A teacher’s perspective on how to succeed in schools

Basma Alawee painting

A teacher from Iraq shares her thoughts on how to succeed in schools.

I see it’s much easier to succeed in schools as a student in the United States more than overseas. In the United States, students have more resources, hands-on activities, more rights and respect, and more privileges. And this is what I try to explain to my own children and my students. 

Instead of me explaining what it takes to be a great student in America, I am going to give you a picture of what being a student In Iraq looks like. My siblings and I lived with my parents who were teachers. I loved school and I always tried to be the best of the best. Our education was hard during my time. I

Our education was hard during my time.

I used to wake up at seven in the morning, walk to school we never had a free transportation while here you have the yellow bus with Air Condition on at all time. I arrived at school. We had seven periods that had forty minutes minute each. We only had two breaks and each break was less than ten minutes, not even enough time even to eat all of your snacks. No lunchtime, and no free lunch. 

Our classes were so typical. 

We only had just the tables and the chalkboard. If a teacher was lucky, he or she might have had a chair to sit on. No TV, computers, microwave, or even fancy colorful books. You bought your own supplies and you needed to stick with the same notebooks for the whole school year. I remember we used to sew our books so we don’t lose papers and to keep them clean and neat to study throughout the whole school year. One field trip for the whole school year.

Oh, before I forget: the bathrooms! Most of our family ended up with a UTI infection we hated the bathrooms. They were not clean. I personally never used it. But when it comes to education, a lot of homework and a lot of memorization. No complaint about how much homework we got or how many hours we spent studying. Teachers were very respected and for any reason, if you do anything wrong in school and your teacher told your parents, I can’t tell you how worse it got.

We had a lot of quizzes and testing. 

But with all of this, every time a war started and the school needed to close we would feel so sad because we didn’t want to miss school.  And I remember we used to borrow the notebooks from the older students so we can study it over the summer or during the war when school close. With all of that when you reached high school if you did not obtain the right GPA you did not choose what to study, no. You got sent to the university or school that your GPA qualified for.  And with all of these challenges, Iraq was one of the best countries in education. I don’t want to give any statistics but most of my generation have a good education and they are engineers, doctors, and lawyers around the world. 

The United States is a great country and provide their students with a lot of opportunity to succeed in schools. 

We must all aim to succeed and value our education. There is a quote people always say overseas, it says: “You don’t know my best until you try others.” In the picture above, I am helping one of my students in her art project. The art project was about loving our differences.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.