Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Taking a Step Away and Then Moving Forward

My first Batik piece... it is about family... and the green part is my individuality.

Sometimes taking a step away from it all gives one a clearer picture of where they are headed or where they want to go; Like murky water when the muddy particles settle making it more transparent and limpid. 

A few weeks ago, I took a few steps back to look at my life, the murky water, before and after having children. I reminisced past years; thinking of situations that I could have dealt with differently. I took a step back and accessed incidents that NOW I would have had another reaction to. I looked at times where I would over react or the words would pour out of my mouth without thinking of them or their consequences.... I wonder sometimes if it is my age, 41, that is bringing all this thinking. 

I started this journey that I have wanted to embark on for sometime but never had the courage to do so. I knew it would involve time and effort... that it would take confidence to criticize, understand and face my faults but I never took many steps forward before. I would take a few and then stop half way; forgetting what I had promised myself to do or not do.

However, this time is different. I have made a conscious decision to become a better person in every way. I have decided that despite being a not so bad person to begin with that there was always room for improvement. If I wanted to do something, I must do it well and there is no use advising my kids to do so, if I did not follow through and model that… and therefore, I have my children to thank for giving me a big push forward on this.... as I want to be a good model for them. 

Although it is hard to admit to myself and on this blog, here are the areas I need to improve on;

1.    Develop my confidence and accept compliments by ceasing to put myself down.
2.    To face my fear of falling, failing, making mistakes and appearing a fool.
3.    Be kinder to people/creatures and show it in everyway.
4.    Hold my tongue until I have something good to say in any situation that demanded my voice.
5.    If I chose to ignore something negative, then I should totally ignore it; not voice it or vent about it.
6.    When tackling any project, to do it to the best of my ability and not give up half way when the pressure builds up.
7.    If I felt stressed out and frustrated, to paint or do something that I enjoyed.
8.    To face my insecurities and believe that I am worth people getting to know me.
9.    To trust the people closest to me, believing their words and that they care for me.
10.  To believe that I am worthy of doing what I enjoy doing without feeling guilty about it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Believing Makes a Difference

I have gone into my profession because I always found studying and remembering facts very difficult. I had many inspirational teachers who were very supportive and others who were not so. But one Arabic teacher stuck to my mind.  He has sadly since passed away; Noor Eddine Sawalha but his memory will continue to live on. He taught my brother and was always proud and impressed by him and then I came along three years later. 

The difference between my brother and I, as we say in arabic, was as large a difference as the one between the earth and sky. My brother was the quiet, studious, respectful one and even though I was respectful, I was definitely not quiet nor studious. I do not think my mom liked going to parent teacher conferences, even though she never mentioned it. Whenever she returned from the finger wagging hour and I heard what other teachers had to say, I could only imagine what she must have felt sitting there opposite my teachers. 

When I joined Ustaz (teacher) Noor Eddine's class, I was the chatter box and the one who treated school as a past time with no clear goal in life. This erudite man never told my mom what I could not do or what I was doing wrong. He used to giggle with her at the difference between my brother and I but he always told her that I was capable of doing well. He did not give up on me or thought that I could never be able to pass Arabic A Higher Level. When I received a 6 out of 7 points, he was proud and said that I had deserved a 7. 

The reason this teacher made a huge difference in the way I viewed myself and my abilities was because the year before, I had failed my IGCSE's (The British International General Certificate of Secondary Education)... 6 out of 8 subjects... (I consider D a fail). I only passed English and Religion in Grade 10... And when it came to the International Baccalaureate (a 2 year program that ended with an exam at Grade 12 along with Theory of Knowledge papers and a 4400 word research study paper), the school's Secondary Principal and his Vice met with my parents, along with another student's parents, to inform them that we would be unable to pass the IB Diploma.

They suggested that we study for the government exam, Tawjihi (an inferior program that encourages rote memory and crushes critical thinking). Both sets of parents refused the suggestion stating that they have paid for us to be enrolled in one of the best private schools in Jordan and that they are positive that we will try our best to pass the exams..... so we were given a chance and placed on a three month probation.... result? I MADE it... I PASSED the diploma and the rest is history. 

In addition to my parents' and brother's positive influence, Ustaz Noor Eddine had made a huge impact on my self-worth while I was going through the 2 year program. I came into his class thinking that there is a big possibility that I will fail the two year program as was expected. I would end up jobless on the streets with no university degree.... well not really on the streets but you get my drift. He helped me feel comfortable in class urging me to share my thoughts on works by Al Jahith (An Iraqi prose writer) and Manfaluti (An Egyptian literature writer and Poet) no matter how out of space they were. No opinion was wrong in his class. I left his class and the school believing that there is a chance for me out there...That I am not the dumb kid who just giggled and fooled around in class. I am not the FAILURE some teachers thought I was... I actually have a chance to do something... to be someone... to SUCCEED... I went to university and proceeded to get on the Honor Roll twice and surprise my parents when I received a B in Mathematics. 

Ustaz Noor engrained in me the belief that I can make something of myself.... and even though my self-confidence falters from time to time, I continue to rewind back in time to remember the feeling of confidence I had while I was in his class. 

