turned the corner
Thursday afternoon driving home, Robert Siegel on NPR was grilling Chertoff about the tens of thousands of people at the convention center starving, dehydrating, and dying as they waited to be rescued. Friday afternoon, Siegel and his colleagues were sure that the federal government had their act together, because Bush had his tour. It's so disgusting and 1984ish that sometimes I envy the people in our building (our school) who are absolutely oblivious to news outside of our community. Maybe I'd rather be a prol.
¶ 9/03/2005 07:20:00 AM3 comments
the red cross isn't there
Hasn't everyone been telling us to donate to the Red Cross? But they haven't been in the disaster area, because it's against the procedures. It's so shocking and disappointing that people aren't being helped while they wait to be rescued. This Daily Kos writer called DHS and confirmed that the Red Cross hasn't been working there yet.
¶ 9/03/2005 07:08:00 AM0 comments
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I'm not able to offer housing, but it's heartwarming to see my neighbors (people in the Chicago area) open their homes.
Also, an e-mail from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago:
The Council has established a Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, to alleviate
the sufferings of the hundreds of thousands of victims throughout the
southern states. Many mosques throughout the country are raising funds this
Friday; make sure your mosque joins this nation-wide effort.
It¹s time to act now and help those in need.
Please consider taking the following actions:
1. Donate to the Council¹s Katrina Relief Fund by sending your
tax-deductible donations today using one of two options:
a] Donate via the Council's website by clicking on the Donate icon,
selecting ³Katrina Relief Fund² and making an on-line donation at
www.ciogc.org using our secure website payment mechanism.
b] Donate via checks payable to "CIOGC" - please indicate ³Katrina Relief
Fund² in the memo portion of your check and on your envelope, and mail these
to our office address below:
Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
Attn: Katrina Relief Fund
330 East Roosevelt Rd.
Lombard, IL 60148
Houston Muslims are helping Katrina refugees who have arrived in Houston. A
mosque in New Orleans has taken in 200 victims of the hurricane. Other
interfaith organizations are assisting also. We can strengthen the efforts
of these institutions by donating generously.
2. We request Imams and Khateebs across Chicago to dedicate your Friday
sermons to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and collect donations to be sent
While we are praying and thinking of the victims of Hurricane Katrina,
please remember the more than 1,000 Iraqis who died this week in a panic
situation. Also, consider those who are suffering in Niger and Mali from the
drought and what you can do to assist them. Remember the suffering of people
throughout the world.
Tuesday morning NPR had a teacher on the phone from New Orleans who was staying at home during Katrina. The interviewer wanted to show him as reckless or brave for not leaving, while the teacher tried to explain that there was no way he could leave because he had no means of leaving. For people who didn't have a car or didn't have the money to get gas, there was no public transportation provided for the mandatory evacuation. This teacher was explaining that he lent money to his students' families so they could get the gas they needed to leave.
Another teacher is mentioned in this letter to the editor:
As an educator, she knew that many of the families had no mode of transportation. And she feared the worse today -- casualties.
"Mom ... many of my students have never ever even been to New Orleans. They walk everywhere. They are poor, so poor," she sobbed.
I'm thinking hard about what to say to my students. I know they'll come up with a fundraiser on their own, as they always do. Everyone will fill the boxes that the student council provides. Blood donations and monetary donations are needed, and they should be encouraged. However, tragedies like this one require more than donating towards patchwork relief after the disaster has already happened. How do we get kids to see that it was the poor who were left behind and that living here in a comfortable suburb of Chicago they are still connected to devastations on the Gulf coast, that they have a Islamic and civic responsibility to work to prevent injustice of this sort? I know how that answer starts: If I could only adopt that sort of behavior in my own life, I would be able to show it to the teenagers I work with.
¶ 9/01/2005 06:18:00 AM0 comments
Friday, August 26, 2005
Tolstoy does not totally own Steinbeck
Question (from my student survey handed out on the first day of class): If you could leave this class having accomplished just one thing, what would it be?
One student's answer: To actually recognize American authors as talented.
Question: What do you and I have to do to make that happen?
Answer: Show me proof Tolstoy doesn't completely own Steinbeck.
This kid isn't being cutesy. He's signaling that he has intellectual interests and, perhaps intentionally, he's looking to see if our English course will be truly satisfy his need. This is the real difference with this tenth grade class and others I've taught.
There's also a supposedly learning disabled young man in this class. This past week we've been reading a fairly easy essay by Rudalfo Anaya from our anthology. The only thing I've noticed is a lack of confidante. Otherwise, he's been as able as the others. I'm calling his mother today to see what concerns she has.
Overall, this first week has been pleasurable. I can see the potential and possibilities with nearly all of our groups. I say nearly because my junior and senior mixed classes have issues in terms of attentiveness. They'll be seeing their first participation grades next week, so hopefully they'll have a better idea of how they should be behaving.
¶ 8/26/2005 04:53:00 AM0 comments
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Students, blogs, and too little time
Yesterday my 10th grade writers mentioned blogs as being a cool new way of publishing writing. It was exciting that my own little writers in the middle of burbia had heard of blogs (I didn't mention my own blog). Of course, being very diligent girls, only one a few of them knew, and they used Xanga as a synonym for blogs. I mentioned that we may start our own group blog, which they were also very excited about.
Speaking of excitement, I've found myself to be very high strung (over strung?) these past few days. Ms. Ass. Principal is wonderful to work with. Her enthusiasm and sincerity show through everything. Unfortunately, I have a little difficulty understanding our principal sometimes, which can be a downer on some days.
On Tuesday, I talked to my tenth grade boys about getting to class on time no matter what was happening in the halls (this was because five out of twenty two of them had come in late). Yesterday, every single one was in class on time. They have such a terrific group dynamic, always helping each other to be respectful and hardworking.
Lately, I've been going to bed around 8:00 pm and waking at 3:00 am. That's not a good schedule, especially when my neices and nephews are over for dinner. I'm going to fix it with coffee on Friday evening.
¶ 8/25/2005 04:54:00 AM0 comments
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The first few days
Both exhausting and exhilarating. I hope I don't have to be on my feet this much for the whole year, because I've been very tired lately. Now that I've caught up with lesson planning, teaching has become much more fun. Yesterday, I was blown away, so to speak, by my 10th grade boys. From past experience, most boys find it difficult to quietly, respectfully listen to others' journals. I did do one thing differently this year. In yeas past, I've simply instructed people to sit silently and listen. This year, I made it very personal. I told them that they would want respect from others, that their voices are important because everyone's voice is important. I also let them know that I thought they were perfectly capable of listening with respect. Turns out they were.
In the tenth grade girls class, there are some really terrific writers. They write so much better than I do.
Yesterday, I also uncontrollably laughed at a student. She said something so funny and obvious, that it was impossible not to laugh. I'm going to apologize to her today.
Lastly, I'm trying to become a smiling person. I've realized how much easier my day is if I see smiling faces. It must be helpful for other students and teachers too.
¶ 8/24/2005 04:35:00 AM0 comments
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Service Week + Day One
Monday- an exciting and wholesome experience. Greeting old familiar faces and meeting the new and expectant filled me with warmth. The old teacher greeted me as if I were one of their own. I got off to a confident start. Downside: too many hours spent in administrative meetings.
Tuesday- Picking up from the positive energy of the previous day, I was happy to spend the morning planning. The first few hours of the study skills meeting were very productive. We talked about their importance and how to teach them. I've noticed myself much less rebellious about school policies. I used to detest textbooks and 'required' lesson-plans. Previously, I was only open to suggestions, not directions. I think I've learned that if 'required' lesson-plans are beneficial to my student, I won't have the same resistance to them as I used to. Or may be I'm just getting old.
Wednesday- I was getting quite frustrated. The office hadn't prepared my faculty binder even at this point. I had no idea what to do with certain courses that are newly begun--I had no guidance from the school. Most importantly, my course schedule was still not finalized. I was beginning to feel sorry I had rejoined. But I made duaa and got to work, and things soon started to turn around. Alhamdulilah. But once my nerves get ignited, it's hard to put a stop to worrying.
Thursday- Last day for preparation. My partner D and I introduced S to our room. S teaches just one period in room. 218, but has no permanent space for her things at school. F joined us later in the room. The four of us began a cordial and supportive relationship, which is only two days old, but has many hopeful signs.
Friday- Strangely enough, I was nervous at first. But generally things went very smoothly. My classes practiced our first routine, which was to remain seated until they are dismissed. They performed beautifully. Only mishap: forgot to take attendance for the first period. Downside: did not have time to prepare for the first week of school.
¶ 8/20/2005 04:37:00 PM0 comments
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Planning for next year
I've been focused this week on preparing for school. I signed the contract Monday and received some of the textbooks. Now I've taken out boxes of papers from my closet to clean up and sort. I've created new files for this coming year, and I'm going through the old papers to see what's useful.
In most schools, there are set curriculum guides, scopes and sequences, which teachers use for planning courses. Our school only provides textbooks and class titles. It gives us a lot of freedom, especially in English. But it also adds confusion because students may never come across certain concepts. I think this used to happen with poetry in high school. The curriculum was too focused on novels, particularly 19th century British novels. Revision skills, which are not the most fun to teach, were also neglected.
So I've started out by visualizing and planning for the abilities I want to see in my students by the end of the year. Then I’ll use the textbooks and other materials to design the course.
I’m excited that all my students this year will be 15-17 year olds. I liked teaching English 9, but frosh boys can be extremely immature. Also, this means I can use material that’s a little higher in terms of reading level.
