Ez Eldin Salem participated in the State Department’s Teachers of Critical Languages Program, which brings teachers from China and Egypt to teach Mandarin and Arabic in U.S. elementary and secondary schools for one academic year. The first Arabic teacher in Plymouth, Wisconsin, Mr. Salem taught 80 high school students and organized community classes—sustainably building an Arabic program that is now heading into its third year.
After the exchange program, Mr. Salem collaborated with his former colleagues in Wisconsin and his hometown school, Itay Albaroud School District in Beheira, Egypt, to design a project that brought both groups of teachers and administrators together during meetings using videoconference technology. First-hand accounts from the U.S. and Egyptian educators helped all participants learn from each other’s perspectives.
“First there was a training session for the teachers in Plymouth to help them understand the Egyptian school system,” says Mr. Salem. “After that, I started the training sessions in Egypt and three TCLP alumni teachers spoke to Egyptian teachers about the American educational system. The teachers of Egypt watched real American classes, and then came the time for the direct online contact between the teachers of both school districts. The teachers were really looking forward to that conference, and every one of them had the chance to either ask or answer a question.”
“My colleagues in the United States learned much about different ways to deal with over-crowded classes. They also saw what benefits students can get from learning critical languages like Arabic. The Egyptian teachers learned how to use more dynamic methods to make the student the center of the class instruction, not just a recipient of information. They learned a lot about how to make the best use of technology in teaching and many practices of class instruction with games, communications, and group work.”
For Mr. Salem, the most successful part of the project was helping his colleagues from both countries understand each other despite their geographical distance.
“This meant that teachers everywhere share the same interests, worries, ambitions, and that we should do our best to help them communicate when we have the opportunity for that,” says Mr. Salem. “This Critical Language Project is just a beginning to more future projects….We are living in a small world now, and it is time to realize that the world is … better and happier if we cooperate for the good of us all.”