Friday, December 17, 2010

From the sides of the world to the Pinoy Expats/OFWs Blog Awards 2010

It’s been more than a month already since I scribbled a post for this blog. It’s not that I had nothing to write about or I had no time to do it. Shaking off a topic to write is such an understatement as my euphoric wits and spirits normally make sense of anything and everything in between – even the things not worth thinking about. The truth of the matter is, my psyche was too preoccupied with a bundle of things worth writing and again, I failed to put first things first. I did not fail to think but I failed to do.

Recently, I had thoughts of writing about my recent experiences in my new job as I went in contact with our client’s customers. They were really overwhelming that I thought I should not mind writing about it anymore for they would only cause misery in my mind. But before that, I wanted to write about the glorious and gentle victory of Manny Pacquiao in his recent bout with Margarito but I thought it’s been the talk of the town and my additional comments would only be a cliché.

The boycotting of the Philippine government to this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Award in Norway as a gesture of support to the Chinese government also caught my attention. However, I wanted to spare myself from the issue although I would not deny that I was dismayed for such decision of the Aquino administration. Whatever their reason is, the mean would never justify the end and vice versa.

With all the happenings in the world, what was very frustrating was the fact that there were lots of children who became victims of the transgressions of the adults. The recent celebration on the awareness of violence against children which hopefully opened the eyes of every waking man was a great reminder. I hope that we did not just change our profile pictures for the sake of doing it but we would also live with the essence of doing it. With that, all I hope is we could hand this world out to the next generations for them to enjoy and not to suffer. That one day, birth would still be a joy of humanity and not a pain that every newborn would have to endure.

In the brighter side of the world, beyond those happenings, I was so glad that I was invited to judge this year’s entries for the Pinoy Expats/OFWs Blog Awards wherein I had to rate each blog and pick my top ten from the nominees under the Supporters Category. This category is intended for Philippines-based bloggers who have affinity with Overseas Filipino Workers. Some of them have family members working abroad and so you know how heartwarming their stories are. As former Overseas Filipino Worker, I experienced the difficulty of working and living abroad and as I read the blog of these people who have loved ones working in the other country, I realized that there’s always another side of the story. The pain that they have been going through thinking of the sacrifices of their loved ones abroad has never been easy. With our attention directed to those Filipinos working abroad, we failed to see the even sacrifices of their loved ones left here.

It’s never been easy to rank those blogs as I had to toggle my mind from one school of thought to another. Although it placed some pressure in my part, I also had a great time reading and learning from the posts of the nominees. Eight of my top ten picks made it and some of them were adjudged as the best blog in different regions. Indeed, a very good book can be published out of the heartwarming stories I read which never failed to inspire. The winners were announced last night at the Teatrino Promenade in San Juan City, Manila.

My salute to the organizers, nominees and all the other people who did their part for such endeavor. Although I was not able to attend the awarding ceremony and rub elbows with the dedicated people behind PEBA 2010, I know the event was a huge success. Congratulations everyone!

 The full result can be found here

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Change

It's been repeatedly said that "Change is the only permanent thing in this world." and if there is something constant in this walk, that must be change. This is perhaps the reason why I love listening and singing Jose Mari Chan's meaningful song named Constant Change. As the lyrics of the song goes, "We're on the road, we move from place to place and every time when I'm about to call it home we'd have to move along coz life's a constant change." This is exactly what I am feeling right now.

After being so used with the profession which I learned to love and philosophically adhered to for more than four years, I had to say goodbye from it and start with a new journey where everything seems to be very strange. The workplace is so diverse and the culture is so different. The way we do our job is also totally different from the way I used to do things. 

From being a Mathematics teacher abroad, I decided to give myself a break from the teaching arena by entering into the corporate world as a customer service associate and since it is offshore and outsourced, I will be handling customers through phone calls. I have been into customer relations almost five years ago when I worked as marketing assistant in one of the fast food chains in the Philippines but because I will be handling different product and different customers this time and such experience has almost been outdated, I really need to learn and absorb a couple of theories and techniques which I first thought I would be able to do at once. I was looking at the holistic picture of the job when I was only entailed to look at the details and work on them. I realized that it's really different and if there were things which I learned before, I need to leave them behind for the sake of my new career. I will never be able to grab hold of the new learning opportunities I will have in this new job without putting aside some if not all of the experiences I had. I need to empty my mind so that I will be able to fill it up with refreshed ideas.