What’s worrying is that the kids are going to have eight classes every single day. That’s a little insane, in my humble opinion. Students need more than a skimming of various subject areas, and they can’t be expected to master eight separate concepts from eight instructors every single day. In terms of homework this is also going to create a problem. Generally, I’d expect students to study around thirty minutes for my course on a given evening. But how will they be expected to do this for eight courses? I don’t have solutions, but I’m considering giving very little homework for the writing and grammar course. For the other courses, that’s going to be much more difficult.
I’m going to predict now that our students will suffer from cognitive overload. I know the kids I’ll be teaching, since I taught next year’s juniors and seniors Frosh English. They’re very hard working but they tend to focus on end of term grades to measure their success.
Lastly, I’ve always had anxiety dreams in the past before the start of the school year. Not this year. I feel very confident. I’d say I’m taking it less seriously, but I’m really planning it out much more thoroughly than I have in the past. Instead of being a worry freak, hopefully I’ll be able to make more of a difference this year, inshaAllah.
¶ 8/11/2005 11:43:00 AM1 comments
Monday, August 08, 2005
Currently listening to...
Native Deen has a new CD, entitled Deen You Know. Check out the sample tracks. I love Sakina.
In other news, I was seriously sad to hear the passing of Peter Jennings. He respected others, even those vilified by everyone, and earned my respect. I was thinking about the whole respect issue this morning, and when I spoke to my father later, he was thinking of the same thing.
Yesterday I attended Muslim Fest here in Chicago. It was a put together with just the right spirit and professionalism. Only problem was that too few people showed. As Native Deen said before their performance, that wasn't going to make the rest of us have any less fun!
Ahmed Deedat has passed. Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.
Lastly, I've got a job! It's four preps, but I'm very excited. More on that as I start the curriculum planning.
Okay not literally. But I'm once again rushing to the deadline for my research project. Unfortunately one of the worst papers I have ever written. I really hope that it will never get worse than this. I'm really sympathizing with the kids I've taught writing to. It takes a lot of mental effort to commit to a process and not let your anxieties about the project turn you away from writing. If I do teach next fall (haven't yet accepted a contract) I want to make sure I write, revise and publish two pieces before the end of August, just to get the whole practicing what I'm preaching thing down. A few weeks ago, a middle school teacher was talking about the revision process in her writing classroom. I've saved the tips to use myself before expecting students to use them.
¶ 8/06/2005 02:42:00 PM0 comments
Monday, August 01, 2005
Let me waste a few minutes
I have to write lessons for an interdisciplinary unit on chocolate. Someone remind me not to get all creative with this stuff next time. Being creative for real students is one thing, but I could have just as well done a conventional topic like Romeo and Juliet for this middle level education class. I'm also surveying high school students on whether they feel writing instruction is actually helpful to them outside of school. Can't wait to be done. Just another week left, Alhamdulilah, before I can celebrate golden summer days.
Chicago area is going to have a Muslim Fest this Sunday. I have to go. So that means I have to finish my paper and get it out by Saturday. Can I do it?
I like Umm Zaid's recent memes. They're such a delicious waste of time. I did one one word (The fifty questions that ends up in 37 questions) but I closed the file without saving it. So that was that.
In other news, I'm very disappointed about the death in the new Harry Potter book. It was too sad. I love Fawkes, the phoenix. Hopefully he comes back in the next book. This website [spoiler warning] is dedicated to the belief that the person who died really isn't dead. Wow, obviously there are people who have more time on their hands than I could have imagined. Maybe they don't have time; it could be a part of their procrastination routine, as this post is a part of mine. I love the layout of that site. It's clean and visually appealing. Speaking of which, I'm getting really annoyed at the layout of this blog. I'll do something when I have time.
¶ 8/01/2005 11:47:00 AM0 comments
Friday, July 29, 2005
Each is trying to write a poem. Their minds must have something there. After all the malls they’ve shopped at. Sugary drinks drank until mouths were numb. And of course, watched movies and read books until they were living elsewhere. And looking around the messy house. A rainy gray day. There was nothing to do but to write poetry. The sort that has to be lifted with whatever rusty tweezers are at the bottom of the drawer. These minds have experienced beauty too. Smelled a fresh forest for a few seconds before the sound of voices and fried food disturbed that silence. Oh, and those twenty minutes at the masjid, when there were no worshipers in the late afternoon. There was quietness. And letting as the heat close in, the words eventually made sense: By the dawn, and the ten nights, the odd and the even, the night as it passes…
¶ 7/29/2005 10:46:00 AM0 comments
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Sometimes when I accidentally turn on the radio when George W. is speaking, and actually bear with him a few seconds before I have to turn it off for my own good, I find it amazing that this man actually exists--a true, fully blown version of the emperor without clothes. With time, it seems he doesn't quite remember to act solemnly when he should, of course as a human, but also as a politician. So on Thursday a couple of weeks ago, when I was driving to classes, he was giving his sympathies to Londoners, but he sounded excited, gleeful. Read what he said here.
It seems Blair is becoming W. Not that he seems to be happy at the thought of terrorists, but he also believes the threat of terrorism justifies everything else. This is what he had to say about the shooting of that innocent man (see last post):
"To the family I can only express our deepest regrets," Blair said today in an interview on Sky News. "We have terrorists using suicide as a weapon on the streets of London and below the streets of London. What we have to recognize is that people are taking incredibly difficult, fast-timed decisions in life-threatening situations."
Expressing regrets is the only thing you can do? You can't even back your regrets with an inquiry? You can't express outrage? Can you cry?
Allah says, "Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere" (2:155).
¶ 7/24/2005 09:22:00 AM2 comments
This is Chaos
Shooting a man in the head because he may/possibly appear to be a terrorist? It's crazinesscrazy. When I was teaching last quarter, students asked if I knew terrorists, because I look like I may be related. I wonder if there would be any regret if this poor man had been Pakistani as they had suspected, instead of Brazilian.
Confession: stuff like this has been happening for a while around the world. But of course, as selfish as I am, it never hit me until now, when it seems anyone--like me--could become the next target. Similarly, 9/11 an the London bombings effect us the same way. These things have happened to others in the world before. But even while saying how horrible they were, I'm not sure I felt them. I really felt them when they started threatening my family's security and happiness directly and the order that holds my life where it is.
¶ 7/24/2005 09:13:00 AM0 comments
Monday, July 18, 2005
A view on standardized testing from 1921 Linda Mabry in Phi Delta Kappan:
In 1921 Edward Thorndike, who has been called the father of educational measurement, responded to criticism of newly developed standardized tests:
It will be said that learning should be for learning's sake, that too much attention is given already in this country to marks, prizes, degrees and the like, that students work too much for marks rather than for real achievement. . . . Students will work for marks and degrees if we have them. We can have none, or we can have such as are worth working for.
Thoughts on the past few weeks
Maybe this blog is dead.
I just updated the blogroll. Some blogs are becoming like my own: cobwebs. I linked also to the best photoblog in the world, dailydoseofimagery. It rocks. Check it out.
In other news, since by definition a personal blog is self-centered, I was getting ready to go to class when I heard, or rather read via the net, about the London bombings. As always with these terrorist attacks, I got very jittery and nervous. I discovered a lot about my own selfishness and the goodness of others that day. There's a jerk in my middle level education class. He laughs when I speak. But since I laugh all the time, I think the class tolerates me quite well.. I blend in well despite myself.
Of course, the news lately has been so depressing. I can't believe they were British raised Muslims who did this apparently. Why why why? In other news, NeoCon Muslim haters continue to smear the fifth of the world that's Muslim. Juan Cole and Avari give rebuttal to Tom Freedman. Others call for genocide. Ahh! I'm sure other's have been through this. We just have to keep doing what's good and fighting against what's bad.
Personally speaking, I've got no job yet for the Fall, which probably should be my prime worry, but it's not. I'm trying to complete work for my classes as much as I can before relatives from Pakistan and Toronto are here to celebrate their vacation with our family.
Oh, and I did have reflections and photos from Taking it To the Streets, a bi-annual (every other year) festival in Marquette Park in Chicago. Look for it. Hopefully soon.
¶ 7/12/2005 02:51:00 PM0 comments
I've had a bad couple of days—the sort when you feel sorry for yourself because of your supposed misfortunes. Reading Surah Fajr helps, very much. Also today, this commentary pushed me out of my "me-me" mood. I've heard Democratic leaders talking about their apology for lynching in the South. But, it's a totally empty statement. How does it help anyone now? What sacrifice does it require? Mr. Franklin (in his commentary on NPR) puts it in perspective: tawba requires one to correct the wrong, not to simply say sorry when it has all been done. Do those senators feel good about their meaningless apology? What will they do to really remove this stain in the soul of America? What will we all do?
Strange weekend, I mean week
It's Wednesday, but I feel like I'm off from work on a long weekend.
Friday after my interview (see below) I borrowed Mr. Smith goes to Washington from the library. I've been wanting to see it for a while. It's beautiful, I cried twice.
Then Saturday I attempted to file hordes of paper. Filing is the most awful chore. I've often romanticize about becoming a custodian or a kitchen worker who doesn't have to file. No, everyone needs to file these days, but I think teachers have it worst. I filed six binders worth of papers for future use. InshaAllah I actually use them, rather than forgetting all the hundreds of resources I've been collecting.
Sunday I attended the last class of the year for the Greatest Dars Ever. We discussed the first three pages of the second juz... It's the part of the Qur'an when Allah gives Muslims the helm, symbolized by the assigning of the Ka'ba as Qibla. It was so, so good. It's helped me to put things in perspective in ways I hadn't. And because the Qur'an is Allah's word, the verses about Sabr--patience--are so meaningful and relevant today! I should write about those more. But just the fact that Allah's says he'll try us with fear, it's Amazing. I know I'm capitalizing a lot. Read colonial English. They made up their own rules. We should do the same.
