No Excuses at An-Najah

There is a great deal of research and discussion in the United States about what makes individuals, and especially leaders, successful. What trait is the key? Creativity? Intelligence? Charisma? In my classes at An-Najah University, I’ve seen one trait leap out above all the others: persistence. More than anything else, it is the persistence of my students that impresses me, and it is their level of persistence that predicts their progress and success.

A number of studies and business leaders have made this same point, but seeing the trait on display in my classroom each week has made the point especially clear. The first display of persistence comes when my students simply walk through the door: out of a registered class of almost 40 students, my English class has less than 20 regular students; the rest either never attended class or fell away over the course of the semester. The high dropout rate is not surprising, given that this is an optional class, added to their already heavy workload, and it will not appear on their transcript. Only students who are truly hungry to learn English stick with it.

The second display of persistence comes with the start of class. I teach beginner English at An-Najah University and as a result, most of my students are at a very basic level of English comprehension. During these early stages of learning a language, it can be easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed; but no matter what topic we’re covering, from verb tenses and gerunds to there/their/they’re, my students are always eager, inquisitive, and involved. They ask questions, pose dilemmas, share examples, and dig deeply into the material we’re covering. Many of them approach me after class to ask detailed follow-up questions, or to ask for suggestions for further learning. Even the students who said very little during the first few weeks of classes have come out of their shells, becoming vocal and contributing members of the class—a testament to positive effect that persistence can have not only on educational progress, but also on personal development and self-confidence.

A student at An-Najah practices writing English on the board as part of a vowel exercise.

Students here in Nablus face many structural challenges that make education a challenge. To succeed, they will need every ounce of persistence and grit they can muster—and after seven weeks of classes with my students at An-Najah, I couldn’t be more proud of the persistence they display every day.

- Alex

Alex is an intern