My New Country and my Night Job

Some of you know that I am now living in Saudi Arabia.  If you read my earlier post, you know about my "Day Job" during the school year.  Now that school is finishing up for the summer I have time to comment on my "Night Job".  I still must work four hours each morning, but it is much easier than during the school year.

Every Saturday through Wednesday night, I am teaching English to adults in a Private English Language Institute.  People pay to take English classes here after they have finished work.  I teach a number of the police through a contract with the Ministry of Interior.  I also teach engineers and college students, as well as some younger people not yet employed. 

This Blog Post uses some words that you may not know yet.  It is mostly at the intermediate to upper intermediate language level, other than the new advanced level words.  If you use your English dictionary, you should be able to understand my story.

Teaching adults is usually much easier than children for several reasons:

1st.   Many are very motivated to learn English.  When people want to learn it is much easier to teach.

2nd.  This is not something required of them, they or their employers are paying for the classes.  People usually hate to waste money and are more likely to attend.

3rd.   Most of these learners already have a better English language background than the average schoolchild.

I really enjoy teaching my adult classes.  Most of the students are very good and improve very quickly. There are some thorns along with the roses, so I will point out some minor difficulties so you don't think it is perfect all the time.


Teaching adults also has some drawbacks (difficulties) here in Saudi Arabia.  Some of the drawbacks are cultural and others are individual in nature:

1st.   A minimum of two hours per day, five days per week is recommended to teach the "Direct English" program properly.  Here we have a cultural bias against attending classes on Wednesday night, which is the night before their weekend.  Many feel the same as people do on Friday night where the weekend begins on Saturday.  These students only receive 4 days of instruction instead of 5 days (a loss of 20% of the class time) even if they are on time for all their other classes.

2nd.   Three of the five daily prayer times overlap with the evening teaching schedule.  Therefore, even if a student arrives promptly, he can miss as much as 10-15 minutes for prayer during a one-hour class.  We do our best to work around this in scheduling classes but the prayer times change along with the day length.

3rd.    Some adults are only concerned with getting a certificate, which can help their pay rate.  In these cases, they may be very lazy about attending class and only come enough to get a passing mark instead of trying to learn more English.  This is more often the case when an employer is paying for the class.


Cultural difficulties are something that only need to be worked around.  Every culture is different and I would never expect someone to miss an important part of their religious life.  The preference for beginning the weekend early is something that I understand, but am unable to control with some of the students. 


The goal of getting an English completion certificate is not bad.  I do disagree with the plan of some students who come late to classes or miss classes entirely because they don't actually care about learning English, but rather just want to pass an exam and get a certificate.  Laziness is found in every culture and we can also find cheaters everywhere.  Please understand that these students are just a few and most students try very hard.


My favorite job is unpaid and I do it just because I love to do it, when I get time on the internet.  That "job" is interacting with all of you English Club members.  I can't imagine many of the members of My English Club deliberately missing an English class, even if someone else had paid for it.  That is why I love my friends here so much.  You all really care about learning English, just like the best of my adult students.  I hope that some day you all get the chance to have some classes like those that I teach here.  The students who come to class and study move very quickly toward better conversational English.


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Tags: English, Teaching

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Comment by Aspiandi on July 15, 2011 at 13:05

after read your article, I have a big motivation to Improve my english.. thanks a lot...

God bless...


Comment by Expector Smith on June 27, 2011 at 22:43

Hi Bob, 

I'm glad you're still the Bob to us! I somehow can't open the link in the comment, though.

Comment by Mr. Bob on June 25, 2011 at 7:48

Thank you Ahmad, Expector, Tara, John and Karenina.  As far as the name MR. BOB,  that is just a way for the Saudi students to find me on English Club.  They only know me as Mr. Bob.

I am still Bob to all my friends, so please just ignore the mister unless you prefer to use it.  I have been Bob since I started school and am happy to spend the rest of my life as Bob.

Comment by Tara Benwell on June 22, 2011 at 16:21

Fascinating! Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a post like this from teachers worldwide? I was really interested in how prayer time can take place during class time! I had never thought about that. 

I'm glad you enjoy your volunteer teaching too. Hopefully MyEC gives back to you in other ways. I think every teacher could benefit from the inspiration of our highly motivated learners. I'm going to share this on twitter and FB. 

Comment by Expector Smith on June 22, 2011 at 15:20

How are you, Mr Bob? I read this blog yesterday but failed to leave a comment. I just read it again and all the comments.


Thanks for sharing your overseas teaching experience, Mr.Bob.  I assume those are the photos of where you're teaching - looks like a very beautiful building. It may mean that they really care about English teaching. A good teaching setting is so improtant for teachers and learners.

