Ever since I was a child, I noticed that the quality of education in private schools differs a lot from that in the public schools in Lebanon. Private sectors gave a special attention to their students and teachers, provide them with the best trainers and newest equipments and above all pay well their teachers because the students’ fees are considerably high. However, the improvements done at the level of the public sector were always shy maybe due to the long administrative procedures to be followed in order to adopt any change at the level of the curriculum or at the level of the technologies offered. In spite of this fact, students enrolled in public schools show high motivation and a solid will to prove themselves inside and outside class due to the perseverance of some of their distinguished teachers who defy the current situation and work hard to make a change in the educational journey of their students. To be frank, this was one key reason why I decided to become a teacher in Lebanese public schools; to make a change and touch the lives of these students!
Gebran Andrawos Tweini Public School is the name of my school. Founded in 2003, my school has secondary classes only, accommodating up to 300 students. Students with special needs are always welcome; they attend the same classes offered to normal students. Although the school possesses minimal technology facilities with only one active board for the whole school and no computer instructor, our teachers exert extra effort to import technological practices into their teaching process for they believe that nothing should come in the way of improving the quality of teaching to be offered to our students. And to spice this process, our teachers and students are keen to participate in various educational competitions; this way, students are more motivated and can feel the recompense when their work is being recognized.
During these competitions, students used lots of simple Microsoft tools (Microsoft Office, Movie Maker, Learning Suite and OneDrive) that on their own, at their home, using the PCs/laptops/tablets of their relatives and friends could accomplish a lot by harvesting awards at the national and international level and gaining an exotic type of experience loaded with exposure to different skills needed in their future life. Even students with special needs could rely on these simple technological tools as a facilitator that added value to their learning.
The newest trend in our school is using Skype to connect students from different countries. At first, our students were afraid and shy, but after their first Skype meeting with students from Tunisia (with the Microsoft Expert Educator Haddad Abdulrahman), their attitude changed and they started competing to show the best in them.
Our school is characterized by a group of elite teachers who work hard outside class hours to keep up with the students extracurricular activities which they believe is a mean to engage students in the learning process by developing their 21st century skills.
Fatima el Zahraa Itani, a dedicated Chemistry teacher with whom I enjoy working because of her high motivation and collaborative skills that drove us twice to win the awards in Science subject areas quotes: “Teaching in public school classes may be boring for the students and for the teachers sometimes due to the lack of motivating activities. We have participated in several projects outside the school, in these projects few students could work, but with “I do” and “Microsoft” projects whole classes participated with more than one subject area. This simply brought new life to students and teachers. To me, this experience gave me new perspective to look into a student. Each student is able to light up, but each with a different way, which may not be discovered during normal teaching periods.”
Fatima Bazzi who is the head of the English language department for counseling and guidance at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, ambassador and trainer for Schools Online project launched by the British council, and Leila Koujan who won as 1st runner up for the best lesson plan award in 2010 delivered by the British council, are two dedicated English teachers in our school that either published their own books or co-authored books that are now used as supportive English language guides for grades 10, 11 and 12 in most reputable schools.
I need to mention here that after their experience in publishing books that are customized to the need and abilities of our students; I also took the lead and co-authored a Biology Study Guide that includes caricatures of teachers initiating dialogues with the students to help them develop their auto-learning style.
Moussa Al- Ashkar, a Biology teacher and Ghada Raad, the civics teacher and an active member in the extracurricular activity community in our school, believe that nothing is more enjoyable than taking learning to a new dimension outside the classroom where our students are able to discover their potentials.
Haitham Maaz, English language teacher and coordinator in both private and public schools, a part- timer at our school quotes: “I have found learning so far as a continuous process that has no end for both teachers and students. Students can be creative if they were given the chance and the opportunity; they are the bricks for a whole new society that will shape the future. Life has always been a challenge, so let our students be our goal.”
The international referee Samer Bader, also the Physical Education teacher at our school, quotes: “It is only when we train our bodies to endure the hard work, our minds will be free to explore the whole world. As a new step in our school, the Xbox is being considered to be integrated in the PE classes.”
Living and working in such an environment where school leaders are enchanted by the great work our teachers are doing in spite of all the obstacles and the stress we are living day by day starting from the instable security situation ending up by the limitations we as educators are constricted with, I would like to thank two school leaders: the golden-hearted former principal of our school, Mr. Khaled el Khatib, who was and still a great supporter of our success and Ms. Amal Majbour as a school leader who always encourages teachers to go forward in the learning journey.
Today, we have a new principal Mr. Haytham el Ghaly who worked hard to get this new position because he believed hard in our potentials as teachers, in the role of technology in education, and in the right that the students in the public schools must have a better education just like their peers in other sectors. Mr. Ghaly says that it is very important too to highlight the supportive role of the parent community at our school that encourages our staff to excel and give our best since they are the very first people to experience that positive change that takes place within their children and feel its importance in their lives.
Out of the national and International awards our school harvested I mention:
As for the Awards won from Microsoft, three awards were harvested by our school and I-Youssr Chediac - was honored to be granted the title of Microsoft Expert Educator during this process:
Last but not least, for us, teaching is not a job, teaching is what we do every day with love because we believe that it is a valuable holistic mission that is able to make our world a better place, we are not only trying to leave a better world for our children, but we are also trying to leave our world with better children. Happy Teacher Appreciation Month for all of you!