Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sure Start Children's Centres

Few weeks ago, I've been lucky enough to find my way through one of Sure Start's classrooms, with the help of a classmate. At first, I thought it's some kind of an early intervention center that offers therapeutic and social services for children with disabilities. Something similar to what 'I think' the one in Dubai looks like. Well, it was different.

I entered through the gate. It was a typical center with rooms. There were KG-like classrooms, a kitchen, and a sensory room. What was interesting about the sensory room that I've seen is the 'booking' system that they offered for parents. They could simply book a specific timing where they can spend some quality time with their child and go through that sensory experience together. In the room, there were instructions all over the place to help parents in understanding what each item can do and its purposes. They can also get creative according to the child's needs. For instance, the bean bags that were scattered around were covered with a huge thin layer of foil, just to increase the sensory awareness of babies or children with visual impairments. It provides them with some sense of space through stimulating their auditory and physical senses. I thought that was fascinating. Just the idea of providing parents with such an option is very interesting.

Next, it was the time for the 'group session' which was held every afternoon on Saturdays. One of its aims is to bring families of disabled children together. Not just the mother and the child, but even family members and friends are also welcome to join in. There were sensory activities, and we waited, and waited. Finally, the families arrived! There were mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. It was something equal to a trip to 'the mall' for these families. Some clearly came from a poor background, but it didn't really matter. They were having conversations with each other, not only about their children, but general topics. It felt like they were taking a break within a safe school-like environment, where no one's there to judge them or stare at their children.

What I found even more interesting, is the fact that these children come in without informing the coordinator about the child's diagnoses, or WHO from the children is the disabled one! They were all playing around together. Honestly, I was lost as I tried to guess which of these children has the 'label'. But again, does it really matter?

There were many sessions that took place, similar to the one I observed. These groups are:

  • Swimming Session
  • Well Baby Clinic: parents get to meet a health visitor to speak about their child's health concerns, as well as a weight check!
  • Work Club: to speak about JOBS and financial issues, which I found very helpful, especially since they are considered as 'disadvantaged families' who probably got a panic attack knowing that their child is disabled and might require extra financial support.
  • Fitness Group: for moms!  £4  per session, and only  £1 pound for a day care service while the mother works out.
  • Baby and Toddler Time
  • La Leche League Support Group: breast-feeding help and support group
  • Postnatal Group: with a health visitor
  • Little Rascals: an opportunity to meet other moms, dad, and carers (for children between 0 to 18 months)
  • Play and Storytime: focus on language skills
  • MINOS: Mums In Needs Of Support
  • Sensory Fun: targets children with extra sensory needs
  • Midwifery Drop in: supports mothers during their early pregnancy until 28 days after birth
  • Physiotherapy Drop-In
  • Childminder Group
  • Poppies Playgroup: for babies and toddlers
  • Fitness Group--"Baby Comes Too"
  • Men Behaving Dadly: interesting!
  • Special Families United: that's the one I attended

I liked the aim behind establishing such centers. Just the idea of providing the option is amazing. Most of the sessions are run buy volunteers or trained individuals who didn't really need to earn a degree. Also, they didn't have to be from a specific country with certain qualifications and a certain language in order to be hired *hint hint*. It was very pure and simple. I mean its not perfect. They also do have issues to do with parents not attending and not really making use of this opportunity. But this doesn't make them angry with parents. They do continue trying and trying.

"Dubai Early Childhood Development Center". I can't really judge. I've only been there once and it was a very formal 'ministry' visit, with a perfect powerpoint presentation and a pretty Director who was probably the only local person working there. Wait, there was the marketing person too, I guess. Other than that, I never heard a thing about their work. Not yet. So you see, I can't judge. I don't want to judge.

Friday, April 20, 2012

is it fear?

The sooner I get to graduate, the more scared I am. I have to admit it! I am really scared. I'm freaked out. I'm in panic. Throughout this year, I got to know who my real friends are. The first time I went to the center for a visit, I barely got a "Salam Alaikom", or even a smile. Their face expressions said, "Oh gosh, she's back." Honestly, I never really expected to be welcomed back this way. Instead, I expected people to fake a smile or a conversation just to know about how I have been doing, which is normally what they do everyday. However, this was probably too hard for them to even fake it. What hurts even more, is the fact that those whom I once thought were my friends, are the ones speaking behind my back. This hurts. Now I think I hold a much greater responsibility towards the center. I need to go back, as strong as I can ever be. I need to speak up for what I believe in. I need to stop all the sh*t going on in whatever way possible. But I'm scared. Very scared.

