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Sunday/Islamic School teachers: Challenges and suggestions.

Posted by (Group Owner) on Feb. 1, 2013 at 4:57 AM
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Assalamu alaikum dear sisters. 

in another post, one of our dear sisters mentioned the major challenge that faces  a lot of Islamic school teachers: what to do when there is no support from home? 

I thought we could start a new thread and share our experiences to help each other in building the young Muslim Ummah to the best of our abilities and their potential insha' Allah. 

I taught Sunday school for over seven years.. I had the privilege of teaching wonderful children who inspired me, and the challenge of working with children who have NO basic knowledge of Islam whatsoever,  I remember my first shock - which prompted me to volunteer to teach, we had some type of gathering and when we were supposed to pray , we lined up all the kids, and a few of them didnt' know what to do, where to stand, or how to act.. they were old enough to be praying.. I felt so sad, and ashamed.. subhana Allah. 

we dont' know if the parents are both working and struggling and dont' have the patience or time to teach their children.. or if the parents themselves don't practice.. we dont' know and we should not assume.. all we can do is work with what we  have in our class.. THE CHILD.. 

********* Edited to add: Non of what I wrote here is meant as an offense to any parent.. many of my best students came from non Arab families, and we understand the restrictions that face the parents, time, language, knowledge...etc. like I said, we dont' base our efforts on what the parents may or may not do, we just have to focus on the child and keep communication  lines open with parents.. I apologize if any of this sounded offensive, it is not my intention- I will change the name of the post as well ( thank you Hanimommy for bringing this to my attention). 

for us, it was a Sunday school.. so once a week is a bigger challenge than an everyday school because you cannot learn language one day a week, nor memorize Quran. if there is no support from home, it becomes VERY VERY difficult for the kids to retain what you teach them.. 

( Today is Jumuah, and so I need to go finish my "chores" and " recitation" .. so I will start a list of things that helped me with my students, and edit every time I come.. ) please feel free to add your own.. 

1- Test the kids levels so you can group them in age and knowledge appropriate classes.. we ended up for Quran and Arabic having Two beginners classes, or even three, grouping kids with close age and similar level. this way older kids will not feel awkward being in the same class as little kids, and would still be comfortable being with their peers. 

2- draw up a realistic plan. you have to set goals that you feel you can achieve and major guidelines that HAVE to be met no matter how much time you spend on them : for example. teaching the kids Surat al-faatiha.. I remember I had one student in quran class that took months to memorize only the fatiha with me.. she used to be absent a lot and did not work hard while other girls in her class memorized more.. but that was my goal and she received a prize when she finally did memorize it.

Praying properly and performing wudu properly are also vital to learn.

basic morals: a Muslim does not lie.. no gossiping or backbiting. respecting the elders and being kind to the young..etc. basic Islamic manners.

Every year I tell my students.. EVERY YEAR: if by the end of this year you remember NOTHING from my class except for these Four: I will be happy

Salat Salat Salaaaaaat

a Muslim NEVER lies

Respect and Honor your parents

Do not gossip..

I think my girls got tired of me saying this lol..

3- At the beginning of the year, I have my older classes write a short paragraph ( anonymously) telling me what they need or want discussed this year.. what topics they would like to tackle and what they expect from their class ( especially the Islamic studies class) at the end of the year, I have them write a paragraph if the year has met their expectations, and what would they have done differently, and have they benefited or changed .

I am alhamdulilaah almost always impressed by their requests and humbled by their progress.. 

4- for the  younger kids; I always have Candy and do trivia and competitions at the end of the class. and small gifts for those who memorize Quran. big chocolate bars as well, lol.. 

5- our Imam's wife, may Allah grant her barakah and blessings walked around the masjid with a rolling bag full of gifts and prizes, she would give any one who recites a new surah he memorized and give them gifts ..

ok.. have to go now.. lol. insha' Allah will come back and edit and add.. 

last note, give the kids reasonable homework, and keep in touch with parents through notes and emails.. 

may Allah grant you all blessings.. those of you who teach at home and those of you who teach at school, and those of you who make duas for our Ummah.. ameen. 

if I speak in error then it is from me. may Allah forgive me and guide us all to what pleases HIM Ameen. 