That feeling is what I would like to instill in all the students that I encounter during my teaching career. I know how much a teacher can influence a student while they are at school. I want them to feel heard, respected and comfortable in the classes that I teach. I love it when students have a smile on their faces, they are engaged in the lesson or they laugh at my silly jokes. I love it when quiet students who are usually shy and rarely share their thoughts, feel comfortable to raise their hands eager to say something. And I love it when I am at my lowest confidence level as a teacher, to receive a note or have a student say that they have enjoyed my class and think I am an awesome teacher who believes in them. 

I am now THANKFUL that I failed my IGCSEs... I tell my students who are struggling that I am a teacher who failed... but then stood back up... and tried again... My students are always puzzled... How can a teacher who failed a major exam go on to succeed and receive a Masters of Science? How can someone who failed become a teacher? I am thankful that they now get to know that everything is possible... that yes... a teacher can fail.

I am thankful for this failure as it shows my students that I am human... teachers are human and make mistakes... and that we can learn from our mistakes and shortcomings... that we can all succeed no matter how many times we fail or disappoint. I tell them my story so that they could in turn start their journey through their academic career believing that failure is good... it's okay... and that they are capable of overcoming any obstacle obstructing their path.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Emotional Triggers

I am becoming an emotional wreck at 41, crying every time I see, hear or read of anyone's pain. I live in Africa and I am from the Middle East, so being a witness to pain is not something new to me. I see it everywhere I go but I have not grown a thick skin to protect me from the emotions that come with it. 

Having children does not help the situation either as now every feeling is more intense and dramatic than when I was in my twenties. I picture my children in similar situations and I cannot help but cry burning tears for those who suffer in this world. I was told a few times that I should not be too idealistic wanting the whole world to be a better place for everyone... being certain that it can be that way; that we can all live equally and lovingly forgetting the labels that place boundaries between us and our feelings towards one another.

I guess it does not help that we have Internet now. Pictures and videos are uploaded and plastered everywhere. Pictures are emotional triggers for me.  They open my heart's flood gates. They bring forth a slew of emotions that flow so fluidly through every part of my body especially my eyes. They capture the essence of a moment held in time. I take one glimpse at any picture that portrays one of the arrays of emotions and my heart strings get instantly pulled at. They either bring tears of sadness or gently pull my lips to either side of my face. 

If the picture is of a painful event, it activates this deep internal desire to hold the person, child or animal close to me, wanting to make their hurt disappear. My eyes start to well up and the only way to release the tension in my eyes and heart is by crying. And even though I know that it is good for my children to see their mother emotional over Earth's inhabitants, they also need to see her strong and able to take it... but my emotions are difficult to control....

I am able to control anger, frustration, fear and disappointment and someday these will be conquered, I am promising myself that. However, I am finding it difficult to control compassion allowing it to consume me bringing tears to my eyes every time I see or hear of suffering.

I feel silly bursting into tears like that. I feel awkward in the aftermath. I make people feel uncomfortable or apologetic for having such an effect on me and I certainly do not want that. I do not know what to do about it...

Any suggestions dear readers?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

For My Children

I have been noticing a more positive change on my outlook on life lately. You will laugh when you read that it came straight after Jennifer Lawrence's recent Golden Globe win as well as the events of my last post. You might ask "Why Jennifer?"

Well.... (scratching my head for an honest, yet not too silly sounding answer as this might be.....)

Watching this wonderful actress interact with the people around her on Youtube and how natural and raw she is, made me think of the lessons I could learn from this young star. I could laugh at myself just as she does and try hard not to take everything so seriously, to heart or personally. I could start thinking of interesting ways to respond to situations that would normally make my eyes flair and get my blood circulating double time in my veins. I could laugh at the quirky thoughts that fall like rivers out of my mouth making it sound as if I meant them to be funny. Oh, the number of ways I could hide my insecurities, embarrassment and awkward feelings. I can be creative or just cheat and watch Jennifer instead and virtually cyber stalk her; watching every interview or acceptance speech in the hopes of learning a new comeback or joke. 

I am aware that I am unable to ALWAYS laugh as she does but at least I have the capacity to try. I made a pact with myself to take everything as lightly as she does and laugh with at least one person I meet a day; other than my children of course. Once a day is a good start and hopefully that number will go through an unruly process of mitosis. 

I promise to pair up one laugh a day with one kind gesture a day. The idea of a mother being a model for her children strikes my heart's chord and the more I read about it, the more that chord sings and the louder it becomes. Since my husband and I try to teach our kids three essential admirable attributes of any human being; strength, intelligence and kindness, I am determined to show my kids what kindness looks and feels like. I want them to see what one small act does for other people and how their whole face metamorphoses when they receive it. There is no use in me encouraging my children to be kind, telling them what they must do, when they do not see me modeling that act everyday.... And of course that kindness does not have to be only directed towards the human species but all kinds of species; from insects to plants. 

I know for sure that having one laugh a day and showing one kind act towards someone will have an equally favorable effect on me. I am positive that it will foster a happy feeling within me which will in turn push me to further confirm the importance of doing this; wanting to do it more often ....hey, this might be my self- actualization process. 

In other words, I am determined to be a good role model for my children and this will be an excellent incentive for me to change myself and help me become more mindful of everything I do.... every single day.