1.5 out of 5


essay book

A story of another girl was my main inspiration. The course was psycho-sociolinguistics, in which we learned about language and its development, whether in human minds or in societies. I was aflame with expectation and ambition. In the first lecture, Dr. Hassan El-Nabih, famed for mastery of his subject, recounted how a very successful student named “Taqwa" had achieved 98 in the course. Dr. Hassan had retained her book as a model of excellence and hard work. Passionately listening to Taqwa's incredible success, I set my aim: I must reach Taqwa's score and then my professor might treasure my books, too.

During the course, we had to write three essays reflecting on the material covered and its connection to our daily lives. I delivered the first of my reflections which I thought was creative. It turned out, however, it was not at all what my professor had wanted. My mark for this reflection was shockingly 1.5 out of 5! Upon seeing it, I wept like a child overwhelmed, my eyes streaming with tears. I still shudder when I remember how Dr. Hassan had written 1.5 in red, commenting with the word irrelevant throughout my essay. Was I, who flies on the wings of ambition, destined for failure?

More work to do

As the mid-term exam approached, that damned 1.5 still hovered in my thoughts. Yet, I was comforted by Dr. Hassan's assurance that the lowest mark of the three reflections would be disregarded in the final mark. I worked so hard for the mid-term exam, not for the mark itself but because it was out of my hands; it was all about passion. Thankfully, passion rewarded me by earning me first place on the table for the highest marks. This fed me hope and fuelled my resolve to achieve my goal of 98.

Dr. Hassan El-Nabih

After the renewed hope of the mid-term exam, I was faced with the terrifying prospect of the second reflection. Hope wasn't enough; I needed a strategy. Having followed my professor’s advice, I asked to read the work of previous students who were awarded full marks in order to understand where my problems were. Reading other students' reflections, I was surprised by how very simple they were and came to realise what Dr. Hassan exactly needed. Though my next two reflections were better, with scores of 4.5 each, achieving my goal of 98 would still be impossible, even with the extraction of the 1.5 debacle.

Something happened, however. It re-watered my thirsty soul. It felt like a gift from my Lord. At a symposium held at the English department at university, Dr. Hassan announced a three-mark-bonus reflection on the topics within our course. This filled me with the kind of happy jolt that coffee gives me in the morning – it was another chance! I had been waiting on tenterhooks for anything related to our course, but for the first four hours of that symposium, there was nothing. And just like that, the last hour delivered. I came home, listened to the recorded session again and wrote the bonus reflection.

My passion rewarded

On the day my final mark was due, I was on holiday during Ramadan, and one of the children broke my mobile on our way to the mosque. My phone was the only link I had to news of my final grade. Surprisingly, I didn’t get emotional at all, and luckily the smashed screen didn’t affect messages coming through. I heard it ping that all important result. I saw the number 98 staring at me from my cracked screen, my eyes filled with tears of absolute joy. As the number 98 echoed around my whole world, I completely forgot the misery of my smashed mobile and the hard wait.

I am so thankful to Allah for driving me to work hard and so grateful to Dr. Hassan without whom I wouldn't have had such an unparalleled passion for linguistics. I am proud, also, that my books now sit with Taqwa's in our professor's samples of excellence. If one day I am fortunate enough to teach psycho-sociolinguistics, I hope to be as good a teacher as Dr. Hassan was. In fact, if I were asked, "What is the one course you would love to repeat at university?" I would honestly say "Psycho-Sociolinguistics." I responded to this course like a flower opening to the warmth of spring.

screenshot of text message

Much more than just one mark in one course

Throughout the course, I discovered more than the pure knowledge found in books. I learned from Dr. Hassan’s performance as a teacher. I learned to be punctual and how a minute does matter. I learned to give each student what they deserve, not more. I learned that learning can be fun, even something to joke about. I learned not to hold back motivating words, and that it is oftentimes the little kindnesses which motivate most.

One such kindness was Dr. Hassan's response to my ceaseless desire for accuracy, for understanding, to delve even deeper. I found myself needlessly pointing out silly grammatical mistakes in our texts published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Hassan encouraged me replying, "You are right, Asma. What sharp eyes!" I felt my heart soar like a bird motivated by its first taste of liberty. All these things I have highlighted under the title "How to be an Effective, Open and Precise Teacher."

A teacher myself

Now, as a teacher myself, I’m taking on some of Dr. Hassan’s methods and seeing how positively his style of teaching has affected my own. That course was not just a course for a semester that was finished and forgotten; it was a course for life!

The seeds of love for linguistics have been planted and the more seconds I breathe, the bigger these seeds are becoming. This course was the fertile ground for all the passion growing inside driving me to be the academic I hope to become. 1.5 out of 5 taught me that a dire beginning can be the launching pad for a successful end, and that is what really counts.















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