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May 16, 2019

When a Hug Says it All

In my modest teaching career, one of the main problems I have run into is classroom management. With my 2nd grade here at TYO, I encountered my biggest challenge yet. My co-teacher informed me about different methods she tried and said she was open for any other suggestions. I was scared. One of my major concerns was the fact I didn't speak any Arabic and the students themselves had only limited knowledge of English. My fear proved to be right: two lessons in I was ready to quit. I am not qualified to do this. They are not going to learn anything... But then, I never quit a project before.But I also do not punish kids for bad behaviour. The good always wins, right? And so I began my research on the most effective reward systems. Having the above said in mind, it didn't take too long until I came across a reward system called “Birdie Buck.” It seemed to be worth a try. After adapting it here and there and with approval from my co-teacher, I was ready.

How it works:

Three boxes are set up as a small shop. Each box contains educational and useful rewards such as colouring books, a toothbrush, and play dough. At the beginning of the session, the class established four ground rules. Students who follow these rules and encourage their classmates do the same receive a play dollar in the next lesson. Doing extra tasks such as distributing worksheets earns them an extra dollar. When enough money is saved – 3, 5 or 8 play dollars – they have the chance to “buy” a prize of their desire. The other option is to save money for a more “expensive” reward,thus teaching responsibility and evaluating savings.

The DIY aspect of it all was very important. Students made their own wallets, which would literally have their own personal touch. Owning something that is entirely theirs, something they made with their own two hands – to top it off – makes it even more special.

When handing out the wallet templates, one student – let’s call him Husam – was not happy with the colour he received: grey, the colour the majority of the class received. He wanted yellow. I gave him the option to keep the colour he was given or not to have a wallet at all. This tendency to want to “choose-the-best-out-of-everything” I observed often in this class, be it pencils or chairs. Well, sometimes you need to compromise the small things to get what you want which is far more worthwhile.It is important to see the bigger picture. In this case, the grey, yellow or blue colour of the wallet would not affect its functionality, which is to keep valuable things safe and organised. Husam disagreed and crossed his arms. He was pouting and chose the option not to make a wallet at all unless it was yellow. He was determined to stay stubborn as usual until he got what he wanted. But so was I.

Engaged and eager, the class started folding their wallets step by step as instructed. Husam was still pouting, arms crossed, but observing the others. Five minutes into the folding process, the wallets being folded to a third, I offered Husam his grey template. His response was a cold shoulder shrug. He was still stubborn and so stayed I. The class carried on. Their faces glowing in excitement. Husam's observations of the others grew more intense. The wallets were nearly done and I offered Husam his grey template one last time. This time, with a determined and now also excited face, he nodded and grabbed his template, immediately starting to fold it. My stubbornness achieved what I wanted: Husam saw the result of the folding process; he realized that his stubbornness didn't get him anywhere and that it was not worth it. Unknowingly, he compromised for the bigger picture.

Within minutes, he had caught up with the rest of his classmates. I approached him, asking if he needed help with the last tricky bit. He nodded, pulling me down at one arm. I kneeled down to his height. Slowly and with his help, we folded the tricky part. His eyes never left my hands and the wallet. What happened next, I would never have imagined to happen: With the last folding touch, Husam realized that the wallet, HIS wallet, was done. Out of nowhere, he jumped up and hugged me. With the most sparkling eyes, he said, “Shukran! Thank you!” Then he quickly let me go to admire his work. His eyes wide open, smiling in disbelief. The hug surprised us both. This split second, however, in which the hug took place and seeing his proud face were enough for me to think: this was worth it.

At this point, it is important to mention my aim for implementing this reward system. Even though the children who receive play dollars for good behaviour might think that this is all that this system is for, the ultimate goal behind it all goes deeper. It is about learning how to be patient in order to achieve what you really want: Do I buy this toy because I have saved enough money or do I save some more for the toy I really want? It is about seeing the bigger picture: I want the wallet so I compromise for the grey colour even though I don't like it. It is about learning how to keep valuable things safe. In this case, it is play money. In life, it might be something more valuable. Seeing that Husam quickly understood one of these (life) lessons was a major reward for me already.

In the following week, the volunteers and I handed out the wallets, which now each contained a play dollar. Seeing the students' faces when they opened their handmade wallets and found their first dollar felt like a warm wave of genuine happiness that only children can radiate. Their expressions gave me the motivation I was lacking. We can and will make this work.

English classes at TYO are much more than teaching a new language. They are about teaching responsibility, manners, and what matters in life. They are about – pardon the corniness – believing in others and not forgetting to believe in yourself. Taking on this challenge taught me how not to give up and stop walking when the hill gets steep, but to lean forward and ascend. Seeing the bigger picture myself, I once more realized that great things are achieved taking it step by step. And also knowing when to give in. Making even one child grasp this important life lesson is the biggest reward I get.

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Apr 7, 2019

English for Business - Breaking Down Walls!

