Alumni Spotlight: Tala Hammash
Tala Hammash, Class of 2014, CULP
English Teacher, Teach for Qatar
What is your most memorable experience at Georgetown?
There are two most memorable experiences during my years of study. The first is having the chance to take multiple classes with my favorite professor and mentor, Karine Walther. The conversations I had with her inside and outside the class actually changed my life (no exaggeration). The second is presenting my American Studies thesis. I had worked on my thesis for about two years before I was satisfied enough with it to submit and present it. It was a topic that concerned me almost personally, and it was very enlightening to pursue it in a purely academic manner. I was more nervous before my presentation than I was for my graduation!
Where are you working now?
Georgetown allowed me and gave me the necessary tools to explore my passion for development through education. I am currently one of the few fellows at Teach for Qatar’s first cohort and I teach English at an independent school in Doha to seventh grade girls.
Many people though I was crazy to want to become a teacher after 4 long years at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, but Teach For Qatar’s program truly appealed to me because it uses meaningful education as a means to long-term development.
What is a typical day like?
On a typical day, I wake up at 5:30 am and get to school at around 6:15. I have breakfast or a cup of tea while I prepare for my lessons and meetings. My day is almost always completely packed, even if my teaching schedule is not full; a lot more than teaching goes into a teacher’s list of duties. My working hours end at 2, but I rarely get to leave work on time. I am usually home by 3 or 3:30pm and I often end up working at home too. To bear the responsibility of 60 students’ education is a tough one.
My job is exhausting and very time consuming. During the first few months, I had no social life because I was always either too busy or too tired. However, it is possibly one of the most fulfilling jobs out there because the kids are in dire need of the support. The school system in Qatar has much to improve on, and I am glad I get the chance to fill some of the gaps.
How did Georgetown influence your career path?
Georgetown has had a tremendous impact on the way I make my decisions. One thing that truly resonated with me is something that professor Elizabeth Andretta mentioned during her final lecture. She discussed with us some scenarios to demonstrate that, often, we are faced with a crossroads and we have to choose the lesser of two evils. She talked to us about how, as Georgetown students, we should not accept that (and should not be intimidated by it) and that we should create our own paths and or own options. At my school, with my colleagues and with my students, I push myself to apply what we discussed that day. It is something that I find myself thinking of very frequently. I keep the handout she gave us that day in my wallet.
What skills are needed in the current work environment and what prepared you the most for your career?
Resilience and working under pressure are definitely two things that are needed at my work. The workload at Georgetown has certainly benefitted me because I learned how to organize my time and stay focused even with enormous amounts of work. Communication skills are also very central to my work, and I had the chance to develop them during my time as a Hoya. Leadership skills are absolutely necessary for making palpable change in an environment that desperately needs it.