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 The academic year of 2010/2011 has been one of the toughest I have ever had to endure. I was ‘blessed’ with a class of 21 very unique students. All of whom are very different from the other, but all are interesting, strong-willed and very opinionated.

I have never had to work so hard to gain students respect and trust. I’ve had to work even harder to make the academics interesting enough for them to want to stay seated and silent long enough for me to teach the material, skills and concepts necessary.

I had thought on numerous occasions to just throw in the towel and call it quits. The money isn’t worth the daily struggle to be heard and I don’t think the students would even notice if I didn’t show up to work. I would convince myself that it wouldn’t be professional to walk away from a teaching post in the middle of an academic yea, it wouldn’t be fair to put such a burden on my colleagues  and I gave my word and being a bit old-fashioned, when I give my word, I honor it to the very end. People break their contracts and their word all the time, surely I’m not that stubborn or masochistic to want to continue to endure this? Is it something deeper or stronger that keeps me from packing up my books and resources?

I would also question my path, the direction I took in to becoming a teacher. Why, oh why!??!?! I could have been a litigator arguing my way in courtroom, a child psychologist or a woman in the corporate world making close to a six figure salary by now. Did I misread the signs? Did I miss my true calling?

For the past two days I have been hauled up alone in my apartment with infected tonsils. I’m the type of person who has to keep busy or I will start climbing the walls! I did some revision and reading for my upcoming masters course, cleaned out the fridge, vacuumed, mopped, blitzed the kitchen, cleaned the guest bedroom and moved things around to make it look homier…. Just to pass the time. I was about to start on my bedroom (again) when I came across an old file filed with some of my teaching resources and amongst the papers I came across a paper that I had printed out three years ago. It was an e-mail forward about a teacher. I’d like to share it;

“Perhaps this will cause all of us to look at those who choose the teaching profession through a different light.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO decided to explain the problem with education. He argued “What is a kid going to learn from a person who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

He reminded the other guests what they said about teachers “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” To stress his point he said to another dinner guest, “You’re a teacher Bonnie. Be honest what do you make?”  Bonnie who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied. “You want to know what I make.” (She paused for a second then began)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like a Congress Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes at a time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or a movie rental… You want to know what I make. (She paused and looked at each and every person around the table)

I make kids wonder

I make kids question

I make kids criticize.

I make kids apologize and mean it.

I make them respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I make my other student from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make the classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, follow their hearts they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time)

Then when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…

You want to know what I make.

I make a difference. What do you make?

There is much truth in this Teacher’s statement. Teacher’s make every other profession. ”

Thanks to Don Liston, I know know who the author of the forward is; the above was written by, Taylor Mali

(end of email forward)

 Having read the above, I now know why I haven’t been able to walk away, because even thought I might not see the results of my efforts immediately, I Do Make a Difference, each and day, of every working week or every academic year. So, if people want to turn their noses up at me because I teach, that’s fine. At least I had a hand in sculpting the future… and I can sleep with a clear conscience.

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I went to London for the first time in my life! I know…it’s taken 32 years, but I got there eventually. It wasn’t what I had expected. I had such a gloomy image of London in my mind, where the food was bland and lacked taste! I have to say that it definitely exceeded my expectations!

I had hoped to be able to go sight-seeing with my Mum, but unfortunately she wasn’t well enough to walk around the city. So, I didn’t waste any time! Armed with my cap, camera and map I made mental routes in my head to get to the places that I wanted to go and visit.

The first thing on my agenda was to go to a park and enjoy the foliage and open space.
To walk around and enjoy nature and not have to constantly be on high alert expecting to be harassed or followed by men was such a treat. Unless you have lived in Egypt or the Middle East,you will not understand how liberating it was to be able to sit in a park and listen to the birds chirping away to one another, ducks and swans swimming in a lake, children running around, pet owners taking their dogs out for a walk in the park and being able to hear your own thoughts!! Another bonus to the park was people minding their own business, no one watching you, people spoke in low voices AND they threw their rubbish away! What made the experience even better was that the weather was perfect, it wasn’t too hot or too cold and hardly any rain at all! BLISS!

I made sure that every route I took went through the park, so that I could satisfy my craving before I had to come back to Egypt.
People in Europe and the West have NO idea how lucky they are to have parks that are well maintained and respected by their locals. I wish the few that we have were as well looked after.

