International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The IRC provides 'Healing Classrooms' for Palestinian children

Second grader Reem pointedly makes sure I know she’s not seven years old but seven and a HALF.  Whatever her age, she has wisdom beyond her years. “I like school because I learn things here I don’t at home.” While her acuity may not be directly attributed to her teacher, she is studying in a progressive class, which uses the International Rescue Committee’s 'Healing Classrooms' approach to education.

Mohammad Kaldoon is the perfect teacher to embrace Healing Classrooms. The 38-year-old father of two teaches Arabic in a Palestinian primary school in the West Bank village of Deir Bzee. He was chosen to undergo a six-week IRC training with 59 other teachers and principals from 20 schools, in part because he already embraced some of the inclusive and engaging educational concepts that are the heart of the Healing Classrooms approach. “It’s all about teaching techniques that we apply in the classroom to improve academic performance, behavior, and well-being in general through teaching and learning,” says Mohammad.  “We establish routines that help with class discipline. There’s group work as well, that’s effective in peer learning-- having children learn from one another.”
 
Sitting in on Mohammad’s class, I could see just how engaged students are. They sit at desks in groups of four, working together to solve a language question. They raise a green card when they need insight or review from their teacher, and Mohammad comes to their desk.
 
The IRC has been working in the West Bank since the summer of 2011. Initially we supported Palestinian children through training in capoeira, an athletic and music-based activity.  At the same time, the IRC was conducting an assessment of education in the West Bank. While the West Bank and Gaza Strip had a well-deserved reputation for providing students a quality education, the IRC’s assessment found that overall academic performance was slipping. “A lot of these kids have undergone traumatic experiences, and that can impact them inside and outside of the classroom,” points out IRC program officer Mohammad Khalaf.  “Some children have specific family problems or know someone who has been imprisoned or killed. The student will bring that issue to school, and that can affect their academic performance and social and emotional well-being.” The report underscored a need for improvements in both teaching and curricula, and Healing Classrooms was the result.
 
 “It’s about engaging all students and ensuring no one falls behind,” says the IRC’s Khalaf. “Students with special needs, or students who have different learning techniques–they need to feel they belong to the class and that they can participate. So if you have a shy student, or a student who sits in the back and doesn’t participate in class, or a student who’s a visual learner, and you don’t use tools to cater to those needs, you’re not creating a Healing Classrooms environment. “
 
Before I say goodbye to the second graders, Reem educates me further about Healing Classrooms. “Everyone has a different role,” she says. “We participate more, and the kids who aren’t as clever are more involved in class.”
 

Healing Classrooms Video

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