Trains, tickets and notes

I took this photo en route to an interview earlier this year. As I stepped onto the train nostalgia overtook my memory. I remembered travelling to university and moving all the way to the Capital-London- to pursue my studies. At that time it was different to how I consider things now- when I think of ensuing a degree.

On this journey I revelled in the scenery and let my thoughts meander just like the train meandered through the tracks. This was one of my easier days in that my mind seemed focused (away from other adult duties.)

Does anybody else just enjoy looking out the window and collecting their thoughts?

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Midwives and swimming pools

Yesterday I went swimming after a looooong time. It seems in recent times I have begun to do things and not feel the ‘guilt’ of leaving the girls behind. It was very much needed. Growing up I never felt uncomfortable about my body or appearance and was always grateful for the health I had. However since having my girls I became more conscious about my physique and social media isn’t very helpful either. More so than this it was mental health that really declined. Well yesterday at the pool I was casually swimming and pondering if I should venture into the deep end (not the strongest of swimmers) when I began chatting to a lady. We instantly connected and lo and behold what did we discuss-our kids, labour, the future and as it happens she is a trained midwife.

When she first told me I was astonished as I thought of all the people I could spring up conversation with it would be a midwife. Although it was a momentary conversation she helped greatly. I spoke briefly about what I hoped to do and she simply said “go for it.”

It’s at times like this when I think had those bad moments and times not happened I wouldn’t maybe value these pleasant moments as much.

Read

My daughter has recently began school this year. Similar to other schools there is a large focus on literacy and numeracy, especially in the early years. All that mark making and refining the cognitive skills really comes into fruition at this stage. She is still learning to write and cannot yet read but is a trier! At home we have been practicing using the Ruth Miskin method and those jingles really aid to help her write the alphabet.

In the past I have invested in the dry-wipe books to encourage her pencil control and prepare for school. At the same time I did not want to over do it as I want her to enjoy her childhood. I do still want her to acquire languages and share the same as I do. In my previous post I discussed the importance of literacy in the home. I think it is equally vital to revive those traditions of story telling in our own language as well as Arabic too. I have been learning Arabic for a number of years now but I really want my children to be fluent in it whilst they are young.

When the Angel came to our beloved Messenger (SAW) the first word he said was “Read” and he repeated this too. This interaction carries many gems but to me it illustrates the significance of literacy. In fact it denotes that this is one of the first things we should endeavour to be. Over time I have thought about this a lot- often having bright ideas that I need to write about at an ungodly hour. One thing comes to mind each time and that is that to be ‘literate’ (I say this loosely) is underpinning our faith.

Working in the field of education for eight years now I come across terms such as literacy, comprehension, literate all the time. There is a deeper meaning to them that goes unnoticed and that is that we were encouraged to ‘read’ and learn in our scriptures. Now when I see the effort placed in Early Years it makes me think this is how it should be  for Arabic and other languages-because that truly opens the door to cultures that we are unaware of.

English is slowly becoming the Lingua Franca in the world-which has its advantages and disadvantages. Lets revive and maintain the diaspora of other languages that are out there to. What I have decided is to use the resources and methods I have acquired in English Pedagogy and teach Bengali, French and Arabic. If my daughter can now produce the alphabet in English why then can she not become familiar with the morphemes of Arabic. After all it is all promoting literacy! When I was a child my older siblings would have to explain things to me in Bengali as I did not know English when I began school. I on the other hand I have to explain things in English as my daughters are not that familiar with Bengali.

I wonder if she is going to loose the ‘Bengali Literacy.’ I do not mean academically rather the politeness principles, the jokes, the cultural idioms etc. Similarly, not engaging with Arabic in the manner I had hoped will that give her a neurological disadvantage?(now theres something to thing about.) It all brings me back to the act of reading.

For now I will be taking small steps as I believe this will encourage my tiny little wonders more than completely blasting them with languages and then becoming stagnate.

I guess I wanted to share the surge of excitement I felt about the link to Islam.

…..Closeness…..

