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Humans of Nablus 25

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Mutaz

When I graduated from university, I wanted to work in Dubai with my brother. I went, but I wasn’t able to stay because I didn’t have good English speaking skills. So now, I work with my father in his restaurant during the week and with an electricity company on the weekends. I am studying English at TYO because I want to try to go abroad again. I love my city and my country, but I need my brother’s help. He has a good job and I can work with him, once I learn better English. I love TYO; it is a great experience and I am hoping to get even better at English so that I can improve my opportunities.

عندما تخرجت من الجامعه  اردت العيش في دبي مع اخي وذهبت لزيارته ولكن لم استطع البقاء لانني لم يكن لدي مهارات التحدث بالانجليزية ولكن الان انا اعمل مع ابي في مطعمه خلال ايام الاسبوع ومع شركة الكهرباء في ايام العطل , ادرس في منظمة شباب الغد اللغه الانجليزية لانني اريد محاولة السفر الى الخارج مرة اخرى . احب مدينتي وبلدي ولكنني احتاج مساعدة اخي فلديه وظيفة جيدة واستطيع العمل معه ولكن عندما أتقن اللغه الاجليزية . أحب المنظمة فهي تجربة رائعه واود ان اصبح افضل بالانجليزي وذلك لفتح فرص افضل لي

 

Mutaz is a student in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

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From the “English Only Zone” to the World

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A STEP! II EFL class works together on a project to share their love of English.

A STEP! II EFL class works together on a project to enhance their skills in English.

“Salut! Vous êtes là pour le cours?” asked me my language teacher in my first French course at the university ten years ago. I must admit, I froze up and looked at her with shy and timorous eyes, while searching deep in my mind and childhood memories for an appropriate answer. I was lost in one of those rare moments when you don’t know what to respond or even how to react. Just like me at that time, the incursion into the world of bilingualism for plenty of new language learners may not be a very pleasant experience.

Listening to a recent edition of the BBC, I learned that more than half the world’s population is bilingual. “Some people may have been forced to learn a language at school or had to pick up one because they moved to a new country. Others may just love learning new tongues and do so before they visit a new place”. Speaking a second language is beneficial not only for professional career development, but also for personal understanding of the multilingual world we inhabit. For our STEP II EFL students, being able to communicate in a second language is one of their top priorities as it may increase the probability of landing a job position or even the possibility of understanding other cultures. Eman Suwan, an EFL student at TYO affirms that “learning English would help me in my future professional life as it will open many doors”. Student Renad Sawftah puts her focus on a potential career outside Palestine. She manifests that being able to communicate in a second language will help her achieve her dream of completing studies abroad. However, for Eman, Renad, their classmates, and thousands of Palestinian youth, developing communication skills in a different language in their country is indeed a major challenge. STEP II EFL students agreed that some of the major challenges they have to face on a daily basis are the lack of available learning programs, materials and opportunities to practice with native language speakers. TYO, through the STEP II program, aims at bridging all these gaps by providing intensive EFL courses for Nabulsi youth like Eman and Renad, and help them achieve their dreams.

Students

Students smile and laugh with each other during classes at TYO.

Learning a new language requires passion, effort, commitment and complete immersion. At TYO we are aware of the importance of capturing the true essence of foreign language. We want our students to use English to live with passion, to learn more about the world they inhabit and to use their English skills to better themselves, the community and the people around them no matter the challenges and obstacles. Keeping that in mind and with the purpose of facilitating my students’ learning inside and outside the classroom, I have very recently shared with them five tips that will offer them the key to success in language fluency and will indubitably boost their confidence when communicating in a foreign language. These tips have been compiled over the past years as a result of reflecting on my personal language learning process and are now available for all our readers:

Know your purpose

Understanding why you are doing it and what you will get from it will unquestionably help you stay motivated over the long-run. Dedicate a relevant amount of attention to define the reasons that push you to invest your valuable time and go for it. Whether it’s for your own professional development or for personal motivations, your reasons to learn a new language must be a constant reminder of why you should keep going no matter what.

Create your own language learning space

In all probability, one of the most effective ways to become fluent in a language is by packing your luggage and spending a certain amount of time living and interacting with language native speakers on a daily basis in their country. The latter, it’s a privilege that not so many learners can afford. By creating your own learning space and fully submerging yourself in the target language you will be exposed to the essential amount of interaction human beings require to develop stronger communication skills.

