Teaching is a Work of Heart

Offering a hand—in other words—helping one another, is a concept that does not require translation. In my time here, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support that all volunteers and teachers have given me to ensure the quality of education TYO’s kids receive. Working with these individuals has taught me so much about the importance of community work. The sense of community is definitely present here at TYO; it is at the heart of TYO, and without it, this organization would look entirely different. As a first time teacher, I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching techniques and activities so that they are more effective—and I have experienced that the best way to learn is from simply observing the teachers.


One of the teachers, Haitham Okeh, has an unbelievable amount of patience, a virtue I have yet to master. Watching him in class is such a treat because I learn so much from him. We have a couple rowdy kids, one of which is our adorable Rabee’a. Rabee’a is the type who will stand when I say “sit down” and will yell even louder when I say “listen” (of course, not without a mischievous smile!).


With Rabee’a, I am often unsure of what to do in the moment; but many times I have found that, while I am planning my next move, Haitham has already stepped in and managed to settle Rabee’a down. His secret? Rather than reprimanding Rabee’a for not listening, he praises him for his energy and makes the little man the leader of a group activity. It only takes half a minute and manages to hone in his focus!

The first time I saw Haitham’s techniques, and it actually work, my jaw dropped and I thought to myself, “Sign me up for his seminar!”. But with time, I realized that Haitham’s patience and skills are a result of trial and error. I would be crazy to think that Haitham got it right the first time; rather for every attempt he has had, he had a moment to learn and refine his skills. The success he has achieved influences not only the brand new teachers like me, but also his university volunteers.

Learning from Haitham really speaks to the support and sense of community I have felt at TYO, especially from the Core Program teachers. When I have asked for help – whether with new ideas on classroom activities, developing my teaching techniques, even sharpening colored pencils – the teachers are ready to step in to help me grow and learn. At TYO, teaching is truly a work of heart; and for me, it is the greatest kind of cultural exchange.

– Ashley, TYO Summer 2015 Intern