Seminar in Sabah, Malaysia

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Another Winter Made Great by Children

Just like last year, the day before winter break, I hosted a celebration for the fifth graders in the my classroom.  A handful of children volunteered to come in early in the morning to decorate the room.  For the rest of the children, they were not up to this type of mundane task that required “creative thinking”.  I opened up the doors at 7:45am as scheduled.  The Decoration Committee marched and started adorning the room with streamers and balloons.  Then a couple of students walked in and saw how fun it looked to tape the streamers and blow up the balloons, they “volunteered”.  Then more walked by and decided to join.  Before long, the room was packed with students who were all there as part of the Committee.

I thought to myself, everyone has in him/her the desire to join the “winning team”, the “success”.  Even children knew that it was no longer worth while to stand on the sideline and not to be a part of something so “fun” and grand, even when labor was required.  Each year, I learn something from and about my students.  They have a way of making something ordinary wonderful.  Another great beginning of my winter break.

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Remembering all the great things

It has been more than four months since I last logged in.  Summer seemed to have administered its lazy medicine on me, I did not even take time to write about the lovely gesture expressed by my fifth graders at the end of the school year.  The students made me their version of a yearbook and collected everyone’s signature to be included in the keepsake.  I was so moved by the thoughtfulness of the students, I returned to the book several times during the summer when I needed a “happy place” to visit.

A new school year has rolled around again.  I want to use my influence as a teacher to raise another class of competent, trustworthy, courteous, and respectful fifth graders.  I want to duplicate what I did last year.  Starting with this post, I want to keep track of my impression about how my students are responding to my teaching and how I will be able to raise a group of kids that everyone will love.  When I released my students at the end of last school year, I knew with full confidence that they would be alright no matter where they went from that point on.  I knew that, if they kept doing what they had done the entire school year, the students would outperform many others and, at the same time, bring joy and pride to their teachers and parents.

I hope that, at the end of this school year, this compilation will be able to inspire others with the ways to raise kids that are 21st century ready.

Written on the first official day of the school year.

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Grownups of Little Faith

One must wonder what happened to faith as people move into adulthood. As children, the innocence in us helped us believe in anything that anyone had to say. My brother, when he was four, allowed my sister and I to fill his mouth with dozens of Chikli (spelling?) gum because we told him that he would be able to blow the biggest bubble in the world. As we travel down the path of life, we learned that not everything that people say to us is true. We get hurt or even humiliated sometimes when we take others seriously. In the Bible, Jesus told his beloved disciples, “Ye of little faith…” when they got scared by the storm. It is probably safe to say that, as adults, we have all been through our own versions of storms and we have lost sight of our faith. Even for those with strong religious faith, life can sometimes take its toll on them and cause them to plan for the worst.

I learned so much from my students this year. They raised me up to a different level as an educator and a person. The entire year, I have been teaching the kids about honesty, trustworthiness, and punctuality. We had a spring break celebration last week. Some of the students decided to join the “Planning Committee” and also take on the responsibility of decorating the classroom that morning. I told the students the day before that I would be there at 7:45am before the bell to let them come in to decorate. Though I had done my teaching the entire year, I have also seen how wonderful the students have been in carrying out various tasks, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “They would never be able to make it here that early at 7:45am”. So before I left for home the night before, I put up all the balloons and only left the streamers for the kids to do just in case that they do not show up on time, the celebration would not look too bleak.

That morning, I procrastinated at home and continued to give myself excuses not to leave for school earlier than usual. “They won’t make it on time.” “It is too early for the kids to come to school just to decorate.” I finally left home and proceeded to school. To my astonishment, the students were standing anxiously outside of my classroom as I entered the front gate. “What happened to you? We were getting worried that you forgot. You are three minutes late? Will we have enough time to finish?” The only thing I could say was, “I am so sorry, I should’ve been here earlier.” A voice in my head said, “Ye of little faith…” as I opened up the door and students streamed into the room to take on the work of decorating. They forgave so quickly too and went on as if nothing happened. I was taught another lesson by these kids.

