Friday, July 1, 2011

Inspiring or discouraging?

Today was my fifth day of teaching and I’m really enjoying myself. Today is Jumm’ah, Friday, so classes were short to allow students to pray the noon prayer. This is a national rule—all schools are supposed to end early on Friday’s as this is an important day of worship for Muslims.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten this so the short classes are definitely throwing me off my syllabus and schedule. I had one hour—very short but enough time—with each class to get through the introduction of journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s book, The Elements of Journalism.

I had each student read aloud a paragraph and tell me its meaning in Urdu. This was my way of checking their comprehension. Of course, vocabulary was the biggest challenge for both of us: I struggled to explain the meaning in such a manner so that my students could understand and my students struggled to grasp the words’ meanings without simply memorizing verbatim the gibberish in the dictionary. I have also found that what I consider to be my everyday-speaking-as-a-normal-person vocabulary is not easily understandable to my students. For example, I had to explain what “obviously,” “commitment,” and “offend” mean. And it was hard.

Based on the feedback I am getting, it seems that the students are also enjoying themselves. Teaching journalism in the worst country for journalists is … well, let’s just say not the easiest task in the world. A good teacher is supposed to inspire its students; sometimes I feel like I’m scaring mine. Very recently, Saleem Shahbaz, a 40-year-old Pakistani journalist was found dead near Islamabad after writing about the links between the Pakistani military and al Qaeda. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the current political situation in Pakistan has made practicing ethical journalism impossible. Reporting the truth has become deadly. The goal of my program and initiative was not to instill fear but rather, educate the youth about the importance of truthful journalism in a society that is in chaos.

My ‘dangerous country’—as the West calls it—needs honest people and it is my hope that these children learn to be honest, if nothing at all, from my program.

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