Monthly Archives: July 2013

What Matsui Can Teach about Education & Community

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, provided by Chris Ptacek.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, provided by Chris Ptacek.

In 2009 the Yankees won the world series against the Philadelphia Phillies…mostly because of Hideki Matsui.  Now, this is just personal opinion, but I am not the only one that feels this way.  That night, Matsui became the first Japanese-born player and full-time designated hitter in the history of MLB to win the world series MVP award.  Matsui was my favorite athlete even before this happened, so I was of course extremely upset when the Yankees did not sign him the next season.  And although Matsui played for other teams, he remained my favorite player, never forgotten by Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans.  And it was yesterday afternoon that Matsui signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, officially retiring as one.

I sat teary-eyed through the entire ceremony not because Matsui is my favorite athlete but because of what he stands for.  The best way to describe Matsui is quiet, humble strength.  You see, Matsui is the only Yankee to hit a grand slam at his first, I mean first, at bat.  He went 4-4 and 3-4 on his first two days back after returning from wrist surgery that had him out for several months.  And through it all, Matsui remained humble and a true definition of a team player.  He actually apologized for getting injured, and shies away from talking about himself.  He has stated that he felt like he didn’t deserve the MVP award, and although most players would name this as their shining moment in their career, Matsui named a victory against the Boston Red Sox as his favorite moment because the Yankees won the game in a total team effort.

The way I feel about it is that one can be a great baseball player and have awesome numbers, but if your attitude sucks and you’re all about yourself then, to me, those numbers mean absolutely nothing.  Besides his quiet strength and humility, what I like most about Matsui is that the man has a sense of humor.  He is known for playing jokes on his teammates and every once in a while you could catch him making faces at the camera.  Oh, how I miss watching him play!

So, how does this relate to education?  Well, say there was this great teacher, and you asked him or her what their best/favorite moment was in their profession.  What would you think if the teacher said, “Winning educator of the year” as opposed to “Watching my students evolve” or “Seeing my students light up when they understand something” or “One of my students telling me that I’m their role model”? Matsui represents greatness by being great through others.  One is a great player and a great teacher through the action, influence, and aid of those outside themselves.  With education being more and more about testing and numbers and treating students like they’re all the same, I know that it can be quite difficult to truly teach and help a student.

Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Matsui represents how a community should be.  A community should be, well…a community.  This simply means placing others above yourself and being there for them and actually caring.  Matsui reminds me of who I am, who I want to be, and who I have to be in order to consider myself truly successful.  I am only as great as the impact that my words and life has on others.

Thank you, Hideki Matsui.  I hope and pray that one day I can share these words with you in person.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

In Honor Of…

candles-141892_640Dear Readers,

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, so to cheer myself up, and perhaps some of you as well, I have decided to write today’s post about compassion.  It’s actually a repost from when I first started blogging, but its meaning is the same, nonetheless:

I sometimes get the feeling that we as a society are afraid feel and let others see our emotion and compassion.  And sometimes we can just be flat out cold.  I’m sure some of you have seen the show “What Would You Do?,” well this is a story from a first hand experience.  I used to live in New York City (NYC), and as most know, NYC has thousands of homeless on the streets and in the subway trains.  Sometimes that person is not homeless, but a severely disabled or scarred member of society that needs some change for surgery or what not.  More often than not, these people are asking for money and food.  As a child, you learn to adapt to your surroundings and you observe and blend into what is “normal.”  Therefore as a child, I thought it was completely normal to ignore a person in need and pretend that they are not literally standing in front of you asking for help.

I moved away from the city when I was ten, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I rode the subways and walked the streets of NYC again (I was visiting family).  I cannot describe the immense pain and heartache I felt.  The majority of that emotion was not only because the person was disabled or homeless.  It was because 1) That person was being ignored by a train full of people or by hundreds of passerby and 2) I could not imagine how that person themselves felt to hear complete silence or no movement of help towards them when they ask for it (not to say that there weren’t some noble souls).  Whenever I could, I gave to those on the subway some money and offered a prayer of blessing to those on the street and to those I did not have cash for.  Like most, I sometimes wondered if they would actually use that money for good, and you know what I thought to myself?  I say “it’s on them.”  It’s on their soul if they decide to take advantage of person when he/she is doing something that they see right.  I say to myself “don’t worry what others think, or what that person may do with the money.  You’re doing what you think and feel is right.”  I sometimes feel like we use the “they’ll use it for alcohol” excuse because we are afraid to show compassion for fear of being looked at as weak or foolish.  If something is the right thing to do and it feels good, why not do it?

