Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reading Well and Speaking Better

One student made me think today with a question he asked over the FB chatroom: "Is it possible that a person who speaks well is a poor reader?"

In principle, there are four components to proficient reading, vocabulary, oral language, word recognition and comprehension, as described by the American Educational Research Association (2004). Reading is a process of decoding and comprehension. Decoding is that process of articulating the sounds of words that the eyes see or that form of word recognition which leads to the understanding or comprehension of the text. Comprehension results from decoding and cognitively processing what was decoded.

Decoding a text requires a good vocabulary and a degree of mastery in the oral language. The symboling process of language operates vis-a-vis with the recognition of the signs, sounds and the object being signified by the symbols. Each letter in a word has an equivalent phone. One's understanding of the text depends on his ability to decode the text.

Though reading requires some mastery of the oral language, an adequate vocabulary and demonstrable word recognition, the most important aspect of reading is that of comprehension. Through reading our vocabulary is expanded, and so our oral language. As we get to learn new words we recognize them and they become part of our vocabulary.

Our understanding of the signification process requires us to associate it with the sound and the letters. Then our knowledge of the text content and our skills in language are enriched as we read more. Because comprehension is a sense or meaning-making process, those who are not well-read will have little to share in the discourse process.

In day to day discourses, we can differentiate a person who speaks with sense from those who just blab words and weave disconnected thoughts. That is not effective speaking. Once influence to others, by speaking, is attributed to several factors, vocal quality, non-verbal abilities and of course content. It is the latter that actually makes sense to a greater degree.

In more intelligent discussions or conversations, such as in the academe, the corporate and even in politics, sense in content and context matter so much. The vocal qualities and non-verbal abilities become essential to amplify the message of the content, than the reverse. Those who read a lot and read effectively as demonstrated in their comprehensive understanding of what they read, has more sensible things to share.

There is less likelihood for poor readers to be better speakers. But, the odds are higher that those who read effectively have richer vocabulary, expansive sense of the world and an outstanding verbal ability. Again, this also depends on the quality and type of reading material that people engage with, and so with their desire to be socially sharing their learned knowledge from reading.

One may have the most beautiful vocal timbre in the world, but without the knowledge to share and language skills needed for social interaction, the voice is useless.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I ran across the theory of serendipity once, pertaining to accidental finding of some valuable information in the massive archived information particularly applicable to Internet-based data. In social science research, serendipity is that phenomenon of having to obtain findings which the researcher did not intend to find.

In the randomness of things that require one to expect of a pattern, serendipity is nothing but coincidence or an accident. It is unimportant and could be misleading to that of the normative value. In life, serendipity is a sort of a happy accident. A valuable find in an un-anticipated moment which can be life changing. The consequence of which is a new relationship.

Serendipity in social relationships is that form of unexpected interaction, or a clique between individuals. Such is an awesome event for them, because there is a positive affect which becomes a wonderful memory in retrospect. Then it becomes a take off point of looking forward to meeting each other again to get to know each other better.

The affect is an important factor to consider, taking aside that the event is unexpected. There has to be a spark felt by both, but the charge of that force may differ from one another. Someone has to lead and the other needs to be open for that leading. Then, this engagement becomes a co-operation in reciprocity. There has to be an exchange, in reciprocating manner, where both are levelled.

I guess dreamed long-lasting relationships begin in that seeming fairy tale episode of serendipity. One meets someone in a place, at an event least expected. Gazing and glancing, following in sight, passing by, non-verbally expressing signs of fancy, and then finally taking a step to get closer and open up a conversation. Bling! A relationship may begin there, but a relationship is handled differently.

What one felt in that serendipitous moment becomes an anchor for future contact. When there is a mutual response to invitations for another meet up, an opportunity takes place to set the grounds of formalizing the relationship. This is not an engagement yet, but a way of fostering mutual bonds. It is also different when the physical force is so strong, that body language coincide with the expressions like "I am happy with you, here."

That expression can be really tricky, but then it can be verified by other languages. Things can be very different among adults, when they are expected to be mature enough with their expressions. Nonverbal language in haptics, occulesics, use of space and the like, they tell more of verbalized affect.

