Elizabeth did the CELTA with us here at International House Buenos Aires in February 2012. Here she writes about her experiences teaching in Saudi Arabia post-CELTA. Enjoy!
For most of my first year, I was teaching as a classroom teacher at an International School. I taught English (literature), Math, and Science. Very different from what I was hired for.
When I was first hired, I was hired to teach adult women at a language center/training center in Al-Khobar. This being a contractor position, I was first contracted out for a month to a government high school to teach at a camp. It went ok – wasn’t organized and the assigned curriculum didn’t work at all, so I came up with alternative topics. The curriculum I was teaching was rather outdated (a lesson on directions is good, a lesson on how to turn on a computer seems unnecessary) but we made it work. After the camp, I started teaching at the language center. I taught level 1, conversation for level 5, a TOEFL class, and another camp for the Human Resources Development Fund (another camp, but more like business English).
We were off for 3 weeks for Ramadan and then in October the language center had to reduce its number of foreign teachers due a drop in demand, so I was transferred to the company’s new international school. I then taught 3d grade boys as a classroom teacher. The school was going through the process of gaining AdvancEd accreditation, so everything was very hectic. I finished out the year and in the fall I am going to be teaching EFL again for grades 3-5.
Overall, teaching in Saudi Arabia isn’t bad. In the end, most of your life will be at work so you have to make sure that you’re at a decent place. The culture here isn’t as strict as you think and many of your problems will be with work and coworkers. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of restrictions on what you can and can’t do, but if you put in time to really know what the restrictions are before you go, you’ll have less of a problem. I know Dave’s esl cafe isn’t a great place to get information about a workplace, but you can get some insight as to what people are complaining about – and the type of coworkers you’re going to have. Take what they say with a massive grain of salt, but it is a resource about a workplace. At least check to see if they pay on time. Overall, teaching in Saudi Arabia has been an interesting experience. I’ve gotten to do a wide variety of teaching jobs all with one country, and I’ve learned a lot about different types of jobs available. I’m excited to do one more year but I’m not sure about long term.
The Middle East is changing rapidly and you never know what might happen. I live right across the bridge from Bahrain and many of my students are from an area in Saudi that is known for protesting – Qatif. I haven’t seen anything happen, but you never know. It’s an absolutely fascinating place to teach with good students and an interesting culture. I recommend trying to teach here, if you’re prepared, for at least a year.