Intern Journal: My Introduction to Nablus

Wall Flowers I have been teaching at TYO for two weeks now and I’ve been in Nablus for three. It already feels a bit like home.  Prior to classes, I had a weeklong orientation, which gave me a chance to meet local and international staff members and several translators and volunteers. I also tried to orient myself a bit to Nablus and to learn a few words in Arabic.  Not bad for one week!  This fall, I am teaching a fitness class for mothers and an art class for kids.  Ultimately, I am trying to create an environment where all my students can have fun, feel good, and express themselves.

Sports have always been a huge part of my life, and I am excited to share what I’ve learned with the moms of Nablus.

Originally, Bieta, my fellow intern, and I were scheduled to teach two different fitness classes at the same time.  Compelled by a number of factors, we decided to combine our classes. Now, the mothers have 45 minutes of cardio/aerobics with me followed by 45 minutes of dance with Bieta.  This not only allows all the mothers to benefit from both of our classes, but also lets us take each other’s classes as well.  It is really rewarding to teach the women a new move, and then watch them execute it successfully.  They are also slowly teaching me some Arabic, which is great for me and probably quite entertaining for them.

At times, my art class feels like a fitness class—these kids have a lot of energy!  With the help of my wonderful volunteers and translators, we have already done some excellent projects.  I find myself trying to channel every great teacher I can remember from my own school days.  With every project, my goal is to strike the perfect balance between structure and freedom. I want the kids to express themselves but not feel overwhelmed by the blank page in front of them.  Originally I had hoped to make Halloween masks in my Sunday class, but I wasn’t able to locate the supplies I needed in time.  At the last minute, I saw TripleX Coordinator Kelsey decorating her classroom door with paper flowers painted by her kids.  She suggested I try it with my kids as well.  I cut out a large circle and petals for each flower. During class, I let the kids paint the pieces one at a time.  Given their high energy, I figured they’d make a few flowers and be ready to do something else.  To my surprise, they loved the project so much that I had to ask the volunteers to cut out more flowers and other shapes so they could continue for the rest of class!  I was really happy with this project’s balance.  The kids were given a template, but they were able to paint any design they wanted on the petals.

When the kids return on Thursday, they will see how all their hard work came together. I hung their beautiful flowers and birds on the classroom’s walls.  Then, they will make the promised Halloween masks, and they might even get some Halloween candy.