I was amazed by how fast I bonded with the kids in my class. At first they tested me, hard, but patience and warmth are all that was needed to persuade them to open up to me. From day one to day two they went from tricksters testing the waters to playful kids eager to learn.
Hearing them excitedly explain how they had labelled things in their lives outside of school with the English they had learnt in class showed their interest in learning to me. It was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences to have the kids asking for more letters and words to learn, not yet satisfied with their fill of knowledge.
One thing that especially amazed me was how, no matter what, a child can’t get angry at a smiling face. There were instances in class where kids would get upset with each other or their work but words of support and a smile left them unsure if their upset was genuine. I watched in wonder as their expressions would transform from a frown to a hesitant twitch upwards of the lips leading to a smile. It was great to see how even the more quiet and restrained children in my class would crack a smile whenever they were confronted with a happy face. It was as if they couldn’t help but share the joy that they saw others experiencing.
The more I smiled at the kids, the more of them were happy and also, amazingly, the happier they were with their work. The reassurance that a smile gave them filled them with confidence and the motivation to learn.
This small gesture of reassurance, kindness and friendship can offer these kids a moment of peace and clarity of mind. It can offer them a moment where their troubles are forgotten for a while and any disturbances they may have seen can be moved aside to be replaced by a more positive image. It can pave a clearer and brighter path to their futures, enabling them to dream of things past their present experiences.
I am so happy to have shared the simple magic of a smile with the children and to have encouraged them to enjoy themselves some more. I am glad I could open their minds to new knowledge to help them move on from their difficulties and give them something to look forward to.
Lara volunteered at Jusoor’s educational centers in Lebanon during July and August as part of the summer volunteer program.