We read, that there is something going on, when two hold their hand, look at each other with twinkling eyes, end their words with smile as if it is a punctuation mark in oral conversation, kisses and walk a stretch innocently unmindful of what others would think. Ting! That is something else, which happen maybe instinctively yet unplanned.

Serendipity is not destiny, and it is not even a guarantee of a standing relationship. That unexpected moment, in the first place is made possible by decisions that precede it to put two souls in a chance of meeting one another. Whatever happens next is a shared experienced that requires both to make decisions and communicating how they feel about those and about their relationship.

In that happy accident, the two never exactly knew each other, as to how they differ, but they get in sync. That happy accident and the affect that goes with it did not need a resume or a list of common interest, but it ticks. So, to stretch that happy event further, knowledge of commonalities and differences must be about how to complement each other in their strengths and weaknesses.

Serendipity is an accident that no insurance covers. The rest of it is a work in process, an investment that is worthwhile yet has no tag in it.

Cno po u, Dok Pepe? How old na u?

Mayroon akong suhetibong pananaw sa pagkabayani ni Gat. Jose Rizal, ngunit buong puso ko ring tinatanaw and kanyang kabayanihan.

Di ako avid fan ni Jose Rizal. Una, dahil ang pagdakila sa kanya bilang Pambansang Bayani ay may bahid ng kolonyal na oryentasyong pinilit ng mga Amerikano upang mapahupa ang anumang rebolosyunaryong pagkilos na sadyang hahadlang sa politikal na layunin ng pananakop ng Estados Unidos sa Pilipinas. Pangalawa, may pagkarepormista ang trip niya at dahil doon sabi ng iba nais niyang magpatuloy ang Espanya sa pagsakop ng Pilipinas bilang isang probinsiya.

Ngunit bayani ko pa rin si Dok Pepe. Sa pabula niyang "Ang Matsing at ang Pagong" natutunan ko ang kahalagahan ng pagsisikap at matalas na pag-iisip. Sa kuwento niya tungkol sa "Gamugamo at ang Ilawan", nabatid ko na tayo ay may mga nais sa buhay, na gugustuhin nating marating, kahit ano pa ang panganib.

Sa paglaon, sinariwa ng kanyang mga nobelang, Noli at Fili ang pagsisikap ng mga Filipino para sa Kalayaan. At ang iba pa niyang mga akda, tula, sulat at likha na nagpapakita ng kanyang pagmamahal sa bayan at sa kanyang natataning talino, para sa akin siya ay isang henyo.

Palikero iyan si Dok, sa lahat ng bansang napuntahan niya maraming mga babaeng napalapit sa kanyang puso. Gayundin, ang kanyang pagmamahal sa karunungan na matuto ng iba't ibang wika at maibahagi ang kulturang Pilipino sa lahat ng sulok ng mundo. Hindi nga lang lokal iyan si Dok, isa siyang global na Filipino. Pero sa huli, si Josephine lang daw ang minahal niya. Kontradiksyon ano, kasi hindi purong Filipina ang hilig niya.

Kung tutuusin, maraming mga magandang bagay ang makikita sa pagkatao, talento, wika, kaisipan at gawa ni Rizal. Kaya naman lahat ng Pilipino sa kanilang edukasyon ay dapat makilala siya ng lubusan. Makata, nobelista, skultor, kartonista, doktor, siyentipiko, lingwist, sosyolohiko, enhinyero, peryodista at marami pang iba. Sino sa mga bayaning Pilipino ang may higit na katangian sa kanya.

Dangan nga lamang katulad din ng iba, siya rin ay may mga kahinaan. Ngunit, dahil ang kanyang pilosopiya sa buhay at ang kanyang pagmamahal sa bayan ay humantong sa pagbubuwis ng sarili niyang buhay, ito ang rurok ng kanyang kabayanihan. Katulad rin ng mga rebolusyanaryong pinakipagsapalaran ang kanilang buhay sa laban, hinarap rin ni Rizal ang kamatayan sa gatilyo ng mga konkistador.