Before I left the center, I was this quiet girl who doesn't really have a voice. I was a good teacher and everyone recognized this in a way or another, but I was in my own world. I trusted a lot of people, I let a lot of them step on me, but I somehow ignored and moved on. This is the reason why they thought it's OKAY to throw things at me, because I'm that sweet little girl without a voice. Another way to look at it is: I'm that weak naive girl who cannot speak for herself. I don't know if I can change this. I just don't know if I'll have enough strength to fight for what I believe in. I feel so lonely in this, but I don't want to leave the center before I make a change, even if it was a slight change, or at least I should try hard. Very hard.

I'm away from them, but I still do feel these stabs in the back. I feel the hatred. I've been with these people for 4 years, and no one even bothered to ask if I was still alive. I just want to go back and gain all the confidence in the world, and all the strength that I need. I pray to Allah every single day to provide me with whatever I need to fight this. To fight this very wrong sick system. I have one year to do this. I have to do it. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

I realized that I've been relating all my MA courses to my work experience and the provision for disabled children in the UAE, which made me realize even more that I made a very wise decision to work for a while and then pursue my higher education. Another thing is noticing how enthusiastic I get once I decide on a research topic that is relevant to my background. I just type it all from my heart and not only relying on the literature. This is the reason why I've been anxious lately due to the fact that we need to submit our "Critical study" form: my very very final 15,000 words research paper! How stressful!

So my main MAIN topic is provision for pupils with SEN in the UAE where I'll be focusing on the only governmental center in Dubai: my beautiful beloved center! Underneath this main topic are three important factors: teachers, parents, and my very beloved students. Now I'm not sure if 15,000 will be enough to research it ALL. What I know for now is that I need to focus on my favorite part which is the students. I noticed how much emphasis is being placed on students' participation in the UK and how essential it is for their voice to be heard, especially when it comes to developing provision. I would very much like to know what our students think and feel. They were never asked about their opinions. I don't even think that the 'official' stakeholders will bother to know whether they have brains to think, or feelings to express! That's why its a great challenge for me. I don't know how to do it, but I will have to find a way. If the children in the UK can do it, then I think our children deserve a chance. Maybe they have the answers to the questions that our smart officials were never able to answer. At the end, it is THEIR provision, and we are all working for THEM.

About the teachers part, I'm not really sure if I should go for it. Obviously, they are not interested in my 'educational' development. I also don't think that they will be completely honest while answering since I'm someone they kinda know, and it might occur to them that I might spread their answers around especially if I'll be interviewing them. Plus, I personally don't trust myself since I will be very judgmental and subjective when interpreting their answers. Maybe I will use questionnaires that are completely anonymous which require a yes or no answers.

The third part: parents. In general, I've always believed that parents play the most important part in the lives of their children, whether disabled or not. This is why I always try to involve them as much as I can in their children's education, and I also try to involve myself in their lives at home. Not because I want to or I'm interested. Its because I noticed how much this accelerates the child's learning, and also reflects positively on the relationship between the child, parent, and the teacher.

So basically my priorities right now are listed as students, parents, and teachers. The big question is: does the research make sense? Would it be useful or would it be just words on papers? Will my findings make sense? Ah this is so tiring.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I belong...

I just came back from a very busy one month holiday in Dubai. During this one month, I planned a one day visit to my center. This one day became two days. I was planning on turning in to four days...

When I first entered, I felt like a student joining a school for the first time. My legs were shaking and I was breathing very fast. I've been questioning myself all morning: Should I wear this or that? Should I put on high heels or flats? What gifts shall I take to my kids? Which perfume? Should I park outside or underground? Behind all these meaningless questions was a main one: Do I really want to go?

I reached during break time. I entered and my eyes were gazing at my kids. H recognized me immediately and she was jumping out of her wheelchair! G was very shy. S realized I was somewhere in his memory, but it took him a while to find me. The rest of our sections' kids were simply happy. I was happy.

Everything felt was like I've been away for a day or 2. I put on my working coat and went back to work so smoothly. I did the same on day 2. Its funny coz I thought I'll get a reality shock again after all the pinky-ness that I was living in at the UK. But no, it wasn't reality shock. In fact, reality has never left me. I had to hang on to this reality because THIS is what I wana change. So, to all my dear friends who think that I'm 'too good' to be in this center: its where I belong. These are my children, my people, my country. I'm not saying I'll be there forever. I'm just saying that Allah knows best, and shall leave when its the right time to leave.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


And back to my blog! Oh god how much I miss you...I've come along at times when I was depressed and feeling so lonely. But then I gave up on you just like I gave up on my special world, and created a distance between this world and my personal life that was penetrated by you.

