This spring I had the opportunity to once again participate in the Bridges program for teaching Persian. Bridges is an afterschool program which students in Bloomington can participate in to learn a variety of languages. Class sizes range from small to large with the opportunity for students to learn Arabic, Greek, Swahili, Russian and even Chinese, just to name a few. Last semester I helped out with Persian Bridges as a teaching assistant in our afterschool classes. However, this spring I had the chance to both lead and plan our lessons, which proved to be a valuable experience.
Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, our Persian classes continued to be organized in a virtual format. Classes were held through Zoom. This had the advantage of allowing students at the local Banneker Center, as well as individuals at home to “Zoom” in and participate in our class. However, this also posed some challenges for my team. I was aided in teaching Persian by Chae Ri Lee and Audrey Killian, who are both fellow students at IU. They were both extremely helpful in organizing and leading lessons. They even took the initiative to plan our activities during certain weeks. One of the challenges we faced was planning lessons for two separate groups of students. Each week our participants from the Banneker Center varied. it was never certain that we would have the same students on a week-to-week basis. However, we also had one student who participated in our classes from her own home through Zoom. This student proved to be more committed and came to our classes on a regular basis. This led to us deciding to plan our course around our stay-at-home student. Despite this, we still wanted to keep the Banneker Center students involved regardless of whether or not they missed a week. To address this issue, we created lesson plans which built on material we had covered the previous week, but were also sure to include review sections for students who had missed various topics.
We also had a fun time planning classes which focused on exposing our students to various aspects of Persianate culture. The backgrounds of our instructors came into particular use in this regard. I am currently focused on studying the history and culture of Tajikistan here at Indiana University. Tajikistan is another country outside of Iran where Persian is spoken. Our other instructors, Chae Ri and Audrey, were more knowledgeable about Iran. This allowed us to teach our students about the similarities and differences between Iranian and Tajik culture. Our students learned about both Iranian and Tajik cuisine as well as the customs each culture practices when they celebrate Navruz, the Persian New Year.
Overall, the spring was rather successful for Persian Bridges. We enjoyed the fact that our students noticeably improved their knowledge of Persian throughout the semester. Hopefully, we will see some of the same faces next fall when we begin teaching Persian once more!