Dok Pepe, para sa akin isa kang Bayani! Wat-eber. Dahil ang mga aral sa buhay at gawa mo, ay nagpapatuloy na may kahulugan bilang haligi ng sambayanang Pilipino. Hapi bertday dok! Woooh! 150 years ka na, kaya party party na!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winner-Loser Mindset

Student: "A bully is someone who does mean things to losers..."

After everything was said...

Teacher: "If a bully is someone who does mean things to losers, then the victims are losers -- what for you are bullies? Are they winners?

Student: (Long pause... thinking... thinking. Eureka!) "They are not winners."

Teacher: "If they are not winners, what are they?"

Student: Long pause... thinking... thinking. Eureka! "Yeah, they are not winners, the victims are the losers, because they are bullied."

Dejavu ...

Teacher: "You said, the victims are losers, my question is what are the bullies? Are they winners?"

Student: Short pause. "I already said they are not winners!"

Teacher: "If they are not winners, what are they?"

Student: "It is those bullied who are losers, and I am not saying bullies are winners."


Teacher: "If bullies are not winners, what are they? Have you ever been bullied?"

Student: "No."

Teacher: :"Listen, young man. You have not answered my question. Until you have given me the right answer, we will be repeating, repeating, and repeating this all over again... Again, until you have given me the right answer, we will be repeating, repeating, and repeating this all over again. Again, until you have given me the right answer, we will be repeating, repeating, and repeating this all over again."

Noise rises in the classrom, cajoling the young man in front. The teacher asked the student to pull a chair and sit more comfortably.

Teacher: "Can I ask you a question? You may choose not to answer, but first can I ask you a question."

Student: "Yes, sir."

Teacher: "You have never been bullied, you said, how do you feel about your self. Are you a winner?"

Student: (Confronted). "I am not winner, but... I ... am... not also a loser. I... I... am someone in between?"

Noise again in the classroom. Students chattering, howling, cheering. Like as if the student gave a good answer. The teacher raised his voice to fill the room and reprimanded the class that no other comment is necessary. It was stressed that anyone who would speak, aside from the speaker and the teacher will be sent out to the Discipline Office.

Silence for a few moments...

Teacher: "Everybody listen to this, 'whatever is in your language, or whatever you say tells something about you, the one inside you, the real you in there. What you say is what you think and feel, and what you think and feel says something about you - your self."

Silence for a while, and then some students began to talk with their seatmates. The teacher again reprimanded the class about the rule of engagement. Silence continued, the rest of the class merely became attentive audience. The teacher ask the same repeated question.

Student: "I am not that, if you are thinking I am like that! I am not..."

Teacher: "What that?" What is that 'that'".

Student:"Okey, the bully is not a winner..."

Teacher: "So what is the bully, then? You said, you are not a loser and you are not a winner, you are something in between. You said, the bully is not the winner, and the victim is the loser. So where do you place the bullies?"

Student: "I am in between, but I am not that"

Teacher: "Again, what that?"

Student: "I am not a bully!"

Teacher: "I never said you are. So, what is a bully, if you are not one?"

Student: "A bully is a loser."

The pendulum of winner-loser mindset just swing right there. The teacher thanked the young student, and asked the rest of the class to give their classmate a round of applause. The teacher left some more thoughts to the students that made some of them talk about what a bullied victim feels and suggested practical insights on how they should treat each other in the classroom.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confrontative Mode

"I don't know"... "I can't think..."

Those statements seem self-defeating to me. Hearing that from a student under my tutelage made me feel terrible about my approach of taking one from his comfortable seat and putting him in the scrutiny of many other eyes.

While I notice that he suffers, and others were laughing and mocking. I stood several meters away, simply saying... "you can do that, I know you can!" How helpful were my actions and my decision to let that boy on board work of a very simple and basic sentence writing task?

A group of boys were yelling, I raised my voice on top of theirs "Shut your mouth up, if you cannot say anything helpful!" There was tension in the classroom, and I could notice that each prepared a sentence which should follow the instruction I gave.

With an assertion of power, I got their attention. Their minds start to warm up, think and their bodies are alerted to listen to the instructions and do the task. But, I find that unusual and exhausting. I'd rather put my energy in thinking strategies and redesigning my methods rather than fueling my behavior with superficial anger that creeps into my nerves.

I understand that I cannot be at all times in such mood because it is stressful. But we finished the class with positive results based on objective assessment. Yet, my question now is how did that situation impact my students' affective state, when I turned into something else they perhaps never expected?

On one end, the situation could be positive that it showed my student that I can be in such confrontative mode; that they should be able to understand that like anyone else I cannot tolerate error and self-defeating thoughts bind them in their learning crutches; that like any individual I have emotions too.

On the other hand, the bad side of it was that we ended the class without processing what happened, how they felt and what they learned from what happened during that period. My greatest concern is that of the student who had difficulty in doing the task on the board. Well the term is not over yet, and we will still meet tomorrow.

The first thing in my class agenda for tomorrow is again to confront the students to confront their selves and their problematic attitude and behavior based on what happened this morning in our class. I feel there is a need to arrest that situation, clarify expected behaviors, process our feelings, redirect our thoughts to more productive class goals, and lastly to give a potentially misunderstood situation a definite closure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

If you were here...

If you were here, how would you feel about me?

I learned from someone you speak English so well, impeccably fluent. I am now an English teacher, and you probably had not taught of that. I never knew really what you wanted me to be. How I wish we could have dinner, talking about a lot of things in English of your plans for me.

So you went to Ateneo, but you quit that school because you wanted to be a pilot. It's not anymore in Intramuros, it moved to Katipunan. I pass there often going to U.P. It must have not entered your imagination, that I would be getting a PhD in U.P. so I can soar like its eagle.

You trained my brothers so well that they could drive even when they were teens, and they knew much in auto-mechanics. I didn't opt to wear a blue-collar, but I pull my sleeves on my desk in front of a computer and with a variety of people. I knew nothing about car troubleshooting, and I just got my driving license so late. The only things I can get my hand dirty with are checking papers, gardening and cooking.

You were brilliant as a mechanic, though you did not take formal training in Engineering. I heard, you were offered a teaching position in an institute to teach auto-mechanic. I am now a teacher, though I didn't study for it. Not the ordinary teacher, but like you I enjoy the re-engineering stuff of it.

You enjoyed fixing engines, I get to enjoy fixing behavior and thinking processes. I know you had so many friends, as everywhere we would go, you know someone from there. Nobody spoke ill of you, nor you about anyone. I don't know what I have in me, but people just happen to like me, and I interest myself in getting along well with other people. But, like you, I keep myself firm, upright, yet level-headed.

Many sought your counsel, and they respect you so well for your advice. Now, I have to advise and counsel, students parents, teachers and even those executives in the corporate and government. I see you get so tired for doing that, but you still give them a good hand shake and a great smile. I don't give smile to everyone, but I return the happiness I receive to people who share me their time and sweet joys.

You were so generous, in everything and to everyone, even if so little will be left for you. You had the ingenuity to keep a livelihood and a family intact. Now, I have to earn for our living, for mama and also to help your grandchildren. That little skinny and sickly boy you use to carry has to carry so many with him in his success. I tire, but I keep going.

You cried when I delivered the graduation speech in my kindergarten. You could not hold your tears when that cheap gold medal was placed over my shoulders. You were so happy, that was why you treated us for a gallon of icecream. How would you feel if I would ask you to place the sablay over my grown body on my PhD graduation day?

Would you also buy me even a second-hand car, like you did for my Kuyas when they graduated high school? You thought you could fix that yellow car, for them. That thought was great indeed, even if the car left to rust. I still fancy that you could hand me a key for a car when I took home a dozen of medals in high school.

If you were here, I woud not really mind even if I had to walk you outside on a wheel chair, or feed you or dress you up, or wash you and cleanse your bed sores, or replace the gastric bag for you food waste. I wouldn't mind opening the albums so you could remember about your past. I wouldn't get tired to help you remember your name, even. Because, that name you gave me was also your name.

Happy father's day papa. I would never know how you feel about me now, but I know you are well where you are, as you had been for me and for us your family. I just hope, that whatever have I become gives you a real good smile. You just spent seven years with me while you were here, yet now I see you live in me in my life.

Oh, I just wonder, since you were a smoker and drinker till peptic ulcer took you away, would you jam with me as we puff our worries out and sip that high of life over bottles of beer?I love you, papa!