Category Archives: About Me

You’re the Greatest Ever

number_one_smooth-150x150“You’re the best wife ever.”

“You’re the greatest husband in the world.”

“She’s the best mom ever.”

“He’s simply the greatest.”

“You’re the best grandpa in the world!”

These are words that make me smile and sometimes laugh when I say them, hear them, read them, or when they are said to me. It’s because the true meaning of these words make them that much more powerful and sweet.

When something like those words are said, they may not be taken that seriously because one may unknowingly think in the back of their mind that they cannot possibly be the greatest at something in the history of ever and the world.  And even so, these words are still gladly accepted because the general meaning is understood.

But the way I feel about it is that to everyone that loves us, we are thus a part of their world, their lives.  So within this large world are “mini worlds” that belong to each of us personally.  So, to be told that I’m the greatest wife ever means so much because in his world, in his life, I am the greatest, and out of everyone in the entire world, he has chosen me.

Everyone has the potential and power in them to be something great and to do something great.  I hope that you are and will be someone’s greatest.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Superman Effect in Education

Hi Everyone,

I read an article last week about something called the Superman Effect.  The term was used by a man named Aral Balkan to discuss the influence that designers have and how they are able to craft experiences.  What I liked most about this post was how its author related it to education in saying that “As teachers we have to recognise that every interaction we have with young people is an opportunity to have a positive impact upon them. Teachers are artists and lessons are our art. Being passionate about our subjects mixed with a continued desire to improve and develop our pedagogy is key to providing the ‘Superman effect’ for our students.” The author then discusses the significance of making students feel like super heros and how educators should take such into consideration.  The entire blog post can be found here.

This article spoke to me on many different levels.  First, I absolutely believe in making students, all students, feel valued, respected, and intelligent.  This is shown by how they light up when they truly understand something and when they are commended/praised.  I enjoyed seeing that when I taught ESL.  However, I was in a situation where as a student, I felt worthless.  Math was never an easy subject for me, and of course it didn’t come any easier in college.  Unfortunately for me, the professor that I had made it worse.  One of his favorite lines was “C’mon guys, this is fifth grade stuff” or “You should know this material already.”  It was awful.  And so, of course, my colleagues and I were afraid of asking questions because the material was “fifth grade stuff” and even when a question was asked, we were sometimes told that we “should know this already.”  It was so bad that when he asked,“Does anyone have any questions?” more than once, I would raise my hand and say, “Yes, can we please stop for today?”  And although my colleagues all nodded in agreement, this was, of course, to no avail.  As a result of all this, I got a D in that class, hated math more than ever, thought I was dumb for not knowing more math than I did, detested this professor, and spent most of that class fantasizing about chopping off his ponytail.

Students are not the only ones that should be treated like super heros.  Yes, I’m talking about teachers as well.  Teachers are the super heros that are hardly recognized or appreciated for being such.  It’s like they live their entire careers as Clark Kents.  Some teachers are literally the super heros to many of their students. I get so frustrated because many do not realize or appreciate how different society would be if teachers and educators were not available to inspire and educate.  And so, I will say it again:  Where would we be if teachers and educators were not available to inspire and educate?

Education is about super heros teaching super heros.  And this needs to recognized more than ever.

 Peace and Love,
Ariffa

The Power of Imagination

Dear Readers,

I often forget how truly powerful and vast our imaginations can be, and nothing reminds me more than the reading of a book. I’ve lost count of the numbers of times that I have felt such a deep connection to characters in a novel that I experience a sort of deep sadness when the book is complete. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that has felt disappointment, and even anger, when a film adaptation of a book is horrendous or a character is depicted in a way that did not necessarily match up with who I pictured in my mind. And when this happens, I often think back to something my 12th grade English teacher told me: “I stay far away from film adaptations because I don’t want the image of the book and its characters to be ruined. They’re mine.”

And she was right: our imagination, this powerful thing, belongs to us. It is amazing that we can take words and create them into meanings and imagery that apply to us and reflect certain aspects about ourselves. It’s amazing how we can take the words of someone else and make them part of ourselves. And it is even more amazing that one author’s imagination can ignite inspiration in someone else. The same goes for any artist.

This is why I love reading and writing, and why I wish so much more emphasis was placed on these subjects as opposed to science and math. It is often said that children should be encouraged to dream and use their imagination. This is true, but why should they stop as they get older? I don’t think many realize that imagination is what writing is all about. For example, a teacher or professor may give an essay or presentation assignment on a book, and receive an immense variety of topics and themes that stood out to each student individually. I found it so interesting to listen and read about aspects of a novel or play that I never thought about or perhaps see a view on a character I never considered. It was like getting a sneak peek into the minds of my peers, understanding them a bit more.

Growing up, my favorite books for my brother and I were After Hamelin, Marco Millions, and of course, Harry Potter. We often talked and joked about why we liked them so much, and we eventually agreed that they took us to a different world. Our bodies may have been snuggled in our beds, but our minds and imaginations were taken on an amazing journey that we wished would never end. Have you ever looked up from a book you were reading and forgot that you were in the real world? Yeah, it was like that, and I hope that Kingdom of the Sun can give you the same feeling.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

My Words

My book, Kingdom of the Sun. Publishing Soon!

Dear Readers,

On many occasions I have discussed the power and influence of language and the significance of the ability to see and feel one another.  Today I would like to talk about language as it relates to my words and why I write.

With words I can create riddles that may seem simple on the surface, but mean so much more underneath.  Words like: “Education needs to be Education” and “Live Life for a Life for Life.”

I can create anything I want, in any way I want, and call it my own.

With my words, I can formulate ideas, concepts, and imagery that once read on paper, become a part of you as they enter your mind and hopefully, your heart.