Later Sunday we had a BBQ in the backyard. Nothing like have burnt chicken that's raw on the inside!
Monday I frantically rushed to complete my student teaching portfolio. My sister ironed my clothes, my mother made me tea, and I ran out of the house at 5:20, hoping to reach the university by 6:00. The odds were impossible, and I didn't make it. At 6:00 I was at a red light, when the verses we had discussed at the Greatest Dars Ever popped into my head: be shuhada 'aala nnas. I felt dreadful, what kind of representing was I doing? Was I going to forever be a slacker among slackers at Slacker American University? Was I going to accept slacking from students and colleagues because I couldn't do better myself? My conscience gripped me, and I gripped the wheel and turned onto a beautiful arbor, doing dhikr. When I finally panted up to the classroom, there was a group of students waiting outside. What happened? The professor was running an hour off schedule. Perfect! So I got in with the group that was waiting. The prof. is no slacker. She's a good woman and has progressive views about public education. She talked to me kindly, asked me how I was treated at the school I was at. Then P and J, ladies who I knew had signed up for the time slot I was in showed up. Turns out I was early! The prof. mumbled some compliment about punctuality! I felt like a fraud, a very blessed fraud.
Tuesday I pretended/tried to do some work I'd saved for summer, such as reading the Idiot's Guide to Economics, the knowledge of which has thus far been in the form of deciphering reports from NPR. I've also requested, from the library, a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Sewing, and a guide to learning PHP. I want to request Moral Politics and Don't Think of an elephant by George Lakoff, but I'm holding off until I finish Early Hours by Khurram Murad and Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil by Katherine Bullock.
Today, I cleaned, cooked and cooked. And in between, I read liberal blogs on Howard Dean's latest truth statement: Republicans area party of white Christians. There's nothing wrong with that statement on surface. But why did it make me uncomfortable? Why does it make others squirm? I've concluded that this country needs truth statements, and anyone who disturbs the media Heathers and the wannabees must be doing something right.
This evening we had dear friends over. I just love them, the whole family. They liked my messed up cheese cake.
There's just about two more weeks until next session, during which I'm taking three classes. And there's so much to do.
I've got a great idea for a unit about the Myth of Romantic Love, in which students explore perceived reality, fallacies, and amaniyya--an Arabic word which means vain dreams. Actually I'm not quite sure of that meaning is accurate, I'll have to look up that verse. Romeo and Juliet could work well as the central text, and maybe an Austin book. Great Expectations would work well too, but I abhor Dickens, and the kids will notice; I'm thinking of reading either Hard Times or David Copperfield to try to over this long held prejudice, created through high school required reading.
By the way, please don't get the idea that I think all romantic love is false or untrue, I just mean to say that it there are cultural myths perpetuated about that concept. Do you have ideas for my unit?
¶ 6/08/2005 10:28:00 PM2 comments
Saturday, June 04, 2005
needing a job
Hey, if you happen to know good schools looking for a good teacher in the Chicago area, let me know. Thanks.
Yesterday I had an interview, which I brilliantly scheduled for 8am. I was hardly awake, even though I normally wake at 5:00 everyday. I kept waking up at night. At first I thought it was time, but it was just 1:00 and I had gone to bed at 11. So, I tried to sleep for an hour. Then, I got up and wrote a brilliant personal statement for an application. Seriously, it's brilliant. So good that I don't know if I want to put it up here, at least not until I get the job.
The interview seemed to go smoothly... But it was so quick! Are normal job interviews, for serious jobs for professionals, normally just 25 mins?? It's the only thing that's making me nervous, except of course my MA, which is a big factor for schools having financial troubles (by union agreements, a person with an MA can't just settle for a lower pay because the school can't afford it; so, sometimes that factors in a district's decision about who they should hire).
I'm seriously considering applying to a Muslim school. I really love the kids, which I think outweighs my frustration with the system and the folks who make decisions. I don't know. Please make duaas.
¶ 6/04/2005 06:51:00 AM3 comments
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Book Review: There are no Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith
A few weeks ago, after a bitter day "delivering instruction" as opposed to facilitating learning, I heard an NPR report about this supposedly perfect teacher, Rafe Esquith. The report was annoying because it missed all the complications in teaching and the many setbacks every teacher faces. Effective teachers face many failures and continuous challenges, and after all of that most honest teachers don't take credit for their student's success, even if they take pride in their achievements and growth.
But, out of curiosity, I requested Esquith's book from my local library. It turns out, like most great teachers, he doesn't think he's a genius, or see himself as manufacturing perfect products. Instead, he talks about the hours he devotes to teaching, using his day, starting at 6 am and ending at 6 pm teaching. On top of that, he teaches weekends and takes students on trips during summer and spring breaks.
The title of the book is the point. Esquith doesn't see any other way, besides hard work. He also explains that many of his students are "gifted and talented" and at a school with no program designed specifically for them, besides his own classroom. His students, being immigrants, whose families don't speak English at home, need to work as hard as they do to be competitive beyond school.
The best part of Esquith's book is his advice to new teachers. The first rule (if I recall quickly, since I've returned the book) was to do first, apologize later. That means when you want to do something in the classroom, go ahead and do it. If you set out to seek permission, you may never receive it. He also advises teachers to regard the district as a nuisance and put up with it as such. For example, equity teaches reading through classics. The school and the district expect him to use a basal reader, which is boring and unproductive use of time in his classroom. Every year he smiles and puts the basals in the room, then does what he thinks is best.
For parents, Esquith talks about the mixed up priorities of districts and schools. In his school, teachers are sent to training sessions on using a textbook that are given by textbook salespeople. When teachers were asked to prioritize spending at the school, they chose the school nurse (which we'd all agree is important), then a Xerox machine. Improved textbooks and instructional materials were much further down on the list. The staff chooses teaching assignments, and priority is given to those with connections rather than based on the best fit for each teacher.
My review is rushed: I haven't discussed Esquith's qualities of effective teachers, or his most beautiful anecdotes. I think most people would benefit from the book, especially young parents.
¶ 5/31/2005 10:04:00 AM0 comments
Thursday, BT had a party--cake and coke only--for two ladies who were retiring, after having worked at BT their entire careers. I've liked BT staff for many reasons. For one thing, they know how to cheerfully say good morning. That's very important. Also, they like to collaborate. Although BT is a low achieving school, in their efforts in improvement, they've become truly inter-disciplinary and collaborative. For instance, they have school wide reading and math days, when students work for an hour in all classrooms, be it history, math, or PE or any thing else.
As a Muslim going into a place which has not seen Muslims, or new immigrants, I found the place to be refreshingly welcoming. In DuPageCounty, where I've often been in classrooms over the last year, it's often difficult for both staff and students to be able to deal normally and courteously. And DuPage has a lot of Muslims. Maybe there's more tolerance in Cook county water--albeit through rusty pipes.
But, sitting with the retirees and other faculty—and I went only because my cooperating teacher insisted that I should—I felt so out of place. One retiree was telling of supposed scandals in the last thirty years at the school, all of which seemed implausible. Everyone was trying desperately to be "in". It was so horrendously phony! A few wise souls--mostly people with whom I had worked closely-- were looking around silently amused. I tried to feel comfortable, not caring about others around me... But my seat was in the center, so that was difficult. At one point, several people were out of their seats throwing out their plates. I took the opportunity to slip out.
I try not to be Holden Caufield. For one thing, I'm twenty four. I try to take responsibility for my world, rather than seek to become a self-interested recluse. Secondly, I believe that most people are essentially good. Rather than being a lonesome soul trying to catch children before they fall—Holden’s vision—I’d much rather work with others to care for children and make a better world for them. But, witnessing collective self-deception, such as the cake/retirement party, I feel incredibly lonely.
Today was my last day of student teaching. It's wonderful what just ordinary people do for each other. I sincerely appreciate the staff at BT for their support and welcome.
Now, I've writhen one cover letter and resume, and off to do some more.
I wrote a post the other day, but then conscience spoke, and I felt it was too insensitive so I took it down. There are a lot of things I could be writing about, but maybe in a few hours.
¶ 5/27/2005 02:54:00 PM0 comments
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Do people call you a terrorist?
The other day we were discussing To Kill a Mockingbird, specifically the chapter in which Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to the Black church. We had a great discussion, about analogous experiences. The students--who were all Black, besides one Hispanic student and one White student--quickly went off discussion and began listing their own racial experiences. I felt badly for the White student because he was obviously uncomfortable. One of my goals for the discussion was to discuss Atticus's advice to Scout, to put herself in others' skin, to truly understand them. We were having an actual discussion in class, and I was happy about finally engaging them.
Then, the best thing happened. A student asked me if I had ever been called a terrorist. I got red in the face, but I told him that yes, it had happened. They wanted to know what I did. I told them that even though I get upset, I try not to show my resentment; I don't think people are bigots, as much as they are simply ignorant. Then, we talked about me coming to their school, where most people hadn't seen a Muslim, and about giving people time and room to get over their ignorance.
I think it was a good answer, but it hardly came from me. These thoughts must have been percolating in my mind, but I hadn't articulated them. (It was like the times when you've prayed to wake up at 4:00 am, and you wake up exactly on the dot, even before the alarm clock.)
It was the best thing that happened because it gave me feedback, I know that at least some students were reading actively and internalizing Atticus's values.
¶ 5/15/2005 01:27:00 PM2 comments
Friday, April 29, 2005
Another Student Teaching Report
This is from a free-flowing dialogue journal between me and two other student teachers:
Yesterday for the first time, students talked to me about their problems. It was a strange place to be in, and I didn't have anything wise to say to them. I did remember to listen and show that I'm listening. Hopefully that's enough for now. One student is having a lot of trouble with other students, due largely to his obesity, which is interesting because there are a lot of obese students here. But this student minds it a lot, and shows that he takes all of their teasing to heart, which makes the situation so much worse. While I was listening to him, my urge was to 'advise' him. Good think though that he was talking for so long that I was able to think that over.
