Teach For Lebanon Fellowship Impact on Youth

Dayana Mansour is a second-year Fellow teaching English at Tahwitat Al Ghadir Public School in Mount Lebanon. Her drive stems from the purpose to aid refugee children by focusing on their psychological well-being and access to quality education.

Would you say the Fellowship gave you mental strength? Why?

Although the Summer Institute provided us with all the necessary trainings needed for a well-prepared teaching experience, becoming a “real” school teacher included a great number of unexpected challenges. 

As a new teacher, having to combat hesitation and self-doubt definitely amplified my mental strength throughout the Fellowship. I found myself in a new foreign environment; fluctuating circumstances and different lessons learned taught me to embrace my vulnerabilities and grow resilience to make sure my students received the support they needed.

How did you surmount problems? What were they?

I came across different obstacles throughout the school year, some demanding harder work and others demanding empathy, patience and understanding. Many students had difficulties grasping a second language which not only required an all-inclusive lesson plan but also confidence-boosting activities and motivational speeches inside the classroom. Students who had given up on the English language needed both a shift in mindsets and a twist in the teaching style that brought the language closer to them.

Many students came from broken homes which is why their behaviors ranged between extreme defiance, nervousness, and inattention. Understanding the backgrounds of those students and what yielded such behaviors was much more effective than turning away from them. Some students went through painful events that were heartbreaking; it was important that I build personal emotional resilience in order to provide influential objective support to them.

Why was this a memorable life-experience?

I have learned from my students not much less than what they’ve learned from me and that’s what made this fellowship a memorable life experience. I’ve taught students who in the face of adversity, unstable living circumstances, and disorganized families still chose to commit to learning.

What advice would you give a first-year Fellow?

You will, at one point, ask yourself if whether or not you can live up to this responsibility; believe that you can!  Always replace self-doubt with effort. Both the students and other teachers can benefit from your knowledge, so make sure you pledge to supporting them.

How did becoming a teaching Fellow make you a good leader?

Knowing that I was able to reach a number of students in multiple ways is equivalent to good leadership, in my opinion. I’ve observed the impact on some students, it went beyond the classroom walls. I’ve seen some students become more hopeful, some read their first words and others starting to believe in themselves. My purpose was to make students feel like they’re heard, and capable. That was achieved through creating a warm and welcoming classroom environment where no student felt unaided or overlooked.

Teaching Refugee Students: a Challenge & a Responsibility

Sara Kassab, Cohort 10, Shares about her experience teaching Syrian refugees in Baalbeck

Teaching refugee students is, in itself, a challenge and a responsibility. Refugees come from a different background then mine and that was one of the challenges I faced. Their lives and experiences are quite unlike mine. However, being aware of these differences was the first step towards unlocking my students’ true needs. I have seen that Education is not about teaching students how to read, write, and/or count, but it is about equipping them and empowering them to find their own solutions to their problems.

Two years ago, I joined Teach For Lebanon (TFL) to be part of a global movement: to ensure all students receive quality education. Now, after two years, I have grown to be more committed to this belief.

I started my Fellowship with TFL in Baalbek. I taught English, Math, and Sciences to Early Childhood Syrian Learners for two years at “Ana Aqra Association”. They also share the same belief of equitable education for all. I decided to stay for a third year with them, after my two-year TFL journey ended. I have developed a passion for education! So much so that I am also pursuing an MA in Education at AUB, thanks to the scholarship opportunity provided by TFL.

During my first year teaching, I had decided to unlearn all the previous concepts, prejudgments and solutions that I had readily prepared for my students. Instead, I decided that it was their time to speak up and make their voices heard in my classroom and outside of it. That is, I decided to unlock their leadership skills and let them lead their way towards their own future.

The students embraced the “superhero” present within each of them. They had the chance to express their potentials by choosing their desired superpower. It is just amazing how their choices always involved bringing happiness to their loved ones. From that point on, I knew that they were aware of what was needed in their community and, as a teacher, it was my responsibility to cater for my class and help them meet their needs.

The second year, my teaching techniques changed; they needed to change to meet the needs of my students. I felt that my students needed to improve their critical thinking skills to be able to find the solutions to their problems. More importantly, there was no such thing as a small problem. In one of our PSS sessions during the week, we were discussing the importance of brushing our teeth, until one of my students interrupted me saying: “we don’t always have toothpaste at home, what do I do?” Accordingly, we researched, looked at the products they had at home and tried to see together what would work best as an alternative. An older version of myself would have just suggested a solution, but I knew by that point that this is not what my students needed.

