From Nablus Preschools to TYO: An Interview with Core Teacher Fawz Jabi
It has been a great first two weeks with our 4-5 year olds in the Core Child program. Though there were a few tears on the first day, the children were all smiles by the end of last week; on Thursday afternoon, as each class took off towards the buses, they eagerly showed off their many art creations on the theme of our second week: community and family.
It has also been exciting to welcome our two new Core teachers, Amal Khdair and Fawz Jabi. At the end of week two, we reflected on the beginning of the program and how TYO compared to their previous work and classroom experiences. Fawz, having previously taught in a private Nablus preschool, offered great insights on the differences between her previous teaching experience and her first two weeks at TYO.
Since you have taught in Nablus preschools before -- what do you find different about TYO's Core program?
When I taught in a Nablus preschool, you didn’t hear the word “child” as much when we talked about our work. The focus was on what we were teaching, not who. Our conversations as teachers centered around the content of our lessons, for example writing skills, reading the Quran, and basic math and counting skills.
Here at TYO, the word “child” is the center of every conversation. When we talk about planning lessons, we talk about how each activity helps the child grow, how it promotes his or her physical and mental well-being, and how it helps us understand the root causes of the child’s behavior.
The work environment is also very unique. At TYO, I have access to people coming from different backgrounds in both education and psychology, and everyone is involved in sharing classroom ideas and techniques. There is so much input behind every activity, that you can’t help but to feel confident when you finally have a chance to give that lesson.
What has been the most rewarding part of your first two weeks teaching in TYO’s Core program?
The more rewarding – and I would say surprising – experience has been teaching hands-on Arabic lessons. Because I have taught Arabic for this age before, that is where I can clearly see the contrast between my previous work and TYO.
At the preschool where I previously taught, we followed rigid lesson plans that did not invite creativity from the kids or from us as teachers. At TYO, I worked with Ahmad [another TYO Core teacher] to develop an art-based lesson plan for teaching the first few letters of the alphabet. I enjoyed teaching the lesson, but the most rewarding part was the day after, when the kids returned remembering everything we had taught the day before.
Do you see any difference in the kids in TYO's Core program versus those you taught previously?
The children are not fundamentally different, especially not at such a young age. However, the environment at TYO is very different than a traditional preschool, and it brings out a different side of the kids.
I taught in a well-known private preschool, so all of our children had their basic material needs met. Additionally, their parents were willing to invest financially in their education. However, that financial commitment did not mean that the parents were truly engaged in their child’s development; on the contrary, I saw how the parents’ focus on investing [financially] in academics caused them to neglect other aspects of the their child’s life, like the importance of play and creativity.
At TYO, our children come in at very different levels of academic abilities, reading and letter/word recognition, speaking abilities, etc. Additionally, most of our kids come from a difficult home environment that does not offer options outside of the norm of frustration and violence. What amazes me is that that background does not limit their capacity to learn. For example, because of their restrictive home and neighborhood environments, many of the boys in our program struggle with hyperactivity. However, as teachers we learn how to embrace their energy and encourage them to put it towards something positive; we learn how to turn their energy and hunger for new experiences into curiosity to learn. It is much more challenging for me as a teacher, but it is also more rewarding.
- Interviewed by Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager