Issues in Weekend Schooling

    There are a number of important issues when addressing the topic of weekend schools.  They will each be listed and commented on in no particular order.   Other elements will be added to this list as they are studied.

bulletDoes your Weekend School have specific objectives?  I have seen some Weekend School programs in which it seemed that there were no definite objectives for behavior or education.  Indeed, merely "trapping" a group of children on a beautiful Saturday or Sunday morning, in which they would rather be sleeping, and herding them from class to class aimlessly serves little purpose.  Clear objectives must be decided upon and worked towards. 

A Statement of Objectives

1) We want the children to be believing and practicing Muslims. 

2)  We want them to believe in Allah in their hearts and recognize that He is their Lord. 

3)  We want the children to be aware of their duty to Allah and to be motivated to do 'Ibadah. 

4)  We want the children to have knowledge of the teaching and practices of Islam.  

5)  The children must know why Islam is a better way of life than everything they see around them. 

6)  We want the children to develop character, better manners and a respectful demeanor. 

7)  We want the children to be able to relate Islamic beliefs and teachings to non-Muslims in a coherent and compelling way.

bulletDoes your Weekend School have adequate learning materials?  I have seen Weekend schools with such a haphazard hodge-podge of books and other items as to make no sense at all either in grade-appropriate material or sequential learning.  Many Weekend Schools teach the same subjects year after year, no matter what age level the students are.   The children grow bored of learning only about the seven beliefs and five pillars.   Learning materials selected are often boring, devoid of creativity and dry.   

If the children start believing Islam is boring, then you will lose them to pro-wrestling, the latest pop singer and the kufr lifestyle in a heart-beat.  Books chosen and topics taught per grade must be varied, meaningful and sequential.  See the Syllabi section for suggestions.
 
bulletHow do we get people motivated, specifically, our "volunteers"?  Some seem to be more dead weight on the school than a help!  I have worked in a Weekend School myself and have numerous friends involved in such activities and can assert that the single biggest complaint, after disorganization and 'bad' kids is the lack of truly committed volunteer teachers.  How do we rectify this situation?

     Dealing with this specific issue, that of getting sincere and committed volunteer teachers in the Weekend school, opens up another issue that must be dealt with first.  If you have a well-thought out program, then it should be easy for people to fall into line and do as they need to do.  If the administration of the school is lackluster or disorganized, then that is what will be imitated by most of the staff.  It may sound strange, we may protest that a committed Muslim will rise to the challenge no matter what difficulties are around, but such sentiments don't take into account that we are only human.  Few of us are super-e-man types.

    In the military, it is well-known that a competent and motivated commander can motivate his men.  In the business world, an effective manager employing a well-thought out plan can motivate his or her workers to achieve new heights of success, etc...  So why should we think the weekend school will just be successful by itself, simply because everyone is "doing it for Allah"?

    Without a well-defined program and sincere dedication from the top, the program will continue to be lop-sided. Here are some suggestions to bring the program, and the volunteers into greater efficiency:

bulletPut the entire plan for the Weekend school on paper.  Your plan should be at least 20 pages long with all variables covered from procedures, syllabi and curriculum to timings, volunteers and even refreshments arrangements.
bulletThe administrators of the Weekend school must be the most competent people in the community, even if they are not doctors, the Imam or wealthy businessmen.  If a twenty year old college student is the most efficient, put him or her in charge, for Allah's sake!
bulletEveryone in the Weekend school should be paid at least $50 a day.  Volunteers are great but paid people have a greater sense of responsibility usually.
bulletNever, never, never hire only teachers of your same ethnic group.
bulletDo not hire people who know nothing about Islam.  Too many weekend schools hire the "have nothing better to do" set.  Just because the person has a Muslim name, was born in a Muslim country, and is well-known in the community doesn't mean he or she knows a whit about Islam.
bulletRequire your teachers to pass an oral and written exam before being allowed to teach.
bulletExplain to the teachers in writing and in a meeting what is expected of them as far as timing, example, dress and instruction is concerned.
bulletHave several teacher seminars in the summer to prepare the teachers.  Give them the books they will be teaching, explain in writing the objectives of each class.  Show them how to teach if necessary.  Bring in experienced Muslim teachers to give this training.  Do all of this at least a month before your school opens.
bulletHave more teachers hired than what you think you will need.  If you think you need only six teachers, hire seven.  This is because you will always have at least one teacher absent. 
bulletDon't be afraid to hire college aged Muslims for teachers in the lower grades. 
bulletRealize that few of the students will know anything about Islam, let alone practice it.  Don't get frustrated over what is not your fault.  Explain to the teachers that they must have great Sabr and that their job is almost like a da'i.  They will literally have to "convert" most of their students to Islam.

More to come...

 

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