How can parents help celebrate our 150th anniversary!

I get a thrill every time I walk onto the Ramallah Friends campuses. It’s the joy of getting a glimpse into the world in which my three children spend their days – playing, learning, and making friends. It’s also the joy of being welcomed as a member of the RFS community. I have been a RFS parent for 10 years now, and – in that decade – I have happily spent many hours as a volunteer parent, working alongside teachers and the school administration, to help give our students the best experience possible. Now, after years of volunteering in the library, helping to organize school events, and being part of the PTA, I am part of a large group of parent volunteers helping the school celebrate the anniversary of its founding 150 years ago.
This year, let’s all celebrate being part of this historic and amazing school community. Since 1869, generations of Palestinians have played, studied, and made lifelong friends in its rambling campuses. In the words of my 7th grade daughter, the Ramallah Friends School has become the wise old woman in the village, who teaches and cares for the children of the community. Now, it’s our children's turn to be nurtured by the school and inspired by its history, Quaker values, and amazing graduates to find their own way into the future.  
2019 gives us all an amazing chance to be part of the school and help prepare our children for their future, by volunteering in some way during the 150th anniversarycelebrations. Parents have started signing up to volunteer in the School's Field Day, April 19th, under different committees (this link leads you to a survey if you would like to sign up).
Another exciting project I am a part of is the 150th Tree Planting project, set to make both RFS campuses greener in a large community effort to plant hundreds of trees during the next two years (if interested please email us at communications@rfs.edu.ps).
 If you are interested in participating and helping out please do not hesitate to contact RFS Communications Department, lmurra@rfs.edu.ps or bjaawan@rfs.edu.ps *

By Elizabeth Price


On Meeting For Silent Reflection at the Upper School

Two years ago, I sat in one focus group after the other, where one reoccurring theme kept surfacing.  Parents, students and teachers all asked us repeatedly to please revive Quaker traditions, values and testimonies at RFS.  There was a general feeling that somewhere along our one hundred and fifty years, we may have lost touch with the origins of our school’s identity. As a result, a strategic goal to revitalize Quaker Education at RFS was put forth as part of the strategic plan.
At the heart of Quaker Education is silence and reflection.  So, this is where we started.  We started with silence, first for one minute during homeroom which within a week expanded to five minutes, then we attempted what seemed to be an impossible mission. We challenged the high school students to sit in silence for twenty minutes, and despite all the doubts, the students did it!  Sure, some may have looked around, but there were many who closed their eyes and for eighteen minutes listened to their hearts beating, their breathing gradually steady and managed to reflect inward. We believe that with more training and instruction students will get better at this.

To be clear, our objective is for students to reflect, but certainly not an attempt to convert them religiously.  Our hope as educators that if we teach them how to listen to themselves for twenty minutes twice a month, that we just might pass on a lifelong skill of reflection that will ultimately give them inner peace in a world that has become increasingly chaotic.  I will communicate more about our meeting for silent reflection and will address some of your questions in one of my upcoming monthly letters.
Dr. Riyam Kafri Abu Laban

Upper School Principal 


Let’s Go to the Moon!

Rousing interest in learners about a topic is key to keeping them motivated and enthusiastic to learn more about it. This is what happened with my second graders as we were learning “Let’s Go to the Moon!” story this past month. After introducing vocabulary words about space, we watched a short animation video of an apple falling from a tree to introduce gravity as a concept. My learners began to inquire about what they had watched and started coming up with different explanations.

During our lessons, we started digging deeper into facts about space, the moon and gravity. Gradually, curiosity grew in my learners’ minds. They started asking questions that they couldn't wait to be answered. Using the “burning questions” strategy, where learners write down any questions that come to their mind during a lesson on small cards, my learners came up with astonishing questions for minds as young as 7 years old. We grouped similar questions into categories. Some of these questions were: Where does the rocket go after the spaceship splits off it? Why can’t the rocket stay in space? Why does the moon have craters? Why is there no water on the moon? Why isn’t there gravity in space? Why doesn’t the moon fall? What if we don’t have gravity on earth?

As eager as they were to get answers for their questions, as excited as they became when they used the computer lab to research information and to watch videos about this interesting topic. They were seeking information passionately.

Stimulating curiosity in my learners and fulfilling it later were key to the success of this learning experience.

