Making Weekend Islamic School Learning Meaningful

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SHAFAQNA-

One of the questions I receive very often from teachers who work at weekend Arabic and Islamic schools is, “How can I get my students to take Saturday/Sunday school seriously?” This is a sentiment echoed by many parents also who engage in a battle of wills with their child who refuses to go to Arabic/Sunday school.

People often think this is somehow acceptable by justifying it using the fact children are tired from 5 days of “regular” school and what not. This my friends, is the problem right there. You have teachers and administrators who are tired from their week too. Everyone comes in Saturday morning with no energy and you don’t really need to say, “I don’t want to be here” if your body languages does the talking for you.

When I worked as a Saturday school administrator, I made it a point to be in at least 45 minutes before my reporting time. Why? Simple: I do the same thing for my job as a public school teacher. Both jobs are equally important so I held myself to the same high standard on Saturdays too. I also think that we lead by example and if we’re motivated and excited to go to work every weekend, this will trickle down to staff and students.

Accountability is another huge component that many weekend programs are lacking. We need to hold students accountable for showing up on time, having their materials, and giving their best. It is appalling how many weekend programs encourage students to settle for less than their best because it easier for everyone. Parents need to be held accountable for getting their children to school on time and picking them up on time. I don’t recommend punishing a child because their parent is chronically late. However, have a system in place where so many tardies equal an absence and charge parents for after school care. You’ll be amazed how quickly everyone gets to and from school!

A final point: there is a misguided notion that somehow a party each week is what entices children to come to Saturday school. As teachers and educators, it’s our role to make sure children learn as much as possible. Weekly parties are a huge distraction and they can quickly backfire. Plus, it’s expensive to bring in cupcakes every week. Save yourself the trouble and instead implement a monthly initiative that is cheap and easy. We need to refrain from bribing children to behave at Saturday schools when the same child behaves just fine at their Monday-Friday school. When we bribe them with weekly parties, we are sending the message, “The only way you will respect this program is if we give you enough things.”  Teachers should not be negotiating with children to get them to behave. If a child is a consistent behavior concern, a meeting with their family is required. Saturday schools are not baby-sitting services and it’s unfair to the other children that one child is taking away from their learning time. If parents aren’t onboard with program rules and regulations, then there should be a procedure in place that has been mutually agreed upon by families and the program beforehand that can lead to student removal from the program.

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