I agree that some of the people aren't really interested in learning English - they just want to pass the exam they need. Those things do happen. But I'm sure most of the MyEC learners do want to learn and would make good students. That's why they liked this blog (from so nice a teacher of English, Mr.Bob).


By the way, I noticed you changed your profile name to Mr.Bob. Would you mind if we failed to add 'Mr' to 'Bob'? I know some people prefer being greeted by their first name:))


Take care!

Comment by Mr. Bob on June 22, 2011 at 9:51

Thank you for the comments:

@ Nida - I have offered to shift my work schedule an hour later in the night (for the summer vacation) since I know that prayer five times daily is an important part of life and should be respected.  I don't mind working later if I don't have to get up before dawn to get to school on time.

@ Nadira - Thank you Nadira. I know that you will get them all reading.  One of the most important parts of our program is to evaluate the students and find out which class they will do best in.  If they don't know the alphabet they must go to our earliest level class.  We sort the students into pre-foundation, foundation, and above those, levels 1-8.  That is the easiest way to teach adults or children, having the entire class at nearly the same skill level.  We don't do this yet in our public schools and that was the root of most problems teaching the children.  If I taught at the level of most students, the beginners were completely lost and the advanced students were bored to death.  Being lost or bored makes for behavior problems.

I remember with the children you had more advanced children helping some of the others.  I believe this may also work with your adults if you pair them up.  That way you can visit each pair, but the others can go on with their practice.  You have probably already tried this : ))

@ Nafis - What you say is so true.  If a person truly wants to do something they will find a way.  Material things are not always necessary for excellence to show through.  I am so pleased you are getting the opportunity to study overseas.  Many people would give up their right eye if it would buy them that chance.  I know that you will make the most of it.

Comment by Rabab on June 22, 2011 at 8:16

Thanks Mr. Bob for your precious blogs. We are really blessed to have you here in My EC.

Reading your blog filled me with nostalgia. You reminded me with the time when I was involved in such classes few years ago in a similar institute oh those where the days. I loved it soooo much my teacher was an American -I think I mentioned him in one of ur blogs once- You are really alike in many  things. You are both great teachers, love your job and very dedicated. He was like you new in a foreign country and was trying to figure out the difficulties and solve them. I joined his first class and then a year later. He was telling us how he improved his way of teaching according to the needs of the Sudanese students. He was amazingly dedicated. All his students loves him and his way of teaching and we were highly motivated. I remember that I was waiting eagerly for the next class. I am really grateful for him because of him I improved a lot. And I am sure that ur students is improving too I do envy them.

Good luck and wish you all the best


Comment by Nafis on June 21, 2011 at 18:35

Dear Bob, thanks a lot for the blog and nice photos. There are many people in my home country, Iran, that are hungry to learn but they can't simply because of the lack of money or proper facilities and good teachers. Your blog reminded me of one person who became number one in mathemetics without having any notebook or paper to write on.

 I'm given the opportunity to study in Canada and whenever I see the vast amount of posibilities of education in this country, I remember those who don't have this opportunity and are eager to learn.  

Comment by Nadira on June 21, 2011 at 8:40

Bob thank you  for this valuable  blog.  I have  just  started  teaching  adults and  it is sort of like a teething  period to me as i have most of my teaching period taught kids!  some  my general certificate  learners  donot  know their  basic  reading :( yet it is a challenge  I will see that  they are able to read by the time they finish  the course


Comment by nida on June 21, 2011 at 7:22

Thank you so much sir for sharing such an interesting story about your night job with us. I read your blog and your reply to Anele's comment and I'm feeling very "jealous" with your Saudi students. Learning English is my dream and passion and I would be very lucky if I were one of your students. Your teaching method is really very awesome.


I'm not a teacher so I can't share my teaching experience like you and Anele, here. However; being an adult learner of English myself, I can easily imagine how enthusiastic and keen your most adult students would in learning English. And as most of them know the value of English in today's world and above all as they are interested in learning English, you need not to motivate them and therefore you may put all your efforts on other areas of teaching. On the other hand, most of kids need a lot of motivation which consume a significant part of your efforts while teaching. 


As far as daily prayers times are concerned, you obviously can't do anything about them. They are obligatory and missing a prayer is not allowed in Islam at any cost. However; you may try to motivate your students so that they won't miss the Wednesday night class. Missing a class just before weekend is pure laziness and I don't think so it has anything to do with religious or cultural background of your students.


I really hope you would spend more time here in MyEC, especially during summer vacations.

Good luck for you and your students. And thanks again for sharing your routine in Saudi Arabia with us.

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