Safaa Anan, my mom, a heroic teacher and a role model who has forged the person I am today. Brought up by my grandpa who was an elementary school teacher too, my mom highly praised teaching, planting in me an eagerness for learning. She taught me how learning is absolutely not just a need, but rather a stimulated want and a way of living. Arriving in Canada holding onto her teachings and onto a dream, I started the journey of furthering my education through postgraduate studies leading to a PhD. Through this journey, I was able to observe how my needs were promoted —according to Maslow— to the top of his hierarchy, where self-actualization is found. At every station, it has unspeakably amused my soul to feel I am one step closer to my dream of being a teacher.
Meanwhile, I have been deeply thoughtful: what amazing opportunities I was given, how I was warmly welcomed, endlessly helped, and mentally supported, and how much of love I witnessed along the way, as well as how furthering my education helped me accomplish the level of self-consciousness I was seeking. During this self-development process, guided by my mom’s morals and honoured by her history, I have remained keen on being a peer tutor and a teaching assistant in every program that I have been a part of. I felt, in this way, I was returning the favour. Part of my job was to academically help my tutees, and also to socially integrate them. I was privileged that they shared with me the challenges they had, and I shared with them my experience. It was really wonderful and pleasing to observe how they were up to their challenges. With minimal guidance, they were all brilliant, and I discovered that all what they lacked was big smiles, big hearts and opportunities. Reflecting on their journey as well as mine, I realized how being embraced and cheered in our new homeland, Canada, could be a magic, that contributes to a significant change in one's life, and such experience made me learn to advocate for the ability of individuals to reach their full potential, regardless of their identities.
In 2015, I was offered an employment by the student success initiative at Mohawk College. During my tenure, I received few appreciations for my participation and for my ethical behaviour on the level of confidentiality, awareness of human rights and acts of discrimination, for promoting of integration, diversity and inclusion. “Pierre has demonstrated enthusiasm and dedication to his Student Leader role by volunteering for additional events on campus associated with the Peer Tutor Program” said Andrea Brienesse, Student Success Initiative at Mohawk College.
I have also supported a number of innovative research projects funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HECQO) at Mohawk College related to academic advising and early support services for new, incoming Mohawk College students. “Pierre welcomed over 900 first-year students to Mohawk College with eagerness, enthusiasm and pride in his college community” Said Megan Pratt, M. Ed. Supervisor at Mohawk College. I was also part of a team which connected over 450 in-need students directly to a Student Leader, providing personalized advice for success. “The success of this projects is a direct result of the diligence, professionalism and initiative that Pierre exhibited” Megan added.
I will continue my efforts to unlock students' true potential, and above all, I will share love, promote diversity and equality, show respect and demonstrating compassion to all my students thereby helping them develop their own inspiring stories, just as my mom and, humbly I, once did.
Alfie Kohn once said, “Educational success should be measured by how strong your desire is to keep learning.” That is why I consider my primary goal as a professor is to ignite the desire for learning
I aim to highly engage my students by beginning my lectures by posing interesting questions and then letting them wonder, discuss, and participate in group conversations to discover the answer(s). That they all know they are not required to have an answer encourages them to be comfortably engaged. From my own experience, I note that this strategy attracts most of my students’ attention and curiosity, and, returning to my goal, sparks their desire for learning. By the end of class, I have asked every group to reflect on their initial conjecture or supposition and how it relates to the facts or theory stated in the lecture. Because most of my students would have their first hands-on-training in the college, I put much effort into correlating theories to real-life problems and giving examples on how they can be applied. My method of participation, in fact, breaks down most of barriers that potentially exist in my class.
My role extends far beyond just teaching my students. I teach them how to learn, and one way their learning can be enhanced is to summarize. Summarizing is effective in increasing the capacity of learners for retention. So, I dedicate an online space as a reflective journal for students to share their summaries and inputs on each module, and to comment on their peers’ journals, too. This requires students to actively process the information they have been given in class and the information they have researched and to reformulate it as their own experience. In addition, I understand that making mistakes is part of our learning process and development. Hattie (2009) found that one of the most effective ways of learning is to give constructive feedback. That is why I illustrate positive and negative aspects of students’ answers in feedback on every assignment or task. I also allow time to meet with my students who still need further clarification. The feedback adjusts the student’s perception of the theory and reinforces the understanding using a real-world example.
Another challenge that I have encountered is the variable cognitive load of students. A research paper at Harvard University, “The Overflowing Brain” by George Miller (1956), concluded that students’ brains can only retain few simple pieces of information at the same time. So, I realized that the best way to foster retention is to design some time to allow my students to take notes on what they have learned from time to time. To increase their cognitive abilities, I also dedicate the beginning of class to reviewing what we have previously learned. Studies have asserted that repetition significantly increases students’ ability to retain information. After all, I encourage students to get to know themselves, their strengths, and their weaknesses, as metacognition differs from one student to another. Consequently, they will be able to plan their own learning themselves the way they will be able to best perceive, process, and retain information.
To conclude my statement, my advocacy for teaching stemmed genetically, not only from my maternal side, but equally from my parental too. My grandpa for my dad was known as a self made man who dedicated the majority of his revenue to building educational institutions in the village where he lived, as well as the surrounding villages. His generosity, devotion and selflessness were always a source of pride to our community, and that's why I take a positive attitude towards myself. Self-esteem complemented with passion for teaching, for Architecture and Urban Planning, for my students and for learning, have all contributed to building who I am - a proud teacher. When students observe this self-esteem, and this passion, a teacher becomes a role model, and a student becomes interested, only then learning happens, and that’s what I offer.
I recognize my best achievement every time I observe how much of an impact I had on my students when I read their feedback on my teaching in semesterly reports, and when I see how grateful they always are even after years of leaving my class. Their appreciation touches my heart and to me it is success when I observe their progress and evolution. I commit to keep igniting their desire to discover, unlocking their true potential, showing respect and demonstrating compassion.
As for my future goals, I will continue learning, from my PhD, from my peers, and also from my students.