Love and salaam (peace)

 (proud2bmom3 Muslim Moms-- Owner. 

by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 4:57 AM
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by on Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Mashaallah sister and JAK for starting this thread.  Inshallah I will come back to add later, but wanted to add that I teach Language Arts and Social Studies at the Islamic School, so I feel that I MUST try to incorporate manners/sunnah/hadith/quran as much as I can with them.  For example, when learning about the Greek and Roman "gods and goddesses" through a story or history, or Judaism and Christianity, we always touch on the similarities and differences.  When talking about inventions in a book, we talk about if any of them actually were invented by Muslims and not given the credit, etc.  I am with the whole school (K-6...we're SMALL!) before first class for morning assembly and duaa, and wudu and prayer.  But it's not nearly enough time.  

by on Feb. 8, 2013 at 4:19 PM


by on Feb. 8, 2013 at 6:49 PM

My boys are still fairly young, but I find that this threat applies to someone like myself.  I'll be honest, I find this kind of offensive. 

My boys go to islamic school every Saturday.  In relation to other children they may not get as much Islamic teachings or arabic language skills taught to them as other students, but this is mainly because I am learning as I teach them.  So, I find this offensive that because of this you would translate that I don't try or want or do teach my children at home. 

proud2bmom3 Group Owner
by on Feb. 9, 2013 at 2:27 AM

Non of what I wrote was meant as an offense to you or any other parents.. I am sorry if it sounded like that.. I will be sure to go back and re-read it with your point of view in mind and edit my post.. thank you for drawing that to my attention, and I apologize if I sounded offensive to you in any way, shape or form.. 

fact of the matter is, some of my brightest and most hardworking students had non Arab families.. their parents, even though they lacked the skill to help them with their homework, made sure that the child practiced and DID his homework,, they also contacted me on a regular basis, a few of the families even hired Arabic speaking moms to help their kids. 

Islamic school is not only Arabic.. I found a number of parents "learning" with their kids, and from their kids notes, about Islamic studies, and even Quran reading.. I can't tell you how many moms came to me telling me they are learning from Sunday school as much as their kids :) 

in my class, I had invited mothers to attend on more than one occasion ( it is  a teenage class so our themes were adult themes and more advanced) 

the problem arises when parents, ( Arab or non Arab) make their children do their homework in the car on the way to Sunday school.. or early that morning during breakfast.. the problem arises when parents consider Sunday school a daycare center and a chance for mom to go shopping without her little kiddos, they pick them up late.. and they do not follow with their homework, or tests.. 

the problem arises when parents mean well,, then WANT to teach their children . but they are working all week and all they have is that Saturday, so they tend to do part of the things they put off during the week, and teaching the kids for Sunday school kind of falls through the cracks.. not out of neglect, but because it is simply too hard for them to do that with both parents working.. 

so, we, as Sunday school teachers, try to work with the students as if they have no support system at home, that is why those who Do have support, excel and those who dont' , still get to learn what we plan to teach them. 

However, I am a pushy teacher.. lol.. if any of my  parents are on here now. they will tell you how pushy I am, I send notes, printed letters, I send the plan for the month, I send tests, and send a LOT of homework for the parents to work on with their kids.. if the child does not do his homework, I talk to the parents after or before school.. plus my reward system pushes most kids to want to do their homework.. like nice pencils, or party favors..etc. some funny things for boys and cute things for girls, like a whoopi cushion lol, bouncy ball,,, littlest petshop things...etc. 

also, I tell my kids if they do excellent ( the majority) on the first test, we will have a cookie party.. if they do excellent on the second test, we have a pizza party. and if they do well on the final test they get trophies, and the one with the highest grade gets an extra trophy or a gift ( so does the most improved) 

we also gave "good Muslim" trophies for those who demonstrate good Muslim behaviour

we try to do whatever we can to make the child love the masjid and want to  be there. and we try our best to have the child learn what we want him to learn, with or despite of, his parents cooperation or lack of for that matter. 

again. I am EXTREMELY  sorry for offending you.. I highly respect and value parents like you.. and I appreciate you speaking up and letting me know.. so thank you .. (((hugs))) 

Quoting Hani_Mommy:

My boys are still fairly young, but I find that this threat applies to someone like myself.  I'll be honest, I find this kind of offensive. 

