Monthly Archives: October 2009

Actual email from a student

  • You know you have set clear, strict guidelines on handing in homework when…
  • and you feel bad laughing at both of the above realization when…

mr bowman i didn’t come to school today, becasue i caught a sevre flu yesterday.  As a result i didnt do my H.W however im going to do it now and Scan it to you, or if you want i can send it to school with my driver if it is very nesscary. please don’t deduct 10%

Forgetting what it’s like to be a student

HalloweenThe school celebrated Halloween today (and yes, we do celebrate that here in Jordan… at least at our school) which meant that people could come to school in costume. Well, one teacher had the brilliant idea of dressing as King’s Academy students. Our kids are always so disheveled, shirts untucked, ties in strange knots that I don’t think even people who sail know, pants halfway down the butt, everything wrinkled, and sneakers (which I’m wearing but you can’t see in the picture). It was a pretty funny day, and I certainly make a very convincing student given that I am pretty much their age anyway. Some people definitely had to look twice.

Being on this side of the equation reminded how much I’ve forgotten about what it’s like to be a high school student, how much my perspective has shifted. I may have just graduated in May, but after two and a half months teaching, I’m already starting to become a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, food-fight-breaking-up, inappropriate-joke-hating, grumpy-before-my-tea, out-of-dress-code hating teacher. Furthermore, my students told me that I give the MOST homework of all of the teachers!!! And I had NO. CLUE. I guess I was somewhat prepared to become fully teacher-ized, but I wasn’t prepared to become THAT teacher.

My kids don’t have homework this weekend. It’s not too late to remember.

I now officially live in Jordan… kind of

After more than two full months of living here, I finally have my residency. I was maybe a little bit illegal because the visa only lasts for one month and I never got it renewed. So I can say I officially live here… kind of. I got my card and my name is printed as BOWMAN GARRETT DICKSOI, so I guess he’s the one who actually lives here.

Well, no worries, I’ll just show them my work permit instead as proof… except that the work permit I got today is for a character by the name of BOWWAN DICKSON.

Hmm, I guess the police might punch me in the face for having illegal documents. That’s okay though, if they do, I’ll just use my Health Insurance card to see a doctor… who might not let me receive care because I have a health insurance plan for BOWMAN DICKAON.

Life sure is complicated when you’re trying to lead a bunch of different secret lives! But before you get on your high horse about how this would never happen in the states, my NH driver’s license (which is now very illegal considering none of my family have lived there for the past year and a half) lists my weight as ‘4‘. Four what? Four large bags of flour? Maybe four medium size dogs?

If it’s four pounds, then I need to stop gaining weight so fast. or maybe that can be part of my disguise, in my new life as Bowwan Dickaoi.

But my son told me he was taking AP Physics…

This past weekend was parents’ weekend, which meant the parents came to visit school and we had the dreaded parent teacher conferences. Mine went pretty smoothly – I only had around 10 meetings since so few parents showed up. There was a last minute change because of some Swine Flu mumbo jumbo, I wasn’t complaining. Most of the meetings were fairly normal, but here was my favorite conversation of the day:

Hi, I’m Bowman Dickson, I’m your son’s Physics teacher.

Hi, how’s he doing in AP Physics?

Well, actually it’s just regular introductory Physics.

But he told me he that was taking AP Physics.

No, he’s taking regular Physics.

But I’m sure he told me he was in AP.

Well, I teach regular Physics, and he is in my class, so I’m pretty sure he’s taking regular Physics.

So could he be in your AP Physics class?

I don’t teach AP Physics…

Oh, okay… So why’s he not in AP then???

Everyone has to take regular Physics before AP Physics. He’s in the class he should be. Don’t worry.

Got it. Okay.

Turns out the mom had just been confused, but I ragged on the kid the next week for a while anyway. I think I might start writing “AP Physics Test” and “AP Physics Homework” on the top of his assignments only, just to mess with him (and his mother). Hopefully I’ll meet more crazy parents to come!

The Amman International Marathon

On Saturday, with a group of faculty and students from King’s Academy, I participated in the “Amman International Marathon.” Before you think I’m some sort of crazy intense marathon runner, there was a 10K race too, which is the one I did. However, now I have a bag, a shirt and some other merchandise that indicates I participated in the Amman International Marathon, no qualifiers, so maybe when I’m 70 that’s what I’ll choose to remember.

The race itself was really awesome. I feel like a road race is a somewhat western idea, so it was really interesting to see it happen here in Jordan. The Jordanian take was certainly a little different. Instead of every single person DECKED OUT in head to toe athletic gear even if they were just planning on strolling the course with their fellow 68 year old retirees, a lot of people ran in skinny jeans, a few even smoking cigarettes. No one was putting on any sort of show about their level of seriousness about the race, which I thought was a nice idea. Who cares about false pretenses anyway?

Then, during the race, there was rampant cheating. If you notice on the map of the course below, there are a few places where the course did a tight U-turn and then turned back along the same road – a lot of people just decided to do their U-turn much earlier than the rest of us. At first, I thought this was strange considering it was a charity walk and most of the people cheating were just walking anyway, but then I realized, hey, the result is the same for everyone. The Cancer Foundation gets their money, and they don’t REALLY want to walk a full 10 kilometers, so they’re not going to. Who cares about false pretenses anyway?

