nor that of every Qatari and Arab parent, nor that of the rest of the Qataris and Arabs. That goes without saying, of course, but I thought I would reiterate it here.
Since returning to Nepal, I have been learning a great deal about the plight of Nepalese migrant workers. One of the things I have discovered is that many workers get sent home from the Gulf for being mentally unstable. A majority of them are women.
Based on my own experiences in Qatar, I can see how that could happen to them. You can take only so much of lying, conniving and mind-games for only so long. You can take only so much of constant abuse from those around you for only so long…before you lose your mind.
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