By: Sara Al Jandal
As Dubai American Academy (DAA) welcomes several new students and teachers each year, Mr. John Altman, a new teacher to DAA from the United States, has joined the math department. Known for his South Carolina accent and love for his cats, he loves his students no matter what school he joins. DAA’s staff and students are interested in learning more about the cheerful teacher. The Pawprint sat down with Mr. Altman to gain further insight into his life.
How was your transition to the Middle East? Was it easy or hard?
The first time I came it was fairly easy because Dubai is very westernized, as everyone here spoke English. Also, coming from Abu Dhabi where you do not need to drive, Dubai is different and harder because you are forced to drive everywhere.
If you had any hobbies before what were they? And can you still continue these hobbies in Dubai?
I sang in a choir, I was part of the running group and the cycling group, and was very active. Although, I do not continue these hobbies such as cycling, because I’m scared of being run over but I do try to attend spin classes every once in a while. Another hobby was singing in a choir, although I have not found a choir yet, I’ve only been here for 2 months so it is still early.
What made you choose to teach as a career path?
Stupidity! I’m just teasing! I’m not sure actually, but I just always loved school. I never really thought about teaching, my teachers said they always knew I would be a teacher. I went to university with a music major, although my parents convinced me to get a Math degree afterward. With this degree, I wandered into the course of education, naturally.
Have there been any significant moments in your teaching experience since you have been here? Any funny encounters with students?
Not really in DAA, yet. Although, in Abu Dhabi, they use British English at school so they would say different terms such as “rubber” for “eraser”. Once a teacher used their car to carry things to the school and asked us to leave it in the “boot”, which left us to think for a long time what she was referring to. Also while teaching Theory of Knowledge (TOK), a student had asked me if I took marks off if he did not put “full stops.” in the US we call it a “period,” then I proceeded to ask him if a “comma” was a “half stop”. These different terms would be the funniest part I would say.
Number one pet peeve that students do?
In general, being on time. In the US, time is very important, every second is counted and whatever is missed is physically marked on the attendance sheet. If the minutes are not passed then the student does not get credit for that class. Here it is more relaxed – I was meeting a student in Abu Dhabi for a meeting, and he said he would arrive at 4 pm, and ended up coming an hour later. This made me learn that usually the meeting time is extended by 45 minutes or so, as most people are late.
#1 thing you miss from home?
The ease, you can go to Walmart and buy everything in one place, and you know how the system works. Although here, there is the system, and the next time the system may be different. Just like now I know how to go to the grocery store, and I can get there without using navigation, but it took me a month to get used to.
One goal you have to achieve in 2019?
I would like to win the lottery..but I would definitely like to focus on exercising again. I had fallen out of shape when I came to the Middle East, and I’d love to get back into fitness, to fit in some of my clothes again. Goal two would be to be more balanced, as I tend to be a workaholic.
Leaving Mr. Altman you get the sense that he is very relaxed and excited at the same time by being at DAA. The Pawprint can look forward to the great spirit and overall happiness he can bring towards the DAA community. His wit and amazing understanding for all cultures are exactly what DAA is about.
Having a teacher with genuine love to teach and the ability to joke around is very important in order to establish the love for a certain subject. The DAA community will help Mr. Altman pursue his goals and missed hobbies, as he would do the same for each student.