Read news, magazines, books, texts online, modify the language settings on your phone and on Facebook, and create a visual learning environment. Write personal notes, grocery lists, send text messages in different languages to your friends on WhatsApp or Viber. Listen to radio, podcasts, watch Youtube documentaries subtitled in the language you are willing to learn,  and speak in languages as much as possible, Skype with international friends on the other side of the globe, and asked them to correct mistakes when necessary. Make this new language an eminent component of your daily routine.

Talk to yourself

According to Psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking to yourself can be actually a beneficial sign of sanity as it helps you clarify your thoughts putting into evidence the power of words. In the case of language learning, talking to yourself in a foreign language might imply for you a way to train your pronunciation, to keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind while going for a walk, on the bus,or even at work, and to build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.

Don’t focus too much on grammar and make mistakes

Elbert Hubbard once said: “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one”. Never fall into the sand trap of inaction, never be afraid of being wrong, you are not the only one, we all make mistakes in life, that’s a fact; and the best way to overcome your fears is by taking action and facing every challenge you encounter. Face it, don’t hide from it! Every mistake will get you one step closer to achieving language fluency.

Teach it and preach it!

Last but never least, use your acquired talents and what you have learnt to facilitate other people’s learning experience. Everyone needs a hand when it comes to learning a new language and you will be rewarded for doing so. Teaching languages over the past eight years has guided my personal language learning process, and I must admit, my life has been plenty of gratifying experiences alongside my students. Teaching while learning or learning while teaching at TYO STEP II program has become a powerful and beneficial tactic to my own languages learning. Interacting with my students on a daily basis has helped me keep new words and expressions fresh in my mind in one, two and even three languages.

An EFL class learns English skills through games and activities.

An EFL class learns English skills through a relay activity to help increase skills while having fun.

Now that you have read through these simple five language learning tips,  you decide what’s best for you. It is time for you to go outside and put all this in practice just like at TYO.

In the meantime, I will keep helping and learning from this fruitful new adventure at TYO, developing new language skills in Arabic and certainly after a while, I will go visit my French teacher back home, I need to let her know about my experiences and progress in various foreign languages. Inshallah, she will be proud.

 

Please subscribe to our blog feed, share with us your stories and let us know how you learned a new language.

 

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.

 

– Leandro, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow

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Humans of Nablus 24

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Sujood_ short

I hope to become a writer. I love writing. I started when I was 10 years old by writing about what happened in my day, then about what I was thinking–what I loved. Now, I love to write poetry. When I write poetry, I don’t have to think. I just write, and the words become poetic.

اتمنى ان اصبح كاتبا , لانني احب الكتابة , فقد بدأت الكتابة منذ كان عمري 10 سنوات حيث كنت اكتب عن ما حصل معي خلال اليوم وعن ما يجول بخاطري من خواطر وهذا شيء كنت احبه كثيرا والان احب كتابة الشعر فعندما اكتب الشعر لا احتاج الى التفكير فقط استرسل بالكتابة وتصبح الكلمات شعرا
Sujood is a student in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

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Slowly, Slowly

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It’s another day of English class for the STEP! II students at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization. Four weeks into classes, the atmosphere now is different from that of the first day: less jittery and excited to be sure, but much more comfortable, and therefore even more productive. The past month has been a whirlwind of learning: for four hours, every Monday through Thursday, students of all levels have been engaging with English. They’ve worked on projects from podcasts to paintings, examined new grammatical structures, and built a strong vocabulary base. These sorts of accomplishments are small and easy to measure, but “slowly slowly” they add up to an overarching sense of progress that the teachers can see when they’re asked about the session so far.

line of smiles_ Kyra's class

Students laugh together during a word race activity during their STEP! II English class.

“Students’ comfort level in the class has really increased. My favorite is when they joke around in English, even just yelling, “Hey Lena- quiet!” They were too nervous in beginning to use English unsolicited like that. Now they’re not talking in Arabic as much and are clearly way more confident. Even putting themselves out there in a small way helps.”
-Darren, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow

three girls speech

Three students present their invention for bids during an auction activity to help increase language skills, encourage creativity, and develop teamwork.

“There are a couple [of progress points]. I’m most pleased with that they’ve become so much better at debating, stating their opinions, and giving reasons. Building other students’ comments into their arguments still needs work, but they listen to each other more, and at first they didn’t build off of each other’s comments much at all. Their writing has also become more rich and coherent; they write longer responses in paragraph form.”
-Amy, Summer 2016 Fellow

Two EFL students and their teacher enjoy listening to a speaking activity.

