Every morning you wake up, and you pray that today you will make that difference in your students’ life. You are passionate, you are empowered, you are the Islamic school teacher and your mission is:
to prepare Muslim students for the here and now as well as the Hereafter in an Islamic learning environment that nurtures adab, instills an Islamic worldview, provides the necessary content knowledge, and allows for sound decision-making practices all of which lead to knowing the Divine and loving his Beloved. As an Islamic school teacher you aim to do this by emulating the Prophetic pedagogy as best as you can and by ensuring that you follow sound research-based practices in the classroom.
At the end of the day this is what you want for your students. Mission impossible, but not if you follow the Islamic school teacher’s manifesto:
- I need to take care of myself.
- I need to emulate the Prophet (S)
- I need to know how and what I want to teach.
- I need the help of my community.
- I need to reflect on how, what and why I teach.
- I need to seek out professional development.
- I need to breathe.
When we break it down, being an Islamic school teacher means sustainability, longevity, and spirituality.
I need to take care of myself. We need to nurture ourselves. This means a few things: we must spend time replenishing our spiritual reserves through our own personal spiritual journeys which could be halaqas, tahajjud, quran reading and practice, and so forth. We also need to be growing in terms of our knowledge and spending time learning more about the faith.
I need to emulate the Prophet (S). Like it or not, the students see us as role models. Our duty is to then work hard on being as close to Prophetic pedagogy as possible, and as close to the Prophetic character as possible. This means being people of adab and respect; dignified and dignifying. This is the second half of every Islamic school’s vision statement: we follow the Quran and Sunnah. As Islamic school teachers, we bring in this practical component.
I need to know how and what I want to teach. Establish a set of classroom instructional practices. These include establishing a set of guidelines or principles similar to the Principles of Islamic Pedagogy [link to C103 course info] that govern classroom instructional strategies that take into account learning abilities and the diversity of the students we teach. This encompasses both classroom management as well as content teaching.
I need the help of my community. Become a part of the community. Islamic schools by nature are community schools whether they are stand alone or part of a larger masjid community. That’s a double-edged sword. While too much community involvement in your classroom is grounds for serious interference, get to know the community in which your school is located, the history of the school and the community, and then also the resources within your community that you can use to help fulfill your mission.
I need to reflect on how, what, and why I teach. Be a reflective practitioner. Reflect on your teaching and how you can improve, always. Reflect on the students, and how you can genuinely facilitate their goals. And finally, reflect on how you assess students as well as their work ensuring that it is an authentic representation of their mastery and abilities.
I need to seek out professional development. Seek out and take advantage of professional development opportunities. This ties into point #4 above. Know that the administration may or may not have your back in terms of your professional growth. They may be too bogged down by the details of running a school, or they may not know where to look. Taking responsibility of your own professional learning and development ensures that you’re up to date with the current trends in terms of content knowledge, as well as teaching methodologies.
I need to breathe. So many Islamic school teachers find themselves overworked and exhausted. Take a moment to step out of that role and take time for yourself doing something you love besides teaching so that you can come back to teaching with a refreshed outlook.
These supports make your mission a little more possible and are complementary to the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Islamic School Teachers.
What do you do to get yourself through the day, the week, the year? What moments have you had with students that really replenished and re-energized you and your resolve to be an Islamic school teacher?
Share some of your trade secrets with us in the comments.
The Islamic School Teacher’s Manifesto – An Interview with Omaira Alam