hema’s sphere

Archive for August, 2007

life lessons 1: don’t ever give up

Posted by hema on August 31, 2007

i needed to get one of my students back onto a course this week, at a time when the college decided on a zero tolerance approach to students that had failed. i waited until just the right time to send an email convincing the curriculum manager why this particular student had failed, and why he would pass next year given the right support. she replied back with “ok, if it will shut you up than fine!”

lesson learnt: persisitency pays off. if you don’t get what you want the first time, then try again.

the Literature results were the worst ever this year, at a time when the college decided on a zero tolerance approach to courses that were failing. the principal decided that Literature shouldn’t run next year, which is obviously a huge blow to any department. i don’t even teach on the Literature, but i was still upset. we decided to remark all 100 of the papers ourselves, before sending some off to the examiners, in case some of the marks can be changed. they probably won’t be, but at least we can tell ourselves, as well as the students, that we did the best we could.

lesson learnt: if you’re going to go down, then go down fighting


Posted in life lessons | 10 Comments »

Protected: do i dare?

Posted by hema on August 28, 2007

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Guantanamo Bay lessons

Posted by hema on August 25, 2007

one of the modules on the citizenship course under democracy deals with the rights of the citizens etc. because the course is a bit of a mess and noone really knows what they are doing when it comes to citizenship (isn’t it a mess throughout the whole country?), i’ve been told to teach whatever i want, within reason. so, i’ve been looking at guantanamo bay and discussing how it fits with the idea of civil liberties. i chose guantanamo bay mainly because it’s something which is in the news and so the students would feel relatively comfortable holding a discussion about it, and it worked. in fact, every time i teach this lesson it grabs the students’ attention and really makes them think about some of the views they hold, which is all i’m aiming to do.

if the students are genuinely interested in the topic and doing research, the topic can be used as a basis for formal assessment. i have used it for the key skills communications portfolio to assess them under the discussion section( here’s the lesson plan)and also for GCSE English oral assessment under group work. i have found the topic works best as an oral assessment, but have set it for written work as well as for creative writing (a persuasive piece on why the camp should be closed down or an imaginative piece(write a dairy of an inmate) other suggestions could be analysing a newspaper report (under media, looking at facts and opinions etc) or analysing an article as a persuasive text.articles and stories, along with useful links can be found on the cageprisoners website.

Posted in teaching ideas | 15 Comments »

a tall order

Posted by hema on August 20, 2007

recently, i’ve seen people reject perfectly good rishtas (proposals) because of height differences. i really don’t understand it, what’s height got to do with beauty? is it the whole tall, dark and handsome thing!!?

i just feel bad for shorter men especially. if the taller girls don’t want to marry them, and even girls slightly shorter/ the same height are requesting taller men, what are they supposed to do? perhaps they should invent heels for men. hhm come to think of it, i think i might be onto something there!

personally, i think it would be rather nifty to be taller than your husband, katie holmes style. scienfolligy aside, i think they make a rather suave couple.

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments »

this is why i hate facebook

Posted by hema on August 18, 2007

one of my colleagues took some pictures at work on the last day, as she was leaving. i’m generally very careful about taking pictures and who has access to them, but seen as she was Muslim, i thought it would be ok. but yesterday, i had a conversation with her. here is how it went.

me:hey, could you email me those pictures.

her: oh, they’re on facebook, have a look on there.

me: they’re on facebook? so anyone can see them?
her: so, what’s the problem? your picture’s available on ebs (college intranet service). how is that any different.

me: it is different..

her: why?look, i can’t take them down anyway, because they’re group pictures. don’t worry about it, you’re covered in it. anyway, bye.

so, am i being unreasonable? i just don’t like the idea of my picture being on the Internet. shouldn’t it be my choice?

Posted in personal | 19 Comments »

hypothetical situations

Posted by hema on August 13, 2007

1. you have an 11 year old daughter who is about to start high school. you think it would be a good time for her to start wearing hijaab, but don’t want to push her into it. however, you know how difficult it is to switch to wearing the hijaab half way through, and don’t want her to have to go through that. you have considered sending her to an Islamic School, especially as the local high school is known to be quite rough, but cannot afford it. none of your daughter’s friends wear hijaab and you have never brought it up before. how do you approach the situation with her?

