Childhood Dreams: Aviation

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Cue Music: *Electric Guitar Solo Rockin’*

Cue Singer: “Revvin up your engine

“Listen to her howlin’ roar

“Metal Under Tension

“Beggin’ you to touch and go

“High way to the danger zone

“Ride into the danger zone.”

– Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins

Whenever I heard the first few chords of the electric guitar, I could only think of one movie: Topgun! I grew up watching Topgun with Tom Cruise as the lead actor. I always marveled at how the F-14 Figher planes would rule the skies, capable of dogfighting at supersonic speeds. I loved how the sound, the roar, the design, the sleekness all came together to put up a breath-taking show! Also, to add to the enthusiasm, it didn’t help that my dad was an airplane enthusiast while my mom worked for an airline company. I practically grew up in a plane and I just loved them. I would love to fly one someday. Just like any kid who watched that movie, I wanted to become a pilot.

Well, where am I right now? I’m pretty much still on the ground, working with students, hoping for the best that whatever I’m doing will help them live better lives. What happened to my dream of becoming a pilot? Will I ever become an aviator?

As I grew up, I’ve always had a fascination for planes. I can tell the difference between an F4U Bobcat from a P-47 Thunderbolt, from an F-22 Raptor to an F-35 Lightning. I understood how planes are able to fly and how they are able to travel at supersonic speeds. But I never really considered enrolling myself to Aviation School. This love for plans eventually turned into a hobby. As mentioned by my cousins, Aviation needed some hardcore math skills. MATH?! Maybe I’ll try this next time instead, I thought to myself. So what happened to my dream of flying?

Well, if aviation is (simplistically) about flying, I think I’m living that dream already. If a commercial pilot’s task is to safely bring people from one place to another, I think I’m doing that already. Although the plane I’m maneuvering doesn’t have wings, nor a cockpit, nor a fuselage, nor seat belts, I think I’m still able to give my passengers the ride of their lives. I show them perspectives from above the clouds, helping them see the bigger picture. I show them a breathtaking sunset while surrounded by velvet clouds. And I show them the brilliance of a big city at shining like stars at night. Through the flight, they get see the glory of flying and realize the humility of knowing that they were only a pixel in the big picture, but nonetheless a necessary ingredient to complete it. And once we’ve landed on our destination, and I bid them farewell and thank them for a privileged flight, I hope that the experience of flying stays with them so that someday they might grow their own wings and soar.

Or better yet, they fly their own planes and bring everybody for a ride.

Aviation Dream? I’m flying with it right now.

Cheers!

 

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Trial Commitment

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Note: This is a repost from a previous blog. I just thought of sharing this again because of the conversation I overheard on my commute home today.

“We’re living together, Greg and I and we have a wonderful home and family” she says.

“I see. That sounds great! So where’s your ring?” I say in reply.

“Soon.” Then she looks the other way and changes the subject.

What’s wrong with living together or cohabiting before getting married? You’re going to end up with that person anyway, right? What’s the fuss about getting a license, signing contracts, and preparing for an expensive ceremony? Isn’t it more practical to live together (cohabit) first because that way you get to know the person more before tying the knot?

Like what my former college professor once said, people seem to “lose sight of the big picture” (Fr. Dacanay, SJ) in their understanding of marriage. Probably to most, marriage is a license to legally and culturally have sex with their partners. For others, it’s a last resort to save the face and name of a family. At the same time, there are others who see marriage as a part of life, an eventuality; not a deliberate choice.

These are rather shallow understandings  of marriage (or matrimony to be more specific) and is probably what pushes some people to undergo a “trial marriage” in the form of cohabitation or living-in together. In their defense, most would reason out that cohabitation lessens the likelihood of divorce or annulment because that way it gives the couple the chance get to know each other beyond the simple girlfriend-boyfriend relationship before making the real and scary commitment that is marriage. However, haven’t they realized that they seem to be heading for a brick wall with that kind of thinking?

The Paper Marriage

First of all, isn’t marriage a deliberate and well-informed choice? I mean, you don’t marry because your friends are getting married already. Isn’t that you marry because you want to have a lifelong union with a person whom you swear to love and to cherish in front of other people? Is marriage simply an excuse to have sex? Isn’t it that the relationship formed in marriage should weigh more than the 15-20-minute work out in bed? Isn’t sex is an expression of a total and life-long commitment to just one body, one mind, one person? 

