English Class with Khanoomeh Lily:

After receiving my Bachelors Degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University, I went to Iran to teach English to children and teens for the non-profit organization "Society for Protecting Rights of the Child" (SPRC). Little did I know, I would not only be teaching and influencing students, but I would also be learning the greatest values, morals, ambitions and strengths from my own students.

I really did not know what to expect when I walked into my classroom ("English Class with Khanoomeh Lily") for the very first time. As one of the volunteers gracefully gave me a tour of the school in Nasser Khossro, she directed me to my classroom and informed me that my students were on their way. I was beyond nervous, not knowing who I would be teaching for the next two months. Were they children? Were they teens? Were they naughty? Were they nice? Nevertheless, I laid my English book on the counter, and stood there in my montoh (coat) and roosari (head cover) waiting anxiously to see the faces of my students. As I sat, tapping my pen on the table impatiently and thinking about what I would say to them, I noticed my students standing at the door waiting for my permission to enter. I stood and guided them to take their seats. As they each walked in, all eleven of them, I stood there full of amazement and admiration. These were not children, but teenagers, boys and girls between the ages of 18-20, sitting in their seats ready for their English lesson.

As an ice-breaker, I asked each student to introduce themselves in English and Farsi. They already had knowledge of the English language. My students had taken an English class, and already knew how to speak and write in English. They had taken grammar, and could, with difficulty, articulate and make sentences. I was amazed. Our classes turned into more than just English lessons; they included laughter, shared stories, dreams, and goals. The students came from all walks of life, and were all eager to learn.

I learned that most of my students were from Afghanistan, and had moved to Iran when they were younger. They each had a goal, a dream--something they wanted to achieve. Although they had difficult lives, coming from Afghanistan and living in poverty, they did not let that stop them. They wanted to achieve their goals; they wanted to make a difference. Three of my students wanted to become doctors. One wanted to study accounting, while another was striving to become a lawyer. Another student of mine was a member of a Karate team. Not only was she on the team, but she would compete as well!  I was amazed, inspired and touched by each of their stories, their ambitions and their accomplishments.

I arrived expecting to teach Iranian children their A'B'C's in English, and left having taught teenagers English grammar, punctuation, and sentences.  It was basic knowledge they needed to succeed in life. I went away with an extraordinary amount of pride in my students. I was proud of each and every one of them, and proud of my country Iran. I was proud to be working for an organization that encouraged education. This isn’t just another non-profit organization; it is the start of a movement. It is a start of making the youth in Iran (no matter their age, color, ethnicity, or social class) the future of our country. The youth in Iran can make a difference for our country, and it is beyond important that they get involved and get educated as much as they can. Helping the disadvantaged children and teens at SPRC through education is the most valuable assistance anyone can offer. This is why I am proud to have been a part of SPRC. I remain proud to have been a part of my student's lives, and proud that I was able to learn my greatest life lessons and take some of my greatest inspirations from eleven of the wisest teenagers I have known, my students in "English Class with Khanoomeh Lily"

Lily Shehabi