“One size fits all”

There is no one size fits all. Hear me out!

Early in my days, when imitating what other teachers do was an easy way out, I learnt something profound. There was this arrangement where instead of individual planning, we did team planning. Which worked because it lessen my burden as a teacher. Little did I know that it was a complete fail!

As I continued using the plans, there were a number of adjustments that I needed to do to cater for my students. From objectives, activities and even teaching methodologies. It was a tedious exercise. I eventually accepted the fact that there is no one size fits all in education. You can be given the model/guide but you’ll eventually change it to fit your class.

The one size fit all didn’t end there… being a school leader and having managed my own school, I can say it again, “There is no one size fits all”. I’ve seen leaders jumping from one idea to another, imitating exactly what the “better school” is doing and still fail to walk through it to the end. At the end of the tunnel, I’ve seen resources, time and efforts being wasted to vain. Students’ time being wasted all in the name of refusing to get creative and think for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, learning from each other is very crucial part of adapting best practicing. What I don’t agree, is you refusing to do the work of customizing and developing the best practices to your school’s needs, values, mission, culture etc. Your school is your baby, will you feed it junk from the streets? Or will you invest in healthy food? Of course, you will do anything to feed her the best!

If your shoe size is 40, still you will have preference in regards to style, colour and design. If you are a school leader, wondering where do I start with this? How do I adapt programs to fit my school? I am sure you already have an idea that you liked from another school or are thinking to fish for oneJ. I am offering you a free 30 minutes call to help you start your journey to a strategic plan for your new idea.  Hope in and book it now!

https://hmtschool.co.ke/contacts/enrol-onto-coaching-class/

Struggling to lead with impact?

How do you know if your school is technical or moral? It all begins from the way you manage your school, your priorities and decision-making process. Just like our homes, if there is violence then the children will adapt violence, if there is peace the children will be peaceful. Your school is similar to a home but add intentions and taking action accordingly. If you are wondering what I’m talking about, follow through this article to get more insights.

A technical institution focuses on knowledge transfer and academic performance more than the individual’s personal growth: social, emotional and spiritual development while a school visualized as a moral institution is focused on moral education by instilling social skills, interpersonal skills and spiritual development i.e. a holistic approach.

I believe that there is a great need to transform Islamic schools to a moral institution. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) put so much emphasis on raising children with good morals and values. Where else can we do it if not in our schools? I always say, “Knowledge is now consumed at the tip of our fingers, but morals, emotional, mental aspects and  managing life’s unpredictable events can only be learnt through practical and interactive experiences.”

There is a pandemic when it comes to implementation of the needed elements to make our schools as moral institutions; dry school vision, meaningless values and poor role models. The list is endless. There are so many other challenges which need to be addressed but first, take a deep look at yourself as the leader (you could be the director or principal). Do you practise those morals in your life? How do you interact with people? That’s where you should start.

Allaah says: “Verily, Allaah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allaah)” [al-Ra’d 13:11]

You will not visualize your school as a moral institution until you embrace changing what’s within you, around you and naturally in others. There are three elements that will help you begin this journey:

  • Your connection with Allah – It is not until you are truthful to Allah can you be truthful to yourself. Who else knows you better?
  • Your connection with yourself – When you embrace the true you; the good and the bad, can you only gain self-confidence, self-awareness and self-worth.
  • Your connection with others – Being truthful to Allah, understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you improve your relations with others. Eventually, find yourself being a tolerant and inspirational leader.

These are the three most important aspects which will help you transform your school. My journey to create a moral institution only came in to being when I discovered this approach through research, life experiences and studying the pattern of influence while practicing my way forward. So I thought why keep it to myself? It is worth seeing more Muslim school leaders thriving within and have the impact in others too. One of my employers once said to me, “It’s hard to get someone with values and principles you have Rukiya. That is what really reflects in our children and makes them stand out!” It is not for me to brag about my achievement but it is for me to show you that this approach works. I promise you that the journey is empowering yet scary and painful. It. Is. Worth. It.

 

I’m all about empowering each other to make it better for our Ummah. Investing in yourself is a starting point to a better you, your school and students. Think about it, what have you got to lose? You must be great in something right now but you don’t see the impact in your team which is normal yet frustrating. I get you and I can help you.

