Zenab Mohammad, In-Charge Project Based Learning Department at Badri High School, Karachi, talks about teacher and student development in this exclusive interview.

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1. How did you become a trainer?
I became a trainer the day I entered my first classroom as an English teacher seven years ago. The prime role of a teacher is not to teach the content but to train and counsel the learners in a way that they not only learn but start applying it in life. Some opportunities made me explore the trainer in me in the year 2017 when Badri High School allowed me to conduct my first in-house teacher training workshop. Since then I have been conducting professional development workshops and sessions for teachers, students and parents.

2. What skills do you think are necessary for achieving success?
I believe that focus on the goal rather than the obstacles is the vital element for achieving success. If success is a delicacy then the basic ingredient is faith in oneself. If you believe in yourself and envision yourself as a success, there is no power on Earth that can hinder your path.

I did my Matriculation in the year 2007 from Badri High School. The same year I got married. Practically my academic journey came to an end. There was no way to pursue my education at all because of the birth of my son and increasing responsibilities as a daughter-in-law in a joint family system. In spite of all the obstacles, I pursued my education because I always felt a void inside me. I have always wanted to tell my son that education cannot be compromised for anything. This desire of mine led me on to the continuation of my academic journey. This decision of mine looked difficult and challenging. But it only took “faith” and “focus” as mentioned above to reach the goal.

3. Do you think our schools impart relevant skills to students?
Yes, I feel that some schools are really trying their best to impart relevant skills to students. There are schools where the personality development of a child is the prime objective of the management. I am proud to be a part of one such school that is playing its role in transforming learners’ personalities holistically by providing them all sorts of tools, resources, and aids where they cannot only learn but apply what they have learned in their lives. It requires a great vision on the part of the school to be able to impart what should be imparted in a desirable and productive way.

4. How important are communication skills for students and professionals?
Communication skills are the key to success for students and professionals. We have thousands of examples around us who are highly successful because of their effective communication skills whether it is spoken or written. Its importance is not just limited to our academic or professional lives. Our personal lives are also at the mercy of this skill. Effective communication helps you not only in securing a job but also facilitates you in securing it and improving it. On the other hand, relationships whether academic, personal or professional can be taken care of with good communication skills. As a teacher, it is our responsibility to acknowledge the significance of this skill in front of our students so that when they are mature enough to take care of their personal lives, they know how to communicate in a desirable way. The same way, these students can be aware of how this skill might help them in their professional lives.

5. You have been an educationist for many years. What change do you think is needed in Pakistan’s educational system?
I feel that there are a number of gaps in our educational system. Firstly, the system lacks uniformity in terms of provision of services. One can witness this very clearly while visiting a public school. Secondly, the system fails to provide a hiring policy for teachers, especially in the private sector. You will be shocked to see girls and boys who have done their Matriculation, teaching in schools. There is a dire need of establishing criteria whereby these novice teachers are not directly sent to teach students. Thirdly, dedicated, committed, academically sound, professionally trained teachers are not provided salaries which they deserve. Employees working for private banks or such institutions are given incentives in terms of medical allowances or bonus salaries. Sadly, a few schools are working for the betterment for their teachers by providing them with perks which they so badly need. Lastly, liberty to teach the content in a way that the teacher feels will be more productive to the students is also lacking in many private schools.

6. What workshops and training have you conducted?
This journey began by training the teachers of Badri High School in Project Based Learning (PBL). Since then, it has been adopted as the prime pedagogy of our school. Badri High School has its own teacher`s training institution known as BIRD (Badri`s Institute of Resource & Development). Under the wing of BIRD, I and my team took Project Based Learning to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), where we trained the teachers of a renowned institute called PELICS in Mardan. This was the first time, PBL was introduced as a methodology there.

This journey of learning and teaching allowed me to conduct numerous workshops in Al Jamea tus Saifiyah, a renowned Arabic University belonging to Dawoodi Bohra Community including the SMART Approaches to teaching Huffaz. This topic was special as it brought to the forefront some psychologically endorsed methods of teaching. A session was given to the senior students of Al Jamea tus Saifiyah on “the LOST art of Questioning”.

In addition to this, Winter Learning Festival was conducted in Badri High School where BIRD provided eight professional development workshops. I conducted a workshop on the topic “Lesson Planning for the 21st-century Classrooms”. I have also conducted a workshop on the topic “ A thousand teachers, a thousand methods” which focused on teaching methods and their validity and reliability in different types of classrooms at Sir Naseem`s Institute. “Pro-active Classroom Management” was conducted with the teachers of the Noori Educators. There are many more projects lined up.

7. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
Presence, mental and physical, in whatever you are doing is essential along with sincerity and dedication. Do not complain that honesty and commitment have vanished from society. Remember, these values are planted inside you. You have plenty of seeds of positivity inside. Just take them out everywhere, especially in those places where it is absent. Lastly; the ingredients for the recipe of success are FAITH and FOCUS.

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