Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mamu's Shoes and her Shopping Attitude

All the rest of her grandchildren call my mother Mamu, except for the my eldest sister's children who call her Nanay. Though I don't often take her to the mall because it would tire her, I make it sure that in some occasions, she could get what she want and eat at nice restaurant when I take her out.

She's just so frugal, when it comes to clothes. Rare were the occasions that she allowed me to buy the clothes she could wear for some special events. Most were during the weddings of my siblings, and my graduation. For the rest of the occasions, she sew her own clothes. She makes her own dress, for the shoes, we buy them of course.

"Just give me the money, and I would buy my shoes in the market. So you would not spend much." We laughed in the sala as she was drinking coffee, just before we hit the mall. I had to buy her shoes again because she is attending two weddings, one this month to her niece's, in July to her granddaughter. Taking Mamu out and buying her stuffs she would like are small things I can do for her, which could never repay what she has done in my life. Now, that I can afford her that perk, I am more challenged since she is not perky nor picky at all.

She's not picky at all. When buying groceries, she would just pick anything, without actually checking at the price tag. She'll fill the shopping cart of a lot of things, unmindful of their cost. That's a fun thing to see. At several times, I'll have to pay more than ten thousand pesos for grocery stuffs which will run off in a month. Now, I'm more careful, when I'm with her I told her to compare prices. It works.

She's so careful in spending money, the perk of buying expensive things in the mall is just a waste of money for her - particularly to clothes. Like last year, she told me she needed a red blouse, which she doesn't have and no one else in the house has, because only she has double x-large to triple extra-large size in the family. She saw one which she really really liked. I told her it was fine to take.

While going to the counter, her granddaughter saw the price and jokingly told her how "social " she was. The blouse cost 2,000 plus. I didn't really mind buying that for her, but she insisted to find a less expensive one.  For me, I'll be happy that people find her clothed well, but she'd rather stay humble and simple. We ended up not buying any blouse.

With shoes it's different. Because of her size, she goes for the flats, nothing glittery and other fancy accessories. Just the plain, black, brown or cream colored sandals type. She's got good practical choice with shoes - Hush Puppies or Rusty Lopez. In our first stop today, she did not like anything. Then they went inside Hush Puppies store. She found a nice pair of sandals, which she thought was just less than 500 pesos.

That was the same case when I bought her first pair of Hush Puppies sandals. We thought we got a good them in the sale price, since the sale signage was on that shelf. They were not on sale, but I got them for her anyway. She would not just go for a pair (LOL), she would get another pair somewhere in another store. She would tell me, this pair is for this, and the other is for that.

She's not really brand-conscious, it just so happened that the shoes from those two stores fit her soles very well and suit her preference.

We'll that's fine with me. Her shoe shopping habit is just unique. The same thing happened today. She thought she got a good deal with the shoes she tried on. As we walked towards the children's clothes. Mamu was still looking and trying some other shoes. My eldest sister asked why our mother was taking another pair of shoes. She told me "why they are just 249.00?". I saw the box, it was Rusty's. "I uttered yes right, it' alright".

I told my sister, never to talk about the price when you're with Mamu at the mall, because she would not take them, if she realizes they cost more than a thousand pesos. What a Mom! I so love her shopping. She's got the attitude.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Power of Collaboration

Great ideas are like fruit juice. You cannot have a glassful of it just from squeezing a single head (at least with oranges and others, except the Pineapple). Innovation, that is authentic creativity, is a product of several minds put together working spontaneously towards a clear and common goal.

We are to come up with a new syllabus for a course, as necessary to meet the existing identified needs of our students. I know I could do it on my own, since I was able to do it previously. Ah! Not really, because what I did was simply extend or add to an existing syllabus. It was not really something new.

Last night, knowing that I will be meeting with other teachers about this syllabus, I started to prepare. I spent hours staring at the blank document on screen and not even finishing anything. One of my colleagues emailed to me what two of them were able to come up with. At the surface reading, I knew it needed some improvement. Since, I will not be teaching the subject this term, I opted to quit in my attempt of coming up with the syllabus for them.

The reason was simple, no juice could be squeezed from my head that time, except for a schema of what the course should be and my recall of experience in developing course syllabi, as well as my perception of the needs of the types of learners we have in that special program. I thought I'd just moderate the brainstorming. That's the point of putting minds together anyway. I know I could do it, but I also know that I don't have the monopoly of knowledge and that I am not the savior of all.

Our meeting started with examining the proposed syllabus, against the previous and with the understood goal for the course. We eliminated three objectives from the previous, and considered the two objectives left which coincides with several of the seven objectives identified from the proposed syllabus. We came up with five objectives, SMART objectives from the existing material that we have, the proposed syllabus which we all agreed to.

From there, we visualized the culminating activities in the midterm and finals in which the students will have to demonstrate the communication competence we desired. Then we went backwards to identify the content of the lesson which would build to help the students acquire knowledge and develop and enhance the skills they would need to complete the final requirement of the course. We missed write down specific lesson objectives for the content, but we were able to discuss them as we rationalize on the significance of each content against the course objectives.

At the end of the meeting we were able to come up with an "eclectic", student-centered, and "competency-based" course syllabus for Basic English that applies a communicative language teaching (CLT) model, through a backward design to pen what we want students to "become". It was a constructive effort deliberate of gaining from collaboration.

