I work in an education centre for Syrian refugees who cannot access education in a traditional school. As I walked in to work on the first day of this school year when we would actually have children in the centre (in mid-May due to Covid restrictions), I went over things that were likely to happen (or not) during the day. This ‘first-day’ feeling was familiar, but one that I hadn’t had for many years since finishing teaching in the UK, and one that I wasn’t particularly enjoying! What wasn’t so familiar was the sense of being so utterly unprepared.
In the UK, at the beginning of the school year or term, I knew where everything in the classroom was, I knew where the children would be sitting and I knew what I would be teaching. Here, things were a bit different… As I walked in on that first day, I realised that I didn’t know how long the lessons were going to be, I didn’t know where the pencils were and I didn’t even know how many children there were going to be, let alone what level of English they had or where they were going to sit! This was taking ‘first day of term’ nerves up a few levels!
In the month or so since then, things have settled down slightly, or at least, I’ve got used to the general sense of chaos that is present every day. Within the first month, the classes have been organised, and reorganised, multiple times. There are multiple power cuts every day and often the internet goes down (sometimes for a few minutes, other times for an hour or more). Only yesterday, I found out that, at some point before the end of the month, we will be moving premises (assuming the new place can get fixed up in time)! But now I am learning to ‘go-with-the-flow’.
As I said in the first part of this blog, I teach in an education centre for Syrian refugee children, which is quite different to when I used to teach in England. I can recall countless times over the last couple of months where I’ve thought to myself (and even said out loud) “In England….” But then I have to remind myself that we’re not in England anymore and just as often as I can recall things that were / are better in England, I can also name things that definitely work better here!
Here, when something goes wrong, or different to what was planned, it’s normal. No one stresses out about it. The children sit patiently as we hunt for the power lead to the projector (there are 3 projectors but only one power lead) only to find it and then have the electricity cut out. In England, the children would have been bouncing off the walls!
When one of the teachers is ill, the rest of the staff change things on the fly and lessons get amalgamated so that all the children can be taught, all without the slightest hint of a grumble or complaint.
Perhaps most noticeable is the fact that the teachers are trusted to teach their subject without having to give a reason / justify every decision that they make. Not only that, but the children actually want to learn. They understand that schooling (albeit chaotic at times) is a privilege that many of their friends don’t have and, whilst they are children and can mess around at times, most of them appreciate the fact that they get to come and learn rather than working on the streets as so many other children currently have to do.
So no, we’re not in England any more but maybe that’s for the best.