Another student, kept calling me to him, trying to tell me that he could not read Role of Thunder, Hear my Cry. This student--his name is Tyshawn, and that information is necessary because somehow his name is so appropriate for his personality--kept calling me to his desk during silent-reading. He insisted that he had never finished a book. He said, "you don't get it, I don't read." Then he described his reading difficulties: he reads, bud doesn't get it (isn't that a title of a book about teaching reading?), he can't read when the TV is on, and he forgets what happened, and who the characters were. I tried to tell him that the book is interesting, and that he'd like it once he started reading it. My little brother read it in second grade (I didn't tell this to Tyshawn, thankfully).
This conversation was fascinating, and very saddening. When I insisted that he read the book, Tyshawn said, "I don't wanna seem bad or anything, but I'm really just staying in school to see if I could do anything in basketball." He's not even on the team. Tyshawn is also one of the students that say I give them too much work. I give about as much work as their teacher did; the difference is that I insist they finish it. In my methods class, the instructor made the point that "students have the right to fail." I was confused about that last quarter; I think it could explain many people's detachment from their students' progress. Tyshawn, although very curious and thoughtful, is satisfied with his poor grades. I think he only tried to explain his lack of effort out of respect. Maybe though, he's trying to find support. At one point in the conversation, I told him that students need to read all kinds of books to become really capable readers. He sighed, and said, "I know."
I've been having some success in getting students to do their work. I've decided to allow them to leave their work in class, so that they don't loose stuff (a major cause for missing writing, projects, and homework). I've also decided to reduce homework--a lot. The fact is, 95% of students do 0% of homework. I don't want to just shrug my shoulders and move on. So, we do everything in class, except some reading, which, when we begin it in class, they'll complete at home.
Lastly I heard a report about Rafe Esquith (I think that's the spelling) on NPR yesterday afternoon? Hearing it on my drive home, I was both inspired and skeptical. I was inspired by his vision and his work ethic. The reporter however, was totally idolizing him. She really made him seem like a miracle, one of those teachers that seem magical, and impossible. I googled him last night though, and one of his former students pointed out on a blog somewhere that he only taught students with the highest IQ scores, which also means that all of his students were accustomed to success in school, received great grades, and probably received their family's support. I believe in high expectations, in "daring to dream of things that never were and saying why not." But, I also think it's important not to mythologize teaching and teachers. A much more beneficial report may have focused on the qualities that made him a great teacher, rather than on supposedly phenomenal results that his children have achieved. If you want to hear the report, it's available at npr.org under All Things Considered, under 4/26.
And even though I've already said "lastly," I want to give an update on what I'm actually teaching. I'm teaching research concepts for all three classes. Students are researching topics related to the Great Depression. At the same time, students are reading novels set during the 1930's. Our unifying concept for the unit is loss, since that relates well to both the Great Depression, and the novels students are reading. Second hour, students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Third hour, they're reading A Long Way from Chicago (they'll read A Year Down Yonder once they're done). Fourth hour, students are doing literature circles; their books are Bud not Buddy, Esperanza Rising, A Year Down Yonder, and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. Lit circles are great, and I'm thinking of adapting the strategy for the other two sections, because I feel students learn a lot more when they share the responsibility for their learning. I asked the librarian to give a short presentation on the school's databases. Also, I made a webquest for students to find resources on the internet and evaluate them, including books from the suburban libraries' catalog.
By the way, Tyshawn did read at home, and he reviewed his reading in class to catch up on what he had missed! Also, I had my second observation yesterday, and I received excellent marks. My supervisor only noted strengths. But, it would have been more comforting if he had made recommendations too. I don't feel perfect, so it's difficult to take people seriously who think that way.
¶ 4/29/2005 10:18:00 AM1 comments
Sunday, April 24, 2005
The things kids ask
My students range from 14-16, some are 17 I think. But, they're all at-risk readers and they're all in ninth grade. They're all smart, and they all hate school--this is without exception, even the ones who do the work out of deference to me and the two that are curious, and the three who care about their grades.
I *love* their questions. Here are a few:
1. Could you take that off since no one will tell (i.e. my hijab, since I wear it for *them* supposedly)
2. Do you mind it when people think you're different?
3. Can you say my name in Urdu?
4. Can you have babies?
5. Did you take a vow of silence?
What's funny is that my students are hardly literate, but they're all up to date on the latest lies about Muslims. Near the beginning, several would mention 'Osama' and look at each other with that mischievous, conspiratorial look to see how I would react. I'm great at pretending that I haven't noticed. And, I'm getting good at not taking offence, which is easy because I don't blame any of them.
¶ 4/24/2005 06:26:00 AM3 comments
The Little Prince The Little Prince, Chapter 4, by Antoine De Saint0Exupery:
I have serious reason to believe that the planet from which the little prince came is the asteroid known as B-612.
This asteroid has only once been seen through the telescope. That was by a Turkish astronomer, in 1909.
On making his discovery, the astronomer had presented it to the International Astronomical Congress, in a great demonstration. But he was in Turkish costume, and so nobody would believe what he said.
Grown-ups are like that...
Fortunately, however, for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator made a law that his subjects, under pain of death, should change to European costume. So in 1920 the astronomer gave his demonstration all over again, dressed with impressive style and elegance. And this time everybody accepted his report.
Are you related to Osama bin Laden?
Yesterday, I discovered that one of my students is pregnant. And another, aged fifteen, already has two at home. This second one, D, has no interest in school. She's much more prone to goof of. For instance, yesterday, I gave her a pass, on my planner to her locker. She never showed up to class.
I've always thought I should accord respect to parents, and it happens naturally. They've understood, through experience, something about life and children that I don't have access to. I look upon parenthood as a special gift and privilege. I cannot feel any of this for D. Pity is the only feeling I have for her. What kind of mother is she? Can she teach her children responsibility, fairness, good citizenship, and work ethics? Can she show her children that they can make a difference in this world, that the greatest gift of living is to give of yourself for the happiness of others?
But, I do not want to write her off. And, I don't want to give up on any of the others.
My cooperating teacher interrupted me during second hour yesterday. She had found out—by being in the right place that morning—that one of my students, who's been on the roll since January, but has never been to class, is finally released, and will be coming back to class. I do not know the crime for which he was incarcerated. I did not have the chance to meet this student. My cooperating teacher did go and see him at the guidance office. He did not look her in the face once, during the whole meeting.
Also this week, I was asked if I was related to Osama bin Laden. This was not asked innocently, but I pretended it was, and explained about the diversity among Muslims, and about generalizing about a quarter of the world through the actions of a few, and how that was dangerous thinking. I was also asked why I was making suggestions on students’ drafts, because wasn’t it supposed to be their writing? I assumed this question was also asked innocently—and I do not think it was—so I explained, that my suggestions are there to help them to improve their writing, that this was why we wrote in English, to help them to move to a higher level. I also told them that my suggestions were just suggestions, and that they did not need to follow them, necessarily. I also told them that I would be grading their essays, so they should consider carefully whether to listen to my advice, or to ignore it. (Maybe that last bit was unnecessary? I’m not sure yet whether I should have added that.)
Despite the heaviness of Friday brought on by all the news—and in general by students’ uncooperative and, at times, rude behavior—I would still be cheerful had guilt not been weighing down upon me.
It is strange to think of it now, but I’ve been burdened lately by the thought that I did not properly guides student through the revision process for their essays. By the time we reached revision, the process had dragged on for so long that only a few students were keeping up. So, we did peer-reviewing, and I asked them to ask someone at home to help them to review. But the final drafts are so horrible, that I think I should have explained a few items in much more detail. I rushed it because I did not want to spend more time with just two or three students following along during every period. I’m still pondering if we should revisit the essays Monday, or if we should just end it here and then look again at revision in the next unit.
I would not call myself a great success as a teacher—I’m no Jaime Escalante or any of those supposed Miracle Teachers packaged in romanticized teaching movies. And, I’ve decided those types don’t actually exist. One thing though that I understand more and more, is that most students need teachers to just have high expectations of them, to help them to realize they can actually achieve, and to just teach well.
My dad tried to tell me a few years ago, about a concept in Islamic teachings: that we are accountable only for our actions and that the results come not from us, but from the Creator. And I understood it, on a conceptual level. These days, I’m beginning to realize that I just need to keep on doing what works. Students will benefit from it, even if I won’t be there to see it.
Final note: this came out to be a lot sappier than I had expected. I do not revel in sentimentality.
¶ 4/16/2005 06:57:00 AM0 comments
html is relaxing
I realized this yesterday when I was tweaking the template for this blog. It was around 1:30. Students were making final changes on their drafts in the lab. Html does require thinking. But, like math, it doesn't involve emotional investment. Thus, if you want to relax, do html--or math.
¶ 4/16/2005 06:42:00 AM0 comments
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Spring Break It's been an awesome spring break, thanks to my wonderful brother, sister, and their spouses. I went to see mountains in Tennessee. The smell was delicious. So were the rivers and the trails. Tomorrow, I take over the class room fully, for an entire eight weeks. I'll be finishing off Romeo and Juliet next week, and then starting the Great Depression unit. My first assessment will be next week, Tuesday. Pray I do all right. I've joined the NCTE, and subscribed to THE journal, the English Journal.
¶ 4/03/2005 05:58:00 PM2 comments
Of high school washrooms and Title 1 students
Because I have a few moments now, I’m going to describe, in excruciating detail, my experience taking over the classroom.
