Thursday, March 19, 2009

Doha: Day Three

Day three was the Day of Touring Schools. Lots of schools & nurseries (which is what they call daycares, montessoris, etc.). We finally found the first thing we've fallen in love with here: The American School of Doha (ASD). It's really fabulous, and it's where we'd want H to be enrolled. It's very much like an American school that's simply been transplanted to Doha, except there's obviously a more multicultural student body. They have beautiful facilities, class sizes are around 20 kids per room, and thanks to Shell and Exxon, it has resources that most elementary schools in the States don't have (laptops for the kids, for example).

We did look at another possible school for her, and we were distinctly unimpressed. So, we kinda had our first potential "deal-breaker": H must get into ASD.

We toured two nurseries, one of which follows a modified British curriculum but employs a lot of the montessori methods, and the other of which follows an American curriculum with many of the montessori methods. We were most surprised to learn two things: no collective naptime and no tiny babies. The assistant director at the first nursery, which was quite impressive, was in disbelief at the idea that an entire group of 2-year olds could all go to sleep for a nap at the same time. Instead, they have a "sleeping room." At the parents' request, or if a child appears to need rest, he/she is taken to the "sleeping room" for a nap, where he/she is watched and cared for by one of the staff. The rooms have tiny little toddler beds where they can rest at any time during the day if needed. In addition, the custom here is that children aren't placed in a nursery until they're about 1-year old (or old enough to sit up and pull up on their own). The idea of a 6 or 8-week old baby going to nursery seemed to shock the non-Western people we spoke to.

Of course, all school and nursery administrators confirmed what we've already been told: the entire daily schedule here begins earlier than in the US and is abbreviated compared to what we're used to. So, most schools begin between 6:30-8:00 and run until 2:00-3:00. This is partly due to prayer times & Muslim schedules and partly due to the weather during the hot months. And, I suppose, partly due to a cultural difference that places more importance on family time rather than 10 and 12-hour work days like we do in the US. There's also a difference in the class sizes. Though the ratios in the nurseries are 3:1 (children: adults), a class may have 22 children. Only about 1/3 of them go every day of the week, but that's a lot of kids in a room, especially when we're used to E's class size of 8 toddlers (two teachers). I was a bit put off by the large, loud nature of the classes, even though I knew there were plenty of teachers caring for the kids. We liked both nurseries well enough, but we left the tour with a preference for one over the other because of the nicer facilities and outdoor play areas. One was also more centrally located than the other. But, we were still insistent that we visit the montessori school I'd found while back at home. I found it online, and all the descriptions offered on its website really made it sound like it would be what was closest to what E is used to.

We were all toured out, so we called it a day and grabbed lunch. I'm scheduled to present at ASECS next week, and I have yet to revise my conference paper, so I took the afternoon to work on it a bit and take a quick nap. While I did, Hubby visited one of the main hospitals to see if they carry H's medication (for ADHD). They'd never heard of it. This isn't good.

We ended the evening with dinner at a really nice local steakhouse with the liberal arts program coordinator and his wife. They have three daughters and have lived here for three years. They too initially signed on for just two years, and now they aren't sure if they'll ever come back to the US; that's how happy they are here, and this is the kind of story we keep hearing. People plan to come here for a year or two, and they end up staying because they a) really like the lifestyle and increased family and/or research time, and b) like the freedom of not having the usual stresses that accompany an academic career in the US (committees, high teaching load, pressure to publish, publish, publish, and nonstop budget cuts). During dinner, Hubby and I made it clear that while we still have a couple main concerns--getting H into ASD and making sure we can get her medication--we're committed to this opportunity.

2 comments:

Jennie said...

I was going to comment yesterday, saying something along the line of 'once you get settled into life there [which is always difficult, no matter where it is], you may never want to return.' Because there are so many perks. How can one return to US wages and taxes and housing expenses, etc. after being accustomed to so much more? Not a bad trade, even if they don't have Fruit Loops on demand :-)

AcadeMama said...

Jennie:

This is what we kept hearing from the families in Doha. We met *nobody* who simply went, fulfilled their 2-years, and came back home. Every person/couple/family we talke to ended up being so happy there that they stayed, and some have no intentions of coming back to the US anytime soon.

I can't see this being the case for us, but never say never, right?