Planning and utilizing the learning processes to help the students own their future made the entire learning process more fun. Students were motivated to come to school and discuss how learning can help them in their personal lives. After two years, I can proudly say that I am not the same person that started this journey, and that my students helped me improve my teaching!

On Virtual Teaching and More

Cohort 11 Fellow Mohamad Said answers Cohort 12 Fellow-to-be Ruba Hemade’s questions about the Fellowship and what awaits her!

Mohamad in his classroom before the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Based on your experience, how can we approach sensitive topics that the students might be anxious about such as the crisis, the explosion, and the revolution?

There is nodoubt that these topics are very sensitive and the teacher must handle them in an objective way considering the different reactions that the students may have.  If they had opinions regarding any sensitive topic, I will let them know that we can talk about anything that they feel like sharing about. However, to be able to maintain good classroom management and a positive classroom environment, we set boundaries and rules to what to discuss and how to interact with others who have a different opinion than ours (for example, political discussions). Therefore, I will lead the conversation by asking the right questions or introducing the topic in a certain way that makes them understand the situation and then to hear their opinions.

For example, last year the revolution started in Lebanon and the students were very curious to know my opinion regarding the political events happening around that time. I told them that these events can happen in any country and we should be able to talk rationally about it and understand the causes and factors. We focused on the triggers that lead the Lebanese people to revolt such as, the economic situation. After that, I answered some questions in a very objective way and we moved on to the lesson.

Students should be safe, respected and appreciated when sharing their thoughts and feelings. We should always remember that we can’t solve all of their problems and we should always refer them to professional help upon their approval and their parents’ consent when needed.

  • Since Lebanon is not well equipped for online learning, what challenges did you face and how did you handle them?

I faced a lot of challenges that made our job harder and more challenging. The most important one is that most of the parents didn’t have internet access at home which made the communication with the students much harder. Moreover, the pandemic was such a surprise for all of us; teachers and parents were both not equipped to shift to virtual learning.

And like many other schools, my school was not prepared to shift to online teaching and was not able to put schedules and instructions for teachers and parents.

 I tried to handle these challenges with the resources that were available to me at that time. For example, I focused on one application that I knew all the parents had (WhatsApp) to ensure that all the students received the material. I also tried my best to send explanations and homework at times where both parents were home, so I scheduled the time to 7 pm every day.

In addition, I tried to give the parents clear instructions on how they can help and how to answer questions if needed taking into consideration that parents were playing the biggest role in the education of their kids during that period. I used both languages (Arabic and English) to ensure that parents were able to understand the instructions to support their kids.

  • How did you cater for the mixed abilities and learning styles in the classroom when schools shifted to online learning?

I used short and fun videos with cartoon characters; other lessons involved writing the rules on a paper and sheets to practice. Sometimes, I sent a video of me explaining a lesson and the students could later ask questions privately.

By trying different ways of delivering content, I was able to cater the mixed abilities of the students and the feedback from the school administration and the parents was great!

In addition, I allocated an hour a day to low achievers so that they could ask questions and I could provide support.

  • Which methods and tools did you use to reach all the students? How effective were they?

I used differentiated learning techniques to ensure that all types of learners were able to understand the lessons. There was different sets of explanation tools and exercises dedicated to high and low achievers, also I divided the students into groups of two (high achiever + low achiever), so they would solve an exercise together by meeting via a WhatsApp video call.

  • Which assessment methods did you use to ensure that the students were meeting the

objectives?

At the end of each lesson, we played a game that included all the objectives of the lesson as a fun assessment to help me guarantee that all objectives were attained.

  • What challenges did you face during the assessments, and how did you handle them?

In some cases, I was not sure if the parents were only helping the students or doing their homework for them. I tried to solve this problem by inviting the parents to a group video call during which I explained the importance of letting the students do their homework on their own, specially that the assessments were not graded. A number of students were not convinced by the effectiveness of virtual learning and didn’t take the assessment seriously. I tried to keep my lessons filled with fun and interactive games to grab the attention of my students. We agreed that the most engaged and persistent students will get a certificate sent to their parents. This increased their motivation to engage and learn more.

Good teachers explain – Great teachers inspire

Souad Abi Ishak is in the second year of her Teach For Lebanon Fellowship, teaching theater at Al Nahda Public School for girls in Tripoli.

