Years in Education: 7-10
Urdu Language, Culture of Pakistan, Sociology Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: When I start teaching a new group of students I dedicate the first session for ice breaking activities. In the introductions, when I get an answer I respond to that and have some little chat about it.
For example, when talking about last book we have read, I will engage in discussion about the storyline or characters of the book and compare it with a character I like, or story I have read. So I intentionally try to create commonalities with my students.
Once I was in the girls school in my maternal village and I wanted to discuss with them few important things but students were not opening up. So I started sharing with them that my mother was born in this village and she could only go up to grade 5 because the school in the village did not offer higher classes and her parent could not afford to send my mother to the nearby city. This created a commonality which was needed.
Another important thing for finding the common things is that I always consider that the students sitting in front of me are human beings like myself and if for some reason they are not performing well in class I always keep that in mind that they might be facing a challenge in life outside class. Students are not learning machines.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Finding common grounds is perhaps the start of journey which teachers and students embark on.
I have seen it in many cases that if students and teachers do not have things in common then the students will not open up. If the wall of unfamiliarity is taken down between the two parties then learning expedites.
In Pakistan, I was dealing with a group of young learners who were particularly fond of the sport of cricket. I was trying very hard but they were not responding. When I found out that they all love cricket and I myself was a cricket player, then I started bringing examples from cricketing world. I started using names of cricket players in the lessons and brought in cricketing scenarios and it worked so well. From that point onward the students always waited for my class.
Once in America I was teaching Urdu as a foreign language and the class was not very lively. I learned a game 'Simon says...' which my students knew and made a translated version of it in the Urdu language and the barrier broke. Everybody loved it. So yes, it matters.
Umar is a 2017 TED-Ed Innovative Educator. He is currently working with the University of California, Berkeley's study abroad program in Pakistan.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.