Dear Dr. Hodge (Director, Abu Dhabi Women’s College)
I must request another meeting with you at your earliest convenience.
After our conversation of earlier this week, as well as earlier conversations with Ms Drissi, I felt better; knew that I would happily address any ADWC problems in semester two; and thought that all matters were at rest. Frankly, I had finally got the orientation that I had not had since September.
Then, yesterday morning, Ms Drissi called a meeting with Mr. Munns. Again, we three spoke with conviviality and I thought that the matter(s) was/were at rest. I, in fact, informed both supervisors of what I believe is low staff moral, owning to some of the problems that I had confronted. Please realize that I hear problems of the nature-described-below on a daily basis.
The following is my point-by-point rebuttal, in bold print. I must apprise you that none of the following was brought to my attention before Wednesday, 5 January 2011, after four months of employment. No complaints of this magnitude were ever made to me before now. On the contrary, I have had to self-direct myself as best I could since September. I have not had much support or direction since September, but, nonetheless, I earned a good administrative observation report, as well as good student evaluations. Moreover, I was shocked to receive the email below, given the good-natured conversation that I had with Mr. Munns and Ms Drissi.
January 11, 2011
Further to our meeting today, I am writing to express my concerns with regard to the issues highlighted. These illustrate a lack of professionalism on your part.
This was never brought up in any of our meetings.
Your behavior in terms of proctoring exams and other testing issues have shown serious breaches of test security.
Student classroom decorum at ADWC has been surprisingly negative ever since my arrival, especially for a tertiary institution. There were never any orientation sessions of what classroom rules should be, or that classroom management would even be necessary among young adults at college in a conservative country. I was astounded at the ADWC ‘culture’ which I walked into. Speaking with longer-serving teachers, many not very sanguine, I was told that ADWC student misbehavior is historic and endemic. Veteran teachers attest that ADWC student academic interest has become less, as behavior has become worse. I was given no classroom management instruction until I conversed with Ms Jo Probert, again not until January 2011, about what I should do, or what authority I would have in disciplining students.
Until Ms Drissi’s very late-in-the-semester appearance, no one ever informally observed any class which I taught - in fact, I thought management’s absence from my classes owed itself to their satisfaction with me. I took it to mean that the students had said that I was ‘nice,’ but taught well, and that this had somehow got back to management.
Laptops, surfing the net, earpieces, telephoning, texting and tardiness occur habitually by students in the ADWC classroom; even opened conversation as I instructed. Talking in Arabic during examinations has transpired previously even after I requested silence. Often my verbal requests go unheeded because there is too much extraneous noise in the classroom. At the moment of the above-referenced examination, four months of student classroom indecorum had already passed without so much as an ADWC management whimper!
Frankly, during my hiring process, “life” at ADWC was misrepresented to me. (1) I had no idea that I would be at the ‘desert’ campus. I thought that I would be in the city of Abu Dhabi, not a 45 minute bus ride away, unable to leave campus even to go to the pharmacy when I was ill. (2) I had no knowledge that I would have to commute nearly three hours daily, thus working a 12 to 13 hour day from household door back to household door. (3) I did not expect a lecturer’s schedule to be from 8 am to 5 pm mandatorily and daily. (3a) The work schedule, plus the commute, means that I get up at 5:30 am, and that I am not back in my home until 6:30 pm. (4) I was not told that the “settling-in-allowance,” in fact, was a loan, which until repaid, binds me to the ADWC in a form of peonage. Likewise, I did not expect to have to manage and to teach student behavior at a “college.”
The patented administrative response to date is that all information is on the ADWC computer “Portal.” One, this is not true. Two, the response confuses data with information. Can the information be readily located and meaningfully utilized? If not, it is only data which a newly arrived employee may not have time to cull through. In fact, after management’s misrepresentations, coupled with the 12 to 13 hour daily work schedule, I am too tired, and have too much work, to search the computer “Portal.” In an educative institution, where people matter, a computer should be no substitute for face-to-face orientation. At ADWC, the “Portal” is a gimmick for management who cannot be bothered.