Souad’s passion is arts. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Radio TV and Film from the Lebanese International University (LIU). She joined TFL after graduating with the aim to make a difference in the educational field and to prove that learning with art is important.

“Via theater, I can give my students an opportunity to express their emotions. My aim is to build their confidence and show them that they are able to achieve much more than they think. My students at Al-Nahda are exclusively girls and many of them grew up in a rather conservative social setting; theater classes make a big difference in their lives”.

Souad has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2013, as a member of the Emergency medical team. Working with openness, honesty, respect and generosity, her volunteering work is in line with TFL’s core values which are empathy, commitment to equality and mutual responsibility.

“I was able to be the first responder for many medical emergencies at Al-Nahda. We also held a First Aid Training with the encouragement of the school principal.Souad 2

In the end, regardless of the services, the aim of the two organizations are the same, serving others without expecting anything in return”.

In her lessons, Souad uses drama activities and mixes fun sessions with more serious periods. This is challenging because the classes have to be adapted to the different age groups – Souad teaches students from 5 to 13 years – and each class comprises around 25 to 30 children.

“As teachers, we play an important role in students’ lives and are often confronted with their personal issues. It’s not only about educational purposes but also about being there for them on a personal level. TFL gave us the opportunity to be inspiring to others”.

Asked what benefit schools and students pull out of TFL Fellows, Souad highlights TFL’s innovative methodology which visibly induces energy and triggers outside-the-box thinking of students.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”, William A. Ward.

Souad

My Internship with Teach For Lebanon

510b46a8-dc06-4b4d-ac97-71c1b5467351Ten weeks. This was the timeline for my internship with Teach for Lebanon and as well the time I had to explore Lebanon, a country to which I had never been before. I remember being very excited about the upcoming adventure!

The TFL Team welcomed me very warmly and integrated me from the first day. I quickly learned the basic principle of Teach for Lebanon: training the most promising graduates and placing them into schools with less privileged children to generate benefits for both sides. The values taught – like active citizenship or gender equality – go beyond the regular schedule of the schools and help the students to believe in themselves and to make the best out of their multiple talents. The TFL mission shapes indeed the future generation of the country and I felt from the very beginning that both, the TFL Team and the Fellows are passionate about their mission.

During my internship I learned what it means to work in an NGO, I got to know the different work areas and could contribute my experience from Germany, where I am managing refugee settlements. Apart from that I certainly did witness an exceptional period of time in Lebanon, as the “thawra” broke out. It was the first word I could read in Arabic and it should influence my whole stay in Lebanon. Besides a lot of stunning and impressing experiences I made, it also meant, that schools were closed for weeks and work couldn’t continue as normal.

Even though it was an exceptional period in terms of politics, I had the chance to visit the country a little bit. I marveled at the archaeological sites in Byblos, went through the Souk in Tripoli and had a very good lemonade in Batroun while sitting on the Phoenician wall. On many weekends I went hiking and discovered the beautiful landscape in Lebanon – especially walking through Qadisha Valley and seeing nature in all its autumn colors was amazing!Franzsica PicBy my first walks through Beirut I noticed how peacefully Muslims and Christians live together, both of them being part of the rich history of this country for a long time. Church bells ring and the Muezzin sings and both is perfectly normal to everyone. I realized I hadn’t expected this and more painful, I hadn’t experienced this before.
Mosque and Church neighboring harmonious in the very center of the city. It could be so easy.

I am very grateful for the time I had in Lebanon for many reasons. The TFL Team has a big part in that with being very open; sharing their reflections on Lebanon with me, and – most important – introducing me to the Lebanese cuisine! Thank you very much & “merci kteer”, I head back to Germany with lots of beautiful memories and will keep you in my heart!1d27abbf-918f-4a6f-84d7-47de07b4c142

The internship was facilitated in cooperation with the German institute ifa (Institut fuer Auslandsbeziehungen).

My Work with TFL – By Nick Boke

Nick Boke and Farah Aboumaita, Teach For Lebanon Education Manager

It was a lovely October day when Ali Dimashkieh and I met at Roadster in Hamra.

I’d read about Teach for Lebanon, then in its first year, in the Daily Star. Fascinated by the concept, I sent Ali, conceptualizer and founder of TFL, an email.

I was teaching history and English at ACS for a semester and had some free time. Maybe I could help?
See, I’d been involved in a similar Teacher Corps internship program—as what TFL calls a Fellow—several decades before, working with African American kids in a small city in West Virginia.
Like every conversation with Ali, this one was full of energy, hope and possibility.
As we wrapped things up he said he’d get in touch.

