Ashraf

Seeds of Peace Fellow, 2015

IMPACT: SOCIAL

Producing english-language curriculum that incorporates values of dialogue.

How are you impacting your community?

I am a teacher of English literature at the Renaissance High School in Jerusalem. I also work as a trained facilitator at Artsbridge, an organization that brings teenagers from different sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict together through dialogue and art therapy communication methods. I have helped found several human rights organizations, including the Palestinian-Israeli Mediation and Peace Students Association. I was also the co-founder and vice president of Guaranteeing the Rights of Others Worldwide, an initiative founded to raise awareness about international conflicts among North American students.

I am producing a series of textbooks that teach English as a foreign language, while also including topics that deal with conflict resolution and awareness. The series, called “Socially Responsible Literature,” will be written specifically for students living in regions of conflict, with the first textbook focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I am designing the textbook to introduce content in ways that spark curiosity and inform students about the cultures in the region, the conflict itself, and several different concepts that arise from the conflict. The textbook will be accompanied by dialogue facilitation training for teachers, as it is imperative that the teachers using this curricula know how to lead difficult conversations in classes.

My project takes advantage of the fact that Palestinians and Israelis, like people around the world, want to learn English for their own individual success. While teaching English as a foreign language at the highest level, my project will teach values of cross-cultural understanding and respect, critical thinking and discussion, creativity, leadership, and peacebuilding.

Through this method of learning English as a foreign language, the goal is for students to learn about the “other” while deconstructing their own singular narratives. To do this, students will be exposed to stories about what is happening in and across Israeli and Palestinian societies that they would not otherwise hear. They will learn about and discuss issues related to social responsibility and conflict transformation.

Appealing to the desire to learn English is a key to opening doors that, unfortunately, are shutting all around and my vision is for this model to to be replicated in conflict regions around the world.

“What inspires me to do my work is seeing how eager young minds are to learn and be exposed to new perspectives. Working with youth has always proved fruitful whether they make strides on a personal or social level. Young people are always willing to learn and all we as educators have to do is tap into their curiosity and wrap the basic skills we are trying to teach them—in this case English—with context that is interesting, close to them, and that can help them become more constructive members of their society.”