My boys go to islamic school every Saturday.  In relation to other children they may not get as much Islamic teachings or arabic language skills taught to them as other students, but this is mainly because I am learning as I teach them.  So, I find this offensive that because of this you would translate that I don't try or want or do teach my children at home. 

Love and salaam (peace)

 (proud2bmom3 Muslim Moms-- Owner. 

by on Feb. 9, 2013 at 9:15 AM

I can sympatize hanimommy. I feel sometimes really bad when my daughter have for example reading in arabic and i cannot help her with that  and she falls behind. We had a really good talk with her teacher not long ago about the chalenges and she agreed to help us a little more. Allhamdullilah for her effort my daughter is doing better. 

by on Feb. 9, 2013 at 2:55 PM
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I can sympathize with what some of the sisters are saying, because although I teach at my son's school, like I've mentioned before, it's an "Islamic school" that focuses more on the American education than the Islamic one, and I don't read/write/speak Arabic myself (2 different, difficult points).  My 6 yr old is the one teaching me my surahs, as well as my letters.  My husband will if asked, but we've already decided we don't do well teaching each other things, so when he teaches my son, then my son comes and teaches me as he is practicing.  So I completely understand what some are saying.

Personally, my issues come with the regular studies- I teach Language Arts and Social Studies for grades 3-6, and I see the lack of support students have in their regular studies, treating school as if it's for babysitting, and I'm thinking to myself how worried I am for some of them when they go on to public schools (even the online cyber that many here in PA are attending).  And I also see many families dropping off their children, and what the children are learning Islamically is not what's being practiced at home, and it does confuse the children, because if good Muslims do XYZ, and their own parents don't, what does that tell them to believe- either mom and dad aren't good Muslims, or it's not something Muslims have to becomes confusing for them.  Whether the issue is hijab, or prayer, or modesty, or whatever, if the children's own families don't do it, it's hard to enforce or reinforce in the school environment.

I have all the respect inthe world for the parents who work (both my husband and I do), who don't speak/read/write Arabic (myself), who are new Muslims and still learning (I've only been Muslim 5 yrs myself).  My only criticism of any parents in any learning environment is to put their children's education first- if they can't help themselves in the school work (either because of language barrier not understanding English, or not understanding Arabic, or whatever), at least they should be reinforcing at home that they expect the children to be doing the work, or contact the teachers and ask for help because of whatever obstacle.  

I get frustrated when parents can't help, but also don't MAKE their children do the work and don't follow up with the teacher when notes go home, so that the teacher is left to feel like no one cares about this child's education.  Inshaallah it's not the case, but that's how we're left feeling sometimes,

And I also didn't mean, nor do I now, to offend.  I know how hard it is to be a working, nonArabic speaking, newly converted Muslim mother.  Hardest job I've ever had.  :)

by on Feb. 11, 2013 at 6:07 AM

IS there a great place for kids in California. Orange county area. I would love to meet near by mommies. I homeschool too, so that would be great to join a group. 

proud2bmom3 Group Owner
by on Feb. 11, 2013 at 6:54 AM
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oh, my dear  sisters that are  struggling with Arabic and Quran, and still want to learn and teach it.. You have your reward Multiplied.. so , Masha Allah. 

It was narrated that ‘Aaishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The one who is skilled in reciting Qur’aan will be with the noble and obedient scribes (i.e., the angels?) and the one who reads the Qur’aan and struggles with it because it is difficult for him will have two rewards.” 

(Narrated by Muslim, 798) 

Love and salaam (peace)

 (proud2bmom3 Muslim Moms-- Owner. 

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