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Archive for June, 2010

He had one of the most unpleasant experiences of his life in one of the most magical cities in the world. As my grandfather arrived in Cairo for a three-day visit to see the glorious pyramids in 1964, dusk was already approaching. The courtyard he saw from his hotel room on the 8th floor in Tahrir Square came to life as various food stalls assembled, and across the Nile, numerous dots of light decorated the area that was being used for an exhibition/flea market.

The city beckoned him and he obeyed.

A quick decent and he arrived in the courtyard at the foot of the hotel. He recalls being dismayed with the dirty state of the place; tourists and other visitors had simply thrown their leftovers onto the floor, possibly expecting the Egyptian gods to miraculously clean up the streets.

My grandfather then decided to visit the exhibition on the other side of River Nile and lost track of time in the bustle of the bazaar. It was midnight when he returned to his side of the river and, realizing he was starving, ordered a quick burger from one of the food venders.

He went back up to his room and snuggled into the bed, looking forward to relaxing before meeting the Pyramids the following day. However, sleep had not been ordained for him because the burger turned out to be gastronomically lethal.

Several trips to the bathroom drained all his energy; when room service arrived, my grandfather was unable to get up and open the door. The hotel manager, who promptly arrived, gave him a small glass of whiskey (I have no idea why) and after failing to get his hands on a doctor, gave my grandfather a cup of Lemon Tea, and a tradition in our family was born:

1 cup boiled water
1 teabag
2 teaspoons sugar (we like it sweet, but it works without sugar too)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.

It worked like a dream, and my grandfather slept like a baby for several hours. A second cup of Lemon Tea restored his health enough to be able to tell the manager to reschedule his flight so he could head home as soon as possible.

He had no regret (at the time) about not being able to see those famous mystical structures so you can imagine the height of his relief!

To this day, whenever someone in our family has tummy problems, we know we can depend on this time-tested recipe. Come to think of it, although my grandfather’s experience in Cairo was unpleasant, that city still worked its magic one way or the other.

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man teaching students

Ensuring Learning Takes Place

This is an article he wrote several years ago, about his general feelings towards the profession of teaching, which he was once a part of.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ~William Arthur Ward

Teaching is a noble profession. Indeed, it is a sacred trust from God Himself for He sent down prophets to teach, refresh and update the knowledge of mankind to keep human progress on track. Now, the responsibility for the continuity of human development and progress has been delegated to the teachers in this world; it is their sacred duty.

The Raw Material

All professionals change raw materials into finished goods and in the case of teachers, this raw material is the mind of a student, which is like soft plasticine/play dough in the hands of skillful craftsmen, who can give it any shape and character. No doubt, teachers can mould their students into harbingers of peace and progress, or they create criminals, murderers, terrorists, and destroyers of peace and progress.

Times Are Changing

The task of teachers is by no means easy. During the last 50 years, knowledge has exploded; new discoveries are taking place almost every day and what is true today becomes outdated tomorrow. Because modern media bring knowledge into our homes, the human child today is more informed and also more confused than ever before. He/she comes to school with a head that is full of half-baked knowledge, both good and bad, and often loses interest in class or concentration if nothing new or fascinating is being taught. This is because old, frontal teaching methods have lost their effectiveness.

Great thinkers had defined the role of the modern teacher centuries ago but their lessons were forgotten. They preached that a teacher is less of an expositor and more of a planner, a guide, an editor and encourager of the student’s efforts. He/she is supposed to polish the intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual abilities of the student.

Following this drift, teachers now have to work very hard and keep themselves abreast and ahead of students; they have to read plenty, be innovative, and prepare diligently in order to command respect, attract attention and maintain discipline in the classroom, and above all, to ensure that learning takes place.

Teaching is Futile if it does not Lead To Learning

That teaching produces learning and that learning is the result of teaching are twin fallacies upon which traditional schools are functioning in Pakistan and most developing countries across the world. In more of our schools, a lot of teaching, but not much learning, takes place. Often, questioning is a taboo, despite what the teacher may claim and a majority of the emphasis is on completing the prescribed courses and passing exams, the latter of which are usually designed to test the rote memory of students (testing retention, not absorption of knowledge). No surprise, our schools achieve cent percent results. Student may obtain excellent marks, but in more than half a century of our existence, we (Pakistanis) have not produced any inventor, discoverer, explorer, scientist, mathematician or even politician we can boast of globally.

If we really want to educate our students and change the fate of the nation, we have to put more stress on learning, rather than teaching.

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