Dubai: Regardless of who you are, or where you are living, there has always been that special teacher that inspired and supported you in a way that perhaps your parents and friends may not have been able to. As part of the World Teachers’ Day celebrations that fall on October 5 every year, Gulf News spoke to UAE residents and teachers who shared their inspirational experiences when dealing with one another.
Professor Poonam Singh has been teaching since 1988 and currently works at the American College of Dubai where she teaches Sociology and anthropology. She believes that teacher’s role revolves around turning students into socially responsible and accountable young adults. “To me the role of the teacher is not just about preparing young adults to become the leaders of the future. It is about instilling values in them that will be carried in the many years to come.”
Professor Poonam is passionate about what she teaches (which revolves around the study of humankind to understand cultures across human history) because she believes that the lessons learned in class can be utilised in real life. “I once had an incident were a student mentioned to me that his younger brother was being subjected to racist remarks. I was able to help the student shed off the racist remarks by advising her to practice what she was taught in class.”
English teacher at the Dubai British School, Bethan Jones who has been teaching for the past 11 years recalled an incident where she was able to support a student through a life threatening ordeal.
“One of my most memorable experiences as a teacher is on a pastoral level and is probably my most harrowing: supporting a student who suffered with an eating disorder and seeing her slow and painful journey back to health. I don’t think I’ll ever forget visiting this student during her hospital stay.” Bethan believes teachers’ role is the most important in a young person’s life. “We can have such an impact on a young person’s life, and this feeling of responsibility can sometimes be quite daunting. I see teachers as providing role-models. It’s always such a pleasure to receive an email from past students who want to keep in touch and let you know how they’re getting on.”
Professor Fadi Aloul who has been teaching at the American University of Sharjah for the past 10 years, has taught almost every single engineering student since 2003 thanks to his ‘introduction to engineering’ course, taken by 600 students per class. “Teachers teach students how to learn, be innovative, independent and problem solvers. These are the main pillars for building a knowledge based society; it all starts from the university.” Helping students secure seats in world class universities are among the achievements Aloul is proud of as an educator. “Several students were able to secure seats to continue their post graduate degrees at top 10 universities by taking part and winning in projects that I helped and guided them with. It felt great being a part of developing the leaders of the future. As a professor I get to interact with international students and faculty and I get to learn new things every day.”
Teacher Amani Al Jabari, who works at the Canadian International School in Abu Dhabi and has been teaching since 2008, said that teachers have many different roles to play in a student’s life. “Being a teacher is not just about transferring knowledge but it is also about instilling discipline in their everyday lives. This, in my opinion, is just as important because it stays with them as they get older and helps them deal with everyday responsibilities as adults. Amani added that in many cases teachers also have to act as counsellors and provide moral support to students; she recalled a case where a student was dealing with his parent’s separation. “Divorce can have a negative impact on a student’s behaviour and school performance. I once had a student who was showing signs of negative behaviour because of this, as a teacher I was able to help the student by remaining patient and encouraging him in class.”
Ten-year old Amro Al Khatib, Jordanian, who is in the fifth grade and attends the International School of Choueifat in Sharjah said that he has two favourite teachers. “My art teacher is my favourite teacher because I have a passion for drawing and he keeps encouraging me to keep drawing and teaches me new things like how to draw different shapes and faces. Al Khatib added that he also admires his religion teacher for teaching him the principals of Islam as well as its rituals: “I also have a second favourite teacher who is my religion teacher; I like him because he helps me read Quran and teaches me about my religion. My teachers are always there for me and they always answer my questions and help me when I raise my hand in class. They also help me out when I have problems with my friends.
Iranian mother of two, Alaleh Asfia has always admired teachers as a student however after becoming a mother she started admiring them even more. “I am 40 and I am still in touch with some of the teachers that inspired me in my earlier life. They did not only teach me scientific and academic lessons but they also taught me real life lessons, they have shaped me into the person that I am now. After I became a mother I started admiring teachers even more because in some cases students listen more to their teachers and friends than to their parents so teachers have a big responsibility on their shoulder. They are the true shapers of the new generations and they are just as involved as the student’s parents. In some cases students are even more shaped by their teachers that their parents because they spend more time with them in school.
Grade 12 student Mohammad Nassif, 17 who studies at the Indian High School in Dubai has one particular teacher that he admires, his chemistry teacher Yashber Simgh. “I admire my teacher because he is extremely supportive in class, he has great interaction with us students and always encourages us to do our best. He embodies in my opinion what I believe the role of the teacher should be which not only includes teaching but also involves supporting students in a way that parents cannot. This is a big responsibility and role to fill.”
Nassif spoke about an incident where his teacher supported him and advised him when he was feeling down. “During the election time in May for ‘head boy’ my teacher supported me after I was feeling down for not winning the position. He encouraged me to move on and helped me get passed the overwhelming situation that I was facing.”
University student Mohannad Bassem who studies mass communication at the American University of Sharjah recalled an inspirational chemistry teacher that taught him in grade 12. “Miss Engy was one of the most inspirational teachers I had in my life. She made chemistry which is usually a tough subject very easy through her passionate teaching and student involvement. She used to reward us with treats when we received high grades in order to motivate us to do better and her overall positive attitude was admirable.”
Bassem added that his teacher was not only supportive in class but also in day to day situations. “She was a teacher that us students can go and open up to regarding situations that concern us. She also very understood when it comes to the pressure that us students face during studies and so was flexible with the examinations and projects that she assigns during class.”