Overwhelming Aspect of Teaching in Kurdish Culture

Teacher Pointing at Map of World 

Teaching should go beyond giving advice. Teachers, as well as giving guidance, should provide a warm, encouraging, comfortable environment where humor, supportive feedback, lesson planning, regular meeting with parents, and checking progress are the most palpable features of their teaching methods.

Subsequently, the teacher can tailor the development and highlight the important activities that are required from students and facilitate a smooth and effective teaching environment. Conversely, when school life becomes hostile and academic demands become increasingly demanding, the education process will be affected, teaching may become boring, and learning is compromised.

Teaching in a specific context and environment is bound with culture. “Mamosta” is the translation of “teacher.”Mamosta is one of the most frequently used words in Kurdish culture, often used to refer to people who are not even teachers. So, when a Kurd calls you and says “Mamosta,” do not be surprised. Related to this is: when you want to call a Kurdish child but you do not know his name… and so you just call him “Hama (gyan).” Interestingly, Kurdish teachers say “Hama” when they forget a male student’s name. Language in this precise context reveals cultural codes, codes that are easily recognized by Kurdish students.

If we do not know a man’s name or have forgotten his name, we simply call him “Mamosta” to make him feel respected thereby avoiding any sort of embarrassment. When a man performs a good job, we call him “Mamosta.” There is a kind of greatness, admiration, and love attached to it. Furthermore, when a boastful man attempts, without success, to philosophize, we say “he has made himself a philosophy teacher.”

Mamosta has a huge role in Kurdish society; that is why we call scientists, artists, sports coaches, members of parliament, retired engineers, archeologists, poets, philosophers, and doctors Mamosta, if we cannot recall what their real names or jobs are. I have actually seen people in my hometown addressing a tea-server in this way. The use of “teacher” in this specific context was not to look down upon his job, but rather to pay more respect for the kind of job he is doing.

In most Eastern cultures, a university professor is called professor, while a professor is often times called “teacher” in Kurdistan. We never, for example say Professor John, we just say “teacher” when we call John. Culture here mirrors social reality, but that does not mean that cultures do not have elements in common.

Every job needs a good amount of skill, desire, knowledge, preparation, motivation, and challenge to be effective. A teacher’s responsibility and profession, by nature, requires many sociable skills to adapt themselves to different types of opinions.

Teachers are expected to encourage students to foster their developments and give them opportunities to creative analysis and share ideas. Likewise, teachers have to maintain and monitor students’ interests and progress.  When a teacher, for example, fails to adequately begin and end a lesson, lacks feedback, does not know how to keep the students busy, fails to set up group work activities, the classroom climate can lead to total chaos, vandalism, and cheating.

Related to this was an incident that a friend told me about. He said that in one of his classes, in order to force the students to remain silent, he would give a piece of chalk to the quietest student. Later, I discovered such deceptive techniques were typical of him. The teacher creates a certain symbol that is understandable in the culture I belong to. I went through the same experience as a student.

Another general characteristic of Kurdish teachers, be it a primary school teacher, high school teacher or university teacher is that society expects them to know everything, from playing video games to politics, when asked a question.

Our expectations of teachers are high and that is the reason for our great admiration for the word mamosta. The high expectation and admiration has a historical root. Kurdish teachers are more sociable compared to other officeholders. This facilitates more interaction between the parents’ students and the teachers. The parents get the message that their thoughts are of great value; therefore, they take part in the educational process and are held accountable for the students’ progress.

School and university are complex social establishments. Students and teachers can build lifelong friendshipz, share interests and worries, and relate and apply literature and science to real life. On the other hand, they may be bullied, stressed, threatened, or despised- but these aspects will turn into lessons, lessons that can establish well-being and self-esteem.

In conclusion, teaching varies from culture to culture, teacher to teacher, lesson to lesson, class to class. In order to foster enjoyment, advocate mutual trust, maintain positive motivation, preserve active involvement, sustain moral and cultural development, teachers in general and Kurdish teachers in particular should update their teaching methods. This involves getting rid of certain techniques and embracing new strategies and that can best be done through small-group discussions, pair work, scientific trips, visiting museums and historical places, use of cards and worksheets, overhead projectors and computer packages – which did not exist two decades ago, but are now available!


By: Aras Ahmed Mhamad
FromSulaimani, Iraq