Teacher Stories: Lina - Homs, Syria
This story was collected as part of Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) Event Series to ensure that the voices and experiences of teachers working in crisis and displacement permeate all aspects of the event. For more stories, click here.
A Window to the World
Location: Homs, Syria
'A window to the world’. This is how Lina - a Syrian teacher of English for grade one and two -described her participation in a workshop organised by British Council Syria EES in Beirut in September 2018. The workshop was an induction for our English and Methodology Online Training Course – a pilot programme targeting English teachers in Syria that we launched in August 2018.
Lina has taught for 3 years in Homs, the city where she grew up and finished her English Literature major. She lost her husband during one of the conflicts in the city and as a result had become the sole carer for their three children. The conflict had forced her to quit teaching in order to support her family and her sick mum but she held on to the hope of going back to her career when times were better.
In July 2018, we contacted Lina through our network of young people and local partners inside Syria. It started with a first phone interview where we asked her about the challenges, she faced in her teaching career and her daily practices and methodologies in English language teaching. This phone interview was one of 50 conducted by the team to build a better understanding of what kind of training was most needed by English teachers in Syria.
Despite the long journey from Homs to Beirut, her mother in hospital and not having the full support from her family, Lina made it to the induction and faced her fear of participating in something new that removed her from the bubble of her daily life in Homs. During the induction workshop Lina and another 26 Syrian teachers from different areas of the country were introduced to the methodology of the training course they were about to start - the detailed steps of how to access course components, the course requirements and some sample exercises on teaching speaking and writing. They also met their trainers and spent time getting to know those who would be coaching them via Zoom sessions all throughout the course.
‘’At the beginning, I thought that I don’t belong in this place especially given that all discussions were in English but when I met my trainer all my fears faded away and I enjoyed the induction and meeting new people a lot’’ remarked Lina at the end of the induction workshop.
Lina has now completed four modules of English and Methodology Course 1 and is making good progress in the course despite all the challenges and stresses she faces at home.
‘’When I came back to Homs and I started the online self-access course I was scared and I thought that I might not complete this but with the help of my trainer - Mrs. Janet - I was able to overcome this phase and I am really committed to this course.’’
The British Council Syria EES, in collaboration with the Teaching for Success global team, has designed this pilot programme to test new ways of providing online professional development support to teachers across Syria. The training adopts a blended-approach with two main components - online self-access courses and moderated Zoom sessions facilitated by English-Arabic speaking British Council trainers. The training kicked off in October 2018 and over the next six months the teachers will complete two professional development courses.
This pilot aims at building a network of qualified Syrian English teachers inside Syria and improve methodologies/approaches of English language teaching in the country.
Feedback from the teachers so far is overwhelmingly positive and looking to the future we hope to be able to provide Syrian teachers with more chances to learn and the space to meet and connect with one another. This what Lina meant when she described our training as a window on the world.
The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.