One of the most exciting and interesting aspects of working at an international school is the opportunity to learn about cultures different from your own. When my family and I were considering a move from the United States to Singapore three years ago, a motivating factor was the opportunity for our daughter to gain a global perspective that we didn’t think would be possible living in Southern California. During the time that we spent in Singapore, we enjoyed learning about its unique blend of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian influences. Now that we live in Dubai, we have the opportunity to learn about a culture that’s vastly different from any other we’ve experienced.
Learning about the culture of one’s host country is part of the international school experience. Recently, third grade students from ASD visited the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. (Want to see photos from the students’ visit? Check them out on the centre’s Facebook page.) The centre was created when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saw the need to reach out and educate expatriates in the traditions and customs of the UAE.
It’s not just ASD students who have the opportunity to learn about Emirati culture. As a new administrator this past August, I joined a group of new faculty and staff on a visit to the centre. After enjoying Arabic tea, coffee and dates, we visited the Al Fahidi Historic District and the Diwan Mosque. Best of all was the question and answer session where no question was off limits. Our guide did a terrific job of demystifying topics that perhaps seemed mysterious to those of us who had not previously lived in the Middle East.
At ASD, Arabic is a required language class for all elementary students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Recently, the elementary Arabic teaching team coordinated a morning of activities for our students in celebration of the upcoming UAE National Day holiday. The children and adults enjoyed wearing national dress, watching traditional dancers, and posing for photos with a falconeer who brought a real falcon to the event. Honoring, respecting, and learning more about the UAE culture was the goal of these activities. At the American School of Dubai, we live our mission as we prepare students to contribute in a rapidly changing world.