The Teachers Become the Students
For new teachers, preparation for the beginning of a class session is an intense time. Lesson planning requires a great amount of focus, strategy, and creativity. While the curriculum and lesson creative are certainly vital aspects of preparation, understanding the student demographic, including culture, educational background, and previous experience with the topic of the class can determine the amount of success students achieve throughout the session.
On February 11th and 12th, 5 international EFL fellows and 1 Zahi Khouri fellow arrived in Nablus and begin preparing to lead intensive English classes for young adults at TYO. As part of their orientation to the community and TYO organization, and in preparation for their EFL classes, all 6 fellows recently put away their lesson plans and spent some time getting to know their demographic.
Over coffee and tea, the Core Program teachers shared their experience with English education in Palestine. Some spoke of a dislike of English established when they were children due to ineffective teaching techniques. Core Teacher Mahmood explained that learning through memorization in elementary school leaves students with English vocabulary, but without the ability to use the vocabulary in sentences. Many explained that until they were older, they did not realize the importance of English for communication and research. A few mentioned fear of making mistakes while attempting to use English. All spoke of the need and desire to increase their English skills as a way of improving their lives by increasing employment opportunities, educational resources, and quality of life through travel.
To further understand university students’ experience with learning English in the classroom, the 6 Fellows observed multiple English classes at An Najah National University. Fellows each watched two English classes in action and saw a variety of classroom environments, teaching methods, and levels of student participation. After the classroom observations, students shared their personal experiences with the fellows during a tour of the university campus. By learning of how English education works within the Palestinian educational environment and the direct impact it has on the students’ views of English learning, the teachers of STEP! II English classes are better prepared to teach each student with a clear understanding of past experiences, current needs, and future goals for utilizing the English language.
Within the classroom environment, students need to feel valued and appreciated to have motivation toward success. It is vital for students to be holistically understood so they can be challenged and encouraged toward positive growth. By taking the time to get to know common experiences, language struggles, and motivation to improve English skills, the fellows leading English classes as part of the STEP! II EFL program are aiming to create a classroom environment that will increase language skills, confidence, and a sense of connection between teacher and student from different parts of the world.
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
Lindsey, International Internship & Fellowship Coordinator