My First Day (or: Off to the Races)

crby Mary Ann Constantini

This will be different – very different.

We were living in a small Arab sheikdom.  My husband was with the state department.  I had resigned myself to being an embassy wife.

Early there, we were attending a camel race which can only be described as chaotic.  I left my husband for some reason and when I returned, he informed me I would report for teaching duties the 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, 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-seventies, 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 said in a English.  Thus, administrative people had to speak English, or in this case, at least have some knowledge of typing formats.

My first class were eager young women students of modest backgrounds.  (Later, when I taught at the local college, my students were mostly of the Royal family).  Their English, to be kind, was marginal.  My Arabic was non-existent but we were all willing.  I was only a few years older 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 key board, monkey-see; monkey-do.  This is how it went for the entire course.  It is a high light 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 federal prison, a private girl’s school, community colleges, a business college and a high school.



  1. I love how this is how you got your start in teaching. What an experience it must have been. We are so grateful for your worldly knowledge.


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