Today was my last real day of teaching for the fall term. We still have finals (i.e. a LOT of grading and comments), but my time in the classroom with this group of kids has come to an end. To be honest, this unit on Islam, just generally bummed me out. The students were starting to lose focus because they were working on the final project. The final project also meant I could give less homework and so had to do more talking myself in class to bring them up to speed. We also had so little time everything felt compacted. For example, when we discussed Allah, we began by discussing this great Sufi poem by Rumi, then we finished by exploring the 99 names for Allah. Both discussions had such potential, but we only had like 30 minutes of class time. Today was different. I set aside the entire day to talk about women in Islam. I split them into four groups, each with a different perspective on the subject. They had to write a one page summary analyzing the article and the bias of the author. In class today, they began in their article groups and discussed questions. Then they split into groups of four with one person who had read each article per group to discuss the topic more broadly. After that we discussed as a whole class. The students were generally really engaged in the topic. They were especially interested when I showed them this provocative image from the New Yorker with three women on a bench one in a niqab, which is a form of Muslim dress where only the eyes are visible, the other wearing a bathing suit and shorts, and the third dressed in a nun’s habit. From the articles and that image we had such an interesting discussion on what it means to have choice, freedom, and feel forced into dressing a certain way (both for the Muslim woman and the provacatively dressed Western woman). It was a format of teaching that my teaching mentor suggested and I will definately use it again as a way to explore controversial issues from different perspectives. While I am REALLY excited for the break, especially after working literally from 8 am -10 pm Monday-Thursday, classes like today make me really excited that I decided to go into education.
Ending on a high note