Michael David Lukas, The Oracle of Stamboul
We tend to be self-centric beings with the idea that a choice we make can have consequences of mass proportions. We stress and take on unnecessary pressure. To me, there is a sense of divinity assigned to the heart that this quote acknowledges. I can be confident knowing that I carry the ability within me to do what’s right by the world.
Michael David Lukas, The Oracle of Stamboul
Made me stop and think- is this liberating or suffocating? We cannot constantly live in indecision- the cycle of life (birth, growth death) itself is structure that we inherit. As such, there are other structures in life that we must adhere to and that require decision. Though the idea of a parallel world is tempting due to the possibility of do-overs or the ‘what would have happened if we didn’t make that mistake’, narrowing potential and learning from those mistakes can lead to a richer fulfillment. Bring it on Schroedinger’s Cat!
The past few days I have been attending various professional development sessions that have validated my choice to be a teacher. However, it has also reminded me of the huge burden I take on to educate over-scheduled, burnt out children who, it seems, are not allowed to be just that- children.
Often times I have students in my classes who know they are great students because they are high performing. And yet, it’s those very students who I often have to teach how to THINK. Students have become so good at memorizing facts, passing tests, and completing tasks that when they are asked to think- they have no idea how to. And then I have those students who come to class and I couldn’t get them to care if I juggled balls of fire with a clown nose on. They are tired and don’t want to sit in yet another classroom. And I also have those students that are barely making it in school and this is just another venue where they need to fly beneath the radar to get by because they are having a hard time. Do ANY of these sound appealing to you?
As a teacher, I often grapple with teaching content, teaching skills, teaching meta-learning, completing assessments and trying to get it all done in a 2.5 hour class once a week. Sometimes I feel the stress when a discussion has gone on for too long because already in my mind I am adjusting the lesson.
And I thought I was different.
At the GISA conference I attended yesterday, I was incredibly impressed with Chrysalis Experiential School (http://www.chrysalisexp.org/) where the curriculum is so open that students get to drive their own learning based on their interests. It is actually an amazing concept where students enjoy going to school because their voice is heard and they learn in a manner that is relevant and worthy in their opinion. This model is so empowering for the student but in my eyes can sometimes be difficult due to the lack of control a teacher might have over the planning process and also the amount of work required to set these students up for success. Something so deviant from what I have known education to be- something so promising and impressive- and yet, something that makes me uncomfortable and anxious…The much desired dissonance is on loud and clear here.
I was then introduced to the philosophy of an amazing educator, Ron Clark (http://www.ronclarkacademy.com/), who has changed the way anyone he meets has ever understood education. He teaches through acting, singing, and gets to class on a two story slide with no fear. Today, I attended a movie screening of Race to Nowhere (http://www.racetonowhere.com/) and it was really a depressing reality check of where our students’ futures lie if we keep going the way we are going.
At an early age, we define success for our students in such rigid terms. Good grades, extra-curricular activities, being in the top ranking, getting into a good school, doing things that enhance a resume, making lots of money.
None of these criteria directly correlate to happiness, passion, LEARNING, being an active citizen to society, moral grounding, or the importance of relationships in life. And yet, our kids are running this rat race to do those very things and some are miserable. No child’s self-esteem should be affected by good or bad grades- because these are so temporary and lead to such a roller coaster understanding of one’s Being.
All of this got me to think, how much am I perpetuating this unhappiness in my classroom? I know in many ways my teaching philosophy is completely different than the how education is perceived in secular schools. Because I am not bound by ridiculous mandates regarding test scores, I also know that I am able to implement most of my ideas reflecting my education philosophy into the classroom. Still, I think these few days was a good reminder on how much I fit into this mold because it is such a culture that is exuded within our society.
The one thing that I noticed in all three sessions was the importance of community and support to really make a difference in the education system. Instead of giving a student 5 hours of homework, what if that child had true quality time to spend with positive people who supported the redefinition of success? Who validated the things the child CAN do and stop focusing so much on what he can’t? What if the child had some time to play the old fashioned way? Outside in the sun rather than stealing one out of every ten minutes to facebook because it’s the only outlet? What if the child had some time to be bored? Some of the most amazing ideas come out of moments of silence, boredom, freedom of the mind.
