At my school, there are many success stories. There are the students who return to school after dropping out. Then there are the children who take part in our “little teacher” initiative, which allows them to help their classmates with their work while improving social relationships.
These might sound like small victories, but they are of great importance to us. I teach Palestinian refugees in the Marka refugee camp in Jordan.
Though I am a Palestinian refugee living in Jordan myself, I am fortunate enough not to live in a camp. I am fully committed to the six-year-old first graders I teach and I believe I was destined to work with them.
I teach all school subjects except for English. This makes me like a mother to my students. We spend a lot of time with each other – this allows me to recognise their needs and to understand their problems.
My school operates on a double-shift basis. It means that the same building is used by two separate groups of students and teachers, but at different times. In November, I was on the evening shift, which starts at 11.30am and ends at 4.30pm. In December, I switched to the morning shift, which starts at 6.30am and ends at 11.30am.
Starting school at this time means waking up very early. However, the biggest issue with this shift is the late sunrise during the winter months. This causes problems for families and fear among the students, because they must travel to school in the dark. We need to stay in touch with the parents in case students are late.
We follow the curriculum of our host country – the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This has opened up communication with institutes such as the British Council, which has been a key partner in improving our teachers’ skills and helping us to get involved in positive international projects that are helping us to equip our students with life skills.
Yet there are some things about our school that cannot be changed, such as the lack of financial support and growing numbers of refugees. This has resulted in larger class sizes of up to 48 students.
The school’s overcrowded classrooms are a distraction for students and place an extra burden on teachers, who end up having to focus solely on the curriculum and disregard extracurricular activities.
The problems that are encountered by the community in the camps add insult to injury. For instance, the issues of poverty, divorce, early marriage and students leaving school to start work young cannot be neglected, nor can their negative impact be ruled out. But concerted efforts are being made in school to promote the role of local community, to make the school a more child-friendly environment and to better support our students.
For teachers working around the world, my message would be this: whatever difficulties your community is facing, you can make a difference to your students. If you believe that teaching is a mission and if you are inspiring, then no day will be like the one before – for you or for your students.
Heba Abudhair is a first grade teacher in the Marka refugee camp in Jordan