Tell us a bit about your background:
I am Etimad Karam, an Arab from Palestine. I was born and raised in Gaza. I completed my high school education there. Afterwards, I continued my studies at the Educational Institute of Jerusalem. I joined many different teaching courses. A number of the courses were focused on learning difficulties & disabilities. The last course I took was in Kuwait at the Center for Child Evaluation & Teaching. I worked in Palestine for a year before my family decided to move to Kuwait. All the academic and career experience that I gained was here in my second country, Kuwait. My educational and academic career started at BBS thirty years ago and still continues with the same enthusiasm, diligence and dedication I started with on my first day as a teacher. During the first four years I worked in the resource center at BBS helping students from grades 1 to 4 who faced learning difficulties. Following that, I worked as a 2nd grade Arabic language teacher, and then I proceeded my career as a 1st grade Arabic teacher.
I enjoy teaching and working with children. For me, watching my students grow academically, socially and emotionally is a great pleasure! I like to practice many hobbies such as reading, growing plants, embroidery, glass painting, sports and other art work. While a lot of my time is consumed by my job, yet whenever I get the opportunity I read for authors as Jubran and Mustafa Mahmoud. My biggest interest nowadays is to spend quality time with my family and grandchildren.
Explain one new approach to teaching and learning that you have undertaken, or are currently undertaking, this academic year:
The important matters of my life are:
Implementing a strategy that guides me all through the year. An important strategy that I learned from my college teacher was to always “Begin teaching a student from where he/she stands not from where you want him/her to reach", which means that it is important for teachers to plan their lessons and their approach based on the students’ potentials and needs, as opposed to the teacher’s goals. I always focus on getting to know each student individually, with their background in perspective, which in effect, makes it easier for me to develop strategies that allow me to work with them individually and in groups.
It is essential to give the students the chance to work in groups, where they exchange ideas, develop thinking skills and learn to respect each other’s opinions.
Learning through games and activities is very important especially for young elementary students; it allows them to build confidence, while reinforcing their reading and writing skills.
Tell us one moment from your teaching experience that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny:
A powerful experience, which had a great effect on my colleagues and I was the passing of a dear elementary teacher. Not only have I worked with him for years, but his son was one of my students. I was happy to have the child in my class and under my care, but at that time the Arabic curriculum focused on “Family”. Kids were required to talk about their Mothers and Fathers. His silence was heartbreaking for me. It was really tough to ensure that he wasn’t feeling alienated or isolated when students were sharing stories about their parents and families during class. I watched him cover his ears and avoid the discussion. I decided to change a lot in my lesson plans to help him to settle emotionally and accept facts of life. After sometime, he was able to lead a group discussion; he gradually gained comfort and strength to share his grieve and experience about the accident and his loss.
Another incident happened many years ago and remembering it always makes me laugh at how adorable children can be. It was the end of the day and the students had just left school. As I was getting ready to leave, I was surprised to see one of my students run towards me, he approached me and asked: “Ms. Etimad, will you marry me?” I couldn’t maintain a straight face, so I laughed and hugged him. The next day, his mother with a big smile on her face giggled and said “we need to start the wedding plans”.
Do you have any inspirational words and/or specific sites, organizations, strategies, or links that you’d like to share with other teachers?
I have certain principles that I try to implement in my academic life. Those principals I learnt through my life from experienced people in Palestine and Kuwait whom I will always be grateful to. Some of them are:
Leave personal concerns outside the school walls; that helped me to grow as a teacher and enjoy my time working with the students.
Appreciate my work and master what I do whether I was being observed and monitored or not.
I encourage my students to work among groups and to choose a group leader by themselves. This prepares them for the future and teaches them to cooperate and make decisions. It helps them understand the concepts of freedom and develop their thinking skills.
Discipline in class is a major fact to ensure a successful educational process. My students feel comfortable talking to me as a teacher and feel towards me as second mother. They see in me as a role model in following class rules. I make sure that my students trust that I am consistent in applying rules and consequences. I am aware how sensitive and clever my students are therefore, I make sure I set a positive example for them in my acts and reactions.
I am always concerned of the academic difficulties that weak students face. I work on reinforcing their self-confidence to enable them to improve their performance and capabilities.
I appreciate exchanging experience and comments among colleagues.
To excel in my performance I ensure that my students understand concepts introduced to them and work accordingly on strategies that are suitable for their potentials.
Finally, I would like to quote a saying of a great poet whom I dearly admire, Jibran Khalil Jibran. He says: “My soul advised me not to become arrogant when receiving praise and avoid being angry when slandered. Before I was granted this advice I was always in suspension of the value of my work and worried about appreciation of others. Now, I realize that, the trees bloom in spring, and give us fruits in the summer, spread their leaves around in autumn, and become leaf-less in winter, not worried about what others thought of the way they grew. So as do the trees, we should do what we believe in and what we need to do, away from people’s judgements and opinions.”