—by MaryAnn Constantini, Honorary Golden Apple Council Member—
This will be a different kind of “First Day” story – very different.
We were living in a small Arab sheikdom. My husband was with the US State Department. I had resigned myself to being an embassy wife.
Early during our time there, we were attending a camel race – which can only be described as chaotic. I left my husband’s side for some reason and when I returned, he informed me I would be reporting for teaching duties the very next Monday! He had begun speaking with the man next to him, who was the Director Of Vocational Education for the sheikdom. (I was trained as a vocational teacher in Business Education). My husband described my skills, the Director said he wanted me to teach, and my husband offered my services. He would have made a good Arab.
The Director and I coordinated right there, on the spot, standing next to the race course railings, and I went to the school Saturday evening. The work week there was Saturday through Wednesday.
In the mid-70’s, as I presume it is today, English was the common language. In one office there might be an American, a Briton, a Frenchman, an Indian, and a Pakistani; and of course, Arabs. To get anything done, it had to be communicated in English. Thus, administrative people had to speak English, or in this case, at least have some knowledge of typing formats.
My first class of students were eager young women of modest backgrounds. (Later, when I taught at the local college, my students were mostly members of the Royal family). Their English, to be kind, was marginal. My Arabic was non-existent – but, we were all willing to try our best. I was only a few years older than my students so we felt a common bond. There in front of me were these clunky, huge Royal manual typewriters – no IBM Selectrics. (For you millennials, ask me later.)
That first day, I sat in front of a mechanical beast, with the young students peering over my shoulders as we learned the keyboard – watch-copy-do. This is how it went for the entire course. It is definitely a highlight of my unusual teaching career.
This first day was the beginning of wonderful, exciting, rewarding, and strange adventures in teaching. By strange, I mean: Arab high school, Arab college, a US federal prison, a private girl’s school, community colleges, a business college, and a regular ol’ high school.