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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