The generation gap is a term popularized in Western countries from the 1960s to reflect the rapid and ever increasing cultural changes between society’s older and younger populations. The immigrant factor is a term I coined to refer to parents from another country who represent a whole different set of ideals, principles, and values (usually viewed by kids as more conservative than American society). Together, this leads to communication barriers between the parent and child.
In the "Islamic" setting, youth often assume alienation from facilitators/teachers because they relate us to their parents and assume the same communication barrier they hold with their parents. But, an idea can only have as much power as we give it. In other words, it's only a generation gap, if we let it be. How can we make sure the generation gap doesn’t exist in our classrooms? There are several things you can do as a teacher, regardless of the school context or age group you teach. Here are five important tips to consider implementing in your classroom.
1. Love your students. The key to connecting and winning others over is extremely simple: make them feel important. We have examples of how to do this in the Quran. Allah repeatedly quotes his messengers and other wise men in the Quran addressing their children with words of affection, regardless of the daunting, sometimes confrontational message. Nuh (A) addressed his rebelling son with the Arabic phrase, "Ya bunayya" which means “oh my beloved son.” Ibrahim (A) also used these words to address Ismail (A) to fulfill Allah’s commandment to sacrifice his son. The wise Luqman said to his son, “Oh my beloved son! Do not associate or share with Allah, what only belongs to him.”
Regardless of where our students are in terms of practice, we need to treat them with the same prophetic love as Prophets Nuh, Ibrahim, and the wise Luqman, and not give up on them, just as the Prophets didn’t give up on their children until their deaths. We need to love them the way they feel valued and appreciated. Elementary school kids love hugs, so hug them (as do my teenagers). Others might like “high-5”. The goal is to communicate how much you love them and genuinely care for them in a language that is theirs—including verbal and nonverbal ways.
2. Include. Rasulullah (S) used to ask his wife, "Is it ok if I stay up to worship all night?" Why would a Prophet need to ask his wife such a question? There may have been many reasons, but one certainly shines through: The Blessed Prophet did