What is ironic about this topic is that emotion is treated completely differently when it comes to the media.  Although it is their job to tell the news (and stretch the truth), the media tends to focus much too much on drama, and it is at times ridiculous and even offense.  I will never forget when Steve Irwin died and the media asked his beautiful daughter, Bindi what she thought Steve would be saying to her at that time.  Can you get any more invasive that?  And with a child?  Bindi smartly responded (and I’m sure her mother wisely prepared her for this intrusion) that the answer to that question was private.  When the media was interviewing survivors after the 2011 tsunami in Japan some of the first words that they used to describe a man was “he looked like he’s been crying for days.”  Then there was the question of “I know it’s hard on you, but can you describe how you’re feeling right now?”  In tragedies of the past and tragedies of today this stupid question has never failed to be asked.  We as viewers see the damage, destruction and the same horrific and saddened faces of people who have suffered because the media shows them over and over.  We do not need to know how they feel because we can see it.

Good deeds of course happen everyday, and sometimes the media does capture it.  I’m sure that most have heard the story about a cop buying and giving boots to a homeless man.  Although it is great to hear good news often, I sometimes wonder why this has to be news in general.  Then I remember my past experiences and realize that it is quite rare to see something like this happen.  This is a good thing, and yet it is a reminder of something sad.  With that being said, good deeds should be done in the shadows (when it can be helped of course).  And whether we feel brave enough to do it in the open or do it when no one is looking, we can sometimes feel helpless, which can make us not help at all.  We can feel helpless because we may feel like we are not able to effectively reach those in need whether they are near or far away (so we can therefore feel like our help has no impact), or because we simply don’t carry cash to give to those in need (I rarely carry cash).  And to that I say “in honor of.”  What I mean is, if you feel like you cannot help someone for whatever reason, do something in honor of them.  For example, you can donate clothes in honor of those in natural disasters who lost everything.  You can donate blood in honor of those who lost their lives.  “In honor of” can also simply be giving someone a thought or prayer of hope and well-being.  Even if you have the money in your pocket to give to those in need, just giving them a simple blessing from the heart is doing something.  Do Something.  I promise it will make you feel good and perhaps make you a little happier.

I hope today’s post has reached you.  Let it light a flame inside of you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Detachment of Education

Dear Readers,

“Detachment” has been one of my favorite movies for a long time.  If you question the difficulty of teaching and the passion of teachers, or wonder about the issues with the education system, I suggest you watch this movie.  It is truthful, honest, and very realistic, and what I like most about this film is the multi-levels of detachment shown in displaying what the word truly means.

 

1) The Difficulty of Detachment

Have you ever tried helping someone that needed help, but didn’t take it?  Have you ever given your all to making someone’s life better and had to watch them day-by-day throw that hard work and effort back in your face, therefore making your life feel worthless?

That is probably what it’s like for several educators out there who have to deal with students that not only show no respect or care for the educators, but for themselves as well.  To watch a person literally destroy their life when your job is to help them get it together is truly a painful experience.  When your job is to help make a life better, how is detaching from caring about that person’s well-being easy?

2) The Detachment of Parents from Education

I have said this before in a previous post, and I will say it again: Education Starts at HomeEducation Starts at Home.  Education is a three-way partnership: teacher, student, and parent.  Everyone has to be involved, or it simply doesn’t work.  Oh, and there’s that thing that not all students are taught at home: respect.

3) The Forcing of Detachment

I truly feel that it is a common belief that teachers are supposed to be magical robots with no feelings or emotions, and that they are placed on Earth to only teach strictly from the text to magically and easily instill knowledge on their students who all magically receive it in the same way.

And it is because they are supposed to be like robots that teachers are not allowed to feel or show emotion.  One of the best scenes in “Detachment” is when Adrian Brody’s character is approached by one of his bullied and outcasted students.  She felt like he was the only one that could understand and relate to her, and there was one point where she starts crying and proceeds to hug Brody.  Though Brody was hesitant about the girl’s approach, he was still extremely concerned about her even after another female teacher walked in the classroom just as it happened, causing the girl to run out of the room even more upset that she wasn’t able to talk to Brody alone.  What I liked most about this scene was the point that the director was trying to make.  There was no attraction because the young girl was a lesbian, and even though the female teacher was probing Brody as to why he was “touching her,” and why he was alone in the room with her, he continued calling the girl’s name and actually attempted to chase after her until he realized what the other teacher was getting at.  And after justifiably shouting her an explanation, the teacher asked him what he expected her to think and he so wonderfully replied “stop being so f-ing judgmental.”  There is no doubt that this scene hit home with many viewers.

