Thursday, 20 October 2011

Introducing our Teachers: BAHIA MA'ANI

Tell us a little about you and your family?

Well, I come from a family of 6 plus my parents: 3 girls, 3 boys. We’re all quite different in our own ways…yet definitely have family traits. I contemplated listing out all of their hobbies and careers to give an idea of their individuality…but I think that would take too long. Let’s just say we’ve got magician, outdoor leadership, web programmer, writer and 9 nieces and nephews in the mix. I am the 6th child (some may refer to me as the baby) and although I made the decision to move far away from them (we grew up in Western Massachusetts in the US…feel free to look it up ;) ) I feel blessed that I have such inspiring people as examples in my life, my parents included. They all definitely had a very big part in shaping who I am and what I value.

But now my family consists of me and my husband, much less people than I’m used to but no less entertaining. I shock a lot of people by telling them that I’m married; not only am I 24, but I look about 16. I’ve been told I look young and that I am young…pretty much since I can remember, and although it can be a little tedious at times, somehow it’s made me appreciate my age and where I am in life. I never planned to marry young – I even planned to never get married at all if I never met the right person, so I feel very fortunate that I found him so early on. He’s been my rock for these past 3-4 years, and I will always credit him for pushing me to pursue Sign2Music despite my own fears, and generally helping me to believe in myself. (awww….)
Why did you become a Sign2Music teacher?

Good question ;) I think a strange consistency in my family is that it’s taken all (or most) of us a while to figure out what we really wanted to do with our lives. There are a few things in my life that I’ve always loved: children (even when I was a child), expression, performing arts, and when I learned sign language in high school I loved that too. Not only did I love it, but I discovered that it was a great tool for all of the above. I’ve always thought about how I would raise my own children, so when I got married and moved to this country it was even more on my mind as it was becoming a more and more plausible thing to happen. One day I just decided to look up baby signing in Northern Ireland because I was curious to know if the phenomenon had reached this part of the country and to what extent, and that’s when I happened upon Sign2Music. I was so impressed with its message and its values. It was also after I had done my NVQ II in Children’s Care Learning and Development and I was a bit unsure of what I wanted to do next. It became pretty simple when in big letters was written “URGENT! TEACHERS NEEDED”.
Where do you do your classes at the moment?

I’m currently holding a Wrigglers class and a Movers class on Saturdays at Boys Model School on the Ballysillan Rd. I’ve started doing sessions for a mother and toddlers group in Sandy Row, and I’m about to start a Wednesday morning class at Whiteabbey Community Centre.
What are you most proud of about yourself?

Another good question. I’m proud of myself for facing my fears. I’ve had a lot of anxiety over the years, and had a hard time pursuing things that really interested me because I didn’t believe I had the capacity to do them. Looking back on my life I see how this crippled me in so many situations I was in and it kept me from really taking full advantage of many opportunities that I had. With the help of someone by my side cheering me on and telling me that I can do anything that I really want to, I finally feel like I’ve taken charge of my life and I’m doing things that I love, that challenge me, and that I feel good about.
Your favourite signing experience(s) (personally or one that has been shared with you)? 

Seeing as how I don’t yet have children of my own to enjoy the experiences of signing with, I have to say that my favourite signing experience was when I got my very first video from a parent in my very first term of teaching Sign2Music classes of their little boy signing the word ‘bath’. I was surprised at my own reaction of how excited and emotional I was. I must’ve played that 3 second video about a million times. Now I know exactly what I mean when I tell parents that they have to play down their excitement when their child does their first sign…it wasn’t even my own child and I reacted like a crazy person!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Haha…if I won the lottery I’d be pretty over the moon considering I never buy tickets!! I consider the odds to be pretty grim, so I find it hard to part with even a pound…every penny counts! Buuut for the sake of an interesting blog, if I did win the lottery (especially a free one) I’d like to say that I’d donate or set up wonderful foundations…and maybe I would somewhere down the line. But I’d probably put it into buying a house and I’d probably finally have children and I’d definitely travel to every country in the world and use it to visit my family more often….I would also love to introduce baby signing and children’s development to as many places as possible, so maybe I’d find a way to do that.

Tell us a secret about you? 

I’m never good at these ones. A secret about me…I don’t like most things pop culture related. It’s not so much a secret, but I have tried to tone it down in recent years. I’m usually pretty critical about different fads that are popular and I’m pretty apathetic when it comes to celebrities and tv shows. I mostly just like movies and tv shows that are cleverly funny. And I tend to really like celebrities that are quirky, different and usually hilarious. It makes it difficult to have normal conversations with people ;) But I also don’t mind if people like things that I don’t, I don’t believe we all have to like the same things J

Your favourite film? Book?

Hmmm, well I tied that in nicely. I tend to like quirky movies that find a way of showing the human condition. I have quite a few favourites. One of which came out recently: Bridesmaids, starring one of my favourite comediennes Kristen Wiig. It’s outrageously funny and I tend to identify with someone who goes against the grain and generally doesn’t identify with many of the feminine traditions and social norms. Another one that is very similar to that idea is Little Miss Sunshine, which is similar but about a child who wants to compete in a beauty pageant. Both very funny, neither for young audiences though ;)

One of my favourite books is called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A book of poems full of wisdom and insight on all different aspects of life. Another favourite is the Poisonwood Bible about a missionary family that goes to The Congo in Africa and ends up being greatly affected by the culture in very different ways…a very insightful read!
Who makes you laugh?

My family, and my husband, and my friends. And children. And sometimes myself. I really like to laugh ;)
Who inspires you?

Ahhh once again, my family and my husband. And a few people I’ve met here and there. I get inspired when I see people work hard to pursue what they love – and more often then not they end up making a difference in other people’s lives. It’s not just pursuing what they love, but standing up for what they believe in and staying true to themselves. I think really small gestures like that can go a long way… 
What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming a Sign2Music teacher?

It definitely takes work and responsibility. I went to the Go For It program which was offering free business classes at the time and I found that very useful to apply to Sign2Music as I really had no sense of business at all. It is useful to have a business head on you, but I
ve found that its simple enough to learn and its incredibly rewarding and empowering when you do. Ive also been very touched by the enthusiasm of all the parents Ive met. They have helped so much to promote Sign2Music and its so rewarding to feel like you have a community around you, supporting you and wanting you to succeed. Its fulfilling to be able to provide such a useful, fun tool for parents but its just as fulfilling to be able to build relationships with them and watch their children grow. It definitely feels like a give and take environment and without a doubt has made all the hard work well worth it. As you can tell, Im a very happy camper :)

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