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About Servitude

My students know that I have an insistence when it comes to serving others.  Every time when there was something to be passed out to the entire class, the group could not touch, nor start on the project until the last person has been served.  The very first time that I did this, students wanted to know why they needed to wait.  I took the opportunity to explain the idea of Servitude.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been taught to respect the elders and be submissive to the wise and experienced.  As a rebellious individual, I too asked the question why I had to wait until the eldest person at the table had been served in order to start eating my food.  My questions were met with scolding and sometimes a stern look from my parents.  It was not until I was older and began to work, I learned that this tradition had a secured footing in our heritage that the people who knew to obey it benefitted greatly from this practice.

I realized that, when one allows servitude to be chief, at least three things happen: 1. the person is recognized as being humble; 2. the person eventually grows patience and sense of calm without feeling displaced; and lastly, 3. the person who is doing the serving does not feel rushed nor belittled, the server can take time to complete the task of serving with the notion that there is a balance and everyone will wait their turn without sense of agitation.

My students now understand the benefits of servitude.  When one of them becomes the “server” who gets to pass out the material, the person feels the calm and does not rush to finish the work, because he knows that everyone will wait for him to pass out the material before the entire class begins on the work.  The class who wait to receive the items also feel relieved and well served, because they understand that no amount of “jumping out of the edge of their seats” will make the process any more rushed or expedited.  Everyone simply awaits in a relaxed fashion while they receive further instruction from me.

In today’s world, the concept of Servitude is slowly being forgotten.  Most of the time we see cut-throat actions to finish fast, finish first.  You may be surprised to know that, in Thailand, if you ask any of the tourism related personnel, they will tell you that the number one thing that a Thai person is most proud of, is Servitude.  They take huge pride of the services that they provide to the tourists.  They go out of their way to make sure that the visitor’s every need is met.  As an avid traveler, I can tell you that not too many countries will put servitude at the top of their list.  That is why Thailand continues to grow in tourism and reaps a whopping $379 million a year (2010) versus England’s $3 million.  If you want a major growth in profit or change of attitude, shift to the mind-set of Servitude. 

I have received many compliments about how my students behave so differently from the other students of the same age group.  I know the major difference is that they have been taught the attitude of service.  They enjoy serving others and know how to be genuinely happy when they do the right thing to make others’ lives easier.  They also understand how to be served and feel at ease that everyone eventually gets their turns.  In the event that they do not get what they need, they know to voice their concerns in an appropriate fashion. 

If you are about to go in to a new job, do consider including Servitude as one of your skills.  In a world where so many people are competing to be rude, the person who understands Servitude will be a breath of fresh air in any position.  After all, we were put on this earth to build relationship, not to consume and dominate only.  If your company is at the edge of a major shift of paradigm, let Servitude be a part of your new Single Plan for Success.  People still crave to be served.  The question is: Will you be the one to provide it?

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On the topic of Goal setting – Planning the Path

I was asked to talk about goal-setting and my testimonial about the obstacles in life and how they make one stronger. The audience would turn out to be listeners to this Christian radio show. After much pondering, my thoughts went right back the banner image that I selected- the path.

I hardly think anyone would choose to go through his/her life without planning a path. If he/she did not, someone in his life would do the planning for him. The outcome may be positive, and may also to the person’s complete demise. Planning the path for life is a skill that will take years to master. Most of us likely will not have mastery of this know-how until we have actually taken some wrong turns from which I have learned our lessons. For people who play a sport, they will say that life planning is like figuring out what score you want to get at the end of the game and you just go for the goal/net/basket, depending on the competitive sport in which one is involved. Think about this though, if that were true, how does one face life when the game is lost at the end of innings/quarters?