Still, it was frustrating to pass a lady pushing a baby stroller and a guy running in skinny jeans with a backpack on at like kilometer 7 almost 40 minutes into the race and think “I know i’m not running very fast, but seriously?? I’m not running baby-stroller-skinny-jeans-backpack-cigarette-smoking slow.” Overall, it was a phenomenal experience. I ran the 10K in 50 minutes, which isn’t great, but I guess that’s not really the point of these things. I’d be lying to myself and you if I said I cared about the time… and who cares about false pretenses anyway?

Proof that I am actually working in Jordan

Ha, check out my faculty bio on the King’s Academy website… I feel so important!

Maybe I’m starting to become more Jordanian

The roads here are a little nutty and I often wonder if there are interesting cultural implications for some of the differences between the roads here and those at home. In the US we are solely focused on the rules of the road and if another car breaks those rules, we are completely blindsided. A lot of times, I don’t think we even notice the other cars, just the lines on the road and the stoplight in front of us. Here in Jordan, I think it’s the opposite. A lot of driving laws are broken very frequently, but drivers communicate a lot with each other through various methods (flashing lights, honking horns, yelling, gesturing…). The cars all notice each other more and the road less.

Both the American method of only seeing the rules and the Jordanian method of only seeing the other cars aren’t ideal of course, but I don’t think that either causes more accidents. It’s just a different way of interacting with each other, with the society around us.

The one thing that you can get in a lot of trouble for here is nailing a pedestrian. I was walking last night along a busy road in Amman and a car whipped around another car and stopped like two feet from my body. However, I didn’t even flinch. I just gave him a traditional Jordanian glare. I was either subconsciously very confident that he would stop or maybe I’m somehow used to almost being hit by cars on a regular basis that this incident wasn’t all that close. Or perhaps I’m becoming a little more Jordanian. Regardless, I’m a little worried that some of my American-style survival skills are being lost. Don’t be surprised if you see me when I return back to the States plastered to the windshield of a red ’94 Ford pickup.

King’s Oasis

Check out this aerial photo of King’s Academy. Even though we live surrounded by a desert, the campus itself is amazingly lush and green. I tell people I live in Jordan, but I’m not really sure that’s true – I’m on a walled in campus in the middle of nowhere (about 20 minutes into Amman, 5 minutes into a tiny place called Madaba), where everyone speaks English and walks around on beautiful green grass in the middle of the desert. I’m trying to find some sort of weekend opportunity that will get me involved in the community so I can get to know Jordan (and so my Arabic will actually improve).



I have a lot of moments while doing this job where I step back and think about how I knew so little of the hard work my teachers did. This past week, midterm comments were due, so I wrote a considerable amount for all 36 of my students while trying to keep up with planning class, grading, supervising co-curriculars and being worken up at 1:30 am by a pulled fire alarm. I was absolutely exhausted last week.

For one of my buddies in the class, a senior boy who also lives on my hallway, I wrote in his comment that he was a “goofball” because, well, he is! He calls me Mr. B, sometimes does this strange dance when he sees me, and I’m holding one of his homework assignments right now that has the title Physics with two little hearts drawn around it. Classic goofball.

I showed him his comment, and he didn’t know what the word goofball meant, so went to his room and looked it up online. Most definitions are something like “A foolish, incompetent, or stupid person,” and the thesaurus gives a slew of wonderful synonyms:

ass, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, buffoon, dimwit, dolt, donkey, dope, dork, drip*, dullard, dunderhead, fool, goof, goof ball, half-wit, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jerk, knucklehead, lame-brain, lightweight, moron, nerd*, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, numskull, oaf, pinhead, scatterbrain, schnook, simpleton, twit. –> Maybe I’ll stop describing myself as a goofball…

Needless to say he was upset at me. Even after I explained that I really think the thesaurus is off on this one and I was NOT trying to say he is stupid (okay, sure I was calling him goofy though), THEN he told me that his parents’ English isn’t good, and they will probably just look up the word online and see all of that stuff. Phew. Okay. True.

I think we finally reached an understanding, which will probably include an email to his parents and maybe a pity college recommendation, so the issue’s resolved. But who would have thought that calling someone a goofball could cause such a ruckus?

Wadi Mujib (وادي الموجب) – Climbing up waterfalls

PA030028Last weekend, I got together with a group of fellow teachers to hike up a riverbed with flowing water, up and over waterfalls, in and out of chest-high deep water up to a huge waterfall. Truly an amazing experience. I was skeptical that the place wasn’t just a ridiculously fun water park disguised into the amazing rock laden environment around it. We slid down rocks, jumped off some into water below, stood under a powerful waterfall and generally frolicked in some of the best nature that Jordan has to offer.

Who would have thought that a desert country with 16 kilometers of coastline would have such amazing water experience like this?

The safety precautions and liability protections from the park were laughable compared to what would have happened in the states. It was actually really nice – our society is too uptight and cautious, and not cautious to keep people safe, but to keep our money safe from lawsuits. Then again, someone died there this summer (eeeeeeh). Up at the top, we tried out some worst case scenarios (pictured) to teach the parks service a lesson.

A friend brought a waterproof digital camera. Check out the photos on the “Pictures” page.