January 31, 2012
Jaala Thibault (MATESOL ´07) was one of only two U.S.-sponsored English Language Fellows (ELF) in Afghanistan in 2010; the other was fellow MIIS alumna Tara Bates (MATESOL ´07). Being selected into the U.S. State Department English Language Fellows program is “one of the most prestigious positions a recent MA graduate in TESOL or TFL can receive,” according to MIIS TESOL professor Kathleen Bailey.
In “Changes in Kabul Classrooms,” an article recently published by the New York Times, Jaala talks about her experience teaching in Kabul, where she continues to travel regularly to conduct teacher-training workshops. “Though I always knew I’d become a teacher, I never planned to use my ability to educate as a tool for building nations. But then the attacks of Sept. 11 happened—and just as they changed many lives, they changed my life, too.” She adds: “I desperately wanted to go there to help educate the girls and to learn about a culture that had been hidden for so long.”
In her second article published by the New York Times, “A Teacher’s Learning Curve in Kabul,” Jaala writes about learning to be patient with the pace of progress. She had arrived in Kabul a year and a half before with the big plans to help reform an education system, but came to embrace the proverb: “Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit.”
By 2010, there was a mixture of boys and girls learning side by side in the classrooms at Jaala’s school, and women teaching a variety of subjects. But the stories of a different time are still fresh in memory and being shared every day. Recently Jaala confronted a new problem—not the lack of heating or proper supplies and not the fear of retribution—but rather not having enough chairs for all of the students. For a teacher, that is a wonderful problem to have.