30 April 2010
Everyone remembers a good teacher, but pupils at an UNRWA school near Nablus have more to remember than most.
Balata Basic Girls’ School headteacher Serene Dweikat uses music and drama to help her pupils overcome some of the difficulties they face as Palestine refugees in the West Bank.
Like many UNRWA schools, classes at the Balata school are overcrowded. Students suffer from social and psychological pressures because of their situation as refugees in the occupied territory. These conditions are reflected in the students’ poor academic performance.
Serene has hit upon some creative teaching methods to help her students achieve their potential.
She started by transforming science lessons into songs, which the children would learn by concentrating on ‘performing’ the lessons. After this was successful, she changed some other subjects into music too.
Serene’s creativity has been recognised at conferences and award ceremonies. She won the first prize at the Elham Palestine Competition for using music in students’ performance. The prize was in recognition of local innovations in media, education and IT.
She began teaching with UNRWA in 1985, after graduating from Al-Najah University with a BA degree in Arabic. Starting out as an English teacher, she obtained her MA in 1998.
Her use of music and drama has now expanded to find solutions to some of her students’ negative behaviour, such as violence in schools. Serene has adapted her methods to tackle these problems, strengthen school democracy and support the student parliament and its leadership role.
She also provided moral support and guidance for teachers to transform these creative ideas into activities for pupils. She does this by dedicating the last class of the school day for such activities.
Serene believes that her innovative methods are a way to discover talent and develop children’s personalities, giving all children the opportunity to take part.
Music also lets students and teachers alike discover their strong points, and gives alternatives for some of their weaker skills.
In addition to being a teacher, Serene writes songs and drama texts, which she tried to disseminate among all UNRWA schools to improve children’s education levels.
She thanks her teachers and students for their collaboration and teamwork, without which her success would not have seen the day.
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