9 Weeks is a Short Time
9 weeks is a short time, and every successive week of this fellowship felt as if it went faster than the last. First and foremost, I am grateful to have been given the time and resources to live in and explore Palestine and the myriad issues facing its people with patience and tact. There is no doubt in my mind that I have just scraped the surface, but, again, 9 weeks is a short time.
The frustrating aspect of leaving Nablus and TYO is the feeling that there are so many loose ends left behind. One of the most rewarding experiences was assisting a teacher for the Academic program with her English lessons to students age 8-9. Yet when I spent my last day with the children, it felt like the start of a strong relationship and not the end. We played English games, handed out certificates for the end of the program, and took an arguably unnecessary amount of pictures. Their comfort levels with me had increased so much, but then it was a quick goodbye.
A similar, if less extreme, feeling comes from saying goodbye to my English students. Though we had the time to build our relationships and work extensively on English, I am sad that we cannot go further with their English skills together, or share our thoughts and experiences anymore. I will miss laughing with them and annoying them with my insistence to ask “why?” when they don’t explain a statement.
Unequivocally, this fellowship made me a better teacher. My love for education came from the ability to push students to think interactively—to push their critical thinking skills and ask them to analyze topics from multiple angles. I had little experience, however, teaching a foreign language to students at the beginner level and could not engage their minds with only the kind of discussion and analysis I used to prefer.
Instead, I learned to make the activities the foremost interactive component of my lessons, maintaining student interest and building language skills through activities that varied from one another and guided students to implement different styles of communication.
When you look back on experiences, though, there is always something small that you miss—something seemingly mundane. Whenever I would play soccer with students after class, our guard Mohammad would invite me for tea. He would hand me a small glass with fresh thyme floating at the surface, and I would practice my Arabic by learning about his wife and daughter, his house in the old city, or his grandfather who is from Syria. This is a memory I will keep with me because it represents the willingness of the Nabulsi people to let me enter their lives and the privilege I was given to learn about their experiences.
-Darren, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow
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.