And indeed, he did, inviting me to offer an evening of training for the Fellows. I agreed, and met the group in their office in Beirut. We discussed, I think, Formative Assessment. The Fellows were interested and interesting, full of the same energy and inquisitiveness that Ali had projected. Then I left Lebanon, returning a year later. Again, I offered my services. Again, he invited me to help, so I provided several workshops for the cohort of new Fellows during the next Summer Institute in Saida.
It was all very pleasant. Pleasant and rewarding.

A few months later, however, just before a celebratory dinner where my wife—who had joined me at ACS—and I were to meet TFL staff, board members and Fellows, the TFL world fell apart.
Ali had been hit by an unknown but incapacitating illness. What would happen to Ali? What would happen to TFL?
Since Ali didn’t seem to be getting any better, everyone was asking these questions, staff, board members and Fellows. The question was all the more urgent because there didn’t seem to be enough money to train and pay for another cohort. The staff started looking for work. It was hard to blame them, but it did seem a shame to let this promising organization fall apart just when it was gaining momentum. Moreover, a small group of Lebanese ex-pats living in the US was creating TFL-US, which would probably be able to add significantly to the organization’s coffers. But it would take a while to cross all those bureaucratic t’s and dot those i’s.
It turned out that there was enough money provide the current cohort with a second year, but not enough to start up a new cohort.

Hmmm.
Hey, how about this?
TFL wouldn’t recruit a new cohort, but I’d round up some volunteers to meet with the second-year Fellows four or five times during the school year to maintain their momentum and keep the program alive. Maybe TFL-US would wrap up its paperwork and start raising money.
Maybe we could save the organization.

Salyne, the only staff member to hang on, agreed. Ali agreed.
So I asked a couple of ACS colleagues if they could give a few hours on a half-dozen Saturdays to keep things moving, offering trainings in whatever interested them.
So Wade and Andrea and I began meeting with the dozen or so Fellows. We spent the first part of each meeting debriefing about what they’d been learning, wondering about, coping with, and hoping for. Then we provided some training.

About half-way through the year we asked the teachers to develop an Action Research question that they’d like to study in their classrooms, and the Saturday workshops began to focus on what they were beginning to learn about their questions. Somewhere along the way, word came from Charbel Tagher, the Lebanese-American businessman who made TFL-US possible, that TFL-US was up and running and was attracting a fair amount of funding. Salyne organized a Summer Institute for a new cohort.
Ali was, very slowly, getting better, but was nowhere near ready to pick up the leadership reins, so Salyne agreed to run the operation. Ali asked if I would work as teacher trainer.
Sure.

My relationship with this fledgling operation—the dream of a man who had seen Lebanon’s public schools at first hand and realized that something needed to be done—had morphed and blossomed.
But mainly, TFL had survived.

Nicholas Boke is currently an international education consultant working in the Middle East and Africa, including a variety of projects in Lebanon. He lived in Beirut in the late 1950s, attending the American Community School before moving to Rio, then studying at the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked as a classroom teacher, journalist, family and adolescent literacy expert and now lives with his wife, Buffy, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Teach For Lebanon Cohort 8 Alumna goes to Mexico with Teach For All and the Oak Foundation

Cohort 8 Alumna Lubna Al Majthoub took part in the Oak foundation’s event in Mexico: “Reaching all Learners” which involved 16 teachers from the Teach For All network.
The objective of the event was to learn about meta-cognitive strategies in the classroom and how to apply them.

“It was an amazing experience. I got the chance to meet teachers from all over the world! We learned about different educational systems, visited schools in Mexico and shared thoughts and ideas with people who live on the other side of the world from us, but share the same vision of Educational Equity.
I came back with a refreshed mind, new ideas, and knowledge to share and apply in my community. This event helped me understand that Education never ends, and that every day we can learn new things no matter how much we have learned already.
I am now more eager to learn and share. Also, I am very proud of my country as we were the only country from the Middle East represented.
I am very thankful for Teach For Lebanon and what it means to be a TFL Alumna.
When people ask me how I feel now that my fellowship has ended, I tell them it never will. Once a TFLer, always a TFLer!”

Lubna is now a caseworker with INTERSOS for Gender Based Violence cases in the Beqaa, and she’s also still teaching as a second shift teacher for Refugees at an intermediate school.