Email me ruqayyah@hmtschool.com to book a 30 minutes breakthrough call to isolate what is stopping you from creating that ideal moral institution.

Perception of life

Being struck by covid-19 in the past 1 week or so, I got to think deeply about my perception of life and how I live it. At my initial stages of self-transformation, I discovered my demon of being jealous and envious about everyone around me. Even the minute things that someone possesses would make me feel envious. It didn’t make feel any better about myself so I embarked to unravel the dirt beneath my envy and jealousy.

I questioned my inner motives and what triggered these unpleasant feelings within me. I questioned my sanity and inhumanness all in the name of finding a way out of being envious and jealous. Alhamdulillah, I always had a intuition to listen and self critic my inner self since I was young. So, for this it served me good rather than bad.

While I was in my wave of confusion and finding peace in my heart, I realized that I perceived life as competition, as a game or a risk. I believed life was a either to win or loose nothing else. So. to me when someone is more blessed in any shape or manner, I am a looser while they are the winners. To me, I had to have it all, better than anyone else. Little did I know that Allah had kept aside a revelation so empowering yet so soothing. In my midst of making sense of what my thought process was telling me, I got a revelation.

Life is a gift from Allah, Life is, in it’s essence, given to each one us to serve Allah. Life has been perfectly planned for us by the Al-Mighty. Life was preordained by the Master of the world. Each one of us has been gifted with a life, each day we uncover our lives. Each one of us is in it, in different stages, needs, wins, failures and revelations. No one has it all figured out. My gift of life was meant to be lived the way that Allah decreed it. Others gift of life is the same too.

Each one of us has been placed on this earth with blessings, triumph, trials and wins. We are all in to get the most out of it. Allah has perfectly placed us where we belong and with whom to share our gift of life. This realization, gave me a tremendous peace in my heart. It showered me with coolness in my inner being and from that day, I lived my life with the perception that each one of us deserves a life perceived as a gift.

When we all see that life is a gift we will ignite excitement, passion, purpose and harmony within ourselves and for each other. We will embrace each other, support one another and not be intimidated, envious or jealous with the one who is unfolding a gift better than ours.

I am between peace and harmony with myself now that I have learnt to perceive life as a gift. I spend each day unfolding my gifts, either good or bad, and working closer to fulfill my purpose to the fullest. It was never about how much others was ahead me of, but about how I perceived my life. That was a game changer for me. I love my life the way Allah has perfectly ordained for me. I am, who I am today because of my experiences, choices and mistakes I did and will continue doing. The beauty of life is that Al Wakeel, the Expediter, has perfectly placed us where He sees us fit. Who am I to reject it?

I am a slave of Allah, to Him I belong and unto Him I shall return.

What is your perception of life? Would you make any changes to live better, in peace and harmony?

Struggle is inevitable. Learn to live with it.

“Just because you’re struggling, doesn’t mean you’re failing.” Unknown author

There is no human that doesn’t struggle. We struggle in maintaining relationships, at work place, within ourselves and worshipping Allah (s.w.t). Struggles are like a potter and his journey to moulding pots; for every new creation she will struggle to mould perfectly from scratch. Either, the clay was too hard, or her hands were too slow to align with the movement etc. So the potter practices until she moulds a perfect new pot!

The potter is you and the pot is your life. Every new situation, relationship or skill demands you to adapt new skills, attitudes or knowledge to be able to overcome it. So, there is no failure, there is progress because for each struggle you emerge stronger and empowered. That is exactly what struggles do to us, they help us flourish and bloom!

Failure is when you choose not to embrace your struggle and tackle it head on. It is when you willingly quit because the struggle is forcing you to go beyond your comfort zone. I understand struggles are scary and intimidating, sometimes depressing too but with zeal and perseverance sprinkled with faith in Allah, you can overcome them.

You are what you eat, is a perfect one to remind you to look at your circle of influence, people you follow on social media and how you spend your time. It makes a huge difference. You consume ideas, energy and mindset from people you associate with everyday; healthy food gives you a healthy body and good people nourish you with good thoughts, habits, ideas and mindset.

My initial struggle to eliminate people who weren’t serving any good in my life was excruciating. Some die hard relationships had to be eliminated and it was painful for me however, looking back I am grateful I did. I learnt that I can continue loving them from far and wish them goodness, always.

