Service Project: Teaching English in Zarqa

An excerpt from Caleb Sorenson’s blog: The World and Caleb


A part of the schedule of the program I am in is to participate in service projects on Tuesdays. My service project is volunteering at a school in a city called Zarqa. It is about an hour, by public transit, from where I am staying in Amman. It has been fun figuring out how to use taxis and buses to get to the school. The combination of limited Arabic and still trying to figure out the layout of Amman guarantees for travel to always be an adventure.

I have now done two days at the school, and it has been a blast. The school is popular because it has many English speaking teachers and administrators. That means that many parents will send their Arabic speaking children to this school so they can learn English. It also means that English speaking parents will send their children to this school so they can understand what they are learning. Therefore, there is combination of Arabic and English classes. I love it since I am trying to learn Arabic, so the quick translations are helpful for me. However, I see it being quite difficult for teachers who can not speak Arabic, and therefore have little hope of being able to control a class.

My role has been interesting so far. My first day consisted of shadowing classes to just get a feel of what the school was like.  I had a bit more purpose on the second day. I spent the whole day in the library with students who needed more individual face time with their English. It was fun, because that usually just entailed helping students read story books. One period I was assigned with a student, who spoke almost no English, that needed help in Science. It was incredibly challenging. The concept of cells is difficult enough, and not being able to communicate in same language is quite the obstacle to add on.

It was an eye opening experience. I can definitely empathize with people struggling to learn a new language. Arabic has been tough so far, and I can see English being a struggle with many students. It is nice being on both sides—the student and the teacher—because it helps me know how to learn and teach more effectively.

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