Friday, May 19, 2017

A small update


It has been almost three years since I last posted on this blog. And before that there could have been a gap of many years. It's amazing how time passes and what occurs during that time. My last post was about The Sparrow, which I had recently read. Currently, as is usual for me, I am reading several books. The most recently finished one, however, is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Like The Sparrow, this was a high school book, but unlike The Sparrow, I actually read it in high school. This was actually one of the books that set me on a path to discover who I really am, what is really important in life,  and ultimately leading me to Islam.

They say that you never read the same book twice, meaning that the book itself does not change but it's actually you who changes. I experienced this many many times, but most particularly with this book Siddhartha. There are several phases throughout Siddhartha's life, and while I identified with them in a more general way when I was young, the connections I made this time through were much more significant as I had experienced in one way or another much of what Siddhartha had experienced and reacted much in the same way that he had reacted.

Indeed Siddhartha's journey does not conclude early in life but rather the journey continues on for most of his life, just as my journey has not yet reached a conclusion. I'm now thirty-three, which according to Prophet (sallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is the ideal age and age of the people in Jannah. I have two kids and one on the way, and I'm still trying to figure out who I really am and what I'm really doing in life. This is normal, and we all go through the motions as if were confident and sure about her place in the world, but in reality we don't know.

So anyway, I'm hoping to continue this blog, posting my thoughts and reflections and hopefully a little humor as I continue my path as a Muslim English teacher currently teaching in somehwere in Chicago (which is no longer Englewood, alhamdulillah).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Sparrow

I was recently reading a book called The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and came across a quote that I found to be foundational for me. Before I get into that, I would like to talk about my history with this book. 

I had first been "assigned" to read it before entering my senior year Humanities class. As I had been a late arrival for the class, I did not get to read it over the summer. I began reading it, but found it dry and slow. 

Many years later and still many years ago, I tried again to the same result. This year, however, I began reading it and found it to be quite astonishing. 

The quote that really struck me was: "So many people buried the soul's pain in their bodies, Edward thought." As I was writing about this with my students (because I just had to give this to them as their "Do Now"), I began reflecting on how I not only agreed with this but also realized that this is a foundational belief for me. 

Before I became Muslim, I felt a sort of emptiness in my soul, and rather than answer this call and try to find the truth, I attempted to silence it with bodily pursuits. Whenever I would drink, however, I would still find myself wandering away from others for personal reflection, as if that was what my inner nature really desired. 

It all ties back to one of my favorite poems on this theme, one that I mentioned briefly during 'itikaf this year: Bluebird by Charles Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Found this while cleaning

Spring Winter Cleaning

The softness of a touch
The cleanliness of a kiss
The calmness of a love
The potential of a wish

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beautiful...

"What wonderful thing didn't start out scary?" - Issac Marion Warm Bodies

Monday, July 23, 2012

From a Kombucha bottle...

“And the day came for the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stories


“We all think an exception is going to be made in our case, and we’re going to live forever. And being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that is not going to be. Story is there to just remind us that it’s okay.” – Ken Burns

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Take a Moment to Reflect

Note: This was written as my final exam for one of my master's classes. Since the professor said "Well said! I think this is something worth sharing!"  I figured I would.

With this year wrapping up for our school teachers, we are now given the chance to reflect of the past accomplishments and failures of this school year. As is usually the case, teachers use this time to find the shortcomings in their curriculum and make revisions as deemed necessary. As leaders of these organizations, we should take a lesson from our teachers; we should also use this time to reflect on our leadership role and the success of our schools specifically, and more broadly, we should reflect on the overall state of education in this country.
One of the most pressing concerns for educators today is the problem of testing and accountability. As Diane Ravitch mentioned in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, “Our schools will not improve if we continue to focus only on reading and mathematics while ignoring the other studies that are essential elements of a good education.” We cannot only narrow our curriculum to what is on the test. This inevitably robs our students of a proper and whole education.
But what is the point of education if it is not to pass a statewide test? Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, said that teaching deals with the meaning of becoming human. As John Dewey had stated in his landmark Moral Principles in Education, “The business of the educator-whether parent or teacher-is to see to it that the greatest possible number of ideas acquired by children and youth are acquired in such a vital way that they becoming moving ideas, motive-forces in the guidance of conduct.” The question of what it means to be human is an ancient one explored by writers from the Greeks to Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and beyond. Nevertheless, as educators, this is our goal. We are charged with taking children and molding them into human beings, not just mindless workers. It seems that these days we have lost sight of this goal.
With the massive cuts to the humanities and the heavy reliance on testing and accountability, our schools are becoming devoid of the true art and craft of teaching. So what can we do? These problems run deeper than the school or district level. This is a nationwide problem, and it will take a nationwide conscious effort to correct.
If we look at models of success, we can often take lessons to guide our own practice. Finland, for example, is leading the world in education. But what makes them so successful? A large amount of the success lies in the investment they have given in teacher preparation. In The Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond has summarized the core principles of Finland as follows: “Resources for those who need them most, high standards and supports for special needs, qualified teachers, evaluation of education, and balancing decentralization and centralization.” I highly recommend that anyone who has any desire to change the state of the American education system to read Hammond’s book. Unlike many of the “reformist” texts out there, Hammond paints an optimistic picture of our education system, one then can, and God willing, will be improved.
But I digress. Teacher quality is something greatly lacking in this country. Educators need to focus on this operating core, which is really the crux of the entire school. Schools need to move into a more professional, teacher-centered model of organization. This can only happen, however, when the teachers are given the skills and tools to make proper decisions. When I graduated from my teacher preparation program, I did not have the tools to help administrate a school; I could barely run a classroom! If schools begin to invest in their teachers, they can comfortably move to a system of expertise in which teachers are trained in curriculum, instruction, and leadership and then given decision-making ability. This is the real model for success, as is showed by Finland’s example.
We all need to really take as step back and reflect upon what we are doing. Are our policies in the best interest of our children, who are the primary stakeholders in our schools? Where have our goals and priorities gone? Are we trying to educate students to become mindless workers or trying to create human beings, freethinkers who embody the creative spirit?

The hope for our education’s success lies with qualified teachers that are trained with the proper skills to be part of the decision-making process.