“The Deen is sincere advice” – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
When I was first hired on as the counselor at the Islamic School of San Diego (ISSD), I was excited to begin a career within the Muslim community. The fact that I was the first of my kind to come through the school was a slight issue, however, because it meant building a program from the ground up.
Based on the conversations I’ve had with numerous Islamic school staff and administrators, many teachers are also expected to serve as unofficial counselors for some of their time. It seems by doing so their already hefty list of duties has doubled with this added responsibility.
This is why I will attempt to make a case for my position in Islamic schools.
My background is a Masters of Social Work (MSW) with an emphasis in School Social Work, a field that is more psycho-therapeutically based than academic counseling. Often I am involved in working with students on an individual level, in small groups, or in classroom workshops on building social skills. In addition, I work closely with school administration as well as with teachers to promote appropriate behavioral expectations and to address discipline.
Together, we attempt to focus on instilling and encouraging positive behaviors, both on an individual and school wide level, rather than concentrate on punishment or consequences for negative behaviors. Viewing my job as preventatively and proactively geared has helped in this respect. (See http://www.pbis.org/ for more information on positive behavioral supports and interventions)
Over the course of my time at the Islamic school I have also learned to develop and incorporate academic counseling to my assignments. This aspect includes assisting students to reach academic goals in order to maintain good academic standing and successful promotion to the next grade.
What is significantly extraordinary about my job, however, is the ability to instill the deep and beautiful message of Islam through examples from the Quran and Sunnah. I consider this a great opportunity as well as a great responsibility.
One component of this responsibility is that in order for my students buy in to excelling as Muslims and rising above the typical young person in terms of maintaining a positive Islamic identity, it is essential that I represent myself according to Islam and approach them with good regard and mercy.
Another component is ensuring that I fasten myself with the appropriate Islamic knowledge so that any time I may impart a related ayah from the Quran or a Hadith into a crisis counseling session or class workshop, I can do so with the intention of helping my students.
Insha’Allah, they will be able to come to the realization that our faith has instilled these values so many years ago and continues to hold us up to these values for our own benefit.
Our school is not perfect; we still address disciplinary issues on a regular basis. However, there is a great case to be made for a position that can serve as a support for directing Islamic schools in a positive direction.
Providing academic and social support and instilling essential religious values needed for a constructive Islamic identity in our students on a full-time basis are a few ways I’ve had the opportunity of doing so.