Of Celebrity Sheikhs and Fandoms

32 extra special

“All set for the lecture tomorrow?” I casually asked a friend over a WhatsApp chat.

“Should I be going?” she inquired in return.

Consequently, I reasoned: “Well, half of the city seems to be overwhelmed with the idea of attending the lecture tomorrow. I assumed you would be going, too.”

“I respect the speaker enough to not treat him as a celebrity.”

It took me some time to figure out what she meant by this statement. I had never imagined this could be a reason for not being a part of an event. It was not just any event. It was a mega event. Everyone in the city, some even from the neighbouring cities, had been waiting for months for the scholar’s visit. People had been cautious about acquiring their tickets well on time, so that they did not miss out on this great opportunity to see the scholar ‘live’, right before their eyes. His popularity had grown tremendously over the past few years. YouTube videos of the scholar’s lectures were shared over the internet numerous times by avid viewers. He had followers in hundreds of thousands on Facebook and Twitter. Why would someone deny oneself the opportunity of a lifetime, so to say? Moreover, in Islam, we are taught to put in our best of efforts to acquire knowledge. Isn’t this contrary to the teaching of Islam, if we miss out on the chance to be in the company of the learned?

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Top Three Reasons Why Children Fail

gradesFear

What are kids scared of in school? They are afraid to let down the anxious adults around them namely their teachers and parents. This nerve-wrecking fear hovers over their head like a dark cloud, chasing them to failure. What else is scaring the living daylights out of them? It’s the humiliation these children feel when they cannot learn well enough and are targeted by their fellow classmates, who mock them and turn them into a laughing stock. It’s the hurtful comparisons their own parents make to their other siblings or other friends cruising ahead in school.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. 

Fear is the greatest hurdle in the way of learning. A genius cannot live under the constant scare of defeat and the pressure of not disappointing others. For this very reason, inventors like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein failed so miserably in formal schooling. Yet the minute they were pulled out of the pressure and allowed to create something of value, they rose from mediocrity to excellence.

Kids are also afraid to make mistakes because the grown-ups in their lives generally have little or zero tolerance for it. Whether it is a simple case of spilling milk on the table, a wrong answer to a math problem, or a misspelt word, children are taken to task for any error they make. It makes me wonder about the number of times Anas (rtam) must have blundered while serving our Prophet Muhammad (sa) as a child, and yet, in his own words as evidence, Anas (rtam) states: “Not once in nine years of my service was I ever rebuked by the Messenger (sa).” Muhammad (sa) understood and respected the tender nature of children, and he allowed them room to learn and make mistakes fearlessly.

Boredom

John Holt states: “Except for a handful, who may or may not be good students, they fail to develop more than a tiny part of the tremendous capacity for learning, understanding and creating with which they were born and of which they made full use during the first two or three years of their lives. Why do they fail?”

A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. 

They fail because the race to finish off school curriculum is on every teacher and parent’s mind in general. The stuff kids are expected to do in classrooms is dull and boring. It does not challenge their intelligence. So they desperately try to sail along, sometimes swimming and other times drowning.

Confusion

What confuses children? It’s the contradiction between what they learn in their classroom and what the real world presents to them. It makes little or no sense at all. To dodge this, kids adapt many strategies to survive school too. At times, they will mumble an answer. At other times, they will stay silent. Some will give the most outrageously incorrect answer mainly so that they are left alone. Others will try to read the teacher’s face for clues and may get lucky.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. Allah’s (swt) creation is never faulty. Every child comes with his set of skills. Unfortunately, our schools and educational system has very little room to recognize and let that talent grow. A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. This means the report card may show low grades in some places and a clear winner in the area of the kid’s interest and passion. Let that be!

Adapted from “How Children Fail” by John Holt

Are we Toxic Teachers?

classroomDown the memory lane, the most ecstatic flashes are of those people who’ve made your life worthwhile. For me, most of them were my teachers. I vividly remember some of them for their extensive efforts to make me love school; the others were some really inspiring teachers. All these powerful educational experiences have helped me nurture my passion for teaching and learning.

As much as recalling these pleasant moments bring me joy, the resonance of a few harsh ones often engulfs me with anguish. If only the teachers could realize what harm they do to the striving souls through their malicious marks! The psychological significance of these unpleasant moments is so strong that it lives with you for a lifetime. For many students, it’s hard to fight back these dominant influences. Hence, they close themselves in shells that are hard to crack later. Fortunately, my list of unpleasant interactions is not very long, but whatever little I had was painful and the memories still hurt.

I have realized that teaching is not only an instructional communication between an adult and his pupil but it’s an art. A teacher has to adopt several roles: those of a mentor, a friend, a guide and a leader.

Novice teachers or even those with several years of experience may have teaching practices that are capable of making students hate their subject. These teachers never give students a chance to open up. They demonstrate unnecessary favouritism and make those who are competent to do assignments ahead of time feel guilty. They are absolutely oblivious to the students’ needs and wouldn’t care if learning is taking place or not. They ridicule those who ask questions. Their focus remains on delivering. They promote rote learning and unethical practices. The damage these ‘toxic teachers’ cause is irreparable.

