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Practicing and Teaching Professional Development

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Overwhelmed is an understatement for how we felt jumping into teaching a professional development course at An-Najah National University.  We have all had internships and some work experience, but by American standards, we thought we were not nearly qualified enough to teach a group of college students how to improve their resume writing, cover letter drafting, networking skills, etc.  This internship is intended to be part of our own professional development so teaching such skills was daunting. What we realized, however, is that the education system here doesn’t advocate for students to get out and get hands on experience in the workforce and this eased our apprehensions.The students here are driven in their academic studies, and our Professional Competency classes are intended to show them the importance of the workforce, beyond academic record. Having an understanding of what is expected in the professional world and how to better prepare for it outside the academic setting, is also important.

Students in TYO Intern Megan’s Professional Competency class have a discussion about interview etiquette.

The students have already made significant progress which hopefully will give them a leg-up when they enter the job market.  By no means has it been easy.  Many of the students are in the class to work on their English skills, which makes hurdling the language barrier to teach the lessons, difficult at times.  Also, because this is an elective outside of their regular course load, some have a hard time finding time to complete take home assignments for our class.  Every class has its challenges, but based on the skills we’ve seen them develop, we’ve been able to overcome them.

In addition to focusing on the students’ professional development skills, our classes provide an open forum for discussion that promotes cross-cultural exchange.  Sometimes we feel like we learned more from a class than the students do!  We’ve developed friendships with many of our students, and they have shown us the side of Nablus and of the culture here that builds upon our experiences in the classroom and at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization.

Students in Tommy’s Professional Development class prepare responses to interview questions.

TYO focuses the bulk of it’s work on early childhood and non-formal education, working with kids ages as young as 4 up to 12. But a lot of the real development and training is also happening at the college level with our volunteers and translators, who are taking the opportunity to build leadership and employment skills while giving back to their communities. Our professional development classes at An-Najah University are also part of that empowerment.

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