A few months ago I was having a conversation with my sister in law. She said “do you know I read something?” I enquired what it was, she said “I came across a post on Instagram and it said ‘spend time with newborn children as they have spent the most time with God.” The words really struck me as I had been contemplating the ups and downs of motherhood (as you do and never stop.) I was feeling as though I had reached somewhat of a plato. On the one hand I am aware of the tantamount of blessings associated with motherhood, but at the same time there are other things I want to explore and aspirations I want to fulfil.

Then at the same time I do have the usual ‘mum guilt’ that accompanies me and I’m sure accompanies other mothers too. I think about the dichotomy and try and do a balancing act. It usual begins positively but I encounter obstacles sometimes and then it dissipates. Hearing this did give me a renewed vigour for motherhood. It was something small and I am not the type of person who seeks compliments or reassurance but having this perspective is nice at times. It helped me in that moment as it drew upon spirituality which is equally as important as anything else in parenting I believe.

Are there any mothers who also feel like this please leave your comments below.

……Moving away, coming back……

From young age I’ve loved writing, reading and studying. I’m a self confessed geek who enjoys note taking. I am someone who always carries notebooks and is drawn to stationary. The moment pen hits paper and you form words and your brain starts processing ideas is joyful for me. Growing up and being the daughter of first generation immigrants I was not read to *well not in the traditional way.* My parents were not heavily involved in my schooling as parents are now. BUT I was immersed in literacy and learning in a different way; which has had an impact on my desire to learn.

I have memories of creating things with my mum and transcribing things for my dad as soon as I learnt to read and write. It may not sound innovative or exciting, however at that time it felt like I was progressing as I was practicing things I had learnt at school. My parents were never told to do this it was just something they did naturally. I do not think they would think about this and give it any significance but these small things had an impact on the way I coded things in my brain. Being exposed to different languages at home also made a difference. At school we were taught in English. When we came home we spoke in Sylheti. We were taught to memorise in Arabic and then attended a Bengali school at the weekend where we learnt standard Bengali different to the vernacular dialect we spoke at home. In addition to this we would watch films in Hindi thereby being exposed to Urdu as well as both languages can be understood if only one language is knows.  All of these different elements contributed to the passion I have for linguistics, literacy and study-which I am hoping my children also benefit from. However, it was never a conscious choice that was made to ‘boost’ our literacy skills.

I recall being told stories in our native language and imagining kings and queens in gowns. I would conceptualise their attire in our traditional cultural clothing. That would be saris draped across the main female protagonists and the male protagonists sporting Sherwani’s with brocaded cloaks and a turban on their heads.

I reflected on this after I attended a conference about Literacy. It was attended by many professionals who discussed the achievements made in the area. Unlike other parts of the UK here in Bradford literacy professionals are attempting to raise levels in ways that I have not seen whilst working as an English teacher. The event began with an overview of pupil achievement in the core subjects which has improved massively over a span of ten years. During this time the economy has faced many changes. Education itself has had many changes. Schools becoming academies, curriculum’s being overturned, subjects being collapsed, targets being altered, new qualifications being introduced, beaurocracy increasing- to mention but a few things.  Amidst this teachers have ploughed on (sometimes begrudgingly.)

A quote that resonated with me was when the organiser of the Bradford Literature Festival said ‘literacy has to be brought out of the classroom.’ This was reinforced with the speakers of the Literacy Hub who working with the National Literacy Trust have developed new projects that they are piloting here in Bradford. It was refreshing to see organisations working together as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Moving back to the aforementioned quote I do think this is essential if we want to raise a generation that does not have homogenous literacy in my view. It seems that now in classrooms all pupils young or old are expected to excel. In contrast to this I think it is the process that should be appreciated-although results are important-they are not the sole goal.

My daughter has recently started reception and they are laying the foundations for her learning. These early years are important but the family plays a large part in this too which I think goes unnoticed. It was reassuring to hear someone else echo my sentiments about literacy being brought out of the ‘classroom.’ This in combination with the ‘Men in Early Years’ project lead by the Literacy Hub will hopefully encourage greater participation whilst drawing upon that which is familiar to families.

