Shahzaib Latafat - Teacher from Pakistan 

Times of Youth: How would you describe yourself? Do give us a brief introduction.

Shahzaib Latafat: I am a hardworking and determined individual who is trying to excel in his profession. It has been three to four years since I have been a part of this field and I am pursuing my education alongside it. Every year, I work hard to improve my teaching skills and find ways to make challenging course materials easier for my students to study. My students believe that I am quite good as a Mathematics teacher and I really hope they do not just say this out of respect. Teaching certainly is not an easy profession because it is immensely time consuming and I have to keep myself constantly prepared for classes. When I first started teaching, I knew I would encounter students who would test me before they could rely on me for good results so I had to maximize my efforts in order meet their expectations. And as I have mentioned, I am a very determined individual who does not back down from a challenge. Therefore, I work extra hard so that I can succeed in my profession.

Times of Youth: Who inspired you to take up this profession?

Shahzaib Latafat: I do not think anybody inspired me to take up teaching as a profession. I knew it would be my call because I had always wanted to contribute towards making a positive difference for the coming generations. Educating children is very important to me because through education, teachers can guide children to become better human beings or even, future leaders. They can also have a positive impact on students’ academic learning which is quite essential. I had a feeling that teaching would give me personal satisfaction because I would get to interact with children on an educational level and see the great potential they have, in order to live full and meaningful lives. I also knew that it will be a great learning experience for me because through this profession, I could acquire a better sense of personal efficacy and experience greater interpersonal development.

Times of Youth: If not this, what else would you have taken up as your 2nd career of choice and why?

Shahzaib Latafat: I don’t think a second career choice has ever been in my mind, unless you count my childhood days when the decision of my future profession would change from a doctor, to an engineer, to a businessman, or even a cricketer. I think that even if I had encountered any form of failure in my teaching profession, I would still have pursued this career with firm determination and undaunted by any setbacks.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how has your experience has been in your current field so far.

Shahzaib Latafat: The early years were challenging as I had to work a lot on time management and handle the difficult task of coping with the new schedule. I also used to be really worried about meeting the high expectations of my students. However, I have grown as a teacher and my experience has been really good so far. The students have responded well to me and I have been able to build a strong connection with them, which allows me to push them beyond what they thought they were capable of. They seem to look up to me as their elder brother rather than a teacher and realize that the subject is not as difficult as they believed it would be. I have also gotten much joy from seeing the hard work of my students pay off in the form of good results, especially when many of them did not believe that they could get through O’ and A’ levels with such good grades. I think seeing their excitement at their results has been my greatest achievement as a teacher. However, I still get worried about their results because I want them to get the best possible grades. I believe that it comforts my students when they know that the one teaching them is caring enough to be equally worried about their results.

Times of Youth: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself as a teacher, honestly?

Shahzaib Latafat: It is very difficult to rate oneself as a teacher because all teachers are in a constant state of development. I guess I would rate myself as an 8. I have been working hard for the past few years to make sure that I meet the expectations of my students. I want to make sure that I educate them in the best possible manner so that they get the most out of my classes. Apart from teaching, I also make them practice a lot of sample questions because mathematics require both teaching and practicing for the students to fully comprehend the concepts. However, even though my students love me as I am, I think that I still have to improve a lot more before I can be rated as a 10.

Times of Youth: What is/are the most challenging aspect/s of your career?

Shahzaib Latafat: There are several challenges that I think most teachers encounter, including myself. One of them is to bring every individual student on the same level of understanding as the teacher’s so that they are able to grasp the concepts well and do not lag behind. Another difficult part of this profession is making the students learn all aspects of a subject so that they would be fully prepared for all possible ways in which exam questions can be thrown at them. I think one of the most challenging issue that normally all teachers face is classroom management. Teachers have to acquire a balance between maintaining discipline in class and making sure that the lecture does not get boring. Therefore, they constantly have to come up with ways to keep the students engaged in class because that captures their attention which in return allows them to have a better understanding of the course material. You also have to keep them motivated so that they do not lose interest in the subject.

Times of Youth: What kind of a student were you in your schooling years?

Shahzaib Latafat: Most of my students ask me this question. People often think that a good teacher must have been an exceptional student of his time. They will be surprised to know that the reality is a lot different than what it appears to them. I was an average student in my class. I see my reflection in the students I teach as I was no different than what they are. Acts of mischief, plea for holidays, hard work, tension of assignments, worry of exams and fear of results - all of it was there as it is now, and accurately sums up my schooling years.

