Growing By Leaps and Bounds


On the last day of class, I instructed my students to not only stand in a circle, but literally tie themselves together using a piece of light blue yarn. The yarn was short and didn’t quite reach all the way around all twelve of us while still leaving room between my students. Therefore, as each student wound the yarn through a button hole on their jacket or a shoelace, we were forced to renegotiate the distance and come closer together. This was, in part, my intent—a metaphor of sorts to signify our last eight weeks together. We started out strangers and became a class; we built a community in which we could make mistakes and grown and learn together. Once the yarn was wound around each of us and tied at the ends, we were held together by the yarn, but also by our memories and our experiences. When we untied the yarn and began disentangling ourselves one-by-one we talked about what we learned throughout the class. My students were surprised to learn how much I learned from them and how grateful I was for our experiences together.

These past few months have been an incredible growing experience for me. Not only was I able to evolve as a teacher—through negotiating across cultural divides and developing meaningful curricula for my students—but I was also able to learn from my students’ life experiences. They were a beginner class and perpetually nervous about their speaking abilities, but they shared their world with me and I will be eternally grateful. I hope to take what I have learned here and work to create more spaces for conversation and communication in other communities around the world. I can only hope that my students take as much away from this experience as I will.

As we work through testing and evaluations of our students’ progress, I am increasingly amazed and impressed at the results of all of their hard work. Many of my students will be moving on to the elementary class, and they certainly deserve to do so. Some of my students will need to repeat the beginner class, but I have seen incredible growth within them as well. Several students entered my class being unable to speak in English at all and ended the session by giving three minute speeches about their dreams for the future. Some of my students had the ability to speak, but were too nervous to really express themselves in class, let alone outside of it. At the end of the session, we had a final event where my students performed the Lion King. During this performance, even my shiest of students stood up in front of a crowd of people and spoke in English. It was a very exciting and proud moment for me, but also for them—proof that their hard work in class, their struggles as well as their triumphs, have paid off and that they still have work to do, but they can accomplish their goals. I know that it took a lot of confidence for them to not only speak, but also act in English, but they did it and they did it well. I know that, whatever they put their minds to, they will succeed.

- Emma, 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.