Learning about Islam from Muslim college students

This morning, I emailed a Duke student, Ahmed Alshareef, who had written a particularly thoughtful set of answers to my world history students’ questions back in April when I was still teaching (see next post for more context).

I asked Ahmed in my email if he minded if I shared his six page response on this blog.

Here’s what he wrote me back, less than six hours later…

Steve,
Great to hear from you again, and I’m really hoping for the best for this new school you’re planning. It sounds like a wonderful idea. Teaching about awareness in a global context is the best way to break past these stereotypes that come form lack of education.
Of course you can use whatever I wrote! You can or not include my name, it’s all up to you and whatever makes your blog more effective. And if you have any further questions, please ask away. Once you start things with the school also, I would be glad to assist in any way.
I’m going to start following your blog, it seems really interesting. I also wanted to share with you my and 7 other Muslim Duke students experiences over Fall Break. We went on a five day trip across NC to explore different Muslim communities. Some of the stories we found there were both joyful and heartbreaking. They show the diversity of bond of the Muslim community. The blog is http://nomadsofnc.wordpress.com/. Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas or you could use the articles in any way!
Again, feel free to use my answers and please let me know if you need anything else!
Ahmed

So now, with Ahmed’s permission secured, here is a link to the six page document he wrote for my students at the end of last school year (it’s a Google Doc). It contains many thoughtful responses that help a reader to empathize with what it feels like to be a Muslim student from Gaza who went to primary and high school in the South and now attends Duke University.

It’s sad to me that so few of my students last year had the time to read Ahmed’s document — the unit on Islam grew too long, and by the time I got Ahmed’s email out to the students, we had to move to a new topic so that we could superficially “cover” more topics (in theory, our class was to cover the whole range of history from prehistory to 1500 CE in one year).

I made reading Ahmed’s email optional, and sadly, most of my students were too busy and without a grade attached to it, they opted not to read Ahmed’s response.

At the middle school I’m planning to open in 2013, we will be student-centered, and when the opportunity comes along to learn about Islam from someone like Ahmed (perhaps sharing dinner with him some evening, for example), we will have the flexibility to fully explore such possibilities.

If you read the next post in this blog, you will see that the hajj, currently taking place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was the impetus for my emailing Ahmed. I’m glad I did 🙂

There are more details about the hajj and a cool picture from the front page of today’s Washington Post in the next blog entry as well.

This post is about me modeling how middle school students could be mentored so that they can do what I just modeled. They should be learning to develop their own learning networks and find their own teachers, just as I found Ahmed to be my teacher as I learn more about Islam.

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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