Two EFL students and their teacher enjoy listening to a speaking activity.

In addition to developing fluency, students and teachers have worked hard to develop a good rapport with each other. I was very proud the first time a student came to me with comments and suggestions for the class, and now it happens fairly often. Sometimes the lesson and direction of the class will change based on these comments, and sometimes I give an explanation for the structure of things and we continue on. Because of the give and take involved in this, we have slowly built a sense of trust in each other that aids learning of all varieties.

Even the students can see in hindsight that their small steps in English add up to big leaps.

“Last week my father and I were walking in the market. He was pointing at different things around and asking me about how to say them. When I could answer he looked at me and said, “Alia! You can speak English!” He is so happy to see me going to class every day.”
-Alia, STEP! II English Student

All smiles during break!

Students of the STEP! II EFL program are all smiles while taking a short break from class.

With another four weeks left in the summer session, there is plenty of time for students to further develop their language and fluency skills. Each lesson builds upon the last to steadily help students become more confident in themselves and more comfortable with English. While being in the classroom for four hours straight can be a long and hot experience,  games and active projects help the time pass quickly and productively. Slowly slowly through these small steps, students grow into confident and proficient English speakers.

 

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.

 

– Katrina, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow

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Humans of Nablus 23

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Eman

I love working with the kids at TYO because they have so much respect for the rules. I want to put these rules in every school in Palestine. For example, the kids only eat healthy foods, and they always clean their hands before and after eating. We have an expression in Arabic that says that teaching little kids is like carving into a stone, because once they learn the rules, they never forget them.

احب العمل مع الاطفال في منظمه شباب الغد  كثيرا لان لديهم احترام للقوانين .اريد ان تطبق هذه القوانين في كل مدرسه بفلسطين فمثلا لا ياكل الاطفال الا الطعام الصحي ويغسلون ايديهم قبل الاكل وبعده.فهناك مثل بالعربيه يقول التعليم في الصغر كالنقش بالحجر فمجرد ما يتعلم الاطفال القوانين لن ينسوها ابدا

Eman is a volunteer in the Core Early Childhood program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

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The Positive Power of Yes: The Success Story of Waed Bsharat

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Waed and Bus

Waed Bsharat is from a village called Tammun. She recently graduated with a degree in business administration from Al Quds Open University in Tubas. She heard about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from a friend, who said that TYO was a fun and interesting place to volunteer. Waed always volunteered at the university because it was required, but had never volunteered because she wanted to do something for herself. When she heard there were kids involved, she immediately knew she wanted to volunteer because she loves kids.  She found out she could register to volunteer with TYO at her university, so she signed up to volunteer.

The Summer 2016 session is Waed’s first time to volunteer with TYO. She is a volunteer with the Academic program and teaches the students Arabic, English, and math. In addition to volunteering with the Academic program, Waed was asked to help as a bus monitor. She rides the bus 6 times each day to bring children to TYO from Old Askar and New Askar refugee camps and take them home again.

What has your professional experience been like outside of TYO?

I worked for a month with a finance organization in a village called Tubas. I went to the administration of the organization and asked if I could intern with them for a month without pay to gain experience. I did office work and site visits for loan review. At the end of the month, they offered me a job. However, I didn’t accept the position because the organization was a loan based organization and this type of work doesn’t interest me.  I did a second internship for 2 months with an organization that offers training courses for technical skills and gives certifications after two years of training. I did marketing to get people to sign up for the trainings. This organization also offered me a position to continue marketing working from home after the internship, but I could not accept this job because I do not have internet access at home.

What is your career plan?

I hope to find a job, but my dream is to continue my studies and get a Master’s degree in accounting. I like to take business concentrated courses, but many people have recommended that I continue my studies in accounting. In the future, an accounting degree will open more options for employment because there is a higher demand for accounting than finance. I am better at accounting than finance and I want to study something different than my Bachelor’s degree. I like to climb the workplace ladder step by step and slowly. With my Master’s degree, I want to be a university professor for business administration and accounting.

What do you look for in a work environment?