 

Teach_For_Lebanon_TFALL_Mexico 8Teach_For_Lebanon_TFALL_Mexico 11Teach_For_Lebanon_TFALL_Mexico 7.JPGTeach_For_Lebanon_TFALL_Mexico 5

Meet Our Fellows: Ghadeer Saghir

Name: Ghadeer El-Saghir
School: Sahaguian-Levon Meguerditchian College
Education: Mathematics (LIU), English Literature (LU)
Hometown: Beirut
Hobbies: Reading, Writing

What inspired you to join Teach for Lebanon? What was the main reason that made you join the program?
Unlike the majority of Lebanon’s organizations, Teach for Lebanon has a mission to accomplish and a vision to truly work on. I was still a junior year student when TFL made a seminar at my university. I thought this is what I want to be part of when I graduate; an active member of a professional, kind-hearted society with an educational goal to reach. Apart from this, TFL was overwhelmingly promising in terms of character-development.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your students?
I am hoping to make my students active members in the Lebanese society, by trying to fill the language gap. Along with plenty other personal-level activities, extra-curricular activities and educational strategies, they will be ready to face any societal challenge and make a change in it. I am very excited to start my two-year journey; I can feel it will give me the great privilege of inspiring little souls, and I am looking forward to make a change.

What excites you most about teaching in Lebanon?
The most exciting part is that it is challenging. Teaching in Lebanon triggers all sides of a personality; it tests patience, knowledge, social abilities and definitely the educational part. All these wrapped up under one platform: the privilege of teaching.

What are your future and professional goals or targets?
My target is to focus on the two years ahead. The main goal will be being able to make a change, I will fully dedicate my time to try being the teacher my students have always dreamed of.

The Hult Prize

The Hult Prize Foundation, in partnership with President Bill Clinton and Banque du Liban, has launched a ground-breaking national level entrepreneurship and innovation program in Lebanon. The aim of this program is to  empower University students to have a unique opportunity to compete for a local prize and the USD $1 Million Global Prize at the 2017 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.

The 2017 Hult Prize “President’s Challenge” is “Refugees – Reawakening Human Potential”. It focuses on restoring the rights and dignity of people and societies who may be, or are forced into motion due to social injustice, politics, economic pressure, climate change and war. They also work to restore the rights and dignity of those currently living in informal / illegal settlements.

Ola Al Samhoury, a Teach For Lebanon Alumna, is part of a team who participated in the Hult event at the Lebanese American University (LAU). The team members Ahlam Al Omari, Asmaa El Ladan and Ola Al Samhouri presented an idea for a social enterprise that empowers refugees by allowing them to take control over their lives and health. Among other teams from LAU, her team won the first place and will represent LAU at the semi-final regional event in Duba! Final presentations will be held on March 4th after going through training sessions on March 3rd!

“Our passion to empower the refugees is what united and motivated us to work towards the benefit of our community. I can’t but thank Teach for Lebanon for empowering me to improve my leadership skills throughout my fellowship program. During the second year, I taught Syrian refugees who suffered from several health problems due to the deprivation of their basic rights. Whenever I reflect back on my teaching experience, I remember how much they enjoyed learning and how motivated they used to be to achieve their dreams, regardless of the obstacles that they faced on daily basis.

As an active member in society, I want to target the health aspect which is one of the building blocks for having a descent life.

A Journey that Never Ends- Mohamad Alameh- Alumnus

It all started two years ago, when I was accepted to take a leadership position as a Teach For Lebanon Fellow. Teaching for two years in a challenging environment and being able to leave a positive impact on my students and my colleagues at school developed my leadership skills. Once the Fellowship was over, I was admitted to the Masters in Business Administration at The American University in Beirut. These acquired leadership skills from my Fellowship enabled me to become the first president of the MBA Students Society and gave me the chance to enjoy my MBA journey.

The MBA Students Society aims to ensuring a unique experience for MBA students by planning entertaining events. MBA students can enjoy their time while developing their soft skills. In addition, the Society aims at organizing professional events where regional speakers can share their struggles and recommendations regarding the business world. Some of the prospective topics are: Entrepreneurship, Women Leadership and PhD programs. Finally, the Society aims at finding solutions side-by-side with the Business School at AUB to provide wider education opportunities for MBA students and rise to international levels.

A final Thank you goes to Ms. Maya El Helo, the Director of Graduate Programs at Olayan School of Business, whose mentorship and enthusiasm aided my success in reaching where I am now.Mohamad Alameh