Teaching English to Refugee Communities in Lebanon Part 1/2 – A Gift

Part 1/2 (See part 2 here)

When teaching refugee communities there is no room for pity. Rather, one should encompass empathy and an open mind to learning what these students have to teach. They teach you a lot about the world, about the realities that millions of people face daily, realities that many of us walk by every day without really seeing. The realities of war, poverty, and hope. They teach you that no matter how different upbringings are, humans are human. That passion and motivation have the ability to override any situation but need support and care to be fostered.

Teaching is a gift, the gift of giving. Since 2016 I have been immersed in sharing the gift of language, of the lingua franca, with people who need it more than most of us can imagine. My passion for teaching began when I walked into a classroom in Beirut and saw 28 sparkling eyes looking up at me. The eyes were shy, intrigued, and deeply hopeful. The eyes belonged to Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian children.

Teaching English to Refugee Communities in Lebanon

Imagine living in a reality where job opportunities are limited due to your nationality, or socio-economic status; where access to good education is almost unattainable. Where your house is the size of your current living room and being shared by your 6 siblings, parents and possibly members of your extended family. Imagine walking into a classroom, outside the walls of your own school, and there, finding equality, respect and hope. Would you be able to trust it?

Today, acquiring English opens one’s door to the international community. English can create a paradigm shift in one’s life and for the past two years, I have seen this happen first-hand. Young children demotivated by their school classrooms shared by 44 other students, succeeding in alternative English programs suddenly succeeding at school. Young adults who believed that a university education was nothing more than a dream now walking the halls of top American universities in Lebanon.

Teaching English to Refugee Communities in Lebanon

Everyone has the right to education. Education is the key to a bright future and English is definitely an important player in the world today. After completing my TEFL Certification, my approach to working with these communities has shifted. My ability to effectively reach these students at a linguistic level has deepened and the results are clear. The topic of teaching refugee and host communities (and learning from, them) is one that has many branches of discussion, lessons learned, stories worth hearing and pictures that will melt one’s heart. In my next post I will delve deeper into what I teach and where I teach, discuss successful methodologies and share some student stories. For now, I leave you with this thought:

The media has ingrained the image of a refugee or an underserved person as helpless; someone who is nothing more than a burden on the developing community. To me, such an individual is not someone without potential, but someone who has not been given the opportunity to reach their potential. Everyone deserves the chance to unlock and demonstrate their potential to its fullest. If presented with the opportunity, be that stepping stone in someone’s life; the stepping stone that helps them unlock their potential.

Teaching English to Refugee Communities in Lebanon

Zina Abu-Haydar

Beirut, Lebanon

December, 2018

See part 2 here