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Youth in Focus: An Interview with Ola A.

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Ola A. is a new volunteer in our Core Spring 2015 session. She lives in one of TYO’s target Nablus neighborhoods for the Core Child program. Ola graduated from An Najah National University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature.

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Ola helps students create mosaics during their Arabic rotation.

What sparked your interest in TYO’s Youth Service Learning program? Have you volunteered elsewhere before?

Because I majored in English, I have many previous experiences volunteering with NGOs in Nablus that offer English language services; for example, I used to volunteer teach English language classes for adults. I heard about TYO’s Youth Service Learning program through my brother Mujahed who was a student in the International Intern program. He spoke so highly of his interaction with the teachers and volunteers at TYO that I decided to apply.

All of my previous volunteer experiences were with adults, so TYO is my first opportunity to work with young children. When I applied and attended the first training, it was clear to me that this program would be an exciting and challenging new experience. At TYO, I enjoy the opportunity to develop my work personality and build interpersonal skills that will help me in my future career.

What are your career plans, and how do you think volunteering in TYO’s Core Child program will help you?

Originally, I was planning to be an Arabic-English translator for a local company because it was the logical next step after majoring in English. However, after joining TYO’s volunteer program, I have developed a strong interest in working with children. Right now, I am interested in finding a part-time job in a local preschool to further practice and develop the skills I am learning at TYO and better understand early childhood education in Palestine. I have seen how difficult and unsupportive the preschool experience is for my nephews and nieces, and I want to be part of making that experience better. I am interested in recreating TYO’s model of education in Nablus’s preschools, making them a place where children are building both their basic cognitive skills and their personalities.

What is the greatest challenge youth like you face in the current labor market?

In one phrase, lack of experience. The fact that most of us graduate with little to no work experience on our CVs is a huge factor in unemployment issues in Palestine. Even if we do find a job, we enter our first job with no training or previous experience in the labor market, which means a) we are not prepared for success in our first job, and b) we are offered very low salaries that barely cover the cost of transportation to and from work.

What do you think your generation can do to overcome that challenge?

Volunteering is key. Before we graduate and enter the labor market, we need to gain experience and use internship and volunteer opportunities as a way to begin networking. Also, I would advise first-year college students to talk to professors and role models in their field of interest to better understand the needs of the market and what additional skills they should build to be more employable in their field by the time they graduate. When I was in university, no one provided me with that information. I decided to study English Literature because I had heard that English would be necessary for any job, but I was not 100% sure that it was the right decision. I am glad that I did move forward with it, but looking back, I also wish I had taken more work opportunities to develop my personality and soft skills.

If there was one skill you wish you could improve, what would it be and why?

Definitely IT. Technology is a huge part of our lives now, and it is something you must be comfortable with in any job. I have tried developing my computer and technology skills with the help of my friend who majored in IT, but I want more opportunities to learn and practice.

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From Nablus Preschools to TYO: An Interview with Core Teacher Fawz Jabi

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It has been a great first two weeks with our 4-5 year olds in the Core Child program. Though there were a few tears on the first day, the children were all smiles by the end of last week; on Thursday afternoon, as each class took off towards the buses, they eagerly showed off their many art creations on the theme of our second week: community and family.

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Core teachers Fawz and Ahmad work on a family tree activity for their class.

It has also been exciting to welcome our two new Core teachers, Amal Khdair and Fawz Jabi. At the end of week two, we reflected on the beginning of the program and how TYO compared to their previous work and classroom experiences. Fawz, having previously taught in a private Nablus preschool, offered great insights on the differences between her previous teaching experience and her first two weeks at TYO.

Since you have taught in Nablus preschools before — what do you find different about TYO’s Core program?

When I taught in a Nablus preschool, you didn’t hear the word “child” as much when we talked about our work. The focus was on what we were teaching, not who. Our conversations as teachers centered around the content of our lessons, for example writing skills, reading the Quran, and basic math and counting skills.

