A Safe Place to Make Mistakes

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There are a lot of special memories I will bring home from my internship at TYO. Many of them are moments I shared with my students in the English Conversation Course.

When I started my internship, I was assigned as teacher for an English conversation course for beginners; two weekly classes, where local youths and volunteers could practice their English and improve their speaking and listening skills by discussing daily topics and sharing opinions. At the beginning, I thought it would have been just a regular class. I didn’t expect this to become one of the activities that I enjoyed the most, but, as soon as we started meeting regularly and got to know each other better, it became clear to me that this wouldn’t be just a normal conversation course.

As a non-native English speaker, my English is not perfect and I know how hard it can be communicating in another language, especially if you don’t feel comfortable in speaking in front of other people. That’s why, since the very first class, my goal was to create a ‘safe’ place for my students- a peaceful environment free of judgments, where everyone could feel comfortable trying without being afraid of ‘not being good enough.’ I wanted them to understand that making mistakes is a precious part of the learning process and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

At the very beginning of the course, many of the students were really shy and it was hard for them to speak in English in front of the rest of the people, but within a few weeks the atmosphere changed.Every topic covered during the lesson was an opportunity to share something and discover more about our lives, passions, personalities and things we had in common - to identify with each other. Class after class, the relationship among us became deeper. We started connecting more and more, feeling part of a group rather than a class.

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That definitely was the turning point. As soon as the ice broke, all the participants, even the ones who didn’t feel comfortable speaking English at the beginning, slowly became more confident and tried their best to communicate and take part in the conversations. It was amazing for me to see their commitment and effort, their constant will to improve, and their pride when they realized they actually made progress.  Finally, all the students started engaging and actively taking part in the activities, without being afraid of making mistakes anymore. By building connections among us, we created an enjoyable environment in class that definitely helped the learning process of my students and stimulated my creativity in creating activities as well. I became more confident in my skills and more willing to experiment as well as to motivate my students.

Coordinating and implementing an activity like the English Conversation Course surely was a significant part of my learning and growing process during this internship at TYO, from both a professional and personal point of view. The commitment to education, the determination, and the will to keep on improving that students showed during these months definitely inspired me. By working with this wonderful class, I learned more about life in Palestine from the point of view of local youths, and once again I had proof of the amazing Palestinian kindness, hospitality, strength and love for life that I have encountered everywhere in Nablus.

In my heart, I will keep in all the smiles, the laughs and the intense moments we shared in class. I will treasure all these memories until we’ll meet again and we will create new ones, inshallah!

- Elisa, Spring 2019 International Intern