Recap: ISLA Leadership Retreat 2018
This year’s ISLA Leadership Retreat took place from December 14-16, 2018 outside of Tampa, FL. Sixty-six participants from full time Islamic schools across the country engaged in presentations and workshops related to the theme, “Beyond Academics: The Unspoken Challenges Facing Students Today.”
The weekend conference began with a Jummah khutbah by visiting Imam Zaid Abdelrahim whose highlighted the importance of the environment that Islamic schools provide for our children and families. Dr. Madiha Tahseen from The Family and Youth Institute was invited to speak about mental health, suicide prevention and bullying. These sessions were funded by a generous grant from Islamic Relief USA.
Dr. Tahseen provided the educators with information and resources to help them identify the warning signs of a suicide and how they may be able to prevent suicide if they are aware of these signs. As a board member of an Islamic school that had to respond to a student suicide, she shared the challenges they faced in helping their school community cope with this crisis and how other schools can know what to do if a student threatens to commit suicide, or if the unfortunate circumstance befalls them.
To prepare the Islamic school leaders to think through crisis situations such as suicides, intruders on campus, or life-threatening health situations, Dr. Tahseen and ISLA Board member, Rasha El-Haggan, facilitated a session on developing crisis response plans for Islamic schools. They engaged the participants in ‘real-time’ scenarios of a crisis unfolding in their Islamic schools.This helped the participants consider the complexity of crises and how their plans can assist them in such heated moments.
Sr. Afeefa Syeed, principal of Al-Fatih Academy in Virginia and Imam Zaid Abdelrahim presented on family and sex education in Islamic schools. Ms. Syeed discussed Al-Fatih’s philosophy and approach towards this topic, how a curriculum can be created and developed, as well as the challenges facing schools in implementing what is increasingly becoming an important aspect of nurturing the holistic child while Imam Zaid shared principles of teaching these topics from the Quran and Sunnah.
In addition to the workshops and presentations, participants also had opportunities to go canoeing, take a canopy walk atop the Florida palm trees, practice tai chi, and connect with one another over a bonfire while sharing personal stories of how they have made a positive impact on their students.
The Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) is a professional organization for full-time Islamic schools and educators in the United States. Co-founded by the late Karen Keyworth and Judi Amri, the organization supports Islamic schools, in part, by providing professional development to teachers and administrators. One of its main programs is an annual Leadership Retreat, for Islamic school leaders and teachers. It also has the most comprehensive school registry for full-time Islamic schools in the US and operates a discussion group in which Islamic school educators and leaders can exchange resources and ideas pertaining to Islamic education.