Classroom Anxiety

Originally published on The Banner student Newspaper ( Marymount University)
Original date: August 31, 2019, ·

By: Hanan Seid

Photos: Pixabay

Most students who have stage fright or fear of public speaking often remember their first experiences. Sometimes people’s fear of public speaking often even trumps fear of death. Although presentations bring about anxiety, they are important for the real world. 

Children are placed in a classroom before losing their first tooth. Most people are in classrooms for almost fifteen years of their lives. So many firsts occur inside a classroom. There are many variables that may inhibit the success and the failures of a student in a classroom. Whether it be the teaching style, classroom setup, to even the color of the classroom. University students are well acquainted with what styles work best for them hence the infamous rate my professor website, where students rate professors depending on styles of teaching. This subject is so important as schools are slowly going through a revamping period; a new beginning where teachers have a lot more control over their classroom than ever before. Students care now about the small things that can help further their future.

Participation is often a grade percentage. It increases by the year, by senior year of university some classes even equate it to 50% of your overall grade. This need to have everyone talk in a classroom of fifty to a hundred students is terrifying for many who suffer from social anxiety. Naomi Simatos, a George Mason Senior, said that her best experience in a class was in “International affairs 200, auditorium, More interested in what the class was about also never had to be in front of the class alone always was divided into groups. And the professor was amazing very understanding and he would always pair someone shy with someone that’s very outspoken.” Not everyone has the ability to speak naturally, we all grew up under different situations. If participation is a mandatory part of the class then it is the professor’s duty to make sure to pair correctly.

One of the biggest changes between high school and the university is the number of people you know in a class, it goes from everyone to no one. The fear of being alone and public speaking is really common especially amongst freshmen in universities. Some classes in George Mason have 500 students. Marymount University Junior Ahmad Abumraighi said, “it’s hard to fit in with privileged students who feel entitled to things. I feel that I have to work extra hard to prove myself.” Private schools such as Marymount although give that one on one experience, claim to be diverse, and immigrant-friendly often feels the opposite. Immigrants come into this country without knowing who they are in class with but also not knowing the language. During that process of learning a whole new culture, it’s hard for the ESL students to participate in classroom discussion. This leads them to work twice as hard to accommodate to the standards that the professor has on the class as a whole. Also, heightens immigrant student-classroom anxiety as the fear of people making fun of their accent is pronounced.

Hamza Abusharakh said, “One of my classes at NOVA, it was a business course. The style was traditional and had four of my friends in the same rectangular table. The professor was extremely relaxed which made everyone including myself comfortable. This experience was different because of my group of friends and teacher’s laid back behavior.” Knowing people or having an inclusive teacher in class can decrease classroom anxiety or to some students have no result. Frederick Thomas, a George Mason Senior, said, “My favorite classroom experience was a lecture hall with capacity for 75 people. The professor mainly lectures in an interesting matter and allows participation by using volunteers to help demonstrate his concept. If no volunteer gets up he doesn’t call anyone else but finds another interactive way to get his point across. This was by far my best experience.”

The pressure to be picked on and being asked questions on the spot questions is so strong that even a straight A-plus student may forget the answers that are presented to them. Safa Hawash, a George Mason freshman, brings up an important point, “I have experienced it once during a very long art class where I felt like I wasn’t being properly represented.” It’s hard to participate in a classroom where you are the only one. The only Muslim, Hispanic, African, Asian, the only one that shares your phenotype. The exterior image sometimes embodies the internal when looking at someone else who looks at you share a bond of the struggle that you both have gone through. Not having a balanced representation is really bad for classroom anxiety.

Grades are a huge motivator for classroom anxiety students like George Mason Junior Maleeha Darab who said, “I usually become anxious when I’m about to give a presentation or ask a question in class.” Presentations are often a big classroom anxiety motivator as it is when all the students are tested essentially in front of other students. Most students who have stage fright or fear of public speaking often remember their first experiences. Sometimes people’s fear of public speaking often even trumps fear of death, which is why although presentations bring about anxiety it is important for the real world.