How gratifying this new job might be, I am not telling myself to totally quit from teaching for I know that one day soon I would be back to that wonderful profession. If time will permit and opportunity will allow, I will still engage myself with a variety of talks, special classes for children, youths and adults, individualized tutorial and even education consultancy. The opportunity to help and educate people is just too difficult to lose. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Philippines SK and Barangay Elections 2010

October 25 has been declared as national non-working holiday in the Philippines due to the simulated Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) and Barangay Elections. In this small yet nation-defining event, the Filipino people practice once more their right to select who would represent the majority in the government by electing the chairman of the voices of the youth and the head of the smallest sector of the Philippine government which is the barangay.

As expected, lots of people flocked to several precincts in different barangays (villages) in the Philippines to cast their votes for the Barangay Captain, Barangay Councilors, SK Chairman and SK Councilors. I was actually one of those people who went all the way to my assigned voting precinct to cast my vote. Although it was a very small election compared to those of the municipal, provincial and national levels, I thought such expression of one's right of suffrage is another manifestation of one's great concern for 'our democracy' and so our democratic people. Barangay, although a very small sect of the entire government, plays a big role in our country's societal landscape as it is here where the people first express their individual concerns to our society. The barangay is also the most immediate way for people to connect with the government. The voices of the chairmen who will be elected in the barangay elections will soon resound in a national scale. The councilors will soon maintain order in the barangay through their resolutions and local ordinances. The elected SK officials will soon be taking care of the youth in the barangay. In reality, they're all huge parts of the national political tapestry.

This time, I am so excited for the result of the said election in our barangay and I hope that the officials who would soon be declared would stay true to their promises. As for me, whether the ones I voted for will win or not, I will remain happy and peaceful for the fact that I voted for those people whom I believe would make a difference in our small village. The others I voted for were not personally known to me as I have been away from home for years but with their background in public service as laid by some people I asked, I am quite confident that they are the most capable people that our locals could ever have. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tata Young Receives Prestigious US Environmental Protection Agency Montreal Protocol Award

The United Nations Environment Program Department of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP DTIE) celebrated the International Ozone Day and the Millennium Development Goals with Asian pop star, Tata Young, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok last night. Luckily, I was invited by a friend and was able to come for the event. Following is a press release forwarded through e-mail by the UNEP.

Bangkok, 5 October 2010 – Tata Young, Asia’s pop music sensation, was awarded this year’s Montreal Protocol Award of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for raising public awareness on the importance of protecting the ozone layer - a notable effort that contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on environmental sustainability.

The Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations who are making a difference in protecting the environment through their demonstrated commitment and extraordinary contributions, was presented to Ms. Young by Judith B. Cefkin, the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission and Dr. Young-Woo Park, UNEP’s Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific during a ceremony yesterday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok.

The USEPA highlighted Ms. Young’s work with OzonAction Programme in the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). One of the singer’s first projects with OzonAction was a public service announcement (PSA) entitled “My Ozone Wish” that encourages people to stop using products that contain ozone depleting substances.
Ms. Young, who has record labels with Sony Music, also uses her concerts to inform the public about protecting the ozone layer. At the mega launch of her third album “Ready for Love” in Bangkok last year, the “My Ozone Wish” PSA was screened, and a special sticker saying “Protect yourself, protect the ozone layer” was placed on the album’s cover which later sold over 10,000 copies.

“It is an honor for me to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and I will continue to use the power of music to capture people’s hearts and encourage them to take action to protect the ozone layer and to help prevent climate change,” said Ms. Young upon receiving the award.

The Montreal Protocol, signed by 196 countries, was designed to reduce and eventually eliminate ozone-depleting substances. The phase-out of ozone-depleting substances, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, necessitates a long-term commitment from all developed and developing countries alike. HCFCs and some of the alternatives, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are global warming gases, and their continued production and emissions contributes to climate change. Parties to the Montreal Protocol in 2007 accelerated the HCFC phaseout with a view toward increasing climate protection. In November, Parties will consider two amendment proposals concerning HFC reduction to ensure stronger climate protection.

“We would like to thank Tata and her management team for their wonderful efforts,” said Dr. Young-Woo Park. “UNEP’s OzonAction Programme is looking forward to working with her in the future to raise public awareness on ozone layer protection and its strong linkages with climate change, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” added Dr. Park.

Tata Young’s award ceremony follows the celebration of two other special occasions, the 2010 International Ozone Day on 16 September and the launch of a new UNEP brochure entitled “Stand Up for the Ozone Layer and the Millennium Development Goals.” This pocket size booklet explains in simple language how protecting the ozone layer can also contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 target.

