Lessons Learned From a Sweet Return
As a returnee to TYO, I had already witnessed the incredible work of the organization. In fact, I was worried that having taught at TYO before, my experience as a fellow would be repetitive. I was wrong! My experience in the EFL program changed me tremendously. Specifically, I learned what it meant to be a foreign language teacher, the importance of education, and the pride teachers can garner from watching their students grow.
In my time as an intern in 2013, I taught numerous courses including one, hour-long English class at An-Najah University. Although teaching a variety of courses made the experience exciting, I spent far less time preparing for each class. Additionally, I managed my classroom for less than 2 hours at a time. As an EFL fellow, I taught one class, four days a week, for 3 1/2 hours. I supervised the students entirely on my own and prepared an in-depth curriculum to increase their English knowledge. This not only allowed me to bond more with my students but it reinforced my technical skills, especially lesson planning and teaching. Particularly it exposed me to the special curriculum required for a foreign language class. Teaching a foreign language is challenging! Despite sounding "corny", the fellowship gave me a whole new appreciation for the work of my language professors growing up. Furthermore, the intensity of the instruction and preparation required for the course instilled in me a confidence in my ability to teach I did not have before. I now truly feel like a teacher and this feeling is awesome and fills me with pride.
Speaking of pride…I now understand one of the most wonderful benefits of being a teacher. This benefit is watching your students grow both as individuals and as a collective. In spending so many hours together, the classroom became a home. On any given day, my students would use break to dance with one another, or chat about their lives. As a teacher this was incredible to see, and reinforced me that a class can become a second "family" if the teacher is committed to this goal. Observing my students grow individually was equally as rewarding. Students who were initially unable to speak in front of the class were performing speeches by the conclusion of the session. Moments such as these made my heart swell and I would not trade them in for anything. In addition, the fellowship solidified my belief that a person is never too old to learn. Having the honor of teaching 19-45 years old reinforced this to me when my students came to TYO every day so excited to learn and absorb new information.
An extra perk of being able to return to TYO was that it allowed me to meet and create connections with my peers who were a constant source of inspiration and support. My co-fellows were incredible and being able to bounce ideas off them was invaluable. Without fail, if I was having a bad day, there was a fellow there to help me. Lastly, coming to TYO for a second time truly solidified the pride I have to be part of a not-for-profit doing such important work. The dedication of the staff and joy I feel throughout the center is unparalleled with other organizations I have been a part of. I will miss TYO and the people who work here, however I know that no matter how far I go, I will carry the memories I have at TYO with me forever.
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.
Kyra, EFL Teaching Fellow, Spring 2016