Even though I know about the internal elements of education becoming familiar with phonics has been a journey for myself. Other families do not have access to English so to hear that work was being conducted in family homes in mother tongue languages showed encouragement. The fact that parents were not expected to write rather tell a story in their own native traditions I believe will improve children’s literacy. This shows to me that it is not resources that are available that make differences rather it is how we execute resourcefulness.

Whilst waiting for my transport to arrive I saw that outside the conference there was a statue of a child taking it’s first step. On the plaque it was noted that it was created by a number of children from the primary schools based in Bradford. For me this symbolised what these professionals were doing by shifting away from the homogenous models of literacy and taking the first step- after all this is the hardest.

 

Escapade

Last February I took my daughters and visited their aunty in the city of York. I decided to travel on the train and prayed that the girls would not be to difficult to handle (which they weren’t.) The journey there was filled with questions from my three old and her eyes were filled with excitement. My one year old simply slept which for any mother who is travelling is a blessing of relief. Once we arrived my sister in law met us part way to her flat and ensured we were fed before leaving again for work. In the silence of the flat I simply watched the two sisters play and explore their surroundings something I often take for granted. After they settled I decided to visit the the surrounding area. You see where my sister in law lives is in close proximity to libraries, museums and galleries.

We first went to the library. Each of the girls selected stories which I read to them. They then drew pictures while I snapped a few pictures being the photographer that I am. After this, the three of us went shopping and found some great bargains. Walking through the city and its cobbled streets reminding me of the history lessons at school. This was further reinforced by the Viking exhibition that was taking place. Whilst walking through I sensed the student vibe that the city is also known for, which reminded me of how I wanted to study their myself. The buildings boast of archaic architecture even houses that are being built now. Being able to go through these thoughts was a blessing and a far car way from the daily routine I undertake at home.  Having said this I enjoy the day to day activities as well but a change helps to refresh things.

Although this was not an extravagant holiday anywhere my daughter remembers this trip. She enjoyed the journey there going through the tunnels and looking at the landscape. She liked conversing with me and spending time without rapidly moving onto the next thing. I guess I wanted to say sometimes just taking a step back and giving them time gives our relationships revival.

Mindful minutes

With the era of high paced technology, the influence of social media and convenience at our finger tips you would think that people would have peace of mind. I do not not know about anyone else but I myself feel as though it can be a cause of isolation and give rise to unknown worries that you did not know you had especially in the new generation of teenagers that are growing up.

I remember growing up and my cousins share little snippets of gossip they had heard. Celebrities were inaccessible except through TV and websites that you had use dial-up connection to access. When you came home from school MSN was THE way of communicating with friends. I even remember writing letters to cousins who resided in London and looking forward to a response. Yet at this time I felt secure and confident. I did not feel as though there was a need to ‘be’ a certain way. Of course there was peer pressure. Growing up in a predominantly ethnic-minority less area came with its own obstacles. Now it is different (this I will expand upon in another post.)

I am not condemning social media or technology I think they are great tools and have many advantages. You can see your beloved ones on FaceTime, share pictures on whatsAPP, update events on snapchat and express yourself how you want. It would be ironic if I was to do this as I am using this platform myself to engage with people. I guess a part of me misses the proximity of the old ways. Another part of me is a worried mum. I have two young girls and do not want them to be consumed by the ‘idealistic’ (I say loosely for want of a better word) images presented on these social media sites.

I have been thinking about it for a while and encourage my eldest daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is and also encourage her to be confident. At the same time I see my adolescent nieces and my heart churns when I see the turmoil of pressure there is. I was recently teaching past exam papers at work and the sample text was a letter written to a daughter from a mother. The advise she gave echoed my own thoughts.

I am just a bit skeptical of the exposure to ‘perfectness’ (I know this isn’t a word.) With the way APPs are developing I think the social media is only going to escalate. What does that mean for parents who just want their child to create a secure identity? If anybody has any further thoughts please share 🙂