Teachers as Educational Influencers, Leaders and Trendsetters of Changing
" Teaching can be challenging at times, but it is also really rewarding as you have the opportunity to share your passion for your subject, inspire and shape future minds and young lives. " Dr. Asaad Taffal said.
Dr. Taffal, Head of the Sociology and Social Work Department and Staff Member at An-Najah National University's Faculty of Economics and Social Studies, is one of the most highly motivated and committed professors at the University who is moonlighting as an educational influencer and a leader. As an educator, he uses social media to share his teaching stories and offer advice. He was named among the most influential people of 2021 for his positive activity on Facebook by a number of Journalists and media professionals in Palestine.
Dr. Taffal holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Sociology from Birzeit University as well as a PhD degree in Social Sciences – International Relations from the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poland. He has been teaching for fifteen years.
Dr. Taffal’s PhD dissertation is titled “Erosion of the Collective Memory on the Example of Palestinian Refugees in the West Bank”, and has now become a specialist and an activist in Palestinian refugees’ affairs. His study and research interests include political sociology, anthropology, cultural and civilization exchange, social theories, women’s studies, and contemporary Arab political and social issues.
On his feed, you'll find aesthetically pleasing shots of his classroom with his students and colleagues. There are also shots of the activities he participated in; selfies showing the outfits he wears to work; and posts about social problems such as violence, drug use and depression.
Social Media and Education
The lockdown fueled the rise of Dr. Taffal as a teacher influencer. The pandemic turned him into an online star as he used the platform to inspire students. For people like Taffal, social media is actually a way for him to blow off steam after a day of teaching. “The content I share is honestly so enjoyable.” Taffal said. “It’s relaxing, a great stress relief, and fun!”
" I began posting more and more of my own content at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020," he said.
Taffal makes sure to tie his social media content to whatever his lesson plans, activities and events are for the week. He added: " I use Facebook stories to share my day-to-day life especially when I attend professional conferences, workshops, or events. For example, when I was attending international conferences I used Facebook stories to bring my students with me to “experience” the excitement and intellectual stimulation of attending one of the international conferences. Without a digital platform such as Facebook, I wouldn’t have been able to share the experience with my students as it was happening. I could inform my students of what happened after these conferences were over."
In general, the stories that Dr. Taffal shares on Facebook have humanized him as a university professor and allowed him to bridge the gap between him and his students and connect with them at a level that evokes emotions. The emotional component helps him nurture a warm classroom environment conducive to learning especially for online classes.
Transcending the Traditional Teacher-Student Boundary by Using the Social Media
Dr. Taffal said " Instead of expecting students to come to my space, I try do my best to connect with my students at where they are and learn to speak their language. This will require me as a teacher to get out of my own comfort zones. For example, during coronavirus lockdown, I created Facebook groups for each of the classes that I was teaching in the semester. Facebook group has numerous features that can help me stay in constant communication with my students especially after the shift to virtual learning. This allowed me to get to know my students beyond the classroom walls."
Dr. Taffal as an Agent of Change
Taffal participated in several activities to actualize change within the University and the community at large. For instance, Dr. Taffal was hosted by several radio and TV shows in Palestine to discuss social issues in our community such as depression, gender inequality, bullying and drug use and addiction.
Teachers have always played a vital role in the lives of their students and put great effort into supporting them in both their learning and personal development. For many, the main goal of educators has been to transmit knowledge and to improve results on standardized tests. For Dr. Taffal, educators must work on broadening the horizons of education beyond curriculum, supporting and equipping students with tools and awareness to face life’s challenges.
" I believe that my role as an educational influencer and leader is to inspire others with positive and innovative ideas and help guide them towards success. Also, I believe that the first and foremost responsibility of the teacher is in relation to his students. His job cannot remain confined to delivering a set of lectures. " Dr. Taffal pointed out.
Teachers Open up Opportunities for Students
Dr. Taffal provides his students with experiences they may not get in their home life. This could involve providing them with opportunities to participate in voluntary work and social work activities, taking them to participate in local and international conferences and workshops.
Dr. Taffal concluded " I hope more and more teachers will be able to understand the importance of being a leader inside of the university community, so that they will be inspired to improve the environment of their universities and the mechanisms that underpin the educational process." Dr. Taffal said.
He added:" As a teacher, you have a unique opportunity to influence the future. Teachers are special, teachers are change-makers, and teachers make a difference in our world. "