I’m taking over today because Ms. N, the teacher, has gone to a conference in Springfield. I walked in this morning bright and early, at 7:00. Walking into the room, I remembered to say bismillah (yay!)
I put my things into the cabinet, and rearranged the desks. I had to rummage for Ms. N’s passwords (she gave them to me). Now I’m in the computer (yay!).
The most interesting experience thus far (8:15) has been my trip to the washroom. I’ve needed to use it every single day I’ve been here (twelve). I’ve visited it numerous times, but never had the stomach to use it. Instead, I’ve tried sitting down for longer periods, leaving my water bottle home on purpose, and running out of here as soon as I could after school. But I thought the students would suspect something today. And I’m not sure even I could hold it until 2:45 today.
The washroom door has a sign on it, prohibiting book bags, electronics, and purses any larger than the size of the sign on the door. I was surprised to see this. Ms. N carries herself so professionally, that even though I know the school is ‘failing’ under NCLB, and that the school has taken a variety of measures to try to improve test scores, I didn’t think the school had serious issues. Of course there are a lot of students absent in my classes because of family issues, suspensions, and just plain ditching. Anyway, it was a spooky moment to behold that sign.
I so wish all schools could have the ethic and the excitement of Illinois Math and Science Academy, where I observed classes for a day last fall. Students in that place had respect and dignity for themselves and their schools. Teachers created an atmosphere of respect that I’ve not seen before.
At most places, you can get a feel for the environment of the school through the look of the washrooms. At IMSA, washrooms were roomy, they were clean, and had plenty of toilet paper, had faucets that didn’t splash water on you, and had soap in dispensers.
Here, washrooms are tiny spaces. It’s impossible to get inside a stall without touching the walls. Most stalls have little toilet tissue, and every single stall stinks as though it hasn’t been washed in ten years. There is no soap.
Recently, a lot of high schools have been closing down faculty washrooms, because they’re so often left unused, that students use them as their own secret spaces for illicit activities. I hate the public washroom here. Can’t wait to go home and take a shower. But, I think it’s important for faculty to use the student washroom. It’s egalitarian. It’s also got to force the staff to call for some improvements.
This is it for now. The sub, who is the official person responsible if anything goes wrong (heh), has come in, and left. Our first class is second hour, at 9:00. There’s still about thirty-five minutes left. I’m going to review the lessons.
Back now, at 8:30. Yesterday, I had my first meeting with my supervisor and cooperating teacher (Ms. N). They’re both great people to work with. I think I’m blessed. All my colleagues at this school are great people (really). They both read some sappy statement I wrote to apply for student teaching. I have no idea what I wrote. It’s been a long time now. But they think I’m courageous. I find this humorous, because that’s not how I’d describe myself. At the same time, it lifts my spirits, because courage is important to me. It’s something I always notice in others. It’s something I pray for.
I think I’ll really review my lessons, and then get ready to go to the lab. The students are doing a webquest today. Actually, it’s not a true research. It’s more like a guided internet reading. They’ll be practicing reading more than researching. They’ll be skimming longer articles, and then they’ll be paraphrasing.
A few minutes after school.
This is tiring! It’s not that I haven’t taught before. But it’s not often that I’ve planned a lesson with perfect thoroughness, with every step plotted on paper, and then botch the lesson completely!
Okay, now I need to go home and take a shower.
¶ 3/17/2005 02:34:00 PM1 comments
Saturday, March 12, 2005
things here and there
I'm taking the Assessment of Professional Teaching Test today. It's one of those where you can't really prepare, except by having a good breakfast, which I've had and the test isn't for another four hours. I'm reading the objectives, which some committee at the state board of education probably hammered out in a bland conference room in the middle of the cornfields--I love it when people call it the prairie, heh. I don't think anyone ever reads them, since they don't actually discuss any content that's going to be assessed. Read them here if you need to go to sleep. Unless you're nerdy about all thing teaching, because they could actually be interesting to you. I have to study for tests, even when I don't know what to study. I'm going to read over the cognitive development chapters and a book about discipline.
The other day, I was watching my class discuss Romeo and Juliet, and the teacher was asking students about their favorite scenes. Several girls liked the suicide scene. They said it was because it was wonderful that they would give up their lives because they couldn't be with each other. It was such a spooky moment when one girl was explaining this. I wonder if they will somehow get the idea that that's desirable. The teacher is talking about wise choice and responsibility, but I wonder how much it penetrates. I've also noticed that a lot of young adult books talk about suicide and infatuation as though they're perfectly normal. Of course they all criticize suicide, and try show alternatives, but I wonder if sometimes it doesn't come off to kids as glorification. These kids in particular, with very poor reading comprehension and a host of family and community issues and with very little stability outside of the classroom, may just get the wrong message.
¶ 3/12/2005 09:33:00 AM0 comments
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Informed and Depressed
I miss the old days when the only issue on my political radar was Palestine. Now I worry about the bankruptcy Bill, the so called Class Action Fairness Act, the Iraq war, and electronic anklets.
¶ 3/03/2005 12:49:00 PM1 comments
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
My thoughts in snippets: news, Orwell, teaching, vision, audience
I have a presentation and a paper due tonight, as well as a quiz on grammar concepts. But I have write to focus. I was driveing my baby bro and a neighbor to school this morning, and unfortunately, because of a bad old habit, turned on NPR (Neocon Propaganda Radio). Inskeep was interviewing Ken Mehlman, the new chair of the RNC. The interview was spooky. I have been reminded of Orwell so many thousands of times in the last few years, but these few compact minutes really bring it home (again). They’ll have the interview up on their site if it’s not already there. At one point, Inskeep asked about Bush’s statement that SS ‘reform’ would be beneficial to blacks because they have lower life expectancy, and asked if that means that Bush is not planning on doing anything to raise that. It was a good question I think. And how is it that Mehlman proposes to ‘reach out’ to African Americans with Republican policies??? If he actually makes some gains in this, may be I’ll be declaring my love for Big Brother too.
In other news, I’m going to be teaching the Great Depression unit during student teaching. My cooperating teacher is encouraging me to do To Kill a Mockingbird with one of the three classes. It’ll be more work, but hopefully I can learn a little. The others will do young adult novels, or novels intended for even younger children, like the Newberry medal book, Out of Dust.
I’ve been thinking about employment next year. The absolutely worse thing I could do is to join a school where the leadership lacks vision. And no, “helping kids succeed” is NOT a vision. Unfortunately, of the schools I know, most are worried about patch work more than anything else. Where I worked last year, most people would articulate the ‘mission,’ if at all, in five paragraphs of very different statements. I think what they did over the summer to prepare the school for the next year was work on a to-do/wish list of items that teachers proposed at the end of year, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s poor leadership.
Lastly, looking at my own teaching, I realize the biggest missing component is my knowledge of my audience. This is a no-brainer for salesmen, writers, and presenters, but I think many teachers have a problem with this. I’m trying, as I observe the students I’ll be teaching in a few weeks, to see where they’re coming from, to understand their minds and their emotional state as they walk into class. I’m also looking for ways to do this at the beginning of next year. I know a lot of teachers give out surveys, which I think have their limits, because kids don’t reveal a lot through formal forms and canned questions. Of course a lot of this is a skill and a habit of mind, which I lack. Any suggestions are welcome.
¶ 3/01/2005 10:14:00 AM7 comments
Saturday, February 26, 2005
I wrote something yesterday, which I've since lost, about the school where I'll be student teaching. It's very close by, which is wonderful. It's not meeting NCLB standards, which something the school has to worry about a lot. The students I'll be teaching are 'title' kids, meaning they receive additional instruction so that they may pass reading tests (also, I think it means that they probably qualify for free lunch). The advantage for me is that there are only fifteen students per class, and they're on a block schedule, of just four periods, of which I'll be teaching three. Also, the teacher I'll be working with really seems to know her stuff, which is a great assurance for my nervous habit of mind. I'm praying this goes well.
¶ 2/26/2005 09:47:00 AM1 comments
Islam and Conservation
Back in college, I took a seminar on religion and spirituality. One environmental physics professor who worked on developing solar energy for use in city buildings believed that no serious environmental and conservation efforts would be possible without a spiritual and religious element. His position was that taking care of the environment means giving up things we could otherwise have. It means consuming less, it means wasting less. And his point was that people can't do these things unless it is a part of a larger moral picture, and a part of a belief system to which they have strong conviction. It was so long ago, I've forgotten most of what he said. Here's a story from the BBC, although poorly written and missing important information such as what are the Islam ethics, that talks about Imams in Zanzibar succeeding in making a spiritual argument for conservation to fishermen: Eco-Islam hits Zanzibar fishermen.
¶ 2/21/2005 09:41:00 AM0 comments
Friday, February 18, 2005
Laughing in the middle of the night This is soooooooooo hilarious:
At about 8:20 pm, Portland Police were called to the concert hall regarding a disturbance. Officers arrived and took custody of 52-year-old Bruce C. Charles of Portland. Officers contacted witnesses and learned that Charles was in the audience of tonight's debate between Howard Dean and Richard Pearl [sic] when he became upset, stood up, and threw his shoes at Mr. Pearl [sic]. Charles was apparently detained by either security or other citizens and held for police. No one was injured and the shoes did not hit Mr.Pearl [sic].
Back when I was in eleventh grade, my last year in high school, Ingrid taught me Islamic Studies. We did Duties of Brotherhood in Islam, a section from Ahya Ulum Uddin translated by Muthar Holland, then we discussed Ethics of Disagreement in Islam. I remember a lot of those classes vividly, even so many years after. One thing that intrigued me then was that Ingrid thought every person should have alone time, should have time to when they had to deal just with themselves. It's important for people to grow spiritually. Of course she wasn't advocating that we become hermits, just that we were comfortable with ourselves when we are alone. Of course the Prophet knew this and made those trips to the mountains to be able to think and reflect. Strange as it may be, I find that long car rides do the same for me.
