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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Earlier this week my youngest daughter and I attended a play session set up by a local Deaf centre where we live. I have always been interested in sign language and am familiar with Makaton. This is something that has been embedded in the early years curriculum for a number of years now. Most notably Makaton is used by Mr. Tumble (whom I know most parents and children will recognise!) However, British Sign Language (BSL) is what was used at the play group. I did not know what to expect as it was advertised for all not just exclusively for those who had hearing difficulties or an impairment. I was intrigued though. I have to say I was apprehensive too as I did not know any sign language.
Once we arrived we were greeted by the centre co-ordinator who explained how the session would work, which put me at ease. My daughter however was immediately engaged with the toys that were brought once the teacher arrived. I honestly was in awe at this point it was like I was in another world. Another person arrived and like me came as she was interested in BSL, more specifically Baby sign language.
The topic for the session was ‘The Farm’ and similar to other parent toddler groups I had attended the structure was the same. The only difference being that we were learning BSL as the session went on but in an informal manner. All the while I kept observing the interpreter, the child care assistant and the teacher communicate. ‘Communicate’ and ‘communication’ are not things I think about in my daily life. In this session, I kept thinking how blessed I am that I can hear and speak. How blessed and fortunate everyone in my family are especially my children that we have no defect and communication comes so naturally to us. Whilst writing this the ayah (verse) that comes to mind is “So, (O mankind and Jinn,) which of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?” (Surah Ar: Rahman 55: 15.) Over the past few days I have been thinking about hearing, sight, speaking, cognitive processes, understanding, vocalisation, the simple production of sound and the list continues.
I am someone who has a high pain threshold but can become flustered and unnerved by the minutest of things that some people would not even factor into their lives. If your familiar with my posts you will be aware the I experienced some health problems after having my second child. However, at that time I reminded myself of the blessings I had. It was still difficult. Over time I have began to manage some of my health problems and now see them as the very things that have given me incentive to show more gratitude to the one above. Attending the session somehow made me acknowledge the benefits of gratitude more so.
I also noticed how my daughter observed the teacher as she communicated using BSL. It is true that children learn especially at a young age through playing. During the session as she had to access to toys she was distracted but I saw her attentively watching an elderly couple signing to one another and making movements with her hands in an attempt to mirror their body language. I am fascinated by communication, language and linguistics overall. Hence why my children are exposed to a various different forms of communication e.g. drawing, painting as well as languages e.g. Bengali, French, Arabic and of course English.
I am hoping that this continues over their life time and they are able to benefit and utilise such skills as I have been able to do and share the same intrigue and curiosity as myself and someday relate and reflect these small moments.
So I haven’t been writing for a while but I have written down what I would like to write about insha-Allah. I would like to do more writing this year. If there are any topics anybody would like to suggest I would be happy to listen to them.
Moving on, I began this year in my hometown of Cleethorpes which I was not expecting at all. But we plan and the on above us plans and HE is the best of planners. When I was a kid the beginning of the new year always meant the start of a new term which I was excited about. As an adult the years that have started have always been a milestone of celebration for my children rather than for me. I like to start my year in the blessed month of Ramadan. Alas I digress.
As a year 2017 was eventful. I overcame some of my personal issues and achieved some goals that I thought would never be possible. My younger brother got married which was a great celebration. In the same year my grandfather passed away which caused us much grief. A few months earlier I decided to embark on Speech and Language Therapy then declined due to religious reasons. I tried to gain my QTLS but faced obstacles (albeit placed by oneself.) I rekindled lost relationships and made new friends. I learnt and am still learning to improve myself and have no problem admitting my flaws.
Why do I write all of this? Well I’m not a talker you see nor do I like to brag but writing allows me to gather my thoughts and aids me to gain belief in myself. You know when you have one of them days where everything seems to get you down, you can’t see a way out or you just feel rubbish or you get fed up of doing the same thing and feel undermined you can come back and think LOOK HOW FAR I’ve come.
Our lives are made up of moments that form the most beautiful of memories. What matters is that we do have trust and belief in ourselves. Yes it is important to be selfless and kind but do not lose focus. It is possible to do one thing AND some thing else. That is what I would like to do in 2018 rather than thinking it is this OR this.
So this year and the years to come will be my AND years. Its strange because prior to falling into a minefield (in my head) I was an AND person not an OR person. For all the parents out there have realistic expectations of yourself and make the most of your time with your children. As my older brother said that I’ve always known “time with your children is not going to come back.”
So what are your thoughts about the year to come? Please let me know.