Travelling, Music and Life

Okay, this is a poor title to weave together this wonderful article by Daisann McLane. She writes about travelling, the impulsiveness and jazz of it all. She also explains how travelling is like creating music. And it is like life:

Trip planning is the rehearsal, travel the performance. Every small choice that we make on the road changes our travel melody, shapes it into a song that is ours, and ours alone.

This all happens in a split second. Life, like music, doesn’t pause while you plan your solo. It can be scary to improvise our own travel riffs. There always is some risk, from the trivial (ending up in a boring or unpleasant place) to the serious (getting into an unsafe situation).

And I think it really speaks to me, this, embracing the scary, taking some risks, being unafraid to make decisions that are different and based on my fancies, interests and passions.

When I was in Loughborough, my biggest regret would perhaps have been my inertia at travelling. If I had to decide between staying over the weekend to enjoy some warm toast and coffee in town, or just taking the plunge and travelling to a nearby city to explore and get lost on my own, I would always choose the former. It was more logical, it was more convenient, it was safer. But life is not about being safe, or stirring clear of dangers at all costs, is it?

How should we improve if we are forever content playing the same melody and never venturing beyond the few notes we are comfortable running our fingers over?

I forgot the link to the article!

Week 3 CNY Goal: Stop, Think, Write.

My first three weeks as English teacher, Literature teacher to a Secondary Four (graduating!) class and Form teacher has been nothing short of eventful. I have spoken to countless of parents, met a parent with the school counselor, ridden in an ambulance with my child who hyperventilated in school, saw my kid cry in the school toilet, had a student scold F a few times in class, had a parent hang up on me, received chinese new year cookies from my kids’ mother, had a school cleaning staff complain about my form class students about disrespectful, signed on a legal document as a third-party witness…

Here are some things that have impacted me most at the end of Week 3.

How can we teach our kids respect?

My colleague and I discussed this over our late-late lunch yesterday: how can we teach our kids respect? The word “respect” seems to already have been overused such that some students even cringe when a teacher mentions it as a value. How can we restore the desirability of this word that means so much? When I heard what the cleaning staff told me about my unappreciative kids, my heart just sank sank sank to the ocean floor. It sank beneath the ocean floor when I tried to talk some apologetic sense to them, and they remained adamant and complacent of their moral righteousness. Our kids no longer function on the principle that you should be respectful to others who are more senior than you in age, or that you should be full of gratitude and respect when speaking to others who are paying you a service.

It is a very self-centred, me-my-I attitude that we all seem to be under siege of. If the teacher is boring or the subject is boring, I will not want to study for it. If I do not like my group, I will just sit in a corner, sulk and not want to work them – who can make me? If someone is rude to me, why should I be polite to him/her?

Their logic of give-and-take is not flawed and makes much sense. But just imagine what would happen if everyone thought the same way: that they would not treat someone else nicely unless they are first treated well. The world will stop running and everyone will be poor pathetic misers! Suddenly after this week there is this new-found urgency to teach them proper manners that stems not from principles or logic, but from a heart of love and compassion. Is that too impossible?

Third-Party Witness to some online slander

It is a long story, but boy this incident makes me feel that there is so much that needs to be done to educate our kids on being gracious and learning to respect and appreciate others. I was not involved, but hearing their exchange made me wince in my seat because it was painful. He was obviously personally affected, and I think everyone in the room could feel the sting of the matter that transpired. Suffice it to say some students posted inappropriate and nasty remarks related to the school online, and while it may have started out as a joke, the online reminiscing of old times easily took off as a platform to exchange slanderous and misleading remarks.

It was just awfully painful for me to hear how ignorant and oblivious they still were of the lesson to be learnt. This was a part of their education our school failed to provide for them.

My kid who could not look at herself in the mirror

In school, I have never seen her speak to someone and look at them comfortably in the eye. When I accompanied her to the female washroom to make sure she tied up her hair neatly, I noticed that she would not look at herself in the mirror. I thank God at least she was willing, this year, to speak with the school counselor. We will need a lot of love and patience to help her overcome her difficulty, but I pray that we teachers may be nurturing and the classmates accepting and gracious, to help her integrate back into a normal school life. I trust that it is not impossible; God is in control and He heals and empowers.

This has led me to see that there is so much more that goes on behind every child. Sometimes we forget that, because all we see is how they behave in class. When that does not meet our expectations, we find fault in either the student or in ourselves, or both. Being form teacher to a class of students have allowed me to gain greater access to their lives as an individual person, and understand and appreciate them for who they really are. I really hope God grants me more wisdom and grace to guide them as a teacher, mentor and friend.

 

This issue of learning how to be gracious and compassionate will continue to stay in our minds for some time, I reckon. I know, just like how many teachers concur, that it works to lead by example. But while living out an example is necessary as part of the education we want to share with our kids, it is not the only way to achieve that lesson? Is there not a more proactive, explicit way to infuse such lessons of the heart to them?

 

I Love What I Do

Because I don’t want to ever look back and think, “you shouldn’t have, hoshao”, I want to write that I love what I do. 

