I wish my Islamic school teacher knew …

A few days ago, this came up in my newsfeed: a parody of an original piece found here, about what students wish their teacher knew. In the satire piece presented by IslamicaNews – a satirical news source – it pokes fun at the range of issues found in many Islamic schools. Well, when I saw it I chuckled along because I have lived through those experiences not as a student, but as a teacher. I rolled my eyes in agreement, citing, “Oh yeah…how can I forget that.” And after having gone through all the funny little quotes that you can clearly see appear to be written by the same person, I eagerly shared it on my Facebook page and my Twitterfeed.

I thought I was pretty cool when I added, “So sad it’s funny,” including the hashtag #notsofunny.

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And I left it at that. Well it caused a bit of a sensation on my Facebook feed filling my wall with comments. Most were in agreement as to what the issues were with Islamic schools and that this parody while poking fun at them really brought to light the concerns in a humorous way, well, because that’s what parody and satire are supposed to do.

Yes, we have teachers that cannot teach.

Yes, some teachers still think that it’s okay to hit the students or yell at them or call them names.

Yes, some teachers cannot speak English and it makes it hard for the students to understand the material.

Yes, some teachers do not know Arabic, but it would really help if they did, especially if they are teachers of Arabic.

And yes, with a nod to character education, some teachers do gossip even though they encourage students not to throughout their teaching day.

But then someone wrote, “I find this piece offensive.”

And I paused. How is it offensive? I don’t understand. The commenter goes on to say that it’s not okay to rag on Islamic schools…

Perhaps. But then why not?

I think part of me was not offended at poking fun at our lived reality well, because sometimes you can do nothing but laugh at the all too common situations you find Islamic schools in: Seriously? Did they just reinvent the wheel?

The commenter then mentions that all teachers should be certified. Certification is a great starting point, but it has to be more than that especially for Islamic schools. Many teachers don’t know how to mesh Islam with school, and that’s just one of the many issues we need to tackle. Through the Islamic Teacher Education Program educators learn to improve Islamic education through the development of meaningful applications and deep understandings of Prophetic pedagogy.

Someone on my twitter feed after reading the initial tweet commented, “I hope no one takes this seriously.”

But maybe we should take it seriously. The issues that it pokes fun at are very serious. If we as Muslim educators take it seriously, then perhaps we’ll actually own up and do something about it. Does it mean that all Islamic schools are like this? Of course not. Does it mean that we all could use a bit of self-reflection and consider how to improve our own school? Definitely. Does it mean that we should shy away from and deny the real issues plaguing quality Islamic education? Not at all.

Islamic schools need teachers with skills, and we as a community need to pay appropriately for those skills. Having noble intentions isn’t enough. As a facilitator for the Islamic Teacher Education Program, I have the opportunity to work with Islamic school teachers from all over the world, and time and again the issues are the same. Denying that these realities exist puts our children in jeopardy and the future of the Muslim community at risk. And every once in a while I believe that it’s okay to chuckle at our circumstances, but that shouldn’t replace the efforts to improve them constantly and consistently. Self-reflection and improvement are tenets of the Islamic faith.

As a note, I also encourage you to listen to the conversation panel on #WhatIsIslamicEd that originally aired this past weekend. Don’t hesitate to join the conversation and ask us your questions, share your comments, and your frustrations as we further explore what we would like Islamic education to be.

And what are your thoughts about this piece by IslamicaNews? Add your 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. We love you, too. :-)

    Thanks for getting our somewhat warped sense of humor and bringing the many thoughtful points you brought to light. While our primary focus is to entertain, some of our articles result from undercurrents we hope our readers pick up, as you’ve obviously done.

    If we can laugh together, we can progress together. Keep up the good fight.

    Much love,
    Islamica News

  2. ASWK, You are write in writing that teachers need certification and most of them are not aware of the methodologies or how you lead a class. More important how do you blend Islamic principles in the classroom while you teach. Interesting insight is what I got from your writing. Jazakallah Khair, Sorry for having missed your online class.

    • Assalaamu alaykum,

      Thank you for bringing up the issues that you do. It is a lot to address in a comment, but I do invite you to look through the other blogs and webinars that we have on the website to get an idea of how we are trying to address these issues. If you haven’t already, consider the Islamic Teacher Education Program for a more in-depth look at these issues.


  3. I agree with you sister 100%. But one thing is missing in your article and that is changing the mindset of our Ummah about the financial renumeration for teachers all over the Muslim world, either in west or east. During the golden era of our Islamic Caliphate, teachers were highest paid profession, because the Caliph would assign a trust towards education and ask his governors to pay educators heavily because they realized the value of skillfull teachers in strengthening the future heirs of the Ummah, children! Unfortunately due to low paying profession, many enter into teaching not by choice but as a last resort, coupled with the fact that those at the helm of affairs for schools, colleges view that low salary is enough for a teacher, why increase? Just look at every high paying profession in the world today how difficult it is to get into without getting the proper certifications and mastery for it, so then why teaching should be anyone’s job out there. We teachers are a class above all professions, since we craft personalities for future. Every engineer, doctor, nurse, programmer has to go through a teacher to become one!
    So your organization should start a social media domino effect mobilization of awareness for one issue, “Teacher’s pay should be at par to engineers and doctors, software programmers if not more than them, to say the least!”

    Should you need my help in this campaign, then I am all ears!

  4. one more thing….when a survey done in any school of the world about what profession you want to choose, then an overwhelming majority of students NEVER say they want to become a teacher! Why? Mindset of its not high paying profession so why bother? Instead look at number one choice of many students and what is it and why?

    • Assalaamu alaykum Br Jawad,

      Thank you for your comment. I definitely agree that we need to pay Islamic school teachers what their worth. Finland, a leader in education, treats their teachers in a way similar to doctors, lawyers and engineers, and their salaries match that. InshaAllah, one day.

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