Al Jiser

I noticed recently that I've been a little cranky. I asked Pru and she concurred. I asked our executive director Alan and he concurred. I'm wound up as tight as a rookie teacher. Some is lack of sleep. The interaction effect of a 2-year-old with a 4-month-old. Some is the attendant lack of exercise.

But some is the job. We're sitting on multiple opportunities to do some good -- if. If we can solve the bureaucratic constraints. I'm not confident we can solve them. So I feel anxious. Our team has figured out some legit how-to-help-kids-and-teachers stuff, and I worry it could be wasted.

That's why I love when I hear about one of the young guns running with an idea. In this case, it's a former MATCH Corps named Torin, who is now in Peace Corps. He's basically trying to re-create a little version of our tutoring program in Jordan. He writes:

I am teaching English to 5th and 7th grades with the same Jordanian teacher I worked well with last year, Abdel-Rahman.

I am working hard to establish a classroom culture of high expectations and "no-excuses" here at the Al Jiser Secondary School for Boys, which, with no such culture at the school itself, is not a simple task. While difficult, every day I see students making more and more progress and I do feel encouraged.

On Sunday, my friend Mohammed and I are traveling to the Peace Corps office together in Amman to defend our proposal in hopes of getting a $1800 "SPA" (Small Project Assistance) grant. Wish us luck!

Trivia interruption. Did you know that Amman used to be called Philadelphia? I kid you not. It was conquered by the Assyrians, then Persians, then Greeks...and good ol' Ptolemy II Philadelphus renamed the city. Anyway. Torin continues:

We hope to hire, train, and coach 5 community members from Al Jiser to tutor our 11 "Tawjihi" (12th grade) students over the course of 4 months, to prepare them for their English Tawjihi exam in July.

This exam, along with all the other Tawjihi ones, will determine if these students attend university in the fall, and if they do, what major they will be eligible to study for all four/five years. In other words, Tawjihi is a huge deal in the lives of Jordanians.

Our students in Al Jiser have been getting very low scores over the past decade: averages of 20% when 65% is the passing grade. We'd train these five "Teaching Corps" members in the "high expectations, no excuses" model of education, and then to put them with 2 or 3 students at a time, 6 nights during the week over 4 months.

The $1800 we're applying for would mostly go towards paying the members for these sessions, so that this is a true job for them (and for sustainability's sake, $1800 isn't at all an impossible amount of money for a community to seek out in the future if they were motivated to do so). These sessions will complement their regular English classes.

Members will also assist Tawjihi teachers twice a week in their classrooms, allowing members to form stronger relationships with the students, and also potentially encouraging the teachers to use the members and try some new techniques (though we realize that this will take much more cajoling, so while not a major goal, it would certainly be nice).

Ultimately, we want to see the students' English Tawjihi scores rise in a significant manner (they'll take it early July, and we'll get the results back in August). If they do rise as we'd like, people will be forced to look at what we did, and ask why/how it had success.

Then we'll go from there, showing people what we did and spreading the knowledge about our approach to teaching.

There's a billion and a half things that could go wrong and allow this thing to not even come close to the desired effect, but I'm not worried about that now.

Maybe it's the last sentence that got me. I worry about the billion and a half things that could go wrong. He's focused on what could go right. Youth and exuberance!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on the project: what sounds good, what sounds unrealistic or far-fetched or poorly thought-out, or anything in between.

Your feedback would be invaluable...and of course, if you're interested in providing any support through the Internet lines as we go along, by all means, it is welcome!

If you'd like to be in touch with him, let me know.