If you told me 4 years ago that I would return to teaching middle school students, I would laugh at your face and think you were crazy. I was at a point in my life where I had almost sworn off of teaching students. Various circumstances forced me back into teaching. I do not regret this decision. In fact, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Last year, Alhamdulillah, I was blessed to be awarded the “Teacher of the Year Award” for 2013-2014. The award was decided by students who cast anonymous votes. I think I am far from deserving of that award. I didn’t get to this stage in teaching overnight. Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong mention in their book, “The First Days of School – How to be an Effective Teacher,” the 4 stages of teaching, (1) Fantasy, (2) Survival, (3) Mastery, and, (4) Impact. In this post I only focus on the first part, “Fantasy.”
Fantasy – In this stage, all teachers have this rosy picture of a classroom filled with eager students ready to learn. Not only are they well-behaved, but that they are enthusiastic for everything you present to them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most students don’t care about what you want to teach. Few are excited because you speak about a subject they have heard about anecdotally. But for most, when you approach it from an academic and systematic format, it overwhelms them. They can’t seem to imagine that Islamic Studies can be both challenging and fun. It literally blows their minds away. Perhaps the best advice on teaching I heard from a dear friend and adviser was, “You need to teach what they need, not what you are passionate for.” This advice is golden. Many people who graduate overseas from Islamic institutions, and are American born and raised, or are youth directors/counselors have this false fantasy. Because their “nerd” lobe within in their brain, like the one I possess, kicks in and gives us spiritual happiness from the sacred knowledge we obtained, we think that this applies to kids. Because we are passionate and sincere, therefore, kids should automatically appreciate us. And when they don’t, we think they are ungrateful. We don’t look back and say, “Am I the missing link? Am I doing anything wrong?” We blame and dismiss. This disconnect is what ruins the beautiful career of teaching. This fantasy is what will make reality render its version of E. Honda’s Hundred Hand Slap. There are so many things other than just giving information. Professionalism, dress code, how to communicate, patience, dealing with parents, differentiated learning, staying relevant, priority-teaching, non-anecdotal teaching, varying activities and hundreds of issues that aren’t shown to new teachers. To sum up what simple steps can you follow to prevent yourself from falling into this fantasy, or wake up from this fantasy. As your self these three questions.
- Are you even in the right field? Are you student oriented and flexible? We cover them here in this post. If they have these, then it’s “possible” for you to become a teacher. But you they lack in one or both, then you should not teach.
If you have both of the aforementioned characteristics, and are dedicated, then you must incorporate many more characteristics to make them successful. Are you willing to learn these and strive hard? Are you willing to be unappreciated and maybe even stumble for a few years? Failure to abide by these characteristics will make teaching hard and almost unbearable. Are you willing to do that?
Finally, do we even know what are the end goals for Islamic Studies? Is it the acquisition of knowledge? Is it to learn manners? For more information, read here on “The End Goal“
Once you have these 3 three questions, then will you get out of your fantasy world.