Times of Youth: Who according to you is an ideal student? Have you ever come across any?

Shahzaib Latafat: Every student is distinct and ideal in his/her own way. As a teacher I have come across various students: some of them are really strong academically; some not so good but very hardworking. My ideal student is one who is undaunted by challenges, hardworking and sincere, responsible, respects his teachers, and possesses good ethical and moral standards. All my students are ideal students for me, in one form or another.

Times of Youth: Comment on the rational value of today's educational syllabus system. As per your observations, what else should be included/deleted and why?

Shahzaib Latafat: Today’s education system is far from perfect. Instead of encouraging students to be creative and think for themselves, it has promoted rote-learning. It has also shaped a mindset which emphasizes more on getting A/A+ grades than on actually understanding and retaining the knowledge conveyed to the students. The students are valued by their mark sheets and their potential is not given its deserved importance. In my opinion, the educational syllabus should not just focus on student’s skills of memorizing but should give due important to his/her creativity and comprehension skills. Its focal point should be on teaching students analytical skills so that they are able to critically examine the information provided to them instead of becoming memorizing puppets. If given a chance, I would alter the educational system in such a way that it creates an environment where every student learns to value his/her talents like they value their grades, and where they ‘want’ to learn not where they ‘have’ to learn.

Times of Youth: Which Guinness world record would you like to set?

Shahzaib Latafat: I am not really interested in setting a world record because I do not teach to gain popularity; I do it because I really love teaching and I am passionate about it. However, I do not know if it counts as a world record or not, but I want to educate as many children as I can because unfortunately, our country’s literacy rates are really low. I want to educate them so that they go ahead in their life and make a positive change in this world too. They are the future of this country and they need to eradicate the problem of illiteracy from Pakistan.

Times of Youth: Who/what is your ideal?
Shahzaib Latafat: My ideal has always been the person who is a role model for all of humanity: The Holy Prophet (PBUH). From my childhood, I have tried my best to implement the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in my life. The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) life teaches us that an individual cannot achieve anything without hard-work, perseverance and commitment. I have tried to act upon the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by being steadfast, patient, honest and sincere.

Times of Youth: Which current personalities do you believe are the most influential in today's times, especially for current younger generation?

Shahzaib Latafat: Looking at the size of younger generation and their diverse interests, it really is difficult to say that all of them look up to the same personality. The name, fame and money of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates has grabbed the attention of a greater fraction of the world’s population but on a national scale, cricket fever is at hike which makes cricketers like Afridi, the most influential personalities for the current generation. I have had numerous students who give me updates on cricket matches just like professional commentators. Imran Khan, cricketer-turned-politician is another influential personality who is admired by the younger generation for leading the country to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. His political party has attracted a lot of youngsters who are interested in politics. Another influential personality is Abdul Sattar Edhi. He is a great philanthropist and social activist who has done so much for this country in terms of welfare and yet, still remains a modest and humble person.

Times of Youth: Please comment on how YOU would like to bring a practical and rational change in the condition of the world using your skills.

Shahzaib Latafat: The condition of the world can only be changed if individuals are willing to change themselves. I would love it if I could make the students of today, the leaders of tomorrow. I want them to be great thinkers, who think not only for themselves, but also for the nation. I would like to set an example for them by perfecting my behavior because I know that students look up to their teachers and are inspired by them. I would put in extra effort to not only teach my students mathematics but also work on improving their nature so that they become good human beings who possess moral and ethical standards.

Times of Youth: "Education is a mission, but today it has become a lucrative business” your comment on this?

Shahzaib Latafat: It might be for some people but we should not generalize. There are lots of teachers in the country who choose this profession because they sincerely believe in “Education is a mission”. Therefore, we should not rope everyone into the same category or assume that education has become a lucrative business for everyone.

Times of Youth: What message would you like to give to the youth of today?

Shahzaib Latafat: My message is simple. Study hard and be sincere in whatever you do. You should not be afraid of failures because they are a part of life and you cannot succeed without them. Do not for a moment think that hard work doesn’t pay off because even if it does not in the short term, it certainly will in the long term. You also need to bring a positive change, individually and in turn collectively so that this country suffers no more than it already has for the past sixty-eight years. Strive hard to make this country a better place for everyone to live in happily. And do not forget that you have to always respect your parents because they are your guides in this world. Finally, and most importantly, never let go of your moral principles!
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