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!