Refugee Teacher Gains Resources, Perspective,
and Hope

outdoor-classroom
Classes held outdoors give students a change of scenery.

For eight weeks this summer, Syrian teacher Khaled Jasem traded his 20-by-9-footclassroom in a refugee camp in Zehla–capital of the Governorate of Bekka, roughly 30 miles east of Beirut—for a virtual learning space with educators from 9 countries. Jasem had taken online courses before, but this one taught by Refugee Educator Program Manager Julie Kasper was different.

“All of the methodology was completely new to me,” said Jasem. And, with regular video discussion among the participants and instructor, “it was like we were all in a small room together—teachers from all around the world, sharing our perspectives and learning from one another.”

Collective wisdom is key to this pilot course designed for teachers and teacher-trainers working with Refugee Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE). Offered by the Carey Institute’s Center for Learning in Practice (CLiP) as part of the Refugee Educator Academy, the course encourages participants to bring their own experience and context as they explore approaches, tools, and connections that will best support their work in meeting both the academic and social-emotional needs of students.

younger-students-play-during-classroom-party
Younger students play games during a classroom party.

Critical to success in the classroom is getting to know more about the cultural background and home life of each student. Last year, Jasem was unsure about how to handle a boy in his grade three class who was not participating and chose to sit alone. Through this summer’s coursework, Jasem learned the importance of having one-on-one talks with students having difficulties—they often will share individually what they wouldn’t otherwise in a group–and checking in on a weekly, or even daily, basis.  Individual interaction through culturally appropriate play, drawing, and music are other activities he will incorporate into his future work.

Jasem said it would be difficult to find elsewhere the materials presented in the pilot course and certainly the interactive platform, which he described as amazing; the group exchanges at the end of each learning module and the discussion Team Site for sharing ideas were invaluable to him.  (In addition, a twitter feed has since been created @clip_rea.)

Apart from learning and sharing, Jasem’s favorite part of the course was watching videos of refugees in the US and other countries in their permanent homes. “To see where they are now and hear them speaking their minds and talking about their experiences was inspiring,” he said.

learning-objects-in-schoolyard
Grade one students learn about objects in the schoolyard: classroom buildings, the playground, a bell.

For now, Jasem will return to a small classroom filled with 10 desks and 30 students from Syria, to teach three separate classes each day. “Before going through this course I was really struggling with new students and I did not have clear tools, but now I am so excited to start the new year with magnificent ideas and activities,” he said. Jasem feels supported and fully plans to keep in touch with the “priceless new friends” he’s made from the course as he continues on his teaching journey, wherever it may lead.

The SLIFE pilot course is only one facet of CLiP’s Refugee Educator Academy. Your generosity supports dedicated changemakers like Kaled Jasem—and helps to improve the experiences and outcomes of the world’s most vulnerable individuals: refugees.