When I asked them to write an original poem, this is what they came up with…

They wrote about how much they hated school and how they wanted to kill me. Yes, I’m not making this up. I’m not kidding! In the very words of my student: “I want to throw a mace at her face.” Granted, “mace” was probably the only weapon type word he can think of that rhymes with “face” but still…

I had another student who described me as “There she goes again, blabbering away…” He described school as jail and homework as suffering. The poem was beautifully written, and came from a source of passion. It’s a pity that the thing that drove it was his hatred for school and me. 

I had several other poems along the same lines. And I guess I kind of asked for it. No, I’m not a bad teacher. It’s just that I did ask for it, I asked them to write from a source of passion – because poetry comes from the heart. Poetry is really emotions put into words. You must feel it, in order to write it. I didn’t predict though, that their source of passion was the ultimate hatred for school. It kind of threw me – but I kept it together as much as I could.

To take it from the start… We learned about poetry a few months ago. I modeled several poems for the  children and we discussed the different ways we can write poetry. To help them understand poetry a bit more, I showed them different song lyrics and explained that song lyrics are really poetry set to music. I have a group of very structural-type students, who are brilliant writers but lack creativity. I knew that the whole idea of writing poetry would make them very  uncomfortable. I gave them as many examples of ways that we can use language to create the repetition and rhythmic meter needed for poetry but allowed them to pick the content themselves. Many of the girls went off and were very excited to write. 

But there were a handful of boys that were just stuck. They didn’t know what to write about because, according to them, “I don’t feel passion for anything.” So I asked them to talk about what they loved. What do they enjoy doing? I made them write lists of things they live. I told them to imagine a world where they can do whatever they want. It didn’t quite work. Apparently, they didn’t like anything except computer games – and they didn’t want to write about computer games. So I tried another tactic: What do you hate? I asked them. Tell me the things you don’t like. I figured that it would probably be easier for them to write about what they dislike then what they do like. One boy’s face lit up and said: “I hate homework.” I said, “Okay, write a poem about how much you hate homework.” And it kind of took off from there. Some of them took the liberty to write about how much they hated school. I told them that in order to foster their creativity, I am not going to limit what they write about as long as they do not use swear words or target any classmates. I didn’t think, at the time, that it wasn’t classmates they disliked – it was me. 

So that’s what I meant when I said “I asked for it.” Because I did. I wanted them to be free with their emotions and be creative. So I have to be able to bear the consequences of that. I honestly believe though (and this is purely a theory of mine) that their anger and emotions come from a stifled work pressure from home. Many of these children are pushed so hard with tutoring to get a scholarship into private schools. Hence, their hatred for school and anything to do with work. But they know, in their heart of hearts, that their parents are only doing it for their own good. Hence the love/hate relationship. And because they cannot take it out on their parents, they take it out on me. And I’m okay with that. After all, they trusted me enough to be able to write a candid poem about how they feel. I think I’ll take that. 

I guess the only think that I’m gutted about is this question: When will these kids ever realize that what I do for them is all out of love and care? Hopefully, in 10 years time, they can look back and appreciate the fact that they were given a great education and that ultimately, I (and their parents) only wanted the best for them. 

Yong Zhao: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students

I had the utmost privilege of meeting and listening to Yong Zhao this week. My principal had managed to invite him to our school to speak; and because he was such a “big deal”, we had to invite 300 other teachers to our school so they wouldn’t miss out on listening to such a great man.

I honestly did not know anything about Yong Zhao until I saw the event on Google calendar. I heard (in a roundabout way) just how much the school was paying for him to come to us so I assumed he must be someone important. I google him and found out that he sits sort of alongside my educator idols Phil Beadle and Sir Ken Robinson, in terms of their advocacy for creativity. In fact, what Yong Zhao discussed was similar to what Sir Ken spoke about in his TED talks. In a nutshell, we need to change education and its paradigms because we are no longer living in an industrial age. Education needs to “keep up” with the times.

Yong Zhao, however, explicitly speaks about economy and the influx of graduates and the consistent decrease of jobs in developed countries. He claims that we are equipping students with very limited skills, that is, skills only used to pass University tests, only to qualify for certain types of jobs – jobs which are currently being sent offshore or replaced by technology. He speaks specifically about the need for inventions and entrepreneurs. He asks that teachers bring out the talent in each individual child so they can use their talent to make a difference in the world.The questions he asks is this: What do you have that a computer cannot do? What do you have that isn’t available in another country for cheaper? It is no longer enough to solve a problem, we must have the creativity and skills to find a problem and then solve it. That’s an entrepreneur!