With the passage of time and years of experience, I have realized that teaching is not only an instructional communication between an adult and his pupil but it’s an art. A teacher has to adopt several roles: those of a mentor, a friend, a guide and a leader. A juggle between these roles, day in and day out, is what makes a successful teacher. All our teaching practices should be a combination of these and also a reflection of our own most influential educational experiences as a pupil. This reflection will help us relate to our past experiences regarding ‘what hurt and what healed’ and can help us remodel ourselves in a way we would like to be remembered as a great teacher!

Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms (Final Part)

classroom

26) Turn the attention of the questioner towards a more important issue.

Sometime it is better to turn the attention of the questioner to a more important issue. Once a person asked the Messenger (sa) when the Day of Judgement would come. Instead of replying, the Prophet (sa) asked him: “What have you prepared for it?” The man said that he hadn’t done much in terms of praying, fasting and charity, but he did love Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). The Messenger (sa) said: “You will be with whom you love.” (Bukhari)

The question that the person asked was out of genuine curiosity, but the answer was neither revealed to the Messenger (sa), nor did he consider his preparation for it. So he turned the attention of the questioner towards a more important and pressing issue, i.e., his deeds.

If the teacher doesn’t know the answer to a question, or thinks there are other more important things to be taught, s/he should not snub the student but rather divert him/her to what s/he thinks needs to be learnt first.

27) It doesn’t matter, if you are a bit inconvenienced.

A Bedouin approached the Messenger (sa), while the latter was on a journey. The person took hold of the reins of the Prophet’s (sa) camel and then said: “O Messenger of Allah! Inform me of what will draw me closer to paradise and take me away from (hell) fire.” The Prophet (sa) said: “He has certainly been blessed or guided.” The Messenger (sa) then addressed the person saying: “What did you say?” The person then repeated his question. The Messenger (sa) replied: “You should worship Allah (swt) and not ascribe any partners to Him. You should establish Salah, give Zakah and maintain good relationships with your kith and kin. You may now leave my camel.” (An-Nasai)

Note: Even if you are in a hurry, give attention to the seekers of knowledge. A little inconvenience for the teacher may result in a huge benefit for the student.

28) Don’t criticize directly.

Many a time, the Prophet (sa) would observe a person committing a wrong deed. He would immediately take action, but not necessarily point out the wrongdoer. He would stand and address the people saying that ‘some people do so and so’, so that the individual would not be embarrassed before everyone.

Not only does this method protect a student’s self-esteem, it also teaches others about the incorrect action. At the same time, it strengthens the bond between the teacher and the student.

29) Use humour.

A person asked the Prophet (sa) to give him a camel, so that he may carry his goods on it. So the Messenger (sa) said to him: “I will give you the offspring of a she-camel.” The man said: “O Messenger (sa)! What can I do with the offspring of a she-camel?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Is it not so that camels only give birth to camels?” (Abu Dawood)

The Messenger (sa) used to joke and jest with his companions on certain occasions. However, he spoke nothing but the truth. His humor did not hurt, offend or insult anyone. The companions asked him: “O Messenger (sa)! You joke with us?” He replied: “I speak nothing but the truth.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) used to teach many things through joking and humour. In the above Hadeeth, he teaches analytical thinking and deduction, at the same time lightening the atmosphere of the assembly. A classroom tends to get stuffy at times. A light hearted joke or anecdote blows away the clouds of stiffness and perks up the atmosphere.

30) Show interest in children’s hobbies.

Abu Umayr (rtam) was a young boy who had a pet bird. The Messenger (sa) was aware of this fact. One day, the bird died. When the Prophet (sa) came to visit them, he saw that Abu Umayr was sad. So he asked: “What has happened to him?” The people of the house said: “His bird has died.” The Prophet (sa) said to him: “O Abu Umayr! What has happened to the Nughayr (small bird)?” (Abu Dawood)

This shows the Messenger’s (sa) affection and compassion for the young child, whose bird had died, leaving him heartbroken. Upon seeing the sad look on the child’s face, the Prophet (sa) immediately enquired about the matter and consoled him with words of comfort. I would like to add here that the Messenger (sa) was an exceptionally busy man, assigned the greatest and most difficult task in the history of mankind – yet, he was not too busy to inquire about the happiness of a small child. Such acts develop a strong bond between the teacher and his students, one that is pivotal in successful learning.

31) Be open to suggestions.

When the companions reached the battlefield of Badr with the Messenger (sa), he chose a certain position for pitching the tents of the army. One of the companions, Hubab bin Munzir (rtam), who was a seasoned war strategist, approached him and said: “Has this place been chosen by Allah (swt) or is it your own decision?” The Prophet (sa) replied that it wasn’t a revelation from Allah (swt); rather, he had chosen it by himself. Hubab (rtam) then requested him to consider his decision, because there was another spot at a better location for the battle. The Messenger (sa) readily accepted this proposal and changed the location of the base camp.