The MDGs are a set of eight concrete and specific development goals adopted by 189 world leaders committed to achieving by 2015 as part of the Millennium Declaration signed at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. These time-bound Goals are: 1) end extreme poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) ensure environmental sustainability and 8) develop a global partnership for development.

“The latest review of the MDG Goal 7 on environmental sustainability has found it regressing and lagging behind. The impacts of climate change directly threaten the achievement of the MDGs as they push the poor and vulnerable deeper into poverty,” said Mr. Minar Pimple, Regional Director of the UN Millennium Campaign Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. “The need to address climate change concerns, including the rapid depletion of ozone layer, is deeply intertwined with the long-term efforts to achieve the MDGs to end global poverty. Thus a climate change strategy should have the MDGs and poverty reduction at its core,” he explained.

Mr. Pimple also added that the outcome of the recent UN MDG Review Summit in New York last month attended by over 150 world leaders illustrated that push to achieve the MDGs has been accelerated through renewed global partnership.

The Ruamrudee International School students and the Kaya Green Band also performed “Fix That Hole”, a song about ozone layer protection during the ceremony. The song was written by the Kaya Green Band from the Philippines last year for the 2009 International Ozone Day Celebration.

The award ceremony was hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP DTIE) OzonAction Programme, the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), Ruamrudee International School (RIS) and the United States Embassy in Thailand.


Monday, September 20, 2010

DepEd banning homeworks on weekends: A teacher's point of view

A recent memorandum circulated by the Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd) ordered all public school teachers especially in the elementary level to refrain from giving take-home assignments especially on Fridays. Accordingly, the learners should spend quality time with their family during weekends but due to loads of homeworks given to them, children tend to become burdened on weekends. Such memorandum, of course, has stirred negative reactions from a couple of educators in the country who seem to have been ignored when the policy was planned. 

Where should I stand to such memorandum? As Filipino educator, I couldn't just say that I could ignore it. Personally, I have been fond of giving homeworks to my students especially during long holidays and I never meant to  give burden in the part of the parents and the learners every time I give some homeworks. Instead, I instill to the learners that learning could be as fun as doing other chores and that spending the entire holiday playing would not do good to them. Of course, I know the capability of my students and I would not give bunches of homeworks which would only cause them to spend their entire holiday doing homeworks. In fact, I advocate in providing a learning equilibrium inside and outside schools, thus, providing the learners a friendly and natural learning atmosphere where they could personally explore that learning and fun could actually interplay provided that they possess a positive attitude.  

As for the parents, they need to understand that education is a collaborative process and that the burden should not be solely given to the teachers. Parents have to spend as much time as possible  helping their children showing them a positive attitude towards learning. We all know that most of the parents are being bombarded with lots of work-related loads during weekdays and spending quality time learning with their children is almost impossible. Weekends could be a good time for them to spend some time doing few school-related works with their children.

I believe that the said memorandum from DepEd only instills negative connotation for homeworks to the learners. It adds fuel to the existing phony perception that homework (and so learning) is burden -- a struggle which must be endured by every learner. Having parents spend time with their children doing homeworks is the best way for parents to show affection and interest towards their children's education and that it encourages them to gain more positive insights towards learning. I strongly adhere to a personal proposition that what needs to be done in our public schools is not to suppress teachers from giving homeworks to the learners. Instead, teachers should be equipped with enhanced professional knowledge on the principles of learning and the giving of homeworks as well as the provision of holistic development among every individual. Meanwhile, parents should also be informed that their children do not have to spend weekends doing special classes in some tutorial centers or having individualized lessons but rather spend a portion of their time during weekends preparing for their lessons the following week. It's in the parents how they teach their children to manage time especially when they're home. 

The world is now moving towards the creation of a knowledge-based society. If we want to cope with the current trend of the society, then we need to instill in the minds of our learners that genuine desire to learn at any time every time. Homeworks have never been and will never be designed to cause burden to the learners but to encourage them to learn more whenever possible. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

They'll learn: With or without me

Rains were heavily falling in Bangkok during the past days. Those crystal drops seem to have penetrated the innermost of my bones causing a bit of poignant effect to my body. Although raindrops continued,  I was still happily devoting most of my times with my students when a piece of melancholy  struck in my heart leaving an effect similar to those crystal drops of rain. I gazed at my lesson plan, checked the school calendar, tapped my iPod to learn what day was it and then I found out that I only have two last meetings with my kids. 