The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”
-Anatole France*

Silvia Nassar Mustaklem
English Language Teacher, RFS


College Online: New Game, Old Skills

“Too much email, Ustaz – I don’t have time!” It’s a frequent complaint in our hallways today. Between IB, testing, and after school activities, it’s no wonder that the massive amount of online communication expected from our world’s 15,000 colleges is overwhelming.

At first it might seem like only the most digital-savvy candidates can summit this mountain. But when I hear students complain about email or ask about college websites, it reminds me of similar conversations I’ve had over the past 10 years organizing thick math binders or looking for scientific evidence. These complaints have far less to do with online expectations, and far more to do with our students’ fundamental organization, communication, and research skills.

To put it simply: today’s seniors expect the college application process to be as easy as scrolling through social media, when in fact it requires incredible research and communication skills to find the best college fit.  We – parents, staff, and advocates – must hold the same high expectations we have for subject-related assignments to student email responses and college research.

For my office, students are responsible for their own college lists and communication.  Each school option has a unique set of characteristics – location, culture, scholarship availability, etc. – and pathways to enter post-secondary education are endless. My office is a great place to start the climb, but in the end, that “congratulations” letter in the Spring is built on lots of individual research and many emails in the Fall.
As more students than ever apply during early deadlines, some students are already receiving admissions and scholarships! For seniors, expect online communication to increase into the winter months. It’s a tough mountain to climb, but the view from the top is extraordinary. For everyone else, now is the time to clean out that inbox and reach out to every college resource you can find...online.  

Chris Akel, College Counselor and TOK Teacher


Teaching Drama at the RFS!

When you start teaching your students to learn how to push beyond their boundaries, you then smile to yourself and say, “I did it!”

Being a teacher for more than twenty years gave me an insight into what the students’ desire and need the most. Though I have always taught English Language and Literature, I always believed deep inside that I should be adding more to the grammar and fiction until I started applying Drama in education and training theater skills. Though Drama and Theater are two different fields, I can only say that they both made all the difference I wanted for my students at the Upper Campus in the RFS.

Drama and Theater are two practices that introduce the students into a world of stories, where each one becomes a researcher of who we are as human beings. At the time when Drama introduces the students to a wide range number of role-play activities inside the classrooms, the theater prepares them to deliver their ideas on the stage and in front of an audience. Academically, the students will expand their vocabulary and become better writers and presenters in their Language classes. They will expand their cultural awareness and start appreciating history and philosophy in their Social Studies class. And they will definitely start questioning and exploring new ideas in their Math and Science classes. On the personal level, the students learn how to communicate with others, work as team, build their self esteem, access emotions, along with understanding and interpreting information, and learn how to start showing positive energy.

I am forever thankful that I work in a school, which encourages me to go further in teaching the students through Drama and Theater how to think outside the box and develop higher order thinking skills so that they can be open minded and creative thinkers, who are ready to be future leaders. As a drama teacher, I invite all teachers no matter what they teach to start using Drama in their classrooms and enjoy the progress they can achieve on daily basis. I think it’s about time we, as teachers, start thinking of the educational process as a journey where our students can explore new learning approaches themselves at the time when we keep on challenging ourselves to help all students learn how to push beyond their boundaries.

Samah Hussein/ Drama teacher and theater trainer


Introducing the Ramallah Friends School Community Blog 
By: Besan Omary-Jaawan - Development and Communications Associate

As summer vacation in Palestine comes to an end, our campus is bustling with busy teachers, administrative staff, maintenance workers, gardeners, and engineers all working hard to get our classrooms and grounds ready for more than 1,400 students to come back to school on Monday August 21st.

Our new Head of School, Adrian Moody, arrived from New Zealand earlier this month – view our new Head of School’s welcoming message here.

As we near Monday 21st, I am excited and anxious to start my 2nd year as an employee at the RFS, my 5th year as RFS parent, and my 16th year as a proud RFS alumna…

The RFS Community Blog is a communication space for all of us. All of you are invited to write and share your thoughts as parents, staff, teachers, students and alumni.

You are welcome to write about anything… You can write about academics, school life, grade transition, Quaker values at the RFS, student-teacher relations, parental fears, IB,  anything at all!

The mission of this blog is to engage all members of the RFS community and provide open and constructive conversation between students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators and alumni.

How does it work?
Just send me your inquiries or blog posts at   bjaawan@rfs.edu.ps
See you all on Monday