Category Archives: Reflections

Deep questions

Questions to ask.jpg

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Prayer by Thomas Merton

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Persons of Depth

wise men

“If the Magi had come in search of an earthly King, they would have been disconcerted at finding that they had taken the trouble to come such a long way for nothing.  Consequently, they would have neither adored nor offered gifts. But since they sought a heavenly King, though they found in Him no signs of royal pre-eminence, yet, content with the testimony of the star alone, they adored: for they saw a man, and they acknowledged a God.” 

~ St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

The Magi or wise men remind us that we should be persons of depth. We are superficial when we limit our concerns to what we should wear, eat, or drink. We acquire depth when we involve God in our lives, striving to know God’s will through a process we call discernment.

You are wise if you involve Jesus in your day-to-day decisions, when you ask his opinion over big and small matters. You want to follow his star, and like the wise men, you become confused and bothered once his star disappears. You cannot live without the light of God; you strive always to see reality under his guidance.

Many of us live empty lives because we do not give God any space in our existence. We remember God only in times of need and want. We pray when we are suffering from severe problems or incurable illnesses, but God remains far from us because we do not involve him in our decision-making. We are so sure of ourselves; we run to God only when we become desperate.

When you decided to get married, for instance, did you bother asking whether God was calling you to the married life? This is discernment. We open our hearts and minds to the mysterious voice of our Creator who gets involved in our lives if we allow him to.

As parents, do you ask God for guidance as to where you will send your children for high school? Do young people ever wonder whether God agrees with their career choice or professional route? When we develop the habit of asking God for the decisions we make, especially the big ones, then we become like the Magi, person of depth.

When we involve God in our decisions, we will see our lives as completing our God-given mission. We acquire a purpose, a reason for living. We are on our way to happiness. A life without purpose is empty and sad. When we wake up each morning knowing that we will spend the day doing God’s will for us, the warmth of God’s light enters our hearts. We become contented and happy. Our day become a life celebration.

If you are superficial in your way of life, you will never be a witness to Jesus. Only men and women of depth can fulfill this purpose.

(This reflection is taken from 366 days with the Lord)

Jesus never leaves you!

Dia ada

Many times in life we get so confident. We start to depend on our own strength. But as we walk, we realize that the path we choose won’t give us anything. And we realize we can’t do without God. Then at one point, we can’t walk anymore and we ask ourselves. Am I still worthy? Is God mat at me? If I go back, will He accept me? If this is you, then turn around. And you will see God is waiting for you with open arms. He has been and always will be with you whether you realize or not. No matter how far you leave Him, He never leaves you. No matter who you are. No matter what you have done. He loves each and every one of you.

Reflection: What does Jesus offer me?

Jesus offers something BIG

Finding Joy (God) in Reading

Heaven books

Therefore, I proclaim that the library is the greatest tranquil secular mega-mall in the planet earth.Period.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
-Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!-

When we pray we speak to God;but when we read,God speaks to us.
-St. Jerome-

You are invited! Jesus Christ is the ALL-POWERFUL and ETERNAL God (PART 2)

Come to Me for Eternal Life

The highlighted part in my previous entry (as below) triggered me into something beyond my comprehension. Would you like to know what was that something? The term life-long learning brought me into another quite related phrase: Eternal life. It was like a sudden thought at that time and it triggered me to have a very strong desire for becoming a religious priest.

I suggested to her that pupils could self-study and read English story books independently during that time. She said that reading story books was not a good idea and raised her tone, saying that I have failed my Year 6 pupils up until this moment. She wanted me to focus more on UPSR format questions which I felt was not the best solution, since my pupils don’t have strong grammar and lack vocabulary. The ironic thing was that she agreed that my idea was indeed good for the pupils’ long term andlife-long learning. That’s what I believe! To prepare pupils for life-long learning, not just prepare for the UPSR.

Through the phrase, ‘Eternal life’, there are two specific verses that captivated me which can be found in the bible; John 3:16 and Matthew 19:16-22

In John 3:16 Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whomsoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Meanwhile in Matthew 19:16-22, it is about The Rich and the Kingdom of God (New International Version)

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

What kind of treasure do you store up for yourself in this life and in view of eternal life? Life on this earth is not eternal. He who believes in Christ and is sorrowful for their sins is capable of having not only eternal life in Heaven, but also Christ in them, and they in Him while they are here on earth. The world in which I have grown up is a world so full of grades, scores, and statistics that, consciously or unconsciously, I always try to take my measure against all the others. Much sadness and gladness in my life flows directly from my comparing, and most, if not all, of this comparing is useless and a terrible waste of time and energy. Our God, who is both Father and Mother to us, does not compare. Never. I believe if we were to put Jesus first in my life, everything else will be in place. As long as we belong to this world, we will remain subject to its competitive ways and expect to be rewarded for all the good we do. (gain recognition)  But when we belong to God, who loves us without conditions, we can live as does. The great conversion called for by Jesus is to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God. In silence, I would like to ask myself deeply two questions in the process of my discernment: ‘Would you say yes to My love invitation after your 5 years contract? What are the things that bothering me to say yes to Jesus?

p.s: It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly or crazy. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred. (Inspired by The Return of the Prodigal Son written by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

You are fired!This lady is unprofessional (PART 1)

First and foremost, let me tell you that I am not here to create a story. I repeat, I am not manipulating. The person (boss) I am referring to is in control or perhaps I should call her Hitler reborn from SJK© Fish Can Fly. She is none other than my respectful headmistress, Madam Wing. I am sorry to say that she doesn’t deserve my respect anymore even at the time of writing this. At first I thought of putting the title, ‘The Crazy Dog is Barking’, but it would not do my soul any good therefore the above is the most suitable title that I can think of. She is unprofessional with her words and actions. She is crazy, and therefore she should be fired! There are several events that lead me to complain about this. The root cause of this rant comes from the poor English results during the Trial UPSR 3 exam which was held recently.

Let me start with the first event which was quite dramatic. It was on 16th May which was Teacher’s Day in Malaysia. I had just finished my lesson when I came down to staffroom, my mentor, Ms. P was there at my table. She asked me to tell all the English teachers to gather in the staffroom for a while. At that time, I was aware that I had school tuition at 1.15pm., so I told my mentor about that. The short meeting was about the generous company from the US planning to donate free English books to our school. She brought some books that day, and encouraged all of the English teachers to optimize the books in the school. She had been suggested that we cut the beautiful pictures from the books and make good use of the books. Out of the blue, the headmistress angrily came down from upstairs and scolded me and another teacher, who should be giving tuition, to go quickly into the classroom. She also raised her tone, reprimanding my mentor for disturbing the tuition hours which was very unprofessional. Couldn’t she see us busy discussing with our mentor? She could have gone into the classroom and given motivation to the Year 6 pupils? Would she do the same if Deputy of Education Minister was there? This showed that she did not give respect to my mentor at all. There were some teachers present during that time and they all agreed that she was really rude and unprofessional. Many of my colleagues would agree that she also likes to waste pupils’ time by entering the class late sometimes. After tuition, me and my colleagues were again called and scolded by her (Teacher’s Day present). She said something that we teachers must not waste pupils’ time. The truth is we didn’t do this on purpose.

The second event happened because Madam Wing was not satisfied with the poor performance of the UPSR Trial 3 exam results which only 1 pupil managed to pass. (blame the exam-oriented system in Malaysia) On 1st July during the morning school assembly, again she said something unprofessional. Besides scolding pupils for the poor results, she told pupils indirectly that my mentor, Ms. P was not here in school to improve Year 6 English subject. She was indirectly expressing that she could not accept the poor result due to the fact that our school has this English Language Teacher Development Programme (ELTDP). All the teachers heard this during the assembly. This is unacceptable and unprofessional to blame ELTDP. ELTDP has got nothing to do with Year 6 pupils’ English subject at all. She was speaking publicly to all the teachers that we should accept the poor results, but the reality is that she can’t accept the failure and kept reproaching us that it was the teachers’ fault. Why couldn’t she focus on intervention instead of looking for a reason? Simply because she is a perfectionist and she is the one who cannot accept the failure of her pupils. Shouldn’t she know that the quote from Thomas A. Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” For indirectly blaming my mentor for the poor result, this is unprofessional!

