Thursday, February 20, 2014

Believing Makes a Difference

I have gone into my profession because I always found studying and remembering facts very difficult. I had many inspirational teachers who were very supportive and others who were not so. But one Arabic teacher stuck to my mind.  He has sadly since passed away; Noor Eddine Sawalha but his memory will continue to live on. He taught my brother and was always proud and impressed by him and then I came along three years later. 

The difference between my brother and I, as we say in arabic, was as large a difference as the one between the earth and sky. My brother was the quiet, studious, respectful one and even though I was respectful, I was definitely not quiet nor studious. I do not think my mom liked going to parent teacher conferences, even though she never mentioned it. Whenever she returned from the finger wagging hour and I heard what other teachers had to say, I could only imagine what she must have felt sitting there opposite my teachers. 

When I joined Ustaz (teacher) Noor Eddine's class, I was the chatter box and the one who treated school as a past time with no clear goal in life. This erudite man never told my mom what I could not do or what I was doing wrong. He used to giggle with her at the difference between my brother and I but he always told her that I was capable of doing well. He did not give up on me or thought that I could never be able to pass Arabic A Higher Level. When I received a 6 out of 7 points, he was proud and said that I had deserved a 7. 

The reason this teacher made a huge difference in the way I viewed myself and my abilities was because the year before, I had failed my IGCSE's (The British International General Certificate of Secondary Education)... 6 out of 8 subjects... (I consider D a fail). I only passed English and Religion in Grade 10... And when it came to the International Baccalaureate (a 2 year program that ended with an exam at Grade 12 along with Theory of Knowledge papers and a 4400 word research study paper), the school's Secondary Principal and his Vice met with my parents, along with another student's parents, to inform them that we would be unable to pass the IB Diploma.

They suggested that we study for the government exam, Tawjihi (an inferior program that encourages rote memory and crushes critical thinking). Both sets of parents refused the suggestion stating that they have paid for us to be enrolled in one of the best private schools in Jordan and that they are positive that we will try our best to pass the exams..... so we were given a chance and placed on a three month probation.... result? I MADE it... I PASSED the diploma and the rest is history. 

In addition to my parents' and brother's positive influence, Ustaz Noor Eddine had made a huge impact on my self-worth while I was going through the 2 year program. I came into his class thinking that there is a big possibility that I will fail the two year program as was expected. I would end up jobless on the streets with no university degree.... well not really on the streets but you get my drift. He helped me feel comfortable in class urging me to share my thoughts on works by Al Jahith (An Iraqi prose writer) and Manfaluti (An Egyptian literature writer and Poet) no matter how out of space they were. No opinion was wrong in his class. I left his class and the school believing that there is a chance for me out there...That I am not the dumb kid who just giggled and fooled around in class. I am not the FAILURE some teachers thought I was... I actually have a chance to do something... to be someone... to SUCCEED... I went to university and proceeded to get on the Honor Roll twice and surprise my parents when I received a B in Mathematics. 

Ustaz Noor engrained in me the belief that I can make something of myself.... and even though my self-confidence falters from time to time, I continue to rewind back in time to remember the feeling of confidence I had while I was in his class. 

That feeling is what I would like to instill in all the students that I encounter during my teaching career. I know how much a teacher can influence a student while they are at school. I want them to feel heard, respected and comfortable in the classes that I teach. I love it when students have a smile on their faces, they are engaged in the lesson or they laugh at my silly jokes. I love it when quiet students who are usually shy and rarely share their thoughts, feel comfortable to raise their hands eager to say something. And I love it when I am at my lowest confidence level as a teacher, to receive a note or have a student say that they have enjoyed my class and think I am an awesome teacher who believes in them. 

I am now THANKFUL that I failed my IGCSEs... I tell my students who are struggling that I am a teacher who failed... but then stood back up... and tried again... My students are always puzzled... How can a teacher who failed a major exam go on to succeed and receive a Masters of Science? How can someone who failed become a teacher? I am thankful that they now get to know that everything is possible... that yes... a teacher can fail.

I am thankful for this failure as it shows my students that I am human... teachers are human and make mistakes... and that we can learn from our mistakes and shortcomings... that we can all succeed no matter how many times we fail or disappoint. I tell them my story so that they could in turn start their journey through their academic career believing that failure is good... it's okay... and that they are capable of overcoming any obstacle obstructing their path.  

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