Real talk: Reflections on a challenging year & how compassion made the difference

Art of a teacher holding hand with her students

REAL TALK: Reflections on a challenging year & how compassion made a difference

By Dr. Shaza Khan

Art of a teacher holding hand with her students

At the beginning of this school year, I shared a personal reflection on the IECN about how difficult this year had been for me and my sons (6th & 7th grade). Now that the school year is over, I am feeling all kinds of feels… But my reflections bring me to one critical realization: Now more than ever, we need compassionate teachers and compassion-based schools. More on that in a bit!


Student working on a laptop with school supplies in front of them (Online Schooling)Alhumdulillah, Mashallah, as I looked at my kids’ final grades today, one of my sons, he did great. He’s finishing off the school year with mostly A’s. As I suspected he would. Remote instruction worked with his learning style and he was able to stay organized and on top of things for the most part.

But my other one, he struggled. A lot. He was in a “gifted and talented program” at his other school, but this year, he was failing several classes. The online environment was a sea of distractions for him. Missed homework assignments. Late to class. Never-ending technical issues. This child, he is ending the school year with less impressive grades, but he is passing all of his subjects, alhamdulillah. And I couldn’t be more proud of him for persisting.


A notebook with the sentence "You're Capable of Amazing Things" written artistically Back to compassionate teachers. When I think about what helped my struggling child get through this school year, it was hands down, compassionate teachers. Teachers who didn’t give up on him. Who didn’t write him off as a kid who was ‘not paying attention or ‘didn’t care.’ Who understood that we are all going through things that others cannot see. Who gave second chances. Who followed up with him (and with me) when he started to slide off track again. Who didn’t let him fail, because they know… students don’t fail; schools fail students. 

Being a compassionate teacher is not easy. But it is needed, now more than ever. As most schools prepare to open in person, I wonder, are we prepared to meet the social and emotional needs of our students? Will we treat them and school as we always have? Or, are we equipping ourselves as teachers and leaders to know how to respond compassionately so that all of our students can succeed, academically, socially, emotionally– and even spiritually?


Mother Helping her son with school workAs a mom, this is personal. If my son didn’t have compassionate teachers, wasn’t given a second chance, and didn’t have teachers who believed in him, he would not have passed this year. As an educator, I know that having compassion as a teacher is best practice because we cannot help a child achieve their full academic potential until we attend to their social and emotional needs first. And as a Muslim, I know that compassion was part of the Prophet’s pedagogy and is amongst Allah’s Divine attributes.

With all of this said, I’m excited to share that ISLA has partnered with Define360 to provide a compassion-based SEL training for Islamic school educators this summer. COMPASSION BASED SEL TRAINING — LEARN MORE!

My sincere duas to all of you who have put in so much to help struggling students, like my own child, and for not giving up on them. Jazakallah Khairan for all of your efforts, sacrifices, and more! May you be rewarded abundantly!

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