The third event was even worse. It had been taking place at her office. On the same day, she called me to her office to discuss the intervention for poor results of English subject. Frankly speaking, she was once again sarcastically blaming ELTDP. I was surprised that she asked me three times what the ELTDP was all about. She said she would be speechless if PPD officers came to school and asked her about it. I was so innocent at that time and I asked her what was so difficult to explain. ‘You could just tell them my mentor was here for mentoring and developing/supporting English teachers’ proficiency!’ I said. I also clarified to her twice that it was unprofessional to blame my mentor for the poor result of English subject. Personally I could not accept that she kept pointing fingers at everyone, but not at the pupils’ attitude and low proficiency level. When she had suggested that I go into the Year 6 classroom every Thursday and Friday from 6.30am-7a.m, I was already frustrated and turned down her suggestion. I suggested to her that pupils could self-study and read English story books independently during that time. She said that reading story books was not a good idea and raised her tone, saying that I have failed my Year 6 pupils up until this moment. She wanted me to focus more on UPSR format questions which I felt was not the best solution, since my pupils don’t have strong grammar and lack vocabulary. The ironic thing was that she agreed that my idea was indeed good for the pupils’ long term and life-long learning. That’s what I believe! To prepare pupils for life-long learning, not just prepare for the UPSR. She advised me to only drill the pupils with UPSR question formats. She also mentioned that if we were to try our best to help the pupils now, parents could see that we have not failed their kids, moreover the English panel will gain recognition! ‘I don’t want recognition and if the pupils have got good result by themselves, it is their hard work, not me!’ I said. She also told me that she did not know where to put her face if the school only achieves 1 pupil pass the UPSR exam. She told me she didn’t know how to explain to PPD officers and I told her I will explain and be ready for the justification. She was unhappy about that. It’s only for the sake of her face but not for the pupils? She is only concerned about her face or pride basically. I guess she has lost the definition of education! She is just unprofessional and selfish to answer me in that way. Besides she also lectured me on sacrifices sarcastically saying to me that I don’t sacrifice enough for my pupils.

To be honest, it is very unprofessional to say that I don’t sacrifice enough for my pupils’ sake. Shall I show off in front of her how much I have sacrificed for the pupils? I don’t like doing that. I prefer to keep all my hard work in a low profile. I don’t think I am a lazy teacher either. Talk about sacrifice, I once put in a lot of effort guiding two pupils in their spelling competition and both of them have got first and second place respectively at zone level. Why shouldn’t she think that perhaps Year 6 pupils will become great sportsmen or sportswomen in the future? Has she not thought about the theory of multiple intelligences? How could she force me to teach the fish to fly without wings? How could she have lost faith in my teaching? Personally, I look at the situation positively and the failure of English subject in the trial UPSR 3 could be the seed of glory! Madam Wing could have faith in my teaching and should not say useless statements pessimistically. In the Year 6 classroom upon returning their papers, I motivated them to not focus on their marks, there is always hope! If they quit the English subject, I have not quit on teaching them! All the teachers agreed that she is indeed a dictator and she should be fired. If you were to ask or interview all the teachers at the school, they would all agree with me that she should be transferred to a new school. If she’s still in the school for another year knowing that I have written this, she would be very vindictive towards me. Either she gets transferred to another school or I will get my transfer as soon as possible. I am looking forward to the best solution. Personally I wish Madam Wing could re-consider whether she is suitable to be headmistress or not. Perhaps she can be an excellent science teacher. Send her to a quiet place for three months and let her reflect on herself! My current workplace is more alive and stress-free without her! I would like to end by saying, ‘God is in total control, not you Madam Wing!’ Be professional. Be more loving.

p.s: The lady was given the name Madam Wing to protect her identity and privacy. Surprisingly, the highlighted part as you read in this entry triggers  me into something beyond my comprehension. Stay tuned for my PART 2!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Vocations

But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. -1 Corinthians 12:18

Do you know that the smallest bone in the body is no bigger than a grain of rice? It’s called the stapes and it’s one of the three tiny bones in the middle ear. It’s so tiny, almost insignificant in size, but if anything happens to it, we lose ability to hear clearly.

Sometimes we can also feel insignificant compared to those who have more important roles. Or maybe, if we’re on the other end of the pendulum, we may feel that we are more indispensable than other people.

Each one of us has specific roles to play that are equally important in the grand scheme of life. Jesus was anointed by God for a special purpose. Although He was born in a stable and worked as a carpenter, who would have imagined that He was destined to be the Savoir of mankind?

