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.
Asante Johnson, a middle school teacher at Wheatley Education Campus in Northeast Washington, DC reflects on her experiences visiting the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah, Palestine.
Palestinian Culture of Love and Respect
What an amazing ride! Where do I begin? I had so many ideas coming into this project. I was a little nervous but I was also excited. Now that I have been here and totally immersed myself into the Palestinian culture, I see that the people here are just like me.
Throughout my time in Palestine, I was very surprised to witness this unspoken level of respect found throughout the schools. For example, cursing in front of a teacher, especially a female teacher, is considered the highest disrespect in school. This has created a level of respect from student to teacher that is rarely seen in a good amount of American schools. I believe this level of respect and trust among students and teacher is responsible for creating students who are self-motivated and self-regulated. For example, students do not have to be walked from class to class or be told where they are supposed to be. Even kindergarten students direct themselves outside for recess; they know exactly where they are supposed to go, and they stay there! This was extremely interesting because I struggle getting just my middle school students to be on time, even then there is an adult monitoring!
The school administration has also created a positive culture of love and respect amongst themselves and the teachers. They are extremely supportive of their teachers and staff members. I found them frequently having cups of tea with the teachers just to find out how things were going in the various classrooms. This really stood out to me, because there is a clear and defined emphasis on building and maintaining relationships thought out the school. It is not a surprise that teachers continue to teach at AEES for many years even though they do not receive a substantial salary. I believe since more emphasis is placed on quality of life, than on actual salary, the teachers are extremely happy and cheerful people. Every teacher that I interacted with made a point to tell me about the positives and negatives of living and working in Palestine. The consensus was the same for everyone: they love their school and country!
Teachers’ strong relationships carried on outside of the school as well. I would see teachers getting together to talk about their plans outside of work. They would plan to meet up and hang out with each others families. The teachers love to cook for each other and enjoy each others food. I suppose that if I lived in a country that was centered on food, conversation, family and friends, it would only make sense that I would work at a school that had that same focus as well.
A major point I would like to mention is that people do not make much money here in Palestine. The interesting part is that they are extremely happy with life considering some of the restrictive circumstances (being occupied by Israel). Palestinians take the little that they have and make the best out of it. One of my major takeaways from this trip is: You can have the bare minimum and still live in a comfortable life.