Here is a piece written by our first volunteer teacher Dan:
I signed up
to be Future Academy’s first English teacher in their school at the Burj
Barajneh refugee camp, Beirut and arrived in Lebanon in November 2020.
Due to the
port blast in Beirut in August, plans were a little behind schedule; in classic
Lebanese fashion there was also some bureaucracy to overcome both inside and
outside the camp, so when I arrived Future Academy was still in the process of
setting up the school and lessons were yet to begin. In a whirlwind of a
fortnight Chris (co-founder), Damien (trustee) and I secured the classroom,
made it ready for students and delivered our first lessons. Then I was on my
month (December 2020) was very challenging. With support from Ibrahim and
Hamza, my teaching assistants, we assessed the students’ English levels and assigned
them to groups to ensure they were being taught and challenged appropriately.
However, at that point, the students hadn’t had much schooling for some time
(some of them hadn’t been to school for two years!) so a strict timing schedule
wasn’t something they were used to. The majority of students arrived late or
went to the wrong classes completely, rendering lesson plans almost obsolete
within minutes of the lessons’ start. This swiftly taught me to think
on-the-hop, and to also have a series of useful games in my back pocket which
could be used at a moment’s notice (eg. Bingo, hangman or noughts and crosses,
all focussed on a particular element of lexis or grammar).
beginning of 2021 we had an excellent rhythm in the classroom. The students
were all assigned to their groups, they started to attend with regularity and
began to make good progress. The challenges now were the occasional security
scare in the camp, the more frequent power cuts to the classroom and a two week
shut down in February due to Covid. (To address the latter we developed a
remote learning protocol whereby I prepared and produced differentiated
worksheets that the TAs individually hand delivered to, and collected from, the
have sadly become a staple in Lebanon. As the economic situation worsened one
of the first things to be cut were the hours the state electricity is supplied.
As I write this, back in Beirut for another quick tour in August 2021, the
state electricity is down for three or four hours per day. And of course the
refugee camps are typically even more negatively impacted. But this leads to
creative thinking on the part of the teacher…..either employing powerful lamps
or torches, or hosting classes in another part of the school where there is
months my teaching placement ended and I handed the classes back to Chris.
Rather than returning home to the UK I remained in Beirut for a couple of
months.This gave me the opportunity to see more of the country and help out as
a TA; it was during this time that I was finally able to contemplate the
journey over the previous four months. December – March had flown by in a blur
of setting up the classroom and lessons, composing lesson plans, delivering
lessons, self assessment, contemplating improvement, sourcing materials,
iterating the preplanned syllabus based on the students’ ability and executing
short and mid term strategies. While one is immersed in that adventure it is
difficult to really assess the differences being made to oneself and the
students. It wasn’t clear to me until Chris returned and was amazed and
impressed with how organised the lessons were, how engaged the students were
and, most importantly, how much progress they had made. It was easily the
proudest moment of my life having that recognition communicated by the
co-founder. I had made a difference.
Anyone reading this and considering undertaking a similar journey with Future Academy should know this is a life changing experience. The students will become important to you. This charity will allow you to grow while giving you all of the support and / or autonomy you need. And Beirut will captivate you.
Chris returns to Beirut for another three months teaching the Lions and Tigers classes