I happened to tell one of my classes to be prompt in sending their works as I would only be staying until the last day of the month. There were some questions raised and some were almost answerable but one question stood out from the rest. A tall guy in my Grade 12 class asked if I would be gone forever to which I answered, "No, I'm not dying yet." Of course, I knew what he meant but I was just trying to cover some emotive thoughts that might have overflowed during that time.

Telling myself that I would not miss my students is a great lie for they've been precious stones who adorned a couple of supposedly dull moments in my life. There were times when they made me mad but they've always been parts of the challenges that I really loved. I would surely miss those times when a smile was given instead of homework. I would miss those days when a command of silence would mean a horrendous noise. I would miss those moments when I entered into their classroom stared and was ignored like I was bringing bunches of burden for them - like being a Mathematics Teacher, I was looked at as an advocate of eternal suffering and nonsense puzzle. I would miss those simple things which seem to have been ignored over time but in the end, meant a lot for my own and my students' personal progress.

And now the time is getting near for me not to say goodbye but to leave them with an inspiration and an expectant mind that someone and something better would come in their lives and that something would also come into my way. I am a teacher yet learning has never been confined with my presence in the classroom. I trust and I believe that my students could still venture for even wider learning opportunities than what I have given and shared with them.          

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not everyone who lives exists

I love integrating some basic philosophies and life principles in my mathematics class and that's perhaps the reason why I tend to stick to a particular topic longer than it could be probably studied. 


Recently, I have been discussing about limits with my Grade 12 class and learned that a certain variable could approach to a particular number in either ways. It could start from the left or it could start from the right. For example, x could get nearer and nearer to  2 either from values which are less than two or from values which are greater than two. I mentioned that there are some instances that a variable could approach a particular number only from a single origin and we call that one-sided limit, that is, the limit from the other side does not exist. The word EXIST became the tipping point of a profound philosophical discussion I had with my students. What does "exist" mean and when can we say that a particular body exists? Is existing the same as living? These were some of the baffling questions we had in our math class.

In a thought-provoking manner, I told my students, "Not everyone who lives exists!" 

Etymologically, the word existence came from the Latin word  "existere" which means to "stand out." Drawing connection from the etymological meaning of the word existence, we could simply say that existing is far more than just living. Existing is all about finding meaning for one's life and making life meaningful. As Sartre puts it in, "man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."  To exist is to believe in one's personal judgments and values and not in the arbitrary values of the outside world. To exist is to accept one's personal responsibilities and act upon them. 

Do you exist?

Gmail Priority Inbox: A time saving feature

I have just signed up for a Gmail account last year and since then, this giant electronic mail host never failed to amaze me with its never-ending commitment to upgrade its services for their clients. Aside from a huge mail capacity which enabled me to receive large files, there were lots of features in Gmail which increased my efficiency in this electronic world.

Lately, Gmail introduced the Gmail Priority Inbox which automatically finds and sorts important e-mails. This is especially helpful to people who got plenty of electronic subscriptions like me. Since I got wired, I have been subscribing for web logs and pages which were worth reading. Therefore, I have been constantly bombarded with those e-mails containing content updates and sometimes annoying and irrelevant offers from their sponsors. At times, instead of opening all those mails which would surely kill my time, I just browse for e-mails which I needed to address immediately and it would usually take me time especially if there have been a couple of mails lined up in my inbox. There were times when I accidentally deleted some important mails which usually ended up with a soft argument with some of my students who insisted that they already submitted their project/homework through my e-mail. There were also times where urgent works requested by some of my colleagues have been neglected and some other important inquiries were left unanswered like what happened to a recent e-mail from a parent. Well, those things might come to an end this time with the help of Gmail Priority Inbox. 

To learn how it works, watch this video.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Diaz: Cebuanos could hardly speak English and Tagalog

"When you think about a Cebuana can hardly speak English and, of course, Tagalog so maybe she should answer in Bisaya." That was the comment of former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz which stirred negative reactions from most of the Cebuanos and even prompted some Cebuano lawmakers to draft a resolution condemning such banter from the former beauty queen and declaring her as persona non grata or an unwelcome person in Cebu. Such remark was given by Diaz when asked about her comments on having an interpreter for Filipina beauty queens joining in international beauty tilts. This was after the major major answer of the Philippine representative to Miss Universe 2010 Maria Venus Raj who landed fourth runner-up in the competition.

Instead of apologizing, Diaz went on defending herself against the rants on her belittling statement against the Cebuanos' ability to speak English. She said that such interview has been edited and that some statements were omitted and that she was only misunderstood. 