My other struggle was anger. It gave me a sense of authority and I believed it was a strength until I almost ruined beautiful relationship because of it. It was a bitter pill to swallow at that time, because I bitterly swallowed a once  believed strength, as a weakness, that I faced head on to overcome it. I am still on it!

There are so many of you who have struggles, that need to be faced-out in your life, because it maybe a threat to your work, relationships or faith. Whatever the struggle is, you can make a choice today to embark in a beautiful journey to growth, progress and prosperity. Remember, when one struggle is eliminated another another one will sprout out, that is a sign of progress not failure.

Believe you can, have faith and pray to the only One Lord, Allah for guidance.

Stay hopeful.

A letter of encouragement.

Assalam Alykum

I have been away for weeks and today I am writing to myself with an intention to remind you and I that if your doubting yourself, it is time to just do it!

Imposter syndrome is in each one of us. We all experience it, for some it’s intense  while others it’s mild and easier to overcome. I want to be the one to remind you that when imposter syndrome creeps in, it’s an indicator that you’re on the right track. The path to new challenges, new failures, new successes and most of all, empowerment and growth. No matter what you’re telling your self right now, it needs to be rephrased! Instead of;

  • It’s scary, I can’t do it! Say, “It’s challenging and I have the ability to overcome it”.
  • This is far beyond my caliber, it’s not meant for me. Say, “This is a new path for me, I am going to enjoy the process and I deserve it.”
  • My procrastination will let me down. Say, ” I am going to dig deeper and get to know the causes of my procrastination and overcome them.”
  • All this work is overwhelming, I don’t have the skills to do it. Say, “I am going to take one step at a time and acquire the skills I need to empower myself.”

I encourage you to push forward in your goals. The sky is the limit. Allah has gifted you life to serve Him, to live and to return to Him as a successful believer. There will always be potholes, storms, sunshine and many other unpredicted events. Remember to be present in the process, to reflect and always come out better. For every milestone, you acquire up skills, you improve yourself, perceptions and attitudes because mistakes are a sign that you are trying, you are moving forward. Embrace your imposter syndrome, face head on and eliminate negative self-talk. You are not alone, Allah The One who created you is there very single step you take.

You are deserving of your dreams to come true, your goals to be achieved and to live a life full of purpose and fulfillment, in this life and the eternal abode.

 

To my younger-self teacher…

” If leaves stayed green all through the year, who would have experience the beauty of autumn?” Umm Maymanah

As I reflect on my journey as an educator, I truly can’t believe how I got through it, all prasie is due to Allah, Alhamdulillah! It all started in 2007 after graduating as a teacher, I had no clue what I was doing or why was I even a teacher. What I knew is that my heart inclined me to teach. Those years were full of confusion, disappointments, successes and earning good money!

Now that I am older and focused on my goals, I feel the need to share imperative messages to my younger-self teacher. I pray that it will serve as a point of learning to the young educators or anyone who might learn from this article.

Dear Ruqayyah (that’s how I call my younger-self 👧🏽)

  1. You are carrying the legacy of the Prophet (s.a.w), you better get serious with what you are teaching those kids! Often times, we tend to underestimate the powerful role we play as teachers in our communities. We mindlessly teach without realizing that our students look up to us. They spend most of their time with us then they do with other members of their families.
  2. Yes, you are a great teacher. That doesn’t mean everyone will appreciate you. Do your God given job and move on. This is a bitter truth that many educators don’t want to hear. We live in a world where we only get motivated when appreciated, or else we don’t feel motivated to do! It doesn’t work that way. You are teaching because you have been hired to do so. Your salary should be justified by you doing our job right!
  3. You aren’t a teacher so you can dump your unresolved personal trauma/issues on your students. Yes, you read that right! It is important for you to be stable emotionally and mentally so that you show up for your students and cater for their needs! You can’t pour from an empty jug. Learn the art of seeking for help and sorting out your personal issues. It will make a world of difference in the way you deal with personal and professional life.
  4. Constructive criticism about your teaching practice doesn’t define who you are, it is simply feedback to help you improve in your practice. When you learn to listen and take feedback positively, you’ll see yourself blooming in your class. See feedback like a making beef stew. You’ll keep tasting it at every stage of cooking until you get the satisfaction. That’s how it works, that feedback is not meant to tell you how bad you are but to show you how much potential you have to being a great teacher!