A trip I remember clearly to this day was a ski trip to Vail, Colorado. One thing quite different about Vail was that the lifts are extravagantly fast and they take to you some of the most challenging slopes at the top of the mountains. Being a recreational skier, after a long day of co-mingling with snowboarders and skiers on the slope, I decided to take the last lift up the slope to end the day. The lift, traveling at three times the speed of a regular ski lift, went up the hills passing one hump after another. I knew that, under normal circumstances, the downhill ski would take approximately 25 minutes to complete. As the lift zipped through the forest, the night began to fold in and a storm approaching. I was finally dropped off at the mountain top along with a dozen other skiers of various levels. The way the course was designed, one can take either the Black diamond, the Blue intermediate, or the Green beginner slope, all leading to the same destination- the café at the bottom of the slope. As everyone scattered to find their way down before the snow storm came, I had a decision to make.

Prior to decisions, there have to be distinctions. Just like life, we all know the end of the road is the culmination of our journey- retirement, celebration, illness, and the inevitable departure. So the focus needs to be the LIVING portion of life, the how to get there part, the journey itself. As I stood at the top of the ridge, I assessed the kind of risk that I was will to afford, the speed of downhill crossing that I could handled at the energy and skill level that I had, the chill factor that I could endure during the turns facing the cliff not shielded from the blizzard, the company that I would be able to keep at the most treacherous declines, and most important of all, the length of time that I had to get there. Once I was able to distinct the possibilities and impossibilities, I went after a group of five skiers who were going downhill with their ski coach.

What happened next, while well planned, were not expected. That is also like life, you can plan the course, but not your steps. Surprised may come in a matter of seconds, the planning was to make “handling the surprises” easier on you. As I went downhill, at every turn, there was the black, blue, and green sign. At times, I needed to abandon the group that I was skiing with and take the blue path to speed up the process. I would then meet up with another group of people who were desperately trying to figure out which way to go at the mouth of the next turn. At every major turn of fork, I re-assess and make decision about which of the three colored path to choose, all the while with ice, snow, and wind cutting across my face, blurring my vision. My goal had not changed, but the way to safely and soundly get there required constant re-thinking, re-evaluation, and re-assessing. I was the first to get to the bottom of the hill. Then I saw the first group with their coach quickly approaching the bottom. As the last couple zipped down the hill, the lights on the slopes went out and a huge snow tracker went up the hill to smooth out the paths for the next pack of challengers that would be moving in tomorrow morning.

That solo ski trip changed my outlook on life. You may be standing at the very first perilous turn on the slope of your life. Assess your skills, you companions, capacity, knowledge, and decide the level of risk that you can afford before taking that next step. If you are standing at a fork, or perhaps near the end of the journey, planning that path has never been more crucial. The key is that, you CANNOT afford to stay in the same place. That is simply not an option, unless your goal is to freeze in time and space with nothing to show for at the end of the challenge.

God has given us too many gifts, talents, and resources in life for us not to dream big and go for the great challenges in life. In one way or the other, we all pretty much know our goals in life, it is the PATH to get to that point that will make your life stand out or even become a legacy.

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One Path

I liked this banner image the moment I saw it. There is nothing special about it, except I am the kind of person who loves mental association with words or pictures. Looking at this picture, ideas came: this is a path and one can choose to journey through his/her own way; there is always hope at the end of the road, if one chooses to see it; lights may not always come on at the end of the path, turn and see hope, light, and warmth line up the side of the path; one can only take one path at a time, no matter how powerful or fragile he/she is; it is in one’s solitude, one sees how far one has walked; no matter how quickly or slowly we travel, the path has to be taken for the journey to count; we are never alone (check out the two sheep grazing on the pasture to the left); and I can go on and on. Why the ONE speech? Any of the mental associations that I just wrote will be turned into a speech that I hope to light up someone’s day, to help solve someone’s problem, to ease someone’s pain, to open possibilities for someone who needs one, or to keep someone company when they need to hear an affirmation. Like I said previously, we can only take one path at a time. I have chosen mine, and I am not traveling alone.

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