Asimah Khan is a 25-year-old NNEB trained pre school educator with two and a half years experience working in a Montessori nursery in East London where she lives with her husband and two young children.
What motivated you in taking up a career in pre-school education?
From an early age I was drawn to children and knew that I wanted children of my own and was generally interested in learning about how to raise them correctly. I was particularly interested in education being fun and wanted to learn about how to turn everyday mundane activities into a learning experience. Whilst growing up in the East End, I witnessed firsthand the negative attitudes of a large proportion of Muslim youth towards education and I passionately felt that we must work from an early age towards changing this.
I used to work in the local mosque teaching Islamic Studies to six year olds and thoroughly enjoyed the experience but also realised that I needed professional training to really do justice to the children. I strongly feel that teaching without training can damage a child, as you really need to study a child and then teach according to its own ability.
What does the training involve?
The NNEB course is a two and a half years full time course comprising both theory and practical training. The work placements were 6 months each and covered working in a hospital, working with toddlers and with babies. During each placement one child had to be studied in depth. Throughout the placements there were regular meetings with the tutor, group discussions and presentations.
I feel the training gave me an insight into the development of the child, both physically and emotionally and the theory was complimented with the hands on experience which covered the whole pre school age spectrum.
What impact has this training had on the way you teach your own children?
I feel this training has greatly benefited my children. I am able to show them that education is fun, we are able to learn in a multitude of situations virtually every minute of every day and we are sowing the seeds for lifelong learning. Firstly I am better able to understand the needs of my children and I can assess their capabilities, then I can tailor activities towards this. For example my eldest son is left-handed and writes a number of letters backwards. In order to understand him I have tried writing with my left hand thus I can assist him in how to correct his writing in a realistic fashion.
Could you give me some practical examples of lifelong learning?
Asimah opens a large green holdall, which is full to the brim with assorted paper, various wrappers and packaging including red netting, tin foil, toilet rolls etc
This is my Arts and Crafts bag. As you may have noted the vast majority of items are things that would usually end up in the bin. I feel that we waste a lot of useful items in this way the majority of items that we purchase come in assorted packaging which is ideal to use to create pictures, models collages, mosaics etc with the children as well as teaching them not to waste. A number of my friends in this area are not well off and cannot afford to buy special craft materials for their children. They often feel due to this that they are not doing enough for their children. I feel however it is our duty to reuse, and recycle as much as possible and in the process we are teaching our children a very important Islamic principle.
In the same vein although it is nice to arrange to take our children on educational trips this again is costly, time consuming and often impossible when there are siblings of various ages to care for also. My approach is to make every day activities opportunities for learning. Walking to the school in the morning and talking about the buildings we pass, the people we see, the trees etc are not only valuable learning experiences but also show the child how natural and easy it is to learn.
One of our major barriers is the undervaluing of education amongst the males of our community. How would you advice coping or overcoming such a problem?
My female friends commonly ask me this and this is indeed a very difficult yet relevant issue. Coping with it in your home i.e. if your husband is not supportive can be tricky but not impossible. You must lay down basic ground rules for your husband to comply to, mainly in regard to their own behaviour when with the children. They may not support the women in their efforts but what they should not do is undermine this through their bad example. Ultimately overcoming the issue will take time but this is why I feel it is so important to educate our men in particular so that future generations will not have to face this problem. I have two sons myself and sincerely hope to break this stereotype in my family, God Willing.
Would you be happy for MCBDirect readers to contact you for further advice?
I would be more than happy.
Asimah was in conversation with Dr Sangeeta Dhami