Here at TYO, the word “child” is the center of every conversation. When we talk about planning lessons, we talk about how each activity helps the child grow, how it promotes his or her physical and mental well-being, and how it helps us understand the root causes of the child’s behavior.

The work environment is also very unique. At TYO, I have access to people coming from different backgrounds in both education and psychology, and everyone is involved in sharing classroom ideas and techniques. There is so much input behind every activity, that you can’t help but to feel confident when you finally have a chance to give that lesson.

What has been the most rewarding part of your first two weeks teaching in TYO’s Core program?

The more rewarding – and I would say surprising – experience has been teaching hands-on Arabic lessons. Because I have taught Arabic for this age before, that is where I can clearly see the contrast between my previous work and TYO.

At the preschool where I previously taught, we followed rigid lesson plans that did not invite creativity from the kids or from us as teachers. At TYO, I worked with Ahmad [another TYO Core teacher] to develop an art-based lesson plan for teaching the first few letters of the alphabet. I enjoyed teaching the lesson, but the most rewarding part was the day after, when the kids returned remembering everything we had taught the day before.

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Core teachers Fawz and Ahmad work together on an Arabic lesson.

Do you see any difference in the kids in TYO’s Core program versus those you taught previously?

The children are not fundamentally different, especially not at such a young age. However, the environment at TYO is very different than a traditional preschool, and it brings out a different side of the kids.

I taught in a well-known private preschool, so all of our children had their basic material needs met. Additionally, their parents were willing to invest financially in their education. However, that financial commitment did not mean that the parents were truly engaged in their child’s development; on the contrary, I saw how the parents’ focus on investing [financially] in academics caused them to neglect other aspects of the their child’s life, like the importance of play and creativity.

At TYO, our children come in at very different levels of academic abilities, reading and letter/word recognition, speaking abilities, etc. Additionally, most of our kids come from a difficult home environment that does not offer options outside of the norm of frustration and violence. What amazes me is that that background does not limit their capacity to learn. For example, because of their restrictive home and neighborhood environments, many of the boys in our program struggle with hyperactivity. However, as teachers we learn how to embrace their energy and encourage them to put it towards something positive; we learn how to turn their energy and hunger for new experiences into curiosity to learn. It is much more challenging for me as a teacher, but it is also more rewarding.

 

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8 Facts about Computer Usage in Palestine, 6 Ways TYO Fills the Gaps

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Just recently, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics published a report about access to technology in Palestinian homes entitled: Household Survey on Information and Communications Technology, 2014. At TYO, we understand the great value and importance IT literacy plays in today’s modern age. As such, the findings from the report are surprising – as access to technology around the world is growing, Palestine is still far behind. The following are 8 starling facts about the current computer usage in Palestine:

  1. 36.9% of households in Palestine don’t own a computer
  2. 51.7% of households have no internet access
  3. 20.4% of children ages 10-14 do not have any access to a computer
  4. 45.2% of females in Palestine do not use computers
  5. 45.3% of Palestinians use the internet to study
  6. 17.9% of Palestinians use the internet at school/university
  7. 10.6% of Palestinians use free public internet at youth centers
  8. 39.1% of children living in refugee camps, ages 5-17, do not use computers
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A five year-old Core Child Program participant in the IT lab

How can TYO strive to ensure we’re filling the gaps for children, women and youth in Palestine with little-to-no access to computers or the internet? In Nablus, we not only have noticed a strong need for computer literacy, but also a strong desire from people of all ages in learning more about computers. In direct response, TYO implements IT lab classes, seminars and trainings in every single one of our programs! Here are 6 specific ways that TYO aims to provide IT education for all:

  1. Basic computer functions and operation lessons for children 4-5 years old, aiming to improve upon their small motor skills.
  2. Game-based ESL computer programs for children 6-8 years old, working to strengthen their mastery of the English language.
  3. Internet research-based computer activities for adolescents 9-15 years old, striving to foster healthy and educational relationships with computers and the internet.
  4. Essential Microsoft Office programs for women and mothers, seeking to empower Palestine’s primary caregivers’ knowledge in IT literacy, programs, and the needed tools to protect their families.
  5. Business IT trainings for aspiring female entrepreneurs, building upon their budgeting, marketing and social media skills to strengthen their businesses.
  6. Employability skills for youth and university students, teaching seminars on CV/resume writing, cover letter writing, and tools for online job searching.
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12 year old program participants work together to learn about search engines

To learn more about TYO and the IT programs we offer to Nablus’ most disadvantaged beneficiaries, learn about the success of IT in the International Internship Program, CV clinics for university students, business IT classes for FWEME participants, and social media & internet safety tips for mothers.

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Youth in Focus: An Interview with Nour A.

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Nour A. is a new volunteer in our Core Spring 2015 session. Born and raised in Nablus, Nour graduated from An-Najah National University in Spring 2014 with a major in Sociology and Social Service.

Nour leads a small group discussion on morning routines in the Concentration room.

1. What made you apply to STEP!?

Whenever people in Nablus hear the name Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, they recognize it as a leader in our city for supporting children and youth. I used to hear a lot about the STEP! volunteer program from other students in university and how it has helped them. I’m also someone who loves trying new things; during university, I volunteered on projects with youth and the elderly, but I had never worked with young children before. TYO’s youth program is known in the Najah student community as a great opportunity for those who want to volunteer and build workplace skills; unlike other workplaces in the city, volunteers at TYO are treated on the level of employees because of their important role in classes.

2. What career do you hope to pursue, and how do think STEP! will help you?

I’m very interested in education, either working as a teacher or social worker in public schools or working at a policy level. I know that working in TYO’s Core Early Childhood program will build my personality and skills for working with children. Although it’s only my second day in the classroom, between the psychosocial training we completed last week and these two days, I feel like STEP! has opened my eyes in terms of discipline, commitment, and specific skills I need for work. When I entered the first class, I felt like all of my senses were alert; I carefully observed the children and I’m learning to think on my feet and react appropriately to new situations.

Nour encourages students during a relay activity in the Sports room.

3. What is the greatest challenge youth like you face in the current job market?

I am sure that most graduates who are unemployed and cannot find a job would say “Vitamin W” meaning wasta [an Arabic word that loosely translates to “clout” or “corruption”]. But I also believe that wasta is not the only thing holding us back. Some of the responsibility also needs to go on ourselves, as youth, for not developing our skills – for example English language abilities – to get a job in the current market. We write CVs empty of skills and experience, and then we wonder why we cannot find jobs. Also, salaries in this country are very low; for me personally, I prefer a great volunteer experience over a poor work experience with a low salary, which I would anyway spend on transportation. But at the same time, I know that is not sustainable.

4. What do you think your generation can do to overcome that challenge?

Maybe we cannot change wasta overnight, but there are things we can control: for example, developing our skills, our work personality, and our language abilities. We have to be eager to take any opportunity to improve and to show future employers that we are qualified for work.

5. If there was one skill you wish you had, what would it be and why?

There are many important skills I want to work on, but I think my IT skills need the most improvement. Specifically, I want to take a course in Al-Shamel Program for Accounting, Visual Basics, and SPSS. Most of the jobs I am applying for require that.

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School Choice: Empowering Parents in their Child’s Education

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On February 4, the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings released its fourth annual Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI), which chronicles the progress across American school districts of ‘school choice’ – a system of primary and secondary school placement giving parents the freedom to choose their child’s school.

The older, traditional model assigns students to local schools based on their residential address (often dividing children among schools along socioeconomic lines). Within that model, any parent wanting to exercise choice over their child’s placement must either change their home location or pay the high fees of private school tuition. Across the U.S., school districts are now transitioning to a new system that allows all parents to choose the appropriate school for their child. The reason? – to put greater power and ownership over a child’s education back into parents’ hands, to even the school-access playing field for low income families, and to encourage healthy competition between schools to better serve children’s needs.

