Sunday, January 10, 2010

Teaching in Palestine

Written by Josh:

We're told to stand in the front of the room. Having just woken up fifteen minutes before, I yawn, attempting to release some of the fatigue that still clouds my mind. "Hello class!," I yell loudly and so enthusiastically that it sounds terribly sarcastic.

And despite my attempt at engaging the room of four and five year olds, the kindergartners stare blankly back at us; a few laugh.

This is by far the most treacherous and nerve-racking endeavor we've experienced here in Palestine yet. Our mission is to teach English to Palestinian kindergartners; children who don't understand a word of English and who are in the early stages of learning their own native language. It is indeed difficult.

"Ok..," I start. "Hello, My name is Josh!" "And my name is Michael!," Michael continues. Still we recieve confused stares. We attempt to circle the room, having each child introduce themselves. Still, the children have no clue what we are doing.

Oy. We were not expecting this to be so difficult. We hadn't thought of many ideas or activities for our first day of teaching, and I think that our lack of preparation really shows.

The teachers seated in the back of the room watch on in confusion: Could these volunteers really have come to their first class completely unprepared to teach this class of 25? One of the teachers approaches us, and suggests, "You can act out a puppet show, and I'll translate!"

Oh no... my heart begins to beat fast. Maybe this isn't the right job for us... The teachers bring forth some finger puppets, and we're forced to perform an improvisational puppet show for the children.

Now the kids are excited. They watch on with wide grins. We begin: "Hello! My name is Frank!," Michael says, donning a deep voice and holding up his finger-rabbit. "What's your name?," he asks me.

"My name is Sunshine!" I squeak in a voice that sounds a lot like Mickey Mouse, and shaking my giraffe. What next...? I quickly try to recall the short stories I learned in my youth, but I draw a blank. So I continue in the same annoying voice, "When I grow up, I want to be a doctor!" Michael goes, "I dream to go to the moon!" Here we go!-- an opportunity for engagement- "What do you all dream to be?"

A few children raise their hands, and tell the Arabic speaking teacher what they dream to be one day- a doctor, a teacher, a motorcycle rider. After these few responses, we are at a standstill, with no clue what to do, so we decide to wrap-up our lesson: ", I think that's all for today." We promise the teachers to come more prepared the following day with activities and songs.

I wrote this about two weeks ago, after our first class, and since then, our classes have been far better. We ourselves are learning as much if not more from the children than they take away from us.


  1. What do you know, more supporters of terror like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have sprouted. Josh and Michael, Hamas needs martyrs in their decades old attempt at murdering Jews. I am sure they would love to have you. True, not being a Muslim you don't get virgins, but you will be a hero to them and be memorialized on posters. Shame on you.

  2. Roadie, your comment makes the following assumptions:
    (1) All children in the Palestinian territories are "supporters of terror like Hamas and Islamic Jihad".
    (2) Even if they are educated, they will still support terrorism.
    (3) Anyone that supports these children are supporters of terrorism, somehow.
    (4) Educating children somehow contributes to terror and is directly equitable with blowing yourself up.
    (5) The children in this refugee camp actively support terrorism.

    I think it is clear that good education is what stops terrorism.

    This is exactly what Josh and Michael are attempting to do. And is far more than you will ever do. Amazing.

    Thank God you are thousands of miles away from any potential peace process.

  3. thank you for the breath. i giggled out loud a lot.

    i hope when you get back you guys and do a rendition of the puppet show and put it on youtube? ahahhahahahah