Karam Bashir: Empowering Minds and Hearts in the Classroom

Karam Bashir | Head of Primary Asamiah International School
Karam Bashir | Head of Primary Asamiah International School

A leading school is where every day a symphony of young minds are nurtured and shaped for the future. In the heart of this educational haven, Karam is someone whose dedication and leadership influence not just individual students but the entire primary education experience. And, Asamiah International School has the privilege of having Karam Bashir as its Head of Primary, a role that extends far beyond mere administration.

Karam is a hands-on leader, inspiring teachers, students and parents alike. She is known for her approachability, her knack for turning everyday challenges into learning opportunities and her commitment to fostering a holistic educational experience.

Under her leadership, the primary section has flourished. Beyond academic excellence, Karam has championed character development and community engagement. Beyond the academic prowess, there’s a palpable sense of camaraderie and enthusiasm. Karam’s ability to inspire her team, infuse passion into teaching and create an environment where both educators and students flourish speaks volumes about her leadership acumen.

Let’s explore how Karam is fostering an environment where each child can flourish!

Brief our audience about your journey as an education leader until your current position at your organization. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

I started as a teacher in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and I taught Business and Individuals and Societies for grades 7, 9 and 10. After two years of teaching, I was promoted to Head of Primary and this is where things got tricky! You need to overcome many challenges as you get promoted to a leadership position at a young age because you are entitled to face many doubts and people questioning your ability to lead due to the humility of your experience.

I think that the challenge for me occupied a considerable part on a mental level. Physiologically speaking, it is not very comfortable to be in a leadership position when everyone you are supervising is (at least) double your age. This required me to maximize my theoretical knowledge on leadership but experience remains the best teacher (which is what I lacked).

Intuitively, I knew that I had a fundamental sense of responsibility and as Jordan Peterson states in his book, Beyond Order, “To adopt authority is to learn that leadership requires concern and competence and that it comes at a genuine cost.” I was genuinely concerned about making things move forward and creating authentic improvements in the department.

I attended all the workshops/conferences/webinars anyone can think of and participate as an instructor in multiple conferences. I had a challenge to prove to myself and to the learning community that age and lack of experience will not stand in my way or hinder me from making a difference.

Tell us something more about your organization and its mission and vision.

Asamiah International School aims to prepare young learners for the real world. Our most precious investment is students and their personalities. We attempt to nurture individuals who are independent, open-minded and have high self-awareness. Part of the school’s mission is to prepare learners for the real world and this requires an individualized approach where it is fundamental to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each learner and help them progress accordingly. I always tell my team that true accomplishment is not helping high achievers achieve more but rather pushing and motivating low achievers to become independent learners who are capable of achieving academic objectives as expected.  It is also essential to support talented and gifted learners where their talents and gifts are nurtured and enhanced.

Enlighten us on how you have impacted the education niche through your expertise in the market.

I have impacted the niche through the efforts mentioned below:

  • Introducing AI and Robotics into the curriculum was a major milestone. Now, we attempt to integrate and make connections to AI but we still raise awareness of the threats of AI in different fields. For example, if the topic is pollution, learners are encouraged to find solutions during AI lessons using advanced AI technologies while also developing and working on their algorithmic thinking.
  • Wellbeing is a component that is tremendously enhanced by creating a safe space for learners to express their feelings and articulate their emotions. Therefore, I have dedicated a room in the department that is called ‘Brave Room.’ I chose this title because I wanted learners and the learning community to know that emotional invalidation is not bravery. This safe space was essential to create—a room dedicated to emotional relief using sensory tools, mandala coloring sheets, a tent, bean bags, stress balls, a mindfulness corner, soft music and a relaxing environment. This room was prepared after the COVID-19 pandemic as I noticed that young children were suffering from anxiety, stress, sadness, and fear post-pandemic.
  • Building units based on learners’ needs, interests and abilities. Units are derived from learners’ wants and needs. Units are no longer devised independently by teachers but rather learners have a voice in the unit content and topics. Also, all texts that learners are exposed to are up-to-date and tackle a global issue.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.