When we look at school placement in Palestine, we are still functioning on the traditional model that makes residential location the primary determinant of a child’s school placement (unless the child is among the small minority that can afford private school tuition and transportation). The issue is particularly acute for Nablus, where K-9 public school options for refugee camp families are entirely separate from those for Nablus city residents; only in 10th grade are children from the camps integrated with children from other Nablus city neighborhoods. The issue of choice is further compounded by the fact that little difference exists between Nablus schools in curriculum, approach, or performance; even if parents could choose, the choice is empty if there are no real alternatives.

In TYO’s Core Child program, we aim to offer a positive school choice for parents in a system severely lacking in options. Children from refugee camps and neighborhoods across Nablus are invited to enroll, and we provide transportation on a TYO bus to and from the child’s resident neighborhood.

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Children from Askar refugee camp hop off of the TYO bus to head to their first class.

With the release of the 2014 ECCI and the start of our Core Spring 2015 session, we asked a few parents about early childhood options in Nablus, and the alternatives to TYO. One father noted,

I haven’t seen other programs like TYO. We visited many preschools, and in every program the focus is solely academic, mostly reading and writing Arabic. We even visited the best preschool in Nablus, which I knew we could not afford, and as soon as I entered I knew it was a bad fit for Raghad. TYO’s space is much more comfortable. There are rooms and materials designed for different types of activities, for example the Sports, Imagination, and Concentration rooms. I want Raghad to experience those different things. Raghad has always had a special curiosity in building things. She loves blocks and patterns, and she needs a space like TYO in order to grow those interests.

As a father, I know that there will be enough time in Raghad’s future to learn specific subjects. We need to build her interest in learning first, and I think TYO is the only place that can meet that need.

Raghad’s father is a great example of a parent who understands his child’s needs, is invested in her future,  and was fortunate enough to be able to make a school choice. His commitment to choosing the best school experience for Raghad is at the core of TYO’s multigenerational approach, which seeks not only to educate and empower children and youth, but also to empower their parents to make responsible choices for their children’s future.

At the release of Brookings’ 2014 ECCI, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, who heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, spoke about America’s progress on school choice. In his speech, he emphasized the need “to move those decisions back towards the classroom, back towards the child, the family, the community of people who are nearest to the children and give the parent more authority to choose among options.” At TYO, we couldn’t agree more.

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Teacher Bias: Are we discouraging girls from math and science?

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Sara gets help on her math homework at the TYO center

Sara gets help on her math homework at the TYO center

Have you noticed that women are often underrepresented in math and science jobs? Have you ever wondered why? A new study shows that early childhood experience make a substantial impact on higher education choices youth make. More specifically, “elementary school seems to be a critical juncture” for children and teacher bias. And while it may be unconscious, it plays a huge role in a child’s future.

As a part of the study, researchers monitored school students over a period of seven years, from sixth grade until the end of high school. In the process, students took a series of various exams. One exam was graded by people who did not know the children’s identities and the other exam was graded by teachers who knew their names. Findings proved that the girls outperformed the boys in the math exam when it was graded anonymously, but when the teachers knew the students’ names, the boys outscored the girls. They found that this was unique to the math and science subjects and not the case for other subjects, including English.

By the end of the study, “researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.” Furthermore, the study points out that when the same students reached junior high and high school, their performance on the national exams were analyzed and “the boys who had been encouraged when they were younger, performed significantly better.” The researchers also tracked the students’ interest in enrolling in advanced science and math courses in high school. While controlling for other factors that may have swayed their decision-making, they concluded that “the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary school teachers were much less likely than the boys to take advanced courses” in these subjects

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Girls eagerly look on at an experiment in TYO intern Mary Jo’s Mad Science class

While these may be alarming findings, it’s important for teachers and parents to continue giving their children – girls and boys – encouragement when tackling these subjects. As a community, TYO’s teachers, interns, volunteers and staff try to better promote science and math skills in the classroom. We believe that every child has the potential for greatness.

