Director Forum: Fatima Al-Mahdi, Mesaieed International School

Mesaieed International School's MUN Director, Fatima Al-Mahdi.
Mesaieed International School’s MUN Director, Fatima Al-Mahdi.

Name: Fatima Al-Mahdi

School: Mesaieed International School

Number of Years Being an MUN Director: 2

Conferences Attended: 14

Idea of a dream vacation: Hiking through the rain-forests of Madagascar

Biggest pet peeve: Dismissive people

Animal Lover? Yes, but only when in the wild. Caged birds make me sad.

Biggest challenge juggling teaching and being and MUN Director: Trying to wedge in a social life!

Three things you wish parents or students understood about MUN:

1. Most of the delegates you meet are just as nervous as you are. Smile, shake hands and ask them if they know which bathrooms have the windows that can easily be popped open in case of an emergency exit.

2. Every conference is a unique crystal made up of all the delegates in attendance. Standardization is an ugly myth, and comparing one conference to another is foolish and will blind you to the merits of the conference, the discussion, or the delegate in front of you. Never be dismissive and always listen more than you speak.

3. Each conference is only as good as your Leadership Team, particularly the Admin and Tech teams. Trust them.

Most memorable MUN moment: In MISMUN’s first conference, we had a year 7 delegate who came to me, distressed, saying that the older students were disregarding his input because of his age. After a brief and calming discussion, I sent him back to his committee. At the end of the day he had not only manged to make his voice heard, he was a main submitter with a winning resolution. The smile on his face!

Open Forum: MUN intimidates most people. It certainly intimidated me the first time I turned up to THIMUN 2012 as a chaperone! As a novice to MUN my learning curve was steep, not only in getting my head around the procedures, but also in appreciating the use of MUN. In my first conference, I saw delegates reduced to tears by others demolishing their clauses, and I saw timid delegates shying into corners, wishing they could speak up but paralyzed with fear. I heard words bandied around like ‘caucus’, and ‘quorum’ and felt completely….baffled. Why were hundreds of students flying in from around the world for this? I couldn’t follow the structure, and I didn’t understand how the delegates seemed to know what they were doing!

By my second conference, I had begun to understand. I began to see what is so crystal clear to me now; that actually, after working as an educator for 10 years, I felt that I had finally found the medium with which to best develop that elusive quality, ‘critical thinking’. The holy grail of education! Ownership! Research skills! Students spending hours and hours happily researching foreign policy and drafting clause after clause! Practicing speaking skills in front of a mirror (yes, I know you do this delegates)! Confidence, accountability, responsibility, global awareness and team work!! I can feel a little teacherly shiver running through me as I saw all this and so much more coming through out of MUN delegates.

My learning curve is still continuing, and I am now looking to find out, what do other teachers think of how MUN affects their students? What do they notice about the way they approach their studies? How do parents feel about how their children are affected through participation in conferences? I would love to know your thoughts! Please feel free to email me your thoughts to f_elmahdi@qp.com.qa.