Looking at how Diaz reacted on a Cebu Solon's demand for public apology, it could be said that Diaz even gave another accusation that Cebuanos are not only incapable of speaking English or Tagalog but in understanding the language as well. In my own point of view, Diaz was not misunderstood. Her statement was very clear and it's unquestionable that she ignited the undying issue of racism in the Philippines where some ethno-linguistic groups are being stereotyped as low-class individuals especially in their ability to speak another language like English. What is being misunderstood in the statement "A Cebuana could hardly speak English and Tagalog"? Yes, it might not be her intention to discriminate the Cebuanas' ability to speak English and Tagalog but the statement itself is a clear form of discrimination. 

If a public figure like Gloria Diaz, a supposed to be advocate of beauty for unity, could arrogantly pose such ugly statement against ethnic groups in the Philippines and would even deny simple gesture of apology to the anguish Cebuanos, then how can we expect a greater scale of national peace and reconciliation? We all need to understand our cultural differences as a country and that involves understanding the different linguistic features of our spoken dialects. Not because there are Cebuanas who could hardly speak English or speak English with a very distinct variation, then Cebuanas would be stereotyped as incapable of speaking good English.  Diaz has just polarized an issue which we supposed to work on for convergent perceptions towards national progress and unity.

Ms. Gloria Diaz, I believe, was not misunderstood by the Cebuanos. In way, I would have believed her if she said that she improperly conveyed her message  of making everyone realize that each one has to speak in language he/she is comfortable with. And considering that such interview was meant to address a "gaffe" which happened in the recent Miss Universe, no one could avoid that citing Cebuanos as examples could be associated to some gaffes Cebuanos commit while speaking English which is a phony stereotype.   

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Beginning

A big box in the corner of my flat has been gradually crammed with some stuff I gathered in the past four years and they all prompted me to accept the truth that my days in Thailand are almost coming to a close. 

It’s been four years already but time seems to be very swift to let those moments pass like a flashing monsoon.  I used to feel a mixture of excitement and some pieces of melancholy but as time went by, everything became fine and traces of regrets and doubts could never be found in my part. I believe, this decision is the best that I could ever have this time. Now, allow me to look back those times when I was only starting to work here in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand has been my first destination abroad and I started my journey here as young educator last September 2006 when I luckily landed a teaching job in a government school in the country’s smallest province. Life seemed to be very tough in the beginning. I had to do a couple of first-times and I also had to deal with plenty of embarrassments caused by my ignorance to the culture of the people whom I have been dealing with. They all became parts of my life and in one way or another; they have shaped me into what I am now.

After eighteen months of working with the young kids in the province, I then started to trudge a new road in the country’s capital city where I taught Mathematics to primary students in a newly offered bilingual curriculum for teaching and learning Mathematics in a prominent Catholic school. After one school year, I then went to the secondary level and taught Mathematics to Grade 8 and Grade 11 students. This school year, I was tasked to teach one level in the lower secondary and two levels in the upper secondary. Working with those teenage students who could be very wild at times was really challenging yet equally fulfilling. I learned a lot from them and they shaped a huge part of me.  

I would always look back with a grateful heart to those years I had in my life where I got to work with people who defined some pieces of me. Meanwhile, I would also be looking forward to the many possibilities that I would have back home. It’s not goodbye. It’s welcome to a new beginning.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adults should also learn from kids

As adults, we need to understand that we used to live in a generation which is so different from the present generation. Children of today might not act the way we acted before and so instead of getting frustrated on how the societal landscape has changed and how the knowledge society has corrupted the minds of the younger generations, we could take some of our time contemplating on what are those things that we could learn from the new breeds. We could learn from the new generation as much as we could teach them about our own generation.  

We need to accept the fact that change is the only permanent thing in this world and that we need to go with the flow in order to keep ourselves in tune. We could not turn our children into the ideal kind of individuals our society used to have or is having but we need to make them realize that they could be better citizens and that they could create a better community. Recently, a friend of mine who is a father of two wonderful kids, mentioned that what we need to do as adults is do our best to provide a safe environment for our children while we let them explore and become independent. His words are very true and I am not wondering why he got two growing children who would hopefully help make this world a better place.

The following video from a TED Talk by child prodigy Adora Svitak has so many things to tell that I am sure many adults could learn. This video is a must-watch for parents, teachers and all adults especially those who are working with children.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why did heavens know?