I did not exactly give up my special world. Its been 4 years! YES 4 FREAKIN YEARS...& I'm still there, with my little ones who have grown so much. My princesses G & H, RA, M & S. Okay I'm not technically 'there'. I'm at the UK doing my Masters in Special Educational dream, my passion, what I've always wanted so finally came true! So before I speak about this huge pinky dream I need to update my blog since the last post was more than 2 years ago.

School (in general) has been moving one step forward, and ten backwards. Things has been getting worse and worse by the day. I thought I can make things change. But things have ended up changing me, and that's when I realized that 4 years of my life has passed, and I shall not stay any longer. This place is not for me. Not yet.

We moved into this fancy building that is very beautiful in terms of how it looks like. Our director left us and we have no one to lead the center at the moment. Teachers have been working so hard in gossiping and creating problems with each other. The whole atmosphere has been so negative and sick. Poor children. I think am gonna stop here.

UK: learning and learning and non-stop learning! I so needed to be in this environment that is filled with hope and positive energy. When are we going to reach to this stage of inclusion? I did learn that it took developed countries decades to reach this advanced level, but I also realize that we can adapt those strategies and avoid making their mistakes in order to accelerate the process of inclusion in the UAE! Its not really that complicated. It only requires strength, intelligence, commitment, and hope.

Instead of counting the days to go back to my country, I'm counting the number of days that are being subtracted from my one year of learning experience. It is sad. It is hard going back to my normal life in school after I have seen whats being done here. The kind of treatment and respect that is expressed towards every single individual without discrimination based on ability or disability.

However, I do believe from all my heart, that I have been chosen to do this. I have a strong feeling towards being the change and causing it to happen. After earning my degree, I will have all the confidence and strength that I need to fight those in the 'wrong' places making the very 'wrong' decisions. I will be heard and someone will eventually listen to what I have to say. Those children need me back in there. In the small classroom that hold great love and compassion. The classroom that shaped me and brought up the best in me. I can almost say that my greatest degree that I will always be so proud of has been earned from this classroom, from my children whom I miss dearly.

Even if I had to be selfish enough to leave them one day, I'll always have this goal of going back to them and improving the services that would be provided for a new G, a new H, a new RA, a new M, and a new S.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dear special world,

You have given me strength, passion, and love. The best moments of my life with my precious ones, but it IS time to leave, for good.

When I first came, you were a dream come true. Actually it was too good to be true. My first *second thoughts* about you were related to how much I thought I wasn't good enough to be there, how much my children deserved someone better than I am.

You were so special, that you made me forget my life. I spent so much time and energy in your world, and I thought you're everything I ever wanted, you're the best that I can ever ask for in my life.

The children? my love, my passion, my strength. I learned so much from you and I still believe in you. I know that Allah will always protect you, and be with you. I definitely know that some day inshaAllah you will be able to talk to me, and I will talk to you, and we will laugh together.

I'm in so much pain, and I don't even know why I'm typing this right now. My eyes are filled with tears and I don't know what else to do. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Year 2

I had to scan through my posts for the past couple of years of teaching. It feels like being in some marathon where I was running and running not being able to catch my breath for a moment. Its just so fast how time is passing. Im a teacher already with 2 years of teaching experience. WOW..

I also noticed how less enthusiastic Ive been this past year. Perhaps its because of all the changes, pressure, and being affected by others behaviors. It was just too much for me to handle on a psychological level. students progress was amazing..especially the 2 little princesses G & H..I've seen them grow every single day and I just cant describe how wonderful that feeling is.

Do I want to continue? Yes. I did have second thoughts about everything coz I did reach the point when I've had enough..but being with my students made it worth every moment of despair..the happiness that fills up my world when being surrounded by them always reminds me of how much I love what I'm doing, and I can never leave that behind and walk away..

For the last month, I havent really prepared anything for next year coz last year's preparations were stored somewhere in my shelves. This school is so unpredicatable where everyday or at least every thursday it must end with some surprise..and unpleasant one I just decided to leave everything on hold until I get into my classroom and meet my students again..whether they'll be the same ones OR I will be expecting a number 7..8..or even 10..everything is possible..

miss you..always..