Abusharakh said, “I get an upset stomach on exam days. In also experience unrest when beginning a new class due to unpredictable factors such as professor behavior. Sometimes classroom thoughts haunt me throughout the day and even week which causes stress.” The grading style of a professor is important. Is the professor forgiving? Does he/she offer redemption options? Extra credit? Students have an increase in classroom anxiety when not knowing if they have a shot of passing the course as a whole.

Consistently, students said that the number of students in the classroom affected their learning experience. George Mason Junior Iman Said stated that “In CST 110, freshman year of college. The amount of conversation and subject required for this class allowed my classmates and me to unpeel more and more layers of one another, making us all the most sincere of friends by the end of the semester.” The smaller the classroom size the greater the opportunity for everyone to feel comfortable enough to share whatever it is that they are going through and increase participation. Elham Abdurahman, a George Mason Senior, said,

“When I have a small circle it makes it better than a bigger classroom.”

At Marymount average class sizes are small in comparison to other public universities. Imagine having to distinguish yourself out of a four hundred student classroom and having to deal with TAs instead of professors. Nour Hawash, a senior at George Mason, said that “A small number of students in the class along with discussions where everyone participates is nice.” In some cases having participation as the bulk of the grade makes sense as the style of the room and the conversations are allowing a natural conversation.

Classroom Styles:
The classroom styles also have an effect on classroom anxiety in the survey I sent to eleven people. Here are the results:

Chart by Hanan Seid

From these results, we can see that there is a range of different styles preferred. There are many different students’ opinions and that is expected. The highest percentage is discussion styles classroom. Within this survey, there was no one who votes for the lab but there were students who prefer traditional. Students like Mason University Freshman Safa Hawash say, “Classroom anxiety doesn’t necessarily have to do with the physicality of the room itself. It’s about the topic being discussed, the people, the vibes of the class itself.” To some students, the aesthetic of the space isn’t as important as the people in it themselves. Maleeha Darab states, “My favorite classroom experience was in an art class. We were able to sit on the floor if we wanted. It was a color space and it had multiple different seating options like bean bags, stools, chairs, etc. I liked the choices that it offered as well as the color and relaxed environment it had.” Imagine a class where chairs were optional. In certain cultures sitting on the floor is the only way to do it. Art classes often break the barrier when it comes to creativity.

Classroom colors are evolving over the years. Remember elementary school when the class was filled with posters fun colors inspirational quote kind of like the original Instagram on the wall. The room itself told the students what subject was being taught. As we get older less and less effort was put into the classroom space.

Iman Said said, “White is the worst, the warmer the colors the better for me. Also, this may be weird but the room has a cozier feel when the room is carpeted versus tile floors,”

Maleeha Darab said, “I’m tired of seeing navy blue chairs. I would like to see more color in the classroom. The best colors to me are light colors (maybe pastel) of blue and green and yellow. Worst colors are white (they make me feel uncreative and unimaginative).”
Fedrick Thomas said, “Calming colors are best, school is stressful as it is!”

Colors give humans an emotional response. There are colors that are more calming such as green and yellow. Some colors enrage such as red. The colors that are traditional in classrooms are white and grey. As a person who goes into Juvenile detention centers weekly to mentor, I can’t help but see the correlation between classroom and jail cells. The walls are often grey or white. Aesthetic now more than ever affects students here in the millennial Instagram worthy era. Classroom styles have evolved and are evolving to becoming more and more inclusive and that is a step in the right direction.

The classroom space is overwhelmingly important to students. Studies say that color affects mood as a whole. The classroom is a space where everyone should be represented.

Marymount student Ahmad Abumraighi made an important remark: “Instructors need to be trained on how to break the ice and narrow the gaps between students by showing them that they are all equal to having access to the opportunity.” We have all been in different classrooms across our fifteen-year classroom issues and it is important to have an inclusive classroom and that begins with the person at the top, in this case, it would be the professor or teacher. From ESL classes to IB courses, to university this diversity and inclusion is often a myth.

The Diversity Flaw

Created by Hanan Seid via Canva

Di·ver·si·ty, Diverse. Open up a college panflute, now count the number of times that word appears. The biggest hook a college can use isn’t the number of people in the school but often the number of cultures and religions represented. Searching for the definition on Google won’t actually get the answer either.

The definition varies and often is what the audience wants it to be. Listed are interviewees definitions of the word Diversity:

Hannah Walmsley a half-white, half-African American student that attends George Mason University said, “A collection of people or things from different cultures, races, and experiences coming together”

Soulef Oualia an immigrant from Algeria and a student that attends Northern Virginia Community College said, “I think of variety in terms of people and their culture, backgrounds, experiences.”

Naomi Simatos an immigrant half Ethiopian and half Greece student that attends George Mason University said, “The awareness of other cultures and traditions around you. Being able to accept it and learn from it.”

Ahmad Abumraighi an immigrant Jordanian- Palestistianian student that attends Marymount University said, “Being in space, interacting, with people who do not look/think like me. “

Safa Hawash a half Palestinian and half Egyptian-American student that attends George Mason University said, “Diversity means to feel accepted, to not feel nervous to speak your mind in any given environment. A place doesn’t have to be racially or ethnically diverse to actually be diverse. Diversity comes with intellect.”

Maleeha Darab an Afghani- American student that attends George Mason University said, “Diversity as a concept that doesn’t apply to me personally. Diversity is only diversity for white people, in my opinion. Diversity to me is something normal. I enter my mosque and I see every color, every ethnicity and that’s family to me. That’s what diversity is. It’s inclusion and open-mindedness.”

Iman Said an Eritrean- American that attends George Mason University said, “The presence and inclusion of many other different backgrounds, religions, skin tones, ethnicities, and lifestyles.”

Even the listed definitions are diverse but at the root say the same thing. From all of this data acquired here is the full definition that this article will be going by.

“In North America, the word “diversity” is strongly associated with racial diversity. However, that is just one dimension of human reality. We also differ in gender, language, manners, and culture, social roles, sexual orientation, education, skills, income, and countless other domains. In recent years, some advocates have even argued for the recognition of “neurodiversity,” which refers to the range of differences in brain function,” says the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

From all this data collected the conclusion is diversity is a collection of differences whether that be in phenotype (ethnicity/race), social economic status (money), political differences (liberal/ conservative), ability (disability, mental disability, physical disability), religion, gender (if applicable), sexuality (LGBQ+) and culture.

Originally by Tricia Wombell, remixed by Hanan Seid on Canva

Surprisingly a lot of students said yes their schools are diverse and that they have all experienced diversity within their University. George Mason students have a huge population of students and are ranked #2 most diverse University in the State of Virginia. Hannah Wamsley says “They seem to be inclusive to all people from what I’ve seen but I’m not sure if they need to improve in certain areas,” That’s the problem is that it seems that it’s diverse walking into classrooms.

The survey was taken by Hanan Seid via Google forms 

Similar to Iman Said’s Glodan Health class she experiences, “ we often discuss socioeconomic disparities in the health field. Every time we do, I look around my classroom and try to get a feel of the differences among me and my peers and we’re all so different. There are people that were born here and others that English is their second/third language. There are people who have traveled around the world and people who never left the US. People who practice Islam and those who practice Judaism, people who are homosexual, and others who are straight, people from Latin America and others from West Africa. Some who have physical disabilities and others who have mental. We all have such different experiences and narratives and different stories to tell. This is how I know we’re diverse.”

Belongs to College Factual

When classrooms feel like that it is easy to forget that just because you see these groups represented it doesn’t mean that the students interact with them outside of school. In all Universities, there are clubs that represent so many different cultures, religions, political views, anything, and everything is represented. The flaw is not that there are so many different groups but like Safa Hawash says, “We do have lots of diversity at George Mason University. Clubs that represent every culture. But that’s exactly what separates us, we mentally and physically classify ourselves in our own cultural walls.” The same groups and categories people so desperately want to be apart of the university literally become Isolated into their own clicks. Its almost as if The University is saying we have people like you so you can be with them.

