Celebrations, Goodbyes and Reflections

Core ESL classes proudly display their certificates in honor of learning the entire English alphabet Last week was full of celebrations for all my classes for completing a successful nine weeks of lessons together. It was also a time to say goodbye and reflect on what we had learned from each other.

I conveniently taught the letter Z on the second to last lesson with my Core ESL classes, this meant that on that final lesson we got to celebrate having learned the entire alphabet together. I prepared brightly coloured certificates with beautiful stickers for the students- every certificate said it was awarded “In honor of learning the English alphabet”. Each student bounded up to the front of the class when their name was called, their grins almost stretched off their faces, they enthusiastically shook my hand and sat back down transfixed by the english words, pretty colors, and eye catching stickers on their personal certificate. To celebrate how far we had come we sang the alphabet the best that we could one last time, shouting and pronouncing each letter correctly! This group truly came so far and I felt extremely emotional saying goodbye, but being four and five they took it in their stride and I'm sure they will be excited to meet the next international intern that will be so privileged to have the opportunity to work with them.

One of the incentives to encourage attendance in the Professional Competency classes at An-Najah – other than the engaging and valuable classes that they were – was the promise of a program completion certificate. The last week of class we  were finally able to shake the hand of each participant and congratulate them on being proactive about their future and participating in our classes. It was a warm experience and there was time for us to casually talk and laugh with the students at the end. Each of my students took the time to take a personal photo with me and their graduation certificate. Whilst I always enjoyed working with this age group, I particularly valued being a part of the overall program as I could see tangible results impacting their future. I would often be astounded that these students had never made a CV before or that they did not know that you send a cover letter with every application. Their evaluations overwhelmingly showed that they valued the Professional Competency classes and that they were now more self confident about themselves in the professional world. I truly hope these classes positively impact their applications and they succeed in finding employment soon after graduation.

On Wednesday and Thursday we had class trips to celebrate grade four to nine's participation in ESL classes. On a sizzling afternoon we went to the park with the younger group; it was a day of playing on swings, kicking a football and exuding energy on large inflatable bouncy castles. It was appropriate entertainment for a group that had constant energy in class and had required me to plan entertaining lessons to keep them engaged in class whilst learning English. It was so nice to see students that were initially shy acquaintances in the first lesson now running around like best friends. I was proud to see some girls participating in football and the boys including them in their game- I hope that was partially a result of me modeling playing sport where possible and always enforcing mixed groups for activities. On Thursday we took the older group to the movies for a 3D film and to be honest their reactions in the theatre – as it was the first time many had been to the movies – was more entertaining than the film itself. They rived in their seats as 3D objects came their way and yelled and laughed constantly throughout the film. It was an appropriate reward for a group that took learning English very seriously- they wanted their skills to improve and were continuously gracious in class.

I often used to laugh that at TYO I was a kindergarten teacher in the morning, a university tutor at lunch, and a middle school teacher in the afternoon, so when it came to the end of the day I was confused as to who I was. It was all worth it though. Looking back now I wouldn't be able to drop any of these classes, I enjoyed them all equally and learnt a huge amount from how different each group was.

And just now the call to prayer reverberates around the valley, it is my constant reminder that I am somewhere foreign, as too often I forget. I forget that this place is foreign because of how welcoming the wonderful people have been. It is the people I have loved here, and now that I am leaving them I will not forget them- I will constantly talk about them and their hilarious stories, and too often their sad stories. It is my duty to talk about Palestine and not let the world forget about this nation and its proud people.

-TYO Intern, Celia