Ruba presents her business idea to the class!
Ruba presents her business idea to the class!

Through the reports on GlobalGiving, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization keeps our supporters updated about what happens with the donations we receive. This is possible because of one basic tool that we share, so obvious and omnipresent that it might have become invisible: the English language. In an age of globalization, the importance of a common language that transcends borders is undeniable. English enables the communication that has created the global markets that built our modern world.

Aware of the importance English in the world of business and communication, the ambitious participants of TYO’s Entrepreneurship Program took part in a four-week Business English course between February and March 2019.

That in business there is no way around English is evidenced by the fact that the entrepreneurs had already come across many English terms during the preceding nine weeks of business courses in which they developed their business plans. Strategic framework, opportunity analysis, driving force - some of the entrepreneurs were familiar with the terminology, while others were completely new to it. Because of the varying levels, TYO decided to offer a beginner and an advanced level Business English class.

While the beginner level focused on giving participants the vocabulary and confidence to introduce themselves and their business idea in English, the advanced course implemented activities that aimed to also develop public speaking and critical thinking skills. Instructors pushed and encouraged participants to hold unscripted conversations, which challenged them to think quickly about relaying information in a concise manner. In addition, regular feedback on writing exercises was an important aspect of the course, as pre-assessments had shown that many participants struggled with writing clearly and without mistakes.

Many participants expressed enjoyment in activities that allowed them to be creative. One example of this was describing hypothetical ‘silly business ideas’ that would never work in the Palestinian context. The participants were then asked to swap their idea with someone else and pitch the other’s idea to the group. This activity worked on developing participants’ public speaking and persuasive communication skills, as well as their poker faces!

After the course had come to an end, post-assessments showed that almost all participants had made significant progress. Interestingly, whereas writing had previously been the weakest spot for many, this was now the area with the highest scores. The overall average scores went up from about 55% to an incredible 75%. We are so proud of our entrepreneurs!

Participants reported that they were more confident in speaking English after taking the course at TYO. One entrepreneur described that she had always felt that there was a wall between her and the language, which had now started to break down. TYO is so happy to be able to contribute to taking away obstacles to education and help fight unemployment. Knowledge of English can itself break down walls, build bridges, and open doors - to the world and to a bright future.

Full concentration mode while reading an article!
Full concentration mode while reading an article!
Feb 21, 2019

Our Spring 2019 Session is Here- First Day at TYO!

Yazan & Tala are so excited on their first day!
Yazan & Tala are so excited on their first day!

In our spring 2019 session, we are excited to be offering 2 morning programs for children – the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program for children between the ages of 2-4 and the Core Early Childhood Program for children ages 4-5. Our session kicked off on Monday, February 11th with a great morning here at TYO!

Children participating in our Core Early Childhood Program were the first to arrive. From the moment they set foot in the center, they filled it with laughter, enthusiasm, and lots of hugs! TYO’s staff and volunteers welcomed the children and accompanied them to their classrooms. The classes started with various introduction activities to help the teachers and children get to know one another. During the day, each of the 4 classes rotated between the sports, art, imagination, sensory, and computer rooms. As of week 2 of the program, Core students are getting to know all about friendship and the importance of cooperation. In the upcoming weeks, children in our Core Early Childhood Program will learn all about clothes, careers, seasons, recycling, plants, animals, transportation, colors, and science.

The second group to arrive to the center was children between the ages of 2-4 participating in our ECE Program. They arrived with their mothers, who are enrolled in the Women’s Empowerment and Parenting Program (WEPP). TYO’s ECE teachers and volunteers greeted them as they entered and led each child and mother to their specific classroom. Mothers joined their children in the classrooms on the first day. This made the first day easier for the children because they had a familiar face beside them. They loved spending quality time playing and learning together. Throughout the week, as the children became more comfortable around teachers and volunteers and more acquainted with the center, it was time for mothers to leave their children and attend their own program. This made the separation process healthier as it was done gradually, giving children the time they needed to adjust to their environment. In the upcoming weeks, children in our ECE Program will develop skills in naming, throwing/catching, dressing, identifying objects, drawing/copying playing with others, sorting/building, listening/repeating, jumping/balancing, following instructions, and sharing/taking turns.

We would not be able to offer such enriching programming to our children, youth, and women if it weren't for our donors - we appreciate you all so much. We look forward to witnessing the growth of our children throughout this spring!

Teacher Ahmad is happy to see his students again!
Teacher Ahmad is happy to see his students again!
Mothers and children enjoy playing together!
Mothers and children enjoy playing together!
Kids loved posing behind the frame!
Kids loved posing behind the frame!
Mo'men & Yara are all giggles showing their signs!
Mo'men & Yara are all giggles showing their signs!
Friends show off their FRIENDSHIP tree!
Friends show off their FRIENDSHIP tree!
Oday and Karm race to win during sports class!
Oday and Karm race to win during sports class!

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