Learning From Our Students
Community English is my last class of the day, and I’m glad. Usually by that point I’m tired from teaching two classes, and luckily, Community English hardly even feels like a class. My students are almost all about my age, and my role in the classroom is more to stimulate conversation and facilitate games than formally teach. This week, I gave them a list of basic getting-to-know you questions to get them going. My favorite answer was to the question, “What would you do if you were king of the world?” One of my students sketched a quick map of Palestine and the surrounding countries and pointed to the lines he had drawn. “What are these called?” he asked. I peered at the drawing. “Borders.” He then reported that he would erase (this was a verb we had just learned) the borders between countries. I was proud that he was using the English words that he had just learned in a new context.
“What is your favorite thing about yourself?” was another question that evoked surprising answers. Many of my students struggled with this question before settling on something. One student said her eyes, and another said she liked that she was a good cook. Another student said that he liked that he made people happy. He is often a bit of a clown in class, which can be difficult for me as a teacher. I think he meant that he liked that he made people laugh, but the way he expressed it made it seem oddly profound.
Though I enjoyed the entire class, the best moment was when a student came up to me afterwards and said, “I just had a class in the university that felt like seven hours but this class it went by in just a few minutes.”
After team-teaching two hours of aerobics and dashing to An-Najah University to lead a Professional Competency class, I slide into my Community English class relieved and relaxed. Since many of my students are around my age, I often feel as if I am just leading a discussion or in charge of running a game rather than teaching a class. Often, the class has only a few students and rarely exceeds ten. It is the perfect atmosphere for learning and teaching a language.
Each day, the class begins with a review of the vocabulary that was assigned during the previous class. Next, we go over a short grammar lesson and play a game that reinforces the concept. Finally, we finish with a short worksheet. For me, it has been a fun challenge to try and come up with creative ideas that not only teach vocabulary and grammar, but also get the class speaking and laughing.
This past week, the vocabulary was “Talking about Food,” and we played a huge classroom game of memory. Students flipped over two sheets of paper per turn and had to try to match two sheets together. Every time someone got a pair, they had to use the word in a sentence. In order to help the students remember definitions, I had pictures for every pair. I also had pretzels handy in case any of the students forgot what “bite,” “chew,” or “swallow” meant. The game was a hit, and I can already see a change in my students’ confidence when speaking English.
Dua’a volunteers much more than her time to TYO. She dedicates her passion. In my Music and Drama class for kids, she transitions between an actress, a singer, and a helper to engage the students. But after class, she transitions into a student herself: an outstanding student in my Community English class.
In Music and Drama, I speak through an impressive translator to the students and to the volunteers. However Dua’a believes that she can become even more valuable in the classroom if she understands me directly. Because of her commitment to improving her involvement with the youth, she enrolled in Community English. By no means is Dua’a alone with this conviction. All of us TYO International Interns have volunteers taking Community English. Some are in our very course, while others are enrolled in one of the other sections.
Imad and Khamees, also volunteers with me, have English with my fellow intern Sarah. After class, Sarah often tells me how lucky I am to have such a great people as volunteers. I could not agree more. I am extremely fortunate to have Dua’a, Imad, and Khamees working with my kids. However, truthfully, we are all lucky here at TYO to have such passionate and dedicated volunteers. Whether it be in classes with the youth or during Community English, our volunteers constantly epitomize individuals wishing to improve their capacities so that they may better give back to the Nablus community.