As Al-Bustan Camp came to an end, I found myself reflecting on the wonderful energy I had encountered this week. I was amazed during the final performance, watching children as young as three stand proudly in front of a crowd, singing in Arabic.
Whenever I work with young children, I am always touched by the fearlessness they manage to exude. What if we all were able to muster up the same kind of bravery?
Learning is a complicated, hard process. But, in environments like the one Al-Bustan works so hard to create for its campers, there is the capacity for genuine growth. Fostering cultural exchange through language, music and singing helps instill the simple, but often over looked, values that music teacher Hafez Kotain emphasized to his students this week: respect, behave, and listen.
When we build communities based around these three beliefs, we are helping raise a generation that is comfortable in taking risks and making themselves feel vulnerable. Watching the students clumsily stumble through the pronunciations of certain Arabic words, I was reminded of myself during my first year studying Arabic. And it is in these moments that I realize the immense importance of risk-taking in education.
Maybe, if I hadn’t been so worried about making mistakes (or, “sounding bad” as I had phrased it to myself) I would’ve picked up Arabic much faster than I had. We are told so often in life to stick with what we know, or do what we do best, but where is the room for change in that? I believe that the ones willing to lose, to make mistakes, to experience disappointment, stand to make a change in the world. I hope that the Al-Bustan campers continue to explore and embrace their experiences fil bustan!
Kenyon College, Class of 2017