I Hope That You Will Come Back!

That phrase is what I heard most from people today. This was my last week of teaching at TYO and it was a happy, sad, emotional, amazing week with my kids and women. I will never forget them and our time together. It’s fair to say that they taught me more than I taught them. I’m finding it difficult to express in words what they’ve done for me, so check out the photos that tell our story below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

– Megan is a summer program intern at TYO

Intern Journal: This Class is Our Class

My volunteers are my extra set of eyes, ears and hands. They step in when I need materials passed out and when I need help rearranging my classroom for a new activity. They step in when a child needs a hole punched for a mask and when they need a string tied for a kite. Most importantly, they step in when a student has a problem that I can’t immediately address. After all, I am just one person with anywhere from 10-18 students. And without my volunteers, I couldn’t teach my classes.

This past Monday, right after Field Day in Balata and Community English class, my volunteers, translator and I met in my classroom to discuss our Arts & Crafts class. Throughout the session I have continuously stressed that this class is ours and I always welcome and encourage suggestions. But on Monday, I wanted to remind them just how important they really are to this class.

For the next 45 minutes we discussed what we’ve learned about our class and our kids thus far. What works in class and what doesn’t, what needs to stay and what should we change, but also how to improve. The amount of feedback I got from them was amazing. Together we agreed, using the hand clapping technique we tried to implement at the start of the session, doesn’t get the children’s attention like we had hoped. But making simple yet functional projects is a great way to keep the kids engaged. I appreciated the craft project suggestions from them too. Everything from flowers made of plastic bags, to face paint, to a mural! I have already implemented an idea: adding background music to class while they work on their project. The kids really enjoyed it too!

I want my volunteers to be on board for every craft project or silly game I attempt with my kids. I want them to be as enthusiastic about lessons as I am. And so that things runs smoothly, it is so important that they are included in the decision-making process and can take some ownership of the class. I know that my volunteers walked away from the meeting on Monday feeling much better about the remainder of the session. Weekly, I will keep reminding them that  this class is our class.

– Tala

Tala is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

A Small Sense of Permanency

Each Thursday, we finish our regularly scheduled classes with a camp-wide Sports Day; a fun-filled afternoon of soccer, blob tag, games, laughter, sunny weather, relay races, and just overall exuberance. It’s great to see as my kids begin to leave behind their shyness and self-consciousness in favor of giddiness and a bit of a competitive spirit. This past week, one of my students even proceeded (with a great amount of animation and hand gestures) to break down the steps and rules of a certain game for me and many of her classmates.

When I think about my first day of class, when sixteen 8-10 year olds filed into my Arts and Crafts class and quietly took their seats with looks of mild apprehension, the contrast to our Thursday Sports Days is even more striking. That first class, I had expected chaos; I hadn’t prepared for the quiet.

After our initial icebreaker, I asked my students to think about how our class resembles a box of crayons. I didn’t get much of a response but I still hope I was able to get across my message about uniqueness and coming together to create something bigger and more beautiful than ourselves. We drew self-portraits and did our best to draw other things and people all the students love as well.

Across the board, there was one theme that was nearly ubiquitous in all my students’ drawings: a house. Whether it was shaped like a pyramid, filled with trees and flowers, or was slightly indecipherable, the idea of a physical home was prominently displayed and in some cases even overtook the other aspects of their portraits. In this moment, my appreciation for TYO’s work reached a whole new level. For many of my students, nothing in their lives has a sense of permanency, even their homes; everything is fluid. On our intern tour of the Old City, Chelsey, our internship coordinator, had stopped a few too many times to point out a building that had once stood at our very footsteps.

TYO provides not only a permanent physical space for kids to be kids but a larger community that is strong and pervasive. It’s an honor to be a part of this “house.”

– Cate

Cate is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.

Welcome Summer 2011 Interns!

I am happy to introduce our Summer 2011 Interns! These recent graduates and young professionals bring an array of experiences to our team, and they will help TYO reach thousands of community members this summer.

