Ah October

I remember having the need to write this in September. There have been so many reflections I have wanted to write about. Time has escaped me really. I have been on a holiday with my husband and children.

I had not been to Bangladesh in eighteen years. Visiting it as an adult with my own children allowed me to go down nostalgia lane. It is strange how our experiences are different as children and now as adults.

This was a unique experience for the children. The lack of the internet encouraged them to think ‘out of the box.’ The rural landscape was somewhere for them to explore. Being restricted in resources made them use their imaginations. Don’t get me wrong I love the internet and believe it has advantages but I do think its a convenience that is in a way stemming childhood. No I am not judging anyone’s parenting style or skills but children should and need to engage and experience things away from the internet too.

I guess I was drifting away from the reflection there. It was the rural area that really made me reflect and think about a lot of things. It was the basic living that really demonstrated that real humility does still exist out there. We live in an age of convenience. As much as we have we are still isolated I feel. The interaction is no longer there. I am not against advances in any such way but there is benefit in moving away from it every now and again.

Of course I like things done quickly. I love saving time but there is a blessing in slowing down and just looking at the scenery sometimes.

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A story to remember

This weekend I attended a weekend seminar. It was absolutely amazing. For a long time I have wanted to learn about this chapter in the Quran. It is the chapter entitled Yusuf. Yes this is a Prophet known in as Joseph in Christianity and is also known in Judaism.

I want to share that even all those years ago people were afflicted with issues we are faced with today. The Prophet Yusuf was effected by abandonment, false accusation, imprisonment and then success. Its how attained the success that really struck a chord with me so to speak. The process of the what he underwent and the language that is utilised to portray what happened to him.

When reading the Quran as my understanding of Arabic is limited I rely on the translation to understand the verses. Being a self professed literary and linguistic geek I do go onto analyse the structures but know I am not fully gaining the authentic interpretation of events. Its the subtleties of embedded within the Arabic language that really convey the meaning. For instance the emotion embedded within the language to inform us of the events as they unfolded.

The chapter begins with a young boy and his dream. Immediately we are then told of a caution the Prophet Yaqoob gives to his son (I could write another post just about the lessons from this.) Then it switches to the other sons and their plan. I often wondered why at times the Quran switched. Unlike ordinary narrative structures I knew there were things I was missing. Even though I read the translation and knew a little tafseer. Like works of literature that I explain to students using a literary guide the instructor explained it in the same manner.

I believe its the parallel that I liked of teaching and conveying information. It wasn’t monotonous and I think the next few posts will be about me sharing my experience. This one was simply my thoughts so far.

I bid you adieu

I am utterly amazed at how Ramadan flew by. For those who are not aware let me provide a brief description and it’s significance to Muslims. Ramadan is the month in which fasting (abstaining from food and drink ) is prohibited between sunrise and sunset for Muslims. It sounds arduous and cumbersome but in reality it allows me to refocus. I was saddened at its parting this year. Its presence felt like a fleeting visitor who came to my home provided me with a glimpse of peace and then left me in waiting for its return. I’ve seen and read a lot of posts of the bittersweet feeling they have at its departure. I have this feeling to.

But I know we can still feel those feelings during the other Islamic months too. Don’t get me wrong I struggled with the long days but I was at peace. I pray that our fasts are accepted. I pray that we meet the next Ramadan with openness and good deeds and benefit from the blessings given to us by the one above.

So it is not adieu ( yes I like my Shakespeare) but an anticipation for your return.

We made it

I find times in the car a time to contemplate. It’s one of those of rare occasions where my husband and I are not occupied or tending to our responsibilities (namely children.)

Today I am not on the car with husband. I am driving in the passenger seat at the back and listening to and contemplating the month ahead. Muslims all over the world will be fasting in the month of Ramadan. But recently I have been thinking and being grateful for the long fasts Alhumdulillah (praise be to Allah.)

Every year he has made it easy for me. Although I have been apprehensive and anxious Allah has always gotten me through.

This year I am grateful to reach another Ramadan and reap its benefits with the permission of Allah.

May Allah accept it from you and may he accept it from me. Ameen.

Unexpected

So brace yourselves ladies and gentlemen this will be a long one.

I haven’t mentioned this previously but I have depression and anxiety. Now this will be useful as I explain the events of this weekend and possibly other blog posts that I write. For this post I am going to draw upon several aspects of my life that shape some of my behaviours, actions and thoughts. I have not stated my mental health condition in order to garner sympathy and pity. Far from it. I believe that I have been experiencing this for a reason and if what I have been through and go through helps one person or makes somebody smile I will be satisfied.

Spirituality and belief

This is the first part I want to write about. I learnt more about my faith once I attended university. I revelled in learning about Islamic History, Arabic language and religious texts. I felt and still feel this how I want to live my life through this guidance. So I researched and studied a little of the religion. I attended lectures and became friends with more Muslims. What I did not consider was the practical element and relating this to my life. At university I was in a bubble and made plans of how I saw my future. Once leaving this bubble it was a struggle. Adjusting to family life once more was difficult. Balancing things were hard (or so I thought.) This wasn’t anybody’s fault but I realise I was looking for answers that weren’t really evident. Once I got married my confusion grew worse eventually leading to sorrow and then hope.

Marriage

As a Muslim British Bangladeshi (yes identifying my ethnicity is important) girl this began as an emotional rollercoaster. Now although I write and can lecture in this situation I was baffled. I found myself complying to things that I wasn’t really happy with or rather wanted to do. I know marriage is not easy and good things come to those who wait but a little understanding and empathy wouldn’t go amiss. Also no one is to blame how I react is dependant on me not on anybody else. This I realised especially after this weekend is important. You are your own person. Anxiety and depression is not you. Marriage is not you. Spirituality and belief are not you. Yes they can determine how you may conduct yourself or certaine lifestyles you choose but ultimately you are your OWN person.

