Teaching for the First Time

When I started teaching at Baghdad University, I was the only female teacher among 45 teachers.

Newly appointed and not being assigned to a class. The chairperson approached me, saying “can you teach legalese?” I immediately said, “ Sure, I can.”

Once he walked away, I said to myself “ What did I do? Wasn't it the class that Laser tagged their teacher, who left after 15 minutes of class?” unheard of in the School of Law, the most traditional and conservative school at Baghdad University.

“I can do it. I took that class before as a student, what was wrong with it? ”  These are the words that were in my head while trying to prepare for my class.

I had the syllabus and the assigned reading. They were boring to hell. The materials were written in 1920, outdated language, not only out outdated but also irrelevant information.  Students were asked to memorize textbook and get tested on it. No wonder they Laser tagged the professor who was trying to enforce it on them.

What would I different? I had no clue. I couldn’t change the syllabus nor the textbook, it is already mandated.  The class time was approaching and I had no clue how will I conduct it. All I did was reading a couple of books about it. I just read the pertaining chapters, not the entire book.

Next day, I entered the classroom, my heart was racing, it was a huge class, 500 students sitting in an auditorium, where supposedly I should lecture at them. Guess what, I never did.
I went all the way up to the middle of the class, rather than hiding behind the podium. I wanted to have a discussion with the students not lecture at them.

I picked “ my victim” well, I selected the trouble maker, the rebel leader, and I said, “ You…Yes, You” as he was turning left and right like he is  not concerned with a weird smile on his face, saying “me,” “ Yes, you." I said. "Tell me, what do you do if the city shut down your client's business claiming it is not sanitary while you know for sure it is. What is the right course of action, how will you get it reopened? Uhhhh, that was the answer of the rebel leader, then I  turned to the second best bit, and I asked him the same question, of course, he couldn’t answer. I "grilled" several students. Then, I said “ you better come up with solutions and suggestions otherwise the same question is going to pop up on your finals. Class dismissed.”

Next class, I just asked them “do you have an answer for me?” Then, many hands were raised in an attempt to answer my question. They took a turn and answered correctly with details. Of course, I had more complications and detailed questions for them. They didn’t count on me being experienced and actually knowing what I was talking about.
When they provided some accurate answers, I asked them if they know the origin of that concept, and where it from? It came from legalese. I had their interest. Once, I had it, I was able to  teach them what they need to know to become successful lawyers, which what the course was all about.

I must say that it wasn't easy to get adult students who were twice my age to take me seriously as their professor. I was challenged a lot, but I addressed every challenged to ensure the academic progress of my students.

Each class, I presented a new case study, that I experienced as a lawyer. Ultimately, the class became fun, entertaining, and informative. Moreover, the students were able to understand why they were learning legalese in English. A language that they won’t use in the court of law in Iraq.  They learned how to analyze a text, use the higher order thinking skills, evaluate a legal text in Arabic and English.

I felt so proud when the class scored 100%  success results. I felt even prouder when my students appreciate the impact of an accurate legal language.

With less than six months, I was offered more classes, that I can actually teach. I was honored and privileged to receive all these requests. I taught as many as I can.

I must say that one of the most rewarding moments in teaching, was when a young lady approached me after giving a presentation in DC, and she said “ you don’t know me, but you taught my father. He is thankful because it was his first time passing legalese. Thank you”


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