RefugeeEd volunteer teacher Elif shares her thoughts on her experience as a volunteer teacher with partner organisation Samos Volunteers.
This is Alpha land (and me) where we had our daily classes.
„I brought this medal here to class today to share it with you, because I come here everyday and learn everyday. That’s why this medal is not only my achievement but our achievement together. "Thank you!”
One of my students said in class after getting a medal for a sports event he trained for a lot. There I realized, I was able to create a sense of community and belonging in our class/classroom.
After taking over two English classes in my first week, I was afraid the students would not accept a new teacher, but that was certainly not the case. I was (and still am) impressed and inspired by the commitment and energy I saw in class everyday. Even though there were difficult days, most classes were filled with joy, excitement and laughter. We would do role plays where sometimes the students would take over the teacher role and every time we would clap for each other supportively.
This was my class room.
I want to thank Samos Volunteers for doing such a good job. Managing so many different kinds of projects is not easy. My onboarding was very smooth. I had a couple of days of assisting and co teaching with the previous teacher, which allowed me to get to know the students beforehand and prepare better. Also the education coordinator was very involved in my onboarding process and paid attention to small details that made my start even more comfortable.
After a couple of weeks, when I started having a sense of routine, I also took on reception shifts in Alpha Center and afternoon shifts on Alphaland where we would organize recreational activities like table football tournaments. I am very happy to have experienced reception in Alpha Center because that work was very different from teaching. When teaching, you take a natural leader role and students (who are sometimes even older than you) treat you like authority. This is sometimes necessary but also creates a very different relationship than when you don’t have this hierarchy.
There were not only classes but also many recreational activities on Alphaland like music or gardening. We even harvested our first radishes.
In Alpha Center it’s possible to form more balanced and friendship-like relationships, especially with service users who come regularly. Just sitting next to each other and coloring in a book mindlessly, can help service users to relax or even sometimes feel safe to speak about themselves or their families. Especially on Mondays, when a lot of service users arrive to get clothes from the distribution and Alpha Center, it is very chaotic and busy.
This is Alpha Center in town, where there are opportunities to hang out, play games and much more.
Then these activities can create a fun and safe space. Nevertheless, one of the most difficult times I had was also in Alpha Center when the environment is tense and fights happen. A lot of people are coming and going. Some only come to print something, others spend their whole day there. So the atmosphere of the space differs from day to day. That’s why there, I felt more alert and exhausted after a long day of teaching and a reception shift.
This whole experience, even though it was only 2 months, changed a lot in my life. I stopped wasting time on things that I don’t value. For example, I quit my job in Germany where I was working remotely and thinking more seriously about a career in the humanitarian field. I would recommend everyone interested to go there and do some type of volunteering. The volunteers are really needed and the personal experience will definitely be unique and special.