For the last month I’ve been a post-baccalaureate teaching fellow at Al-Quds Bard College, where I received my degree in May.
It’s been enjoyable to work in the same environment where I lived and studied for four years. I’m developing new skills, like teaching, and learning new lessons about old challenges, like writing in English. It’s also taught me about myself because, after all, I was once in the same place as my students.
The job has also given me new, rather depressing insights into Palestinian education.
Teaching fellows help students write essays, presentations and senior projects. We hold workshops in reading closely, writing a strong thesis statement and improving writing skills. I am also attending media classes in editing and video to hone my skills and keep in touch with my professors and former classmates.
Recently two other fellows and I worked with first-year students in an intensive class for four days. We were assigned to teach Euripides’ Antigone. I was worried about their English skills.
In the first class we spoke and translated everything into Arabic. Then we decided to stop speaking Arabic so they would speak and listen only in English. Although Palestinian students usually start learning English from kindergarten, we don’t often speak or write in it. The students will need good English, however, to succeed in my American college.
The students needed to learn more than English.
Based on the incoming students’ level of education, I was depressed about the Palestinian schools. We don’t have a system that encourages students to participate in class, engage in workshops or even to think critically. So at Bard, they need to transform the students’ way of thinking from being in a system of indoctrination to adopting the liberal-arts perspective.
I struggled with the same thing in my first year of college. It takes time to start thinking deeply and questioning almost everything around you.
But I also find myself questioning the long-term goals of education, and whether critical thinking can lead me to a career in Palestine. Today I am enjoying my new job. I like to work with students closely and to notice their determination to learn. Honestly, I am delighted to have this job in a country where many graduates have nothing.
According to the Ministry of Labor in Palestine, unemployment was 27 percent on average in 2015. That’s one of the highest average in the Arab world, although the illiteracy rate in Palestine is considered as the lowest. According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, the illiteracy rate is around 4 percent.
But what I am personally concerned about is my journalistic work. One of the reasons that I applied for my current job is that I want to take a break, at the very least, from journalism in Palestine.
I had hoped to engage in journalism and politics in my country. But the journalistic workplace in Palestine is not encouraging at all. My work with ARA, Associated Reporter Abroad, encourages me to keep track of what’s going in Palestine.
But sometimes it’s hard to attract the attention of foreign readers who may know nothing about Palestine. This sometimes discourages me from following up on anything regarding the situation here. Although my editors are always ready to discuss suggestions for articles, international publications aren’t always interested in publishing those articles.
This teaching job is beginning to broaden my horizon, especially my academic studies beyond my bachelor’s degree. It also improves my English skills, which I really need for my future as a journalist, and it broadens my media knowledge as well.
Hopefully I can weave my interests as a student, a teacher, and a journalist into a future in my uncertain home.