A Good Kind of Chaos in the Classroom
Consider the scenario of walking into a middle school and trying to explain hegemonic stability theory to a bunch of 12 year olds. You might as well be speaking a different language… which is how I’ve felt this first week of classes. Chaos reigns supreme in the classroom and my broken Arabic was no match for the student’s goal of maximizing the amount of fun at all costs. And this wasn’t a bad thing. I’ve come to realize through my classes that TYO is a place for the children to let loose and just be a kid, but at the same time it is a place to enhance their primary education experience. So yes, this week has been overwhelming, but satisfying at the same time.
Although my Arabic might have been no match for the kids, showing them that I love working with them, I want them to learn and grown, and - most importantly - that I want them to have as much fun as possible, was essential in gaining their respect. In just three days, I saw children who wanted nothing to do with sports, homework, or myself, asking me for help with their English homework and being the most active participants in my sports class activities. The students have enjoyed name games, ice-breakers, and tag during this first week, but are eager to move on to bigger and better activities like soccer, basketball and volleyball.
Working with children at TYO may be my focus, but my teaching experience with the women and college students has been rewarding as well. I’ve never met a group of women like the group that I work with in IT class. From the expression on some of their faces, you would think I told them they just won the lottery rather than have helped them insert a picture from clip art into Word. And in regards to the college students, they are equally as passionate about learning English and trying to build a successful future. These students don’t take their education for granted; they want to get the most out of it.
This week has been as much of a learning experience for me as it has been for my students. With the help of my awesome volunteers, especially my translator Mohammad, I’m sure that each day will be a step in the right direction. I have a newfound respect for all the primary education teachers who helped me to get to where I am today, and I hope that I will leave a similar impression on the children, college students, and women when they look back on their experience working with me.
The first week of classes has gone by in something of a whirlwind. Just as I started feeling like I was catching my breath in one class, it would be time for another. Mom’s classes have been a definite highlight. Having women show up, eager and excited to get in shape or to perfect their English language skills each day really shows what commitment the moms in this community have to improving themselves. The women in the classes have been ready and willing to try anything we’ve thrown at them so far, from fast dance moves to balancing on one foot in yoga and tai chi to playing catch with a tennis ball as a way to practice identifying subjects and objects in a sentence in English class.
My art class with 10-11 year olds have been chaotic and rewarding at the same time. Despite being the same curriculum on Monday/Wednesday as on Tuesday/Thursday, the classes already have their own personalities and feel to them that couldn’t be more different. We’ve already done sensory drawing and made comics in class. With the help of some awesome volunteers, we’ve been able to help kids with their homework each day as well as do some group reading activities in both Arabic and English.
The kids and moms here both have a definite sense of feeling at home here, and have been so excited to get to know me and the other American interns. Kids show up early to play soccer before class and enthusiastically play spelling flashcard games. Kids and moms alike practice their English with us and patiently work with us on our stilted Arabic as we continue to learn how to communicate with one another. It’s still a work in progress, and I’m still exhausted at the end of a jam-packed teaching day, but I can already tell that seeing the change and improvement in the kids and moms here at TYO, will make it all worthwhile.
As the first week of the session comes to a close, I am fully aware that while I am hopefully imparting some learning to the children, mothers, and university students I work with, I myself will definitely be learning a lot here at TYO.
TYO’s work with children is what first drew me to this internship and they are definitely a group of kids like any other: some shy, some rambunctious, some inquisitive, some suspicious of this strange thing called “critical thinking." The challenges of this first week has been me learning the ropes while also gaining the respect the children. Every day’s experience, however, gives me new ideas for the next day and the next project. And the most important thing I’ve noticed is to be positive and let the kids see how excited I am to be here with them. It’s amazing how even a little thing like helping a child draw a school bus can feel so rewarding.
My Women’s Beginning English class has so far been a lot of fun for me. Like working with kids, teaching the basics of a language in that language requires a visibly positive attitude and a willingness to act incredibly silly. Since I enjoy being silly, working with the moms of the Women’s Group has been a lot of fun. It is really great to see these women just as excited as their kids to come to TYO and learn something new. Or perhaps they are just coming to see this strange young woman who speaks no Arabic leap around a classroom pantomiming playing soccer and basketball or making exaggerated happy, sad, angry faces. The women of the aerobics class also seem enthusiastic at the chance to dress down and work out, and the work out is just as good for me as for them.
Generally, this first week has been hectic, busy, a bit stressful, fun, and ultimately rewarding, and I know the experiences I’ve garnered over these five days will make next week go smoother so I can focus on whatever new challenges come up.