Today I was reminded of the burden I carry and I felt the weight. I have re-committed to making what little difference I can to my 53 students this year. I will continue to challenge the notion of ‘success’ from what is socially acceptable to what is desired by the student. And most of all, I will make it be known that my students are cared for and respected and that I believe in them. Hopefully, one day the Race to Nowhere can become the Leisurely Strut to Somewhere Fabulous. And the requirement is to STOP and smell the roses.
Today is 9.11.2011 and the Internet is full of activity around anniversary stories, American pride, and proclamations that we will never forget. I definitely appreciate all the sentiments and the camaraderie that Americans feel as they remember the event on the day of its anniversary. In many ways, however, September 11 as an event has defeated Americans. Immediately after the attacks, I had never felt more violated as an American and as a Muslim, I had never felt so cared for by my friends who wanted to make sure I wasn’t the victim of misguided anger.
As the years passed however, the attacks of September 11 became an excuse to hate/fear/be suspicious of Muslims in general. My 7th grade students who were 2 yrs old when the attacks happened are now the victims of peer bullying and being taunted for being terrorists as Muslims. Media constantly highlights any Muslim attempts to open requested buildings and there have been several documentaries on how Islam is feared in America.
So haven’t we been defeated? This external event has resulted in our country to be in internal strife- to be suspicious of fellow citizens and to question everything unfamiliar and consider it a threat.
Around September 11, the anti-Muslims become vocal about their suspicions/fear/hatred…the Muslims become vocal about their American-ness and that this event is not what Islam is about. But are we really HEARING anyone?
They say time heals, but with this event, I feel time has caused more damage as people allow their perhaps misguided beliefs to perpetuate. If our children of a different generation are still feeling the effects of this, isn’t there something truly wrong?
As we remember the anniversary of September 11 ten years ago, are we progressing and working towards a better country where all citizens have the right to live and flourish without constantly having to defend themselves? Is it the remembrance and the anniversaries that are inhibiting us from moving on?
When will September 11 become a day where there is acknowledgment of an event that happened in the past but that no longer makes us stop to blog about it because we truly have moved on? When can we stop counting?
One of the perks of being a teacher is summers off…a lovely time of the year where teachers decompress, vacation, turn off their brains, and just chill. Of course, none of these things are in my nature. This summer, I filled my schedule by adding a twist to my what I do during the school year. I taught and worked with slightly older students in camp settings.
I spent a month in Meadville, Pennsylvania (you haven’t heard of it because there is nothing there…) with participants ranging from 13-18 years old at Al-Ummah. Never having been a participant or counselor at this camp, I was not sure what to expect. I was attending with the role of an educator and was going to be working closely with my scholar RM in a capacity that was new for us.
I learned a lot about myself during this month:
- as Type A as I am, the amount of structure this camp requires makes me uncomfortable
- I love teaching students but I also love it when I get to go home after class to my personal space and personal time
- being restricted to a small college campus is suffocating
- I forgot what it was like to be a teenager where emotions run high, everything is earth shattering, and a song on the radio has the ability to illicit countless shrieks and squeals
- Making an impact on a student, however small, makes me feel a sense of purpose and grateful for the opportunity to be in the position that I am in
- After a session on body image, no one at camp was allowed to wear makeup or look in the mirror for three days; I realized how much I look in the mirror.
- My ‘me’ time keeps me sane; I value that time to think and process
- I do not function well on 4-5 hours a sleep every night for a month
While I am glad I participated in this camp in the capacity of an educator, I learned quickly that this might not be the environment in which I thrive.
I flew to New York to attend my second camp of the summer: The College Program on Islam with an older age group (18-25 years old) and an academic focused camp as an evaluator of the program. This role is new to me in some ways but gives me the opportunity to explore assessment of student learning on a larger scale.
In the few days I have been here, I have felt incredibly alive. I have met amazing people who are doing such inspiring things with their lives. I have been able to soak up content and bask in readings and lectures, having my mind tickled and probed in ways it hasn’t been in a long while. I have once again started to ponder my return to academia and even sought out ways to overcome my fear of failure of acquiring a new language. I have met eager and open-minded participants who have the love for learning, which has made me feel so refreshed.
One of the icebreakers we had to do at CPOI involved writing a fortune cookie that would predict my future in the next two weeks. My fortune:
‘You will find the spark you were looking for, the clarity you needed, and the courage you were seeking to take action.’
Here’s hoping for good fortune!