If the Messenger (sa) is open to suggestions at all times, the teacher too should feel happy to have students who are able to reflect and suggest ideas to him. This does not make the teacher bound to ‘obey’ a suggestion , but s/he is bound to allow students to make them.

32) Leniency in punishments.

The Messenger (sa) said: “Allah loves that one should be kind and lenient in all matters.” (Bukhari)

The Messenger (sa) himself disliked awarding a physical punishment to people and encouraged mildness in all matters. The way of the Messengers (sa) was one of love and affection. Those around him obeyed him, because they loved him and feared his disobedience, because they knew their sins upset him, not because they would be beaten.

The anger of the teacher should be feared, because it might banish someone from his/her good books, not because of corporal punishment.

Anas bin Malik (rtam) narrates: “I served the Prophet (sa) for ten years, and he never said to me, ‘Uff’ (a minor harsh word denoting impatience) and never blamed me by saying, ‘Why did you do so or why didn’t you do so?’” (Bukhari)

The Messenger (sa) did not, however, ban physical punishment. He said: “Teach the child to pray, when he is seven years old, and smack him, if he does not pray, when he is ten.”

Firstly, keep in mind that a Muslim child ought to see his parents and those around him involved in prayer from the time s/he is born. Growing up in such a household would automatically result in him/her engaging in Salah from a very young age. The Messenger (sa) has asked us to encourage a child to offer Salah regularly at the age of seven and to ensure that s/he does so by the age of ten. This means that the next three years should be spent teaching and training him. And when all this fails, then he has suggested physical punishment. There are certain things to be noted. A ten-year-old child, having spent his/her entire life watching people offer Salah, would not abstain from it. In case s/he does so, there might be some special reason behind it, which must be attended to. And before someone starts beating up their children, remember that the Messenger (sa) forbade striking anyone on the face, hitting so hard as to leave a mark on the body and beating excessively. Also, remember the purpose of physical punishment is not to injure a child but to scare him/her from an evil deed, nor should the punishment serve as a vent of frustration, when the teacher fails in his/her own duty.

A piece of advice: do not use your hands to inflict a blow; whenever your hands reach out to the child, it should always be for affection. Also remember that the fear of physical punishment should be used more often than the punishment itself. Another thing is that physical punishment does not necessarily have to be hitting, but it could also be strenuous exercise or banishment from an enjoyable task.

Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

Published and distributed by M/s Al-Misbah, 16 Urdu Bazar, Lahore.

Phone: +92 42 371224656. Email: info@almisbah.biz

All rights reserved with the publishers.

The Blue Coat

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It was the first time our eyes met. The morning was quite and cold though it is already February in this part of the world. Thanks to the heavy showers the previous night, the day looked more like the pre-dawn of a day in December.

In the courtyard, stood a boy, tall with an enchanting air around him. Dancing in his large eyes was sheer mischief. His complexion the blend of golden yellow and pink. It was love at first sight for myself and him. “What is your name sweetheart?” He spellbound me with a shy glimpse while his fingers were busy twisting a corner of his T-shirt.

I had joined this preschool as a teacher, just two months ago. I was battling to understand the minds of these tiny creatures. The Child Psychology theories I have learnt confused me and left me to despair in my own quarters. I had begun to wander between the gaps of the ideals and the realities.

As the day broke, I would catch a glimpse of children as they entered the class room just like pretty rose buds tumbling down from a basket. Some days I would hold a child by the shoulder and whisper with all smiles, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

We all love children because children are the mirrors from which we see our past- a time which cannot be seen.

Children change the way you look at the world at large. They are the softer side of great blunders. A child’s smile can send bouquets of love even when the earth is hit by thousands of earth quakes.

The boundless love for children gave room for a stern policy to stem out in me, not to thrash any child ever in my life.

That was the time when my family was busily engrossed in finding me a counterpart – Mr. Right.

Whenever my feelings got wounded, my abode of consolation were my school children. Leaving home and family behind, I was lost in the world of shades and fragrance for hours and hours of infinite time.

At the school, we had twenty small wonders. Each one was a separate universe, yet Ahmad was exceptional.

Witty and quick to grasp, he was way ahead of others. He kept all the others under him exactly like an efficient politician who manages his mob. I liked Ahmad a lot yet I was so careful not to show my soft spot for him in open. I treated him like I would care for any child in school.

When the children fought, making every minute of my life miserable, sometimes made me despair why this not be my last day at school. Many a time, the cause of conflict would be half an eaten eraser or a faded wrapper of a chocolate. I would smile exhaustingly within, thinking about the fights waiting in the future when these children grow into adulthood.

At times Ahmad would show hostile and antagonistic behaviour when he was emotionally disturbed. He would be called ‘Ahmaaaaaaaaad…..’ Sometimes sweetly by a voice with the blend of love, occasionally in a more firm tone followed by a stern look. He would calm down.

