This year has been a pivotal one for me in many ways, especially with respect to my faith. In September, I started a teaching job at Curie Metro, a Chicago Public School. I was teaching environmental science to grades 9 through 12. This was my first year teaching and admittedly I made some rookie mistakes. My lesson plans were sometimes disorganized and sometimes I came to school a few minutes late. But I was quite surprised, when after only a month of teaching, I was let go. My boss said it was mainly because I didn’t have the proper certification, but when I pressed her, she said that my teaching performance was also a factor. I was out of work for a couple months and it was a really trying time. I signed up to substitute-teach and from time to time, I was called to do that. I started to wonder if I really wanted to keep teaching. In March, I got an interview at Islamic Foundation School (IFS), a private school, for a job as a high school biology and chemistry teacher. I had been hesitant to apply at IFS because my teaching experience had been in public schools. I was afraid that a private school might be more restrictive in curriculum. Also, I had volunteered at a summer camp at IFS and found the group to be very difficult to manage. But when I started working at IFS, I completely changed my mind about the place. The students were respectful and disciplined. The staff was very collegial and helped me get started. I felt very comfortable in the environment because for the first time, being a Pakistani Muslim did not make me a minority. Also, as a teacher, I found I had more freedom to create original lessons and assessments than I had had at Curie. There were some challenges as well. I disliked the textbooks I had to use and I wanted a bigger budget for labs. However, I found the positive aspects to be much more significant than the negative ones. Working in an Islamic environment has deepened my faith in Allah and my faith in Muslims. I think I have more faith in Allah now because my schedule allowed time for prayer and for reflection on the Quran. I have more faith in Muslims now because I have seen evidence that they can actually run organizations in an effective manner.
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