I found Yong Zhao an impressively engaging speaker, and it was also very interesting (and somewhat challenging) to process the fact that a Chinese man is standing in front of you and slamming the Chinese education system, which, for many of us, is held up in high regard (especially their perfect test scores). But he made one important observation: With the impressive test scores that Asian countries have been having, why have they not come up with anything new? Why are there no Steve Jobs from China? Yong Zhao also highlighted a difference between innovation and invention. Asia innovates, but has not been successful in inventing. In the words of the great man himself: “Samsung will run out of ideas to copy. They need to create ideas… but they can’t.” It is this whole notion of creating, inventing. How can we teach children to create something out of nothing? How can we give children the skills to find a job in a market where jobs are so limited? 

I had a great day with Yong Zhao. He was friendly and very approachable. For some reason I found the courage to walk right up to him before the session started to introduce myself – and I joked about how I had read about him so I could be prepared. We shared lunch together and it was very humbling to be able to sit opposite such an insightful man (and my principal and vice-principal) and have a down-to-earth discussion about education. It fired me up in everyway possible. I’m still reeling from excitement!

To know more about Yong Zhao, you can go to his website here. I’m not sure how our school is going to implement his ideas – we have a long, long journey to make if we ever wanted to get to what he describes as “passion driven, strength enhancing education.” But we can only try!

Single as Stuck

I’ve always thought of being single as “lady in waiting.” My single friends and I – we sit around the table talking about the man drought, and how there is a severe lack of genuine, responsible men left on the planet. I often get panic attacks, wondering when I will ever find the man and will this “waiting” ever end. I felt like I was stuck, and the only way to get un-stuck was to meet someone.

I guess I never thought of single life any other way because of… well… who can I blame? Society? Social pressure? Married friends? Actually, who’s fault is it?

No one. It occurred to me over the weekend spent in silence. No one is to blame because I am single. It’s not a fault. I read something about how being single is either a choice or a circumstance. You can choose to be single or you can happen to be single because of the circumstances in your life. I don’t choose to be single, I happen to be. And as much as we try to control it, the fact is, we have no power at all in deciding whether or not people will fall in love with us. I honestly believe that you cannot “make someone love you.” You can certainly make yourself more attractive and appeal to their interest but ultimately, they decide if they want to be with you. Same goes for us women. Men can look charming, pay for dates, drop the best lines but we make the choice whether or not we reply to that text or go along for a second date. Works both ways. We can only be our best self and live our best life. Ultimately, it’s a person’s choice whether or not they want to be with another person. I find that women, in particular, spend countless hours analyzing and trying to work out men, trying to take control of situations we know we have no control over whatsoever.

It also occurred to me in my time of silence, that being single isn’t “waiting”. Being single is not being “stuck.” I don’t know what on earth put that silly thought into my head. Single life is a time where your gifts can be given wholly to humanity. Because there is no obligation toward a significant other, I can devout 100% of my time and energy towards others. It’s just a different perspective really. When you have a partner, you share your life with him/her. When you are single, you share yourself with the world. Your talents, gifts, laughter etc. You’re not stuck, or in limbo. You’re not worthless. You have so much to give and why waste it? Why keep your gifts to yourself, waiting for a significant other to come by when there’s so many out there in need? It is a chance to give our complete self to those who need it, because when a significant other comes along, everything changes. Until then, why waste your time sitting around trying to control matters beyond your reach? Are you not significant just because you have no plus 1?

We never know when this world will end. Whether we like it or not, some of us may only have months, weeks or even days to live. Every minute is a gift. You and I are in a particular place, in a particular moment, living a particular life for a purpose. And if that purpose happens to be single, then live it! I know for a fact that if I only have a limited amount of time left in this world, having a boyfriend wouldn’t be a priority at all. I would travel, return to London, return to Munich, return to Budapest. I will stalk Chris Martin to my hearts content, and eat junk food without worrying about my health. God did not create us only to wait on a significant other. He created us to be significant!

The places you can read

  I came across a very odd invitation on Facebook the other day. It was for a “Silent Reading Party” held in a pub somewhere in a fancy part of town. I looked up the event because I was curious and I read from the various posts that reading in pubs have recently become a “thing.” And I thought people would usually go to a silent place to read. Why go to a place (the pub), predominantly used to socialize, to read silently? It seems paradoxical, but the more thought about it, the more it made sense to me.

