I worked as a journalist for The New York Times covering the war in Iraq for more than three and a half years prior to coming to the U.S. One of the most important lessons that I have learned from this rich and sad experience is that we need to communicate and understand each other better, and learning a new language is one of the ways to achieve that.
The NYT sent me one day a reader's question saying: what are the main differences between Iraqis and Americans? This question still guides my thinking when teaching at NYU; how would mastering a different language make us closer to understanding others.
My work at New York University as Arabic language lecturer has given me a unique opportunity to put this belief into practice. It is always an interesting and exciting challenge to work with younger generations who have the passion to learn about other parts of the world. I strongly believe that my main role is to create a stimulating environment in which the students can develop their learning methods. This atmosphere is a learner-based classroom built on group work, presentations , projects, and cooperative learning.
I see each class as a unique experience. Although the main aspects of the teaching process are the same, the methods must be flexible to adapt to the different ways that students show in interacting with the material. That is why I see teaching as a continuous learning process. We learn from our students and colleagues as well as books and communities.
Teaching Arabic for me goes beyond grammar and vocabulary. Each step we take in the class to progress in our language study opens a new horizon of knowledge about the many unique cultures of the Arab World. Each set of vocabulary and every new grammar rule brings the students closer to understanding more about Arab societies.
It is the teacher's duty, in my opinion, to bring a positive attitude to class that will reflect on the students' performance and enhance their understanding, recognition and production. I always work to make the material relevant to the students' majors, whether in class discussions or in the choice of the reading and listening material.It is part of my duties to offer advice to students about future advanced programs in Arabic, write recommendation letters for their fellowships and scholarships applications and continue to follow up on their work and progress in studying the language.
I still remember one semester when my media class students were not sure whether they can handle the assigned reading of a novel in Arabic. We worked on it throughout the semester. By the end of our work and their presentations, one of the students said: I am proud of myself for reading a novel in Arabic. This was the most rewarding thing I could think of, and this level of success and self-confidence is what I will strive to achieve for the rest of my career as an Arabic language teacher.