In his time at south-western Sydney’s Miller Technology High School, the dedicated teacher was known for staying late into the afternoon, offering one-on-one English tutelage to his students – many of whom were refugees. 

Now at Robert Townson High School, Ibrahim, who was born in Australia but has a Middle Eastern background, says his knowledge of Arabic helped him get students engaged.

“Predominantly there were a lot of Arabic-speaking students there, [so] having that language has sort of enabled me to be able to communicate better with them, although we wanted to speak in English and continue to have them embrace English...” he says.

“If I was to say to them ‘countersink, do you know how to countersink?’ sometimes they interpret that as the sink of a kitchen, counter-sink. You know what I mean? But if you can ... relay it to them in Arabic, and then you say ‘this is what we call a countersinking tool’, they respond with ‘oh, OK’.”

However, it wasn’t a one-way relationship.

“My Arabic isn’t the best but it was enough to be able to communicate, so they would teach me some things [as well], which was really good,” Ibrahim says.

Ibrahim believes that the autonomy he was allowed at Miller was key to getting students engaged.

“Miller has a high percentage of refugee students or ESL students, they come to the school with, as you could understand, with some issues at times ... but they are really hard working students if you can connect with them,” he says.

“I just believe that the head teacher and the principal allowing me to have some autonomy in the way that I teach them and how I teach them ... that is what does it, that is what engages the students.

“Sometimes you have to sort of veer away from your normal programming, so if I’m stuck by ticking boxes ... it can become difficult to keep the students engaged.”

Ibrahim says that it’s important for this flexibility to be applied to students as well.

“If a project has to stretch over because some students aren’t managing so well, or take a little bit longer to learn it, then that’s OK, that’s fine. 

“In the end we get the results, when they do their HSC we got those results in TAS, we really did. At Miller the results they got in their HSCs, generally ... we would probably get the highest results.”

When asked what the most rewarding aspect of teaching is, Ibrahim answers without hesitation.

“Seeing students achieve. Seeing them succeed, they’re amazing students. 

“As I said, some of them come to this country ... they have had such difficult times, and then, being able to see what they can achieve, that is amazing. 

“Just the look on their faces when they know that they’ve got good marks, or they’re able to build something or do something for themselves is really, really good...

“Some of them have never had the opportunity where they were, and they really appreciate having the opportunity. They’re a great bunch of students.”