In my Core Child English Class through TYO’s International Internship program, students file through the door and greet me with an enthusiastic “Hello!” It’s five weeks into our program, and at this point many of the students are asking unprompted “How are you?”. The progress that I have seen among these young ones has been significant in just five weeks.
TYO Interns teach English because there is a dire need for native speaking instructors in Palestine. Time and time again in conversations that I have had with Palestinians, they have shared their frustrations over language learning in their schools. Despite the fact that instruction begins in the fifth grade and carries on through university, young Palestinians still struggle greatly with verbal and written fluency in English. TYO seeks to develop a foundation for students at a critical early age, introducing the English alphabet to learners between 4-5 years old to prepare them for further study in school later on.
In the first weeks of TYO’s Fall Session there were plenty of tears. Students were adjusting to a brand new environment, with many students leaving the classroom crying because they were nervous and afraid. For many of the young ones at TYO, this session has been their first experience being away from their families and the transition can sometimes be rough. When I spoke English for the first time in my classroom, I remember many students looking on warily and with much confusion.
Now, my students greet me confidently with a smile, a hug, or a high-five. They are visibly more comfortable in the classroom space and in communicating with teachers and volunteers. I can tell that they look forward to our English classes as they gleefully identify pictures such as “apple,” “ball,” and “cat” in our alphabet lessons. When we sing the alphabet song at the end of class, almost everyone is singing along and some are even bobbing their heads to the melody. We create a positive classroom space together, and this environment allows these students to make great leaps in learning. The excitement with which they approach English and their engagement in class each day is encouraging and fuels my desire to make the most out of our time together.
The 4-5 year old students in TYO’s Morning Core classes represent the future of Palestine. The ability of children to absorb so much so quickly is indicative of a love for learning that must be cultivated throughout their development as young leaders. The confidence I have seen emerge in the English classroom is priceless, and plants a seed for these students’ future success in the language.
-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO