A day in the life of a modern tutor

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Dorothy Wade worked for two years as a governess for a ruling family in the Middle East. A 40-something divorcee, she had previously taught for 10 years in British comprehensives and international schools abroad. During 1994-95 she was responsible for providing after-school tuition to two highly academic Arab princesses in geography, English, history and economics at international GCSE standard and A-level.

Her financial package included a salary of Pounds 18,000 tax free; return flights home twice a year; all living expenses including the use of a three-bedroomed penthouse flat; a new car, petrol allowance and free telephone (except international calls). Because she signed an anti-disclosure order as part of her contract we have not used her real name.

"The first thing I'd do when I woke up was switch on the air conditioning because the apartment would be quite hot and humid by 8.30 am. It was on the 17th floor of a modern, concrete apartment block, furnished IKEA-style. From the windows you could see the six-lane hiqhway stretchinq into the desert.

"I'd have a very exotic breakfast, imported Weetabix and milky tea! Afterwards, well, it was a question of filling the time. I'd watch a soap opera or the BBC news channel or read a bit.

Most days I'd drive to the nearest shopping mall and get my car cleaned or visit the local museums. I tended to come home for lunch. In the afternoons I'd read or watch television, or I'd go swimming with a girlfriend, or drive off into the desert on my own exploring. Usually, I'd fit in an hour's preparation for an English or history lesson.

"Six days a week, at about 4.30pm, I'd drive to the palace. If the girls weren't ready for me, the maids would bring me a fruit milk shake and I'd walk round the palace gardens over looking the sea - small green parrots would fly out of the palm trees and dive-bomb me. My pupils were very bright, very quick and demanding which suited me because I'm a quick thinker too. I'd see them separately perhaps for an hour and a half each.

"For English we might act out a bit of King Lear, make essay plans and discuss the war poets. Mostly we discussed subjects that arose out of school work - how to answer exam questions, how to plan essays. The maids would bring a delicious Arab meal half-way through and I'd leave at the latest by 8pm. Sometimes I'd go to the 24-hour supermarket for a bit of night life, or have a meal on my own in a restaurant.

"I did join an expat club but if you're a single woman, the men just prey on you. Mostly I'd go home and read or write poems about loneliness. My day off, Friday, I'd spend alone at a beach hotel. Thank goodness there was cable TV, because it wasn't exactly an exciting place to be, although, some might think, what a cushy life."

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