Some days, Ahmad would bring me blossoms of fresh and fragrant Jasmine buds which were yet to open eyes. Half eaten Guavas, old perfume bottles, broken toy cars something or other would adorn my table at least a day or two in a week. During meal time, a piece of sandwich bitten on all sides or a handful of noodles would be forced into my mouth by little fingers.

That day still lives in me. It was drizzling and the sky was purplish…time for creative skills. The classroom walls smelt of a new aroma. Walls stood elite with the new turquoise blue paint.

‘Now look here …..Sweethearts, I am going to give you all crayons and white paper. What are you going to draw?’ I was encouraging the little wonders to give shape and colours to their dreams.

‘Miss, I will draw my home’

‘Miss I am going to Draw Aero plane’

‘Shall I draw my Daddy’?

‘Miss my hand is hurting Miss  …’

I was listening to each and every child. ‘wow, very good, beautiful…

Okay, just wait a second and draw, then your hand won’t ache.’

I was becoming a little exhausted and worn out.

The numb headache I was having from the morning was getting onto my nerves. That evening was scheduled for one of the most eligible bachelors coming to see me and I was stressed beyond words. I came out of the class room to the adjoining hall in the intention of having two pain killers.

Suddenly I saw a shadowy little creature standing by the wall absorbed in something. My eyes grew large and I stepped closer. Oh my God. Ahmad was scribbling something on the freshly painted wall.

‘You little rascal, what are you doing? Wait I will teach you a good lesson!’

A monster within me ripped open and dragged Ahmad by his shoulder. It slapped him across his cheeks. Twisted were his pinkish earlobes. It got hold of his ears and dragged him and made him sit on a chair. As the momentum grew meek, suddenly I realized his eyes did not shed even a single teardrop.

Was I acting brutish? I thought for a second and then I started to feel guilty and was blue. Ahmad stood there still like a shadow of a tree in the noon. I felt that he was more hurt by the embarrassment caused in front of the class than anything else. I could plainly see his terribly knocked ego.

Ahmad did not raise his head afterwards. Next day…The whole week…. Children greeted me every morning. I was waiting, clad in my blue attire, Ahmad did not turn up nor his jasmine buds. The urge was pushing me to visit him. I walked towards his home that weekend. Padlocked was the gate and a neighbour came to my rescue. He told in a voice that was edgy, that Ahmad was admitted to the hospital.

I hurried to the hospital to spot Ahmad as beaming as ever in the children’s ward. ‘Miss, do not give my colour box to anyone… I am going to draw this Doctor Uncle now‘… Ahmad raised his hand stuck to a cannula. He was bubbling with little talks endless and infinite as his dreams.

‘Ahmad talks nothing but about you and his school’. Ahmad’s mother stopped for a while to converse. He was infected with Dengue and according to his mother; fortunately he was out of the danger and would be discharged within a day or two. As I kept the teddy bear next to him and his favourite chocolate in his hand, I did not have even a stroke of thought that it was the last time I am seeing him all alive.

The news broke on a day in mild summer, while I was demonstrating to children how to crush the tissue into small purple balls and then to paste them on the drawn brinjal.

‘Little Ahmad passed away’ Innalillah (We all return to God). Ahmad had left us for good. I was unconsciously drawn to the walls where Ahmed carved his last scribble. I ran my fingers over the painting with my heart becoming heavy. A scribble of a person. I could not make out whether it is a woman or a man. But the person was wearing something in blue- a blue coat. Smiling was a crooked heart next to it, scribbled in red. I could not take it any more.

I collapsed down, with every bit of my heart broken. Within my heart a sparrow fell right down from the sky, dead. ‘Ahmad, will you ever forgive me?‘

I broke sobbing, drops of tears drenching my blue coat…

Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms

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The Messenger (sa) said: “I have only been sent as a teacher.” (Ibn Majah) Surely, that was his role: he had to impart the instructions and the message of the Lord (swt) of the worlds to humankind. This task assigned to him was multi-dimensional as well as layered with problems.

How can the Prophet’s (sa) example be applied to the modern-day classroom? The following tips are not only for the benefit of the instructors of Islamic sciences. They are applicable to teachers of all subjects and all schools. Remember: whatever profession you belong to, you shall have to play the role of a teacher at some time or the other; in fact, isn’t teaching the primary role of parents? It is hoped that teachers and parents alike will benefit from these tips.

1) Sincerity of Intention

Making an intention is a prerequisite for every action. Unless a deed is performed with a proper objective in mind, it cannot be rewarded. One must have a purpose for all that one does, rather than carry on without any direction. This is, of course true of a teaching as well.

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The actions shall be judged only by the intentions.” (Bukhari) As educators, we will be rewarded for the noble intentions behind our teaching practices. There are three aspects of purifying one’s intention:

The first aspect: the intention to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Every action that is performed for His sake, no matter how routine, is considered to be an act of worship.

The second aspect: sincerity.

Tamim Ad-Dari (rta) narrated: “The Messenger (sa) said: ‘The Deen is Naseehah (sincerity and sincere advice).’ We asked: ‘To whom?’ He said: ‘To Allah, His Book, His Messenger and the leaders of the Muslims and the general people.’” (Muslim)

The third aspect: following the Islamic methodology.

