Background info: My last two years of teaching in Abu Dhabi were stressful due to the culture I found myself surrounded by on my team. A couple of people on the team were amazing, while the others were just toxic. The administration allowed it to continue. So, last year I decided it was time to move on, but I wasn't done with the UAE yet. This is the reason I decided to remain in the same country, but seek employment elsewhere.
The job search was grueling this time. I interviewed with about a dozen schools, most of the salary offers way low than what I knew I was worth (salaries at most schools across the region had been cut the year before). I became frustrated and discouraged because I had never had an issue before when trying to find a job. But I kept looking and hoping. My last day I could inform the current school (at the time) was April 30th. By the end of March, I had already decided to ease back. During this job hunt season, I had met quite a few recruiters; honestly, I sort of lost track of the schools I applied for, interviewed with, and the recruiters I'd spoken to as well.
It was Spring Break and Mallory and I were enjoying a peaceful and relaxing afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria on the Palm (Dubai) when my phone rang. I answered. It was a French school asking me if I would be interested in interviewing for a kindergarten position. I laughed and thanked the kind lady, saying I didn't know any French. She said it wouldn't matter because it was for an English homeroom. She went on to share they would start interviewing during the end of April and decide on the right candidate by mid-May. I sighed and said my last day to tell the current place was April 30th. I said thank you but I couldn't wait until May. She said she would keep me on the list and update me.
The next three weeks, I had come to the conclusion and accepted the fact that I would be stuck at the same school and asked the principal to move me to a different grade. On April 25, the same lady called me to set up an interview. I reminded her of the April 30th cut-off date and shared I didn't want to waste anyone's time. She told me to try anyway because it would be good, and if it didn't work out this year, it may next year and my name would be known then. I thought Why the hell not and we set the interview for 7:30am the following morning.
On the 26th, I connected on the Zoom link with the principal of the campus, the woman leaving whose job I was interviewing with, and the HR woman who had arranged the interview. The interview was only about 20 minutes long, but I felt like it had gone decently though knowing I would never get the job. Heck, I wouldn't hire me to teach kindergarteners!
It was Wednesday, the 28th, about 5pm. At that point, I decided I was okay with staying at the same school and looking forward to my new team...okay, this was a lie. I was disappointed I was going to have to stay but was trying to force myself into a positive mindset. My phone rang. It was the HR lady telling me they loved me and wanted to offer me the position! I was shocked. She told me they were fast-tracking the hiring process so I could be assured I had a position the following year by the 30th. I sighed with relief! She also shared they had interviewed a more experienced teacher (in terms of kindergarten) but felt like there was just something about me.
At 3:30pm, April 29th, I gleefully placed my resignation letter on the desks of my principal, vice principal, and human resources person. My shoulders felt lighter. I felt happier.
Fast forward to August 28th: The day the teachers returned to campus for a start date with students on the 29th. I already liked this school...my time wasn't being wasted with back to school meetings for a week or two. I came onto campus that morning and then it hit me: everyone, I mean EVERYONE spoke French and not a lot of English. The two meetings we had were in French and I just sort of sat there, trying to pretend I understood though everyone knew I was clueless.
I am literally the only person on campus that does not speak French. You would think this would cause there to be friction and I would become an outsider or excluded.
I have never been happier with my surrounding co-workers. Usually at a new school, a few colleagues are warm and then there's those that are less-than-friendly. I admit, I could probably be put into that second category at times. But this campus is far from it. I only know the names of a few people, but every morning, I'm greeted with "Hi, Heather!" or "Good morning, Heather"! I don't feel excluded due to the language barrier at all because someone always takes the time to translate for me.
What is one of my favorite parts of being at a French school, though? Every Thursday, a group will put out a breakfast spread and my assistant kindly brings me a plate. Boy, do the French know how to eat and live life! I love it!
This year will be challenging, and yes, I've encountered moments of frustration: a new school, a completely new curriculum, a totally new age group, a new Emirate, new coworkers...but, as I hear "Bonjour, Heather" or am helped or engaged in conversation or when a colleague braves using her limited English skills to message or talk to me, I can't help but think this school is the right one for me. The agony of having to wait until the last minute to find a job was meant to be, and I am so very grateful for it.