The catch-all management retort, “It’s on the computer,” is merely a cover for poor managerial organization. It is also an excuse for not beginning the preparation of the newly arrived staff early enough. I requested that ADWC Human Resources (HR) bring me to Abu Dhabi as early as 20 August 2010, because I could foresee that I would not have enough time to settle and to prepare to lecture in a new university-level post. HR's response to me was, “Why do you want to come early?”
I was astounded that I could foresee five months into the future, to possible problems, even before having landed in the United Arab Emirates. What is flabbergasting to me is that ADWC could not. Perhaps HR's response, “Why do you want to come early?” owes itself to the fact that ADWC management’s summer holiday could not be interrupted. Could ADWC management not foresee that only one week would not be enough time to prepare for college-level classes in a new country? This showed me, even before I was in-country, that ADWC management does not care until there is a problem, at which time the desired solution is the issuing of warning letters and dismissals.
You have marked students’ work in a way that shows little regard for the criteria in place.
I was only given a criterion after I asked for one. There was never a staff meeting in which all were told at once, “Do this, do that.” I was given a criterion confected by another teacher and instructed “to use it, change it, or use my own.” Thus, I ask, what criteria were in place which all staff was uniformly apprised of? My answer is ‘none.’ In turn, I made the decision to be popular with my students, purvey knowledge, and to help as many students to pass as I possibly could. I determined that no student would complain to management about me.
This should not be taken as cheating or as having little regard for criteria. It should be taken as having academically weak, disinterested and poorly disciplined students whom I had ‘to win over’ in order to avoid their complaints to my supervisors; student complaints that are legion and legend in the Arabian Gulf.
An ADWC veteran teacher, with experience at the ADWC sister college in Dubai, as well as Abu Dhabi, told me that ADWC managers never know which complaining student has ‘connections’ or ‘power.’ As a result, since ADWC management will not risk itself or its salaries, and the students might be connected or powerful, thus it is the teachers who must be to blame. Besides, if students did not have to complain about teachers, then ADWC management would not have to be bothered…so goes ADWC-‘logic.’
The lesson I observed (as a drop-in) was one for which no instructions were given to the class and no teaching was taking place.
Ms Drissi dropped in on a lesson after Christmas holiday, at the end of the academic calendar. The teachers’ union under which I worked at ‘home’ would never have tolerated any observation at that moment of the academic calendar. It would have been a flagrant labor violation, dismissed in any labor arbitration process. Will someone explain to me why Ms Drissi was on holiday for two weeks prior to her ‘drop-in’ observation? No one else was on holiday. The teaching staff worked through Christmas!
Moreover, Ms Drissi arrived after the beginning of class. Instructions had already been given. The students had already informed me that the semester was over; that they did not want to do any class…home…or extra work; rather they were desirous of preparing quietly for final examinations. They reminded me that I had completed the requirements of the course outlines; in the case of reading classes, I completed the course outlines ahead-of-schedule. Of course, the students did not work quietly. However, a lack of classroom quiet-study was in keeping with the low level of dedication, and high level of academic disinterest, which many ADWC students had exhibited since September 2010. During this five month period, management said nothing to me and I got along with the students well.
To my credit, during the Ms Drissi’s ‘drop-in’ observation, I worked with low-mark and failing-students to finish their late work in order to boost their grades or to assure that they passed the course. Of course, no mention of my dedication to these ‘weak’ students is made.
Only Mr. Stephen Munns observed me this semester and I received a favorable evaluation from him. Additionally, the students observed me every day and, according to Ms Drissi, their student evaluations of me were high.
I know the Arabian Gulf well. You teach a little bit and keep people happy. ADWC management functions the same way. You never know which quibbling student has ‘connections’ or ‘power.’ You do not over-challenge or over-discipline ‘Gulf’ students. We teachers and managers are foreigners. It is the students’ country. This philosophy is used by ADWC managers to keep their jobs. Why does ADWC management not extend the same courtesy to its teachers?
