by Sydney Willems
At the graduation ceremony for her first kindergarten class, Zain, a 25-year-old Waldorf teacher at House of Hope, watched the students walk up to the front of the room to receive their diplomas. The students beamed with pride, and Zain reminisced on the children's growth since the start of the school year.
She fondly remembered when she first met the students and began learning about each one of them. Two young girls stood out as they spent most of their time withdrawn, isolated from the rest of the other children, and unable to express their feelings.
"They weren't interacting with their environment like the other students and couldn't communicate their emotions with others," said Zain. These are some of the hallmark behaviors of children exposed to trauma, like Palestinian children who grow up under military occupation in the West Bank, where poverty, mass incarceration, and military and settler violence are at their doorstep.
"Because of House of Hope's unique educational approach, we were able to provide them with the tools to come out of their shells," she said. Soon, she noticed a change in the girls. They played with the other students and seemed to be making friends.
House of Hope's holistic Waldorf teaching style nurtures Zain's young students' trauma and gives them room to grow. As Zain explained, "It's more than a method. We see it as a lifestyle that treats children as if they were in the comfort of their home environment. It focuses on developing the child socially and psychologically, rather than overemphasizing grades like traditional educational approaches."
Every morning, Zain welcomes her students with a soft, warm smile and arms open wide, ready for whatever adventure lay ahead. Zain recognizes her students' frustration, hopelessness, and isolation because she felt that way growing up under occupation in the West Bank. As an adult, Zain was drawn to teaching because she loves working with children and supporting her community. After struggling to find a meaningful job aligned with her teaching values, she visited House of Hope, where one of her friends worked. There, she saw what trauma-informed education could do for the community. Her friend acted as more than just a teacher and modeled social and emotional wellness for her students.
Inspired, Zain immediately applied to work at the school to help the children of her community create a better future for themselves and their nation. Soon after being hired, Zain enrolled in House of Hope trauma-informed Waldorf teacher training and became confident in creating a classroom environment that nurtures her students.
Zain encourages her young students to reflect on themselves and focus on the positive things in their lives, no matter how difficult. She works endlessly to create a classroom environment that "views children as individual souls that deserve to be cherished." Zain is a bright star within a promising new generation of trauma-informed teachers at House of Hope, nurturing the children of Palestine.
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