So in the end, is marriage simply a bunch of legal documents that grant you full access to intimate activities?

Intimacies: what’s the rush?

Interestingly, in relation to the intimate activities, there are others that argue: “why wait for marriage if you’re sure you’re going to end with this person anyway?” But maybe a better question here is: “if you’re so sure about the person, why rush it?” Come on, you don’t get married to “get things over with.” Isn’t marriage a public proclamation that in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, you’ll only hold one hand, kiss one pair of lips, and safekeep on heart? Haven’t they realized that there is value in waiting? In fact, isn’t there greater fulfillment when you practice patience, hat in spite of the many opportunities for you to get it over and done with, you resisted, your persisted, you endured? Isn’t that a real test of character that you are able to suspend your needs for the sake of others?

The Trial Marriage

Probably the most common argument about cohabitation is what we call “the trial marriage”. This argument comes from the exaggerated portrayal of the increasing number of failed marriages happening around. Because of this, people are cautioned to choose their partners well, where others would even go as far as trying out a marriage-like relationship in “order to see and get to know their supposed-to-be spouse even more“ they would argue. “It’s when you live together that you get to see the other side of the person. And it’s during that moment when you can decide if you are willing to live with that person or not.” Others would even say, “you can’t guarantee that he/she will not hurt you. So you might as well be safe and weigh your options.”

 

I understand their reluctance, but doesn’t that mean you are not totally honest with each other to begin with, that from the beginning you were not willing to show your dark side, your honest form? Next, I understand that there is so much doubt getting into the lifelong relationship, of whether it’s going to work out or not. But isn’t it that the missing links are what makes marriage meaningful? That even if you don’t know you’re going to run smoothly with each other that you still take the leap and promise only one thing: that you will remain together through thick and thin? Isn’t it that marriage is a BIG leap and not just another one of the relationships where we can leave anytime it’s convenient?

Marriage is a sign of maturity. If there’s just so much doubt going through your mind, I don’t think you’re ready to get married. Marriage doesn’t have to be as clear as day. It just needs the reassurance that we are with someone who will not only love you at your best, but love you at your worst as well and you do the same. 

Lastly, this is why marriage is called a commitment because whatever you have said you will set out to do, you are expected to follow through. Isn’t that harsh? What if things don’t go your way? Why, do things have to go your way all the time? Didn’t you take that into consideration before you tied the knot, that things might go for the worse? It’s a risk. If you can’t take the risk, then don’t get married.

In summary.

Contrary to common belief, cohabitation actually encourages divorce because it lacks that one key very important ingredient in relationships, trust. You’re leaving an escape hatch if things go wrong in the relationship when you do trial marriage. The trial marriage only proves that you are NOT ready to marry. So don’t bother if you’re not all in. Because you’re only going to waste the other person’s time because you’re not all-in.

This is the bigger picture that most people leave out (especially the ones who I was privileged to stand next to on my way home awhile ago). And it’s such a pity that not a lot of people are made aware of their own thinking and biases. No wonder people make the same mistakes over and over. Hopefully this post provided a new perspective in trial marriage, or should I say, trial commitment. 

But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you still believe differently from what I said. It’s okay. Because at the end of the day, our lives boil down into one question, “Do you still like the kind of person you’re becoming?” If the path you chose allows you to concretely answer that question, then good for you. If not, then there must be something missing in your life.

Cheers!

Photo is Courtesy of: http://issuesofhumandevelopment.blogspot.com/2010/07/cohabiting-adults.html

ED 203: Pointing Things Out

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Today I supervised my mentoring group for their last Saturday Outreach Program session. Our venue was in the DSWD Reception and Study Center for Children, where they housed orphaned children who came from a tragic past of abuse. The first time we visited, we were met with young enthusiastic boys who knew what it was to be children. Although a good number of my mentees were exhausted trying to keep up with the kids who were simply living life at the moment, this time around, even I was involved in the action; even I was moved.