 

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To Tech or Not to Tech? Technology’s Role in Parent-Teacher Communication

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Silicon Valley has turned its eye towards education as a new and growing niche for tech startups. In the past year, investors bid nearly $1.87 billion on education-tech companies, up 55% from the year before. The market is now rife with fledgling ed tech businesses, and investors are more enthusiastic than ever to get in on the trend.

More recently, apps for parent-teacher communication have taken front stage: take Remind, a free messaging service for teachers to send reminders and classroom news to students and parents. ClassDojo, a competitor of Remind now used in 1 out of 3 U.S. schools, is a gamified tool for teachers to provide positive reinforcement for student behavior; the most recent release now allows teachers to send text, voice, and photo messages to parents. This PT-messaging trend follows conclusive research that frequent teacher-family communication directly and positively impacts student engagement in the classroom.

The hype falls at a highly relevant time for us at TYO. In preparation for the start of our Core Child program for 4-5 year olds, our teachers are engaged in building strong relationships with the children and their parents. But, there is one key difference: the basis of our teacher-to-parent communication is in-person, one-on-one meetings.

In late January, our Core teachers visited the homes of new and returning students. The home visits not only offer valuable insight – through conversation and observation – on the child’s home environment, behavior, and specific needs, but they are also crucial in establishing trust between teachers and the child and family. The home visits are followed by a call from teachers inviting families to visit our center, both to tour the classrooms and learn more about our alternative education approach. Last week, those invitations yielded a 98% parent turnout.

Core teacher Mahmoud meets with a student and her mother at TYO's Nablus center.

TYO Core teacher Mahmoud meets with a student and her mother at TYO’s Nablus center.

During last week’s parent- teacher meetings, Reem whose son ‘Omar’ will be entering his third session in TYO’s Core program, shared the following story. We couldn’t have better expressed the power of meaningful, in-person parent-teacher contact.

When we registered Omar, my oldest, at TYO, he was extremely aggressive. He was only 5 yet always got into fights in the street. I never understood him, and to be honest that damaged our relationship. Every time he came home beaten up, I saw him as the aggressor. It reached a point where I wouldn’t allow him outside because I worried about his safety and others’. 

When Omar joined TYO, Ahmad [Omar’s teacher] scheduled many school and home visits. Ahmad knew us well, so I felt like I could open up about my concerns. One day I finally brought up Omar’s violent behavior; Ahmad told me he had observed the same, and it was such a relief. Ahmad invited me to observe Omar in class, and I remember feeling like I was watching a different child – the way Omar talked calmly with other children and adults, the way he respected boundaries. Ahmad later explained his techniques and encouraged me to use those at home. The way he talked about Omar made me feel comfortable, empowered as a mom. I learned how to talk to Omar, how to validate his anger without feeding it. I learned to engage in more positive ways; at home I displayed anything he brought back – whether school work or flowers or a drawing – to show him how important he is.

The experience changed everything. Now I don’t worry about leaving Omar with his sisters or letting him go out to play. It goes two ways – I trust him more and he trusts me.

Stories like Reem’s lead us to reflect on the buzz about tech solutions for parent-teacher communication, specifically what role technology can and should play in that relationship. At TYO, we use a tool similar to Remind – via a web-to-SMS platform, we send parents alerts about important dates, events, and cancellations.

However, we believe that parent-teacher communication can go much further than sharing reminders and updates on a child’s performance in class; as Reem’s story tells us, communication between teachers and parents is also an opportunity for two adults in a child’s life to share insight, and importantly strategies, related to the child’s emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development. It’s one of our best opportunities to smoothly bridge learning at school, and learning at home.

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Boys vs Girls: Who is Falling Behind?

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Boy & GirlDo boys outperform girls in school? Are girls more likely to continue higher education? Who is falling behind?

According to NPR, girls are outperforming boys “in math, science and reading in 70 percent of the 70-plus countries and regions surveyed by the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation and Development.” The article continues, “Girls do better even in countries that rank low on U.N.’s gender equality index and that tend to discriminate against women politically, economically and socially — like Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.”