I've gotten my student teaching placement in a district considered failing under NCLB. If I didn't understand NCLB better, I'd be worried.
I'm going to start taking a minute in the mornings to write about what it is I've gained form my Quran reading. That may be helpful to me.
¶ 2/09/2005 07:57:00 AM1 comments
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Eid, life, and stuff
It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted. So, here:
Eid was beautiful and delicious as usual. Every Eid, specially since 9/11, I'm surprised to find myself so happy. My family and friends are the best people in the world, Allah has given me so much to be grateful for, so much that words can't say(as the song goes). So even though I may be depressed right up to Eid day--and this Eid I didn't go to prayer, stayed home with my mother since she was ill--I love Eid.
These days, I'm studying, and calling up schools to allow me to observe. Waiting to hear back.
Other than that, I've written to both of my senators about their votes on Rice's nomination. I've always loved Sen. Durbin. Obama, I'm watching more carefully now. And, my mother has a new favorite senator, Boxer :)
I'm going to be student-teaching in March, it is to be hoped, inshaAllah. Don't know which school yet.
That's all. Keep Iraqis in your prayers.
¶ 1/29/2005 01:22:00 PM2 comments
Aldon Haynes--this old but I just found it--celebrates birth of his daughter. It's beautiful.
And a totally new blog, at least for me: Ihsan. It seems most of the writers are based in South Africa. It features poems, weekly cartoons, and a focus on AIDS in Africa. I love the way they translate this ayah in the top left corner: Those who struggle for Us - We shall guide them on Our paths, and Allah is with those who do what is beautiful. (Quran 29:69) The root in Arabic for that last word is is h-s-n, which is usually translated as good. But it does mean beautiful too. Actually, I think good and beautiful are really synonyms for the same concept.
Problems with online dialogue
One issue is that we all want to speak about substance, but we all have so much baggage. Of course, being human, we don't declare our baggage up front. It all becomes obvious slowly.
Second, we all want to speak about substance, but we all look first at intentions. We can't know each other's intentions. We don't really know each other.
Third, we all want to speak about substance, but we don't take the time to listen carefully.
Lastly, to any passer-by who is wondering what all this non-sense is, if you really want to understand Muslims, try to approach them in real life. That would be much more helpful to you.
I think I'll setup an e-mail account where you can e-mail me if you want. Stay-tuned :)
¶ 1/14/2005 03:54:00 PM0 comments
Monday, January 10, 2005
Responded to Anonymous
I have lengthy response in the last post regarding feminists. Just saying in case you're visiting again :)
¶ 1/10/2005 02:58:00 PM2 comments
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
My problem with feminists Note: I have edited out once sentence from this post because I think I expressed myself unclearly.
Actually, I have many disagreements with feminists. But I don't consider them to be a homogeneous group. I know they come in all stripes. I really appreciated one professor in the women's studies department; she was an anthropologist, and really looked at a lot of issues in the context of the society in which they occur. She was also well-aware of the ignorant and self-righteous nature of many American feminists; we had a very good discussion of people like Alice Walker, for instance. Also, I once got appointed to "the Chancellors committee on the status of women" as an undergrad. I was a "non-voting" memberI almost got taken in with the personalized letter from the chancellor. I attended a couple of meetings, but I was very busy student; and they didnt often hold meetings when I was free; also, a room full of career feministsI mean people who have made feminism their calling in lifecan be very scary to a hijabi girl, no matter how defiant her face may seem.
Anyway, I digress. My point is that I recently came across the following comment from a liberal blogger:
Pass the hookah with the genuine Afghan opium hand-picked between the virgin thighs of oppressed girls in burqas. poppies poppies poppies
First, let's consider all the frames which this statement is evoking:
Afghan women are oppressed. The Burqa is primarily responsible for their oppression. They are virgins, which is apparently a bad thing. They have thighs which are virgin; this image points to lust, either the authors' or of the 'oppressors.' They are picking poppies, an action which is supposed to evoke the failure of US policies and the criminality of Afghans. Bottom line: Afghan girls are exotic, oppressed, and dangerous/criminal.
In case you are concerned: I am NOT a Taliban sympathizer. I think they were an ignorant, inexperienced bunch. They were radicalized due to their sever upbringing in a war-torn environment. They threw out a thousand years of scholarship regarding Islamic sharia. And, they did prevent women from the rights, privileges and dignity that Allah gave them in the Quran.
Feminists also take away the dignity of Afghan women. To cast someone as exotic, oppressed, and a threat is not helpful to anyone, lest of all women themselves. I couldnt right a thesis on this, its common sense: if you want to be helpful, build bridges, the sort where you are ready to walk over to the other side, try to understand them in their place, and then come back with greater understanding. Least of all, dont turn people into caricatures.
¶ 1/05/2005 03:00:00 PM23 comments
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Earthquake and tsunamis
SubhanAllah, disasters like this really make it clear, to anyone who's paying attention, that all of this is more like a mirage than anything else. It reminds us who the real Power is. It's time to help with the relief efforts. And whatever savings were intended for may not be all that important after all.
News, nonsense, Depression, and Dawa
Just finished listening to the awesome talk by Bro. D. W. Ali, called "Building Bridges." He's speaking to high school and college students, but his advice is probably good for everyone. Points he makes:
1. Know yourself
2. Build bridges out of love and for the sake of Allah, as opposed to the goal of "converting/building your own team"
3. If you stand out as a Muslim--with a hijab or a kufi--do it with a smile and with humility.
4. Building a bridge means being able to share and learn--it's a two way process as in real bridges.
5. Be friends with people.
He says these things much more eloquently of course. And that has led me to re-evaluate myself over the past semester. I am a hijabi, and often a very depressed hijabi, mostly because of the news. I used to listen to NPR--I've been staying away lately--during my commutes, and it can really, really cause A LOT of depression. Half of the time the news is depressing, and the other half it is hateful of other people, especially Muslims.
Lately actually, I've been so depressed by Iraq and ignorance and hatred, that I've contemplated--not seriously since I'd never leave my family--moving away, to some other place. Wishful thinking is not very helpful in relieving stress and depression, from my experience at least. So, I'd rather think about buckling down and trying to do good for other's around me.
This is spurred on from that talk, but I've been thinking about how I should relate to people around me. For much of my life, I've lived in a very isolated community. I went to an Islamic school for the most part, I was tight with the MSA in my undergrad years, and then I taught at an Islamic school. Once I'm done with my masters, which will be in August, inshaAllah, I really want to teach in a public school. I want to put myself out there and really help people in real ways. I want to be able to relate to them and learn.
¶ 12/22/2004 11:14:00 AM2 comments
Friday, December 17, 2004
let's see if this works ﺍﻟﺴﻼﻡ ﻋﻠﻴﻜﻢ
Can I write in both Urdu/Arabic and English at once?
ﺟﯽ ﮨﺎﮞ ﻣﻴﮟ ﻧﮯ ﻟﻜﮭﺎ ﺍﺭﺩﻭ ﻣﮯ۔
Let's hope no one catches my horrible Urdu skills.
¶ 12/17/2004 06:29:00 PM5 comments
Do you see them? I transferred here from tripod because: 1) only that green template wouldn't show the ad banner--I have no idea why. 2) I felt guilty for purposely dodging their ads, since that's a part of their deal. Please update your bookmarks :) jazkaAllahu Khair.
¶ 12/17/2004 04:38:00 PM2 comments
Saturday, December 11, 2004
What's all this chatter?
I started the blog because I wanted to write regularly, and because I often feel like cleaning out my extremely messy mind. It's an urge to straighten up the odds and ends, and put my feeling and perceptions, and the nagging pictures and sounds in my mind into some cohesive format.
I also look for connection through blogs and blogging. I don't mean that I'm trying to look for a best friend (he he). I mean that I want to feel more in community with my fellow Muslims. I want to see how they are responding to all these new global situations. I want to see how they're changing the world. I want to be inspired to be better; I'm looking for my mirrors.
So, I talk and I hear others talking. And usually it's something I like, but other times it's excessive. It's like having mixing in too much sugar in your coffee, and gold decorations in masjids, and those pictures every kid made in third grade with the regulation tree and the house on the side and grass on the ground and the sun looking down from the upper left corner, with neat lines for rays of sunlight. Sometimes, it's just not relevant. Maybe a little like this posting?
¶ 12/11/2004 10:29:00 PM3 comments
Friday, December 10, 2004
Allah help this country
Having grown up with a lot of healthy and unhealthy skepticism of every governmental institution, both here and in Pakistan, I'm now shocked to realize that in fact, I had a latent trust that I'm only now beginning to understand as I'm loosing it. As a teen, I used to avidly follow all the unjust death penalty cases here in Illinois--all reeking of injustice and racism. But for some reason, I never quite fathomed that this too could happen. Maybe it's just a question of proximity? But, the Ford-Heights-Four shared my congressman and my area code. I've been there for the Busy Bee's Nursery.
But of course it's these guys are Muslim. I'm not enraged necessarily because I believe in their innocence--which they are because it hasn't ever been proven otherwise--but because of the procedures. If the case was so solid against them, why not allow them to build a defense? Why proceed with it as criminal proceedings are underway (at least against one defendant)?
¶ 12/10/2004 04:24:00 PM2 comments
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Today I ate pork
It was at a friend's bridal shower. The order was messed up. We were all nearly through eating when someone came around to inform us. I feel foolish, because I ate like an animal. It was good food, but sometimes when I'm thinking of other things, I just sorta eat without taking the time or noticing much of anything. My sister was telling me that it tastes like fish that she wasn't familiar with. I just ate.
