I was born in Iran, with a Caucasian background and raised up as a Muslim – Shiite. I speak in Farsi which sometimes is referred to as Persian. I come from a family, who has greatly emphasized academic education throughout my childhood and even much later. My father is a professor in Inorganic Chemistry and my mum has studied English as a secondary language. My both parents have been supporting and advocating me and my two sisters to study and pursue higher education. Above and beyond family, I was raised in a society which is mostly dominated by the belief that earning a doctorate is the greatest success one can achieve. So, in our society, PhDs are considered very highly ranked.
I have always liked to teach. During school days, I used to help out my friends in learning mathematics, or other courses. My first teaching experience was teaching Pascal programming to a class of about 85 students, which made me even love more teaching. As I finished my undergraduate studies, I have always loved to become faculty. So, I started pursuing my PhD degree. I came to the United States in 2007, and above research, have been involved in teaching and grading assignments.
As an international student, I have experienced some challenges after moving to the US. First my native language is not English. Moreover I experienced a cultural shock between my Persian cultural background and the US society. Sometimes, I have not understood the jokes that classmates and teachers make. I didn’t really know much about American football and did not understand the concept that football constitutes a major part of Virginia Tech culture.
Another challenge has been the fact that traditions and ceremonies held in my homeland, for example the Persian New Year which is on March 20th, is not recognized in the US, even in the Virginia Tech calendar. Although, Norooz is recognized worldwide. This makes the new Iranian students suffer emotionally, when they have to attend classes and turn in homeworks or study for their exam. Whereas the Iranians have been used to large family gatherings and visiting relatives, or taking long vacations and travelling during this time of the year.
Furthermore, I have been confronted with restrictions to attend and pursue my religious requirements here in the United States. For example, it is hard to attend religious ceremonies and conform to all my religious requirements while I have had to attend classes or take exams while I was fasting in Ramadan.
My Teaching Approach
As a future teacher I would like to consider diversity in my teaching approach, by considering the language barriers that international students experience. I plan to assign team projects to the students. I would intervene in the formation of groups so that international students work with native students. This will be an excellent opportunity for the whole team them to learn and experience from each other.
There are cases that students who don’t speak English as well as expected, usually shy away from presenting in team projects. I would expect from every member of the team to be able to present in class at some stage, even for a short while. This would encourage them to learn English faster.
I would consider and outline in my syllabus such that if students have specific restrictions due to their religion or celebrations for their homeland country, then should let me know initially in the semester, so that the class syllabus will be inclusive enough to consider those. For example, I would not assign deadlines or exams for those specific dates.
However, I am aware that applying all diversity considerations in a class syllabus may not be possible at all times. Even, just considering them in a syllabus, is not sufficient enough to say that the teacher is truly aware of diversity. It should reflect in the attitude and behavior of the teacher. It will take the teacher a while to learn from her actions and act upon the feedback she receives from the reflections of her approach, and modify them to become even better.