I wrote this poem while I was alone (as I always am and I am loving it at times) in my pad one rainy afternoon. I was reading a book when inspiration suddenly struck. Carried out by some thoughts of sadness and frustrations, I opened my notebook and started to jot down all the thoughts I had that time. I was glad I had that moment of solitude for it has been a long time since I wrote a poem as I have been too occupied with so many sciences and researches which are of vital importance in today's knowledge society and of course in my profession. I remember, the last English poem I entered in my journal was written inside an airplane almost four years ago when I first left the Philippines. It's entitled "I am a Traveler" and was written to express my musings on what a new and used to be strange country would offer me.

Life is a very wonderful journey, my friends. Let's enjoy life and live it to the fullest. Negative thoughts and emotions might dwell in us at times but they should not be the reasons for us to stop trudging the road we have chosen to follow. Instead, let those unlikely situations inspire us to do better and to do more -- ponder and write something from the heart. For now, here's another piece of my soul -- a sonnet that I sang when things just didn't work the way I wanted. Looking at the brighter side of each situation is a choice which is always freely given to us. The poem is here for you to decipher.


Ebony shade ate the sunlight hours
The sun sighed and the clouds cried
Birds fluttered fading away to a place I never knew
Then my soul wailed for a reason I didn't know

And then the trees chuckled
While the flowers smirked
Frogs exulted with euphoric tongue
Then my heart ebbed and flew

Like a swarming snake, I kissed the ground
And soaked my face in the feeble mire
The truculent fusion of teardrops and the meek brown dust
Left my face a gloomy wonder never defined

How did heavens know such melancholy?
I locked my mouth that no one would hear.
Yet the silent weeps roared into the sky
Why did heavens know? 

I stopped wondering…
Gazing my thoughts to those cold crystal drops
I knew heavens teemed down those liquid beads
So my desolated thoughts would be carried with the breeze.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Math and Music: Making Mathematics Interesting

It was last year when I decided to bring something new into my mathematics class by integrating music in one of my lessons which has been deemed boring by most of my students who were in a way hyperactive in the classroom. I decided to compose a rap based on our lesson and taught it to the learners. The purpose of the rap was not merely to have the learners do mathematical computations but to make their learning of mathematics more meaningful and relevant by making it interesting to them. Considering that they were all-boy classes, I thought that such activity would motivate them to learn mathematics in English which happened to be their second if not foreign language.

I taught the rap in the class with enthusiasm and was so amazed of its impact. Reading powers which was very difficult for them at first became so easy as they learned the structure through the song. It became easier for them too to master the mathematical terms involved in the lesson, thus, easily identify which is which as I taught the concepts and the operations. The result was very stunning for the fact that most of the students still memorized the lyrics of the rap even after few months. It's very uplifting to hear the students doing the rap each time I happened to see them in the school corridors. They were doing it as if they were not doing the mathematics which they found dreadful. Even until now that my students are already in the 9th grade, they do still master some parts of the rap that they happily hum it every time they see me. Just this afternoon, I met a former student near the school's gate and he called me, "Teacher Phil!" and when I answered back, he asked me if I know exponents. 

So that you would exactly know what I have been talking about, play the following video and listen to me rapping. It's not that good. I admit, some of my students had a better version than mine.
With such brilliant result in mind, I am becoming more motivated to do more in some of my lessons in the future especially those which would involve thorough understanding and memorization of mathematical terms and formulas. This is one of the exciting things that you would get from teaching -- you could have a multiple personality. There are times wherein you need to become a singer, rapper, dancer, poet, actor, stand-up comedian and the list continues. I once entered in my class with a husky voice due to my sore throat and the students noticed it as soon as I greeted them. Instead of giving them alibis for not being able to teach, I started the discussion grabbing the microphone which I specially had because of my sore throat and told them, "Class, as you have noticed, your teacher's voice is not that good. Please bear with him because he just had a series of concerts earlier." My statement then stirred laughter in the classroom.  I remember my professor who once told us, "As a teacher, think that you are all performers and your performances happen each time you teach. Make each performance the best that you could ever do." 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk 2010 in Bangkok

The photo walkers at the King Rama 1 Statue before the jump-off
of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk 2010 in Wang Burapha
Phirom, Bangkok, Thailand on July 24, 2010.
Led by the Siam Pinoy Aperture Society (SPAS), a group of Filipino photographers in the Kingdom of Thailand, this year's Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk in Wang Burapha Phirom, Bangkok, Thailand (Pak Khlong Talat) became a remarkable gathering of photographers from different sides of the world. Participated in by some European and African photographers and mostly Filipino and Thai photo enthusiasts, everyone was gathered capturing the unique urban culture that this side of Bangkok has to offer. 

