Like their counterparts in Europe and the United States, students and staff in the Lutheran Schools of the Holy Land come back to expect the usual school routine after winter holiday vacation. There were some differences this year, however. Teachers returned to their classes and also to help plan the educational ministry of the ELCJHL. Faculty committees and principals from the participating schools met during January outside regular school hours to complete the final phases of the Schools’ action plans. Each staff is now ready to implement and Beit evaluate activities that promote the goals and objectives of quality education for Christian and Muslim students in the Occupied Territories. These Action Plans will also serve as an effective self evaluation tool for teachers, administrators and support staff.
Another important element in the Schools’ action plans is teacher training and providing for professional exchanges of ideas on curricular innovations and student-centered learning. The Martin Luther Community Development Center, an educational ministry of the ELCJHL, is taking an active role in providing in-service training for teachers of English in our West Bank schools as well as those in the Old City and East Jerusalem. In December, twenty-seven teachers from seven local schools participated in the first session on structured group strategies to increase student participation and learning. Based on the teachers’ enthusiastic reception and suggestions, future workshops will discuss more grouping practices, teaching and evaluating speaking and writing skills, and providing for students with motivation and attention problems. These issues, common to students everywhere, are of particular importance to schools operating in areas subject to military, political, and economic stressors. Recent events in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have once again pointed out the challenges of providing safe and stimulating learning environments for the students of Palestine.
Also during January, teams of students and teachers from each school completed a pilot project that advances many of the Schools’ goals. They participated in Challenge 20/20, an international program sponsored by the National Association of Independent Schools in the US. Each of the four local schools with a US partner school studied one of twenty global issues. Students conducted Internet and local research, used their English skills to communicate with their American partners, learned about community resources, and practiced higher level thinking skills to propose solutions. Subjects studied were education for all, international labor and migration, water deficits, and biodiversity losses. All found the cross-curriculum activities a new approach to holistic learning and the topics especially relevant to issues for Palestinian communities living in the challenges of the Occupation.