All of us have appointed parts to play in God’s beautiful tapestry of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re onstage to be seen by all or at the backstage hidden from men’s eyes. What’s more important is- Are you doing what you were anointed to do?

Reflection: If you were called to play the part of Romeo and you instead memorized Juliet’s lines, do you think the play will still turn out well?

Lord, use me, mould me, lead me, guide me- but first, please help me hear Your instructions correctly.

Credits to: Ronna Ledesma

Source: DIDACHE DAILY BIBLE REFLECTIONS FOR CATHOLICS 2013

Can do statements

Which step

1. I can recognise the need for progression and development in pupil’s learning.

2. I can define clear objectives of my lesson.

3. I can define my pupil’s needs and interests.

4. I can plan a lesson related to my pupil’s needs and interests.

5. I can adapt and develop materials for the need of my class.

6. I can use my teaching time efficiently.

7. I can use various interaction patterns in class to encourage optimum individual learning.

8. I can balance teacher input and pupil activity.

9. I can organise a student-centred classroom.

10. I can exploit opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.

11. I can use a variety of teaching techniques and strategies.

12. I can use spoken words to encourage learning.

13. I can encourage learning by using adequate body language, e.g. eye contact, proximity, gestures, posture, etc.

14. I can explain instructions clearly.

15. I can check if my pupils understand my instructions.

16. I can use effectively group discussion.

17. I can provide opportunities for my pupils to speak.

18. I can use concept checking questions.

19. I can reflect and act upon my pupil’s responses.

20. I can control my class using a wide range of methods.

21. I can anticipate problems in the classroom.

22. I can handle unforeseen problems.

23. I can use sanctions and rewards.

24. I can present material in a lively and attractive manner.

25. I can be flexible and change my lesson plan to respond to my pupil’s reactions.

26. I can balance my input and pupil’s activity.

27. I can inform my pupils of the lesson aims before we start the lesson.

28. I can encourage my pupils to be more autonomous learners.

29. I can promote learning beyond the classroom.

30. I can create classroom displays in order to support learning.

31. I can use the blackboard competently.

32. I can share supplementary materials with my colleagues.

33. I can use the Internet to look for and create supplementary materials.

34. I can involve my children in creating supplementary materials.

35. I can use other subject areas as language resources.

36. I can relate present knowledge of my pupils to new material.

37. I can use various techniques to elicit knowledge from my pupils.

38. I can assess my pupils informally.

39. I can assess my pupils formally.

40. I can provide a detailed profile of each pupil’s learning.

41. I can monitor my pupil’s progress by using problem solving and role play.

42. I can monitor my pupil’s progress by using presentations.

43. I can monitor my pupil’s progress by using self and peer assessment.

44. I can create follow-up activities based on my pupil’s performance.

45. I can identify potential of exams to provide feedback or feedforward on teaching.

46. I can balance learning needs with exam requirements.

47. I can teach towards exams and extend pupils abilities, knowledge and understanding.

48. I can use test results to inform and improve teaching.

49. I can reflect and act upon experience in the classroom.

50. I can use various teaching techniques to develop pupil’s listening skills.

51. I can use various teaching techniques to develop pupil’s reading skills.

52. I can use various teaching techniques to develop pupil’s writing skills.

53. I can use various teaching techniques to develop pupil’s speaking skills.

54. I can use various teaching techniques to develop pupil’s phonological awareness.

55. I can use different ways of introducing stories to motivate my learners.

56. I can use my language art lessons as a means of consolidating pupil’s knowledge.

57. I can use songs, rhythms and chants in various ways to motivate my pupils.

What is your response?

Yes, I am confident I can do that.

I’m not so sure I can do that. I need some support.

No, I have never done that.

Teaching: The highest form of charity

The following article which I would like to share is written by Education columnist, Pauline S. on the Daily Express newspaper in the land below the wind. This column of her was published on 26th of Sept which happened on my birthday. Could it be God is telling me and to reaffirm me that teaching is the highest form of charity? I hope you enjoy reading this column and get some insights from it.  Sit back and reflect:

One of the most moving and truthful words I have ever read were coined by Mother Teresa. She said: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” How true. How very true. Let me tell you that being kind, honest, helpful and caring is not an easy thing to do. For me, at school, these very traits did make me the recipient of not only some envy-driven comments but also a fair share of advice I could do without.