I understand that there are and should be certain boundaries between teachers and students, but how are troubled students to be helped and comforted when they are expected to be robots when in fact many teachers mean so much more to their students.  Robots cannot connect or relate.

4) The Detachment from Learning

When I say “learning,” I’m talking about learning.  Education today is more about test scores and placement standings, rather than teaching students what they want and what matters in ways that they can retain and actually learn from.  It seems to be more about the glory of the schools rather than the glory of the students themselves.

One of my favorite lines from Kingdom of the Sun is when my character Helena states that “there is something seriously wrong with this system.”  This system, many systems, there is definitely something wrong with them, don’t you think?

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: History

PD-US, Adapted from an image courtesy of US Library of Congress.

Dear Readers,

If you have read my “About Me” page, you will know that I greatly enjoy watching Disney movies from the nineties—my favorite being Pocahontas.  It is not only because it is nostalgic or entertaining for someone like me, but because I find it fascinating on so many levels to compare my thinking and opinion of a movie from when I first watched it 13+ years ago to now.  Back then, I loved the movie because Pocahontas was a beautiful, strong, and influential woman that fought for what she believed in.  In my opinion, she was and still is the best Disney “princess.”  Back then, I also loved the movie because I thought it to be entirely true, which not only made me love the character more but feel empathy for the loss of her “relationship” with John Smith.

13 years later, although I still enjoy the film very much, I have realized what an impact time, education, and the falsification of history has made.  You see, back then, even though I understood the general idea of two different races clashing against each other, I didn’t truly grasp the meaning of the word “savage,” and what it really means to be “civilized.”  13 years ago, I didn’t know the influence that the media had on my mind because back then when I was told that the film was based on the real life of an actual Native American princess, I believed it.

It is because of this that I am able to look at Disney’s Pocahontas in a new light.  And I think I actually like the film more than I did all those years ago.  Pocahontas has some significant themes that I am happy to see in a “kid’s” movie, but disappointed because “kid’s” movies are not the way they were “back in those days.”  However, it is also because of this film that we must remember the power and influence of the media to change and contort things into something that they never were.  It is because of this film that I am seeking to learn the truth, and it is because of this film that I am reminded over and over and over of something that not everyone understands, but needs to know, something that I made sure to make a theme in my book:

“History is a powerful weapon.”

“History and truth are not always one and the same.”

“There is always more than one story…always.”

-Abel Godfrey, Kingdom of the Sun

“History is a very powerful weapon. This is especially true when one possesses the means to twist its truth.”  -Helena, Kingdom of the Sun

You want to know what’s even stronger?  Your own mind.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Life for a Life for Life

imagesDear Readers,

Many, if not, practically all of us, have thought about what our goals are and should be in life.  There are even some of you who are still struggling with your sense of purpose and goals in this world.  When I was much younger, I thought about this briefly until I realized the simple answer: I wanted to live my life for other people.  I wanted to impact others and the world in a positive way and make a change for the better.  If one were to actually think about it, many of the most valued and difficult careers involve outreach, assistance, and aid to others (teachers, missionaries, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, etc).

This lifestyle of living and working for others is very significant when it comes to leadership.  Our leaders should be there for their people and do everything in benefit for them.  However, I believe that I am not the only that feels this is sometimes not the case.  Should a leader be for themselves or for their people?  What does it truly mean to be a leader?  These are questions that I indirectly presented to my readers when I wrote Kingdom of the Sun because they pertain so much to our own lives.  And so, I wanted my book to be a reflection, and perhaps even a guide, as to what is going on in our world.

I have come realize that each “dead-end” job that I had had reaffirmed my passion because I know that my fire would not be as strong and that Kingdom of the Sun would not have been written if God didn’t put those difficulties and experiences in my life.  I may not fully be there yet, but each post I write and each word and theme that I embedded in my book was to inspire you, and touch you, and perhaps even fuel a fire in you as well.  You see, I write for you.

“Life for a Life”: Living for someone, a purpose.  “For Life”: A way of being and existing, because when I am bettering someone else’s life, it is then that I am alive and truly living.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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