America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

The Decision: Why Teach in Lebanon?

The following is a post from AUA Network member and guest blogger Kyle Scott Herman who is teaching History in Lebanon.

I have a long-term career objective of influencing and representing America’s foreign policy, perhaps by joining the U.S. Foreign Service as a diplomat.  My goal is to be in a position where I can help make progress on some of the inter-related challenges that are facing our global community – including security, development, and sustainability.  However, international relations is a difficult field to break into.  A graduate degree and international professional experience are necessary for most jobs.

So in April, while I was agonizing over whether to go straight to grad school or to gain professional experience first, I decided to look at international job listings.  I focused on the Middle East because of its diverse and fascinating cultures, the opportunity to learn Arabic through immersion, and my interest in U.S.-Muslim world relations. Misunderstandings between Americans and citizens of Muslim-majority countries are among the worst in the world.  Yet mutual understanding and cooperation are vital to international stability – especially in light of the current wave of democratization we know as the “Arab Spring”.  A couple years working in the Middle East could give me valuable insight into perspectives and ways of life that America’s citizens and policy-makers desperately need to understand.  And on the grassroots level, I could make a real difference through people-to-people interactions as an unofficial American ambassador.

Lebanon is in the heart of the Middle East, a fascinating region most Americans don't understand. Yet building mutual understanding and cooperation are vital to global peace and prosperity.

On idealist.org, I found a job listing in Lebanon at an English-immersion school founded by Christians.  The teaching position was for 9th-11th grade history, geography, and civics.  This listing excited me because I could make a positive impact in the lives of young people by teaching subjects I am passionate about. There is no silver bullet that can solve the challenges of security, development, and sustainability, but education is one of the most promising tools we have.  I also felt called to this position because of the school’s values and the opportunities I would have to continue my faith journey.  I was even invited to replace my predecessor as faculty advisor to a student organization focused on faith and service – similar to groups I was involved in at Ohio Wesleyan.
I was ready to commit to two years of teaching when I was presented as the top candidate for a phone interview with the headmaster.  One of the questions I asked him was about the “athletics” team listed on the school’s outdated website.  His response: “Well, we have some students who can run but we don’t have anyone to coach them.”  So of course I volunteered!  That sealed the deal.
Last Supper at Smith: I’ll miss my OWU teammates dearly, but at least
I can continue running with a new team – this time as the coach.
As though through divine providence, I was invited to continue many of the same endeavors that enriched my life so much at Ohio Wesleyan: learning about cultures and history, expressing my faith through fellowship and service, and running with a team.  But this continuity is also a transition toward maturity: the student becoming the teacher, the disciple becoming the mentor, the athlete becoming the coach.
Additional posts can be found on Kyle’s blog at:
http://kyle-scott-herman.blogspot.com/
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