2. a new girl has joined the Islamic studies circle you attend. she has different views to you with regard to some issues. you see her teaching some of the younger girls how to pray. you do not agree with some of the things she is teaching, and the girls have been taught a different way. do you intervene and risk causing resentment and possible disunity, or do you accept that different people have different views and it is better to focus on what you have in common?

3. your parents have suggested a rishta to you. the guy is nice enough. he has a steady job and a very caring personality. however, your mind is set on somebody else, although there is only a slight possibility it will work out. do you carry on chasing a dream or go with the safer option?

Posted in random stuff | 20 Comments »

the sky is not blue anymore

Posted by hema on August 10, 2007

dedicated to the memory of abeer hamza aljanabi , and all the children throughout the world who are being denied their innocence. these snapshots can only be a fraction of what our children are actually going through. may Allah swt alleviate their suffering and grant them the highest rank in paradise.


all my life, i’ve been told i’m dirty and rotten just like my mother. then they came to take me away. i still remember the look on grandma’s face, accusing me, telling me i’m just like my mother, running away form her. they take me to another house, filled with toys and smiles, and i smile back wanting so badly to please them. i am happy here, but i am so worried they will find out. one day they will discover how rotten i am, just like my grandma told me. then they will make me drink the burning liquid too.


the sky is not blue anymore. was it always this icy grey and i never noticed? all i see now is black wherever i go. i cannot bear to look at the body that is not my own anymore. it belongs to somebody else now, black and bruised as it is. was everything always so black and i never noticed? i wish i could go back to a world of dolls and laughter, but everything around me is darkness and a cold, icy grey. they say it is over now, they will not come back to hurt me. but in my mind they are still there, they never left. the sky is not blue anymore, the sun no longer shines so brightly. somebody stole the colour from right under my eyes and i don’t know how to get it back.


i always wanted to go to school, i never got the chance to go in the world i used to know. when the books were given out and i squinted over the strange looking words, they made fun of me but i still tried to learn, knowing it would have made my daddy proud. then the loud sounds started again and i couldn’t face going back. “it’s only the bell,” they laughed at me as i crouched under the table, but all i saw was my baby brother’s eyes again, just before they came striding in and the loud sounds started and daddy pushed me under the table and they were all gone forever.


maryum pauses to gasp for breath and then the echo of her wails resound across the store. she feels the injustice of it so acutely, she is sure her heart will rip apart from the pain. don’t they realise how much she wants the doll to complete her collection? mummy’s eyes are pleading with her now to get up off the floor, she can see the embarrassment on her face. maryum knows she will get her way soon. a smile spreads across her face.

half way across the world, another maryum is lying on the floor also. there are flies tickling her cheeks but she cannot find the energy to lift her arm and move them. she feels the hunger pangs so acutely, she is sure she will faint from the pain. her eyes remain dry, there is no sense in crying. there is no-one left to hear her pleading. maryum knows it will be her time soon. her face is blank.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

do you believe in second chances?

Posted by hema on August 8, 2007

1.farah walks into the coffee shop, one of her old haunts, cautiously. she doesn’t really come here anymore, but is desperate for a quick coffee fix before work. as she feared, she bumps into an old friend. colin is pleasant enough, talking about old times and the way they used to hang out. he manages to get in a sly comment about the way she is dressed now, assuming her husband makes her wear ‘that thing’ on her head. when she tells him she is not married yet, he of course assumes it must be her father. if he only knew how much her parents were opposed to it at first, thinking she would never find a decent job, although alhamdulilah they were coming round now.

before she leaves, colin invites her to the party he is throwing at his flat the following weekend. smiling politely, farah tells him she doesn’t attend such gathering anymore, due to religious reasons. colin smiles wearily and rolls his eyes in an obvious way, as if to say “yet another bible bashing type”. as she walks out of the door, farah smiles to herself, thinking of the complete sense of peace she feels after a sincere and heartfelt prayer, and comparing it to the roller-coaster of emotions and ultimate feeling of despair, after a “fun” night out.

as he watches her leave, colin can’t help noticing how much more serene and calm farah looks now compared to her mood swings in the old times. he is left with a nagging feeling inside him, and he is not quite sure why. however, he soon immerses himself in plans for his party and the uncomfortable sensation is placed at the back of his mind.

years later, as colin sits in the masjid after saying his shahada, he still attributes his journey from darkness to light to the sinking, nagging feeling he experienced that day.

