Seven Things From Al-Wāḥa That I’ll Take to All My Teaching Gigs
Published: October 5, 2019
1. Build Relationships First: It can be easy to get caught up in trying to teach students content, whether that's Arabic or math or science. However, building trust and relationships is a necessary base to launching content-learning. Talking to villagers during and outside of cabin council about their lives and interests helped me understand them better. Sharing about myself helped villagers to see me as a person instead of only a nagging counselor or strict teacher. Building that relationship and trust helped me navigate future tricky conversations that I had to have with villagers.
2. Give Students Responsibility: At Al-Wāḥa, everyone is expected to contribute to maintaining the village space. Every day after breakfast, we head to our cabins or to common areas like the gym or beach for organization and clean-up. We also give villagers opportunities to teach songs, and our credit villagers are responsible for introducing our second set of two-week villagers to the Village on their first day during the second half of the summer. At school, I've been brainstorming ways to give students more responsibility, for example, having students be responsible for recording the day's activities and letting absent students know what happened. Students can also be responsible for decorating the classroom, handing back papers, handing out snacks, and delivering messages to the office. Although villagers are young and have a lot of growing to do, they (especially teenage villagers) enjoy being treated as adults, and getting the freedom and responsibility that comes with that, every once in a while.
During this evening program, credit villagers taught our new two-week villagers how to purchase items from the store in Arabic:
3. Have Students Making and Moving: Concordia Language Villages is all about teaching students language in a non-traditional way. Why have students learn the word for tree from a book, when you can take them on a hike and learn the word organically that way? Why not create paintings to learn about colors instead of learning about them through a PowerPoint? Why switch immediately to speaking in English when you can try to convey the Arabic by acting it out and making it more memorable?
During this evening program, students learned about what being a refugee is like through a simulation:
4. Spend Time Outside: One of our goals at Al-Wāḥa is to help villagers develop a love for the outdoors. But everyone needs a dose of Vitamin D, whether they are at a summer camp or at a public school. If you can have a lesson outside or encourage students to spend more time outside, why not?!
5. Attend to Your Professional Development Needs: Every summer at staff orientation, Concordia Language Villages provides training sessions for new and returning staff. Session topics range from maintaining cultural authenticity to teaching language through music to maintaining Village technology. This helps to maintain a culture of learning not just for the villagers, but for the staff as well.
6. Spend Time Getting to Know Your Colleagues: Getting to know your colleagues is something that happens naturally at the Villages, especially because you're with them 24/7. In other scenarios, you must actively make time to get to know your colleagues, but it is totally worth it! Breaking down those barriers can make for a more cohesive team that is more capable than ever of attending to the needs of young students.
7. Don’t Take it Personally: Villagers and staff come to the Village with their own experiences, ones that they may choose not to share. Rather than assuming that a negative interaction is about you and letting that color your day, it’s better to give grace and focus on the positive!
Thank you for reading! We'll see you next time!