Afterwards, two cups of coffee, a cup of chia two hours later, then chamomile tea just an hour ago. Nothing is helping. I've got paranoia about that pork and it's translated in my mouth as a very unpleasant taste, or tinge of something.
Long time since I last posted. Classes are over. I've been rediscovering my brothers and sisters in faith and their goodness. A few things helped in that: the every-other-weekly classes with AM that I spoke about earlier (Henceforward, AM shall be known as Ahmed Uncle), Ingrid Mattson�s wonderful speech a week ago, and then my lovely friends, elders, and students I�ve been seeing lately.
Throughout my young adulthood, I�ve always either resented the Muslim community, been baffled by it, or just plain tired of dealing with it. That�s partly the reason I stopped teaching at the Muslim school last year (note: partly). I always expected the adults to show the way, to have a plan. For the most part, they didn�t. When they had coherence and vision, I hung on to them, giving them all the loyalty and respect I couldn�t use on the others. So I did have heroes. A few Islamic studies teachers. The principal. My parents. Ahmed Uncle and Huma Aunty. But they were all exceptions. And then I�d see people doing something right, trying to put their priorities right, and they were badmouthed. Teaching last year, I knew our school had no mission that I could understand or work towards. It was meaningless. They only read it an in-service because strengthening the mission was a suggestion from a teacher. At the same time, celebrating birthdays was the biggest sin on earth, as bad as playing cards during lunch time.
It�s not useful to see just that in a community, it�s neglecting a lot of their collective goodness. So here�s a list:
Good is in my old student who used to focus so hard at a point in her mind, that I could almost see her create it before me in air. Look at this class for instance.
Good is in my friend, who had a brain surgery last year. She was saying today that the only thing she could hear, when all was noise and confusion was, �Allah only tests those that he loves.�
Good is also in my friend the soon-to-be-bride who didn�t shape her eyebrows, out of conviction that it�s wrong.
I meant to write a little about Ahmed Uncle�s talks and Ingrid�s lecture, but I better brush my teeth and go to sleep.
¶ 11/27/2004 11:02:00 PM7 comments
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Last night, cleaning and studying, I was in the saddest sadness, that Ramadan is past and I haven�t connected with Allah as much as I wanted. Last year, I was at the masjid the last day, and I cried, a lot of people cried. Every Eid, either because I�m too often too unconnected with my soul, or because I have truly gained something from Ramadan, I manage to perk up on Eid day. Today, it took a lot of effort.
Salat was crowded, very crowded. My father gave the khutba, it was good, but not his best.
I love to see all my siblings and their babies--I'm an auntie to five toddlers. They and my lil� bro are the reason I like to hope and work for a better world. Lil� bro gave everyone an Eid card; mine says: �Eid Mubarak, I love you, Eid Mubark, I hope you like Eid.� Of course I�m going to like Eid if my lil� bro hopes for it :)
Then, my favorite family besides of my own�meaning people I really truly love�came to visit us. Huma Aunty and Ahmed Uncle are really good, good people. Their girls take after them for the most part, inshaAllah.
I�ve been thinking about Iraqis all day; can�t stop thinking about Najma, and Riverbend�my sisters in Islam.
¶ 11/14/2004 11:32:00 PM0 comments
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Tuesday was a beautiful day. It was warmer than it is normally this time of year, in the fifties I think. And after Fajr prayer, my family discussed why we were voting for Kerry. My sister was the only one who had any compunction (�he�s going to vote anyway, and I don�t want to be associated with his slime�). But we all pointed out that Illinois projections wouldn�t materialize unless people actually went to the polls and voted. We told her that she was voting for one alternative over another, not signing a loyalty oath. So we all went, four voters and a nine year old.
It was six thirty, but the polling place was already busy. We voted. Kerry, Obama, and Jesse Jackson Jr.
Wednesday afternoon looking out the window, I felt this visceral shock that our neighborhood hadn�t physically deteriorated over the course of the day. The leaves were still on the ground, the trees still shook against the winds, the houses stood still, and the sky was blue as ever.
Today, I�m feeling more hopeful. Allah knows best, and we can only do the right thing. My duaas this Ramadan are with the Iraqis. Read Najma's latest diary, and HNK's, and River Bend's.
My friend is anti-voting, and she's been disappointed because I supported Dean and voted for him in the primaries (even though he was out of the race at that point) because of the gay issue. She couldn't understand why I would support a party which encourages what's haram. My answer was that I would be condoning more haram if I didn't vote; and by voting, I was supporting the better of the two. In the end, America has to go through its struggle. Although I'm bitterly upset and apprehensive at the prospect of more Bush, I don't blame those voters. Looking around their world, they voted on what affected them most-- deterioration of family. If only their religiosity didn't have so much hate attached to it.
¶ 11/04/2004 07:16:00 PM0 comments
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Odds and Ends
I�m working on a paper about equity in educational funding. Reinforces for me how cool Vermont really is (and New Mexico). But I have to cover history, so that�s a little more difficult.
A.M.�a cool person who gives a class/leads a discussion of Quran that I attend�was saying weeks ago that every nation has good and bad. And he was saying this while we were talking about disgusting things Muslims have done. That concept was so difficult for me to swallow when I was younger. In classes, I would get red hot. It was impossible to have distance. And then I would spend energy denying that it was possible. Alhamdulilah, lately it�s become a lot easier� more on this later, inshaAllah.
I went to AM�s class this morning. It was awesome. It�s not often when I have clarity of that level. It really made me think A LOT. Read this post and this one for my old summeries. More thoughts later.
In the last debate, Obama mentioned the need for a public secular education in Pakistan (whateva!). Interesting, just last week I googled Pakistan public schools, and came across a Pakistani news story of an online poll of Americans (unofficial) regarding American�s opinion of Pakistan and schools. Twisted?
Lastly, listen to this please and tell me what you think.
¶ 10/31/2004 02:57:00 PM1 comments
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
I was supposed to reflect on an AA meeting I attended, and then think of lessons it held for me as a teacher. It was a good learning experience:
I attended an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in __________, Illinois, in the �__________� on Saturday, October 03, 2004. Although I knew that the meeting was entitled �Serenity and Spirituality,� I wasn�t expecting the heavily religious content. The readings from the Bible, the pungent smell of soap mixed with the whiffs of coffee, and the slogans everyone was constantly repeating were all awkward at first. I�m embarrassed to admit that initially the overly cheerful and harmonious atmosphere seemed contrived. But I realized that many of the other attendees knew each other and had been through a difficult personal journey. They could relate to each other on an entirely different level, which I had only begun to understand.
I had been handed the �Serenity Bible� as I walked into the room. We read aloud, in round-robin fashion, passages from the Bible regarding the first of twelve steps, �We admit we are powerless over our affliction--that our lives have become unmanageable.� I didn�t find any passages that were contradictory to my own beliefs; in fact I realized that the first step fit in very well with my own spiritual understanding. The story of Job struck me as not only familiar, as it is one I grew up hearing, but also profoundly beautiful and important.
Then, Soraya, the group leader, called out for speakers. The first person, Joe, spoke about how Alcoholics Anonymous had helped him to do things he loved, such as spending time with his children; he talked about spending his time in worthwhile pursuits since he left prison. Another woman spoke, and cried, about drinking to deal with grief; specifically when her daughter drowned and she used the money the church collected for her to buy drinks. Another man spoke about his brother having been sentenced to life in prison for murder; he talked about how it was difficult for him to deal with this stress.
Everyone who spoke started off with the first step, about being powerless over their affliction. They ended with �I�m going to keep coming back.� Everyone else would say together, �keep coming back.� Also they would say to each other �one day at a time�. They also repeated the �Serenity Prayer� many times: �God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can not change... Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to
know the difference.�
At the end of the meeting, everyone stood in a circle holding hands. They said the serenity prayer and several other things such as �keep coming back� and �one day at a time.� I received a token from the organizer with the message, �there are no strangers here.� Several others hugged me and my brother, who attended the meeting with me. Joe came over and spoke to us about how Alcoholics Anonymous was beneficial for everyone, for people of all faiths. He spoke to us about his recovery.
The crucial lesson I took away from the meeting was humility. I don�t think I walked in an arrogant fashion. But as I left, I was humbled by the trials of everyone at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and more importantly by their triumphant struggles to overcome those trials. As a society, we often blame people for becoming alcoholics, while at the same time glorifying alcohol. I remember at least two college instructors talking about binge drinking and hangovers as normal and expected college behaviors. I�ve learned through this meeting that although everyone needs to hold themselves personally responsible for their drinking decision, our cultural understanding of alcoholism needs to also evolve; we need to be more compassionate and understanding. We also need to safeguard against alcohol abuse at an earlier age. As a teacher, I think I need to care and be concerned about alcohol abuse in the students� lives. I need to be aware of school councilors and programs that can council them on how to deal with their problem.
Nearly every alcoholic that spoke at the meeting talked about turning to alcohol to deal with an issue or a void in their lives. They talked about death and depression being sources of their desire to drink. As an English teacher, I think this is a subject that can be discussed in the literature classroom. Many books for young adults have themes regarding alcohol. For instance, Paul Fleischman�s novel, Whirligig, is a discussion of how a boy turns to drinking and suicide to deal with the pressures of a particularly insular, rich, suburban life-style; and more importantly, how he overcomes this problem and deals with his grief. Although I�m unsure about the extent to which this can be done, I think collaborating with health education teachers about this issue may be very helpful to students.
