From the Teacher’s Desk
By Tweaka Temple Dilek
From the Teacher’s Desk, I
Salaam alaykum, Insha’Allah everyone is well and your month of Ramadan had been well. As a Muslim educator working in a school with a population that is 95% Hispanic, this month gives special opportunities and also difficulties.
As we are all aware an important part of being a good Muslim is Dawah, calling others to Islam. As there have been countless articles posted dealing with this subject, I will not delve into it. However, this is an excellent time for your child to show pride about their Muslim identity but they can’t do it with out YOU.
All children are subject to peer pressure. This year I have one student who was embarrassed to tell me she was Muslim. Why you might ask? Think, she is the only religious minority in this ESL class. She doesn’t want to be “different”. Your child may find themselves in the same position.. He or she may feel anxious as this young student did. The way to combat this is to become involved with your child’s class and speak with their teacher.
Call for a Conference
The first thing you should do is call for a conference with the teacher. During this meeting make them aware of Ramadan and its significance to your child. (It would be best if you are friendly and warm during this meeting. This could very well set the tone for the rest of the year.)
Generally, teachers do lessons such as “Christmas Around the World” or “Winter Holidays.” In accordance with policy, the lessons should be informational but religion is not to be taught. ( In my class I do one day about Santa and how he was developed in Europe, Hanukkah and also Ramadan. Each with equal time and attention.) Assisting the teacher with the lesson about Ramadan would be an excellent way to make sure that the lesson isn’t slanted and that the right information is presented. Surely, any teacher would want a “parent volunteer.”
Ideas for a lesson might include: pictures of mosques, Islamic art that the children create or color, a book or movie about Ramadan and quick finger food you have at your home. (Movies can be obtained at a library or Education Service Center).
Visit your child at school. This works especially well with students through Middle School. Spend time with them during the lunch break if they are old enough to fast. If not, then spend lunch with them. This is especially important for sisters who cover. I have found students who are embarrassed to have a hijaabi mother come to school because of other’s student’s comments. When asked it was because the mother was never involved in the past. START NOW!! I have found that students accept you “as is”. This is my first year wearing hijaab at work. My student’s accepted this as “the way I am” and don’t give another thought to it. In short, if they (your student’s classmates) are accustomed to seeing hijaab it won’t be traumatic when your daughter wears it.
Read the Social Studies Text of your Child
Finally, take a look at your child’s Social Studies book. By 3rd grade other cultures are presented. Find out how Islam and Muslims are portrayed. If Muslims or Islam are listed in the index of the student book there should be background information listed in the Teacher’s Edition. It would be a good idea to find out what is written to assist the teacher in presenting the lesson. Simply ask the principal or teacher during your conference if you could take a look at it. There should be NO problem with this AT ALL.
Insha’Allah this will help you have a wonderful experience with your child.
From the Teacher’s Desk, II
What is your child eating at school?
“Forbidden to you ( for food) are dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which hath been invoked a name other than that of Allah [Al-Qu’ran 5:3]”
Those words are more than enough for any Muslim to steer clear of pork derived products and to ensure that their children are not coming into contact with it either. But what is your child eating at school?
This question was raised in my mind when a Muslim student placed school lunch “mystery meat” on his plate. When we discovered that it wasn’t beef but pork, we (the student and I) sought to return it we were met with resistance. The cafeteria manager said that she would return it “just this once” but that the child needed to bring a doctor’s excuse in the future. I kindly explained that it was a religious issue. She responded that “it might not be good enough.” Needless to say this was taken up with school administration and promptly handled. The food was replaced and all was well, al-hamdulillah. But had I not been present? Allahu Alim but I fear this child would have been short changed.
How can you prevent this?
1. The first step is to get a copy of the lunch menu from your school.
According to the Department of Agriculture school food authorities have to advise children and their parents of the use of various types of meat. Foods should be clearly marked if they contain pork. Should the meat be blended it must be clearly m arked. The rule states, “If a school sends menus home, blended products and dishes must not be portrayed as solely beef, pork, poultry or seafood.”
2. Send a letter to school stating that your child should not be allowed to choose products containing pork.
Many school students have dietary restrictions. Once documented, the school must offer other choices to that student. Religious reasons are just as valid as health issues or allergies. Make sure that they know you are aware of that.
3. Speak with your child.
Take a look at the menu with your child and make sure they understand what could be hazardous. Encourage them to speak out and ask questions about the content of meals. This is especially true for our young sisters.
4. Send lunch to school with your child.
If there is a doubt that your child might have difficulties selecting the main course without pork, send lunch with them on those days.
From the Teacher’s Desk, III
ESL Beyond Spanish
In my work with students from around the globe, I have found that the majority make many of the same errors when trying to decipher English. Some of these errors include: attempting to pronounce every consonant in words, not recognizing the multiple pronunciation of vowels, and not being aware of the correct position of accents in English words. As English speakers, we have grown accustomed to omitting sound and even whole syllables in words. These errors can be a baffling experience for those new to the English language. These errors can cause children to become disheartened and frustrated. Insha’Allah, this won’t happen with your child. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help.
I have been an educator for eight years. I work with bilingual and ESL students. I will provide suggestions to assist our Muslim youth in school. Insha’Allah, my few ideas will help your child excel in reading.
For each student, begin with a list of high frequency words (these can be obtained from your child’s teacher). Have a native English speaker listen to your student pronounce each word and list the ones that are difficult. This list of target words can be audio taped for the child to practice with. Ratiocination is a new trend in learning a new language. Many of us practiced saying lists of words as children to memorize them. Now we have learned that saying these words “to a beat” helps children as well. A quick example pattern would be:
DOG DOG CAR
DOG DOG CAT
DOG DOG CAR
CAT CAT CAT
A quick drill at home or in the car for five minutes daily is far more beneficial than a 30 minute block on the weekend.
Gesturing can be an important aid. Allowing children to make gestures when saying words helps them to build meaning and can make learning fun. For example, hands together motioning from side to side can help a child remember the word “fish.” Also, there are many cognates between Spanish and English, words that sound the same and have similar meanings i.e. interesante, estudiante, pluma etc.
Using a mirror can help when there are sounds in English that are not in a child’s native language. The “th” sound is lacking in many languages. I had a Turkish student who would change “thinking” into “tinking.” Have your child watch a native English speaker speak saying the sound or word repeatedly. Then have your child say the word in front of a mirror to watch for tongue placement.
Reading comprehension is difficult for children of all ages. Reading comprehension is essentially the ability to understand effectively what you are reading. It is no longer sufficient to simply tell basic facts of a story. Children are now required to manipulate what they have read, draw conclusions and inferences as early as the 3rd grade. You can help your children by having them bring home their reading book daily. Read the story assigned with them and then ask questions about the story.
1. What is the main idea of the story? (Who are the most important characters? What did they do? Where did this happen?)
2. What are some details supporting the main idea you found?
3. What was the “problem” in the story?
4. How was it solved?
5. Was this fantasy or reality?
6. How do you know?
7. Tell me emotions of the characters at various points in the story.
8. Create a new ending.
Your child’s teacher should have a test or activity to test for comprehension. Ask for copies of past evaluations to find exactly what types of questions they are expected to answer.
I recently found a few websites that may be of assistance. They are:
Remember, a teacher’s best friend is an involved parent. Contact your children’s teachers to become a part of the learning process. Also, work with your children at home. Insha’Allah, your child will benefit from just a few moments of your time.