2. visiting times are finally over, and as malika finally lies down to rest her eyes, she steals one final glance at her baby boy. she reaches out to stroke his hair, as if to check he is actually real. closing her eyes, memories of the past soon come flooding back, despite her efforts to repress them.she sees an image of herself sprawled on the floor and wanting to die rather than put up with another day like this.waking with a start, she reminds herself that, through the mercy of Allah, that life is no longer hers.

her eyes fill with tears as she remembers the expression of real concern on Omar’s face during their first meeting. she remembers how he listened in sympathetic silence to her horrific story, although he had not experienced the pain and turmoil of divorce himself. not once did he judge her or assume she did not work hard enough to keep her marriage going, as so many people often did.

she remembers as well, the simple wedding affair she had opted for this time around. simple yet filled with so much blessing. as she had looked around at the smiling faces of her loved ones, she had made a vow to herself to put her past behind her and give everything she had to make her second marriage work. while other girls her age often complained and were unwilling to compromise over small matters, malika knew the value of a successful marriage.

3. jason sat in the noisy classroom, waiting for the lesson to start. as his classmates threw paper aeroplanes and chatted casually, he took out his notepad and reviewed the notes from the previous lesson. somebody poked him gently, hoping he would join in the fun, but jason knew he had to take his education seriously. he knew this would probably be the last chance he would get to pursue his dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer.at 23, he was the oldest student in the class, and he had not forgotten the hours of arguments and guilt trips his father had laid on him for not taking over the family business.

the family business. the reason he had not pursued his education in the first place, despite the promising grades and encouragement from his teachers that he could enter any field he chose. and now, with only days to go before the final exams, jason was set to attend one of the best universities in the country, a world apart from the life his father had mapped out for him. but he would never forget the struggle he faced to get where he was.

4. jessicca breathes heavily,feeling as if she has run a marathon, although in reality she walked casually and deliberately to the rec where she had been arrested for the first time at sixteen. in her hand, she holds a can of fuel, ready to cause some serious damage in the hope that she can burn off some of her anger. she has nothing to lose anyway, now that she had been expelled from the only school in the district that would take her. not that she cared, it had been a waste of time anyway. all her teachers expected her to fail and were waiting for the opportunity to have her out of their lives, so they could focus on the nice, pleasant kids who did not answer back.

although.. there had been that one lesson.

it had been taken by a substitute teacher she had never seen before. he had treated jessica which such respect, and she had really wanted to achieve something that lesson. on her way out, she couldn’t help but say a quick ‘thank you’ to the teacher, explaining sheepishly that she wasn’t used to being treated in such a mature manner. the teacher looked confused, so jessicca explained about her violent past, although she had not wanted to, for the fear that she would receive the same suspicious and wary look she had grown accustomed to. but the teacher simply replied”i knew about that” as he walked away.

all of a sudden, jessicca is reminded of the feeling of hope she had experienced that day, of a chance at a better life. she realises then that it is up to her, and nobody else, to change the way her life was turning out. she takes one sweeping look at the rec, and turns to walk away.

as she turns, however, she is met with the glaring lights and bitter siren of the police car. almost like a reflex, she looks up at the old cottage, and sees the stony face of the same old man who made the life altering phone call the last time. it was as though he had been waiting at the window all this time, expecting her to come back to make the same fatal mistake.

only this time, as the two policemen draw closer, jessicca does not try to run away. she walks towards them bravely, knowing she has nothing to hide.

