My students 1: the Women’s movement

After recovering from a fortunately short bout of flu, I gave my first lesson on Saturday April 10th to a group of women of the Women’s movement in Jenin. The organisation is led by the kind and progressive Hanaa.

My first lesson was attended by about 10 students; all of them were female mostly from 40 to over 50, except for a few women in their twenties. All of them were dressed in long black overdresses and wearing head scarfs except for two Christian Palestinian women. They looked at me searchingly. This made them look a bit serious and inaccessible in my western eyes and I was wondering how I could get them to participate in my lesson. After I was seated behind my little desk (and was provided with a little glass of very sweet mint tea) I was able to start my first lesson.

As soon as the lesson started the serious-looking women changed completely: they turned out to be very friendly and cheerful and it actually was “great fun” immediately. Perhaps because the first lesson was about food, drink and the Palestinian kitchen. To impart some knowledge to them of English conversation we began with a group discussion. By constantly asking questions I was trying to generate a conversation and this approach worked out well with this group. Then we moved on to a vocabulary exercise and finally another group discussion. The topic was “Palestinian women and the labour market”. An interesting conversation developed. They explained to me that women cannot just have any profession. Especially not the jobs that are considered too heavy for a woman, such as taxi driver. Other than that Palestine doesn’t lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to female participation in the labour market. They referred to the large number of female doctors, teachers, accountants and secretaries. But when I asked if a woman could become, for example, “imam” they all shouted in chorus: “No way, that’s out of the question!”

The students answer my questions along similar lines: they discuss in a lively manner with each other in Arabic about the answer to give. As soon as they agree the leading one gives the answer in one or two words. But obviously I won’t let them get away with it that easily, because I always ask them to answer in a full English sentence. This always causes lots of laughter and giggling, but eventually they give it a try.

It’s touching to hear them say at the end of the lesson: “Thank you, thank you very much teacher, see you next time, please see you next time!!” Naturally I promise them from the bottom of my heart that I’ll be there again next time.

Over the weeks a core group of five or six students has remained: they are really putting a full effort into learning English. I really think that’s great! Here are some photos:

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