Every alcoholic at the meeting came from an impoverished family and neighborhood. Nearly everyone spoke of alcoholism in their family, and many people talked about crime either as offenders or as victims. I learned that alcoholism doesn�t take place in isolation. As one speaker explained, it is part of dysfunctional that is carried in families from generation to generation. I feel that as a teacher if I can help a student to feel empowered through their work and their learning, I will be helping them indirectly to seek solutions to their other problems as well. If a student feels empowered through education, they will likely transfer that courage and will to lift themselves out of their circumstances. Also, I need to be aware of services through the school that can help them with family issues that affect their wellness.
¶ 10/26/2004 02:20:00 PM3 comments
Friday, October 22, 2004
injustice in the world
A long time ago, I was a puppy eyed eighteen year old. I read, among many other things, Savage Inequalities. I was upset. I moved on to other interesting things.
Now, as a mature edumacator, I visit schools all over northern Illinois. In the span of a few weeks, I've gotten to see vastly different and unequal school districts. They're unequal financially and unequal in terms of humanity.
The junior high school I visited in the south burbs had old computers, desks, books, and buildings. But these things don't necessarily mean that a student is left behind. The teachers, the attitude of the school system towards students, and old, never-ever-workable teaching techniques do equal a very poor education. Every child was hay, which those poor spinners were trying to turn into gold, but there was no Rumplestilskin around. I wanted to be out of that school, and left the first chance I got.
Then I visited Illinois Math and Science Academy, where every student is a humble prince or princess. They're treated with dignity. They're provided the latest in curriculum and methods. Every child succeeds. The catch: they don't take in the ones they don't expect to succeed.
This week I also trekked over 60 miles in a good car, on good--albeit jammed--roads, to St. Charles, Illinois. In this remote, rich burb most students came in to class with a sense of entitlement. They enjoy great libraries and computer labs and cafeterias and teachers. Most work hard and succeed. The district adopts progressive practices and gives thought and effort to students' life readiness.
So my point? I don't know if I have one, except that all this is very, very sad. And if I kept thinking about it, I would be pulling out the few strands of hair I still have stuck to my skull. But, (clearing throat) this isn't helpful to anyone, so I'm thinking of ways to do something about it.
¶ 10/22/2004 02:29:00 PM5 comments
Sunday, October 17, 2004
I'm fairly secretive about most of my Ramadan plans, mostly because they come out of serious reflections and serious guilt. But having seen some others do it, and feeling that I'm fairly anonymous here, I'm going to share a few.
Habits I want to acquire:
1) Making serious duaa and dikr after every salat: I only do this after Isha and only when I have time.
2) Concentrating in salat: over the years, I've slid into a habit of simply reflecting/dreaming instead of communicating. I've also stopped concentrating on the actual verses I'm saying.
3) Daily walking/exercising: let's just say it's something I need to do if I intend to remain a sitting/desk professional.
4) Sadaqa: giving, everyday.
Habits I want to remove:
2) spending excessive time reading news and blogs
3) worrying about future/things not in my hands at all; i.e. working within my sphere of influence and expanding that sphere
1) reading the Quran with meanings
2) memorizing Surah Maryem
3) reviewing surahs I've already learned
4) re-reading Early Hours and a general immersion in Quran and hadith
¶ 10/17/2004 11:56:00 PM0 comments
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Ramadan Mubarak :) Day 1 was great!
The house still smells the same (and that's bad because of the water heater semi-explosion) and the weather was just the same as the day before, it's overcast and windy; we're expecting snow flurries today. I'm hoping the trees shed al their leaves before the first real snow.
As always in Ramadan, there's something added (or maybe missing) from the air (not literally); it seems both more quite and more full. It was much stronger when I was younger. Now, I have to fight with myself and create it, because its so simple to ignore the month and carry on as normal, even while fasting. So I've been taking account of the miutes, and trying to fill them up with Good.
¶ 10/16/2004 08:16:00 AM2 comments
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Today, I drove to Flossmoor, Illinois, which is a beautiful old place. The houses have huge front yards with so many old trees. And the leaves are just changing colors and falling, and today the day wasn't as cold as it has been. Driving in was a total stress reliever.
I went to see a woman, Helen, who's eighty-three years old. Talked to her about her schooling. She graduated in 1939. I was thinking of limiting my questions to her school strictly. But she didn't remember too much about it. Realized soon that I didn't need to ask anything, she was so eager to share. I recorded a lot of the conversation and she gave me her yearbooks and report cards to use for my presentation.
When I was leaving (and I was leaving at least four different times before I actually left) she smiled so wholeheartedly, and told me how nice it was for me to talk to her. She was the one doing me a favor. She really needs visitors. Her daughter who looked older than my mother lives with her now. But she's usually home. She kept talking about everyone who had died and how there was no one left. I need to find excuses to visit her regularly. Tomorrow I'll return the stuff and then maybe I can go again with further questions. Just before I left she said she wanted to show me pictures, and she showed me her granddaughter and her husband's (now deceased) and then she shoed me one of her family's taken in 1940 with about twenty people. "It's so sad," she said, "they're all dead now." I didn't know what to say except that it was a long time ago.
At the door, I told her about how beautiful the neighborhood was. She agreed but talked about how "everyone's gone." In the fifty years she's been there, every single old neighbor has moved away.
Why school? A long ramble that started off as an exploration of the goals of education and ended in self-lament.
I�m looking forward to being back in the classroom (I mean as a teacher) in March when I do my student-teaching and next year or the year after when (inshaAllah) I�m in the full swing of teaching. One question that I'm thinking about is the purpose of education, especially as it relates to student discipline. Teachers-in-training are taught that our purpose is to produce responsible citizens. Historically, we know that the modern education system was shaped by concerns to produce good workers for a productive society (industrial revolution). Currently, educators emphasize differentiated curriculums to ensure all students are reached so that all students have access to the American dream. Some educators define their goal as simply helping children to reach adulthood.
As a Muslim, my goal as an educator is to provide all students (Muslims or otherwise) with the tools they need to be better Muslims. Don't worry, I don't want to proselytize. I just feel that critical thinking, the ability to express one's self, and elements of honest discourse are inherently Islamic; and if you look at Islam on a continuum, these things help people to be better Muslims no matter what their religion is.
Ms. Frizzle has an interview with a teacher from a �Free School,� which is a very interesting experiment in education. She asked if some students would not be left behind since the school leaves it to parents to ensure progress in academic subjects. He replied,
�We don't profess to know what each individual person will need to "succeed" in college or the working world. Our primary goal is the social and emotional growth of each child and for each child to develop within themselves their own responsibility for and love of learning (it doesn't matter what it is that they want to learn about and we reject the paradigm that society has set up for any set curriculum of knowledge and skills). Students who have graduated from democratic schools typically have the self confidence and have learned how to learn and be their own best teacher, so that they are ready to meet any challenge that stands in their way to fulfill their own individual dreams and aspirations.
We don't equate the amount of stimulation at home, academic support, or supplemental teaching with being a happy and successful person. Nor is the goal to be striving for a higher level of socioeconomic status. The goal is to be with others in a cooperative and not competitive learning community where children and adults are free to live and learn as they wish without impinging on others' right to do the same. The goal is to give everyone the time and space and freedom to become self-actualized.�
Interesting. I�m thinking about conversation with a student last year. This student was from a broken home (grew up without father). His mother didn�t seem to have a lot of influence over him. Our basketball coach did, until the student decided to drop out of basketball. He didn�t see any value in good grades, although he was gifted (by my own evaluation). On second thought, I�m not sure this conversation actually took place, but it would have been like this:
Me: HH, what�s the problem?
HH: There�s no problem?
Me: Other people couldn�t pay attention to the lesson because they were too busy paying attention to you.
HH: Well you always pick on me.
HH: Yes, wasn�t Ib talking? And you totally ignored Omar.
Me: What about you.
HH: [frustrated sighing]� look, I don�t wanna talk. Just give me a detention or whatever.
Me: But I�m worried, you haven�t turned in homework all week.
HH: I lost my book. I was really busy last night.
Me: Why are you here?
HH: Huh! Beats me. I think my Mom�s gonna let me transfer next year.
Me: Well ninth grade is important too.
HH: [Staring blankly at the wall]
All last year, HH and I went in circles. I had to send him to the dean on several occasions. I made copies of the vocabulary units for him when he lost his book. I found his book. I gave him opportunities to turn in work late, changed his seat in class. EVERYTHING! In the end, HH couldn�t see any purpose in education. Despite everything however, we still like each other; and he talked to me in early September about his new school.
In retrospect, it was all my failing. I think it may have started at the beginning of the year when I wrote too many discouraging remarks on his first essay. I didn�t balance the positives and the negatives. For other students, it was probably okay. But HH was probably hanging on by the thread. I followed a traditional curriculum. Poems, short stories, essays and novels were our curriculum. I didn�t succeed in making him or his classmates see how relevant Lord of the Flies is to them and their lives. The biggest concern to them (freshman boys) was being in shape, basketball, and video games. They ate salads at lunch. A lot were in the basketball team. And video games is what their lives were founded upon, it filled their every empty moment.
I approached the students as I would have liked my teachers to teach me: with intellectual rigor and solid principles. I had the rigor. But not sure about the principles. Too often as a teacher, I was more worried about small concerns, and too stressed to make good decisions grounded in my principles. Now as I�m thinking as I type, I think I also failed to make a certain bridge that all my good teachers were able to make with me. True I have always had a curious mind and I made my teacher�s jobs easy. I remember often I was lazy with the actual requirements of the class (i.e. didn�t receive the best grades) but I still learned far more than many of my classmates. At least two of my professors commented on that when I was an undergrad. Ooops! I�m talking about me again.
The point is, I want to be the kind of teacher that does reach every student. HH is going to be one of the biggest regrets of my life; hopefully, one of the biggest lessons as well.
¶ 10/04/2004 02:18:00 PM1 comments