This time around we interacted with a different set of children who were much younger than the ones we had last week. There were young girls involved this time. As we got into the thick of the action early on, you’d see high school boys lifting and carrying the little kids like backpacks while others engaged in pretend house-play with the smaller ones. However, as we were getting started, a supervisor came up to me and instructed me to inform my mentees not to carry any of the little girls because most of them were—and my heart sank when I heard this—sexually abused. She feared that too much body contact could trigger the trauma again. I gave out the instructions to the boys as discretely as I could and it wouldn’t be long until my hands would be involved in the action.

Watching over these kids was equivalent to a gym workout—it was exhausting! The kids just never ran out of energy and creativity to play. My boys were hard at work trying to accommodate the kids but some kids were just too much for one of my boys that I asked him to partner with a more experienced classmate. Throughout the play time, I tried as best I can to oversee all the boys but some kids just kept on tugging my pants and asking for a lift. I couldn’t resist. The moment I saw their eyes, and knowing that they all had a story to tell, I conceded and lifted a few kids in the air as if they were sacks of flour. But that only caused envy in the other kids and asked their guides to carry and lift them the way I did. After a couple of lifting sessions, the kids were back to their own creativity. I kept reminding my boys of the time left before the next activity in order to encourage them to make the most of their interaction. After a grueling 3 hours of intense interaction, we bade our goodbyes and it was off to processing.

Before the processing session began, I tried to process my own experiences and came to the conclusion that children are very very resilient, even more than we adults think. Although children cry when they’re physically hurt, they somehow get back on their feet and continue living the moments. These kids didn’t have a peaceful past and yet they never lost sight of what it means to have some fun. How I wish I was as brave and resilient as these kids, that even with an awful past, they still have fun. But the real insight would come to me as I listened to how my boys processed the whole experience.

Most of them said it was fun and fulfilling but it was so exhausting. Some shared stories of the kids acting violently, while others shared stories of kids doing stunts that they seem to have never done when they were little. At the end of their sharing, we all agreed that this was a memorable activity.

However (and this is the part where I don’t know if I did the right thing), I wanted to them to reflect on the experience more deeply by pointing out to them the value of generosity in service. I told them:

“As you can see, all of us had a hard time managing the kids. But imagine the caretakers who manage these kids on a daily basis. They do it freely and you don’t see them complaining about it. I think they are heroes, doing what they do even without recognition. That’s service. That’s generosity.”

In the previous session, I also pointed out in the processing time that: 

“What you’re doing is very noble. We all know these kids didn’t really have an awesome childhood and are probably experiencing some trauma until now. But what you guys did, you playing with them, allowed them that even for an hour two, to somehow forget what they are going through and simply have fun. You were part of that and that is very admirable.”

I know that when we process experiences and activities, we don’t add input. But I just couldn’t help it. I strongly believe that students learn more when they’re outside of the classroom, but they also need to know what to look out for so that out of class experience will be relevant and aligned to what they’re doing in school. I believe that they needed to know a perspective from me, from my experiences, because I’m an educator—I impact their values. What better opportunity for me to do that than in that situation? 

At the end of the day, I think an educator is more than just an authority in the classroom, but a guide, a lighthouse for all sea-faring travelers to know where to go. I need to be able to provide a vantage point for these young people to use so that they can see the world in more color and angle. 

I just hope that whatever I’m doing now will eventually benefit them and help them live their lives better. I guess I’ll only know if I was effective in educating these kids when they’re all grown up.

 

Image taken from: http://pinterest.com/pin/221239400416294032/

Growing Up

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Whoever said growing up was easy? If it were so easy, then everyone should be grown-ups by now, but they aren’t—I included.

I recently graduated from the school of my dreams and landed my first job as a clerk in an I.T.-Enabling company in Makati. Although my stay there was only for a year, it was a full year of ups and downs. I met wonderfully talented people in that job but I also met those horribly brought-up, overgrown children as bosses. I was often pushed to the limit in terms of how I work because, just like any job (especially corporate), the pressures were immense. However, out of those experiences, my edges were softened and my heart, opened. But I just didn’t expect what would happen next.

