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,
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,
Whatever happened to giving the peace sign in pictures? These days, whenever I come across photos of people from Japan and Thailand, about 80% of the time someone or everyone is giving the peace sign. So, what happened in America? If I flip through my family album, I will see that just about every picture has someone doing the peace sign…If I were looking at the photos from the nineties, that is. Has the peace sign become a faded out trend that is now considered “uncool”? But isn’t “trend” the key word here? Was the peace sign popular because everyone was doing it or because we all really believed and wanted peace? Looking back, I guess I never really thought about it when someone said, “Okay, say peace!”
When I sign these posts and my emails with “Peace and Love,” I mean it from my heart in saying that I wish you peace and love, and that peace and love is what I give you. So today, for the first time in a long time, a picture was taken of me giving the peace sign. And I’m planning on many more in the future.
Peace and Love,
“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
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,
Do you remember the show called Meet the Natives? It aired in 2009 on the Travel channel, and it was about a group of men from the island of Tanna in the South Pacific. The cameras followed them as they made trips to various areas of the world and experienced things that they never would have if they stayed in Tanna. Examples being riding a roller coaster, going to a national park, etc, etc.
One moment that stood out to me the most was when the men took a trip to New York city’s Central Park. While exploring the park, the men came across a homeless man sleeping on a bench. They could not comprehend why this man was sleeping in the cold when there were so many buildings and homes surrounding them. They also could not comprehend why other people were ignoring this man and not doing anything to help him. Now, I haven’t seen all of the Meet the Natives episodes, but this was the first and only time that I had seen them visually upset and angry. One of them said “I can see that there are many buildings in New York, how is it possible for a man to sleep in the street?” Another Tribesman tried to provide an explanation for this sad situation in saying, “It is clear that nobody loves him. That’s why he is sleeping out in the cold.”
And so, I ask, should there be an excuse for homelessness? Whatever the reason be for the man’s situation, should we accept it because he lost his job or was on drugs? Is that what someone or anyone should deserve? It’s interesting because we tend to think and accept things as the norm until an outsider comes along and opens our eyes. The Tanna men’s concept was so simple: brotherly love and camaraderie. But sadly, so sadly, it is not so simple in this world.
“It’s not so simple,” “It’s not that easy.” I unfortunately hear these words a lot. I tend to ask a lot of questions that have seemingly easy answers and solutions such as: why is that several countries have free healthcare and we don’t? Why is that Japan recycles all of their waste, yet we have disgusting mounds of garbage on the Earth? Why is that commercials and schools preach that going to college will guarantee one a great career, yet those “great careers” never come for most, and those “careers” end up being extremely low-paying jobs for many. I can go on and on. And I can keep asking “why?” But though the solutions may be simple, it will more often than not, tie back to whether or not it will be an inconvenience for someone or if it will mean less money in someone’s pocket. And it is because of these things that life is not as simple as it used to be. It is because of these things that life is not as simple as it should be. So let me ask you: Do you accept it?
“Everyone is the same, and no one is homeless”- A Tanna Tribesman
Peace and Love
Ah, the topic of weather. Do you realize how much the discussion of this topic is part of our daily lives? I don’t mean in terms of making plans or wearing clothes in accordance with the weather. I’m talking about it in terms of how it is used as a means of connection and communication. Whether (no pun intended) it be at the bank, grocery store, or park, the talk of weather is almost always the first, if not only, topic that is discussed. This happens so often, so on point, and so expected that I sometimes have to stifle a chuckle when I overhear it being talked about or when someone discusses it with me.
So, now I ask “why?” Why isn’t the talk of weather replaced with sports, politics, etc.? Of course these other topics are discussed, but I seriously believe the weather to be the number one subject discussed among strangers. I think it is because weather is something that everyone can agree on, relate to, connect with, and understand. Think about it: We all live under the same sky. We are all affected by this Godly, almost magical phenomenon called weather. Isn’t it interesting how something that influences our lives in so many ways is something that can bring us all together, even for one moment? As far as I know, people aren’t killing each other over disagreements on why the sky is blue and if there is really a pot of gold at the end of rainbows. Because of this, the subject of weather also signifies safety. I will say that it can get redundant at times. I love to talk about sports, but I cannot stand talking about politics, and I still remember giving my 12th grade history teacher the death stare whenever he discussed it. But if it means interacting with someone and connecting with them in some small way for a brief moment, the topic of weather is fine with me.
Peace and Love
“How are you?” “How are ya?” “How you doin’?” This is a question that I asked almost every customer when I worked in retail. It is a question that I and most people ask strangers in greeting. But here are the real questions: Do we mean that? Do we really care how others are doing? Think about it. “How are you?” has become the same as “hello” or “hi.” It is something that is said in passing, and is something that is not meant to truly be answered. And when we do answer it, most of us simply and without thinking say “fine, thank you,” or “great,” etc. Sometimes we really are “fine,” but how do you feel when someone truthfully answers the question of how they’re doing? Taken aback? Shocked? Annoyed? To be honest, I also tend to use this question as a simple greeting, but I am always pleasantly shocked and intrigued when someone gives me a true answer. I was of course a little annoyed when they did so with a line of customers behind them, or if I was really busy and running a bunch of errands. Even so, I made an attempt to look the person in the eye and tried to have small talk with them. But it is because of these situations that I truly think about what I say, and mean what I say. The same goes for the response of “and you?” We once again tend to get surprised when a person actually gives us a truthful answer. Instead of saying it to be polite, why not say it because you mean it?
Why is it that this phrase that allows us to be open and emphatic towards each other has become as simple as “hi?” Does it signify society’s fear of compassion? I once heard the story of a store clerk in a mall who asked a guy how he was doing. The guy turned to him and said “do you really care?” and walked away. The store clerk first thought about what a jerk the guy was and then thought to himself “wait, I really don’t care.” I think about this story often when someone asks me how I am doing, and sometimes I feel compelled to ask if they really care. But I don’t do so because I guess deep down I feel that they really don’t, and it kind of stings to think that. Everyone wants to be cared for, don’t they? So let’s care more and truly mean what we say when we ask “how are you?” Don’t you think society needs more compassion? I sure do.
Peace and Love