The great thing about the busy social calendar is that we meet a lot of people. One of the luckiest breaks in my research has been that two of my kids’ friends have both an uncle AND an aunt who are supervisors at the Ministry of Education (MOE). They were really helpful in giving me an overview of the educational system in the area. Plus, my advisor at the university was able to get appointments for me with the principals of two of the private schools, but no one had any connections they could use at the MOE. The aunt was able to secure a meeting for me with the director of teacher supervision who secured me a permit to visit the public schools in the area.
I was able to visit 2 public schools yesterday that are currently housed in the same building. The morning school has been pushed out of their building temporarily. I don’t actually know why. They meet from 8:00ish until 12. Then another school comes in from 12:30 until 4ish.
I didn’t actually realize this was the case before I arrived, but English is very widely spoken here. I almost don’t have a chance to use my Arabic. This is because most universities hold all their classes in English, even the sciences. One person I met who is in her medical residency explained that the reason for this is that most of the research is done in English and if they took all of their classes in Arabic, this would make it more difficult. Some in the region (Egypt for example) still teach in Arabic, but when their doctors come there is a bit of difficulty relearning all the medical terminology. I asked how they communicate with their patients if they learned all the terminology in English, but she said that they use patient friendly language so it isn’t really an issue.
Back to the schools. Since English is so important, all the schools teach it and anyone planning on going to university needs it. There is of course widely varying proficiency, but the quality of instruction far exceeds the second language instruction in the US. There is a greater emphasis the oral language skills (listening and speaking), which is a bummer for my research based on writing, but overall the instruction is good. If someone were to follow behind me, <hint, hint, application due December 1 for the 2017-18 school year> I would recommend that they focus on reading instruction for this area. There is room to grow there for most teachers, but they have a lot of good strategies already. Math and Science teachers could also look into how they teach those subjects in English. My kids take Math and Science in both English and Arabic. Oh well, that is not my project! Redirect!
The number one BEST thing about the schools in Palestine is how enthusiastic the students are to participate. I mean, wow. Anyone who has ever taught in the US has become an expert at wait time. You ask a question. Then you wait it out. Eventually someone will raise their hand. Here you ask a question and kids are knocking each other over to be chosen. Seriously. It is like an afterschool special or something. I wish I could catch a picture!
One of the things that I have seen that is really good is the use of scaffolding and background knowledge in instruction. Teachers review the previous lesson before beginning the next one EVERY TIME. Such an easy instructional practice that so many people forget. It primes the kids to switch back to English and in a low pressure way reminds them of the English vocabulary.
Everyone has chalkboards. They use them a lot. I really hate chalkboards. I hate the sounds of course, but I REALLY hate touching chalk. I did see one of those chalk holders that my mom used to have at the school supply store and I think I need to get one just in case the need arises. My 2nd year teaching I got a whiteboard and it was the BEST THING that every happened to my teaching career. Not the point though. The teachers here are FANTASTIC about writing down what they are saying. That way the students both HEAR the language and SEE the language. Usually they explain and then wait while the kids write things down. Students do not write while they are listening.
Here the students are assigned a room and the teachers rotate. You don’t have kids roaming the halls and they are never late to class, but teachers don’t have places to store things. Imagine all those elementary teachers in the US with huge cabinets of resources. Nope. Nothing.
This picture is of the teacher work area before everyone arrived. Everyone gets a desk that they can store things in. Most schools I have been at the teachers also have a locker they can store things in. So during your planning time you are in the room with all the other teachers. I know every teacher and former teacher realizes how much “planning” happens during that time. I have seen a few teachers grading or making notes for the next lesson, but usually not. They drink Arabic coffee or tea and chat. Honestly I would too!
There is no technology in the classroom. Truly there are very few outlets so it might be difficult to implement. There are no posters on the wall. I need to ask some teachers about that.
However, I spoke to some people who are interested in implementing flipped learning. This interests me. However, seeing how many challenges we have had implementing it in middle-income schools in the US, I’m curious how it would work. The most interesting point that was brought up is that they hold the discussion boards in private groups on Facebook. The teacher, MOE supervisor and the class of students begin a private group. The teacher posts a video to watch or something to read and a question. The students reply. This would never work in the US because most districts are so particular about teachers and students having access to each other socially. I get the reasons behind that. However, it is a neat idea to use something that the students are already on. I wonder how you could take that idea and modify it for the US? It is probably not possible.
These are just a few thoughts that I have had. I should write more posts. I end up digressing so all of my posts are too long! If someone is reading this and interested in participating in this program, email me or comment! I’d love to chat!