Tacarra Lake, American
My fear was palpable. Six year olds. In Classroom No. 4, there were rows and rows of tiny humans that hardly resembled the high school students I was so accustomed to working with in the United States. It took the first week of classes to fully grasp how to begin to create lesson plans that met their learning needs. Instead of studying geography, chemistry and the culture of the southwestern United States, lessons became centered on sharing, listening to directions, and helping others. These skills would build a strong foundation for students to later build more complex and academic-focused lessons. Learning to teach students these skills, which may feel so intuitive for adults, was both challenging and rewarding at once.
My Syrian co-teacher in Classroom No. 4 has been instrumental and I could not have managed my lessons without her. The first day we were introduced, she proclaimed her love for the students was like that of her own children. Despite countless responsibilities, my co-teacher had developed close relationships with many of the students and understood the familial factors influencing a student’s learning progress. When one of my students suddenly became sad one afternoon, she knew it was because his mother had made the difficult decision to return to Syria while the rest of the family would remain in Bekaa. When another student struggled to share with his classmates, she explained he had older brothers who likely struggled to share with him. While my time in Classroom No. 4 is fleeting, her relationship with individual students will last far beyond my summer with Jusoor.
Success in Classroom No. 4 is not measured by how many students know their ABC’s or who remembers vocabulary from the previous lesson, rather, it is the seemingly “insignificant” breakthroughs. For the student who stood on the desk during the entire first day, they now hum quietly as they draw a house they one day dream of living in. For the student who struggled to express frustration through means other than hitting and screaming at classmates, they now complete art projects without starting major arguments. For the shy student in the back of the class, they now move to the front desk to carefully and meticulously copy new English words onto paper.
While my co-teacher and students have learned more about the United States, watercolor paint, and English vocabulary, it is I who has learned the most in Classroom No. 4. I have learned how to create lessons that not only interest six year old students, but also attempt to teach the difficult skills of sharing and caring. The dedication and devotion of my Syrian co-teacher to her students is an experience I will keep with me as I return to the United States and is something I will strive to develop with my students. Finally, it is the students themselves who have taught me so much. In the three weeks I’ve known them, they have taught me to be a more patient, less rigid, and compassionate teacher. As I prepare to part ways with my students and co-teacher, I would like to express how thankful I am to have met and worked with them.