Today a friend of mine asked me for some advice regarding teaching. I sent him a few pointers via WhatsApp. I thought I’d share as it maybe of benefit to others as well.
1. Your primary intention should be to gain the pleasure of Allah. Along with this you should have many secondary intentions.
Preserving and propagating Islam, dawat, etc.
2. Because you are a teacher it can be assumed that you were probably around the top of the class. Your probably excelled and found things easier than other students.
Even though this was a bonus during student days, it can be a downfall as a teacher. Dont over estimate your students. Don’t rush and don’t think that everything will be as easy for your students as it may have been for you. Things which maybe easy for you may not be for them. A brilliant teacher is one who can come down to the level of his / her students.
3. Ensure you prepare well. Don’t just prepare from the book you are teaching, rather study all the main books in that field. You are teaching Arbi ka Muallim, but look at all the other books which are meant to introduce Arabic to non-speakers. See their styles, examples etc. This will help you vastly in understanding different styles of explanations.
Dive the ocean of that science, but don’t flood your students with your research. Just present the pearls you found.
4. Ignorance, or rather the ability to embrace yours, is the key to your progress. “Yup, I know this” won’t get you far. What, where, when, how, what if, but are the thoughts that should be going through your mind when ever you sit to prepare a lesson. This will open the floodgates of knowledge.
5. It should always be your fault. If you always blame the students for not being able to understand you will never reflect and analyse your method of teaching. If you take the blame and responsibility for students learning, you will always be thinking of new ways to explain and simplify.
6. Your students zeal and passion for that book and science is a reflection of your zeal and passion. The more enthusiastic you are, the more you give in the classroom and the better research you prepare the more the students will have a zeal for that subject.
Remember, your job is not just to teach a book, it is to pass on the knowledge and zeal of that science to your students.
7. Don’t waste time in class talking about things other than that science. In Nahw, teach Nahw, don’t dwelve into things related to Fiqh or Hadith or Quran. Focus on your subject.
You should be in your class (or waiting outside) before your appointment time. As soon as your class starts commence your lesson. You should not have to talk about other things to make the class fun. Make the subject so enjoyable that there is no need for any jokes or other outside conversation.
You can feel you have had a good class when you have to tell the students, OK times up, and they all look up at the clock thinking where did time go.
8. As soon as your appointed time is over finish the class. Regardless of how important that topic may be, close the book and leave.
If there is another class after yours, it is highly disrespectful and disorganised to carry on while another teacher waits. If it is the last class before a break, still finish on time. Students need their break. Don’t eat into their time. They have their needs and necessities. Don’t be stupid and judgemental to think that just because they want to leave on time they don’t have zeal for knowledge.
Come on time and leave on time. If you can’t show respect for time don’t expect to be shown respect.
9. If you don’t know something, don’t act like you know. Say I don’t know.
If you make up stuff and pretend to know, then remember: you are arrogant, a liar, dishonest, and one who deceives. You shouldn’t be a teacher.
10. Name calling, bullying, hurting someone’s feelings, getting angry without just cause and belittling someone because of their weekness are all various forms of oppression, in and out of class. Just because you are a teacher in doesn’t make it permissible for you. Rather, being an Islamic teacher you should really be worthy of double the punishment, one for the oppression and the other for the bad image you give to ilm and Ulama.
11. Don’t beg for respect, earn it with your teaching, conduct, morales and love.
12. It is a famous saying :
سيد القوم خادمهم
You are the leader of the class, you should not have desire that your students serve you and bring gifts, food etc for you. Neither should you create an environment where you stand out from the rest of the class. Nafi’ used to say, I would accompany Abdullah Ibn Omar on his journeys with the intention of serving him. However, it would be him serving me.
If your students have a zeal to serve, turn their enthusiasm of service towards the madrasah or institute, or towards helping you in research and ilm. This will benefit them as they are helping their teachers and also doing academic research. Don’t abuse thier admiration for you by taking personal gains from them.
13. Maintain moderation in class. Don’t allow students to get so informal that they lose respect for the class and teacher, they start talking out of turn, amongst themselves etc. But at the same time have a atmosphere where students are free to ask questions, share their thoughts, and, in higher level books, their disagreements with your research or comments. All within the framework of respect.
14. Show utmost respect to other scholars, past and present, and practically show your students the etiquettes of having different opinions.
Broaden their horizons to understand and appreciate the vast spectrum of rulings and interpretations.
15. Treat each student like the future leader or imam. Don’t disregard anyone despite how weak or insignificant they may appear to you.
Even if a student graduates and doesn’t teach or take up work in the academic field he/she will be a father/mother one day, will be a grand father or grand mother. If they couldn’t influence the public as teachers or leaders at least the can influence their close family circle of 15-20.
On the contrary a neglected or abused student could become, Allah forbid, the gang leader or deviant of tomorrow who leads many astray.
16. The secondary religious knowledge you are imparting is not fardh. It is very virtuous, but not fardh. If someone can’t cope, or finds it too difficult they may need to leave.
However, don’t treat them like a reject or apostate. After your advice and persuasion if they still feel it is not meant for them, let them leave with dignity and honour. Allah may have something better planned for them.
If you belittle or ridicule them for not wanting to persue this field, this may cause them to be put off from you, your institute, ilm, ulama and, God forbid, religion all together.
17. Try your utmost that students also have a zeal for carrying out worship, fardh and nafl. This should be done by making them aware of its virtues, importance and importance. Ensure it becomes part of thier lives, something they themselves want to do. Don’t make it something forced onto them.
Written by Shaykh Hashim Mohamed (www.alqalaminstitute.org)