5. anjum pushes the pram down the narrow street, focusing on the smile of her baby girl and trying to ignore the whispers and pointing she has to endure every day on the way to the masjid. she knows she does not have to go, but she tries to go as often as possible for the maghrib salah, as she loves to hear the recitation out loud. she loves the feeling of standing side by side with her sisters, and feeling that she is united with them, even if it is just for a few, sweet moments. she knows that they cannot be focusing on her ugly past, and reminding her of her mistakes with their looks.

as she enters the masjid, she finds the ikama is being performed, so quickly grabs a hijaab from her bag and hastily slips to the back to join the line of worshippers. after the prayer, she checks on little aysha, who is sleeping soundly. as anjum looks up, she notices a group of sisters staring at her accusingly, their hostile faces looking almost surreal in their beautiful, black hijaabs. she takes her own hijaab off quickly, realising that this is what is causing the problem. she has heard the comments before- how dare such a”loose”woman adorn herself with such a respectable symbol? the group of girls look satisfied at her decision, and their eyes follow her as she steers the pram outside, grateful for the fresh air.

as she begins her journey back home, she almost stumbles at the shock of what she sees. adeel emerges from the brothers’ entrance, smiling and shaking hands as he bids farewell to his friends. as their eyes lock, she recalls the first time they met. she had been blown away at her feelings, and wanted nothing more then to spend every waking minute with him. a month later her little dream world had been shattered, as her parents were informed of their love affair. instead of enduring their wrath, anjum had decided to run away with adeel.

she had endured a few blissful weeks of his company, before the arguments began. anjum had wanted to get married, but adeel said it was just a certificate and they had plenty of time for that. at the same time, she noticed that adeel was very traditional at heart, and seemed to have lost respect for her since the decision to run away. he seemed to think a girl like her had no morals. everytime she ventured out without him, he became jealous and eventually he forbade her from going out without him.

that’s when she knew she had made a big mistake. she left him that night and went back to her parents, who welcomed her back lovingly and helped her to build her life again, and taught her about the mercy of Allah. she realised that all along, she could have gone to them for help instead of assuming the worst of them.

as she looked at Adeel’s face now, dramatically altered by his long beard, she realised that he had also changed his ways and built his life again, and she was glad for him. she couldn’t help but feel, though, as she looked at the smiling faces surrounding him, that his mistake had been forgiven so much more readily then hers. although in the eyes of Allah, their sins carried equal weight, and their repentance had an equal chance of being accepted.

before she began her journey home, anjum took the hijaab from her bag and placed it firmly back on her head. with her head held high, she walked down the street, realising finally that it was only Allah that she wanted to please, and only Allah that could truly understand her need.

this post goes out to all the people who are never given a second chance, and for anyone who has made something of their lives, against all odds.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments »

just kidding

Posted by hema on August 4, 2007

this is a sensitive topic for me and difficult to write about but i’ll give it a shot.

a few years ago, around six or seven? i had a ..bit of a disagreement with a friend. we were mucking about on IM, thinking up elaborate insults for each other, as you do(!) however, all of a sudden the mood changed and i found she had become very offended at something i had said. i don’t even want to say what:( because it would sound so bad in isolation. but the worse thing is.. i refused to apologise for it, even though i knew how upset she was about it. i told her it was meant as a joke and that she had said some bad things as well, but i hadn’t taken them personally because i knew we were joking around. looking back, i had probably hit on a nerve without realising it. we eventually recovered from it, kind of, but it’s never really been the same since. let’s just say i don’t think i’m one of her favourite people even to this day..

but it taught me a valuable lesson. even to this day, if i think i’ve offended anyone i will apologise immediately, and mean it. even if i don’t feel like i have done or said anything wrong, i’m apologising for hurting that person and any damage i may may have caused.

but when we’re joking around with friends, how do we know when we’ve gone too far? if somebody takes soemthing you said personally, is it their problem for being overly sensitive, or should you take the blame for offending someone, even if it wasn’t intentionally? are our perceptions ofwhat is appropriate being influenced by the world we live in? just a few questions to think about..

the above scenario is why i have a mild heart attack everytime i come close to offending anyone. i don’t ever want the same thing to happen again. i’ll leave you with an part of an email i sent to some of you when i came close recently(feel free to use it should you ever need to send a similar one!) along with some of the most touching replies.

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Posted by hema on August 2, 2007

oh, of all the mean ,mean things to do

warning: contains spoliers on “The Deathy Hallows”

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Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments »