Day 5: Tuesday 23 July, 2019
Georgia, United States
My first few days at Joub Jannine have challenged me immensely but already taught me so much. Everything I knew from my prior experience working in an adult learning environment centered around producing new and pattern-disrupting information. But children, I am learning, are different: they are searching for new things to explore, sounds to learn, or creative projects to perfect. Children thrive with repetition, are comforted by familiarity and respond to opportunities for deep individual focus.
I began my first day with a slew of ideas: lesson plans with order in mind, games with strict rules and materials I planned to slowly introduce. I knew little of how much English the students could understand but was very aware of the deficits in my spoken Arabic. Together with the help of the co-teacher I am working with, I thought, we will figure this out. From my first period on my first day, I realized the order and logic I had created in my head would need to be revised, and immediately. My class of 6-10 year olds had little patience for the introductory activities I planned that require working in small groups to share about themselves and then report out to the class. With the help of my wonderful co-teacher, we switched gears to the parts of the body. The co-teacher in my room helped to remind the students of the body parts they had learned in English during the school year, with a call and repeat for each part.
“What is this?” the co-teacher asked, pointing to her face? “Eyes!” the room replied. “How many do you have?” she asked. “I-have-two-eyes!” each student chanted, in a moment making leaps and bounds in the English I had heard them speak earlier. Within minutes we were challenging them, quickening the pace of the parts we’d point to and shuffling order and direction. The repetition and pride in their successful memories brought such a joy to the room. Then, once we convinced them to draw, working individually with their hands to outline and label parts of the body, the room that had previously been a swarm of nervous energy and idle unrest turned almost completely silent.
It is still very early in my experience at Joub Jannine and I certainly have challenges ahead to adapt to the strategies I have learned will maximize the excitement and engagement of the students. That said, I feel so lucky to have been invited in by the children and the Jeb Janine community, despite my learning curve. The sweetness, curiosity and eagerness to understand with which the students approach each day, makes me excited for all we will learn together!