I am not encouraging selfishness but if you want to beat things believe in yourself. Don’t wait for anyone or anything to provide for you. Yes call upon God but be optimistic. You can. In the past I was thinking that I would find answers and feel valued by getting married, having children. No it stems from self love. I am not saying that those things do not provide me joy because they do.

Culture

Ahhh this is a word that is thrown around. I hear aunties talking about it when they discuss weddings, occasions and various other things. Every family has their own culture and whether our parents and elders like it or not the generations that have grown up here in England have a different culture. This is really important to acknowledge. Culture is not bad I love it actually but don’t use it as a vice.

The conflict

Speaking to my friends, colleagues and relatives I found that I am not the only person who has experienced the conflict between the above three. But however just live life and enjoy it.

The reason

That last sentence is something I truly, truly believe today. My daughter is currently in theatre but she will ok inshallah (God willing) and Alhumdulillah (praise be to Allah) that it’s nothing serious. But during the process I got myself in a state and used all my energy battling my own thoughts. It honestly took all my strength not blaming myself (although I did.) It was an accident. All I could thing about was what is everybody going to think? What are they going to say? What should my response be? How will I make it better? Why am I not more careful? Why didn’t I give her paracetamol at home? Why do I respond to situations in the way I do? Why am I not perfect? ( and no I didn’t take it out on my daughter but they are effected.) The thoughts went on to the point that I remembered things that were long gone. Things that had happened that people wouldn’t give a second thought to I think about again and again. This is anxiety and depression. One makes me feel the physical impact of my thoughts. How did I get it well as a result of I think focusing on things that really in the long term don’t really matter.

I am going to beat this for myself, for my kids, for my husband and for my Lord.

The different hats of English

I have began teaching English recently. Now I teach English Language and English Literature both at KS4 and KS5. I also teach ESOL all the way from pre-entry right up to level two. I also teach EFL and English for Academic Purposes. No this isn’t to gloat or inflate my own ego or showcase my skill sets but to discuss some basic distinctions between the subjects which I think is valuable.

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow colleague this week that echoed something I once heard in one of my university lectures. This was that because one is an English teacher it is assumed that this person can teach literacy skills, EAL (English as an Additional Language) and also teach Functional Skills. Well….let me tell you all unless you have had specialist training (which I can tell you is rather rigorous) an English Teacher will not necessarily have the knowledge of the other subjects. I have been fortunate in my career to experience teaching English in a various roles but they vary greatly.

ESOL (English for Speakers of another Language) is a subject that is designed to teach the English Language building up and sometimes with introducing the four competency skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. The pedagogy of how you transfer the skills is completely different from how you would teach in a ‘traditional’ KS4 GCSE English Language and Literature. The language skills are embedded from the beginning drawing upon the basics elements of element right from the morphemes (letters) to lexis (words.) In the lessons students do participate in sentence building and consume grammar simply to be able to communicate. The demographics of the students is greatly different. They are mostly mature adults who work and have already experienced life and education in their home countries. This has to be taken consideration when teaching as it impacts how they process the language learning.

EFL (English as a Foreign Language) on the other hand is heavily grammar orientated and is taught to those who have an ‘adequate’ command of the language. This means you introduce students to techniques such as summarising information, synthesising evidence, debate and possibly essay structure. This is similar to mainstream English but you draw upon different teaching styles and pedagogy.

Now EAP (English for Academic Purposes) is taught or rather I have taught this to International students based in the UK who are studying a University course. In this course one would teach essay structure, writing techniques and subject jargon. In the past I have spent a lot of time reading Economics books and books about Engineering to help my students.

When teaching English in schools you have guidance and resources (I know some may disagree) to deliver. The students are there and you do not have to think about retention (well not all the time.) You have the chance to discuss great writers, literary techniques, character development. The students have the intrinsic language skills (yes I know they may have SEND requirements) however at large you do not have to work on sentence building.

This is just a general overview and there is surmountable research in each of the fields. What I wanted to distinguish is that there are differences and to the lay person they may not be there but whatever any English teacher does in any of the roles is based on specialist knowledge.

 

Gestures

Today was our second session at the weekly ‘Signing Tots.’ Once again it was an opportunity to learn. This time however, the teacher asked me and showed me some new BSL signs. Through the interpreter she expressed how important it was to use facial expressions also to communicate. I was fixated on watching her hands and replicating the sign properly that I was not looking at her face at all. As it is an informal session the teacher was able to give a lot of time and repeat things that one wouldn’t normally expect in any learning environment.

I was able to communicate to her a little about myself and the languages I can speak. She asked me which one was my favourite and I replied with French and Arabic. I have always loved learning French. Then she signed that BSL should be easy for me as the grammar of French and BSL are the same. I had not even thought about BSL having its own grammr but it does. After all it is a language so why should it not have a grammar.

My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the session too. The focus was on the ‘three little pigs’ and the room was equipped with toys that reinforced this popular child’s tale. It was not anything spectacular but the figurines that were laid on the floor amongst the carboard houses encouraged the learning of vocabulary. It reminded me of my own teaching in EFL and ESOL whereby,  I relied on minimal resources to instruct.

I could see my daughter attentively following the teachers gestures and try to make the signs with her minute hands. I am hoping that we are able to learn, implement and benefit others through these sessions Insha-Allah (God willing.)