I woke up one day to the realization that my daughter, Ameera, was going to be 4 in January. "Oh my God!" I thought to myself. "I need to put her in school next year!" Thoughts frantically raced through my head. I needed to start researching schools, attending open houses, interviewing principals.....but wait.....first I had to figure out what kind of school system was going to be right for Ameera. What methodoligies are being used in the classrooms and which would suit her learning style. And then there was the cost! Would my husband and I even be able to afford private education? Would I have no choice but to place her in public school, or should I just do what everyone in my community would expect me to do and place her in one of the Islamic schools?
So many questions--so little time!
Then another realization. Being a teacher of just four short years in the Islamic School system in Bergen County, I had already developed a philosophy on education. A sense of what works and what doesn't work when it comes to educating kids. I am far from an expert on the subject, but it doesnt take a genius to see that while some kids thrive in thet tradational school setting, many others do not. And it is these kids that turned me into the concerened teacher and parent I am today.
As a teacher, I was guilty of rushing through materials and units of study, trying to meet time limitations and restrictions of set marking periods. I had to have a certain number of grades plugged in for my students as well as quizzes and tests to assess what they have learned. And at the end of it all, if a handful of students did poorly on those assessments I would send a reluctant email out to the parents that their child was still struggling in my class, and reassure them that I was always available for extra help, but otherwise, the class was moving on to the next unit.
I would bombard my 7th and 8th graders with English homework even when they and their parents complained believing that I was only preparing them for what was to come in HighSchool. I was prepping them for the endless workloads, and papers, and projects. I was getting them used to committing hours and hours of their precious free time to homework. And of course I was backed and supported by my superiors.
It wasn't until this year, when I was hired as writing consulting did I realize the error of my ways. Being a consultant gave me the ability to be on the other side of the spectrum of teaching. I was given time to thouroughly research ideas, and lessons before implementing them. I was given the time to study how children learn, how they absorb material and information. I was able to try new methods and take the time to spend with the kids to see if they were grasping the material and how they were absorbing it. I was given the opportunity to work with those kids who were struggling and help them through those tough moments. And when a student overcame an obstacle or succeeded in implementing a strategy, their smile was worth all the endless hours of work and research in the world.
These experiences have made me especially cautious and weary in choosing a school for my daughter. What kind of teacher would my daughter have? Would Ameera be one of the lucky few to grasp all material thrown at her or would she would be among those who struggle? And if so would she get the attention and help she needs or be left behind? Would I be one of those parents who recieved that dreaded email that her daughter was still struggling in a particualr subject, but that the class was going to continue to move on?
All these reflections and realizations have led me to the journey I am taking now. The journey of sorting through different and alternative methods of education. I ask Allah to guide me through this journey and help me seek out the best answers and to help me provide some useful information to all moms going through the same journey.