That is what I tell my younger-self teacher. Many of you have gone through similar experiences that some still carry with them while others have embraced a better mindset. Being a teacher is a lot more than showing up in class with a red pen, whiteboard marker and your textbook, it is about winning the hearts of your students, giving room for yourself to bloom and be better each lesson. If you have been struggling to swallow the pill of growth, today can be your day to a better you.

What would you tell your younger-self teacher? Looking forward to reading your revelations!

 

Kindness starts with yourself.

”I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou

I came across this quote today. It brought back memories of defeat, failure and mishaps in my teaching experience. It resonated with me so deeply. One thing you should know about me is that I’m a hardcore self-critic; I don’t wait to be criticized, I do it myself. Sometimes validated criticism and most of the time invalid ones. Although I was extreme, as my therapist says, it has served as a strength because it’s what has made me gear up to excellence.

People who met me like six months ago, don’t have the right to say they know me because what I was then is not what I am today. What I mean to say is this: be kind to yourself. You’ll find it in your heart to be kind to those around you. We all make mistakes and we will always have someone in our past to whom we played the bad villain. That is life, you can’t be the sweetie pie in everyone’s story, because you are human. What counts most is that you’re better today.

Allah loves that we practise excellence. He is Ar -Rahman, the Most Merciful. His Mercy overshadows His anger. If you’ve made bad judgement, overreacted, or anything else of the sort, have it in your heart to seek forgiveness and be kind to yourself because if you don’t, no one will.

My career in education only made sense when I began to embrace my weaknesses even when it was painful; listen to bad feedback, swallow the embarrassment then pick myself up and move on.

As long as you are alive, you have the opportunity to be better, to serve better and to live better. I believe the path to living your purpose starts within yourself; your connection with Allah.

Thriving Vs Surviving

It has been two weeks since schools reopened. A reflection worth sharing with you all! As unexpected challenges popped up from all corners of my life, I found myself in a surviving mode. I had to switch to survival mode so that I don’t loose my sanity. But as days passed, I began shifting my mode to a thriving mode, ever so slowly. This happened without I realizing that my pattern has improved. Awhile back, I was on surviving mode more than a thriving mode. I was confused, stressed and overwhelmed with emotions, thoughts and self criticism. Until I learnt not to expect “ME” to be perfect. That I am a human.

I was in awe, how the same happens to our learning institutions. We get carried away by daily pop-ups that need our attention and time. We consume so much energy in solving pop-ups that we loose focus of our purpose. It is like, watching an educative video on YouTube then another DIY video pops-up, you watch it and another pops-up until you realized you have spent 45 minutes watching DIY videos and only 15 minutes watching what was actually beneficial. Forty five minutes of survival mode and fifteen minutes of thriving mode! You see, this is how we end up having a high number of our institutions on survival mode.

How do you know if you are working or running an institution on survival mode?

  1. You spend most of your day tackling problems that can be solved by someone else.
  2. You read a post/idea and you want it implemented in your school the next day.
  3. You spend a fortune to invest in a school program only to realize it will not work in your school.
  4. You talk more in your meetings than your teachers.
  5. You are unshakable, that only your way/your idea is the best.
  6. You think you know better than the teachers you hired to teach!
  7. You make changes only when needs be, otherwise you are good to go!
  8. You have no idea what is the next step to improve your school! Other words; you think you are running your school perfectly!

If you answered YES to most of these statements, it is time to go back to your drawing table. Ask yourself these guiding questions to help you kick start your journey to a thriving mode.

  • Where do you see you school in the next five years?
  • What do you need to prepare to reach your vision?
  • How will you reach there?
  • What can you change now to prepare you for the five years?
  • What are your best practice and what are your bad practices that you need to change in your institute?

Don’t loose hope in finding the best way to be on a thriving mode. Life can bring you down to a survival mode and that’s okay. Be graceful and be hopeful that Allah will always ease your affairs. I will be happy to hear your revelation  how this article will help you kick start your journey from a surviving school to a thriving school!

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.
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