Now I don’t know why reading in a pub makes “sense”, I can’t quite explain it. But I guess it’s the whole rustic-ness of it. There is something cozy about a pub, well, at least the pubs that I’ve been to. I lived in London for a while, and I remember London pubs being cozy and family orientated, with old men watching football and their grandchildren running around with peas and mash all over their faces. It was a place to socialize (not in a party with alcohol kind of way), but it also gave me a sense of “home.” Weird huh? Now I know pubs in Melbourne (where I currently live) is slightly different in terms of atmosphere. People go to the pub to have a good drink after a long day at work. People go to pubs to pick up or get “smashed”. Not really a place to feel homely and warm.

I guess reading at the pub appeals to me because of my personal experience with London pubs. I’m not quite sure, though, if reading in your typical Melbourne pub would produce the same effect. I can only imagine this in my head: I picture myself, snugged up in a couch on one of the London pubs, with a good book and a cup of tea. (Yes, it was OK to order tea in the London pub on a Sunday afternoon at 3pm before Manchester United played). Can that happen here in Melbourne too? I’m now curious, and I would love to go on Sunday to see what this “Silent Reading Party” is all about. I find it odd having the word “silence” and “party” in the invite. Seems impossible, to be silent and reading and to party all at the same time. And at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. They somehow contradict one another… but maybe that’s why it’s so appealing? Has a sense of mystery I would say…

Where do you read? Do you read in odd places? Do you read everywhere? I have students who cannot put a book down. They read while walking outside, they read while eating lunch, they read while walking… I’m not such an avid reader. But I do enjoy long moments tucked up on a chair with nothing but a cup of tea and a book. I often like reading on balconies, with the sound of traffic and footsteps under me. Not quite a fan of reading in bed before I sleep. Somehow that position isn’t comfortable enough. What about you? How do you devour a book?

The Perfection of Silence

The Perfection of Silence

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I attended a silent retreat last weekend. It was a religious silent retreat: a group of young Catholics aged 18-35 signing up for a weekend of silence to seek. Seek what? You might ask. Anything that is worth seeking for, is my answer. I believe each and everyone of us that signed up for the weekend was seeking something. I, for one, signed up because of the mere fact that I was so afraid of it. Silence.

I signed up for a weekend of silence because I knew this was what I needed. I needed it because the moment I heard about it, every muscle and bone in my body made a move to run away, to avoid. And it took me a long time to decide, but ultimately, I did – because I knew that if I wanted things in my life to get better, if I wanted answers… I needed to do what scared me. I needed to dive into the silence and face what I’ve been trying to run away from.

I believe that sometimes we are sinking too deep in mud that we start swimming in it, not knowing that it’s actually swallowing us up, and choking us, little by little. And only when we reach out and get out that we realize just how “sunked” we were – how deep in trouble we were, how choked we were. Sometimes, more often that not, we don’t know how much we’re sucked in until we get out and breath a little.

That was what the weekend was for me. I was so caught up in my plans and my ticking of boxes that I forgot what calm and peace meant. I was so involved in my so-called future and my perfect plans for myself that I lost track of who I was and who put me here in the first place. Through the silence I was forced to reconcile with myself, my hollow, empty-self that only existed to gain pleasures from winning and doing. Constantly doing. For the longest time I thought I trusted God because I had a plan to trust God and I had a plan on what to do if that first plan fell through… how bizarre! And the silence held up a mirror to my face and in my reflection I beheld the truth that God was never actually really existent in my life. It was me. No God. Only me. God did not even make it because of my obsessive compulsive disorder of having everything in control all the time. And it was so disordered, so twisted that I actually thought, actually believed, that I trusted in Him. Oh how wrong I was!

It wasn’t until I found myself sitting in the freezing church with my hands in my pockets and nothing to greet me but several Bible verses that I was forced to reconcile with the ultimate truth: I never trusted in God. I never truly surrendered. And in some miraculous way, the only action of trust that I ever really took was when I paid for the weekend of silence – when I went against my will and signed myself up for 36 hours of truth, silence, confrontation.

It’s amazing how much you can do when you don’t speak. It’s amazing how far you can reach when you stay still. It’s amazing how loud you can hear God when you’re silent. And on a side note, the food tasted so much better when I wasn’t caught up with trying to make obligatory small talk with the people around me. Yes, it was wonderful. The best meal I ever tasted was lunch with no conversation except for Mozart’s Requiem playing in the background!

So my life has changed. Literally. Not externally though. Internally. I changed. And because the lens of which I look at life has dramatically shifted, I am starting to realize that I view things differently too. I start to understand people in a way that I never understood them before. I can let go. Truly let go. Not saying you let go and then make backup plans in the back of your mind.

Of course, the road is long, and there will always be pitfalls. But the most powerful thing I learned in the silence, is that the voice of the accuser is never Jesus. He never accuses but liberates. He sets you free instead of putting you down. And I can’t believe it took me 27 years to truly realize that!

