Teacher Spotlight: Malek Charchour
Malek Charchour is an MLC English Teacher for MEK Review. This Fall, he is teaching MLC Critical Reading 4, 6, 7, and 8; MLC Writing 5, 6, 7, and 8; and also private tutoring MLC Writing 7.
The following is an interview between him and our marketing writer:
Teaching at MEK
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK?
Charchour: I enjoy interacting with the students in a group setting. I also like the amount of time each class is given. An hour and a half is the perfect amount of time to cover a variety of different topics. Also, I like the material we teach as part of the curriculum. There’s a little bit of poetry, a little bit of Victorian literature, and a little bit of more contemporary texts, which makes teaching interesting and adds flavor to the course.
Interviewer: What’s your favorite course to teach?
Charchour: I really enjoy teaching Critical Reading because I love literature. Middle school is usually when students are exposed to complex poetry for the first time, and it’s fun to analyze symbolism in poetry and literature with the students.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite poem?
Charchour: I have many, but my go-to is usually “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. The poem’s themes about existing, fulfilling one’s destiny, and recognizing that there is tremendous depth to every person have always resonated with me.
Advice for Middle School Students
Interviewer: How can middle schoolers become successful readers and writers?
Charchour: Students must cultivate a relationship with both reading and writing, but for middle schoolers I think that the key to becoming successful is to develop a strong relationship with writing first. Reading takes patience, especially for younger students. Once a student develops a personal relationship with writing through such mediums as free writes or journaling, which are more accessible forms of writing, they start to have more patience for language and a better appreciation of texts. Everybody loves stories, and when a student uses writing to tell their own story, they are able to see the close connection between reading a story and the craft of writing a story. I also find that reading aloud helped me a lot when I was growing up, and it is a practice that I find to be very helpful and enjoyable particularly when it comes to poetry and difficult material.
Applying to BCA
Interviewer: What advice would you give to students applying to BCA?
Charchour: Make a habit of reading more challenging texts. Difficult language can be intimidating for students, but if they face those difficult texts, they will develop comprehension. The earlier that students begin reading harder texts, the better because they will start to naturally understand different styles of writing while building their vocabulary.
Interviewer: How do you think students can build mindset or stamina?
Charchour: The best way to build stamina is to find enjoyment in reading and writing so it won’t feel so tedious during high stakes exams. Again, it’s about the student building a relationship with reading and writing in order to gain appreciation and understanding of literature. If the student is able to see reading and writing as a positive experience, then they will be able to tackle those sections of the exam with confidence.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Charchour: I always loved English, and in college I discovered the English major during an introductory course I took in my freshman year. The course piqued my interest in literature, and I realized that what I wanted to do was talk about literature and language, and that led to teaching. I was also very lucky to have wonderful teachers and professors throughout my life who inspired a passion for teaching within me.
Interviewer: Did you initially declare your major in college as English?
Charchour: I initially majored in French. I grew up speaking French, and because of that, had a relationship with and a love for francophone literature and culture. And then when I discovered the English major, I decided to double major in both French and English.
Through my college, I was able to participate in a study abroad program in France, and after college I taught English in France for three years.
Interviewer: What are some words of wisdom you have for students applying to college?
Charchour: I would definitely tell students applying to college to do their research! For every school you’re applying to, research what majors the school has to offer. Make sure to pick a major that speaks to what you enjoy, whether that’s British literature or calculus. There are majors and even specialized schools where students can study what they love and build their interests into careers after graduation.
Interviewer: What do you like to do outside of MEK?
Charchour: I really love reading and writing, and they take up a lot of my free time. Otherwise I enjoy hanging out with friends and have been spending a lot of time preparing and applying to grad school with the hopes of pursuing a degree in medieval literature/studies.
Interviewer: Any book recommendations for middle schoolers?
Charchour: When I was in middle school, I really enjoyed books written by Michelle Moran. She writes a lot of historical fiction centered around Ancient Egypt, which I have always really loved.
I also recommend that both middle school and high school students read the classics in order to acclimate themselves to more difficult vocabulary. The works of James Baldwin, E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf are great for students who are beginning to read classic literature. These texts discuss complex social issues of the time that continue to echo into our age and they also use more challenging language that students might be unfamiliar with.
More contemporary writers that I love are Julia Alvarez and Peter S. Beagle. Both of those writers are fantastic for readers of all ages.
I also think that poetry is a very important genre for young readers to initiate themselves into. Our most current poet laureates Tracy K. Smith and Joy Harjo are absolutely wonderful.