The following is a post from School 2 School recipient Brittney Scott. Brittney recently returned from Jordan where her students from Colorado raised money to purchase an interactive SMART board during the summer of 2012 for the students in Jordan. To find an amazing volunteer opportunity, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today.
The morning I arrived at the Queen Noor school to teach English, I had butterflies. much like I did before my first day of teaching at Panorama Middle School in Colorado Springs. It is exciting and nerve-racking to have a classroom full of students depending on you to learn. The stakes are high for students at the Queen Noor School, as well as for my students at Panorama. Both schools draw from low income communities in which education is seen as a path out of poverty. For all the apparent differences between my American students and my Jordanian students, there are striking similarities. They smile when they answer a question correctly. They have a natural curiosity about the students in their partner school and their questions for the teacher seem endless. They want to go to college, although their paths to college may be filled with many hurdles to overcome. They have to work harder to succeed than their peers in wealthier communities and both classrooms of students demonstrate extraordinary potential to do so.
It was an eye-opening experience for my American students to learn about what a “low income” school was like in Jordan and as a teacher, it was an eye-opening experience for me to have a chance to teach at this school and get to know the students and staff. Yes, their technology was inferior compared to even a “low income” school in the US and their building was in need of some renovations, for example in the unevenly paved courtyard where the girls played sports in the hot Jordanian sun. But, the Jordanian students do not seem phased by these monetary issues. Their dreams and goals are just as big as my students in Colorado Springs and their desire to learn was striking. Title 1 school districts in the US, like mine, are often plagued with a lack of culture of achievement. It is difficult to inspire to students, teachers, families, and administrators to overcome economic disadvantages in order to achieve at the same rate as wealthier schools. This crisis of confidence that I was exposed to at times in my classroom in the US was completely undetectable in the attitudes of students, teachers, and administrators in Jordan. This is the one thing that I want to relay most when I return to teach in Colorado Springs this fall. The girls at the Queen Noor School seem to work harder and find inspiration in the challenges they face. They dream bigger and consistently push themselves to strive for improvement. The girls speak very highly of their teachers and have pride in the school and their school work. A handful of the girls beamed proud smiles as they showed me their picture on a bulletin board that displayed students by their academic ranking.
As I left the Queen Noor school after a week with these girls, I wondered how the school cultivated such a sense pride in their school and community and after some contemplation, I have a theory that I will use to inform the way I motivate my students here in the United States. Although resources like the new interactive white board at the Queen Noor school will undeniably aide in the learning process, the real motivating factors in education are the people involved. A desire to learn must originate within and exude from each student. This desire must be met by a teachers’ faith in their students to succeed and an energy that will keep the students engaged. When these catalysts for learning exist, like they did in the English classes I taught at the Queen Noor School, it feels like magic! What the Queen Noor School may lack in resources, they make up for tenfold in their culture of achievement. They understand how to use the resources they have to make the most of the education they provide for their students. This is why I am so proud to have been part of acquiring an interactive white board for the school. We have over 20 of these boards in our school in Colorado Springs and yes, they make a difference in how our students learn but what the girls at the Queen Noor School taught me was that a Smartboard alone can not inspire learning. The passion for learning must come first. Technological resources have an impact that is directly correlated to the strength of the students’ desire to achieve academic success and the teacher’s high expectations for their students to do so.
Panorama may have given the gift of a Smartboard, but the students and staff at the Queen Noor School inspired me to bring something back that our Smartboards in Colorado will be useless without: an intense and unwavering culture of achievement for students, regardless of their socioeconomic status. I hope to inspire my students to cling to learning like the girls in Amman. After all, for students in either part of the world, education can be the great equalizer that will allow them to challenge the status-quo and chase the possibilities of their limitless potential.