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Challenges of Weekend Schools and some Solutions

By Sound Vision Staff Writer

Sound Vision is working on a solution to one of the most important challenges of being Muslim in America: educating our young.

Despite the best intentions, our present Weekend School (Sunday School) classes are inadequate for a variety of reasons and our biggest problems remain- what do we teach and how do we go about it?

We want our next generation to be well-balanced, knowledgeable Muslim adults, who can positively connect with society at large.

Here are the facts of our present situation

Ninty-nine percent of Muslim children attend public school. They are not receiving an Islamic education (though they do have a golden opportunity to convey Islam to other children through their exemplary conduct).

Weekend Islamic schooling is usually only three hours, at the most. Since these children do not attend any other Islamic school, these three weekend hours are crucial to their Islamic education.

Weekend teachers are usually well-meaning and highly motivated volunteers, though they usually lack:

1. A formal education in Islam

2. Experience teaching children and young adults.

3. Clear lesson-plans, resources and support materials to follow.

4. A proper commitment to the task. As volunteers, some of them fail to take the task seriously enough regarding punctuality and class preparation.

5. Proper facilities. The Weekend School environment is vastly inferior to the environment provided at weekday schools, showing a conspicuous lack of adequate space, good books and state-of-the-art learning tools.

Our children’s reactions, therefore, to weekend schools are often negative:

1. Often forced by their parents to attend, many children see weekend school as a punishment rather than the privilege that it is.

2. Most children, when old and bold enough, say “No!” to their parents whenever Islamic Weekend School is mentioned.

Problem points in the classes:

1. Teachers repeat topics unnecessarily, or fail to bring the subject to life.

2. Teachers may not respect or acknowledge the intelligence of the students adequately.

3. The class atmosphere is negative and overemphasis is placed on moralizing–-more “Don’ts!” than “Do’s!”

4. Culturally formed, the teaching style may be old-fashioned rather than effective in a modern American situation.

Recognizing the problem

Sound Vision is working on a solution! Certified Muslim educators and thinkers have begun to develop Weekend Muslim School Lesson Plan which will be made available for free on the Internet for immediate use AND for the Muslim Community’s input.

Sound Vision’s Weekend Muslim School Lesson Plans will provide clear and engaging guides to follow over a teaching span of five to ten years, suitable for all age groups. They will provide easy-to-use tools for classroom management.

They will present ways to make classes interactive, through cooperative projects, and questions and answers. Testing plans will be included. And all of this will be made relevant to here and now-–American Muslim life in the 21st Century.

The lesson plan will help prepare a busy volunteer teacher to do a better job in class by investing as little as 20 minutes before class by including:

All the points that should be covered.

Tips on how to make classes interactive.

Discussion topics.

Appropriate questions, with quizzes and other methods to ensure class participation.

Tips for class control (class psychology, rewards & punishments, etc.).

Tips for obtaining additional resources from websites or source books.

Teaching tips for preparation to teach a unit before entering the classroom to help focus the teacher, and provide complete and accurate information to give a teacher full confidence in teaching.

The basic foundation teachings of Islam will be divided into units rather than “grades”or “levels”of teaching. This will allow students, parents, and teachers to choose subject units that are needed, and will avoid the tedium of repeating material unnecessarily.

The units will be divided into three areas:

1. Quran, Sunnah, Aqida (core beliefs), Fiqh (jurisprudence) and History.

2. Our world, our time, and tools to deal with them. A Muslim perspective on modern society. How to live Islam today.

3. Our personal relationship with Allah and all human beings.

Co-development process

These exciting new Lesson Plans will be responsive to change and fine-tuning, through a website invitation for comments and suggestions.

We are not creating a fixed model. The lesson plans will be dynamically responsive to the input of its users. Once we write a series of units, we will first share them with cooperating weekend school teachers who will try them out, and also put them on the Internet as an Open Forum responsive to your suggestions for additions or changes. And we will continue this Open Forum even after it has begun to be used… (Sound Vision is simply an expeditor of this very collaborative educational project!).

How can you help?

These Weekend Muslim School Lesson Plans are in the early stages of their development. We need your participation to ensure its success!

If you have Islamic Weekend School experience, please share it with us!

If you are a current Islamic Weekend School teacher would you be willing to participate in an exploratory survey of your students and return it to us?

If you have a Teacher’s Certificate and writing skills, can you volunteer time to help us write some of the Lesson Plans?

As a Weekend School teacher, would you be willing to use these plans on a trial/experimental basis?

The Weekend Muslim School Lesson Plan project is one more example of Sound Vision’s commitment to the community… and our answer to an urgent need.

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