ELTABBer of the Month: Alaa Aladini

April 11, 2020

Contact: a.udaini@unrwa.org or alaaeng2000@gmail.com 

Lessons presented on UNRWA TV

More about UNRWA

Questions:

  • What first attracted you to teaching English and how did you get started?

I started learning the English language when I was ten years old. I was inspired by the new language, the way the English teacher spoke to us, and the personality of the teacher himself. At that time, I decided to explore this language more and more; hence my dream to become an English teacher began. It was a matter of decision: I kept learning English in various contexts of my life and I joined the English department (faculty of education) to become an English language teacher. As soon as I finished my B.A. in 2000, I got a job as an English teacher at UNRWA schools in Gaza. Stepping further, I got my Master’s degree in 2011 and started teaching in different universities of Gaza as an academic instructor of English.

  •  How did you start working with UNRWA?

As any other qualified B.A. holder in TEFL, I applied to the vacancy of an English language teacher at UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. Luckily, I passed the written test and then the personal interview to sign a contract with UNRWA as one area of the UNRWA operations for Palestine Refugees since 1948. 

  • What does a typical day as an Education Specialist look like for you?

My typical day is spent observing all the teachers whom I supervise applying the strategies of differentiation, active learning, and critical thinking with their students in their classrooms. Basically, that is my mission and I am really devoted to that. Since one size will never fit all, I wish all teachers success in implementing different strategies and techniques to meet the diversity of students’ needs and wants.

  • Can you describe what types of students and group dynamics you have taught in Gaza?

In the first two years–when I started teaching for UNRWA–I taught in elementary schools to students who were seven to ten years old. Once I’d been promoted to teach in preparatory schools, I spent the following 11 years teaching students who were 13 to 16 years old. In addition, I taught different samples of students who were university students (18 to 22 years old). Moreover, I had experience with different types of people when I worked as a TV presenter for the United Nations Educational TV. In that role, I was targeting several ages as I was teaching general English skills on the UNRWA TV Channel. 

  • What is “inclusive education” in regards to your Ph.D.?

Inclusive education, in my Ph.D., is that type of education that removes barriers to high-quality education for all learners. Inclusion here is the process of changing the educational system, schools and classroom practices in order to better meet the diverse needs of all learners. The concept here is that inclusive education moves away from the belief of students as a problem to the belief of an educational system that considers individual differences and needs among the learners and works constructively to enable all students to reach their full potential. Underlying the inclusive approach is the assumption that all students can learn. Of course, this requires a radical shift in thinking, attitudes and action, and involves changes in the nature and delivery of content, approaches, structures and strategies of teaching and learning.

  • What aspects of inclusion do you find are particular to teaching in Gaza?

Stakeholders in Gaza, including public and private schools, are doing their best to include all students in a quality education context despite their various backgrounds and levels. Yet, a lot is still missing due to the lack of experienced teachers in the field of how to include such diversity of the learners. Apparently, low achievers, slow learners can be integrated and included in a normal class if teachers are trained on such inclusion techniques, strategies, and approaches. Unfortunately, up till now, Deaf and Hard of hearing, visually impaired, students with autism and other types of disabilities are not included in the same school system of their mates who don’t have any disability, but those students with disabilities are separated in special schools which suit this kind of disability. 

  • What has been the biggest challenge or largest accomplishment of your professional career?

The biggest challenge was when I first started working as an Educational Specialist as my job is to support schools and train teachers–especially English teachers–in how to implement up-to-date, equitable and inclusive teaching methods and techniques. The challenge was that some teachers didn’t want to change their traditional ways of teaching and were reluctant to embrace modern trends in effective teaching.

Honestly, it was hard for me to convince them through direct discussion and guidance. Thinking deeply, it worked better when I instead implemented peer coaching techniques, demonstrated lessons and showed successful stories of how new teaching methods could work. Surprisingly, I observed a positive change in my teachers’ classes. In a nutshell, the largest accomplishment in my professional career was when I succeeded in helping those teachers, practically, to change their ways of teaching.

  • Question from Golpar: What do you see as the greatest challenges of working in English teaching in Berlin, and what solutions would you like to see? 

First, I’d like to sincerely thank Golpar for nominating me and asking such an interesting question. Actually, I had worked as a private teacher of English in Berlin, but it was not for a long time because I was busy with my Ph.D. What I noticed during that short period of teaching English to German students, though, is a significant lack of correspondence between tenses used in English and those used in German to convey a particular meaning. Some German students transfer their language rules in the learning of the new language. Thus, I gave them situational examples and let them connect these examples with the new taught expressions. 

Edited by Stephanie Anderson