This Friday I said goodbye to friends at Al-Risala Academy, an Islamic private school in Mississauga where I’ve taught since December 2015. As the primary program coordinator for Grades 5-8 and Grade 10 Visual Arts, I’ve been afforded some incredible chances to develop my art teaching. The job has pushed me creatively outside of my central subject, too, as I picked up English, Canadian History, and Communications Technology courses during my time at the school. Beyond professional development, undoubtedly the greatest benefit of working there stems from the relationships I built, both with amazingly talented students, and the warm and caring staff who made me feel instantly a part of their tight-knit family. There are so many of them I’d like to thank, but would be nervous about leaving anyone out by mistake; so I will simply say a great, big THANK YOU! to each and every teacher I met that invested so much of themselves into their kids, put such imagination and effort into their lessons, and were so fun to work with. I emerge enriched from our contact and collaboration! I am doubly indebted to you all for treating my sleep-deprived self this year with patience and kindness. It was my first ever as a dad, but learning to balance work and home could not have been done in a more forgiving and family-friendly environment.
My final word of gratitude goes out to Nadim Alwan, Al-Risala’s Principal and founder, for giving me the opportunity to join this unique community and benefit from the many overlapping cultures and traditions that comprise it. Nadim has eagerly shared many stories and parables over the years that have helped shine light on Islam, while maintaining a strong respect for areas of diversity. For this education, and the trust he has shown in me – especially, my more experimental teaching methods this year – I am greatly fortunate.
The better part of my new duties will be to look after my darling daughter, Lucy, picking up where my lovely wife, Laura, will officially leave off at the end of July, upon her return to work. Laura’s a fantastic mum and partner who sets a high bar for the job, so while her shoes will be hard-slash-impossible to fill, I can’t wait to give it a shot! I love every minute I spend with this Lucy kid and am totally psyched to join the ranks of the increasing number of men these days who choose to walk this path. The increased flexibility in schedule should also permit my working in a more focused way on personal artistic projects, my newfound fascination with all things Gamified solidly among them. To my general shock and delight, quite a few of my comrades at Al-Risala told me before I left that they wanted to figure out how to incorporate Gamification into their own teaching, so I’ll be maintaining my connection with the school as an independent consultant to help them do just that, while looking more intently at the field of Instructional Design to enhance my knowledge of curriculum planning. Nerdy stuff.