After discerning for a long while I finally decided to pursue something I loved, teaching. I needed to make sure that this was what I wanted to do for a long time that’s why I opted for a clerk job in an unknown company. The longer I was not teaching, the longer I craved for it until finally, one faithful day, I finished my application essays and started skipping work for interviews and demo classes. After a long search, I found myself in a surprising and refreshingly familiar environment. However, the happy-growing would soon make way for more humbling painful-growing.

Just as I was getting the hang of teaching, my grandmother, Lourdes Jocson Lachica (Former English Department Chair of San Pedro Poveda School), suddenly passed away, leaving the responsibility of managing the household entirely to me and sister. Because of this, I had to learn the ropes of being an adult, of being chased after bills, of making beneficial and detrimental decisions, of fulfilling commitments—all happening as I grappled with the many challenges posed by my inexperience in the profession of teaching and the ever-changing relationships I have with the people I love. Never did I realize that living was expensive. Never did I realize that managing money was as good as managing life. Never did I realize that I was only 22 years old doing all of this at the same time. Growing up was not as clear and sunny as it used to be and maybe that’s the point.

Often, I remind myself to blind my ever envious eye on colleagues who need not go through what I’m going through—that they can keep their income, their space, their freedom, their stability. I find myself wondering at times, “What if I were in a different situation, would I be more financially stable?” Sometimes I wish I could keep what I receive during paydays and not have to allocate them to Meralco, PLDT, Manila Water, Sky Cable, Groceries, Househelp’s income, unforeseen household repairs and replacements, and Graduate studies. Maybe I’d be able to “live life” more if I wasn’t weighed down with so many responsibilities at an early age.

But, come to think of it, isn’t what I’m doing already considered “living life”—the real, difficult, and responsible-laden life? Isn’t this something that we will all go through eventually while some of us have the privilege of delaying it for sometime? Isn’t life already difficult to begin with and what makes life even more difficult is our insistence that it isn’t?

With these, can I not be granted the grace to see that this is a privilege, that growing up this fast is a task not given to everyone? 

Maybe in this sense, I am lucky. Maybe with my recent loss and colorful experiences, I learned to be more compassionate, I learned to suffer-with more with others. Maybe, because of these experiences, I’m less cocky, I’m less sure about myself, and I’m less of myself? Maybe this is the point of growing up: letting go of what’s old to make room for the new. And the “new” this time is the more humbling daily struggles that make human life worth living.

Nobody ever said growing up was easy. But it doesn’t have to be THAT hard. Just like Eagles, maybe I need to learn what’s it like to fall so that I’ll know the Glory of soaring above the clouds.

Cheers!

Image taken from: http://everlastingalgorithm.tumblr.com/

ED 203: Random Thoughts #002: Why do we teach?

“I prided myself on being an entertaining lecturer, very knowledgeable, funny, charismatic, and so on. It took me years to realize [that my] classroom was all about me, not about the kids. It was about teaching, not about learning.

“Teachers probably wouldn’t have originally chosen their vocation if they didn’t crave the spotlight on some deep psychological level. The hunger to ‘really teach something’ has probably derailed more student-centered innovations than administrative cowardice and textbook company co-option combined” – Alfie Kohn

Somehow, Alfie Kohn’s words resonate so much truth in me as my practice my profession in teaching. Yes, I believe that I’m someone who’s great on stage and in front of a crowd because of my natural enthusiasm and wit. I think people like it when I’m in front. Also, one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue this type of profession is because I love the attention  and the opportunity to make a difference in the audiences’ lives. For some who have witnessed me in front of a class, I think they’d agree that I always leave an impact at the end of the session.

This brings me to the question:  Are students really learning if the teacher is doing all the work?

I’m not saying, however, that a teacher-centered learning environment is NOT conducive to learning, but it’s just that, based on research, students seem to learn more when they guide their own learning. However, what can they use as a guide if there’s no one to model it for them? Another that crossed my mind was, “What if the teacher, even if he’s the one in front, creates opportunities for students to THINK—similar to how retreat masters are able to engage the retreatants in productive and relevant self-examinations.

Maybe, in order to become an effective educator, the intention to teach has to go beyond craving the spotlight and wanting to “teach something” to a group young minds. If we gleam in the spotlight, maybe that can be used as an opportunity to make students feel that learning is indeed rewarding. Also, maybe when we “teach something” it’s to be able to let the students teach themselves.