This is a problem plaguing Palestine too. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports that “8.9% of males aged (15-29) years hold a university degree compared to 12.2% of females in the same age group. A further 3.0% of males had not completed any educational stage compared to 1.5% of females in the age group of (15-29) years.” Statistics are showing that boys throughout the world are overwhelmingly under performing. Psychologist David Geary at University of Missouri-Columbia assess that there are a few possible reasons behind this:

  1. Difficulty with the structure of the school day. “It’s tough for all kids to sit down and pay attention for six, seven hours but it’s generally harder for boys,” says Geary. “Boys are a little bit more active behaviorally and so sitting still requires a little more effort.” What can schools do to better cater to hyperactive children? Better integrating recess or physical education may “help them pay better attention in class.”
  2. Dropping out to join the workforce. Boys who drop out of school tend to do so in order to make income. Whether they want to earn money to help support their families or they “get much more prestige when they are out working… than being a student.”

At TYO, we definitely see how these factors can hold young boys back. In Nablus, schools don’t provide students with ample time for active learning. That means students are learning through rote memorization with little-to-no extracurricular activities to help break up their day. TYO offers children a safe outlet to participate in a variety of non-formal play and education.

Additionally, Many children in Nablus, especially pre-teen and teenage boys, are opting to work instead of continuing their schooling. This is very prevalent among the communities TYO works with, particularly in refugee camps, as young boys are often pressured work to help their families make ends meet. TYO strives to keep boys and girl academically on track by implementing Homework Help classes into its programming and by informing parents of the dangers of child labor.

While boys are struggling, we can’t forget that girls too are still struggling for their right to education. Changu Mannathoko, senior education adviser at UNICEF reminds us that “in the poorest nations, gender discrimination keeps millions of girls from getting an education in the first place. Many of them are at risk of being attacked while going to school or have to drop out and take care of the house.”

It’s clear that despite gender, both boys and girls in the developing world face the risk of falling behind. At TYO, we do everything we can to ensure #EducationForAll.

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4 Ways to Bring Joy Back into Your Classroom

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Students in TYO’s Core program build a volcano to practice their logic and reasoning skills.

In the age of education where buzzwords like “results,” “standardized,” “self-control,” and “college prep” are dominating the conversation, some educators say that we’re falling out of touch with the true purpose of education. One of those voices is Susan Engel, a developmental psychologist and Psychology lecturer at Williams College. In her recent Atlantic article Joy: A Subject Schools Lack, Engel argues that in our singular pursuit of making kids college- and workplace- ready, we’re overlooking their immense capacity for joy, and importantly, how we can use that joy to better engage kids in the classroom

Last week, as TYO’s Core team busily prepared for the start of our Spring 2015 4-5 year old program, we took some time to discuss Engel’s article. Two of our teachers shared great insights on how they are encouraging joy in their classrooms.

From TYO Core teachers Ahmad and Shireen, here are 4 ways to bring joy back into your classroom:

1. Offer choices.

On day one of Shireen’s class, the first thing children do when they enter her classroom is make a choice. She has three different warm-up “teams” represented by different colors and symbols (stars, bumblebees, etc.) and the children choose the color and symbol to represent them for that day. It sounds simple, but the choice immediately empowers children and gives them a sense of belonging and camaraderie with their “team” members – ultimately, a sense of joy. And it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the day, Shireen’s lessons are filled with choices for children of varying needs, interests, and levels of cognitive and emotional maturity. She says, “Everything we do – every activity, every rule – is ultimately a choice; it’s my job to offer options and guide our kids to make good choices for themselves.”

2. Teach through play.

A staple of TYO’s Core curriculum is experiential learning – and what better experience to offer 4-5 year old kids than play. In Ahmad’s class, more than talking about respect, he offers a number of fun physical activities where respect for one another yields positive outcomes, and disrespect, negative outcomes. For example, his students play collaborative games, work on teams to create art projects, and participate in activities that require respectful and clear verbal communication. Because his students experience the positive and negative outcomes of their behavior in the context of play, they associate joy with lessons about important life skills, like respect and communication.

3. Model joy for your students.

We’ve all experienced how easily children pick up the adult behavior that they see (for better or for worse!). For Shireen, her children’s eagerness to emulate adult behavior is a great teaching tool. “I honestly love our sports activities myself,” says Shireen. “The kids can read my genuine excitement and they internalize it.” Laughing, she recalls how her students are always surprised during a specific relaxation/imagination activity in which she and her volunteers share the funny and strange products of their imagination. Her students see adults who love learning, adults who value their own unique thoughts and imagination, and they quickly internalize that.

4. Give students a central role – and responsibility – in everything you do.

In the first week of Ahmad’s class, children come up with their own classroom rules. Ahmad asks his students to imagine a positive and happy classroom, and together they brainstorm the rules needed to create that. His students are eager to voice their ideas, and they even come up with a number of disciplinary rules to ensure safety in their learning environment.

By participating in the process, rules become empowering rather than restrictive. “Everyone is responsible for creating the space that they want,” he says. “Because they are shaping their own experience as learners, there is always a feeling of self-value and joy around practicing our classroom rules.”

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The MENA region’s investment in ECD is among the lowest in the world

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Countless research shows that best investment a community can make is in early childhood interventions and early childhood development (ECD). In fact, according to the World Bank, research shows that “investments in ECD significantly improve a child’s health, learning ability, future earnings, and life expectancy.” However according to a recent publication by the World Bank Group, Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation: Early Childhood Development in the Middle East and North Africa, “the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s investment in early childhood development is among the lowest in the world.”

The research presents very sobering statistics about a substantial deterioration in children’s early social, emotional, and cognitive development, in the West Bank and Gaza. The research finds that in 2010, a mere 58% of children aged 3-4 experienced four or more activities that support child development. Among children ages 0-4, families were less likely to engage them in critical cognitive development activities:

  • 20% of children have had books (or picture books) read to them.
  • 38% of children have stories told to them by family members.
  • 42% of children have had families engage with them in activities of naming, counting, and drawing.

Similarly, parents in the West Bank and Gaza are not providing their children with adequate early childhood care and education (ECCE). According to the 2013 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2010, a devastating 15% of children ages 3-4 years old attend such programs. Further hindering the healthy development of children is violent discipline. UNICEF reveals that violent discipline negatively impacts the physical, psychological, and social development of children, which is far too common in the West Bank and Gaza. The report states that 92% of 2-4 year olds have been violently disciplined.

Socio-economic status of a family also affects a child’s ability to thrive. In the West Bank and Gaza, “it is children from the most advantaged backgrounds who are attending ECCE, despite the fact that early childhood education has the greatest benefits for disadvantaged and vulnerable children.” Unfortunately, “a least advantaged child has a 13% chance of attending ECCE and a most advantaged child has a 58% chance.” In Nablus specifically, only 34.4% of children ages 3-4 attended ECCE programming.

What does TYO do to help fill the gaps? 

TYO’s Core Child Program, our ECD programming for children ages 4-8 years old, serves the most disadvantaged families in the Nablus areas and implements high-quality programs and curricula. All of our programs and transportation needs are completely free of charge to our beneficiaries, making ECCE and enrichment programs accessible to even the most vulnerable populations. Our Core Child Program also focuses on a wide array of innovative and cognitive learning activities including: storytelling, the concentration corner and the imagination room. We also supplement these activities with art therapy, sports classes, IT, Arabic and ESL classes.

Through The Women’s Group (TWG), TYO’s programs also train current and future parents in economic, personal and parenting skills. In TWG, we often focus on healthy child discipline protocols, helping mothers understand the dangers and long-term impact on a child’s psyche, as a result of violent punishment.

Believing every family deserves the chance to succeed, we promote healthy and productive relationships between parents and their children.

TYO Hug

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