Thursday, August 29, 2013

Waking up a sleepy head in the classroom

If I were teaching grade school or high school, be it public or private, I could fail an observation evaluation when my supervisor spots a student sleeping in the classroom, while a discussion or any activity is going on. I could be summoned in the principal's office for negligence of "duty" and failure to manage the class well. Worst, I would lose my job.

In principle, a teacher ought to be an effective manager, monitoring the behavior of every learner in the classroom, keeping their attention "seemingly" focused on the teacher, the content of the lesson, and what is going on in the four walls of the classroom. This is if follow the classical behavioral approach of teaching, traditionally. Further, in principle, the instruction should extend from teaching the content and competencies to enabling the students to acquire and demonstrate valued traits.

I rather look at a classroom situation with an open mind, and I treat and understand my students with the breadth and depth. Now, that I have embraced teaching for 15 years, I am still learning from what goes on in the class, each day and each meeting I would meet my students. Each time is different and offers me new learning and sometimes challenges me to rethink my perspectives on teaching and learning.

I just can't be stuck on comparing myself while I was at their age, while I was young and schooling -- simply because I am dealing with a different generation, amid the gap of more than half my age. Counting, I must have more than 15,000 students who passed my mentoring. Of those, I could recall only five instances of students sleeping in my class.They too, passed.With the first four, I called their attention, with the last and most recent one I let them slept throughout the period until I was just about to dismiss the class. 5 over 15,000 is a probability of 0.0033 (if my computation is right) which I should expect to happen in the next 15 years of my career.

The first two happened a decade ago, the third three years ago, and the last two, just within these week, after long days of class suspension and while finals is just a few days away. Could I say that the trend of spotting a sleepy head in the classroom is increasing over time?

In my earlier teaching years, the first instance was during my first year of teaching in college. He was already sleeping. I looked at everyone, and gestured at them to be quiet. I called each name in the class roster softly, and yelled when I called the sleepy boy's name. He sat up straight, then pretended to be attuned and ready for the class. A few minutes past, he was at a hype, laughing like he was drank. No, he wasn't drank, but drugged which his classmates confirmed. I got to talk to him about it, after the class, and he never repeated that.

The second time, a student slept in my class, was in a military school abroad. He was just ensign. I called the other soldier beside him, and signalled to wake his classmate up. He greeted me good morning, and I greeted him back. Then, in his cranky voice, he told me "he is tired". I replied, that I was also tired, and told him, that we don't have a choice but to do what we have to do. Him as student should study, and I as teacher should teach. Never again, that instance happened in the class.

The third student who slept in my class, had the same reason that he was tired. I knew he was sleeping, so I called his attention. He was patted by a seatmate to wake-up. After that, he went back to his sleep. I was lecturing then, and I could not waste my time and the presence of those students who are eager to learn, by getting mad out of the ominous feeling of being "disrespected". I diverted the lesson, from lecture to a group activity, but, too late one student had picture of him sleeping in my class, with me as background explaining the lesson. The picture was flashed on the screen, next meeting, and never again did that happen in that class.

The fourth and fifth instances just happened within this week. This is the hell week that my students consider, when they are frantic about completing their requirements, projects and assignments, and cramming due to procrastination. I am aware of that situation, so I made adjustments to my lesson pace, but in these classes, we needed to finish one more learning activity.

Earlier, one student came late, his face is soggy and actually asked me if he could go to the clinic. I asked how he was feeling, he said dizzy. I asked if he had a fever, he said no. I told him to stay, and complete the activity, and he could leave as he finished, as I knew he could do it fast, based on his performance record. He was still reciting when I explained the lesson, but when I gave the writing task, his eyes were drooping and his head like magnetized to the paper. He slept. I didn't bother to wake him up, the same thing with what I did to the last student.

However, with the last student who slept in my class. I didn't bother to talk to him like i didn't bother to wake him up. He used to be very responsive and active in the class. He was gasping for breath when he came in, after he, along with his classmates, took his project from another floor. He just slept, quietly at a corner of the room, after a few minutes of my lecture. I just placed the worksheet at the empty desk near his seat. While I was looking at the class, and him, I could not stop thinking about what he did last night and what time he slept.

We didn't get a chance to talk about his sleeping in the class, but I told him when was awake that he missed two activities, one was an assignment he did not submit, the other was that day's activity because he was sleeping. I could not hold myself from posting a status in my FB wall about the incident. One of his classmate tagged him to this post:

The next day and the last day of our meeting for the term, he submitted his missed assignment. He did not submit yesterday's activity, because I told him that I would not accept it anyway and that's the consequence of sleeping in the class. He was apologetic and promised that it will never happen again. I told him, it won't because that was our last day of meeting.

I never dozed in the class because I wanted to learn. I never dozed in the class because I had done things before their submission. I never dozed in the class because I was busy all night. I remember those college days, that I had to drink coffee 5 times just to stay awake for my 6 pm class.

I got comments from friends and relatives that I should have woke him up and I should have called his attention because they think sleeping in the classroom is disrespectful. I had an inkling that they sense I was disrespected. Not, at all. I found it funny really to see one dropped his head on the desk, mouth open and totally knocked away from the class activity. There's only one sign in the room, "no eating or drinking". I am not sure if there is in the student handbook a rule that says, "no sleeping".

I got a little upset, I admit. At that time, I was asking myself how boring the class was, but he was asleep  while the rest were actively involved? His sleep deprivation could have caused it, not the classroom activity, besides the classroom lighting and airconditioning are really conducive for sleeping. He slept, that's it, I did my role afterwards, and no other meaning attached to it.

Honestly, I don't find him disrepectful for dozing in the class, and I don't feel disrespected either. Respect to me comes from being respectable in many other ways, not just by calling the attention of a sleepy head, in an obvious interruption of a natural bodily response to sleep deprivation. We are all awaken to our mistakes by consciously knowing we have committed a mistake. There's no mistake in sleeping, a power nap is even advised in some unconventional schools and offices.  Maybe, he should have asked me if he could sleep, politely? That's unnecessary for a teacher who knows his students as he knows himself.

Anyway, after submitting his missed activity and grading it, he made to get a passing mark. Whether he learned from his mistake, that is for him since he is a college student already.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Love or Dependence?

When do we really know if we are still in love or has become just dependent to a partner we have lived with?

I am neither a psychologist nor a love guru. Yet,  I stood there at a corner, on a gloomy afternoon,  in front of a woman whose eyes were still wet from tears, inaudibly asking for some answer.  

She's a woman of faith, a sweet mom to two kids, a faithful wife to an infidel husband, a very dear friend of mine. We didn't quite see each other for a while, due to conflict in our schedule, but we have a had a lot of time to talk our hearts out in the past. I felt more obliged to answer her last question, after she intimated to me while I have my lunch, that she just got confused.

I am to be blamed for her confusion, but I encouraged her that such state of confusion, is good as she is starting to think, to question, to challenge her beliefs and to assess her feelings. It's a moment so critical for her to understand her life situation and be in control again, by rewriting her life-script and not just acting based on someone's script. I feel for her, and I can't just let go of our conversation without a word.

Breaking down in tears, signals to me that she's broken and beaten, not physically but emotionally. It is her faith in the Church she's clinging into. My point of view is rather eclectic, from an empowering feminist stand point for her to stand strong and decide to separate from the cause of her anxiety - her husband, to a rather practical advise of coming into terms of letting go of her anxiety over the financial difficulty it would cost her and her children should he separate from him, and holding on to the littlest love she still has for him.

I sense she's not happy, not happy at all, although she would throw smiles at me when I would divert our chat to jokes. I could not insist what I think is right, for only her can determine her direction. She agreed though, when I told that she has many options and she must choose from them, and make her decision. She told me that I sounded like the Monsignor she confided when I told her that she could cling on love no matter how little that is left. 

The parable of Mustard seed was running in my head at that time. I was thinking that love is as powerful as faith that can move mountains, and that God is love. Then she asked, like a child so innocent, but yearning for an answer. She asked softly: "When do you know if it is still love and not dependence?" 

I said I don't know, but knowing how our conversation went at lunchtime, and how her teary eyes mirror what's in her heart, I felt obliged to grope for a helpful answer. I could only think of what St. Paul taught about love: "Love is patient, love is kind... it rejoices in the truth, it does not wrong... love never ends."  I could not in verbatime recall what St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, to wit:

“Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:4-8, New Revised Standard)”

Yet, i guess what I said sufficed to answer her question. That as love for St. Paul in his teaching is universal to apply in any relationship where people are tucked by their ideation of "love". I asked, "is it love if you are becoming impatient to the person you think you love, and to the situation you are within?" We are not patient when we are anxious.  I furthered, "if love is kind, then you will have to be kind to the other person, and he is kind to you, you to yourself. Any abuse could make you angry, and afterwards you will turn that anger to yourself, and to others, or even to your children."

I continued, "any form of abuse is wrong, how then you allow for something wrong to go on?" Then I said, "love rejoices in the truth, and the truth is you are problematic, you are anxious, because things are wrong, which you didn't expect". The last thought I could say to encourage her, is that "love endures, if you want to hold on to because you still have the littlest love for him, then go on and let it flourish as you bear with what love brings".

Honestly, I told her that she should check on what she feels and what she thinks. She's like any woman, vulnerable to how a man could play with power and control, with his resources, with his money or brute force. Her case is just different, her felt abuse is emotional and psychological, nothing physical. She's contradiction of the man she loved or loves, who does not remain faithful to his wife nor his religious belief (should he still have). As such, she has anchored her life to person who has the resources, she and her children would definitely need to survive.

It is not love that binds two people if they are co-dependent on each other. That has to be other things, material things, security, comfort, privileges and perks, but never love. Love is freely given and respects freedom from two independent individuals who developed interdependence. The couple being interdependent, generously shares their time, is sensitive of each others feelings and emotions and resolves issues to keep their relationship. There's equality and sharing of responsibilities as each empowers another. There is understanding of their weaknesses, and forgiveness is brought by that understanding. As there is commitment, there is a sense of responsibility to remain faithful and so love endures.

I cannot fathom love, no one can. St. Paul's writings only illuminates that great mystery in love. We only understand it, when we love, but never could we speak about it when we don't have even a little of it in our hearts. Has my friend grown overly dependent on her husband? I could answer that, but she can best answer it for herself. Is it love or dependence?  I know she knows.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Centering our Life

The center of our life should redirect us to appreciate our self and others, because that drives us to love who we are, who we care about and what we do. If we find our self alienated in a relationship or in any situation, the center doesn't hold balance to keep us in desirable motion. We need to find our self back and check our footing based on our personal life's center.
Naturally, our bodies operate through the command of the central nervous system. Every cell in our body has a center called nuclei, and every element of matter consists of central atoms. Physically, everything on the ground is pulled by a central force called gravity. The earth and all other planets in the solar system revolve around the sun due to the force coming from the center of that star. Galaxies have centers that hold everything together in the vastness of space where they hang. Socially, there are centers in which human activities flourish.

There are material evidences to the abstract concept of center applied to life, as I have described. That center seems to provide meaning, direction and substance to our thoughts, beliefs, words, feelings and actions.  Consider, kilometer zero. In geographical terms, it is a point of origin from which the distance and location of another point is measured. It's valued as zero. Thus, it is nothing numerically, yet it is so valuable in knowing where we are and finding where we want to go. The seemingly unnoticed center is conduit to who we really are.

Our centers, in a push and pull function, are vital to our life’s motions. Our psyche can be best understood through this center. Our identity also operates from the power of this center. The center is at the core and its power is transferred and projected as an energy that is perceivable and which could affect us and others we socially deal with. But what could this power in our psyche’s core be?

Values: our standards that guide our life, the worth we place on objects and subjects within and around us, and the virtue we hope to share with others we have to live with. These motivate us to define our life course, to behave in ways we do, to make important decisions, to choose words that we utter, to be mindful of others, and to be cognizant and responsible with our thoughts and actions. They are abstract concepts that only matter when we consider them to have worth.

Our aspirations, our dreams and our ambitions are mere projections of what we value in life. Our goals are but expressions of what lies in our psyche’s core. Our attitude towards others and towards situations in our life is also determined by our values. Our judgment of what we can perceive also find grounds on our held values. While our responses to life problems could be situational, our values act as gatekeepers in our decisions. Strongly held values become instinctive, while loosely held values don’t gain influence in human actions.

There are those who think dichotomously that values could be negative or positive, but it is a spectrum. There is a neutral value, neither nor. The degree varies. The mathematical representations of positive and negative values in the Cartesian plane have absolute representations in the calculations.

What is valuable in life ought to be positive. With that, life’s motion is in a constant positive spectrum. This is if we are after a good life. Values must be shared, if not we will be finding ourselves in difficult situations, going after different directions, and getting lost somewhere.  

When we value our self positively, we are able to love our self. When we value others equally as we do to our self, we are able to love them as we would with our own life. When we value life and value excellence, we strive to be the best of who we can be and be the best in what we can do. Then, we are esteemed by our actions. When we value collegiality and quality, we work with others productively and proactively to yield gains. Then we appreciate our efforts and so esteem our self. 

Values that we hold must be positive. We ought to value beauty and not vanity. We ought to value friendship over benefits. We ought to value time over idleness. We ought to value people over material things. We ought to value wealth and not money. We ought to value quality and not mere quantity. We ought to value character over uniqueness. We ought to value our voice over words.  We ought to value justice over fairness. We ought to value life, and in that we ought to value what is excellent and virtuous. 

As we keep our values intact, we flourish as an individual and we find our self in harmony with others. But, when we are alienated, we are at lost as we do not know our self. The lost of our self-worth could lead us to love our self less and care less for others, too. As we lose our values, we lose our self, so we must go back and find our center -- that of what we hold dear the most.   

Should we center our life on someone? Not at any person in this world is worth to become the center of our life.  Instead, we should set our eyes on far greater things above, for everything in this world is fleeting in time.