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Friday, September 18, 2020

Spotlight on Mum: Surviving a pandemic as a full-time teacher, PhD student and mother of four

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought a number of challenges to our day-to-day lives. But like many, this mother, PhD student and full-time teacher has been forced to adapt to the restrictions and change in routines.

Ikhlas Ahmad follows the belief that you do not simply stumble upon success. Her journey towards ticking off her list of achievements is one that has been fostered by a focus on education, motherhood, selflessness, leadership and a huge amount of hard work.

As a mum of four, Ikhlas is also a Lead Teacher at Qatar Academy Doha and a third-year Doctoral student at Texas A&M, with a specialisation in Curriculum and Instruction. While this might sound like a full plate, the addition of an unprecedented pandemic has pushed Ikhlas to discover new ways to continue to move forward. 

Originally Palestinian, Ikhlas was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where she obtained a number of degrees, including a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas at Tyler. With her outgoing personality and desire to live a life filled with purpose, she made the decision to move to the expanding city of Doha four years ago with her husband and children. Here, she took on the role of Lead Teacher at Qatar Academy Doha, pursued her PhD, and added a fourth child to her wonderful crew. 

Read also: Dear Mum: Stressed out, school is starting edition

With a busy schedule, establishing a routine from the beginning was important for Ikhlas and her family but due to COVID-19, transitioning to a different routine was an experience that proved to be both challenging and rewarding.

“During the months of March to May, I was teaching from home and this was the most difficult and most interesting time ever. It was new to us all,” she told Doha News.  

“Every child had their home learning area and we all started the day on our laptops. My younger two were loud and playful throughout the day. During meetings or virtual sessions with my students, I would hide away in my bedroom that soon became a makeshift home office, and I would hope that nobody could find me!”

Ikhlas is a full-time teacher [Supplied]
As a teacher, the transition to working from home along with online learning for her children meant that Ikhlas had to take on multiple positions. Among other roles, she soon found herself learning how to balance being a mother, teacher, cook, entertainer, IT, and counsellor. In order to succeed, Ikhlas found herself working 24/7. She looks back at this experience now and realises that being able to go back to the classroom has helped her better manage her time. 

“Although it was obviously difficult, it taught me a lot about resilience and empowered my desire to continue to succeed,” she said.  

In order to continue with her goal driven mindset, Ikhlas welcomes the day at 5:00 AM. Her morning alarm is the welcomed sound of her three and four-year-olds, who she describes as “fast-moving sirens running in and out of my room.” 

But her children’s routine has also changed. In accordance with the ministry’s precautionary measures to keep the number of children in school low, Ikhlas’ kids do not physically attend everyday. With different schedules and schools for each child, it can get a little hectic to manage. “To answer your question, my mornings are not regular,” she jokes.

After getting her children dressed, fed and out of the house with their father, Ikhlas finally takes a moment to herself where she welcomes positive affirmations and gratitude with every sip of her coffee, before making her own way to work. On a weekday, all of this is accomplished by Ikhlas and her family by 5:55 AM. 

“Qatar has done a great job making us feel safe during this pandemic”

“I love going into work super early, I am able to mentally prepare for the day with clarity, and I am also able to get things done ahead of time this way,” she says. In the next phase of her trajectory, Ikhlas hopes to be a professor, she says. Her strong passion for teaching has inspired her to one day open up her own school, though she understands the inevitably of challenges that may arise.

“A challenge I’m facing at the moment is that I am not as involved in my children’s home learning as I would like to be, because as a teacher myself, balancing blended learning and home learning has been difficult. It is important for me to give my students the best education I possibly can. As a result, I am in school five days a week while my children are at home without me.”

Read also: Spotlight on Mum: Meet Qatar’s Keto chef and ‘mumpreneur’ Afshan Syed

Despite this, Ikhlas is aware of the advantages that have come her way. Being in Qatar during the pandemic has left her feeling grateful. “Qatar has done a great job making us feel safe during this pandemic, and as a result, we were able to spend a lot more time together as a family.” 

For this teacher, student and mother of four, having a positive support system is crucial to managing the day-to-day tasks. “I have to give a special shout out to my very supportive husband and my amazing friends who I can really lean on in difficult times,” she notes.  

“The most important thing is to surround yourself with a support team. It isn’t always going to be easy. Some days are more difficult than others, but I promise you can do it. In Qatar, sometimes it’s not family but really amazing friends that become like family. I genuinely advise you to find your team of positive people that are always there to lift you up,” she says.

Has the pandemic affected your routine? Let us know in the comments below!


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