Creative Commons 

In the movie Pitch Perfect, there is a scene where Beca and her roommate Kimmy Jin walk around to check out the venues and clubs during rush week. Beca is trying to stick with her roommate Kimmy Jin but the moment that she sees the Korean club table she leaves Beca behind to join her group. Korea is Kimmy Jins country of origin leaving Beca alone instead of asking her to join.

Even here at Marymount University, this applies, Ahmad Abumraighi, “It’s a diverse campus, but groups are isolated. They don’t interact or work together.” Imagine the cafeteria scene in Mean Girls where everyone is sitting with people who were similar to themselves. The overall school was diverse but even in that movie, the “Asian” kids sit next to each other the African American kids sit together.

Belongs to College Factual 

With the problem often comes with a solution Naomi Simatos a George Mason University student says, “instead of having separate groups celebrating their selfs maybe present students with the ability to enjoy someone else’s functions in terms of culture and tradition.” Events are often hosted where others are welcome to share in the festivities but may fear being met with hostility or even carry stereotypes about the group thus do not attend.

Created by Hanan Seid via Canvas

There is not one place in the states that don’t have “foreign food.” Pizza, tacos, Halal food truck down the street. It’s easy to eat another culture food but diversity does just stop there. When schools claim diversity but don’t deliver it often feels like a betrayal, Soulef Oualia says, “It feels like the university is trying for the sake of appearing diverse, but not doing anything systemically to make an inherent change. I feel that it would be that the university cares for more than just the title of diversity, that people are not just a prize to be won.” Diversity isn’t just colors and a smiling hug photo for the front pages or front of the school’s website. Its also internal it’s easy to share another’s food but how about learning sign language for the deaf friends? How often do students have friends who are of a different ability than them? How often do students Join in protests that done necessarily represent your phenotype? Safa Hawash deals with this often by having, “ a couple of friends who support Sisi of Egypt, a friend who doesn’t believe there is media censorship in Palestine and Israel, many friends that argue on the logistics of religion.”

All in all the word diversity is misappropriated and schools don’t often deliver on their open letter promises. College is hard enough to feel alone in a place you have to spend four years. This is an epidemic and an issue even the #2 ranked most diverse has issues of inclusion. Maybe the problem lies there, diversity has become a commodity, the more diverse the school and the number of students go up. It’s like having so much power and not knowing what to do with it. As a cultured society has shifted and millennial don’t intermix with people who do not share the same political, religious, or world view. Diversity is allowing everyone to share their narrative even if it’s different than your own. It is important to delve into diversity in order to grow and learn new things about yourself and learning new positions in life. Being around people we don’t know and being in change is uncomfortable, without getting out of the comfort zone society stays stagnant and that a cumulative loss.

Rooted in Faith: Justice for Juniors

Originally published on March 29th, 2019

Originally published on DAH Blog 

let’s talk about race

By: Hanan Seid

“Our Actions should include actions to uphold justice: Our prophet upheld justice not only for his own community but for others outside his community, standing with those who are marginalized, and oppressed; standing against supremacy that harms not just our community but has harmed other communities before us, for generations, (the Seerah of our Prophet (SAW))”

Black history month isn’t just celebrating the accomplishments and sacrifices but recognizing the flaws in the system, black history month is never over for some of us. As of 2015, Black and Latino’s youth make up about 15 percent of the United States population yet this minority group continues to make up about 56% percent of the incarcerated population (NAACP). The racial disparities remain astounding, year after year.

Often a lot of people question how racism can be systemic especially in today’s “post-race,” “post-feminist era.” What’s the saying? Once is a chance, twice is coincidence thrice is a pattern. We see what we want to see. We see black culture through the lens of white culture and assume that because of that, they deserve to be incarcerated. “Black people are loud and talk back, of course, they are going to jail.” This thinking is dangerous and allows this system by algorithms to be consistent, and unchanging.

