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With the cooling of the air comes the realization that summer vacation is ending and school will be starting soon. This propels a lot of parents to get into high gear and go shopping for school. Back to school sales lure us into the abyss of school supply shopping. Even children fall prey to this commercialization where everyone is made to believe in order to be successful each year a whole new gamut of supplies and “necessities” need to be purchased. The supply lists sent home from school which include the ‘one box of facial tissue’ and ‘one box of band-aid’ to alleviate the pains of an already maxed out system are not uncommon, but I’m attending to the self written lists that go on and on into the world of addictive commercialism. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the average family with children enrolled in kindergarten through high school will spend $669.28 on back-to-school purchases. 17 states now offer a “sales tax holiday” giving families a break when purchasing back to school supplies. Others offer an income tax exemption on the same items.
From clothes to shoes to lunch bags to pencil boxes, these harmless necessities may encourage excitedness in school the first few weeks, but the latest version of the tablets, the iPods, the smartphones, and the gazillion other technological luxuries that pervade our lives have gotten out of control.
This week’s image of the madrasa Bou Inania of Fez, Morocco was to remind ourselves of how little a student actually needs. The Madrasa has student dorms/rooms located around the inner courtyard. Each room is just that- a room, a space for solitude and focus. Unlike today’s classrooms or college dorms which are hyper-wired with technology, things and ‘to buy’ charts. The beauty and simplicity of the madrasa resonates with me to this day. It is the only madrasa in Fez which is open to non-Muslim visitors and perhaps that’s why we hear about it’s spectacular architecture so much. Focusing on the building and it’s outside beauty we see what we are missing in our schools and classrooms today. We, as teachers, over stimulate with bulletin boards and artwork outside and wires and smart pads inside. Recently, school districts in New Jersey, Los Angeles and others threw out their laptops and iPads to get students back to education and teachers back to teaching rather than fixing the multitude of issues rising from having to troubleshoot devices on a daily basis.
Let’s arm our students with what is most important and necessary at the start of a school year first- an enthusiastic attitude, gratitude and excitement- the rest can follow later, InshaAllah.
Have a great year!
Can you name and locate this school? Winners will be announced on Friday on our Facebook page.
“Devshirme” in Turkish means “collecting” and in Ottoman times, children were “collected” from around the empire and brought into the capital to be taught and trained to serve in various positions in the empire. Students who showed military inclinations were trained to become Janissaries – the Emperor’s closest army. Those who showed intellectual capabilities were trained to become public officials, viziers, or climb the ladder to reach the position of the Grand Vizier (the position closest to the Sultan). In the Devshirme system, which existed from the first half of the 15th Century up until the end of the 17th Century, the Ottoman Sultans created a class of civilians who would be loyal to them and were educated within the principles of the Islamic religion and Turkish culture.
When I visited the Topkapi Palace, on our trip to Istanbul last year, and learned more about the Devshirme, what struck me was not the conspiracies and negativity that surrounded this historic act, but the wisdom this system imparts to us educators today. Let me be clear that I’m not for taking children away from families- the fact that I homeschool speaks to this. What I like about the Devshirme system was the deep and careful understanding that the teachers had about each of their students’ abilities. It was through this astute insight that teachers would filter them and let them flourish in the area that is best suited for the student. According to Imam Ghazaali, it is “imperative for a teacher to know the temperaments of each of his students.” Do we know the temperaments of each of ours? Do we know our own? Do we know how the two interact? As educators we are all compelled to “teach every student” and “leave no child behind”, but do we really do what’s best for the child? Are we envisioning their future and keeping their aptitudes in mind?
Temperaments or mejaz, is an Islamic concept, not a new age hippie trend that people seem to associate it with and dismiss. The Prophetic medicine (Tibb an Nabiyyi), talks about balancing our temperaments. Shouldn’t we learn about this and use it for our benefit and for the benefit of our children?
Resources to begin the journey of learning about temperaments:
Just sharing a few poignant quotes from family physician and author Dr. Gabor Mate. He writes and speaks extensively about addiction, attachment, mental disorders and more. He is a storehouse of knowledge and I do recommend reading his book,
Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers,
which is co-authored with Dr. Gordon Neufeld.
Below is an interview with Dr. Mate taken from Sun Magazine.
Join our little contest- tell us what you think this picture signifies! Yes, this is from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. The question is what is this particular image of? A window to the world? A view within? What do you this it’s significance is?
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