Monday, March 15, 2010

If You Can't Beat 'Em . . .

. . . join 'em.

"Pick your battles" is sage advice. It is an adage that applies to many different contexts, but is extremely relevant in Abu Dhabi. A good amount of selective inattention, especially about things that are way beyond my control, is necessary for survival. Seriously, if I tried to fight every battle and complain about every negative or ridiculous circumstance in my workplace, I would go crazy. (I would also be a jerk.) Some things just aren't worth the hassle. Take our fire drill for example . . .

Our fire drill was just plain silly.

Reason Why It Was Silly #1: We had to have a fire drill in order to show the Infamous Inspectors that the company hired to manage the school is doing their job. Fire drills that actually help you escape from a burning building in an orderly fashion--those are helpful. Fire drills that seem to be done solely for documentation purposes--those are silly.

Reason Why It Was Silly #2: Our school is small. It is rectangular. We have 12 classrooms, a few offices in the front, and a big covered gym/auditorium in the middle. There are doors at each corner and additional doors to the front offices; these 6 double doors lead to sidewalks on 3 out of 4 sides of the school. You would think that exiting the school would be fairly straight forward, right? Guess not. Since November, the bus monitors, bless them, have been laminating little cartoon characters and posting them on the walls around the school to show the quickest way out of the building. They have also been putting tape on the floor so that each classroom can follow their designated "escape route" to safety. Trouble is, they've changed the routes and the cartoon signs so many times that no one even bothers to look at them anymore.

This way!

Reason Why It Was Silly #3: If you follow the most recent "escape route" you will walk straight into a dead end. My students are supposed to follow the yellow tape from Room 4 out into the hall and exit the building through 2 doors next to the music room. However, these doors are almost always locked. I first noticed they were locked back in December when we started trying to go outside to do our weather unit. Every time I've checked since then? Locked. When the Vice Princpal's secretary came around to tell us that there was going to be a fire drill, I told her that the doors on my escape route were locked. She responded with a quick, "Oh, don't worry. We will unlock them for the fire drill." True enough, they were unlocked the next day. The day after the fire drill? Locked. Again. I guess she wasn't kidding when she said she would unlock them for the fire drill. Hopefully they will unlock them for the real fire, too.

Reason Why It Was Silly #4: There are no smoke detectors in our school. Hopefully the fire will be detected before the halls become a blazing inferno.

Reason Why It Was Silly #5: In my former school experiences, in a fire drill it was important to evacuate the school and then line up at a designated meeting point. It's pretty much the same in Abu Dhabi. However, I noticed a big difference when I started to compare where we're supposed to rendezvous. In the US, it was well away from the school. Here, well I guess we just butt our kids back up against the burning building.

Each class is supposed to line up in front of their sign. My two classes are 1/3 and 1/4.

When I saw these signs up before school, I had to chuckle. I could just picture myself saying, "Here, children. Line up!! Yes, back right up next to the blaze! Keep going! KEEP GOING! Straight line! You--NO talking! What? Oh, that's just smoke. Don't you pay it no mind! You'll be safe because you're on the outside!"

Reason Why It Was Silly #6: We never even checked to see if everyone was present. Instead of standing with clipboards, class lists, walkietalkies, and a simple system for notifying the principal that all students were accounted for, we just quickly walked outside, lined up, stood for 5 seconds, and then the students were dismissed for snack break. I felt like it was more of a speed drill than anything. (Yes, the nurse had a stopwatch and yes, she was using it!) I sure hope everyone in my class was outside; I tried to count before we left, but the nurse was screeching at us from down the hall. Without having any time to check once we lined up, we could have easily been missing Shaqra in the bathroom or something.

For like 2 seconds, I thought about talking to the administration to suggest new fire drill policies--or at least to tell them that they need to unlock those doors. However, I quickly regained my senses. Naaah. That battle's not worth the effort. Some things you just gotta let slide . . .

My new outlook is to reserve my energies only for issues in which the outcomes will be "very possible" and "highly likely." Very possible we will have another fire drill? Nope. Highly likely we will get some smoke detectors in the next couple months? Nope. Very possible they will switch our emergency rendezvous location? Nope. Highly likely those doors will stay unlocked on a daily basis? Nope. Highly likely we will have a real fire? Let's hope not !!!

Oh, Abu Dhabi.