I can make you see things that perhaps you have never seen.

I can make you understand something that used to perplex you.

I can make you hear me without hearing me.

I can make you feel me without touching me.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make you believe in things you had no faith in, or perhaps…remove your faith in things you once believed.

My words are power and strength.  They are joy and sadness.  They are memories and dreams.  They are filled with hope and a message.

All for you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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

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

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Education- The Love of Teaching

600px-Word_population_tagcloud_2011

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Like this blog, the theme of education and what it means “to be educated” is strongly present in my book Kingdom of the Sun (to be published soon).  The love of teaching is of course significant in that one should, or as some would say, love what they do.  In order to be successfully and truly influential as a teacher and educator, I do believe that one has to have a love and connection for what they are doing.  However, I would like to discuss the love of teaching as it pertains to receiving it.  My thoughts and words are not only based on my past experiences of being a student, but on my most recent experiences of witnessing this love through the eyes of a volunteer ESL teacher.

For a short time, I was an ESL teacher to a group of 30+ adult immigrants and refugees from all over the world.  Before I was to actually teach them, I had stopped in two days prior to observe the class and meet the teacher that I would be subbing for.  On that day, I had spent some time alone with them for about half an hour before their teacher arrived, and as soon as I stepped in the classroom, I immediately noticed an energy and atmosphere that was different than anything I had ever experienced.

These students had joy, radiance, excitement, and most of all, they had respect, admiration, and gratitude.  All of them.  I was simply an observer that day, but it was not long before I was called something that I didn’t quite expect or see myself, something that Christ Himself was called: “Teacher.”  And so, it was no surprise that my heart actually fluttered, and a form of love that I did not anticipate was conceived.  I found that love growing each time they smiled wide and their eyes lit up when they saw me.  I found it growing when they thanked me when they understood something, when they thanked me at the end of the day, and when they thanked as they placed their hands over their hearts.

I constantly found myself comparing these students and their behavior to students that I was surrounded with in the past.  There were of course those who had respect and gratitude, but this was mostly not the case, especially for substitutes.  I thought about those substitutes and educators whose first days and experiences of teaching were not as joyful as mine.  I thought of them and thanked God for being truly blessed.

Once this experience was over, I then thought about how what I was doing for these students was no different than what my teachers and professors of the past did for me.  But why was the reception so different?  As I’m sure you can imagine, these ESL students are in this new place, virtually new world, and are dependent on the teacher for guidance and support to ultimately survive and prosper in their new lives (and for many of them, it was the first education they had received).  Yet, this was mostly the same for me when I was a student.  So, what is the underlying difference here?  Well, I think this answer lies in just one of the main issues with education today.  There is a poem written by a high school student that discusses how he sits in class all day, bored and pretending to be interested when all he wants is to learn something that can better himself and his life, something that he cares about.

The poem can be found here: High School

What if the education system was less about numbers and placement standings, and more about giving students what they want and need?  What if we were to listen to these students and their needs, and help them follow their own path?  Would we see changes in behavior as well as joy and passion in our students?  My experience as a teacher has strengthened the fire in me to teach and inspire through my words because with them I hold the power to change hearts, minds, and the world.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Seeing

leaf-117554_640Dear Readers:

What does it mean to see someone?  The line of “I see you,” was used very often in the movie Avatar, and it means just that: I see you, I acknowledge you, I feel you, I hear you, I see you.

Seeing and one’s inability and unwillingness to see is such a significant theme in Kingdom of the Sun (coming soon).  Being unseen is something that I have dealt with for all my life, and many of you deal with the same in several ways.  The way that I would like to talk about pertains to age.

When we think of age, and the stereotypes that come with it, we often think of senior citizens.  However, how often do we associate these stereotypes with the younger generation?  Growing up, I never “acted my age,” and because of that, my face, words, and body language reflected such.  To those who did not know me, I was always mistaken for being at least 5-10 years older than I actually was.  And as you can imagine, I was placed in many awkward and embarrassing situations.  And although it was annoying at times, it felt good to be acknowledged as someone I felt on the inside as opposed to a number.  However, there were many times when those who did not know me assumed that I partied, drank, was addicted to social media, and had no plans for my future.

To many of those who did “know” me, I was looked down upon and still judged.  I cannot tell you the amount of times that I was called a “kid” and a “child,” or the number of times when I was told “kids your age should be…” or that I was boring for refusing to go out to clubs or stay out until 3 in the morning.  The most painful was having to literally sit in front of “superiors” and older colleagues and be ignored, not spoken to, and not even looked at because my words meant nothing.  And when a rare opportunity was given for those words to be spoken, my listeners’ eyes would gloss over or I would be asked a question that I only just answered when I had spoken.

There is something called the Role Theory in which people behave the way society expects them to behave.  Think about for a moment…

I firmly believe that 70% to 80% of the youth that does ridiculous, outrageous, and stupid things are because society and media portrays and expects them to.  They therefore believe the behavior to be okay in thinking that it’s the norm.  This Role Theory can of course be applied to many other  types of groups…What would happen if society were to be more supportive and encouraging of these groups?  What if the movies and news stations were to remove these groups from their stereotypical roles and place them into something different?  What if people no longer allowed themselves to be fed garbage and propaganda and instead think for themselves to see, truly see.  Focusing more on age, for the honor and respect of not only the other person but yourself, see people for who they are.

As I say in my book’s dedication, Kingdom of the Sun is “For anyone who has been subject to the constraints, stereotypes, blindness, and contradictions of society.”

And as the character Helena states “I believe that to judge another by age is to lack the wisdom and respect that seemingly comes with it and the gain of foolishness in its stead.”

 

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

%d bloggers like this: