Monday, April 20, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
According to my most recent intelligence report, he is an eager and willing clone of the infamous Dr ‘Evil’ Fareed. Rumor has it that he is also a very close friend of another favorite of this blog, 'Tiny' Tim Smith.
Apparently, morale hit rock bottom last semester, due to his absurd micromanaging practices, and there have been few, if any, improvements in the new year. One of his unfortunate victims has referred to him as a ‘backstabbing idiot’ – which is probably about par for most HCT Chairs and Supervisors!
Examples of his total lack of proper management skills include sending emails in capital letters (what?!?), patrolling the faculty area like a zombie security guard (get away!), sucking up to senior management (I’m SO surprised!), and generally making faculty lives a misery.
Even worse, the implementation of the IPads and Ebooks, designed to enhance the students’ learning, failed miserably as Micromanager Miles made all the decisions and did not heed the advice of the faculty, who warned him of the IPads’ limitations. As a result there was a 75% failure rate last year.
So, welcome to these pages, Rob Miles!
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Well, what can I possibly say about the three years of my life that I have wasted working for HCT in Abu Dhabi? I suppose I should start with the positives, so this section will be very short. And my conclusion might raise a few objections too.
My colleagues were, in the main part, the best thing about my time there. They were generally professional, nearly always helpful, and cared about their students. My department was not filled with divas and prima donnas, and only featured a couple of ‘nasties’ and boot-lickers. Moreover, the students could be really great at times, although in general they were not greatly different from most typical Gulf Arab students. However, the negatives far outweighed the positives.
Many of my colleagues appeared to live in genuine fear of the upper management, as it was impossible to know what to expect from them. The senior managers used the fear of being fired as a whip to keep control, and this was backed up by seemingly random sackings. Our department head was generally regarded as a careerist bootlicker, a yes-person, and was treated (and quietly ignored) accordingly. In my department every single teacher was expected to teach way beyond the contracted 20 hours per week, and with so many different sections to teach, it was impossible to maintain the quality.
And regarding the subject of quality, I have to say that I noticed a deterioration in the calibre of the new teachers that arrived during my tenure. This was clearly related to the salary package, which actually underwent a noticeable decline, mostly in terms of reduced housing benefits and school fees allowances. No good teacher with a family would really want to work there now, as there are so many better offers available elsewhere. Now, any sane educator would ask themselves just why such a well-resourced and at one time well-respected college would take such an obviously willing dive southwards in terms of its salary offer. Wouldn’t HCT be keen to retain and recruit the best possible teachers for its students?
And then the answer hit me – like the Arab Spring! The powers that be in the UAE do NOT want top-notch westerners teaching its citizens anymore, as that sort of stuff only leads to the creation of false expectations amongst the people. Democracy? Forget it, Emirati – just stay in your overpaid job and do as you’re told. Enlightenment? That just causes problems, so let’s make sure you’re taught by docile Indians and Philipinos, who will be grateful to work for 10,000 dirhams a month. Yes, that was the reason behind it all the negative changes!
It’s all as clear as the noonday sun now. How sad that I wasted three whole years of my life at HCT in Abu Dhabi before I managed to see it for myself!
Friday, June 13, 2014
Saturday, May 17, 2014
You can find many similar reports there!
They do not respect expertise, education, contributions, ethics or hard work. They do not care how important you think you are. They do not care how many publications you have. If you say one wrong thing, to one wrong person, you are out. Period. And you have NO employee rights and no recourse.
They are actually now cutting employee benefits. The new housing allowance isn't enough to get a shady dump in the wrong part of town for your family.
They lie about how great HCT is doing. It is all propaganda. In reality teachers are on mandatory overtime (as much as 25 hours face-to-face contact time per week). Nobody is allowed any money for professional development opportunities externally. Students are allowed to skip classes or turn in work at such low quality the teacher does not even know how to grade it. Students cheat on papers and exams and teachers are not allowed to fail them. Students do 10% of the work that would be required in the equivalent course in the UK or Canada. HCT shows the accrediting committees all the fancy course outlines and technology. The accrediting committee needs to just test graduates and they will then see the truth: students do not actually learn anything.
Technology implementation is done contrary to every single project management guide on the planet. There are no usability studies. No pilots. Stakeholders are not included in key decisions. Stakeholders do not receive any communication. And teachers must implement the latest technology change quickly or risk losing their job. They change technology on teachers every year or two. Today it is this device. Then tomorrow another one. Teachers are stressed as they keep having to revise all their curriculum for the latest technology change they are required to use.
There are NO chances for advancement. The job you come for is all you will have. You will never get promoted. They will dump more and more responsibility and duties on you but never give you a new title or pay raise. There are no pay raises. Ever. Never. Right now they are firing people and hiring them back for a lower salary and with less benefits (Yes. Really. Remember: no employee rights). The social disparities and racism are rampant on top of that.
It is a culture of fear and negative morale. I would not let my dog work here. This place is toxic. The second I can leave I will. Everyone is madly searching for jobs elsewhere.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Firstly, if you really want to make a difference to the system of education at HCT, you can start just by introducing a few of the elementary features of what is normally believed to be ‘good teaching practice’. Although many of the students behave like naughty school kids, with their typical disruptive and disrespectful behaviour, this actually offers immense scope for professional development. For example, many of my students enjoyed asking stupid questions, scraping their chairs loudly on the floor, and falling into exaggerated fits of coughing whenever I opened my mouth to speak. Addressing these issues means that I can write a paper about the application of a wide range of motivational techniques – often when I am supposed to be teaching!
Another example of the students' exemplary application was the fact that they were often keen to sit there doing nothing, except chatting with their friends and toying with their mobiles. This general reluctance to write anything, except on the desk, sometimes meant that the class was carried out in the traditional oral manner that the students felt most comfortable with. Again, this problem offered another opportunity for activating the theory-practice dichotomy, and especially for the advocacy of not imposing text-based Western approaches to learning. Moreover, as many of my male students would constantly leave the classroom to chat with their friends, and others would randomly enter the classroom whenever they felt the need to speak with a classmate, this underlined the fact that they assigned an inverted sense of importance to formal Western notions of discipline, clearly prioritising the local culture. In most cases, the students failed even to bring along their course books and pens, again illustrating their attachment to the traditional oral methods of the transferral of knowledge.
Even the fact that many HCT teachers live in fear of complaints from students, together with the sure knowledge that the college management will not support them, means that a professional development opportunity presents itself once more. In fact, I am currently considering writing a paper regarding the crucial aspect of how teachers can preserve their integrity in a Gulf teaching environment without having to assert any of the approved attendance, discipline and homework policies, out of the very real fear that the students will complain and the teacher’s employment be terminated. However, this one might be a little more difficult than I first envisaged!
So, the moral here is: if you’re prepared to come and work at HCT, come prepared to do some research!
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
As a result of the above settlement, this blog will be closing down very soon, in accordance with the promise made to the HCT senior management. Certain postings will also be removed from the Dave's ESL Cafe website.
I would like to give my thanks to all the supporters of this blog - and its detractors - for their time and attention over the past years. Together, we have managed to prove that persistence does indeed work, and that the choking fumes of negative (but true) publicity can be used to positive effect.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Sunday, June 30, 2013
I found the daily stress there to be untenable. Not only was I on mandatory overtime (22 contact periods per week - ridiculous in a "collegiate" environment – though some colleagues were working up to 25), but they emphasize paperwork/professional development/meetings at the expense of doing a quality job in the classroom.
There were mandatory office hours - 8-5 Sunday to Thursday. In fact, when I arrived the mandatory hours were 8-4, but then we got a new director and assistant director. The ‘Supervisors’ would roam the massive faculty room to ensure all their teachers were at their desks until 5.
All faculty (approx. 70 at FWC) are relegated to one huge room in which they are assigned a workstation with absolutely no privacy. It was noisy as well. Administration insisted that such an environment promoted communication, collaboration, and coordination (the infamous 3 C's of HCT). They push "teamwork" ad nauseam.
Some students were OK, while many others were nightmares in abayas. Basically, HCT focuses on increasing the student population (thus bringing in more money from the government), resulting in "students" who shouldn't be there, young ladies who view college as a means of providing a social network. Often classes were out of control - several teachers walked out of their classes during my last semester there, including me (twice).
The curriculum went from bad the first year I was there to ludicrous the second year. They switched from an integrated skills curriculum to strands, requiring us to teach language skills in separate classes. That curriculum proved to be a debacle.
If you like meetings, then HCT is the place for you. As a rule, I hate them. I believe that, with few exceptions, meetings are a waste of time. At a previous college in Saudi Arabia we had one mandatory meeting per month, and I found that marginally acceptable. At HCT I had two mandatory meetings per week. That was simply insane.
And the conferences - mandatory, mandatory, mandatory. And they would punish you if you didn't attend them.
They pushed professional development ad nauseam as well - PEP, goals, meetings, seminars, etc. They even went so far as to hire a PD company from the USA to impose PD activities on us. At the first staff meeting for the new year we found ourselves playing in "teams" with pieces of rope for about 30 minutes. Again, it was insane, and a colossal waste of time considering the formidable teaching schedule and new curriculum for which we needed to prepare our lessons.
My first week in the classroom I was observed by my supervisor - and get this, it was also my first time with one of the classes. Insanity again!
I got little relief from the stress as work when I went home to my apartment. An Emirati family with two small children lived directly above me, and the noise would extend into the early morning hours. I complained to them, the apartment manager, and HCT for nine months with NO relief.
When you arrive they "give" you 30,000 dirhams and one week to buy all the stuff for your dwelling. You have to buy everything, including kitchen appliances, washer, etc. Keep in mind that this is a LOAN, and it's amortized over the course of your 3-year contract. If you resign early, you pay back part of that loan. It's not so easy to sell your stuff, either, unless you happen to be there when new teachers arrive.
I will give them credit for paying me on time every month and for providing me with a decent annual travel allowance (for me about $2800). They were also generous with the gratuity when I left. But that's all the credit I can give them.
Basically, HCT was a major disappointment for me. I don't consider them a college. The environment there, especially the behaviour of many of the students, reminded me of a middle school setting. With HCT it's all about window dressing, smoke, and mirrors.
Don’t go there.