I love how the students past and present come up to you for advice on various matters – academic and non-academic. I have not taught that many students, but already I realize that as educators we are in a prime position to influence and guide them children in the littlest ways that will shape their lives. When they are late, we are often in the best place to admonish them and rationalize their selfish behavior. When they have done well, we are often in the best place to praise them and encourage them to go further. And, although them kids may not act like they do, they often listen. 

I love the conversations I can have with my students, because they look up to you as a teacher, an older sister, a mother (well, I don’t know about mother), someone who can mentor and guide them when they have questions. Often they do, and we decide how to handle them to help them best learn. 

I love it that this job is dynamic and fluid. One day the students are crazy monsters, but the next they can be gentle giants. This job allows you to work with real people, real kids, real lives that matter. It allows you to be you, to an extent. 

I love it that there are many like-minded like-hearted people where I work at. The awful twitter trend is disgusting and foolish and disgraceful (plus all the other words I cannot care to name) but believe it or not I love the community that God has led me to be a part of. I may not be the best teacher I can be right now (definitely, surely not) but I certainly want to move in that direction. 

I love it that I can learn so much from the students too. They may be young and amateurish in many regards, but there are moments when they touch you and they teach you things too. The interactors did an awesome job at the food distribution drive event this afternoon, I am proud of them. 

I love too how some students are amazing role models for me as well. Their dedication and commitment is exemplary even among us teachers. 

There are just too many reasons why I love my job. Even though it bogs me down and screws up my body clock and makes me a dysfunctional member in my family (right now). I really enjoy what I do. Thank you naughty kids. I think you make me a more confident, compassionate, better person. 

Happy New Year

When everyone was out on the streets counting down to the year 2012, I was glad I was at home, snuggling under the comforts of my blanket. Although it seemed a merry tradition to be out partying and having fun with friends, I am glad to say my family and I were conserving our strength to worship God on Sunday morning.

Two Thousand and Eleven came and passed too quickly. So many things happened this year, and I feel I have grown up a great deal. Here are some huge milestones that looking back, marks the year 2011.

 

1. Reverend Lai’s departure

It isn’t that things were different after he left, but things certainly felt different. Every once in a while we would think: “hey! this was a film Mu Shi talked about!”, “this was a book he was raving about!”, “this was someone he shared with us about!”, “this was a place Mu Shi would love to go to!” It feels part painful, and part empty. We certainly remember the lessons he taught us, his spirit of perseverance and endurance. He was a warrior. The weaker he got physically, the stronger he became in spirit – and he wrote powerful and beautiful words of wisdom that moved the soul. We really miss him. His gentle demeanor, his fatherly guidance and admonition, his wise remarks and witty jokes. I don’t know how my mum does it, being so strong even when she feels alone. I really need to empathize with her and show her more support and love as a daughter.

 

2. I started work

I survived Practicum, graduated from NIE, moved back home and began driving to work daily. I love the school I am currently in, there are certainly faults, but there is also so much warmth and spirit, I think I will learn a lot from the people and entironment here. I became co-form teacher to a lovable Secondary One class. It took us awhile to warm up to each other, even up till now I may not have won all their hearts, but I certainly hope I can do a better job as an FT next year. Give me a chance! And more importantly, give yourself a chance, shao! I think I need to learn to believe in myself (in Christ to work in me) and take some positive action rather than sit back and wait for something to be thrown at me. Next year, I need to be more pro-active in my entire being – body, mind and soul.

 

3. I begin to think about Mr Shao

For twenty four years of my life, I have suppressed (or ignored) this issue. Up to last year I was still, in all honesty, dreaming of having kids without getting married. Suffice to say I would think of playing with my own two children, but I could conjure up no man in my heart or mind. This year, I think I must have become more logical in my thinking. Especially at a good friend’s wedding when an old mentor warned us how easy it is to let our youth slip by – we need to make opportunity – those were her very words! That conversation, albeit friendly, probably scared me out of my wits. We shall see what surprises 2012 will bring, or not.

 

4. I tried to exercise

I try every year I think, but this year I really did try. Maybe just not hard enough. But I have made improvement, and I will continue to add to my list of weekly activities, jogging! 2012 will be an even more challenging one in this regard, because my dear friend’s wedding is coming, and she has requested I be her bridesmaid!!! It is such an honour – beyond words, really. But if I don’t cut off this tummy (and those elephant thighs), I will never be able to be her bridesmaid trying to hold my breath in that pretty lil dress! HAHA.

 

5. I drifted further from God

Every year we sit down, write in our journals, open our Bibles, and try to count our blessings. This year, I need to confess that I have been neglecting God. I still go to church, and serve, and play with the lovely children there, put aside time for fellowship, pray, but goodness the degree of intimacy with Christ can be so obviously gauged from your spirit, your heart and just by the sheer number of blessings you can count! I know my heart is not in the right place… often I try to count my blessings and only the really generic, mundane things come up. I need to reposition my compass to look at Christ, not at man, nor at myself. It’s such a killer mistake. Please hoshao, please don’t think you can go through 2012 the way you did in 2011. Because despite the joys and challenges and trials you’ve overcome, you will drift even further away from Him, and you will feel weaker and more helpless before you know it.

 

Alright so these are some of the Top 5 Milestones I can recall when I think of 2011. Well some of them are not really “milestones”, but you get the idea. May Two Thousand and Twelve be all the better! Courage to step forth in Faith!