“Although teachers think that they are just visitors in the lives of their students, they must remember that a good teacher has the ability to shape the students’ future, touch their lives and initiate their metamorphosis into great future leaders.” – Youssr Chediac, Lebanon
“Ever since I started teaching, I was keen to evaluate the evolution of my students after introducing new teaching methods,” says Youssr Chediac, a biology teacher in Lebanon. Chediac’s firm belief that each student is unique, and many years of observing students in the classroom inspired her to develop the Warak Warak method. The Warak Warak method is a customized teaching “blueprint” that aims to build and enhance students’ subject knowledge and skills, increase their engagement and keep their learning momentum beyond the classroom. The curriculum Chediac developed is highly inclusive of technology. In fact, much of the material is found online and utilizes social media. Essentially, this method empowers students to be responsible for their own learning by stressing critical thinking and peer-to-peer collaboration.
“By applying the Warak Warak Method and improving it year after year, I was able to see changes occurring in the academic performances of students, their participation in class, and the momentum they create outside the classroom,” says Chediac. “Witnessing these new changes among the students, the school Principal believed deeply in my work. He allowed me to implement new teaching methods in class, and he was glad to notice the change in the behavioral discipline of students along with other academic changes. Some students who were trouble-makers started to be more interested in learning and more productive when it came to using technological tools in doing their homework and teaching their peers.”
And the recognition and praise of her work didn’t stop there. At the 2012 Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague, Chediac was named a Microsoft Innovative Educator and received the second runner-up award in the “Knowledge Construction and Critical Thinking” category.
Today she shares her story with us, discussing the educators who inspired and encouraged her on her journey, and what she believes is the most exciting innovation in education today. Enjoy!
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
Experiencing the life of a scout leader, I was fascinated by how one person can influence and change the life of others. Becoming a teacher was a way to touch the lives of many students and motivate them in order to appreciate learning through discovering their own potential. I am proud to say that some teachers left significant inspirational fingerprints in my own life.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher or someone who made a difference in your education or inspired you the most?
Few are the teachers who make you live an unforgettable experience in their class. For instance, I can never forget the thrill I lived the first day I stepped into my first biology class at the Lebanese American University (Beirut Campus), where Dr. Krikoris Bogharian announced aloud that whoever defines life correctly in the first 10 minutes of the class will get an “A” in the course without attending any of the required sessions nor taking any exams. A wave of motivation invaded the whole class and at the end no one could find the correct answer. But at least everyone at that time was keen to recharge potential energy for the rest of the course.
Another major point in my education was the scholarship I was granted by Prime Minister Rafic Al Hariri (Peace Be upon His Soul), which made it possible for me to get the best education from a very reputable university, something which I could have never afforded by myself. He was a great person who granted free university education to Lebanese students all over the world. He always believed that building minds is the core of building a good society. He had a special journey, which made him an absolutely distinguished worldwide personality.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
Being rewarded and appreciated for doing what I believe in (when some people around me thought what I was doing was impossible) opened up a new door to students to be appreciated as ambassadors of knowledge and to other teachers to join in my customized teaching journey. For instance, through participating in the “iDo project” competition, organized by the International Education Association and Cisco in Lebanon, students created digital educational materials to be shared on the National Education Network. Through this, I could experience how using technology in education could develop my students’ self-esteem and unleash their ability to create, share, and educate themselves and their peers. Moreover, after I received the Microsoft Innovative Educator Award for The Warak Warak Method in 2012, other teachers believed more in my method and asked me to help them implement other ways and steps with their students inside and outside their classes.
All in all, I have always believed that opening up to others’ ideas and innovative practices in education enriches my mind and challenges me to seek a better result out of my own work, as well as my students’ work. Today, the online virtual university sessions represent a motivation key to keep me on the innovation track, as it offers a wide diversity of ideas and innovative applications in the education world.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
The whole secret lies in adapting the proper technological tools to the lesson. Some students are even more knowledgeable when it comes to technology than their teachers. I started relating the type of the technological tool my students are familiar with to the part of the lesson we are tackling in class, and I left the rest to the students. Spicing the lessons with competition, teamwork and peer teaching, I provided a better learning environment that enhanced students’ participation and academic performance. Students amaze us teachers with the results and the innovation they bring to the table when their minds are challenged.
Why did you become an educator?
An educator can make a difference on a wide and continuous scale, be it on the individual or social level.
What is your philosophy as an educator?
