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“ …Indeed I (Nabi Muhammed [S]) have been sent (to mankind) as a Muallim.” Al-Hadith

Whilst the learner is indeed central to the teaching and learning scenario, the position of the Muallim/ah is just as important. The role played by the Muallim/ah is indispensable. Giving or transferring information and knowledge to the learners is just one of his/her major responsibilities.

1. The Muallim: A Unique Role-player
The individuality and uniqueness of the Muallim/ah is a commendable and praiseworthy factor in the education process. The learners have the advantage of being exposed to different personality types, mannerisms, ways and methods of teaching and a unique style of pastoral care from their different Muallim/ahs.

Inherent within this “uniqueness” are also some disadvantages. Muallim/ahs need to be mindful of these, as they can impact negatively on the learners’ learning process. A brief summary of some of the pitfalls that Muallim/ahs need to be wary of, include inter alia.:
• Different Muallim/ahs teach differently… some more effectively than others;
• Language patterns differ one from the other;
• Some are overwhelmed by the responsibility entrusted to them;
• Those with serious family upheavals are sometimes not able to handle the pressure;
• Then there are those, who view teaching as a steppingstone to another vocation; and
• Some are more “pastoral” and caring than others.

2. Why are some Muallim/ahs more successful than others?
2.1 There are distinct and different criteria that separates the “good Muallim/ah” from the “not too good Muallim/ah”. One very significant criterion is when the learners place their trust in particular Muallim/ahs and progress very well when they teach them.

2.2 When learners are taught by certain Muallim/ahs, their retention, recall and application of the learnt material is very encouraging. This is generally a clear indication of the pragmatic, interesting and lively manner in which the lessons were presented.

2.3 Some Muallim/ahs transcend the expectation of mere imparters of knowledge. Their advantage over their colleagues is the fact that they positively influence and shape the character, attitude and ideals of their learners.

2.4 Another very salient distinguishing factor for success among the Muallim/ahs is their overall religiousness and taqwa [Allah-consciousness].

2.5 The role-model that some Muallim/ahs present, is also a vitally important factor in categorising him/her as a “model” for the future leaders to follow.

2.6 To a large extent, success in any teaching-learning scenario is also determined by the Muallim/ah’s perception of his/her learners. Positive perceptions, create greater opportunities for sound co-operation and subsequent success.

3. Among other things:
3.1 The Muallim/ah should serve as the mentor of his/her learners. One of the more significant tasks of a Muallim/ah is to purposefully, shape and develop the mind, opinions, attitudes and character of his/her charges [learners].
3.2 After consciously and carefully initiating the classroom-activity/ies, a conscientious Muallim/ah will then direct and referee the lively learning operation.
3.3 He/she has to be thoroughly conversant with, and prepared for the many vitally important roles that he/she has to play.
3.4 It is absolutely imperative for the Muallim/ahs to attend regular workshops, seminars, in-service education and training [INSET] programmes and other such professional development and guidance programmes [PD & GP’s]. This is the only guarantee that a Muallim/ah remains a student and keeps himself/herself abreast of the latest trends and developments in the dynamic world of didactics in education.
3.5 Administrators should consider awarding points to Muallim/ahs for:
• every PD & GP or INSET programme they attend;
• their initiative in providing organised feed-back to their colleagues upon their return; and
• their actual implementation of the “newly learnt material” in their normal teaching.
3.6 These points should then be taken into consideration when considering any promotion and/or meritorious achievement award to Muallim/ahs.
3.7 The Muallim/ah needs to set the best example in terms of his/her:
• Strict disciplinary code;
• Regular attendance;
• Punctuality with regards to his/her arrival and departure times;
• Akhlaaq [conduct] and general mannerisms;
• Readiness to provide extra classes for the slow learners and/or for the adult community at large;
• Preparedness and keenness to organize, participate in and supervise extra- and co-curricular activities for the learners;
• Participation in the community’s social activities;
• Getting involved in spiritually enriching programs; and
• Judiciousness in accepting gifts and favours from learners who may wish to express their appreciation to their Muallim/ah in some concrete way.

4. Recent research: How young learners view their teacher
Learners [learners] are shrewd assessors of those who teach them. The findings of a recent research regarding learners’ perceptions of their teacher/s is summarised below.

The Muallim/ahs [Teacher/s]
The friendly Muallim/ah
The unfriendly Muallim/ah
Makes class work interesting
Is always scolding
Is very understanding
Punishes whole class for the wrongs committed by some only
Always cheerful
Embarrasses learners in the presence of others
Treats all learners alike
Frightens the learners
Encourages questions
Discourages questioning… gets angry
Ready to explain concepts so that learners understand
Poor mannerisms which irritates learners
Is always willing to talk to the learners
Is not willing to talk to his learners
Helps learners with their problems
Always selects the same learners to help him or run errands for him

5. A Overview
The Muallim/ah needs to be sensitive to the feelings and emotions of the learners. An effective handling of the learners’ sensitivities is a major factor in easing classroom tension. If this is followed up by appropriate and lively questions and discussions, an ideal climate can be created for a productive and meaningful Muallim/ah-learner interaction.

Additionally, it is incumbent upon the Muallim/ah to manage his/her learners as impressionable human beings … human beings who are to be carefully moulded into future leaders of the ummah. This, is one of the reasons why Islam and Islamic teaching and learning requires the Muallim/ah to be not only a man/woman of learning, but also a person of great virtue and piety.

Such a conduct by itself will have a huge impact upon the minds of the learners. When they begin to positively identify with their Muallim/ah, they will not hesitate or doubt to accept and emulate him/her.

Indeed, this will be the crowning glory and success for any Muallim/ah!