Thank God it's Friday

29th September 2006 at 01:00
Sunday There are ups and downs to teaching in Qatar, a tiny but hugely rich Gulf state. Today is a definite up. A colleague and I take our Year 10 economics and business studies classes to visit the state's telecommunications company, where the chairman tells us that the company is experiencing unprecedented growth. Perhaps this is why they give 15 of us an iPod nano. Mohammad and Hasheam lead renditions of The Wheels on the Bus on the way back to school.

Monday Woken at 4am again by a rooster. School starts at 7am; boys and girls are taught in separate classes. I teach seven of the eight 45-minute periods per day, then head home to eat before returning for a course information evening. There's a reasonable turnout for the International GCSE (IGCSE) presentation, but staff well outnumber the seven students and one parent who turn up for the International Baccalaureate (IB) discussion.

Home by 9.30pm.

Tuesday My lunchtime duty is on the field, where the boys play football, 25-plus on each side. It's a moderate 38(C but I'm still grateful my duty is only for 15 minutes. When the temperature approaches 50(C in summer, it's like breathing in the air from an open oven. The second coursework evening is almost a repeat of the first, except the IB history spiel proves too much for five students, who abruptly depart when it finishes, leaving three people listening to the remaining speakers.

Wednesday It's time to fill the petrol tank again, at 60 dirhams (9p) a litre. The downside is the roads of the capital Doha, where maniacal men (and women) compete with the drivers of 1950s American school buses to strike terror into the hearts of fellow road users.

Thursday My key stage 3 humanities lesson is a success. Footage of a Nazi propaganda film prompts rich discussion. It will be interesting when we deal with the Holocaust; there are students from every Middle Eastern country here, except, of course, Israel.

At weekends, the boys love camping Bedouin-style in the desert. Shopping in the malls is another serious weekend activity. Given our contributions to the presentation evenings, the head agrees to my suggestion to postpone the weekly after-school academic committee meeting of department heads. A definite up.

Mike Burns is head of humanities at Al Jazeera Academy, an international school in Doha, Qatar

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