For me, an important thing is the location. The workplace has to be between Nablus and Jenin and close enough to commute every day. I don’t mind doing administrative work or following directions of an employer as long as the directions are part of my work responsibilities, nothing illegal, and accepted by my religion. Loans and interest are not allowed in my religion, so this work is not acceptable in my faith.

What skills have you gained from your time with TYO so far?

I have gained many skills that have to do with children. I have learned how to deal with them, how to work with them in a proper way that is nice, and how to gain their respect and make them want to work with you. I learned how to benefit children and how to make information stick in their minds in a good way. I have increased my leadership skills and have learned how to be a leader in the classroom and how to bring people around her. If you gain the students’ love and respect, they will listen.

How has volunteering at TYO impacted your life?

Volunteering at TYO has impacted me emotionally. When I first enter TYO and see the kids, they take away all the negative feelings and give me positive energy. Whatever happened and whatever problems there are, I forget them all when I see the kids. They have made me a more positive person. If I can balance work and TYO, I hope to keep volunteering in the future.

 

Waed is a volunteer in the Academic program, which is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Interview conducted by Lindsey, the International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator, and translated by Rawan, the Women’s Empowerment Program Assistant.

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More Than Words

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Language is powerful. We use language to tell a story, make a point, entertain, argue, and express ourselves. Here at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO), we use language to build a bridge. A two-way bridge with people coming and going on both sides.

Amy's students

Students of the STEP! II EFL class learn language skills and experience cross cultural connections with TYO international interns and fellows.

Learning a new language can be challenging on a number of levels. For me, the most difficult part of this process is the feeling that you cannot truly express yourself in a language that is not your own. Even if you are fluent, it is not always easy to communicate; language has as much to do about knowing the culture as it does about knowing the actual mechanics and structure of the language. Therefore, language teachers must infuse their classes with culture.  Ahmad Bshara, one of our language teachers at TYO and a former Fulbright scholar teaching Arabic in the United States, experiences this in his own classrooms. “The first thing I learned during my time teaching Arabic to students in the United States was that you can’t simply teach language without teaching the culture as well, they both go hand-in-hand. Culture carries part, if not all, of the meaning and this is especially true for Arabic. Certain words and phrases can be indicators for where the speaker is from, while also giving insight about the speaker’s personality, or even the way that he or she was brought up.”

Within culture, we attribute certain values to language and this language evolves within each of us. Consciously or unconsciously, we choose specific words that have special meaning or significance to us; they become a part of our repertoire and we find them frequent players in our own unique dialogues. This personal amassment is often shaped by our community, our culture, our religion, and even our loved ones. When asked why I choose to use a specific word and I usually have to think for a minute. Where did I find that word? Why is that the best way to communicate what I want to say? I often find myself responding, “that’s what my dad says.” But I have to be able to articulate these values in my classroom. An interesting discussion that arose last week was the purpose of graffiti. In my world, graffiti is vandalism or art and is often used to blur the lines of interpretation. Here, graffiti can be vandalism, or art, but it can also be something much more. In a space where the physicality of expression is constrained, graffiti takes on an urgency in a way that is almost alien to me. In many ways, graffiti is the embodiment of a burning need to communicate in a place where personal expression can be limited.

Words also change over time. Translated directly, the word “Insha’alla” means “god’s will,” but this translation can limit what the speaker actually means. As decades pass, words derived from the religious history of the area became as much a part of the language as regular Arabic expressions. You’ll find individuals who commonly use words like Insha’alla, but don’t necessarily intend to attribute a religious meaning; they are simply saying that they hope it will happen. Depending on who you speak to, they could also mean that they will think about it, or even that they want to end the conversation without committing to anything. Insha’alla can be used as a way to control the conversation in a way similar to the French word, normalement—meaning “normally” or “all things being equal.” But in life things aren’t equal and we know it. If you want to dodge someone without getting into conflict, you hide what you really want to say.

Ahmed Bshara helps an EFL fellow to practice Arabic.

Ahmed Bshara helps EFL fellow Kyra to practice Arabic.

When we travel we can feel lost because our ability to participate in these hidden messages is hindered. This is why TYO’s EFL Step II program is so important. Teachers from other countries bring their own values and meanings into their classrooms and, in turn, we pick up the values and meanings behind words in our community. The great joke around TYO that will inevitably make everyone smile is the phrase “och-ay doch-ay”—a rather silly amalgamation of the English slang “okie dokie” and the rural colloquial tendency to substitute the “k” sound for a “ch” sound (also the brainchild of our program coordinator). It is this shared experience that creates a community and a sense of belonging. I might not be able to communicate with Mohamed past “hello” and “how are you,” but we both know and can connect over “och-ay doch-ay” in a way that wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if I know fifty more words in Arabic.