Every year depending on how many black males are born a new room is built in jail for them to inhabit. When a black male is in juvie, another room is secure for them as a convicted felon in a maximum-security prison cell. It is the loophole that keeps sucking them back into incarceration. The must-see Netflix documentary, Thirteenth, encapsulates the thirteenth amendment. The amendment that abolishes slavery has a loophole. The only time slavery is allowed is when it comes to incarceration. Across the country, inmates are forced to fight fires in California, and many of them were being left behind in North Carolina during the hurricane. They work for less than 25 cents per day/hour, forced legal slavery, see the PBS Documentary, Slavery by Another Name.

“Its 1960s for these kids,” Deputy Outreach Director, Fazia Deen says. For the past four years, she has been the DAH central force with volunteer-mentors to the Youth Services Center of DC. Why Washington DC? It’s the Nation’s Capital, where laws are passed, less than a 20-minute drive from our Virginia Mosque, and our Interfaith and Outreach work. This interfaith mentorship program often overlooked, and yet, among other community short- and long-term benefits, it attempts to reduce recidivism among the youths of all faiths detained. Over the years, the number of volunteer-mentors has dwindled due to new increased and burdensome application hurdles competing with other private programs.

How many black youth make up the Youth Services Center of DC you ask? About 99%. The rest: Latino. The retention rate is close to a staggering 80%. Some detainees may prefer to remain detained, where they are fed, schooled, and, sheltered away from the streets of violence, even if it’s just for a Court-Ordered time.

Youth services center of D.C. stats

It’s essential that we take advantage of being part of their lives. The youth of today are the adults and leaders of tomorrow. Justice for Juniors is an interfaith mentorship program that involves many different churches, universities, and Dar Al-Hijrah. Although dawah is not our primary mission on Monday evenings, our hijabs become a source of religious knowledge for the curious detainees. They wonder and ask questions, this begins the conversation. Many converts who claim Islam as their belief, mostly learn their religious duties from the streets. Others can come from households where some families might be Muslim.

What should you expect?

Detainees, young men, and women are segregated by gender at the Center. From the outside, the facility doesn’t look like a typical detention center. Mentor-volunteers must present a picture ID upon entering the first security checkpoint. Mentors meet in the classroom halls at the back of the facility. At least once per year, we arrange training for new mentors, where the facility directors go over protocols for the pods and rules for communicating with the detainees. Lead mentors go over weekly lesson plans, then, mentors are divided into groups. Security badges are provided and mentors are then ushered by officers to the pods upstairs. You will be assigned a pod with a group of mentor-volunteers. The time spent is limited as our program leaves just one hour before they are free, and bedtime. Sometimes, they are frustrated by the interruption; and other times, they look forward to our mentorship especially when the lesson plan allows room for organic deviation and is more interactive.

Expect the unexpected. Fazia Deen recalls a time they were finally allowed into the young women’s pod, “We walked in, and were immediately greeted with hostility when one of the detainees cursed at us, was abrasive in demeanor for about five to ten minutes. Being seasoned mentors, we sat patiently and listened to her, when she finished, we started to read the lesson plan assigned for that day; as we came to the description of a young girl growing up without parents, she snatched the reading plan away and said, ‘ you don’t have to read this, I can tell you my story…’ Fazia remembers how quiet everyone became as they listened to the horrors of the detainee’s life. Everyone, even the officers in the room became saddened. “After we exchanged communication. The young detainee allowed Fazia to hug her.”

How can you make a difference? There are many impactful stories to tell. I would like to personally say that Fazia Deen, goes beyond the call of duty, and she has stepped up in so many ways, often without seeking credit. Our Outreach and Government affairs departments are doing a lot of empowering things.

What do you need to know?

Day: Mondays — mentor-volunteers meet at 5:00 pm and return at 8:00 pm.

