In 2008, I began my first teaching practicum in Vancouver, Canada. I was teaching a secondary-level course in Literature of Muslim Societies and Civilizations.
To plan for this class, I read the curriculum multiple times and created a well-structured unit plan based on the learning objectives in the Teacher’s Guide. I divided the topics up evenly – beautiful pieces of literature by individuals such as al-Jahiz, Mawlana Rumi and Farid al-din Attar – and developed an exciting task for the final project.
It was only when I entered the classroom and really ‘met’ my students that I realized something was wrong. In my mind, I had selected such fascinating pieces of literature and yet my students were disconnected, even indifferent.
When I looked at their faces, I was suddenly flooded with internal questions. Who are these students? What are their stories? What do they want to learn and why?
I had planned for a faceless, nameless group of fifteen adolescents. There was no design, and therefore, there was no connection.
I got over the disappointment, accepted the failure, and sprung into action. I decided to rework my unit plan. I used student feedback and anecdotal evidence from the classroom to extract a theme that would provide creative space for personalization – ‘Search’.
This theme spoke to my students; it drew them into trans-historical dialogue. Students were excited to explore how each piece of literature demonstrates an individual search for something that is apparently missing – truth, justice, understanding, enlightenment, change, or certainty.
With even a slight sense of design, students began to connect to the pieces, to one another, and to themselves as seekers, as humans.
Eight years later, I see design as integral to curriculum planning. I constantly ask myself questions about the relationship among the students, the curriculum, the teacher, and the space.
How can we create learning spaces – physical and virtual – that place the diversity of human experience at the centre? How can we create spaces that are equitable, inclusive, and vibrant with intercultural exchange?
In the following chapters, I share my journey in education, scholarly work, creativity, and curriculum design.
You will see art and photography strewn within each chapter – unless otherwise stated, the pieces are my own.
Welcome to Cosmopolitic Designs.
Excite! (2010), acrylic on canvas
In the Present Yellow (2010), mixed media