Category Archives: School

Cross-curricula eductaion: Bringing Maths into Islamiyat

I was taking over my grade 1 class from the previous teacher and noticed this beauty on the board:

many angles

And it’s true!

Allah as the creator of everything did in fact create the right, the acute, the obtuse,  the reflex and the straight angle.

However, when the lesson is on arkān al-īmān you’ve got to wonder if it’s the right place to be making this point.



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A new low.

The difficulty in being surrounded by beoble who either don’t speak English or don’t speak it particularly well, is that your own level of English suffers and starts to deteriorate as you endeavour to make yourself understood.

Last year I taught a class full of 6 year old Saudis and without realising it my language skills began to slip. I’d start dropping prepositions, restricting myself to a single verbal tense or simply speaking in a bullet point fashion so as not to confuse the children.

I’d find myself admonishing a child  in a Tarzan-esque language:

“Why you do this? This bad! No do this. OK?”

A further consequence of being immersed in such an environment is that you’re often slow to realise when you’ve stepped outside of it. I remember, after having taught intensely for about two and half hours, I got a message that my principal wanted to see me on an unrelated matter.

I went to his office as instructed and was midway through our conversation when I suddenly became acutely aware that I was talking like a Neanderthal to a man who spoke perfectly good English.

Another corruptive problem that I’ve found stems from the lack of fame the land of Scotland has in Saudi Arabia.

I say this brushing aside for a moment all those Saudis (and a disturbing amount of ex-pats) who’ve seen the film Braveheart and insist on re-enacting it whenever I mention my country of birth.

“Where are you from?” or more commonly “From where you?” can be an everyday question over here; from taxi drivers and shop assistants to the general folk of the street.

I’ve rapidly given up explaining my Scottish decent to off-hand enquiries on nationality from random strangers who seem only able to equate white skin with America.

So, to end such an inquisitive conversation as soon as it starts I often resort to “I’m English” before continuing “How much for the [insert shop product name here]?”

However, yesterday I noticed a new low with my unintentional loss of identity.

I was in a cargo delivery shop looking for quotes on sending items to Edinburgh, Scotland. Momentarily sighing to myself as I noticed that the man had written “Adambr” on his notepad.

But I didn’t feel a compulsion to intervene into his quote-catalogue page-flicking until I saw his finger running down a list of cities of the “United States of America” as he searched for “Adambr.”

Much to my subsequent shame, the urge within me to get the process speeded up blurted out the phrase:

“No, Scotland! It’s in England.”

Now, my mother has been very patient with the various changes that Islam has brought me over the years but I fear that were she to ever hear that I’d identified my homeland as being part of its historic enemy, it might finally lead to the ostracization that things like giving up celebrating Christmas failed to provoke.


Filed under School, The World Through My Eyes

Hospitable hospitals

I was marking some of the grade nine boys’ Islamic studies end-of-year exam papers this morning. Some of the answers they gave were simply priceless.

Grade nine means that they’re about 14-15 years old. Also, some of them are learning English as a second language.

Warning: Do not let your stay exceed three days!

What is the right of the guest?

He should be fully hospitalised and feel relaxed in your home.

What is the right of the guest?

You should hospitalise him and make him feel comfortable.

I think they’re just getting obsessed with violence now.

Write down one hadīth that encourages good character in terms of speech.

Whoever believes in Allah and the last day should either say good or if wanting to say something bad remain quiet and should hospitalise his neighbours.*

Well it depends on who’s invited you really.

What is the right of the guest?

Right of the guest is to be kind to the hosts and if they invited him he should regret the invitation.

Ship ahoy!

What part of the female must be covered in the salāh?

From bow to stern…

Um, I hope he doesn’t come to a masjid that I’m in.

What part of the male must be covered in the salāh?

… the pants or trousers must be below the knee

It was actually amazing how many boys specified, by name, the male reproductive organ when answering the question above.


* Now just so that we’re balancing the comedy with knowledge here, the hadīth that we were looking for was:

Abu Hurayrah (radiy Allahu ‘anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent. Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day honour his neighbour. Let whosoever believes in Allah and in the Last Day honour his guest.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

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I shouldn’t laugh but…

I think I mentioned before that I teach 6-7 year old boys in an international school.

An integral part of the English program is the weekly spelling test. The words selected for the tests are mostly words that are spelt phonetically (i.e. they are spelt like they sound). This way it also serves to help their reading develop.

Last year I learned that you need to be careful which words you select for these tests because innocent spelling errors, whilst entertaining, can be startling.

For example, when I set the word “crop” for them to learn about 40% of the class changed the vowel when they reproduced it in the test. I subsequently opted to remove the word “shot” from a future test. I’m omitting some other examples here but there have been more.

Anyway, this one really took me by surprise. The theme for the spelling this particular week was comparative endings, i.e. adding ‘-ed’ and ‘-est’ to words. The word was ‘fast’ and it’s companions were ‘faster’ and ‘fastest.’

I particularly like his ‘-est’ derivative, I think I’d like to use it in a sentence one day.


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The Next Generation of Literalists.


This blog is rapidly turning into a compilation of school happenings but children do say a lot of amusing things, so I guess I could live with it if it did go that way.


I’d just finished teaching my lesson and bent down to pick up my bag and said “OK guys, I’m off now!”

One of the children threw his arms up in the air and let out an emphatic cheer of “yeeEEEEAAaah!”

I put my bag down, called him over and explained to him that it wasn’t a very polite thing to say to his teacher.

He explained.

“My Dad, he say for me, anything your teacher tells you – you say ‘Yes!’”

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Learning the classics


“Teacher, do you know Latin?” my seven year old student asked me expectantly.

I thought, mā shā’ Allāh, his parents must have told him that the English language has roots in other languages.

“Yes, a lot of English words come from it.”

I said yes in the sense that I know of it, rather than I can actually read, speak or write any. I don’t want anyone here thinking I’m more of a book worm than I really am.

He seemed satisfied and having established that we were now on the same wave length proceeded:

“That boy, he make la’in for me *points at the child sitting at the desk behind his*”

La’in meaning to curse, i.e. “that boy cursed me!”

And there was me thinking I had a child genius on my hands.

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Sounds the same


When you teach small children how to read it’s very important that they learn the phonetic sound that a letter makes even more so than the actual letter name. Once they’ve mastered recognising the letter sounds you can move onto letter blends (two or more letters combined together into one sound), along with recognising some basic sight words (words that just have to memorised as-is because they don’t sound anything like they’re written) and before you know it they’re able to read small sentences. Although admittedly most of these early sentences normally involves cats sitting on mats in some shape or form.

One day I was introducing the word ‘at‘ to my class. I wrote it on the board and then made an elongated ‘ā‘ sound swiftly followed up with an over emphasised and abrupt ‘t!’

One of the enthused kids jumped up from his seat “Teacher! Nine ten!”

“Uh!” I said.

“Teacher, teacher! Nine Ten!”

“Erm, yes. Eh, very good well done, ok now sit down.”

“Teacher, at, nine, ten!”

“Ahh!” as it dawned on me what he was actually trying to tell me. “No, ‘eight’ is a different word but very well done for trying.”

Mā shā’ Allāh!


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