For my own part, I try to be deliberate with the words I choose. In the same way that body language and facial expressions are an important part of communication, language is equally so. I am aware of what values I place on language as well as cognizant  of the values my students place on language. For example, I don’t like using the verb “help.” Of course, I hope that my teaching methods are helpful to my students, but the word itself carries a dependency undertone that does not adequately represent my relationship with the students in my class. What I think we, both the teacher and the students, are really doing is creating space—space for communication, for understanding, for growth. On both sides of the bridge.

 

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.

 

– Emma, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow

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Humans of Nablus 22

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Watanya_ cropped

I am having a great time with the kids at TYO. After my Bachelor’s degree, I would like to continue my studies and accomplish my dream of opening an English club for children. I would like to use my experience to make a lasting impact in the lives of children in the region. Children are very clever, they communicate with other children very easily most of the time. Sometimes, they are afraid of sharing during games and activities with others. I have always wanted to volunteer with children. I love children very much and I would like to use my experience to help them.

امضي وقتا رائعا مع الاطفال في منظمة شباب الغد . فبعد حصولي على درجة البكالوريوس اريد انهاء دراستي واحقق حلمي بفتح نادي للغة الانجليزية للاطفال .اريد ان استغل خبرتي من اجل ترك اثر ابدي في حياة الاطفال. الاطفال اذكياء جدا فهم بتواصلون مع الاطفال الاخرين بسهولة معظم الوقت ولكن احيانا يخافون المشاركة وقت النشاطات والالعاب مع الاخرين . اردت دائما التطوع والعمل مع الاطفال فانا احب الاطفال كثيرا واريد تسخير خبرتي لمساعدتهم

 

Watanya is a volunteer with the Youth Service Learning (YSL) program as part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

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An Excited Student Returns to the Academic Support Program: The Story of Razan

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The Summer 2016 Academic Support program is in full swing, filling the Center with the sounds of laughter and children. Although some of the participants in the current session were newly enrolled youth, many were students who had chosen to re-enroll in the TYO program. What encouraged these children and their families to re-enroll? To find out, we spoke with one of the children who participated in both the Spring and Summer sessions this year.

Razan

Razan, a fourth-grader in TYO’s Academic Support program.

Razan Salhab is nine years old. She is in the fourth grade, and lives in the immediate neighborhood of TYO, Khallet El Amoud. She was enrolled in the Academic Support program during its pilot session in the spring of 2016 and is currently enrolled in the Summer 2016 session. Razan began participating in TYO programming three years ago as a first grade student enrolled in TYO’s Core Early Childhood Education program. Her younger sister, Lillian, is a student in the Core Program currently.

Razan, how have your first weeks in the Academic Support program been? Have you had a good time?

It has been amazing! I have had so much fun and I am learning new things every day. I am also meeting new people and making friends. Specifically, I am studying the alphabet in my English and Arabic classes. I am also working on my math skills. Even the homework is fun! As soon as I receive my homework from Khaltu Mahfuza I start it. [Mafuza is Razan’s teacher.] I do not wait until I am home — I am too excited. I like to be the first one to complete the homework because it makes me proud. At TYO we also have snack time. I like snack time a lot. All of the students sit together, and during this time we can eat and talk. The food is so good too!

It sounds like you like a lot of things about the academic program, but do you have a favorite activity from this session?

I cannot think of a favorite activity because I like so much of what I do in the academic program. Class is never boring. However, today was a special day. We played a game in which I had to read words off of a card and then act them out. We were moving around and using hula hoops. It was awesome.

Wow, it sounds like this session has been great thus far! Did you enjoy participating to the academic program last session, and how did you feel when you found out you were re-enrolled in the summer session?

Last session was amazing, so when I found out I was re-enrolled in this session I was thrilled! I was especially excited for the summer session because during the summer I do not have school and I knew coming to TYO would be fun. But even before I began the Academic Support program last session, I was excited to begin. Other children might not want to study after school, but I felt happy to know I would be in an after-school program. My education is the most important thing to me. I hoped being in the academic program would help me improve in school.

Speaking of school, where do you go and what are your favorite subjects?