In order to volunteer for mentorship, contact Sr. Fazia in advance at

When volunteering for Justice for Juniors, remember the privilege you carry; the community benefits, the experience to gain. This privilege can include improved communication and social skills, resume building rewards, and most importantly the privilege of impacting or changing the life of a young teen who lives daily without stability.

Training for new mentors in the Youth Detention Center

“Freedom is never given; it is won.”

— A. Philip Randolph,


Thirteenth Netflix

NAACP | Criminal Justice Fact Sheet
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational…

Solidarity Vigil: Remembering Their Names

Reflection: Together We Rise Together We Fall

By: Hanan Seid

Photography credit: Bushra Soltan

Originally published on March 19, 2019

Published on DAH Blog

Our community has always been vigilant and Strong. Especially in times of tragedy. This week the headlines were filled with sadness and massacre. The terrorist attack in New Zealand was the catalyst, the catalyst to millions of people taking to social media, and to hundreds of allies bringing flowers to their nearby Masjids. Our unified message is: We have had enough of senseless acts of violence and demand gun control. Our system gives power to violence. Hate and terrorism took advantage of the Christchurch, NZ. Insane how the eye works. I truly don’t understand how the place we seek sanctuary in is the same one others see a battlefield. The same religion we see peace some see terror. There is a culture where we vilify the killer, but not this time. This time we have chosen to shift the culture and remember the victims. Their stories and aspirations.

Saturday evening our community held a vigil for the 51 (still in counting) murdered in the attack. What shocked me wasn’t the fact that hundreds of people showing up. Everyone was jam-packed in our courtyard, filling the hallways and standing in the lobby. What shocked me was that there were more people of other faiths in attendance than Muslims. Every person with a flower in hand and solidarity in the other. A scene out of the movies. This was what a neighborhood, a community, humanity is all about. Standing together in a subject that’s important to everyone.

Photo credit (photo on the right): Sait Serkan Gurbuz

Community leaders, delegates, Rabbis, Imams, and Priests stood next to each other holding the names of the fallen. As the rest of us were asked to turn our phone lights on. Harmoniously in silence. But how long before we grow numb to these vigils. We remember their name now. Share them in our timelines just to forget about it tomorrow. How many of us have already forgotten? Islamaphobia has been present since the first Muslims that were here. The political atmosphere amplifies pre-existing hate. This week lets continue to reflect on their stories, remember their names, and remember our amazing allies.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King jr.

Editors Letter

Originally published on February 5th, 2019

Originally published on DAH Blog

Asalamu Alaykum Dar Al-Hijrah Blog readers,

I know we have been missing in action. As I’m writing this I’m thinking of all the amazing events that have happened and the grand moments that occurred last year. I’m scrolling through my social media and seeing all the fliers of events to come. We have been going through a lot of changes. The community has a lot to talk about and the creativity, talent, imagination, and accomplishments need to be acknowledged. We’re happy to say we’re back in action and we want to hear from you! There is simply no community like the Dar Al-Hijrah community. Everyone is paying attention and it’s the time to tell your story! We will begin our Get To Know You and the Humans of DAH series, where we will be writing about the members of our staff, community, and volunteers. We will also be writing about the different departments’ work. Putting a spotlight on the many members of our community. We want you to get to know the amazing people that you pray beside. We want you to be a part of it! If you’re interested in publishing an article, poem, short story, or video on our blog please feel free to contact us! Have topic ideas? Send them our way! It’s time we take control of our own narrative.

We will be keeping you engaged in the conversation and details on the behind the scenes of events and the people who work tirelessly in times we aren’t there to acknowledge them. That is what this community is all about: unity, strength, diversity, family, and service for one cause. The cause to please Allah. I hope you subscribe and get informed on your fellow brothers and sisters. Let us move forward together and continue to be rooted in faith and growing in service.

“Journalism is the first rough draft of history”- Phil L Graham

Thank you,


Hanan Seid

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