Amy – Amy is graduating absentee in June from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Humanities. Her focus is creative writing and she hopes to teach community college upon her return to the United States. Prior to her postgraduate study, Amy worked as a Program Coordinator, organizing and leading talks and activities in Los Angeles schools, for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Amy will teach a creative thinking class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, fitness for women, a soccer clinic for young kids and an evening English class for community members.

Tala – Tala has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in International Relations. She spent this spring as an intern at TYO headquarters in McLean, VA. Tala is no stranger to the Middle East and has traveled extensively throughout the region. She will teach an arts and crafts class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, a nutrition class for women, a soccer clinic for young kids and an evening English class for community members.

Alex – Alex is finishing a master’s degree from King’s College (UK) in Middle East Studies and holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in Eastern Mediterranean Studies. Alex spent fall semester of her junior year at The American University in Cairo, during which time she taught English to the refugee population there. Alex will teach a creative thinking class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, fitness for women, a soccer clinic for young kids and an evening English class for community members.

Cate – Cate has a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in Public Policy and Global Health. During her undergraduate years, Cate spent time working abroad mostly with communities in east and southern Africa.  This spring, Cate worked at a refugee resettlement and social services center in Boston. She is very excited to be in the Middle East for the first time. Cate will teach an arts and crafts class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, a fitness class for women and English classes for TYO staff members.

Mark – Mark has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in International Affairs and Journalism. Last summer and fall, he studied Arabic in Lebanon and Syria respectively. In Syria, Mark taught English to Palestinian refugees. He is extremely excited to be back in the West Bank. Mark will teach basic photography as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, coach a soccer clinic for young kids and teenage boys, teach English classes for TYO staff members and assist with organizational social media efforts.

Megan – Megan holds a postgraduate certificate in International Project Management and a bachelor’s degree from The University of Guelph (Canada) in Sociology. In Canada, she worked as a Project Leader for Katimavik, a youth volunteer program. From August 2010 to April 2011, Megan worked at a progressive school in Bangkok, Thailand for kids ages five to eighteen. Megan will teach an arts and crafts class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, a nutrition class for women and an evening English class for community members.

Samin – Samin has a master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK) in Middle Eastern Politics and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in Middle Eastern History. This spring, Samin interned at The Public Leadership Education Network and taught part-time at a local middle school. Samin will teach an English class as part of TYO’s Summer Camp, fitness for women, a soccer clinic for young kids and an evening English class for community members.

It is my pleasure to welcome this group to Nablus, and I look forward to all that they will contribute to our team!

– Chelsey

Chelsey is the International Internship Coordinator.

Meet the Spring 2011 Interns!

TYO is pleased to introduce the latest, stellar members of our Nablus team. Welcome, Spring Interns: Adam, Mathilda, Colin and Leila! Their classes begin next week. Currently, they are in the middle of an informative and energizing 10-day orientation program! Please continue to view this blog in the coming weeks for updates on their progress and reflections on their experiences in Nablus.

For now, here is a bit about our new team members:

Adam was born and raised in East Lansing, Michigan, just outside the campus of Michigan State University.  He graduated from Tulane University in 2008 with a BS Psychology and a BA in Sociology. While in New Orleans, Adam worked in various positions in and around the public schools utilizing the benefits of play and the productive influence of positive thinking. Following graduation, he spent a year working in an English academy in Seoul, South Korea. This spring, Adam will be teaching a variety of English courses to fifth graders, twelfth graders, TYO staff and adult community members. Adam loves getting lost in books, wandering little-traveled roadways, running as means of exploration, playing music as ‘personal therapy,’ and all things New Orleans, especially those with a dash of funk mixed in!

Mathilda is from near Liverpool in the north of the UK. She graduated from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies six months ago, having studied Japanese and Politics (especially International Relations, the Middle East, and Africa) – with Spanish and Persian on the side. She is really looking forward to taking on Arabic as her seventh language, when not teaching or working on projects. This spring, Mathilda will be teaching yoga, basic photography and English. She loves living and working overseas and is excited to see what the universe throws her way in Nablus.