I deeply believe that all students are exceptional individuals, each one has in fact a special personality colored with a unique set of abilities; they can do wonders if they are genuinely empowered by 21st century skills. Inspiring teachers love their students and believe in their abilities; they always seek the best in them and challenge them to discover their own potential. The higher the expectations a teacher has for his/her student, the better the student performance and engagement in the learning process. Although teachers think that they are just visitors in the lives of their students, they must remember that a good teacher has the ability to shape the students’ future, touch their lives and initiate their metamorphosis into great future leaders.
What type of learning environment do you create in your classroom?
An interactive, motivational and enjoyable learning environment.
Why is using technology an important part of your educator toolkit?
Students of today learn the technology language faster than any other language. A child learns by himself/herself how to use a laptop or tablet or cellphone applications and games even before he/she learns how to speak. Technology makes learning easier and more fun for students because it speaks their peer language. If technology is used correctly, it saves time in class and facilitates focusing on the core of the lesson objectives.
Explain how technology has changed education for you?
– It provided me with lots of resources and tools to reach the students’ minds.
– It challenges me to always improve my work.
– It could greatly enhance my students’ performance and participation along with the momentum outside their classroom.
What are three things every student must have in order to be successful?
1- Believe in their abilities and discover their potential by challenging themselves.
2- Accept criticism and dare to change.
3- Keep learning while enjoying the process.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
I had to make use of the minimal available resources to get a more significant outcome.
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
I worked hard to summarize everything that I have learned throughout my teaching experience in a simple three-fold model called The Warak Warak Method. This method can be applied by any teacher and with any subject matter to get better results in their classes. All they have to do is to follow its three steps, innovate along with their students and enjoy the results.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
Using smart phones and tablets in educating learners.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
All are important, but collaboration has its own flavor since sharing experiences can make education a learner-centered process, which will benefit students, teachers, community members and even online audiences in all possible ways. I found out that students learn much faster while collaborating with others in an environment spiced with competitions and challenges.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A small tablet or smart phone with all possible educational applications along with a strong Internet connection because we can better reach the children’s mind and interest using their favorite familiar technological tool.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
After 2006, five US-based companies (Microsoft, Occidental Petroleum, Intel, Cisco, and Ghafari, Inc.) established the Partnership for Lebanon to make its reconstruction easier.
Most ICT in education efforts in Lebanon have focused on one of two areas: The first are initiatives that concentrate on securing access (through provision of hardware, software, or connectivity) for teachers and students. The second are efforts to connect computer technology to teaching and learning through the provision of learning opportunities to teachers, students or both.(http://www.mehe.gov.lb/Uploads/file/TTLA.pdf)
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
First, a major change needs to take place in the curriculum itself. It should be updated so that it can endorse integrating technology and 21st century skills along with the core subjects. In this way, we can pave the path for teachers to innovate along the teaching process.
Second, teachers must accept the fact that the world has changed and that their students can learn without them now. They must dare to change the traditional teaching and seek new methods that can make learning more relevant to the student. They must not fear technology and they should catch up to compete with technological dynamics, which are constantly changing. Our schools must all be provided with laptops and active boards for students in each class, including an excellent Internet connection. Workshops about how to use technology effectively in teaching must be delivered equally to all teachers.
Last but not least, whenever a teacher believes that his/her student is empowered to change the world, the advancement of education will never stop!
About Youssr Chediac
- Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon
- Current residence: Beirut, Lebanon
- Education: B.S. Biology and Teaching Diploma
- How many years have you been in education? 16 years
- Website I check every day: www.sciam.com
- Blog url: www.biologywarakwarak.wordpress.com
- Favorite childhood memory: One day, I was playing with my pet (chick = young chicken) and I started cuddling it while singing a slow rhythm song just like I do with my dolls. After a few minutes, it fell asleep like a baby in my hands!
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Canada to enjoy the Niagara Falls.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? Just yesterday! When I was playing karate with my friend’s one-year-old daughter. There is nothing funnier than playing with cute little kids and observing their reactions trying to win the game.
- Favorite book: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Always try to find the good qualities in others and adopt them, and try to spot the negative qualities and avoid implementing them in you.”
- What are your personal interests or hobbies outside education? Travelling, camping, organizing activities with NGOs to serve the community. I am a volunteer with Greenpeace, at the Children Cancer Center of Lebanon, and a leader in Scouts.
- What’s one piece of technology in your classroom that you can’t live without? The laptop.
- If you had to write something on the chalkboard 100 times what would it be? “The sky is no more the limit!”
- What is the worst excuse you’ve heard for not completing an assignment? “I have done it in my head!!”
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