July 28, 2014
I the following blog on May 2nd of this year. However, with some tweaking, I am re-posting it because it definitely meets the criteria of today’s Daily Prompt: recount a time when you felt out of place.
I have spent a lifetime trying to fit in. Fit into what, I haven’t the slightest idea, but, fit in nonetheless. I have always felt like I was on the outside looking in, the only one who didn’t get the joke, the odd man out. Perhaps it is by design that I am a loner, because after years of trying to be just one of the crowd, I relent and choose my own company over a crowd.
Given this self-realization, you are probably wondering why in the world I would make a conscious decision to go teach in the Middle East. I’ve been wondering the same thing. I mean, that is certainly as far from fitting in than this Mexican-American chick would ever know. But go I did.
“And I never seemed to fit in!” she says incredulously.
Check out the picture above, dear readers. Imagine that you walk into work and are met with this image. Now imagine that your supervisor approaches you and says, “I need all of this by the end of the day,” and walks away. Now imagine one last time that completing this task is absolutely essential and is critically linked to your job performance. What do you do? This dear readers, was my life. I kid you not. Although some of my colleagues had a rudimentary grasp on the English language, not one would go out of her way to interpret what it was that I had do. Thus, I was left to my own devices.
Now, here was a big clue that I was not fitting in, I was left to my own devices. I sure wish I would learn to recognize these signs sooner. Hindsight being what it is and all, I see that my fitting in was never an option. However, I had a job to do and I was tasked with completing whatever it was that was written on that board. My supervisor really did this to me. I was blind-sided one afternoon when I walked into the teacher’s workroom and she approached me with the directive to complete the six tasks listed on the board.
“Here is where my Arabic lessons should come in handy,” I thought. “hal tasta Tii’iin musaa’adatii? laa aqra’ bil’arabiyya. tutarjim.” (“Can you help me? I can’t read Arabic. You translate.”) I said these phrases to several of my colleagues and was met with blank stares, and yes, even giggles. I know I was pronouncing the phrases correctly because when I uttered them to my vice-principal, she understood me. Sadly however, she could not convey to me in alinjliiziyya (English) what I needed to know. I would not be deterred. I was determined to find out what I needed to know. That is when I got the bright idea to snap the picture. I figured I could show the picture to my students and they could interpret it for me. I was extremely hesitant to do that, but what else could I do? I am a very firm believer in keeping adult issues away from my students. What happens in the teachers’ workroom stays in the teachers’ workroom, at least for me. These women were pushing me to compromise my values. They were forcing me to rely on my students, kids essentially, to complete my duties. I struggled with approaching one of my students for the better part of the day. I prayed for guidance. And I prayed and I prayed.
Finally, with only two hours left in my workday, I let out a resigned sigh and went in search of my most mature, most proficient student. I had a job to do and I needed a student to help me do it. Reluctantly, I conceded defeat. As I approached my student, I was intercepted by Miss D. Miss D was the same teacher who had first taken me under her wing and dared call me her sister. She had been conspicuously MIA all day; believe me, she was the first teacher who’s help I had sought.
She approached me and said, “Victoria, I have been looking for you.”
“Oh, Miss D, I really need your help!”
“Of course, what do you need.”
I showed her the picture of the whiteboard and asked her to please interpret it for me as I had to complete the tasks by the end of the day. She took my camera from me and scrunched up her nose. “Come,” she said to me.
Miss D took me to her physics lab and proceeded to pull out samples of what it was that I had to gather: copies of student completed worksheets, graded tests, modified lesson plans with differentiated techniques for lower and gifted students, and analysis of student work. Now this I understood. Miss D had once again saved me.
As it turns out dear readers, Miss D had not been at school that day. She had been preparing to take her students to Dubai for a science competition and had just come towards the end of the day to clear up a few loose ends. I had completely forgotten that it was her that had approached me telling me that she was looking for me. After I got from her what I needed, I remembered that she had been looking for me. I shamefully apologized for my rude behavior and asked her what she needed from me.
“Aasif, (I’m sorry) Miss D. What did you need from me?”
“Nothing Victoria. I saw the board when I came in and wanted to make sure you understood.”
Well dear Readers, I may not have ever ‘fit in’ in the Middle East like I had wanted to, however, Miss D saw to it that I was never alone. And looking back on my life as an employee, there has always been one special person who has taken me in and shown me the ropes. Even now, at my new job, I have been blessed with one of the veteran teachers taking a liking to me. She has helped me find my way around and seems to want to help me fit in. Thank God for people like her! Because of kind-hearted people like her and Miss D, I will not have to go through life with the back of my dress tucked into my pantyhose and no one to tell me to un-tuck. Peace, ~v.