I could have not done what five brains could have done. I could not see what they could, nor think as they would, but through collaboration we were able to come up with the course description, course objectives, course content and course requirement. It took us only two hours, which could have taken days for me (alone) to accomplish. Our outcome received immediate consensus, as we worked together for it.

A team is a strategic group, it is formed for a specific task. It can accomplish great things when they can work in sync for a common goal. I know two teachers in that team had had uneasy working relationships, but that did not matter. Personal preoccupations don't matter in a team, the point of being there is that you are to work for the completion of a task, the time and place to build your relationship isn't the team's meeting, unless the conflict arises from that meeting.

A team is temporal, and it doesn't spring like a group mushroom unexpectedly. Its members are put together by a call, and someone takes the call to steer the team in the expected directions, without missing the virtue of working in parity. In teams a leader is tested to guide the team and motivate the team to work purposely in the most efficient way. The team leader is only at his best at the success of the work of the team.

Teams provide multiple perspectives to an issue; various solutions to a single problem. Teams provide checks and balances. Teams allow for extension and refinement of ideas. Teams share the weight of a task and so reduce the stress and pressure at work. Teams enable each one to contribute at his or her best for the good of everyone and  to rest of the organization outside the team. Teams function to extend the power of one in numbers while distributing the power to everyone and for each to succeed. 

What comes next in working with this excellent team is something greater than the course syllabus. I know we can get there, because we have proven that we can create something out of nothing together. That's the power of collaboration. Dream teams work their dreams into realities.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Taking Some Time Off

Officially, today is the first day of my service leave. It's a benefit I could get for four years of service. Prior to this, I had taken a straight five-day off from work and from home, just to finish the revision for my dissertation proposal. I thought, it was best for me to do before going for a long vacation ahead.

I got a book with me, my dissertation paper, my laptop and a few clothes all packed in my bag, then head back to Sagada, Mountain Province. There are many options for me to go, but I thought it would be better there as I would be so far from anyone I know.  I found the place conducive to writing, because of the climate, besides there are not just much to do there except eat, sleep and walk.

I needed a time off to revise my paper. I needed a place where no one could distract me. I found the right place in Sagada. Arriving there on a Wednesday afternoon, I spent the rest of the day sleeping as I did not much get sleep in the bumpy ride up to the mountains. When I woke up, I turned on my laptop and started reading through the comments on my paper.

My mind was still not there; I found myself undecided to what I was writing. So, I turned to the paper instead, read through the comments and commented on them, and by hand wrote my revisions at the back of the paper. After that, I went out to take supper, then got back to work. The next morning, I decided to take the whole day writing. I told myself, I could not go out for fun without completing the revisions.

That Thursday was so fruitful, that I myself was surprised to my mind to work and complete the revisions I needed to do. So, then I could take a real time off. I went out that night for a drink with Aldrich, a local guide I met in my first trip to Sagada, and retired to wake up to a cold Friday morning.

My plan was to do some mountain hiking, that morning with Aldrich but he was asleep through the morning, and when he replied that we would go in the afternoon, it just rained so hard. Consequently, I had to spend that lazy Friday, looking at the pine trees from the veranda, reading the book I brought, watching TV and sleeping.

I was getting bored. Good enough, that on Saturday morning, Aldrich was ready to go with me hiking over Mt. Ampacao. That Friday I spent half of that day overlooking the towns of Sagada and Besao, and the nearby towns, after hours of hiking to witness the serenity of Lake Danum and the gaze at the magnificent mountains of Bontoc, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. We had lunch together afterwards, then planned our next adventure.

I woke up to a beautiful Sunday, texted my travel buddy to go to Echo Valley and Bokong Falls. I planned to meet him near the Zipline that morning, but after he agreed to see me there, he did not appear. I thought, time is not just an element in the laid-back life in Sagada. At past nine, I walked back to the inn, and watched TV. It was around 3 PM till my travel buddy was near the area.

I sent him a message to inquire, if we're still going, and he replied. On foot we walked the trail to the Echo Valley, it was behind the Anglican cemetery over the church of Saint Mary the Virgin. We went nearer the hanging coffins, it was vertical descent on steep, rocky and muddy trail. After some rest and kidding around with those on top, pretending to be echoes, we took the trail by the river to Bokong Falls.

That trail got me to see several caves where the river water goes through. It was explained to me, that the water going through the underground river gets to Sumaguing cave. I had to climb over big rocks, crossover waters, and pass through a cave, then up to the road, and down to Bokong Falls, which is near the Masferre Photographs museum.

It was all worth it. A dip in the cold mountain water overflowing from Bokong falls seemed to washed off my tiresome feeling. we got to Bokong Falls at half past four, but because of the rain clouds coming together, it looked like it was nearly six. We stayed there until half past five and got to the Poblacion, soaked in the drizzle just in time for dinner.

A light drink over bottle of beers would be nice for that night, but my travel buddy slept and could not accompany me. So, I retired that night after packing my things for my trip back home the next day. I had fond memories of the first time adventures I had. I was fulfilled that I was able to complete my paper revisions and had some days for adventure.

Everybody needs a break, a time off from what tires the body in the life's daily routine. That time off gives the needed break to rejuvenate, be refreshed, rest and recreate. I'm so blessed I have my time off. From today, my mind is preoccupied of where to go next.