Pak Khlong Talat is undoubtedly the flower trading area of
Bangkok as depicted in this picture.
Gathered at 3:30 in the afternoon at the King  
Rama 1 statue for short briefing and group picture taking, the group then headed towards Pak Khlong Talat where exquisite variety of flowers can be found. The area is at its best for macro and street photography as details could be beautifully captured and dramatic scenes are just around the corner. Following the route of the Photo Walk, everyone passed through the Grand Palace compound where unique Thai architecture and some western-inspired designs roused every walker to spontaneously snap their gadgets. 

Taken at the Grand Palace compund, this photo is my
entry for the contest in Scott Kelby World Wide Photo
Walk 2010 .


Thai TV Channel 3 was there to cover the event. A reporter accompanied by three crews, followed and interviewed some of the walkers. The coverage was aired in the channel's program later in the evening. That, actually, made the event more remarkable in its truest sense. 

After the walk, the group met at Cafe' Democ near the Democracy Monument for some food and drinks and networking. Everyone was also up at sharing their experiences during the walk and the pictures they have taken. But for me, it did not end there as a sumptuous dinner, lively chat and mesmerizing music followed at De River of River with some of the walkers. The day was very long but it was enjoyable and rewarding. It was great to meet new people and, of course, meet same old brilliant friends. 

More pictures can be viewed in my Flickr Photostream. Just click the thumbnails in the right sidebar of this blog and it would direct you to my photostream.  

PHOTO CREDIT: The group picture of the walkers as seen in this blog was taken by Jose Tan of Siam Pinoy - the ultimate online Filipino community in Thailand. 



Inception: Deciphering Dreams within Dreams


Inception is perhaps the best movie that this year could offer. From the gifted director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan, this film is absolutely a work of a genius who is so abreast of the twist and turns of sci-fi flicks. The muddling up of the intricacies of the scientific world and the fantasy-filled space is brilliant and in a way astonishing. Watching a flick wherein the plot entirely revolves in the subconscious world of human dreams, one would be left thinking of what’s real and what’s unreal. Heart-pumping in its own way and mind-blowing in every aspect of the plot, the movie would leave the audience rationally bewildered.

Dom Cobb (played by award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.

My Review:
Directly speaking, I have never seen a movie as exceptional as this. If I consider Dan Brown a literature genius because of his astounding yet controversial The Da Vinci Code, Christopher Nolan is no less than a whiz for such an imaginative mind that was able to coherently mix up reality with fantasy.

As the plot details layers of dreams, it would somehow leave the viewers with powerful truth-seeking minds trying to decipher which is delusion and which is real and that makes the movie mentally gratifying. Emotion would never be spared in this film as the story itself would perk your hearts up and would make it beat faster as you tend to undergo factual and emotive discernment of each and every incidental reason.

The cast, led by veteran actor Leonardo DiCaprio, justified the film with their convincing stunts. Ellen Page is also worth of a mention for her dramatic and intellectual rationalization of the "inception."

The setting and the visual effects were nothing but awe-inspiring especially that scene where the van was about to fall from the bridge and the one where they lost gravity in the hotel. The scene is scientifically real and the visual representation was awesome. If you are the kind of person who likes light but convincing visual effects, you will agree with me that the visuals of the film are commendable.

Although there have been plenty of feedback that the plot of the movie is not clear, I would not agree. Concentration and rational viewing of the film would clear things out. I highly recommend this film to everyone. It’s absolutely worth of your time, effort and money.

My Rating:
For satisfying my ravenous mind and hammering my altering sensation, I give this film a rating of 9 out of 10. I will spare 1 to the many other films which would not catch my fancy. I believe Nolan would be kind enough to share that point to others. :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mastery Matters

After reading some researches on Mathematics Education and having a couple of observations in my classes, I thought of not giving homeworks to my students anymore. My reasons are personally valid based on the observations I had and the supposedly purpose for giving homeworks. Homeworks are supposed to be given for practice and mastery of mathematical concepts and skills. However, with the learners' bulk of homeworks, the extension works I have given them as homework were clearly done for the sake of finishing them and not being scolded in the classroom.

The truth about homework is that the students who have been performing in class well and seem to have mastered the concepts and skills already are the ones who would most likely do them while those who need them the most would most likely escape from them and end up copying or half-heartedly doing them. Goals are forfeited, indeed.

