I love teaching, just not in a school!
Spoiler alert…….. *I teach at the Saturday school now* … keep reading.
Schools Limit Me
After I left my last job teaching English at King Saud University in Riyadh, and completed my masters (and had more kids), I told myself, I will do something for the education of the Muslim ummah, but I just CANNOT ever go back into a school and work 8am-4pm (its way longer than that)! It just would not be an efficient use of my time or skills, and it didn’t fit the vision I had for myself as a mom.
I’m sure teachers reading this will agree; there are so many limitations and distractions teaching in a school that prevent you from truly impacting and transforming students’ lives the way you know you can. And if you’re also a parent, the challenges are multiplied. The school system, unfortunately, makes finding a healthy work-life balance difficult for teachers, and this ultimately can impact your performance at work and home.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing Muslim teachers who do make it work. May Allaah bless and reward our Muslim teachers who put in the work and who, despite the struggles with admin, school politics, low pay, and misbehaved children, still show up committed to impacting this young ummah. I really appreciate you. You are the heros and you do make a difference!! I know I made a difference to my elementary/middle school students. Those I taught and those I didn’t.
I had great successes with my students when I was in the classroom. But I know I can do much more for the field of education outside of a school setting. My vision, and the impact I want to create goes beyond the classroom. If I were to go back to being an employee of an institute, those ambitions would be restricted, and I’d be working for the vision of the school… which is not always about the students or ummah, unfortunately. So that’s why I started MakkahCentric Education and I pray that I will have a larger impact on the ummah through it, bi-ithnillah!
As you can see, going back to a classroom as a teacher was not on my agenda, but I still do love teaching. I host classes, workshops, private tutoring, etc. for adults and children because it allows me to attract the audience who not only need what I have, but who want it. Plus I have so much more control and flexibility this way, something that schools just cannot offer a mom of 3. And the best part is, I get to enjoy every minute of it because I’m doing what I love – teaching!
Suddenly, I’m back in a classroom
One busy, fun, Thursday evening, as I was out enjoying the start of the weekend with my family, I got a call from “The Khair Bully” asking me to teach… in a weekend school!! The conversation went something like this:
Khair Bully: Assalaamu ‘alakum
Me: Wa ‘alaykumus salaam
[Lots of noise on my end because I’m out having fun with my kids, I think we were at a trampoline park!]
Khair Bully: The Firdows Program can’t find a teacher to teach the teens. They’re not happy with the candidates. They’re great girls, and we don’t want to see the program end. The admin are the most sincere people I’ve worked with, I’d hate to see last years efforts wasted.
Me: I’m sorry to hear that.
Khair Bully: I told Sister R, I know just the person for the job!
[I had recently done a second workshop for her bi-weekly youth circles, so I knew where this was going.]
Me: It’s noisy here, I can’t hear you.
Khair Bully: Can you give me an answer tonight?
Me: It’s 7pm!
Khair Bully: How much time do you need? Ok, let me know tomorrow.
Me: The Khair Bully strikes again!
There was more to the conversation that was really inspiring and moving and convincing! Someone like this friend of mine just cannot be rejected as she is a living example of what she “bullies” others into. Of course its not real bullying, but a desire for wanting good and seeking out those who can make a change and putting them to task.
Well, I am now the sole teacher of that class. Allaah has made it easy and possible to commit every Saturday, Alhamdulillah. And of course, my friend aka the Khair Bully, is always there to help when I need her. May Allaah elevate her status, raise her ambitions, and keep her hungry for benefiting the ummah.
What motivated me to say yes
I really could not say no, even though I already had a busy schedule and had no dream to be back in a class. But I didn’t want to give an excuse. I remember very well when I was a teenager, how much of an emaan booster halaqa sessions were and how much I craved for those environments, even if it were only once a week. I used to absorb everything I learned. I knew with my personality, I could have a similar impact on these girls. I ask Allaah to allow me to match up to that potential! Ameen.
Also, if I can be a bit transparent here, another motivation for me was that I knew teaching these girls would force me to create lesson plans and resources that could really benefit other Muslim educators. What’s currently available, even the paid stuff, is just not that good. Most of the time it’s for very small children, or it’s too basic and immature to use with youth. Also I get to sharpen up my teaching skills with a larger group.
I do workshops training homeschoolers and other educators about Islamic integration and teaching, but I don’t spend enough time creating resources they can use with their learners. Well, I do for the kids I teach, but I haven’t shared them publically, yet. Hopefully, this site will change that, bi-ithnillah.
How I decided on what to teach
The group I got were a mixed bunch of 11-17yr olds, mostly English speaking expats, and varying in levels of Islamic knowledge, from little to basic. The admin said to me, “We want to them to come and like the place. We want to create a happy and fun place, so they like Islam and want to learn. Their last teacher spent a lot of time building connection with them through activities and so on, you can try that”.
So I thought to myself, “Ya, but they’re only here for 2hrs a week, and this may be their only Islamic growth opportunity all week, how much fun are we talking?”
Now, call me old school, but I truly don’t believe putting emphasis on fun and activities are always the best choices to have an impact on the minds of a teen. There has to be substance. You have to address their beliefs to impact their actions. However, I do agree that a strong bond is key to any changes.
I also agree that for some kids, it has to be fun and games first for some time, but this group were already well behaved and willing coming to class. They don’t need extra luring through irrelevant activities like making pizza and crafts. (They do those activities occasionally during their breaks now, so we all win).
As an educator I thought long and hard of how I can benefit them most in this short time we have together. I told myself that I want to 1. impact their self-esteem, 2. Teach them academic skills they can use at school, and 3. Teach them Islam and how to think like a Muslim.
Why I started with the 6 pillars of faith
I did a diagnostic test and saw that they didn’t know some basic concepts regarding the Islamic belief system. There are sooooo many topics relevant to teenagers that I’d love to cover with them, but I felt it would be an injustice for me to work on other areas to improve their Islam, and ignore the foundations of what it even means to be a Muslim….i.e. the Islamic aqeedah (creed). How can I do lessons that boost their Islamic identity, yet they don’t even know what the true beliefs of a Muslim are?!
So I decided to start with the 6 Pillars of Emaan. I felt by teaching these pillars I can, not only teach them the correct aqeedah, but I’d have the opportunity to address myths and misconceptions they may get from tv or the books they read. Plus, I could still address a ton of life related topics that fit well with each pillar as we learn them.
What I’m teaching next
At the time of writing this, we are less than 2 months away from Ramadan, so I’ll be covering purification, prayer, and of course Ramadan. Along with teaching what they need to know to ensure correct worship, I will address topics relevant to their current phase of life as young women. We’ll definitely do a lesson on puberty and adolescent changes/challenges ( Yikes, I’m nervous thinking about it, can’t image what their reactions will be lol). And for Ramadan we’ll include some workshops relevant to personal (spiritual) development and transformations (because its another passion of mine). Stay tuned!
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Conclusion / Key takeaways:
- If you are faced with an opportunity to do khair – just do it. Allaah will put barakah in your time.
- When deciding on a teaching unit, choose substance over fun. You can always incorporate the fun in lessons, but decide on the content/skills the child needs first.
- When you’re crunched for time pick the most important topic, and see how you can fit other relevant topics under this topic (i.e. puberty during purification lessons).
- Try to combine the curriculum with your passions so that you can show up with more energy and motivation and thus have more impact.
- Join my mailing list!
Add a 6th point (or expand on any of the above). Comment below and tell me what is one thing you took away from my story or how it relates to you?