Feb 16, 2009

Students of the main stream education in Lebanon.

Lebanese students suffer a lot to acquire their education. Since kindergarten, they are expected to fulfil all requirements of intelligence and stand out from the crowd. So far, I’ve realized how unhealthy this demanding view upon them is. I’ve recently had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher at my former school. Believe me when I say that I was devastated and nearly shocked to what I’ve experienced. Children either tend to become teachers’ pets or fade in the classroom background or get all the blame for the classroom noise. What I witnessed behind the walls of that school was beyond my comprehension. I never thought that I was brought up and educated in such an environment. There the teachers have more than 15 years of experience in the field of education but none of them caters for the needs of his/her class. When I first entered a grade 8, I was afraid to face such chaos and disturbance. The students were nearly savages. The principal would enter the class every day before my arrival, threatens them, screams at their faces, then turns her back and head back to her office. Has it never occurred to her mind that such an attitude with such a delicate age would create more revolutionary acts on behalf of the class than some peace and quiet? Has she never taken into consideration the option of communicating with them and trying to locate a common path for a classroom harmony?
From that day on, I realized that my task of replacing another teacher was ever going to hard and time consuming. But, that was no problem. I dedicated myself to open a route for that class in particular. I thought that if I was going to succeed in my mission, I needed to perceive every student’s character and somehow study his personality so I can fit my lesson plan to the classroom’s atmosphere.
That year, the school’s program was based upon succeeding to get an accreditation from the French embassy so that French students can manage to study in Lebanon the French program. Every day, you’d feel like you’re walking in to a bee hive: all the tension and the hustle of the teachers translated into strain and pressure inside the classrooms. Since I was teaching in a French educational school, English language is a second language learning class and so all students would lessen of its importance in the face of the French language which would take all their energy, for the teachers gave all in order to show the embassy excellent results. I would enter my classes after the principal’s harsh speech of every day and see the disgust in my students’ eyes. I had a big challenge ahead: I should fulfil the curriculum’s objective but personally I wanted my class to be relieved and happy to learn the language. My next step then was to throw my perfect lesson plans away and create new ones. I added the free time option. It’s the first 5-10 minutes of class time where I can tell my class jokes or charades that would introduce my lesson whether in grammar or reading. I also added the time-out option which is applicable once per week, where students would evaluate the week’s class work and individual work. And so, little by little, my students became less agitated, more relaxed and of course more productive in class. They would even compete among themselves around who’d get the best joke or charade, who’d be the first to show his research topics or even to tell his friends about his latest online discovery.
With few twists in a lesson plan, patience for classroom work and a lot of love and understanding for students, I managed to fulfil the school’s demanding syllabus, got students to work more and from the bottom of their hearts and I also build that unbreakable bridge between a teacher and his students... I was their friend within some limits but most of all now, when I meet them, they tell me how much of a guide I was to them. This, my friends is the truest and most sincere recommendation I could ever have. It isn’t your knowledge that makes you a good teacher but it’s your love for this mission, and your readiness for change in all weathers.

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