Sunday, February 19, 2012

Celebrate Mercy 4

I signed up for Celebrate Mercy after viewing the above poster. With such an illustrious speaker lineup, I can't help but register for it even though I knew little about webcasts and how the whole thing will work.

So on Feb 18, I turned on my computer to view my scheduled webcast. A private link was sent to me via email with which I can access the broadcast. It was supposed to run for 2 hours but mine ran for a little over 3 (not that anyone was complaining).

In that 3 hours, we viewed pre-recorded videos from the various speakers and performers mentioned in the poster. Each speaker spoke for 4 to 8 minutes, but though their lectures were short, the stories they told were very profound. I'd like to share my favourite lessons here but I don't want to spoil the surprise for you :)

Suffice to say my favourite speakers were: Dr. Amr Khaled, Safaa Zarzour, Abdel-Rahman Murphy & Habib Ali Al-Jifri. Actually, all the speaker were amazing but these four told stories about the Prophet SAW that particularly touched me.

The theme of Celebrate Mercy 4 is Love & the Beloved; Muhammad SAW: Lessons from His Married Life. So, we got to hear beautiful stories about his relationship with his wives. Each of the vignettes told reinforces what an amazing man he was. He truly was the Quran personified and a mercy sent to the 'Alamin.

To encourage interaction and to allow people with slower internet connection to catch up, the talks were interspersed with polls, chats and brief ads by the sponsors. The mood was also lighten by performances by Dawud Wharsnby Ali, Junaid Jamshed, Raef [of It's Jumuah fame (a song that gives a fresh twist to Rebecca Black's Friday)] & Mona Haydar.

So, do register for the webcast if you haven't already. There are 5 more showtimes to sign up for and it only costs USD5 (equivalent to MYR15.50). An advice: a fast internet connection is essential in order to keep up with proceedings and to enjoy the experience.

Besides the wonderful talks, it was great being a part of the online gathering of people from all over the world. It's amazing to comprehend that all of us (from vastly different backgrounds and geographical locations) came together for the sole purpose of celebrating our beloved Prophet SAW :)

How I wished I had attended Celebrate Mercy 1, 2 & 3...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weird Day

The topmost floor of Block D has been without electricity since last Friday. And when you have 40 students in a class in a 30 degree Celsius weather..., well that's just recipe for disaster.

Today, even when it's quite early in the morning (7.30am), 3H asked to go to the library (where there's air-conditioning). But I managed to placate them by promising to bring them to the library later this week.

But it was already 10.10am when I entered 3I and the air had warmed up considerably. All the students were busy fanning themselves with whatever material they happened to have at hand and they all looked agitated.

As anticipated, they assailed me with requests to go to the library as soon as I walked into the class.

"Let me think about it", I replied while thinking of a brand new lesson plan to be carried out at the library.

Some of the naughtier boys started chanting "Library, Library, Library" in the hopes of influencing my decision.

I ignored it at first but the chanting grew louder. Now the other boys have joined in the "Library, Library, Library" chant.

Then something weird happened. Two boys started dancing to the beat of the chorus. It looked like a cross between zapin and an ancient tribal dance. Is the heat making my students unstable?

Noticing my perplexed and amused face, now the girls joined in the chants "LIBRARY, LIBRARY, LIBRARY".

My resolve was finally broken when a student said something hilarious while fanning his underarms for effect.

I burst out laughing and said the magic words, "Okay 3I, I'll see you guys at the library". This was met by loud cheers. It was as if I had said tomorrow was a public holiday...

I hope the fans will be working tomorrow as I don't think I can face the tribal chants and dance again...

Saturday, February 04, 2012

For The Love of Poetry

Poetry is hard to get. Some people are really into it but I think most people just don't get it.

I've always loved literature. But even when I was a student, I only gravitated toward the short stories and novels. I felt that poetry is a bit "phony".

I only started to think differently when I attended the International Conference on English Language Teaching (ICELT) last year. The conference's theme was 'Teaching English as a Performing Art'.

Paul Cookson, a poet, was one of the speakers there. He related how one day his daughter asked him to read a poem she had written. He flatly refused.

"Now you may think I'm a heartless father" he said. But he went on to explain that poetry is not meant to be read (silently). It has to be recited out loud. So he asked his daughter to recite her poem and he gave her feedback afterwards.

That was a light-bulb moment for me. So that's how you appreciate poetry!; you have to read it out loud and infuse it with appropriate emotions and some theatrics.

Besides Cookson, Adisa was another poet at the conference. And after attending his session and workshop, I was beginning to like poetry. *gasp*

This new development means that I no longer dread teaching poetry. Below is a lesson that I did recently. It combines the teaching of poetry with a listening activity.

[An aside: We English teachers are trained to teach the 4 skills: Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking. All 4 skills are supposedly equal (in importance) but for the longest time our education system only tests or focuses on the R & W skills. Speaking skills are only starting to get more attention with the introduction of PLBS & ULBS (school-based oral assessment). But listening skills continue to be neglected.]

I was introduced to Boona Mohammed at the Twins of Faith Conference. I bought his album and thought that 'For The Love' is the perfect poem to share with my students.

The poem's opening stanza really captures their attention:
You should only say "I love you" when it is completely obvious,
And does not actually need to be said.
So I pray to God that I love her,
Until my very last breath.
Once they're hooked, you can teach them about rhyming words, simile, metaphor, personification, etc. Another possibility is to do a vocabulary exercise with the weaker students.

All these, however, are supplementary activities because my main objective is to get them to appreciate poetry; to realise that poetry can be engaging; that it is meant to be performed, not read.

So hopefully, after this, my students will be more excited when learning the poems in their literature component and will give a more lively recitation when asked to read the poems aloud.