Great Gains in TYO’s After-School Program

Jade engages children through a drama activity

On the first day of my After-School ESL and Psychosocial class with TYO’s International Internship program, I remember being incredibly nervous. Having worked with 6th & 7th graders in different capacities back in the United States, I knew that it could be challenging to engage this age group and I felt some anxiety over ensuring that their time in my class would be positive and beneficial to their learning. Now, I know that such feelings were misplaced as I have witnessed the growth of my students over our six weeks together at TYO.

In the beginning students were often shy to participate in activities, especially English classes in which they significantly lacked confidence. Both in large group brainstorming sessions and in one-on-one discussion, my students expressed a lack of self-confidence, not feeling like part of a community, and stress as factors that impacted their participation and enthusiasm for class activities. Studies have shown that heightened levels of stress, such as those often present in refugee communities in Palestine, can impact student academic participation and performance. Therefore, our psychosocial and ESL curriculums work off of each other to address the emotional development of students while building skills in the English language as well.

Through our psychosocial curriculum students are able to engage in activities that spark dialogue on topics of self and community, challenging them to critically consider such topics as self-worth, identity, family relationships, community engagement, and global awareness. Each week we explore a theme through play and learning, whether it’s creating drama skits about solving family problems, using technology to research information about a different country’s culture, or using music to express feelings and ideas about community and nationhood. The ingenuity my students have expressed as well as the maturity in which they have articulated their thoughts and feelings regarding these themes has often surprised and inspired me.

I believe that the confidence students have developed particularly through psychosocial activities have impacted their participation in the English classroom, as well. A joint study by a Korean and Canadian university has shown that a higher level of self confidence can positively impact oral proficiency in a second language. I have seen an increased willingness by students to provide answers to questions in the language and to speak English with volunteers and myself. Their increased openness to simply trying and feeling comfortable enough to be silly in our class means that learning English is entertaining for them and for the adults in the room. I have seen great gains in verbal and written communication, and I look forward to their continued progress in the language.

In all, the Fall Session has been an opportunity for growth for students, volunteers, and me. Together we have created a classroom community that is open, fun, and asks critical questions that will shape the future as these students move forward to make an impact in the world. I am hopeful for what they will achieve, and am excited to see these future leaders of Palestinian society thrive.


-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO