CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Each year the teachers of Muhammad Universities from around the country convene to examine and implement innovative and effective strategies to transform the educational realities for our children who often find themselves victimized by the American educational system’s shortcomings.
At last year’s educational conference, the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan challenged Black educators to create a new educational paradigm that would serve the needs of our children. With that goal in mind, concerned parents, educators and administrators from many cities gathered here August 6-8 to participate in the 2nd Annual Educational Conference.
“We wanted to have a conference where we bring school educators together to connect and begin to develop a plan to affect our schools in our nation and the schools in our community,” said Dr. Larry Muhammad, national director of Muhammad University of Islam and convener of the conference.
This year’s opening and closing keynote address was delivered by the gracious and enlightening Sister Minister Ava Muhammad, who is also an attorney and no stranger to Chicago.
Sister Minister Ava is a wife, mother and author who has worked as a trusted assistant to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in his mission for 28 years. During her long tenure of service, she made history by becoming the first woman to preside over a mosque in the History of Islam after being appointed the head of Atlanta’s Muhammad Mosque No. 15. In addition to her lengthy list of accomplishments, Sister Minister Ava served as the Instructor of Islamic Studies for the sisters when Muhammad University of Islam, in Chicago, resumed in 1989.
In her address on August 8th, Sister Minister Ava shared with the teachers and those present the depth of the responsibility that lies with them to bring in the new realities that await them.
“We have to train our children to think 20 years in advance of where they are now,” said Sis. Ava, encouraging teachers and teaching parents to take their children traveling and to expose them to places they may not ordinarily attend, stressing that they cannot strive for things they cannot imagine, beginning with the very cities they live within. She said parents and educators have a duty to prepare students for the future, and through “experimentation, we grow in knowledge.” She also stressed the importance of incorporating “theory and application” in dealing with children. Children need to learn at a faster rate in order to make the most out of their formative years.
Later during the afternoon session, Dr. Muhammad discussed “Operational and Instructional Management” with administrators from across the nation. In a separate session, parents and teachers attended a workshop on “Primary Instructional Strategies” with Sister Mychelle Muhammad and Sister Kabasa Muhammad. The participants were pleasantly surprised to be treated to a phonetic rule demonstration by a four-year old M.U.I. kindergartner who was being promoted to the first grade this fall.
On August 7, Dr. Abul Pitre, author of The Educational Philosophy of Elijah Muhammad, set the tone for the rest of the conference as he shared thoughts on what type of education The Honorable Elijah Muhammad wanted his followers to have. According to Dr. Pitre, all education must have a focus on helping the student to get an idea. When they develop their own ideas, they become the God of that idea. Dr. Pitre said the Hon. Elijah Muhammad said, “Get an education that gives you an idea and desire to get something of your own, a job of your own, a country of your own.”
During his presentation, Shahid “Math Doctor” Muhammad, explained that mathematics is involved in everything we do, from cooking to music. Brother Shahid, an author who conducts math seminars and training workshops for educators nationwide, challenged the participants to learn more about great mathematicians so that they may share the knowledge with their students.
Sister Donna Farrakhan Muhammad, daughter of the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan told mothers and teachers that they should accept the responsibility that God has placed on their shoulders to bring forth the Kingdom of God.
“Mother is the first teacher of the child, so we are given an opportunity to mold and shape family, community and humanity. You cannot trivialize the profound effort of bringing in the Kingdom of God,” said Mrs. Farrakhan Muhammad. “We say He makes all things new, Christians say in Christ all things are possible, so if we feed off of God and Christ, we can change any condition that comes into our classrooms. Poor behavior, drug dealers, girls devaluing themselves; we have the power as teachers to change this if we understand our role. Not just teachers but shepherds over the sheep. God didn’t lose one because we have the tools given by God, Christ and his helpers in our midst today,” she added.
One of the highlights of the August 8 session included words by Dr. Anthony Muhammad of Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Muhammad said educators basically belonged to four groups: “The Believers, The Tweeners, The Survivors and The Fundamentalists.” He explained how “Believers” are good teachers who believe every child has the ability to learn; “Tweeners” are the new teachers trying to do their best; “Survivors” are educators whose only goal is to make it to the end of the year and the “Fundamentalists” are experienced educators that are the “vanguards of tradition” who adhere to a strict set of basic principles that may sometimes prove detrimental.
“Education is really the management of words working through human beings. We must be very specific when working with complex issues and is not as simple as it seems. It takes years and years of experience to break bad habits. It is a process, but we must be scientists in the new world to be effective,” said Dr. Muhammad who also authored a book, Transforming School Culture in which he explains how to overcome staff division to improve relationships and transform toxic school cultures into healthy ones. In her message on August 9 from the Nation of Islam’s headquarters Mosque Maryam, Sister Ava said the key to educational success is motivation. While the old educational paradigm uses requirements, “the new paradigm uses inspiration,” she salso cautioned educational administrators to avoid the short-sightedness and lack of vision of companies like IBM, Sears, and Xerox–goliath companies that failed to recognize the need for change and found themselves suffering as new ideas and new technologies began to dominate society.
Other presenters and workshops included Brother Jason 2X and Abdul Muhammad of Chicago, who discussed “Strengthening Islamic Studies and Strategies,” Sister Kelmer Muhammad who dealt with “The Art of Teaching,” Brother Donnie Muhammad, “Charter School Development,” Brother Durce Muhammad of Houston who discussed “Middle School and Adolescent Education,” Brother Tony Muhammad of Miami “Bridging the Gap Between Generations Through Hip Hop,” and Sister Lisa Muhammad and Sister Valerie Muhammad presented a workshop on “The Value of Developing Good Character in our Students.”
“The primary goals were to reinforce the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as it relates to good character. Also it reminds us that character is not an extracurricular activity but it is one of the most important values to instill as we train children to be God-fearing adults,” said Sister Lisa R. Muhammad, a conference presenter and Dean of Girls at M.U.I. in Chicago.
Dr. Cynthia McQueen, the principal of Torchlight Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina flew 14 of her teachers to the conference as a part of staff development.
“The 2009 Education Conference has been enlightening and reaffirming for me,” said Dr. McQueen. “We all strive to improve our schools to ensure we are offering an exemplary education to our students; however, we can’t truly effect significant change without quality professional development,” she said.
(Abisayo Muhammad and Melissa Muhammad contributed to this article.)