Pondering

the thinker

Image courtesy of Joe DeSousa

It’s been a while since I last blogged and it isn’t for lack of desire. There are a number of things that I have been reflecting on and considering writing about, but none of them have really developed into a full blown post as of yet. Actually, they are a bit muddled in my mind really, floating about, bashing into one another, but nothing coming from it as of yet. I felt I just needed to get in front of the keyboard an start typing, hoping that something will spark and lead to a post. This is the result. So, if you are looking for a coherent, well-structured, focused post, you might as well walk away now since this is probably going to be a bit messy.

Here are are some of the things that I have been thinking about in no particular order of importance or with any logic whatsoever: Continue reading Pondering

Assisting

little red hen

Image courtesy of lolaleeloo2

When I was a kid, my sister bought me a copy of Aesop’s Fables and I immediately fell in love with it. I had heard some of the stories before, but this was a gold mine! Even at a young age I was able to see how these short, simple stories could teach life lessons in a easily digestible way.

As I grew older, I came to appreciate cultural fables from around the world, but I also started to notice that some of these stories were teaching ideals that I don’t agree with. The obvious one’s are related to stereotypes, but there are others that teach messages of revenge, judgement, and intolerance hidden beneath the surface. Continue reading Assisting

Swimming

swimming goggles

Image courtesy of EvelynGiggles

Three years ago, I decided, scratch that, my wife convinced me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed to start exercising regularly. Of course, she was correct and I decided on taking up lane swimming. To me, this seemed like a nice way of exercising that didn’t focus on one area of the body and also was more interesting to me than running.

I went down to the local pool and got a multi-visit pass to motivate me to continue going since it was already paid for. My first visit started really well, but it didn’t take long before I ‘ran out of gas’ and I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy. I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of all of the other swimmers who were lapping me multiple times, so I got out and went to the sauna for a bit. That made me feel even more lightheaded and I realized I was needing to get out and get something to drink.

Due to my dehydration. I was incredibly sore and tired once I got home. I learned my lesson and I made sure I was properly hydrated before and while I was swimming. Even with that, I continued to struggle as I soon noticed how poorly I swam. My technique was awful and I eventually lost interest in swimming and quit once my pass was used up.

Fast-forward a few years to present day and I am just now finishing up my first five weeks of swimming lessons. I have really, really enjoyed myself and I have learned so much. I had taken lessons as a child, but that was so long ago, I have forgotten almost everything about proper techniques and strokes. I am not afraid of the water and I certainly can keep myself from drowning, but I would never progress if I didn’t take the time to restart my learning by backing things up to almost the very beginning. This process really helped me think about my language teaching and what my students are going through. These are some of my reflections. Continue reading Swimming

Forgiving

fork in the road

Image courtesy of sacks08

It was my first year of college and I was anxious to find out who my dorm roommate was going to be that year. I had been in this dorm in a previous year for high school (I attended a boarding school on the same campus), so I felt like I was in my element. That was when Greg* walked in. He was big. Really big. It turns out he was a weightlifter and even though he was wearing a fairly puffy jacket on this cool fall afternoon, I could tell he would be able to snap me in half if he really wanted to. I just hoped he didn’t want to.

It turned out that Greg was a big softy. While he was dedicated to his weight training, he was a pacifist and as kind as he was muscular. He kept his side of the room in immaculate condition and kept a rigid schedule of going to bed early so he could get up early to work out, doing his homework before going out, and reading a book in the evening. I could set my watch to him; he was that dependable.

I, on the other hand, was having too much fun to worry about such trivial things as studying, cleaning, and exercising regularly. Actually, I was pretty much the opposite of Greg. While he was studying, I was out with friends avoiding my work. While he was working out, I was sleeping. When he was reading, I was playing games on the computer and cranking my music much too loudly.

I liked Greg. Something about him intrigued me and made me feel a bit guilty about my attitude towards work and exercise. Continue reading Forgiving

Judging

2014-09-24 14.47.57

I am sitting here staring at $2.15 in change in a pile on my desk. It might seem like a fairly insignificant thing, but it actually has had me thinking about a great deal of things over the past hour or so. In fact, I still don’t quite know what to do with it. You see, it isn’t mine, but the person who owns it didn’t want it. Let me rewind a bit. Continue reading Judging

Spinning

woodcut_woman_spinning

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

I’m sitting here staring at my screen, a blank screen, hoping that inspiration will come. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say, I have lots of things floating around in my head, it is that I am literally at a loss for words. Somehow, my creative juices have dried up. I want to write, but I am stuck. I have topics, ideas, thoughts, but no words. They are all jumbled up in my head and refuse to come out. I’m not sure why, but I felt I just needed to start writing, even if it doesn’t make sense. If you are reading this now, somehow I have managed to transform myself into Rumpelstiltskin and have spun gold out of the hayloft in my head.

Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case in my classroom as I transition once again into a different course with new objectives. Continue reading Spinning

Commemorating

rachel

This morning, the world lost a great woman. She likely isn’t known by anyone who reads this blog, but within her sphere of influence, she was a force to be reckoned with. She was opinionated, maybe even a bit bossy at times, but just slightly below that exterior was a incredibly generous heart. She loved animals and knew the names of each and every pet owned by her siblings, nieces and nephews, and almost anyone she came in contact with. She never made a lot of money, but if respect was a currency, she would have been one of the wealthiest ladies on the planet. She loved her family, friends, and God. She was faithful, diligent, determined, compassionate, loving, and giving. Who is she? My aunt Rachel.

What made her even more amazing was that she did this while dealing with the struggles of day-to-day life as someone with Down Syndrome. Heart problems, laboured breathing, and walking were some of the physical struggles, but the biggest hurdle came in the form of public perception. Seeing her, people had difficulty imagining she has much to contribute, but ask anyone who met her and you knew there was so much to her than her condition. She had an incredible memory and knew so much. She didn’t just know this information, she could piece things together and develop her own thoughts on virtually any subject.

I only had the opportunity to meet her one time in person when I was about 13 or 14 years of age. Even still, when mom and dad would visit her up until this last year, she would remember us and talk about us kids as if that day was still fresh in her mind. To her, it was incredibly important to remember details about a person since people were important to her. It didn’t matter what job you had, how much money you had, or how beautiful you were, just being you was enough for her.

I’ve learned a great deal from her. She taught me that people are important for just being people. I came to understand how valuable it is to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. I am struggling to be as gracious as she was in the face of adversity and to not let obstacles stop you from doing what you feel is right and good. I know she lived her life as if the next day could be her last. She also didn’t let things get her down. Yes, she had her bad days, but she didn’t keep it bottled up or stop her from moving on; she dealt with it and then left it in the past.

Rachel, we will miss you. You have taught us so much in your 57 years on this earth. You were truly a gift to us and your memory will help us to be kinder, more loving, and more understanding to others. Most of all, you taught us that nothing should ever stop us from being the change we want to see in this life. As the tributes to you pour in from all over the globe from people you have touched over the years, may others learn what it means to never judge a person on their outward appearance, but to dig deeply and find out who they truly are.

Falling

migracija

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Here I was staring at Room 209 once again, wishing for something, anything, to happen. I can’t imagine the hours, perhaps days, my wife and I had sat on this narrow wooden bench in the second-floor hallway of the Klaipeda Migration Office, hoping that our application for our one-year visa was going to be approved. We had been told that our forms were incorrect despite the fact we had received it from this very office. We had been told of ‘new’ fees that needed to be paid immediately, only to be told the next day that we no longer need to pay this fee, so we could fill out a new form and bring it to Vilnius, a five-hour drive from Klaipeda, to get our money back, even though it would cost twice that to get there and back. Begrudgingly, we sign the money over to some mysterious recipient, likely in that office. Slowly, but surely, we had ‘played the game’ enough without giving into what we felt was unethical behaviour to the point where we were now the ones who had their names called out of the vast crowd, even though others had been waiting there much longer than us. We had finally ‘made it’! Continue reading Falling

Profiting

money

Image courtesy of Images Money

The other day, I read this post about a photographer named Kris who posted a prize-winning photo of the shadow of Mt. Fuji on Reddit’s subreddit /r/pics only to find his joy for getting a huge amount of upvotes to be taken away by his photo being shared without his permission or attribution on various social media networks. I won’t get into the whole story since you can read about it on his post, but one of the comments on his blog regarding this story really stuck with me. The person wrote, “Your image was not “stolen” yet. Nobody is turning a profit on it.” There are two distinct things that came to mind after reading this:

  1. For most people, the inherent value in something is in what you can get in exchange for it.
  2. For most people, profit refers to monetary gain.

In this situation, the commenter believes that the photographer took the photo to make money. Since other people are not making money from it, there is no problem with those individuals sharing that photo as long as they are not making money from it. My problem with this is that the notion of value and profit are not just about physical items such as cars and computers, but intellectual properties such as writing and ideas. Continue reading Profiting

Designing

planer

Image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass

In 2010, the BBC produced a documentary series called The Genius of Design. I was taken with how design has changed over the last century and the influence it has had on so many areas of our lives. The other day, I heard a technology focused radio program which had an unusual guest considering his speciality. He is a woodworker who designs and crafts incredibly beautiful bespoke wood planers. He was in town to speak at a technology conference on the design process and how this can influence both form and function, no matter what the end product. While his target audience in this case was software and web designers, his message sparked some ideas for me in the area of curriculum and course design.

When I arrived at home, I did a little digging online and I stumbled on this ‘design manifesto’ by Stephen Hay. Stephen takes readers through the process of how to be more consistent and creative with their design work. Obviously, this is written for a different audience, that of web designers, but after reading this short document, I was intrigued at how much this parallels the design process in creating courses and programs for education. Stephen sets out five steps in the ‘design funnel’: Continue reading Designing