7 Habits of Highly Effective Islamic School Teachers


How can we get teachers to stick around for the long haul?

This is a question I recently posed to the rest of our faculty at the Islamic Teacher Education Program.

Teacher turnover in Islamic schools is a major challenge. If we can find a way to increase teacher longevity, we’ll solve a number of the many other problems Islamic schools face in the process.

Their response was: if we can help Islamic school teachers become more effective in their role, they’ll last longer.

Effective teachers exhibit very consistent patterns of behaviour, or habits. And it turns out, these simple habits that can transform the often thankless job of teaching into a passionate, meaningful, and inspired endeavour.

So we decided to make a list of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Islamic School Teachers, which our entire team presented together in a recent webinar.

Here’s how it went:

1. Know what you believe and what it means

As an Islamic school teacher you believe in your students, in their potential, and for the time it takes openings to manifest.

You have conviction in what you teach, why you teach, and where you teach. You believe in your ability to work with students and to make a difference in their lives. You recognize that it is the people, not the program, that determine the quality of the school.

Because of your belief that our learning is connected to our purpose, you strive to have a plan and purpose for everything you do. If it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned, you reflect and then adjust your plans accordingly.

2. Thrive on being authentic

You practice sincerity to your students, to your school, to your students’ parents, and to your profession.

This means being a being a teacher with integrity who is sincere and honest with what you know and what you don’t know. This is part of having a clear intention and living up to it.

You build positive relationships with students from all backgrounds and you work hard to keep relationships in good repair — to avoid personal hurt and to prevent any possible damage.

You follow an “assume nothing” policy and move forward positively; treating every person with respect. You understand the power of praise.

3. Seek Allah in all that you do

You live Islam inside and outside your classroom, in both your personal and professional life.

You view all curricula and approaches through an Islamic worldview and work to integrate the curriculum within an Islamic framework.

You understand the place of adab in acquiring knowledge and consistently strive for spiritual improvement through daily acts of worship and learning.

You constantly remind students of Allah through learning about His creation using research-based instructional strategies and methodologies.

4. Have your lens in clear focus

You are focused on the learning environment and creating a space that facilitates learning.

You facilitate a desire to learn around the personal understandings that students already have. You strive for a classroom environment that encourages exploration, welcomes and accepts mistakes.

You take the ownership of learning seriously so that students learn to focus, become serious, and effectively manage the task they have in front of them. These tasks are anchored in an environment that thrives on independence and builds on past learning experiences.

You know how and when to move along a continuum of lightheartedness and seriousness depending on what the situation calls for. Your smile is genuine and you use humour without humiliation at appropriate times. You encourage a positive outlook.

5. Plan the climb to the tallest peak

You model and nurture high aspirations. You are metacognitively aware and share that awareness with your students. You have a mission for your classroom and revisit it often.

You have high efficacy related to high aspirations for students and the ability to empower them with this conviction.

You always have a contingency plan. You set clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.

You have high expectations of students, but even higher expectations for yourself. You model and teach 21st century skills using a multitude of strategies, including – but not limited to – differentiation, project based learning, thematic teaching, integrated teaching and real world connections to build a strong learning environment.

You remember the shoulders on which you stand. This ties in with humility, with history, recognizing where the school has come from and where it is going. You show appreciation for the community in which the school was built and for whom it serves.

6. Share every inspiration with love

You are passionate about what you teach and communicate your thoughts and ideas well. You engage students deeply and encourage creativity in the classroom.

You keep standardized testing in perspective while you focus on the real issue of student learning.

You show students that their opinions matter and you really value them. You eliminate the fear of failing and celebrate the success of others.

You encompass a collaborative spirit: encouraged by team-teaching or co-teaching, and you understand the necessity of a support network and seeking out friends and colleagues who are positive and proactive.

You build trust and work towards a community that can grow together.

7. Reflect on what has passed

You model the reflective processes of muhasabah and muraqabah. You seek feedback from students to assist in teaching, learning, and reflection.

You share your critique of lessons to inform students of future direction or reasons for adjustments. You provide opportunities for students to meaningfully self-assess (micro) in their own learning and development (macro).

You model processes and adab for students to engage in peer assessment practices for deeper reflection and enhanced learning. You are adaptive, resilient and aren’t afraid to be challenged.

You engage in reflective practice and constantly strive to improve yourself through life-long learning; knowledge from the cradle to the grave.

You have well-developed problem solving skills that empower you to create and implement plans for overcoming challenges. You know who the variable in the classroom is: you, the teacher.

Did we miss any?

There are plenty of habits that we probably missed, or didn’t have space to include.

What are some of your favourites? Share them with us in the comments below!

Omaira Alam

About Omaira Alam

Omaira Alam is the Program Director of the Islamic Teacher Education Program (islamicteachereducation.com). She holds a Masters in Transition Special Education from the George Washington University specializing in at-risk students with emotional and learning disabilities. With over 18 years of experience in teaching and teacher training, she continues her research focusing on Islamic education, special education in Muslim schools, urban Islamic education, discipline with dignity, instructional strategies based on gender and homeschooling. Her blog, Black Board, White Chalk (blackboardwhitechalk.wordpress.com), explores traditional and contemporary issues in education.
Click here to read more posts by Omaira.

  1. Assalam o alaekum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu it’s really awesome to have such material for Muslims to practice Islam and to improve as a Muslim teacher. We definitely need to learn n adopt lot of practices of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. Do keep this effort up for Muslim ummah. Jazakillah khairan kaseeren.

    • Waiyyakum wa ajmaeen. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at some of the points on how to become a highly effective Islamic school teacher do consider taking the program or one of the courses that might interest you. Registration for May 2016 is now open.

  2. Assalamualaikum.

    Thank you to all the instructors for such and enlightening and motivating presentation. All of the seven habits are equally important but the second one, “Thrive on being authentic” required me to reflect, about me and my colleagues. Sincerity is very important that our students can actually feel the presence.

    I think, another important habit for an effective islamic school teacher to work on it is to become a life long learner. A teacher must continuously seek knowledge and always being up-to-date. It’s a never ending process.

Leave your thoughts