Western Carolina University

Image: Gary Jones discovers the Great Pyramids by camel.
Gary Jones discovers the Great Pyramids by camel.
Gary Jones, associate professor of business communication at Western Carolina University, compares his summer teaching experience at the Sadat Academy for Managerial Science in Cairo, Egypt, to the movie “To Sir, With Love.”

In the movie, a teacher embraces the challenge of teaching children in a working-class inner city school. In Egypt, Jones left behind WCU's high-tech classrooms to teach business ethics and organizational behavior to hundreds of students in a loud, crowded and chaotic city.

“Downtown traffic is anarchy, and by Western standards I should have witnessed at least a hundred vehicular manslaughters a day – but I never saw a pedestrian hit,” said Jones. “A concept as seemingly basic as ‘organization' can be in the eye of the beholder, and, so it was in the classroom.”

Jones said success in a classroom that featured a simple whiteboard required intense planning and weaving in stories that would capture the attention of the students, whether they applied directly to the course material or not.

“My classroom technology concerns shifted from, ‘Will all 24 computer stations be up today?' to ‘Will my whiteboard marker run out of ink today?' which was a surprisingly frequent occurrence,” said Jones. “This was teaching in the trenches, and I loved it.”

In one case, two students who were talking in the back of a room on the first day of class caught his attention.

“After class, I quietly said a few words to them about this problem but without much hope,” Jones said. “They were Ahmed and Mohamed. The next day they shocked me by sitting in the front of the class and, during a break, hunted down a cup of fresh coffee for me. It was a verifiable ‘To Sir, With Love' moment as far as I was concerned.”

Those same students joined him later on one of his adventures, riding on horseback on the Giza plateau with the Great Pyramids in the background. Of course, Jones says, the story did not quite have a Hollywood ending. “They still talked in class,” he said.

For more information, contact Gary Jones at gjones@email.wcu.edu or (828) 227-3615.

Maintained by the WCU Office of Public Relations
Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Western Carolina University