Another desire that had to be satisfied was going to Art Galleries and Museums! I was so starved for culture that I went to three museums  in one day! I walked through Kensington Gardens, to Albert Hall and continued on towards the Science Museum. As I walked from one exhibit to another I was over come with a wave of mixed emotions. I was so excited to be there and to learn as I intently read the signs and listened to the explanations but I couldn’t help but feel very deprived. I would give anything to be able to take my students in Cairo to a museum like that. They would benefit so much from them. Getting information from a text-book is great but when you are in a place where what you are learning about is in 3D and visible to you, it can make a HUGE difference. Another benefit is for the students is to be able to experience and take part in the experiments that they have there.
From there I went to the Natural History Museum and I have to admit that I was BLOWN away!!! It was fantastic!! I am pretty sure that I went to every single exhibit that they had! I loved everything about that place! It’s a great place to take children to learn about Volcanic Eruptions and different species of animals. Once I had felt that I had seen everything that I wanted to see, I went across the street to the Victoria and Albert museum. By this time I was pretty tired, I had done a lot of walking, stair climbing, reading and picture-taking but I trudged onwards!

The Victoria and Albert Museum wasn’t what I had expected it to be. I thought it would be about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert but it wasn’t. It was more of an Art museum, which suited me fine, but there was SO MUCH to see!!
I wasn’t too excited at first but once I went from one room to another and saw the sculptures, paintings, furniture, traditional costumes from around the world, I was hooked and needed to see more!
I have to admit that I was exhausted and I toyed with the idea of walking to Buckingham Palace from there but I didn’t have enough steam to make it there. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since 9am that morning and I was exhausted but I decided to go and see Harrods. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Well…, I wasn’t very impressed to tell you the truth. I live in North Africa and I have lived in the Middle East and when I walked in to the renowned building I felt nauseous. It was SWARMING with overly doused cologne smelling ARABS!!!!  It was as though the place was infested with them! It didn’t matter what floor you were one, they were everywhere! I didn’t spend very long there as you might have guessed. Don’t misunderstand me, I have nothing against the Arabs, I just can’t deal with too many of them in a confined space smelling of Gucci, Aramani, Hilfiger and other scents at the same time! It turns my stomach! . From there I walked my weary feet back to the Hotel and spent the rest of the night downloading my 400 something photo’s on to my memory stick and showing my Mom the adventure I had been on that day.

While I was in London I had hoped that HRH Queen Elizabeth II would have at least asked me over for tea, but she mustn’t have gotten the message that I was in town, so I decided to walk over to Buckingham Palace and pay her a visit. Well, apparently a few hundred other people had the same idea, because I couldn’t get close enough to the gate! I had gotten there half way through the changing of the guard ceremony! I think her Majesty must have only just seen Mama Mia, because the band only played ABBA!

My colleague and friend Nora, (aka Falafel and Chips) was able to find me amidst the crowd. We used our Giraffe technique to take pictures of the changing of the guard, (standing on the tips of your toes, reaching ours arms high above our heads and aiming in the direction the music was coming from). Once the crowd dispersed we made our way to Westminster Abby and Big Ben. We didn’t linger there for long. We decided to take the tube and make our way to the Tower of London. (I had never been on the tube before either!)

* If you are going to go to London, YOU WILL NEED an Oyster card. It’s a prepaid pass that you can purchase at the tube station. I recommend you get it for all the zones! It saves standing in line to buy a ticket and when you’re almost out of credit, you just top it up with more money!

I had been watching the show the Tudors here in Egypt before going on Holiday and had previously taught some ‘English’ history so I wanted to go to a place that I had heard so much about. I have to admit that the entrance fee is worth EVERY penny!! I thoroughly enjoyed going around with one of the Beef Eaters and learning about some of the most famous events that took place there! It was fascinating to learn what went on in one place! So Much History!! We spent the entire afternoon there walking in and out of buildings, up and down winding stair cases and going from one exhibit to another!
I really enjoyed having Nora there.

I didn’t go to a single night club while I was there. The thought just didn’t appeal to me and who was I going to go with? All of the people I know who live in London, were either away or far to busy to meet up with me! So, I just kept myself entertained!

My Mum had hoped that I might run in to my future husband there…but NO SUCH LUCK! I have to admit the men in the UK are aesthetically pleasing to the eye!

I hadn’t expected to do much shopping there, but I did. I did some clothes shopping but most of my luggage carried DVDs! I am a movie junkie and HMV just fueled my movie addiction! They have a great collection of films and they have AWESOME special offers! I bought DVDs from EVERY HMV store I went in to! Collectively my mother and I came back with almost 30 DVDs and 3 box sets!

I really enjoyed my 9 days in Lond and I was sad to have leave and return to Egypt. I wouldn’t mind going back to London to visit. I really enjoyed the freedom that I had there, it was very liberating. Another reason why I HAVE to go back is because there are a lot more places that I would like to go and visit. In some ways it reminded me of Montreal where there is a diversity of nationalities and languages spoken.