Interview with Nauff Zakaria, Part 1. March 9, 2015.
SR: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
NZ: I’m a first year graduate student in the Divinity School. And before coming to graduate school, I was a teacher in Texas. My teaching certification is in English Language Arts, and I’m certified in grades 8 through 12.
SR: And what are you studying at the Divinity School?
NZ: I study the ancient Israelites. My focus is Hebrew Bible and Old Testament languages, and an archaeological approach to the Old Testament.
SR: So how did you find the Neighborhood Schools Program?
NZ: I was awarded work-study and I thought I would find something on campus that I would let me study, but when I was looking through the job descriptions, I found the Neighborhood Schools Program and because of my background in teaching and working with kids, I felt like it was the ideal job. I didn’t even apply to any other work-study jobs, I immediately applied to NSP.
SR: We’re glad you did! So at the Neighborhood Schools Program, you’re at Hales Franciscan. Can you tell us a little bit about Hales?
NZ: Hales Franciscan is a Catholic high school on the South Side of Chicago, it’s right here on Cottage Grove (49th & Cottage Grove). It has a really long history; it’s been around for a really long time. Historically, it is an all-male Catholic school, but within the last four years, they’ve started to accept females. So it's a co-educational school, but with a very small female population. Like I said, it has a long history on the South Side of Chicago, so there are a lot of alumni who have come through Hales. Now, it is a very small enrollment, but that just brings a lot to the campus culture and community and the alumni are starting slowly to come back and feed back into Hales, which is good. But it is a campus that’s built around this sense of community.
SR: That’s great that the alumni are coming back. Can you talk a little bit about what your role is at Hales?
NZ: My role at Hales - I work primarily with the science teacher, Mr. Foote. He's been at Hales for six years, he’s a 13-year teaching veteran. I work with him, twice a week, for sixth, seventh, and eighth periods. I work with the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classes and he and I kind of share/tag-team teaching responsibilities. I help out as far as dividing the class so we can both give more of that small group feel to the classroom setting. And I help with grading, inputting grades. I stay after school a lot and we work on lesson plan development, trying to come up with ideas to get the students more involved in the learning process.
SR: You have an advantage in that you’ve been a teacher previously. This year, do you have a favorite lesson that you’ve worked on?
NZ: The best lesson I’ve seen be planned, come to fruition, and the students have been involved in, has been with the 10th grade chemistry class – a PowerPoint presentation that they were asked to complete. The students individually got to select an element from the periodic table that they were most interested in, and our only requirement as far as the selection of elements was that no student select the same element, because we have the whole periodic table. So, they each got to pick an element. They had to give us specific facts about the element, like boiling point, melting point, atomic number. And then, tell me something interesting about the element. And the kids added in graphics and visuals and the transitions between slides and some kids independently suggested using Prezi instead of PowerPoint. But to see them go through the process of developing their presentation, taking ownership of their presentation, and then, getting in front of the class and presenting, and then - part of the presentation requirement was that they had to ask questions of their peers, had to take questions from their peers, and again, this is a primarily male school, so guys can be kind of joking, not take a lot of things seriously. But to see them take their peers seriously as presenters and as audience members and knowing what it was like from developing the presentation to this presentation point, it was…I was blown away by the presentations.
We'll post Part II later during the week!
Nauff Zakaria is a first year graduate student in the Divinity School. She has been working at Hales Franciscan High School since November 2014.
Shaz Rasul is the director of the Neighborhood Schools Program.