Students versus teachers

This week’s post is by Becca Young of Virginia, USA. She’s been a HUP volunteer since July 2019 and currently does a Facebook live storytelling event at 5pm Palestine time every Tuesday.

Screenshot 2020-06-24 at 13.58.42

In spite of some initial trepidation, my first time to participate in a Hands Up Project’s Zoom session was pure delight. When my alarm went off at 6:30 am, I was very tempted to shut it off and go back to dreamland. My time zone in the USA is seven hours behind Palestine time, so the 2:00 pm session meant quite an early rise for me. As I set a pre-dawn alarm the night before, I thought to myself, “Do I really want to do this?” Earlier in the day, I’d gotten an email describing the session and mentioning (quite casually) that the students tended to bring tough questions for the teachers. I wondered if I would be able to keep up.

My fears resurfaced as I set the alarm. I thought, maybe it wouldn’t be bad if I wound up sleeping through it. But fortunately my curiosity outweighed my fear and I steeled myself to set the alarm. On Wednesday morning, I managed to hit the snooze button just once before motivating myself to get up and join the session. It was being led by Helen, and remarkably, when I got on at the top of the hour, there were already a total of 28 people participating.  It was off to a great start.

The Zoom screen felt like a mini-UN gathering as we had folks from four continents, with a variety of age groups represented, as well as both students and teachers. The session leader Helen managed to explain the instructions while competing with the charming voices of younger brothers and sisters playing in the background as their older siblings sat by computer screens. Helen asked who knew what our theme for the session was, and there were some very well-prepared students helpfully informed the less-prepared among us (read: me) that the theme was animals.

As Helen explained, we were to start by going into break-out groups of four people each. I found myself in a breakout room with three students: Mica, Diana and Basmala. Each one had four questions that they had prepared the day before. They had found great questions, and were ready to be them via screen share.

Once we were all back together, Helen first let us know the names our six teams had come up with: in keeping with the “animals” theme, the names revolved mostly around wild cats, including the Lions, the Lionesses, the Tigers, and the Tiger Cats. Each group was allowed to ask one question of the teachers. We learned all sorts of great things about animals: kangaroo rats never drink water, the world’s largest fish is the whale shark, and flying lizards don’t fly (they jump). The students had the teachers stumped on several occasions. However, one student, Mathias of Ecuador, took pity on us and gave us help on two especially tough questions, allowing us to end the game with a score of 4 (teachers) to 2 (students).

Before I knew it, it was 8:00 a.m. and the session came to an end as Helen thanked us all for participating. And what a wonderful way to start my day. I keep thinking back on so many remarkable aspects of our time together: the cleverness and courage of the students as they asked their questions, the pity that Mathias showed us when we teachers were at a loss to choose an answer, and, overall, the level of enthusiasm and attention that people showed throughout the session. I mentioned that we started with 28 participants at the beginning, and everyone stuck with it to the end. For that joyful hour, there was no awareness of a global pandemic or a world in crisis. It was instead a four-continent-wide celebration of the love of learning and the sheer joy of being with one another, even through a screen.

Thanks to Hands Up Project for this amazing opportunity to be with such a lovely group of people and share knowledge and friendship with them. I can’t wait for the next session of Students vs. Teachers, HUP-style.

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