In our organization, deeply embedded values and a unique culture drive our progress. While valuing efficiency might seem commonplace, it transcends cliché in our context. Here, job descriptions aren’t rigid boundaries instead, every member, including leadership, steps beyond their defined roles to enhance our academic journey. Personally, I’ve actively engaged in our primary stage’s ‘End of Unit Performance,’ aiding in script selection and rehearsals. Collaboration and mentorship are not just encouraged but embodied.

Moreover, echoing Steve Jobs’ wisdom, we operate on the belief that ideas fuel progress, not hierarchies. Our organization cherishes bottom-up innovation. Teachers, the frontline warriors are trusted as the source of valuable insights. Their inputs mold teaching methods, assessment strategies and even the topics within units. The hierarchy is a conduit for ideas, fostering a vibrant atmosphere where creativity thrives. This culture is a living reality, where collaboration, innovation and shared ownership define our collective journey.

Undeniably, Technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make education resourceful?

In the last two years, we have increased our subscription to different e-resources that are used by teachers/learners inside and outside the classroom. Platforms such as IXL, Kam Kalemah and Brain Pop.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we have invested in improving and advancing our ICT (Information Communication Technology) curriculum and we introduced the AI subject where learners in the primary stage would be introduced to different coding languages and the integration between robotics and coding.

Thirdly, we have introduced the e-payment system into the school and we are currently transitioning to a cashless school environment in collaboration with a Jordanian FinTech company.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the education sector? How are you preparing to be a part of that change?

I think that the next significant change in the education sector would be a major shift in the subjects taught in schools. We need more subjects that help students in their lives later on. I believe that subjects like financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and mental health are more useful for students in their lives than geography and history. History and geography are undoubtedly important but do they really help students when they graduate?

At our school, we started to address and tackle these briefly as topics and our aim in the future is to transform these topics into disciplines of their own with a planned curriculum. The ability to read, write and do arithmetic is fundamental but after the first junior primary years, I think learners need to be supplied with a different set of skills and tackle different topics inside the classroom.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for your organization?

To be perfectly honest, I have to say that in my position, I will always strive to make a genuine difference and impact in my field. It is all that this is about. It is not about personal growth rather than genuine impact and dedication to the mission. As a member of an educational establishment and an educator at heart, I believe that the focus needs to be on making long-term progress in the field as a whole.

As for the future goals for the organization, I strive to nurture a community of learners who are ready for real life. This requires the gradual modification of the curriculum and subjects taught in the school as I mentioned early.

This is a challenge in itself because this would not be initially endorsed by parents. These changes require a change in mentality abandoning the traditional pen-and-paper assessments and making marks the center of our universe.

What qualities or skills do you believe are essential for educators and educational leaders to adapt to the demands of the future?

I think the most important quality for any educator today is passion. This also sounds cliché but it is the most fundamental driver for better education. If an educator is passionate, they will keep reading, doing their research and adapting their strategies to incorporate the most recent technologies to the diligence of teaching learners how to use ChatGPT wisely.

The advancements in technology and the rapidly changing circumstances demand educators to continually adapt to these changes. For instance, I think that the topics to be addressed in units in different subjects need to be aligned with what is going on in the world. Texts need to be relevant and up-to-date in order for students to be able to have open discussions on these topics and sense their contribution and involvement in these issues.

The weight of the AI and ICT classes should be as important as languages—Math and Science. Passionate educators are aware of this and will do their best to help learners better understand the changes that are taking place in their world, yet be able to thrive and compete in an age of abundance.

What advice do you have for emerging leaders in the education sector who aim to make a significant impact and drive positive change?

Be patient! Transformation and change require a lot of hard work and dedication. Any change or disruption in any industry is going to be opposed by different. Yet, this should not hinder educators or industry leaders from transforming education. It all starts with us.