Dear Jordan Educator participants,
My name is Paul Fean (or ‘Dr Paul’ to many in Jordan) and I am one of the Instructors of the Dragons Educator Course in Jordan. As a professional teacher educator and longstanding inhabitant of the Middle East, I am convinced of the transformative learning we will experience through the Educator Course. Already, I’m impressed that you’ve taken this first step into experiencing the richness and diversity of Jordanian society.
It’s over 15 years since I first left my home in the UK to explore the Arabic-speaking world by volunteering, travelling, studying and working. My relationship with the region goes back to a random decision I made when I was 18 years old to study Arabic as part of my degree in languages. I had never even been to the Middle East before, but fortunately when I ventured to the region (two years later) I fell in love with the people and the culture.
By way of introduction, I will introduce myself by responding to the questions posed by Simon in his earlier Yak posting.
1) What led you to your vocation as an educator?
My first experience as a teacher was with Palestinian youth in Lebanon, which provided the insights to form the foundation of my undergraduate dissertation. After spending a few years as an educator in Khartoum, Sudan, I commenced my PhD studies in International Education. I would say that it was at that stage that I recognized my commitment to my vocation as an educator. When listening to education professors inform me, “As a researcher, you will …,” I found myself thinking, “But I’m not a researcher, I’m a teacher.” After a period of academic soul-searching, I was able to identify an academic identity which fits with my sense of being an educator, and developed expertise in action research for teacher professional development, as well as youth education in Sudan and the Middle East.
Is it possible to be an educator without being a classroom teacher? These days I manage youth education projects for Syrian refugees for an international NGO. The most important and fulfilling part of my role is providing guidance and mentorship to my Jordanian colleagues. Clearly the experiential education approach of Dragons is still with me, and in this way I feel I am still enacting my values as an educator, even while not currently working as a teacher.
2) Why is this course important to you? To our society? To our students?
One of the great values of the Jordan Educator Program is the opportunity to share and experience the people and culture of the Jordan and the Middle East. This is a different experience from those who encounter the Middle East purely through media reports, academic studies, popular culture, and mass tourism. When I read media reports of the Middle East, I generally do not recognize the place and culture that I have experienced. This may be the reason that Edward Said’s Orientalism speaks so strongly to me. I hope that this program will give us all an opportunity to build understandings and, as educators, reflect on how we share this with others.
3) What do you hope to get out of this experience?
I am very excited to be leading the Jordan Educator Program with my great colleague Elley. I hope to support all the group members to have a deep, reflective experience of Jordan’s diverse cultures, while also engaging with issues of experiential education and translating our experiences into student learning when back home.
On a personal level, I am looking forward to ‘stepping back’ from my day-to-day life in Jordan, in order to re-engage on a personal and cognitive level with Jordan’s diverse peoples and culture. I hope to be both an educator and a learner on the program, and reach new understandings through sharing our perspectives and experiences. Finally, I hope we will have fun as we adventure around Jordan!
Looking forward to meeting you all soon!