There’s so much to say that I’ve got nothing to write

I know that title is contradictory – and it may not make sense at first read. But I think some of you might know what I am trying to say. I have been quiet for a while, because there’s just too many thoughts. Funny huh? Being quiet because there’s too much. Too much to say… therefore, nothing to write. And by that I don’t mean “nothing” literally, I mean… there’s so much to say, so much to write about, so much to sort through, that a blank page of nothingness becomes the only way out. It’s easy… I don’t have to face it. I don’t have to come to terms with the thousands and thousands of words and thoughts floating around in this space I call my head.

I’ve been aching to sit down and write, but never got round to it. Every time I think that I should, I divert and do something else. Because there’s just too much. Too much to complain about, too much to rant about! I know, it sounds like I’ve got it so bad, but it really isn’t like that. It’s just that I’ve got a naturally curious mind – so everything and anything mesmerizes me. Everything and anything beckons me to analyze it. I want to break everything down. I want to try and understand the root causes of every problem I come across. I want to look through every personality and get into every brain. The world fascinates me. So much so that I often feel like crawling into a cave just so I can take a break from it’s fascinations!

But something happened this weekend. Something happened that make me snap – in a good way. It snapped me, but in a sense put me together again. Therefore I can write. I can now sit and write, because somehow the puzzle started coming together. And I realized… the first step to solving the problem of having too much to say, is to start writing. Not for anyone to read – it’s a bonus I guess if anyone did. But more to help me sort myself out. So I guess I’m going to start. Like right now. Here comes the fountain of words…

Fourth of July: My ex turns 28.

Americans everywhere would be celebrating the 4th of July. Suffice to say, I’m not American and this celebration always meant something different for me: The birthday of my ex. And it’s an impossible one to forget because the Americans will always remind me. So instead of trying to forget it, I will try to live with it.

Today is the first year that I have to live with the 4th of July being my ex’s birthday. Hopefully, by next year, it will just be the 4th of July, and I can celebrate it properly with my American friends. For today though, I’m going to contemplate and maybe, I might mope… forgive me, but I promise next year will be a different story.

Yes, this is the ex that you can see spread through this blog. He’s everywhere. If you scroll back long enough you can see all the great things I wrote about him. And if you were to find yourself very lonely and bored and need to stalk someone who’s life is worse than yours, I recommend you reading my posts from start until present. You will then be familiar with the roller coaster ride that was thrust upon me by the person who is turning 28 today.

I don’t hate him. That’s the worst part. I feel like I should, but I can’t. Everytime I think of him, I just get fluffy, sorry, cloudy thoughts. Because I truly empathize with him. Here’s a guy who (besides turning 28 today) has no idea where he wants to go in his life, and is so caught up by circumstance and never having the confidence to ride above it. I wish I could be his strength everyday, I wish I could always be the one to tell him that “Yes you can!” but unfortunately, I need a man to take care of me, not the other way around. I hope he finds a girl that can take him for who he is, because changing him will be impossible. For the longest time, I thought I was that girl, and I stayed because I felt that only I could save him. Nobody else would be able to put up with that!

He changes his mind like the wind. In the beginning, that was the trait that drew me to him. He was so unpredictable, so full of surprises! And I loved the ride. But when he took my heart with him, and started creating a yo-yo out of it, I realized the ride wasn’t so fun after all. But sometimes, when you’ve invested so much money + time in the ride, you just want to see through the end because quitting would just be too depressing. Not after all you’ve done!

Some people just aren’t build for commitment. Some people just don’t like sticking to one thing. Some people are just afraid of being bored, or maybe too afraid of leaving their comfort zone? My ex really tried. The fact that he kept running back to me asking for forgiveness and telling me he will try harder proves that he gave it his all. But it still wasn’t enough. Not for me anyway. He wanted two things. He wanted me and he wanted freedom. He wanted a girlfriend, a lover without the obligation to treat her well. He wanted comfort but didn’t know how to give it. He wanted to grow up but he also wanted to play with the toys. And for the longest time, I saw him juggling both ends, torturing not only himself but everyone around him.

Today, he turns 28. I’m sure he is lying there somewhere, hoping for a birthday message from me so he can tell me again, just how the “signs” are pointing towards a destiny where we can be together in some fantasy world where no rules are ever kept. Unfortunately, I live in this world. And this world has consequences for actions of fantasy. I want to live in the real world, where people hurt and have to sacrifice for each other to make something work. As much as I want to throw it all in the air, and ride roller coasters all my life and live the moment… it’s not real, it’s not human, and I was created for way more than a dream. I was created to live life to take every fall and every flight.