Moinuddin Ahmed, an ideal teacher of English to the students of St Joseph Higher Secondary School, was one of the premier education providers in our country.
He was indeed a great thinker in the field of teaching, whose ways not only taught English but also taught life lessons.“To my father, education was a two-way street and he believed that students also have to come to him with their problems”, says his son, Shadab Moin.
He was good at finding out problems of his students and then tried to solve them accordingly; probably that has made him so dearer to the students.
Shadab also says, “My father once told me to write a letter, I said I can’t write letters properly, then he advised me to write on whatever was in my mind and then he would instruct what to correct and how to correct. He used the same technique to teach other types of writings also.”
He worked hard for the students’ welfare. In our context, students consider unseen essay as a difficult thing so there is a tendency to give them common topics to write about. But his way of teaching was totally different from many others. He would encourage the students to write unseen essays and he carefully chose the topics which were familiar to the students.
“Often he would tell us to describe different interesting things such as cartoons, pictures or anything. His main motive was to teach us the narrative style of writing so that we could think out of the box. This is not what we do in general.” Shadab added.
His way of teaching was very conceptual. He would think about the students as well as make them think also. He knew it better how to bring out the creativity of the students. He would believe in creativity first and then correction would come.
He wrote a book titled as ‘Toddler’s word books’. He thought about how to teach English to toddlers and thus he used the concept of ‘play and learn’ in school.
Every batch of students he taught, believed they were the closest to him. That is because he made each student feel very special. He encouraged extracurricular activities like debate and science club.
He was very active in different clubs of the school. He started English parliamentary debate and he was the founder member of Bangladesh Debate Council. He was like a guardian to the students, but at the same time he was very friendly to them.
“If any student had a problem, he was the go-to person. His guidance helped their personal development. He also was a great advocate for extracurricular activities of students. For instance, he was the head of the debate club of our school. He is one of the pioneers of English debates in Bangladesh”, says Shadab.
Moinuddin Ahmed would believe that fluency of speaking English could greatly be achieved through creating a speaking environment. “I never see someone love his work so passionately. He would tell us to speak in English at home too so that we can develop our speaking skills. He believed in creating a speaking environment at home that would help us to acquire English speaking ability”, Shadab further added.
In 1992, he went to London with some other people to represent Bangladesh. He was also invited by a school in Singapore to design their curriculum and he spent 14 days in Singapore for that.
Sayeeda Moin, wife of Moinuddin Ahmed said that he was very satisfied with his profession; he believed that the best award that he received was his students’ love and respect. Students were his life. They came with cakes to celebrate his birthdays which made him very happy. He was a family person and always took care of his family but students had a special place in his heart and mind.
Sayeeda Moin says, “His achievement from his students is uncountable. After our marriage the two things that he told me not to interfere with was his ‘Mother’ and his ‘students’ and I never spoke about them. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t care for us; he always took good care of us.”
“As a father he always behaved like a friend and not like a teacher. He had an amazing power to make us understand the different values of life”, Shadab says.
Best part was that he was somehow very skilled at performing his duties at the same time as a father, as a friend and as a teacher. He knew it better how and what to say as a teacher, as a friend and as a father.
Shadab added, “One precious advice that father gave me to was, to always have passion and then everything is going to be okay. Whenever I meet any student of my father, the respect and affection that they give is very valuable to me and I feel so proud of my father. I believe whatever I am today is just because of my father and mother.”
He loved to cook new dishes for the family when he got time. In his free time, he would love to listen to music as well. “Every year he would visit different places with us. We went to India and Australia in 2016” Sayeeda Moin added.
His daughter-in-law Asfiya Rahman Dola (Shadab Moin’s wife) says, “He was very affectionate and would take care of the family. Last time when he visited Melbourne, we enjoyed family time together.”
He was a very pious person and till the end of his life he spent his time with prayers and the Quraan.
Moinuddin Ahmed, a celebrated teacher of English at St Joseph Higher Secondary School, passed away on May 26, 2018 at the age of 77.
The writer is working with Bangladesh Post
Teaching of English
by Moinuddin Ahmed
Since English is a foreign language in this country, a lot has been said, written and discussed about how to make the teaching of English easy and interesting for the students.
I joined the teaching Profession some 38 years ago in 1963 at St. Joseph High School, Dhaka. The school was under the Cambridge University of England and the students were prepared for G.C.E. Examination of Cambridge University. I started teaching English in the 6th grade and later on went on to teach it in the higher classes. During these last 38 years of teaching English at St. Joseph & Mastermind I have noticed a sharp eagerness among the students of both the schools, be in the sixties or the nineties, for acquiring the knowledge of English. This great awareness of the need for the learning and speaking of the English language has helped the students to occupy some of the top most positions in quite a number of well known organizations in Bangladesh and abroad today. But all of these students have univocally said that the basics of English they learnt were at St. Joseph. The students I met in 1963 and the ones I meet today are still basically the same – the eagerness to learn and obey is still there. But the results we get in O’levels are not satisfactory, in the sense that more and more A grade marks in English had been expected. But unfortunately due to the system, this dream of ours has remained a dream.