At the end of the day, I think our profession is merely an intelligent suggestion on how to think and live life, and how they will live their lives will be up to them. Maybe the best gift we can offer them is to be able to decipher what kind of life BEST suits them and the very process of learning to live that chosen life is rewarding in itself.

Cheers!

P.S. For those who want to read Alfie Kohn’s work, you can do so through this link: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm

ED 203: Random Ideas #001

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What if in the future you realize that what you love doing doesn’t make you happy anymore? What do you do?” exclaimed the young Philosophy professor in class. All pairs of senior college students eyes stared in disbelief with the question. What, indeed, would I do if I realize what I thought I wanted to do no longer made me happy? Would I be ready for that day? Just as I was finished thinking about the idea, the professor continues with heart-wrenching questions that rock the very foundations of your humanity. After almost an hour of non-stop questioning, the bell rings. The class ends and everyone goes their separate ways.

These were the kind of teachers I grew up with. These are the kind of teachers who, just by being in front of the class, change the way you think, act, and live. These are the kind of teachers who clearly knew how effective they were and exploited it.

Recently in my Grad Classes I’ve been reading up on many student-centered learning Philosophies and strategies. The more I read and study about them, the more I realize how much of them are lacking in my class. This is probably because I grew up in a teacher-centered learning environment and I’m simply imitating what I witnessed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I liked the fact that the teachers who I had weren’t teachers but change-makers. These were the kind of teachers I wanted to be—quick witted, relevant, legitimate, and renowned. However, as I go through my classes, I wonder if it is enough to work with this kind of teaching style especially in the kind of school I teach in. I wonder if my students still learn as much as they deserve from me even if most of the time I’m the one in front. Although I try my best to imitate my idols by asking soul-piercing questions about how we should live our lives, I wonder if that is enough for them to learn the lessons and transfer the learning into their lives.

In the first place, when we teach, we plant seeds of wisdom which, we hope, will sprout at the right time and place. I guess teachers can do their best in making sure these seeds settle in their students but, for the rest of the time, they hope that these seeds bear fruit and help the student live a better life.

I hope.

Back to work.

Image retrieved from: http://tiethatpinkbow.tumblr.com/

ED 203: On The Big Question

Alfie Kohn in his article arrives at the conclusion that an educated person is someone who has “the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends.” Similarly, an educated person is someone who does not settle on just one way of learning especially if he/she wishes to never stop learning. Thus, this brings me to the question: “If this is a prescribed definition of what it means to be an educated person, what does it take to be THE educator of that person? Or put in another way, “What is an effective Educator? How can one be a significant influence to an Educated person?”

I prefer the term educator because it connotes a more encompassing approach in practicing education. Education is not just about transmitting information and data, but a way to improve one’s state of living. I’ve met people who stood in front of the classroom, but did more than transmit information to us. There was one teacher who, during his concluding lecture for the semester, told us that our value could not be measured by our grade—a realization not often shared to many students. He explained that he only used the subject (Physiological Psychology) as a tool to teach something more important—courage in front of adversity and value for learning. And I guess that’s the real transfer in learning—living the values instilled in the lectures. Thus, an educator does more than teach, he/she changes people. This is the kind of educator I want to become.

Primarily, this question is a reflection of my current state as a new teacher and how, on a daily basis, I assess and wonder if I am actually doing a good job (or at least doing the job properly). I knew from the start this is the vocation I’d want to pursue and, just like everything I love, I want to know how to become better at it so that I can give back to the community that molded me. Because of my experience, and the many other teachers who influenced me, education should be instrumental in the holistic development of the person and his/her community.

In seeking the answer to my question, I must remember that at the end of the day, what other authors would describe in their books or articles are merely a suggestions. The answers that I might find (or receive) from my author-driven quest need not have the final say. Just like an educated person, the effective educator should not stop learning. He/she should not stop asking the right questions even to the point of questioning the very manner of questioning and the conclusions he/she arrived at.

How do I intend address this big question? Well, maybe a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke (1903) would be good to mention here:

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

But how do I live the question? Simple—by living a life that’s open to the answers. I hope that whatever those answers are, even if they might not seem to do me any good, is at the end of the day, for the best.

With this, I start my quest.