The Quran says: “Say (O Muhammad): If you truly love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive your sins; for, Allah is Oft-forgiving, most Merciful.” (Al-Imran 3:31)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) is the greatest reformer in the entire history. He is an emblem of all the best virtues and excellent qualities imaginable. He was blessed with the attributes of mercy, tolerance, forgiveness, love, compassion, truthfulness, piety, righteousness and steadfastness to the degree of perfection. To follow his example is to follow the perfect path – yes, this includes the classroom.

2) Teacher – Student Relationship

The most important element in teaching is the bond that the teacher has with the students. This relationship plays a decisive role in the learning process. If the relationship is based upon mutual love and respect, students will be able to absorb much more from their teacher. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Verily, I am to you like a father is to his child; I am teaching you.” (Ibn Majah)

When a teacher becomes a second parent, the manner of dealing with the learners becomes positive and so do the results of teaching.

We know well the extent of love and respect that the companions of the Messenger (sa) had for him, the importance they gave him in their lives, and the way they were ever ready to lay down their lives at his command.

It must be remembered that this love did not and does not automatically install itself in the hearts; in the case of the companions, it was more of a reaction. It was the Messenger’s (sa) love and compassion because of which they became his devoted students. He was the embodiment of love and mercy for his companions.

The Quran says: “There has come to you a Messenger from amongst you: it weighs heavily upon him that which harasses you. [He is] anxious over your well-being. [He is] extremely compassionate and merciful to the believers.” (At-Taubah 9:128)

The love that the Messenger (sa) had for his students made them love him in return. The vibes of love and mercy he sent out led to their unconditional obedience. If the educators of today do not exude this level of compassion, how can they attain their students’ respect and obedience? If you want to receive love, you must first be prepared to give it.

3) Practice what you teach

The Messenger (sa) would teach through his own noble personality. His behaviour would inspire and motivate at the same time. His own actions were the best that can be in every scope of one’s life, especially as a teacher. The Quran says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

The ideal example is that of the Messenger (sa), whose each and every action and word was revealed by Allah (swt) Himself.

The Quran says: “Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.” (An-Najm 53:3-4)

What instruction can be better than the instruction of the Creator Himself?

Amr ibn al-Aas (rta) said about the Messenger of Allah (sa): “He does not command any good without being the first one to act on it.” (Al-Khasais Al-Kubra)

These words encompass a world of beauty in the art of teaching. There must not be a conspicuous disparity between what one says and what one does. If there is, what else do we call hypocrisy?

A question that arises here is: “This is good for a teacher of Islamic studies or such, but how can a mathematics teacher or a teacher of languages ‘practice’ what he says?”
The answer to this question has two parts. Firstly, a teacher of a language, say English, needs to have a high standard of the language that he or she is teaching. Likewise, if a teacher encourages reading as a habit, he or she should be seen with a new book under his or her arm regularly. All teachers encourage good handwriting – should they not be careful about their own handwriting at all times?

Secondly, a teacher of religious studies or morals is not the only educator who teaches ethics to students. Remember: Every teacher is a role model for the students who observe him/her on the school premises or outside of it.

Always remember: “Correcting others is based on correcting oneself. Therefore, begin with yourself and then with those who are close to you.” (Quoted by Imam Ghazali in Ihya Uloom ad-Deen)

Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

Published and distributed by M/s Al-Misbah, 16 Urdu Bazar, Lahore.

Phone: +92 42 371224656. Email: info@almisbah.biz

All rights reserved with the publishers.

Catching Kids Being Good

kids being goodRewarding a behavior is the most effective way of promoting good conduct. Teachers can re-enforce youngsters by a smile, a ‘thank you’, some praise, or food. However, many believe that this method does not actually work – they continue to insist on their negative approaches that often make things worse, not better. Set up the child for success if he is not presently demonstrating the desired behavior. When a child displays positive behavior, recognize it. Do not hold a grudge. When first building a behavior, reward it each time as quickly as possible. The following are some reward suggestions that will encourage kids to strive for ‘being good’.

Tree of Achievements

For increasing the self-esteem in children, make a tree of achievement for each classroom. Make a display with a bare tree on a hillside or in a field and place a basket of brightly coloured leaves below. Whenever a child works hard or shows kindness, their name along with their good deed get written on a leaf and put up on the tree. This will encourage positive behaviour, and the children will love it.

Golden Wall

Use a ‘Golden Wall’ to encourage the circle time in the classroom. Write out the ‘golden rules’ from top to bottom on a wall. Every time a child adheres to some golden rule or successfully displays the focus golden rule of a particular week, write his / her name on a piece of paper and stick it to the Golden Wall. At the end of a half term, tear off all the labels from the wall and count them. The more a child’s name is on the wall, the higher are his / her chances for winning an award.

Behaviour Ladder

Age Range: 5 to 11

Draw a ladder onto a big piece of paper and write the names of children on little cards. Every time a child achieves something in any area, he / she moves a step up on the ladder. Similarly, the child moves one step down, every time he / she does something negative. For winning a secret prize, the child has to get to the top of the ladder.

