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Author Visitation Part 1

students-250164_640Dear Readers,

A little over a month ago, I had the honor of visiting my local high school and speaking with journalism students from three classes. The goal of my visit was to discuss my experience as an author and answer any questions that they may have for me. First off, it was very surreal to be back in that environment. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed looking at these students and their teacher not only as an outsider but as someone who loves education. It was so fascinating to see what a teacher sees when a student expresses interest or when one or two of them in particular seem to have a certain something that makes them stand out from the rest.

Some of the most common questions I was asked is below:

1)   Is your book a reflection of your life and/or current events in time?

Yes and No. Kingdom of the Sun tells the story about a modern-day kingdom that is struggling with many of the political, economic, social, and educational issues that other countries are currently facing. So, in a way, the book is symbolic of those issues and how I think they should be solved. Particular situations in the novella are mostly made up, while others may or may not be based off of real life events in my life or someone else’s.

2)   Are any of your characters based off of real people?

Many of the Scholars in my book are based off of the teachers that I have had in my life. It is my way of honoring them and all they have done.

3)   Would you like your book to be a movie?

This is another “yes and no” answer. I have seen too many amazing books that have become awful movie adaptions, and it would just destroy me if my book was one of them. I’m sure that almost every author wants to see their work come to life, but for me, I would only want it done if I could have complete control over everything.

4)   What was your writing process?

I told the students that when I wrote poetry, I always started with the last stanza or line before continuing the rest of the piece. With Kingdom of the Sun, I didn’t really have a plan in mind. The words just came as I wrote. The only thing I knew was the messages that I wanted to convey…and that I wanted the first word of the book to be “Uh.” 🙂

5)   Did you ever think that you’d be an author?

I never saw myself writing a book, so this was definitely not planned. It was due to certain life-changing experiences that made me who I am today and gave me the fire and passion that I needed to write Kingdom of the Sun.

6)   What’s one thing that you would change?

I would have definitely gotten an editor before handing out pre-released copies!

Thank you, Kyle, for reaching out to me and thank you, Mrs. Carey, for the wonderful opportunity of speaking to your awesome students. And thank you to your awesome students for listening to me! Part 2 of this experience will discuss the teaching style of student-centered learning.

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The Superman Dilemma in Education

super_hero_flying_silhouette_116437Hi Everyone!

Four posts ago, I wrote something called The Superman Effect in Education. It discussed how teachers and students should be treated like they are super heros, meaning they should all be valued and appreciated. I received a lot of great responses on this post, and one in particular stood out:

“I always shied away from the whole “superman” analogy for teachers, because I think we shoot ourselves in the foot, when we don’t make it clear that we are only human (thus, the public’s unreasonable expectations of us).”–Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca

This is such a great comment because it reminded of something I talked about in another post called the Detachment of Education, in which I discuss the absolutely unrealistic expectations and burdens that are placed on teachers. Bethany’s comment was a reminder of that discussion and the dilemma that comes with treating teachers like super heros.  Yes, I believe that teachers are indeed super heros. However, I also believe this:

1) Teachers = Humans

NOT Teachers = Robots or Teachers = Superhumans

As I said in my “Detachment of Education” post: “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.”

Oh, and unless they are truly robots, they cannot honestly and efficiently grade 100+ term papers in one school night.

2) Teacher ≠ Parents/Guardians

Teachers are not responsible for educating students on manners and common sense, you know, all the things that parents/guardians should do. And yet…

So, here’s a trick question: Can teachers be treated as super heros without the expectation that they literally should be?

Here’s my answer: I believe that the basis to all of this is the need for all teachers to be treated with respect and understanding. Respect what they do, understand what they do. And for the parents and students, respect and understand that you are a vital part of a successful education as well.

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 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: Education…It Starts at Home

“Like other educators, our Scholars teach and give themselves to their work and their students, and they are highly respected for it. But unlike other educators, they are not expected to be babysitters or social workers, and every citizen of Sooryan recognizes that without the Scholars, they are nothing. One who is willing to give their time, energy, and minds to educating others is one of true honor.”- Helena, Kingdom of the Sun

UnknownDear Readers,

One of the main themes in Kingdom of the Sun (soon to be published) is education.  So many people do not realize that education starts at home.  Nor do they realize the pressure and stress that are placed on a teacher because they do not know this.  Imagine their workload: teaching the coursework, grading the coursework, making sure that their students pass, the stress of other teachers, the stress of their personal lives, and the stress of the expectations that they are to babysitters and/or social workers.

Now, because many people do not realize, understand, or accept that education starts at home, blame is placed on teachers pertaining to things that are really the parents’ fault.  So, let’s dig deeper.  Education starts at home in two ways:

1) Social Education: This pertains to parents teaching their kids manners, respect, self-presentation, respect, respect, and respect.

2) Academic Education: This relates to the fact that parents should teach their kids how to study, when to study, and how long to study.  It also involves monitoring and controlling how the student spends their time at home (video games, television, friends, etc.).

If parents took these two factors into account, then I guarantee that we will see greater improvements in behavior and test scores.  However, doing this may bring us back to the initial issue: Some parents do not believe that they have any responsibility over the education and development of a student.  That’s a bit ironic to me.

The education of a student is a three-way partnership between the teacher and student, the teacher and parent, and the parent and student.  Everyone has to believe this in order for the partnership to work and be successful.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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