Majd Assaf can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. Her desire to teach has always been a part of her life.
“I remember when I was a kid, I was asked for the first time by someone, ‘What do you want to become when you grow up?’” she said. “First thing I answered was, ‘a teacher.’”
It’s a common question to ask a child, but Majd’s desire was not common at all. She really wanted to teach, and she found ways to do that even as a child. When she was in school, she’d take the teacher’s role with a group of her classmates. Her older sister, who is a role model to her, was a teacher, and encouraged Majd’s dreams.
So, it was perhaps inevitable that Majd would become a teacher herself — although she didn’t expect to be teaching online, or teaching coding. Her major at Arab American University (AAUP) in Jenin, Palestine was English translation.
Two months after graduation, however, she found a job teaching app development with Tekkie Uni. She was hesitant at first – she knew nothing about coding — but as she read more, and talked to others about programming, Majd started to realize that coding could be a new adventure for her; and something different from what she’d done in the past.
“Coding is something quite different,” she said. “When I started the training with Tekkie, I found that there is something interesting and special about coding, therefore I went a step ahead and have never regretted choosing Tekkie and the coding field.”
Why is it important for kids to take online classes?
Majd has a traditional background in teaching and has also taught classes in person. When she started teaching at Tekkie Uni, she also took a job with AAUP’s Languages Center, teaching students listening and speaking skills. Before that, she taught in private centers, helping students of various ages with their English. Before the pandemic, she earned her TOEFL accreditation and was accepted as a teacher in the AMIDEAST Access Program, a new program intended to teach English to teens from poor communities.
Teaching online has been a very different experience, she says. Rather than using body language or eye contact to communicate with students, she uses tools like annotations, chat, and visual elements like shapes and colors to keep kids engaged and focused in class. It’s a different way of teaching, but she’s seen how it benefits the learners.
“In the traditional classroom, students sit and most of the time they are limited and forced to focus or pay attention. They feel like they are being watched all the time,” says Majd. “These limitations disappear with the online learning environment.”
Online learning can help some students become more confident. If a kid is stressed and shy in a real-life classroom, for example, they may be more comfortable online, where their peers can’t see them. (All Tekkie Uni classes require kids to keep their cameras off.)
Kids also learn important skills, she said, like coming to their lessons on time.
“The current virtual learning experience has taught the students to be punctual and they are now used to using the online tools that help them advance,” she said. “Imagine in a traditional classroom how much time is spent by students from the first moment they enter the classroom and until they take their seat and grab their notebook.”
Online, students are ready as soon as they log in, and Tekkie Uni expects kids to manage their own schedules and log in on their own.
Learning coding is also important for kids, she said.
As an English teacher who also teaches a programming course, Majd believes coding will become the dominant language of the future. She wants kids to be prepared for that.
“Coding is a wonderful field,” said Majd.
She pointed out that kids who study coding online get confidence and experience with technology. They learn to think outside the box and solve problems on their own.
“When you learn coding — with Tekkie specifically — you are urged to use your imagination and be creative,” she said.
What’s the best thing about teaching?
Majd loves her students’ creativity. She has a lot of students who are creative problem-solvers in class, and approach problems in a new way — sometimes in ways she would not have thought of herself. They come up with new ideas and workarounds, and often surprise her with their approach to projects and problems.
“I recall once we were working in class on a very simple application, and I had one of my students who turned this simple app into a very beautiful project,” she said. “In this app, we usually teach the basics, but this student took the basics and applied them to the project he was working on, which is related to prayer and praise. For a student of his age, this was very special.”
Tekkie Uni is a fun atmosphere, she says, for both her and the students. There are a lot of fun moments in class, and she and her students laugh a lot while they learn. That’s been true during the pandemic as well – times have been harder, but the students have had more time on their hands and appreciate being able to come to coding class as usual. Some have even asked for more assignments.
Majd loves seeing her students learn and grow, benefitting from the knowledge she’s given them and applying it in their own way.
“It is not just that I add to their knowledge, I add to my knowledge as well, this is what I love most about teaching,” she said. “When teaching, you leave your footprint and you build a human – literally – and you have a message to deliver in the end.