Warm Fuzzies

The teacher makes on computer 25 squares of small grid for each child and places them on their desks. When a child works quietly on a task, produces excellent work, does homework, consistently follows class rules, the squares get stamped. Children also give them to each other for positive reasons at ‘warm fuzzy time.’ When the grid is filled, the student gets a certificate and sometimes a prize. Then, children aim for the next award, which is 50, 75, 100, 125, etc. Kids enjoy this type of rewards that promote positive behaviour.

Target Tree

Every half term, each student cuts out an apple and writes on it his / her personal target. Then, this apple is hung onto a tree prepared by the teacher. When the child achieves the target, he / she receives 2 merits. The next half term, a new apple gets added onto the tree.

Behaviour Train

Place on the wall a large train engine with several carriages behind. Represent each child in a carriage by writing his / her name and drawing a cartoon character. There should be on the wall also a ‘Missed Playtime Station.’ If during a play session a child misbehaves, his / her carriage gets removed from the train and placed in the station. The carriage can return to the train only if the child modifies his / her behaviour before the next playtime.

Prize Token

Give children a prize token anytime they work well on a task, produce a lovely work, answer a question correctly, etc. Children write their names on a piece of paper and put them in a prize jar. Keep on reminding children throughout the day: “Who is doing the work quietly so that I can give a prize token?” You will be surprised to see that students will stop talking and will get back to their work. At the end of the day, draw the names out of the prize jar. If students have been really good, give out a few more prizes; however, if they had misbehaved, warn them that no names would be drawn from the prize jar, unless they improve their behaviour.

Super Stars

This reward system is very simple and designed specifically for younger students. Teacher draws a star and leaves below it some space for writing the names of students. This becomes a ‘Super Stars’ list, into which the teacher writes then names of students any time they do something praiseworthy. When the class is rowdy, the teacher should say: “Twinkle, twinkle super star – can I see where you are?” This gets the attention of students and puts them back to their work. Super Star students can do some special tasks for the teacher.

In order to encourage appropriate behaviour everyone needs to be challenged and motivated. An effort that goes unrecognized or earns no appreciation has no chances to last. Even Allah the most Gracious, has offered Jannah as a reward for all the hard work good believers put in day in and day out. This motivation helps us stay guided and builds an eagerness to do our very best.

Positive attitude and expectation of a teacher from his student eventually enables the child to realize he has the potential to be good. Otherwise he would not have been asked to do good consistently. On the other hand labeling a child as a failure or demonstrating suspicion and anger over his undesired attitude only sends one message that the child is incapable of any improvement or change.

A List of Ideas for Earning Rewards

  • Have the teacher phone your parents to tell them what a great kid you are.
  • Draw on the chalkboard.
  • Be the first in line.
  • Choose any class job for a week.
  • Do all the class jobs for a day.
  • Be a helper in the room with younger children.
  • Help the librarian.
  • Choose a book for the teacher to read to the class.
  • Keep a stuffed animal on your desk.
  • Use the computer.
  • Be the first to eat.
  • Have a special sharing time to teach something to the class, set up a display etc.
  • Read to someone else.
  • Choose a movie for the class to watch.
  • Get a fun worksheet.

Improving the Teaching of Islamiat

Speaking from a student’s perspective, Hafsa Ahsan humbly offers the teachers of Islamiat practical suggestions for improving the quality of lectures

I stifled a yawn and glanced around the class. Two of my classmates were reading a Danielle Steel novel under their desks. Behind me, a group of my classmates were chatting merrily. At the first read, you may think the teacher was not present in the class. But no, there was a full fledge lecture going on. This was a typical scenario of our Islamiat class, and some of the ways my classmates designed for breaking the monotony.

I feel really bad writing this, but the Islamiat classes were the most-dreaded ones. It was not so much the curriculum itself, as it was the way it was actually taught. I will be frank: the only reason I attended this class was because proxy attendances were against my principles.

Whether we talk about the British system of education or our Pakistani one, the curriculum is generally the same. Whether we studied the subject one semester or two years, not many of us actually remembered, what we had been taught. Most of the ‘study’ was comprised of a rush to make notes or open the textbook in the last month before exams, cram up as much as possible, and reproduce whatever we can in the exam paper. End of story.

The question, which generally arises, is – how should Islamiat be taught? It is a compulsory subject, after all. Its theoretical nature makes it difficult to fit Islamiat under the standards of science and commerce subjects, where concepts are understood through graphical, statistical, and logical means. However, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Using Audio Visual aids

I yet have to come across a teacher, who would actually use the blackboard, or any kind of Audio Visual aids, while teaching Islamiat. The ‘lecture’ in the truest sense of the word does not really hold the attention of students. If delivering the lecture in a form of an attractive presentation is too time-consuming, a good use of the blackboard would definitely make the class interesting. Mind maps showing the relations between different concepts are the most relevant diagrams, considering that we are talking about a theoretical subject.

Relating the subject to everyday life

In case of a simple topic like ablution, the teacher can go beyond the basic methodology of ablution and ask students questions like ‘what would they do if they have to pray at school and want to do ablution with their socks on?’ There are many such issues in our daily lives, for which we need to refer to Islamiat. Think about it: if we are not able to concentrate on our prayers, does not the need arise to remember the meaning of what we recite? Someone asks us to give Zakat to a charity organization, and we wonder, whether or not a charity donation actually counts as Zakat. There are many similar occasions, where we need to apply Islamiat.

Relating the subject to important scientific concepts

A couple of months ago, my sister showed me a physics formula, which illustrated, how at the time of Mairaj, Prophet Muhammad (sa) explored the seven skies and came back within a night. The formula had some values, which gave the value of time to be infinity. Now, if the Islamiat teacher is well up to date with the latest scientific research, he/she can relate similar connections in the class, which would definitely fascinate the students. Another example is the burning of the seas on the Day of Judgment. The teacher can show how, if the covalent bonds between hydrogen and oxygen break, one gas will burn and the other will make it burn -that is how the seas will be ignited.

Asking ‘how’ not ‘what’

Most of the Islamiat questions I saw in my school days began with ‘what’. Or still worse, there were such questions as ‘Write a note on Salah’. For the life of me, I have never understood the logic of the word ‘note’. Most students have come to translate this word as ‘Write everything you know about…’ And that is precisely what students do. On the contrary, such questions as ‘Why do you think Salah is not excused under any conditions?’ or ‘How do you think we practice Jihad-bin-Nafs in our daily lives?’ are more interesting and stimulate students to think. Such questions also ensure that the students do not rote-learn every chapter of the book. And from a student’s perspective, learning actually becomes a more fulfilling activity.

Encouraging class discussions and prompting students to ask ‘why’

One-way lectures on Islamiat just add to the drowsiness factor. If teachers would encourage students to ask questions, the class would become more exciting. An interesting discussion developed in one of my Islamiat classes – why do we believe the Ahadeeth to be authentic, when they were formally compiled after the death of the Prophet (sa)?

Engaging students in interesting activities

Research-based tasks, in which students have to consult sources other than the textbooks, are also a good option. The teacher can design activities that would require students to go online for looking up information, which would complement that of the textbook. Making small, attractive flash cards for different supplications, designing a Zakat calculator, and exploring online means of Dawah are some of the activities, which the teacher can assign students to make the subject livelier.

The above are some of my humble suggestions to Islamiat teachers. There is a widespread belief that ‘Islamiat is for exam’s sake only’, and it is up to the teachers to work towards eliminating it.

Secrets to Success in School

parent-teacherIncome or social status is not the predicator of student’s success. Real triumph comes when families collaborate in the following:

  • Creating a learning environment at home
  • Expressing high expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers
  • Becoming involved in children’s education at school

Positive results of parental involvement in their children’s schooling include improved achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children’s schooling.

A good way to start is by actively participating in the parent-teacher meetings:

How to make parent-teacher conference work for your child

Ways to tackle the conference

When the parent is called for a meeting with his child’s teacher, the parent may feel nervous. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Parents should be on time for the conference. They should plan not to run over the amount of time that has been set aside.
  2. If the parent is working, he/she should set up a time to meet, which is good for both the parent and the teacher.
  3. When teachers and parents work to help the child then the conference is at its best. Both of them stay calm. It helps no one when they argue and blame each other for problems the child is having.

Getting ready for the conference

  1. Before the conference the parent should talk to their child. They should find out what is their child’s favorite subject and which is their least liked subject.
  2. Ask the child if there is anything their child wants their parents to ask the teacher.
  3. The parents should make sure that the child does not worry about the meeting. Make him understand that you are meeting with the teacher to help him.
  4. Before parents go to the school, they may write notes about: the youngster’s personality, troubles, habits, hobbies, and life at home, which the parent feels essential for a teacher to be familiar with.
  5. Parents can make note of school policies or programs a parent may have some concern about.
  6. Parents can ask about the child’s progress.
  7. Discuss ways a parent can help the child by working together with the school.
  8. The parent should be ready to see samples of the student’s work, which the teacher might show to them.
  9. Be receptive to the ideas the teacher will give to improve the child’s performance.

After the conference

  1. The action plan on which the teacher and parent worked should be started immediately.
  2. The child should get the feeling that the parent and the teacher care.
  3. Check the child’s behaviour and class work and home work to see if the action plan is working or not.
  4. To discuss the progress the child is making, stay in touch with the teacher.
  5. Meeting the child’s teacher should build strong parent teacher partnerships. This partnership will help the child get the best possible education.

At home a parent can help their child in the following ways:

  1. Read to your child his/her favourite books, stories etc.
  2. Check homework every day
  3. Discuss school progress with teachers
  4. Limit his TV viewing
  5. Ask your child everyday “How was school today?”
  6. Help with homework even if he has a tutor at home
  7. Actively organize and monitor your child’s time at home to minimize wastage of time
  8. Parents can watch news and documentaries, and rent educational videos with the kids
  9. Visit museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and historical sites with your child
  10. Parents and children should read articles together that are found in the newspaper and magazines. Go to the library also
  11. Vacations should be made into a learning experience.
  12. Children, who have a broad foundation of knowledge and background on a variety of subjects, will find schooling and learning easier and interesting. It is the responsibility of the parents to share the world with their children.

Beat School Stress

In a student’s life school stress has a very negative effect. It may have to do with too much homework in the spare time. Try these strategies to cut out that stress.

  1. The child should stay organized. It will help him be in control, and that helps him to keep stress at bay.
  2. The student should also take mini-breaks throughout the day to chill out. Whether it is to nap, write in a journal, or take a walk, he should do something he enjoys regularly. Changing the surroundings even for five or ten minutes can give a new perspective and let him/her feel energized.
  3. The student should be allowed one big chunk of time at least once a week to have fun.
  4. Everybody makes mistakes, and nobody’s perfect. Do not disown the child if he or she has an occasional performance shortfall.
  5. Use stress to motivate your kid to get things done. When the child does some work, he should be happy with himself.
  6. Teachers need to give their students a break now and then and realize how much work they have piled up.

Students can own success

A Student should prepare himself to succeed in his studies. He can try to develop and appreciate the following habits:

  1. The student should take responsibility for himself. Responsibility is recognition that in order to succeed he can make decisions about his priorities, his time, and his resources.
  2. Center himself around his values and principles. He should not let friends and acquaintances dictate what he considers important.
  3. He should put first things first. The student should not let others or other interests, distract him from his goal.
  4. He should follow up the priorities he has set for himself.
  5. Discover key productivity periods and places.
  6. The student should prioritize his most difficult study challenges.
  7. There should be study spaces for morning, evening where the student can be most focused and productive.
  8. First understand others, then attempt to be understood
  9. When the student has an issue with the teacher, for instance a grade that is questionable , an assignment deadline extension, the student should put himself in the instructor’s place.
  10. He ought to look for better solutions to problems. For example if the student has not understood the course material he should not just re-read the material. He should try things like consulting the professor, a tutor, a classmate or a study group.
  11. He should look to continually challenge himself.

Shaping Eternity

Nayyara Rahman writes, a teacher affects eternity and there is no telling when his or her influence stops

Our ninth grade teacher once told us during a lesson that, “A teacher is the one whose wisdom and guidance fills your time on this Earth with inspiration and contentment and makes the afterlife a place of eternal rest.”

At that time, there was a unanimous “hmmm” and we went back to our class work, but her words had sowed the seed. We often talked about the teacher-student relationship long after we passed out of school. And, although our opinions often change, there are a few things most of us agree upon.

For most of us, teachers have been role models and a source of inspiration. Textbook material is just a sliver of all that they teach us. Where would we be if our teachers had not spent precious classroom time telling us the importance of honesty, integrity, and dignity?

Because one’s relationship with a teacher happens to be an intellectual one, there is a great deal of mental intimacy involved too. We trust our teachers with ideas we would be embarrassed to express in public. There is an unspoken understanding of confidence and appreciation.

Many of us believe that we are the only ones sweating it out in schoolrooms. Conversely, most teachers I have had, had a policy of solving timed papers themselves before testing their students with it. Very often, they have gone to great pains to supply us with the latest developments in their subjects.

However, the real trouble begins when a teacher’s teaching style is not compatible to the student’s learning style. As they say, “In teaching it is the method and not the content that is the message… the drawing out, not the pumping in.”

With a bizarre concept of freedom of choice, students today also assess their teachers quite critically. They paint a specific picture of their mentor in their minds. It works like a computer identification seeking the right password. The minutest mismatch can deny the teachers, access to a student’s attention, respect and loyalty.

Sellar and Yeatman once quoted, “For every person wishing to teach there are thirty not wanting to be taught.” Very often, I wonder how teachers bear us. (No offence to particularly sprightly occupants of the classroom). Only Herculean efforts let them tolerate us when we ardently display our limited collection of some very distorted facts.

The bond between a student and education in earlier times was unique. Imam Su’bah said, “If I ever saw someone running in the streets of the village I would only think one of two things: He was either crazy or a student of Hadeeth!” Today we might do that for the premier of a movie of course.

Times have changed drastically. Students today treat their teachers as if they are going 10-pin bowling with them and they were not sure they want their teacher’s company. Whatever happened to deference? A thing of the past, I guess.

John Sutherland, a professor of English literature observes, “Now teaching is ‘sold’. Students ‘buy’ it. They are, in short, customers in a marketplace. Higher education, thanks to fees is ‘customerized’. This means the traditional relationship between lecturer and student has been irrevocably eroded.”

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. No matter how smart we may be, we cannot treat our teachers disdainfully. It is poor in taste, and reflective of a loser. It would be nice of us if we at least valued and respected them for who they are. Time only tells how teachers influence eternity.