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It’s that time of year again – whether near or far, it’s time to tell our mothers how much we appreciate their love and support. Here at Teach Away we’re all brainstorming the perfect gift for our moms: A bouquet of fresh cut flowers, a day at the spa, or a home-cooked meal? Mom will just have to wait and see…

While many countries throughout the world will be pampering their mothers this weekend, you may be interested to read about a country that celebrates a slightly altered version of this holiday. And though many of you may want to give a thumbs up to the mothering skills that made you turn out so darn good, you may be surprised to read that mothers in one part of the world might wash your mouth (or hand) out with soap if you dared raise your thumb at them this Sunday. Concerned moms who are heading over to teach in the Middle East this summer may want to read this month’s Teach Story, all about schooling your child in the UAE.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the fantastic mothers out there!
-The Teach Away Team

In this issue:

Happy Parents’ Day!

A Gesture Speaks a Thousand Words

Teacher Story: Schooling My Child in the UAE

Happy Parents’ Day!

Although Mother’s Day has become an (almost) universal time of year for showing love and appreciation to our hard-working moms, South Korea – perhaps in the attempt to make sure dads don’t feel left out – has combined two holidays we’re familiar with to make one special day for two of our favourite people: Parents’ Day.

This Saturday, children in Korea will be spending the day pampering not one, but two parents. In a country where respect for one’s elders is already a cultural norm which far surpasses what western teachers may be used to back home, on Parents Day, it’s not hard to imagine that Korean moms and dads are treated like queens and kings for the day. While in most countries, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday of May, Parents’ Day in Korea always falls on May 8th. It’s only a coincidence that the two holidays share the same weekend this year.

Along with presenting their parents with red and pink carnations (the symbol of love, admiration and gratitude), Korean children devote the day to their lucky parents, making sure time is spent doing their favourite things and eating their favourite foods. Gifts are similar to those traditionally given to mothers and fathers around the world; however a somewhat shocking modern twist finds some children presenting their parents with fountain of youth type gifts: Botox and hair transplants are among some of the presents given to help parents maintain a more youthful look.

So whether you decide to pamper your mom or both parents, we hope that you have some lovely family time this weekend!

A Gesture Speaks A Thousand Words

Teach Away Staff pictured from top to bottom: Jessa, Valen, Kathleen, Kate, Adrian & Ash

Okay, we promise to stop hinting that you should show mom you care with a sweet gesture this Mother’s Day. What we’re really talking about here are those gestures you use, every day and without a second thought, to simply and quickly communicate your feelings to those around you. This type of non-verbal communication becomes even more important when you’re living and working in a place where you don’t share the same language as the locals. But what if your grandiose gesture to communicate (yes, pun intended) doesn’t share the same meaning in your host country as it does back home? You don’t want to ruin relationships you hope to forge with locals before you’ve even settled into your new community, so read on to learn about 5 gestures that get the thumbs down…

5 Hand Gestures that get the Thumbs Down

Thumbs Up – Although this gesture is used to signify a job well done in many western countries, we wouldn’t recommend sticking up your thumb to friends, co-workers, or virtually anyone in a large part of the Middle East. Otherwise, you may quickly become very unpopular with the locals who will wonder why you continue to use such an obscene gesture after they’ve just done something deserving of praise.

A – O.K.! – Although you may often give this sign to mom to let her know how much you like her food (and to avoid talking with your mouth full), be wary about where you are in the world before you use this sign as a compliment. Its meaning varies from slightly offensive to downright vulgar in different areas of Europe and Latin America, so this is a good one to double check before you book your next plane ticket abroad.

Come-here! – When you use this gesture, you may think you are innocently asking your friend or student to come over to where you are, but if you’re in Philippines, this is a call used only for dogs. Not only will you insult the person you hope will come join you, you may even get yourself arrested for this “crime.” Although not necessarily negative in Northern Africa and some other Asian countries, locals won’t know what you’re asking and may run the other way!

Got your nose! – An innocent game of “got your nose” that adults in some western countries like to play with kids could get you in big trouble in Japan. As this sign is considered extremely vulgar, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to use it around kids – or anyone you know, for that matter…. unless you’re planning to time travel back to ancient Greece where this gesture was used as a symbol of fertility and good luck.

The Pat on the Head – Another innocent sign of endearment gone sour if used in some European countries, Thailand, and certain Buddhist countries is a simple pat on the head. While some of us like to show fondness for young children by softly patting them on the head, your affectionate gesture will be misinterpreted as condescending or downright degrading depending on where you are in the world.

Schooling My Child in the U.A.E.

Story & Photo by Darline Coupet

Before signing my contract with Teach Away, one of my biggest concerns was what I’d be doing about my daughter’s schooling. After all, I was going over on an education initiative to educate the children in the UAE, but I didn’t want that to mean that my own child’s education would suffer as a result. So before signing the contract, I talked to various people about the schooling options there.

I also did quite a bit of research on schools in Al Ain before we left. I looked into online schools, but found this to be a difficult task because it was summer and most schools were operating on a skeletal staff. I went to several sites and got the lowdown on the other schools in the area: Al Ain’s American School, Choufait, Emirates National, Dafour, Our Own English Speaking School, but by far, the one that stood out most prominently for me was Al Ain English Speaking School (AAESS).

Even though I was able to apply online, the process of getting my daughter registered was a little stressful. For one thing, space was an issue, among other things, like getting her placed in the correct grade. The paperwork we had gotten from the States did not read the way they wanted, and I had to go back and forth with my daughter’s school back home to get things just right. Then came the bill. A simple insurance bond cost 8,000 AED, and that didn’t even count towards the actual tuition. Next I had to pay 11,980 AED for the first semester fees. This did not include the two other payments of 8,700 AED in November and February which covered the tuition for the rest of the year. Yikes, over 30,000 AED! Schooling here is not cheap!

However, when I thought about the cost in American dollars, which was about $9,000 US, it suddenly didn’t seem as bad. Private school tuition in the US would run about as much—if not more. And though many of the families here have chosen to homeschool their children (and are doing so succesfully), I didn’t feel like this was the right option for my child. While some people are having their children participate in virtual schools, and others have formed study groups, I decided to pay the international school fees.

Education-wise, AAESS ‘s cirriculum is very different from U.S. standards. As part of the British system, here are some of the differences I’ve noted:

• An emphasis is placed on final exams when assessing grades
• There it not a huge number of projects/ tests throughout the year
• Parent-teacher conferences occur twice a semester
• There are over 10 classes in 1 year

For my daughter, Iman, school here has been a huge adjustment due to the sheer number of classes: biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, English, maths, Arabic, Spanish, drama, music, art, information technology, and phys. ed.—all in the same year.

Iman has made many friends at school, and now has friends from all over the world! This weekend, she went to a school friend’s birthday party and had a blast! All in all, she seems to be adjusting well. Finals will be here soon, so she’s been hitting the books. I’m working on a schedule to tutor her at least three times a week because with all those classes, it seems she could use the extra help.

Though the entire process of enrolling my daughter in school in the UAE was initially quite complicated for me, if you do your homework and have all of your documents in order before leaving home, it might be a much smoother process. I recommend visiting the different school sites to see what will work best for you and your child.

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