Colin grew up just a bit north of the Bronx in New York. He had a youth dominated by basketball and soccer. He graduated from Boston College in 2008 with a BA in History. After graduation, Colin took up work in a conflict resolution/education capacity in Belfast. Since Belfast, Colin has worked a bit in New York, part-time in South Africa for the World Cup and down in Ciudad Juarez running educational/basketball programming in Mexico. This spring, Colin will be facilitating the Big Brothers’ Club and Homework Help tutoring. He loves running, books of all persuasions, writing, cereal and travel.
Leila hails from Durham, North Carolina though she considers Amman, Jordan her second home having spent a few years there as a kid.  Leila graduated from Duke University in 2010 with a BA in Political Science and French & European Studies.  After graduation, Leila spent the past few months in the Middle East traveling through Lebanon, Jerusalem and Jordan, and working in Amman with a youth and community development organization. This spring, Leila will be teaching aerobics and computer classes to female community members and a music class for kids. She love practically anything “outdoorsy,” traveling, languages music, piano and cooking.

Halloween in Nablus!

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the entire year! So this year, knowing that I would miss the festivities in the States, I knew that I had to incorporate it into my class.  In my class Art and Empowerment, participants learn about and do various art projects tailored to promote self-esteem, identity construction and connections with the community.  Last week, I created a Halloween art lesson plan that was equal parts scary and sweet.

When I asked the girls in the class if they had heard of Halloween, one said, “Yes, it’s where you get a tree and put presents under it!”  (A Halloween/Christmas hybrid does sound intriguing—maybe next year.)  Using paper plates, cereal boxes, paint, feathers and glitter the girls made masks—some scary, some crazy, some striking.  We had several abstract feather people, a Frankenstein, and quite a few flesh-eating monsters.  After finishing the masks, volunteers from the local university led the girls around the TYO center for trick or treating.  Staff members asked the trick or treaters to do tricks—sing happy birthday, spin around in a circle, hop on one foot–and then rewarded them with plenty of candy.

Through this project, I was able to get my Halloween fix, introduce my students to a fun American tradition, and get TYO staff involved with my class.  It was a great way to bring Halloween to Palestine.  And of course, here are the magnificent masks!

Ashwini is an intern at TYO Nablus and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.

Shaking Things Up

One of the moments I enjoyed most over the past five weeks happened when my class took painted toilet paper rolls— “telescopes”—outside to the TYO balcony. The children peered out across their city and excitedly called out what they saw: buildings, mosques, cars, trees, birds, laundry, and more. Back inside, they drew some of those sights to create a Nablus scene for our classroom wall.

With the goal of stimulating further observations of their world, I planned this Tuesday’s class around the theme of sound. We started with a rhythm game involving clapping, stomping, and snapping. Then we spent two minutes listening to the sounds we could hear from our classroom and writing them down. Keeping the kids quiet and focused on their own paper during this activity was challenging. In general, conveying the idea that there is not one right answer has proven difficult in class since the education system in Palestine focuses a lot on memorization.

Nevertheless, when we compiled a group list on the board, all of the kids were eager to be called on. And like the telescope activity, they put more effort into their subsequent drawings of what they heard than in activities when they are drawing less concrete things.

We spent the rest of class making musical instruments. When the children asked whether they could take their project home with them, I replied, “Of course!” At the end of the of the day when they walked out of TYO to the rhythm of shaking popcorn kernels, I noted to a volunteer that the bus drivers might be annoyed with me; However, I was pleased to hear the kids making music. I hope that those sounds are a first step toward raising their voices.

How To: Plastic plate shakers

Materials: plastic/paper plates, magazines, crepe paper, popcorn kernels (or seeds , rice, or beans), glue, scissors, stapler

Step 1: Cut out pictures from magazines. Glue images to the bottoms of two plates. These plates will be the outside of your instrument.

Step 2: Cut strips of crepe paper to make short streamers.

Step 3: Turn one plate facing up (as if you were going to eat from it.) Pour some popcorn kernels onto plate.

Step 4: Place streamers around the edge of plate so that most of the tail is not on the plate.

Step 5: Place second plate on top, decoration side up. Staple plates together, making sure to staple over the streamers.

Step 6: Shake-shake-shake!!


Kara is an intern at TYO Nablus and a participant in the Kalimatna Initiative.