Teaching of English language as a foreign language obviously should aim at the four methods – namely : 1) Listening, 2) Speaking, 3) Reading and finally 4) Writing. A teacher is a person to whom the student looks upto even greater than his parents. So I think that as teachers we also have to live upto the expectation of the students. Concerning English, I personally think a teacher’s ability to master the subject before delivering the goods to the students is the most important. We go into the class room to teach English and the students expect from us some good techniques through which they can properly understand the language. If an English teacher speaks in English in his classes and does not allow students to answer or ask anything in any other language but English, this process of teaching English will be rather simplified.
Since language is very important for communication, we as teachers have to have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Student-centered and not teacher-centered teaching should be practised by a teacher if he or she wants to be successful in his or her occupation. We, teachers, are also human. So we also can make mistakes and we should be brave enough to own upto them if when we make it. Even today I do not hesitate to ask my class, “What is the spelling of Receive ? Is it E before l or I before E. ” This question of mine sometimes puts me into the seat the student is sitting on, which for obvious reasons helps the students to come closer to the teacher. Students should be prepared to take part in the conversations that go on in the class. Class participation is absolutely necessary if a teacher wants to be successful. An English teacher’s prime objective should be to make English language lessons interesting, relevant and enjoyable to the students. It is very important for a teacher of English to see that his method of teaching the subject is just not speaking and hearing. A good teacher knows how to start and end a particular subject matter.
In the higher classes literature teachers should make the surface and the inner meaning of the context clear to the students. When poems are taught in the class, the poems should be read out by the teacher with the proper innotations and pronunciation so that the students can understand the music of the poem. Try to encourage students to memorise poems and recite them. In the English language classes, a teacher should encourage creative writing. A self made essay written creatively should definitely be graded higher than one taken out straight from an essay book. Drilling out of grammar exercises in the competition style (class quiz type) can bring in more of the student awareness.
A dictionary (English to English) should be the best friend of a student and he should not hesitate to consult it as many times as he feels like in a day.
A good English teacher should enter die class and write out the topic he or she is going to discuss clearly on the blackboard before starting the lesson so that the students are aware of what they are going to do in that particular period. This will eliminate the possibilities of a student to be absent-minded. For a teacher the class room is like a dissecting table to a doctor. The more efficiently we, as teachers can carve out the minds of our students, the more effective will our teaching be. Under no circumstances, should students get the feeling of being bored.
English language teaching can be at sometimes get quite boring. Students often get sick and tired of hearing about voice, narration, transformation etc. again and again. It is our responsibility to break this monotony in a playful manner. Divide the class into two groups and ask oral questions on grammar structures to both the groups. The side which scores the highest score is the better side. You have tried to break the boredom of the students.
Teaching of English language should be free flowing, i.e. the transition from one topic to another must be well co-ordinated so that the young mind does not boggle at it. Teaching in the class definitely requires class participation. Teachers are often seen using the full period for themselves without considering even for a moment whether any student of his or her class would like to participate in the subject matter being taught.
There is no end to learning and no age limit too. We learn till the day we die. So learning and consciousness of what you are learning can help greatly in teaching students.
Motivation of teachers and students are also very essential. Motivation of teachers should be from the head of the institution while, motivation of students can be from the very teacher himself or herself. Teachers should be ready to accept alternative correct answers to questions rather than being rigid, that his or her answer is the only correct one.
Don’t try to discourage students by saying “You are hopeless.” “You can never learn English.” etc. These remarks act as negative points in their growing up. Be optimistic rather than being pessimistic. We should teach for the whole class in general and not only for those whom we coach and like. It is very very unethical for us to coach and sometimes force students to come to us for tutoring.
As English teachers therefore, we have really a lot of responsibility. Teaching a foreign language to a student is not an easy task. But I believe that the sincere and devoted teacher will leave no stone unturned to see that his goal to teach the student is successfully achieved.
As I have said before, I would like to reemphasise here that we teachers are also humans. Our economic, social and family constraints are many. But still we are the builders of the young mind, who will one day rule the country. We all should remember that on the day of judgment our creator will definitely ask us what we have accomplished during our stay in this world.
A few points I would like to state for better development of the English language:
1. Start essay (free-hand, without points) competitions in your classes.
2. Start English book based quizzes.
3. Hold seminars with the English teachers of different schools to discuss ways of how to improve the teaching of English.
4. Involve or ask students of higher classes to organise seminars on English.
5. Give a chance for the student to learn how to speak fluently by holding impromptu speeches.
6. Holding of English debates can also help.
7. English teachers of this school should definitely sit together once every month.