Hi there! I’m Elley, or Nour in Arabic. I’ll be joining Paul as your second instructor for our upcoming educator course and I couldn’t be more excited. I currently live in Portland, OR, where I work in social services and education serving Muslim immigrant families. I love my life in the US, but I deeply miss living in Jordan and I always jump at the opportunity to run a course there for Dragons. This will be my sixth course with Dragons, but my first time working with educators! Paul and I have worked together before, on my first ever course, so I’m very excited for a reunion of sorts. I’ll follow Paul’s lead by answering Simon’s prompts.
1) What led you to your vocation as an educator?
I’ve always been involved in education in some way or another. My first job at age 14 was teaching swim lessons, and when I started college I spent each summer working as a teacher and counselor at different Arabic language camps. Academically, I became fascinated with language acquisition and second-language pedagogy, probably inspired by the handful of truly fabulous Spanish and Arabic professors I had. In Cairo, I taught English to refugees from Iraq and east Africa, which opened my eyes to diverse learning styles and education backgrounds. Later, I taught a Jordanian colloquial class while I worked for Middlebury’s School Abroad in Amman and began practicing teaching Arabic in a more formal sense.
Beginning my work as an educator with Where There Be Dragons was a pivotal point in developing my own teaching style and skills in experiential education. I found my facilitation groove, honed my skills at having difficult but transformative conversations with students, and most importantly, learned how to laugh and have fun. On top of that, working for Dragons has taught me so much about myself: my leadership style, the lens through which I see the world, and what is important to me. Since then, I’ve worked as a Special Education teacher in Oakland and I now run an after school and social services program for a middle school.
2) Why is this course important to you? To our society? To our students?
Dragons’ approach to cross-cultural learning is truly unique and, I think, crucial in this day and age. In particular, acquainting mostly-Western students with the Middle East and Islam on a more intimate level is deeply important to me. When I read the news or hear people discussing the region, I often wince. And the reverse is also true: I have heard and felt varying degrees of anti-American sentiment everywhere I’ve traveled. So it feels absolutely necessary to work towards humanizing Arabs and Muslims and building a more nuanced view of the Middle East in the eyes of Americans, and vice-versa. In addition, learning techniques of experiential education and a holistic pedagogy (teaching to the whole student) has changed my whole perspective on education. I hope to create an environment of sharing, collaboration, and learning where we can each learn best practices from each other to become better educators. For our students, I hope for this experience to have a ripple effect. I hope you bring some of the lessons and insights you will gain back into the classroom with you when you return home, to help shape more culturally relevant teaching in your own schools.
3) What do you hope to get out of this experience?
As Paul mentioned, I am also looking forward to a break from my “real life.” It is a gift to be able to spend over three weeks in Jordan (I will be running a student course for Milton Academy at the beginning of March) and I can’t wait to see some of my old friends and colleagues. I hope that we, as a group and individually, learn a lot from each other, from our gracious Jordanian hosts, and from the place itself. I really look forward to getting to know each of you, having fun, and investing time and attention into all that Jordan offers. Finally, I hope to find a way, however small, to give something back to the communities with whom we will be interacting during our travels.
Looking forward to meeting you all in about five weeks!
Elley | نور