Friday, October 28, 2011

Where did October go?

The view from the rooftop pool of our health club.

We still find ourselves saddled with more than a few items of furniture that we don't particularly care for, but we have much of what we need. A few weeks ago I was up early on a Saturday morning and was passed by at least a dozen buses filled with workers being brought into the city to work construction or clean the streets and park in the hot sun. They have very few possessions and most live in pretty crowded conditions. Being confronted with a population that has so little can really make you feel bad about whinging (Great Word! it's how the Brits and Aussies talk about complaining) in the slightest. We're making do, but in reality we're more than making do, we're thriving.

I have to admit that the part of town we live in has just the right amount of bustle--not so much as to overwhelm, but just enough to enliven. Every now and again we toy with the idea of making our break from the city in order to approximate a suburban lifestyle, but the pull of all the amenities, conveniences and activities is just a little too strong.

This is basically Liam minus the green skin and shell.
Karate and Kobudo continues to go well. James is really enjoying it, and the fact that they keep letting him come back is a testament to the patience and kindness of the senseis. For the past few months, there was a sign at our dojo indicating that they were looking for a new location. The building they were in is pretty old for the city, maybe twenty five or thirty years old, and it's slated to come down so as to make room for something new. We were a little worried that the dojo might be moved more than a short walk away which would put the onus on me to get them to their lessons, but it turns out the location they found was in our very building. The kids are excited and I'm relieved. Speaking of Karate, Liam recently tested and passed his green stripe belt in kobudo. Basically what that means is that he is getting quite good with nun-chucks and the bo staff, and that he's now allowed to play with marshall arts daggers called sais (for those who aren't sure what sais are, they're the weapon favoured by the teenage mutant ninja turtle Rafael). They are fortunately a blunted instrument, but they're pretty heavy and every time he starts twirling them about I fear a little for his toes. It's pretty cool to watch him. If he wasn't enjoying it so much, I might worry that I was trying to relive my childhood through his.

The new play sets at one of our favourite parks.

It can be very tiring.

I've written about the Corniche before, a long strip of waterfront with beautiful beaches, fountains, and a fantastic bike and walking path. It's about a fifteen minute walk from our apartment and is one of my favourite things about Abu Dhabi. On Thursday we participated in the 1st Annual Walk for Hope. It was great to get out with the family. James was hoping for more of a race, but the rest of us were more than happy about the forced saunter, and the weather was, as always in late October, absolutely perfect.

It has been a few weeks since my last post and we have been busy. It's just hard to identify what we've been busy at. Work continues to be both interesting and challenging for me. I am finding that I'm both becoming more efficient and feeling like I'm actually getting less done. I don't think that it's supposed to work like that.

I've been reading a lot more education related books and feeling more excited by my profession than I have in a long while. Like with most jobs, it's easy to get into a bit of a rut and to become so focused on the day to day that you never get a chance to step back and look at the big picture. These books have forced me to look at some specific things I am doing in the classroom and forcing me to evaluate the effectiveness of certain teaching habits I've held for a very long time. I'm not a bad teacher, in fact there are some things I do quite well. It's just that the things I've always been confident about as a teacher may not actually be the things that matter in the long run.

For anyone looking to justify hours and hours of video game playing, you might want to read Jane McGonigall's Reality is Broken. It turns out that all that during all that time I spent saving virtual worlds I was actually developing certain skills and habits that could help me save the real one. She's a little optimistic about the hopes and dreams of your typical World of Warcraft player, but she makes some interesting points about why we play games and how we might apply the reward systems built into the best games into real life scenarios. It's another book that's got me thinking about how I can better motivate and support the students I work with. And it turns the many hours I spent playing Portal and Super Mario into training for better world citizenship.

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