Author: Rukiya Issa

Rukiya Issa is a Teacher coach who leads an Islamic school and the founder of Hopeful Muslim Teacher (HMT). She is pursuing her Bachelors of Education(Arts) and aims to empower Muslim teachers to show-up with confidence, clarity and purpose. She holds a Diploma in Educational Leadership, primary teacher certificate and is also a certified professional life Coach. Rukiya believes that academics, Teacher mindset, skills and teacher growth are not only a fundamental part of student success but are also the building blocks to attain a life long impact in building a holistic child. In addition to leading a school, she runs an online madrasa program with the aim of making Islamic education accessible to all. She has been recognised for her innovative teaching and learning approaches in all her teaching positions in different schools. Furthermore, her exceptional approach to leading change in Ar Risalah Academy, currently the Principal, was evidently recognised by the School board of Directors. Rukiya has been engaged in variety of voluntary projects in education like; - Islamic Curriculum Development at Maahad Teachers' Training College Nairobi, Kenya. - Lesson Plan Integration Project with Dr Bilal Philips - Islamic Studies Teacher at Maryam Center, Doha, Qatar.

Respect is not earned through fear.

I recall my early days in educational leadership, I unconsciously carried with me the notion that, the more I am feared the more I’ll be respected. To me, when no one speaks in a meeting or knock my office door to have a personal talk means I am respected. I never realized how detrimental it was to a school culture. My perspective of a leader was that of a manager. I need to deal with the staff by the book.

As I witnessed betrayal, disappointment and failure, I learnt that it was all fake! Those smiles and greetings at the corridors was all fake! It was all done out of fear not out of love and respect! One specific incident was narrated by one of my team members. He recalled how they used to run away from the corridors when they heard my voice or footsteps! Although we laughed it out that day, he left me broken inside. Subhanallah! I am not proud of that! Fear should be of Allah’s wrath not of a fellow human being!

Who am I to be feared? What gives me the right to think that being feared is my right as a leader? The companions of the Prophet (s.a.w) used to run to him, they looked up to him. They felt safe to talk to him. The Prophet(s.a.w) is our perfect role model. He would smile and be kind, gentle and patient in his dealings with them. These are few reasons why the companions loved, respected and honored him.

My fellow school leaders and teachers. To earn respect, you and I should practice, kindness, patience, tolerance and sympathy towards our staff and students. We should realize that we are not dealing with robots. We are dealing with humans. We are accountable to Allah of how we treat them. How they respond to us is out of our control and we should learn to be resilient and move on!

I want to end this with a beautiful one! Just few weeks ago, in a virtual meeting, a teacher and I engaged in a discussion that led to uncomfortable dialogue, alhamdulillah there was no aggression! Later, she texted me apologizing for the way she responded to me because she realized I was seeking to understand her point! To me that was my first indication that I achieved one of my goals after three years! So what was the goal? My goal was to create a culture of healthy discussions, my indicators? That staff can share their opinions, ideas, concerns and engage in discussions. And that day it happened, finally alhamdulillah. It didn’t happen in a day, it happened in a span of three years by embracing my strengths and weaknesses then embark in self improvement. If I can do it, you can too!

Comment below if you would like to know how I did it!

Be the change that you want to see!

Have we ever thought about how we prepare our children during their schooling years? Have we ever wondered if the schedules and controlled routines are what they need? Think of yourself after your schooling years. Were you able to adapt to the freedom of time, space and interaction? Were you able to make SMART choices, be resilient and disciplined? Or did you find yourself lost. Excited of the freedom because no one’s there to tell you what to do? Later, you realize you’ve wasted your time.
My question is; how are we preparing our children to be different? To be self-focused, self-driven, disciplined and self aware. Not to waste time discovering who they are but instead focus on building their own lives?
What if instead of focusing solely on academics, we put more efforts into instilling spiritual development, self identity, self awareness and emotional resilience? Because knowledge in this era is at the tip of our fingers. So, if we build the required belief, values, skills and attitudes, as mentioned above, they will be able to pursue their goals and aspirations all life long, because knowledge can be acquired at any age but latter takes long to acquire.
Let us begin by changing the approaches and priorities in our homes and schools. Lets not forget that children will grow to be adults. They need a holistic development to endure life’s challenges.

Clarity breeds focus!

Clarity is very important. When your vision isn’t clear, you rush to see an optician so you can get prescribed glasses to see clearly. The same is with our goals/ambitions/vision in life. If you wake up with no clue of what you will do on that day, your whole day is spent tackling chaos. At the end of the day, you feel exhausted.
Imagine, if you can change all that and wake up feeling energized and excited to tackle what’s ahead of you? To live your life, most of the days, calm and grounded. To jump hurdles each day, that you intended to jump. That hurdle you jumped knowing pretty well at the end of it, you have moved forward to your vision.
My experience of finding clarity as a teacher, has made me think, how many other teachers are living/will live in this chaos? Of always doing because the school is asking me to, for always pushing yourself to live in someone else’s dream? Just as any other profession, teachers deserve to own their vision. Teachers deserve to find clarity and live their dream. To own their stories of success and empowerment.
A thriving learning environment is always accompanied by teachers with clarity.
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Nurturing Eeman in Children

When we nurture a strong eeman in our children, we cultivate within them the ability to distinguish right from wrong. This relationship and ability to discern will then lead them to choose the lawful in each and every circumstance. This choice will be made regardless of the pressure to act otherwise.
It is for this reason that a child who has developed eeman and piety will make the job of parenting easier one. The choices that a child makes will come from within, with love and fear of Allah, rather than having to be imposed externally.
Nurturing Eeman in children by Dr Aisha Hamdan, page 34-35
As a teacher with strong belief in character building taking precedence over academics, I strongly agree with Dr Aisha’s approach.
While I do appreciate when teachers strive to create reward systems to motivate good behaviour and academic performance in children, backed up by modern psychological principles, I dispute the practice to an extent because behaviour being nurtured tends to have a temporary effect on the child. Reading an excerpt from page 35, Dr. Aisha mentions that while such techniques may be useful at times, they should not be the foundation of parenting/ modelling/teaching.
She mentions that the focus for a child with a strong Eeman will be to seek the pleasure of Allah with the profound realization that these are greater than any material or social reward that can be gained in this life.
I’d like to add a thought to second her by mentioning that it is evident in our schools, homes and society at large that our upcoming youth are driven by material gain rather than self-discipline, sincerity and integrity.

The Child Matters

`If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.’-Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada

Often times as teachers, we plan to teach what needs to be taught, we put ourselves first before the learners, this is something I learnt from my teaching journey, the amount of pressure and high expectations from the administration to the parents and prospective parents, drive us to make life long damage in our learners.
We forget that it’s not about us, the parents or the administration and stakeholders, it’s about the learner. How much impact does your presence make to that child? Does it break him/her or mend her? Does it boost his confidence or does it extinguish his enthusiasm to learn? Does it make him curious or does it make him dreadful to learn new ideas, skills and concepts? There are many aspects of a child’s life that is in our hands as teachers. Are we doing our job Right? Are we their advocates?
It is time that we all work towards reflecting on our professional and personal practices to make our classrooms a better place for our learners. A class that is safe for learners to be creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers as well a confident life long Muslim learner. It is never too late.
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