You have taken a day off work without notifying the office when you had interview duty and exam marking for the entire day.
Guilty. On Wednesday, 5 January 2011, when management’s dissatisfaction with me was first demonstrated (Although nothing had been ‘wrong’ for four months!), I was admittedly so fearful and angry that, the following day, Thursday, 6 January 2011, I sought labor, legal and employment advice in expectation of being immediately dismissed from ADWC. Rumors abound about ADWC’s instantaneous dismissals. Who can be thousands of kilometers from home and suddenly without an income or lodgings?
You did not come in for part of a day when you had lessons timetabled, although you were not sick.
I suppose that this is in reference to one day, perhaps three months ago. I had ADWC mandated business, in the morning, in the ‘city’ with other ADWC employees. I expected ADWC to provide transport back to campus afterwards. I was never informed that I would be responsible for paying for a taxi cab to the Khaleefa, ‘desert’ campus, 45 minutes from Abu Dhabi city. Another employee and I attempted to arrange ADWC transport from the ‘city’ to the ‘desert’ campus. On two occasions the ADWC transport was canceled by ADWC.
While awaiting the transport, before and during its two cancellations, I went to open a bank account. Even after more than 30 days in-country, I was still carrying in my pocket thousands of dirhams daily, both my settling-in ‘loan,’ as well as a first month’s salary. No one in management ever showed any interest in this ‘issue.’ In fact, I was misinformed by ADWC and told to await the issuance of my Emirati identification card (ID) before I could open a bank account.
While awaiting ADWC transport, I walked to the bank ‘just to see what would happen.’ At the bank, I was told that ADWC was wrong; that my passport was good enough to open a bank account; that I should not wait for an Emirati ID because it would take too long; and that it was dangerous to walk about with so much cash in one’s pockets for 30 days or more. I willing informed Ms Drissi of all the above. She said that in future that I was expected to pay for transport even if I was on ADWC business. No, there are no reimbursements. That was at least three months ago. This issue has not been spoken about since then…except for now.
You appeared frequently unclear about what to do this semester, due to not reading emails properly.
How can ADWC management determine if I read ‘properly’? Newly hired teachers whom I have overheard, and to whom I have spoken, feel that the ADWC electronic mail ‘system’ is abused. Thirty ‘emails’ in the period of 50 minutes (I counted once!), especially at the beginning of one’s first semester, are only relevant to someone who is already familiar with the institution. A ‘new-hire’ is left reading disjointed data with acronyms, abbreviations and names that have no points of reference. Imagine: We do not expect our students to do such because we know that reading disjointed data with no prior references is not an effective learning tool. ADWC management subjects its newly hired teachers to a confounding and confusing computer practice. If we teachers dared to relate to our students in such fashion, our lesson plans would immediately be called into question.
This conduct is having an adverse affect on your colleagues and the department’s overall performance.
My conduct in no manner adversely affected my colleagues. On the contrary, I am well liked; disliked perhaps by only one member of staff out of a group of 50 or more. In particular, I am well liked by my students – something that I made a priority. If it were not for the many years that I have already taught, there is no way that I could have literally improvised, as ADWC obliged me to do, throughout the first semester of 2010-2011. ADWC should express its gratitude to me that I did so well for it, despite so little assistance that it offered me.
Please accept this as a formal written warning, and understand that any subsequent performance failings will result in a failure to pass probation.
I will happily leave ADWC, effective 6 February 2011, if I am granted a letter of release and liberation from my “settling-in-allowance”-cum-debt of 30,000 dirhams. I may want to remain in the United Arab Emirates, but I absolutely do not need to work at ADWC. Frankly, ADWC must decide if it wants me.
Yours sincerely, No, yours sincerely,
Jeanette Drissi John Hamilton
cc Martyn Forsey, HR Office