I go to Khans’a Elementary school and my favorite subject is religion class. English class is very hard for me. The teacher is good, but I do not have the support outside of school to practice the English I learn during the day. This is why being in TYO’s Academic Support program is great. I am working on my English at the center! I am also improving my Arabic and math skills. The two-hour TYO program is helping me in all of my subjects in school, which makes me proud. My parents are also very happy I am in the program, especially my mother. I definitely want to be in the academic program next session. Honestly, I want to be a participant at TYO until there is no program for me to be in. I love it here.

Pretend you are meeting a young girl who is not enrolled in TYO programming. What would you say to her about TYO?

First, I would encourage the other girl to come to TYO. I would tell her at TYO you will have fun and you will learn. Plus you will have snack time and in general it is amazing to be at the Center!

_________________________________________________________________________

Razan’s family is from the city of Nablus. Both her mother Malak and father Abdul Haman were born in Nablus and currently reside there. Malak and Abdul Haman have 5 children – the oldest are Razan and Lillian.

The After-School Academic Support for Kids (AASK) program is supported by Relief International.

 

Kyra, Summer 2016 EFL and AASK Program Fellow

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Students Who Feel More, Learn More

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This past week, my students performed skits acting out different community events. Students came to the front of the class and implored a parent to let them take a job in Jordan, confronted a neighbor about noise issues, or even groaned loudly from an illness the doctor could not treat. The goal was not only to see community events in action, but for students to feel the different emotions that these events bring about–to get them to express what another person is feeling.

Students engage in an art activity that connects colors with emotions.

Students engage in an art activity that connects colors with emotions.

Students’ ability to empathize and take on the perspectives of those different from them can be an extremely powerful tool for educators. In the article “Empathy and Education,” Norma Deitch Feshbach and Seymour Feshbach highlight the positive role of an empathy-driven curriculum for elementary students when they state,  “Children who participated in the Learning to Care Curriculum became less aggressive, displayed more positive social behaviors, manifested a more positive self-concept, and also displayed a significant increase in academic achievement.” Harnessing students’ empathy in class is an important tool in secondary or adult education as well. Understanding and taking on the perspectives of other people gives students a richer understanding of the world and their place in it. It prepares them to be more effective, more caring agents in the world.

Students in TYO’s Step II! EFL program have embraced the idea of taking on multiple perspectives in the classroom and are utilizing empathy as a way to enhance their learning. I found it particularly helpful as a linguistic tool when addressing the theme of family with my students. Asking students to think about the different relationships of their family members and helping them to recognize that their uncle is also someone’s brother and someone’s son allows them to practice their knowledge of familial vocabulary as well as see their family members in a different light. They see that they share the same identifiers as others who may be generations older than them.

A student chooses green as his color to reflect the way that it gives off feelings of relaxation and happiness.

A student chooses green as his color to reflect the way that it gives off feelings of relaxation and happiness.

Taking on another’s perspective can still come with challenges. In an activity where students took on the perspective of a specific family member, some students were hesitant to assume a role different from their own gender. Yet as the activity went on, where students matched certain verbs with vocabulary from the house, the resistance wore off and students focused on matching different life tasks to their family members. They discovered the difficulty of making time for leisure activities when, as the daughter of the family for example, you have duties in both the house and school. The activity also doubled as pronoun practice, with the students having to focus on matching the gender with the family member vocabulary and not necessarily the gender of the person sitting in front of them reading the word.

What is most rewarding, though, is seeing students empathizing with other cultures as a way to reveal their shared experiences and struggles. Summer fellow Kyra Zimmerman reflects on an activity she did as a fellow last session, which she hopes to recreate this summer.

“During my class unit on public speaking,” says Kyra, “my students learned about MLK and the American Civil Rights movement. During this time, I saw the students connect greatly with MLK’s dream of racial equality and empathize with African Americans in the USA in the 1960s. This demonstrated to me that issues that face different communities can transcend borders and bridge different populations. I strongly believe my students had the same take-away from this unit as well.”

We here at the Step II! EFL program believe that our students can summon empathy that is both powerful and inspiring, and by tapping into this ability, our students are able to more effectively read the world and analyze its problems. This is an important skill for all students to have, irrespective of the country you are teaching in or the age of your students. A more caring classroom that seeks to understand others’ viewpoints can ultimately create a more peaceful world.

 

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.

 

-Darren, Summer 2016 EFL Fellow

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