In one instance, I remember I was with a group of Form Six students who had come to see me in the staffroom. They had wanted to clear up some doubts about a topic I had just taught them in class. Forming a cluster around me, they cast a shadow over the tiny space I occupied. You know how tall Form Six boys can be- they literally tower over you! Anyway, after I had finished my discussion and they had left, a teacher sitting two seats away commented, “I can’t help but notice how you give your help so willingly to these students. Aren’t you exhausted by all the trouble you take on their behalf? Why don’t you offer to give them tuition instead? Just imagine how much money you can make with your experience and talent.”

He didn’t mean anything bad by it. In fact, I knew him well enough to know that he didn’t even mind the fact that when these boys came to see me in the staff-room, they often encroached on his space too. I knew that he made extra money by giving tuition after school. I didn’t resent that at all. In fact, given that his wife too was a teacher too was a teacher in a primary school and that they had four children to bring up; his need to make extra money was not only understandable but commendable. How else, but through giving tuition, can a teacher make money to support his family? I told him pleasantly, “I wish I could be like you but please remember that I live on an oil palm estate far away from town. After school, my husband expects me to be at home and be there for my own family.” It was true. My husband was an oil palm plantation manager. In every estate he was posted to, the company he worked for housed us in colonial bungalows that were usually located off the beaten track. When I got home from school, I stayed home.

Driving out all the way back to town, what more to give tuition, was not a savoury option for me. I could have been driven by money but I wasn’t  I simply felt that I could manage with what I made every month. Furthermore, I like having balance in my life and to achieve it, I had learned how to compartmentalise my life-school time for school-related stuff and home time for home-related stuff. When I was at home, I enjoyed spending time with my daughters and having time to write. As far as my social life was concerned, I had a wonderful time accompanying my husband to his engagements in the evenings. Be that as it may, it did not stop another teacher from saying sarcastically, “Why would she want to give tuition? She’s well-off. She doesn’t need the extra money!” The truth is this. There were times, especially in our early years of marriage, that my husband and I were actually strapped for cash. His mother was dependent on him for financial support and we had really little money to call our own. (If money accumulated in our bank account, it was due to our common prudence more than anything else.) But people only choose to see what they wish to see. In the face of all that was often said of me and to me, I stayed firm in my decision to remain true to myself.

My students, for instance, were more cognisant of my character and they knew that if they needed my help, they could depend on me to provide it, either during the time I taught them in class, during recess or during my free periods. I was brought up to believe in hard work. Spiritually speaking, I also believed that teaching well and with sincerity of purpose was part of doing God’s work in Earth. And, to teach well, you cannot pick the time and the place or the person you wish to help.

When I helped a student, I did so for three reasons: 1. Because I was approached for help, 2. Because I felt it was my professional duty to help and 3. Because I could. I was educated, able and knowledgeable. Therefore, I could help. So, help I did. “Teaching,” as St. Francis of Assisi put it once, “is the highest form of charity.” I was once informed that an envious colleague had passed this comment about me behind my back. She had said, “Oh, she is kind because she wants her students to like her. She makes her students come to her in the staffroom so we can all see and know how wonderful she is. Teachers like her are too good to be true. Surely, she has ulterior motives.”

Another was more direct and scathingly told me once, “They are not even your own race and yet, you help them so much! Have you any idea how kiasu these students are? Do you think they will remember what you did for them today? Tomorrow, they will have moved forward and forgotten your help. Do you think they will be grateful?” I used to wonder, “What do such people have against those who care?” Frankly, I could have chosen to be a tad more hard-hearted, less giving and even, unforgiving. But, I made a conscious choice not to do so.

I was approaching fifty when I came across the words written by Mother Teresa. Through them, I felt as if God had spoken to me. If you ask me now, I will honestly tell you that I have forgotten the names and faces of many of the students I taught, helped and guided. I doubt whether they have forgotten me but if they have, I won’t hold it against them. All I know is this. There was a time in their life and in mine that our paths crossed and we meant something to each other. And, when they needed a kind word, an encouraging pat, a clearer explanation or a smile from me, I did not fail them.

To me, as their teacher, that is all that matters. All else, and this includes negative comments, jealousy, selfishness and the misperceptions of others- all these hold no water.