I decided, instead of giving homeworks, I could give all the exercises in the classroom. That way I could make sure that they are all doing and I could also provide immediate feedback -- straightforward when a mathematical problem is correctly solved and when a mistake is committed in any part of the solution. I know it would work but I need to put on another consideration and that is TIME. Time is one of the greatest constraint for not achieving something -- there has been too little time to a learn a couple of mathematical concepts.

It's one of the worst scenario in our education institutions today. Too much focus has been given on studying a couple of contents and students are treated like machines who are ready to accept all those things fed unto them. It's an ugly truth and I don't want to live into it. Learning concepts matters more than studying concepts because the learned ones tend to be applied more that those ones which were only studied. Studying and learning has to be differentiated in this case as not all who study learn.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

NEW and NEWS


I want to start with the NEW:

I have been so busy in the past days because the NEW school year has just started and, as usual, there are lots of things which need to be tried, redone and polished. I started a NEW learning portal blog for my students through Blogger platform. The idea was coined last school year but it was materialized only last month due to some considerations which I needed to put on for the learners. I already had class wiki last school year but I decided to change it into portal blog for easier customization to suit the learners' needs and capabilities.

I got NEW students this school year and NEW level and subject matter to teach. Like last year, I am still teaching Mathematics for Grade 8 and Grade 11 but I have new students where few of them are girls unlike last year where only my Grade 11 class got some girls. My Grade 11 students last year are still my students this year but they are now in Grade 12 so I got old students with new subject matter to teach. And guess, I am always excited because it's Calculus. I'll gonna be deeply thinking with my students!

Two weeks ago, I also signed a NEW contract with my school which meant that I would be working in Thailand for another school year. That's another milestone for me and my kids. I also had my Visa extended.

And now, the NEWS...

I already got my permanent teaching license from the Ministry of Education in Thailand. My temporary teaching license has already expired as its validity is only for two years. I did not actually sweat off that much to get this teaching license especially that I am a licensed teacher in the Philippines. That's the advantage if you got a degree in education or a licensed teacher from your country of origin. I just took a 20-hour training on Thai Language, Culture and Professional Ethics which is one of the requirements. I was so amazed how fast was the processing. Now, I am only waiting for the ID card to be issued by the Teachers' Council of Thailand.

Another big news bumped upon me and my students last week. Our entry in the International Schools CyberFair Contest 2010 got the Platinum Prize which is the highest distinction for a project in each category. Our research project "Save Bangkok, Save Earth" was under Environmental Awareness category. We got the platinum prize together with Saint Louis University Laboratory High School of Baguio City, Philippines. I am very happy and proud of my students!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Welcome School Year 2010-2011!

After being delayed for one week because of the current peace and order situation in Bangkok, classes for school year 2010-2011 would finally start next week. Although I am not happy with the current situation of the capital which affects every waking man in the city, I was glad to learn that I would be having more time to prepare my lessons and all those necessary and 'unnecessary' documentations for the new school year.

Almost everything is new this school year as we embark to the third year of the instigation of the bilingual curriculum for English, Math and Science. New textbooks are arriving and new curriculum has to be followed. Standards were also set for the teaching of the three core subjects wherein analysis of the relevance of the subject matter to the standards had to be painstakingly done as I found the two to have divergent concerns. Well, that's for high school Mathematics.

This school year, I would be teaching the same levels I taught last year (Grade 8 and Grade 11) but I would have one additional class in Mathematics in Grade 12. I would be handling 11 classes all in all with at least three varied preparations per week and, I tell you, that is really inspiring. At least, I would not have that time to entertain negative thoughts as I would be spending much of my time with my close to 600 students with absolutely varied interests and level of development in English language and in Mathematics. I should say that I leveled up this school year.

Wish me luck, folks!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Math Class Makeover



In this video, Dan Meyer talks about how Mathematics has been taught and how it should be taught. It is very interesting to learn that Mathematics doesn't really have to be a dreadful subject but instead a very interesting one.

What really hinders us from acquiring mathematical skills (he broke down into mathematical calculation and mathematical reasoning) is our attitude which is also relevant to how Mathematics is presented to us.

To all Mathematics teachers and even those who are aspiring to be one, this video is a must-see.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Impact of Parenting


A couple of social and educational researches on the impact of parental involvement in the success (in academic and life in general) of the learners have been published by different institutions and they have sounded off in unison -- there's a great IMPACT. Parents play a vital role in the holistic development of their children. However, it is sad to say that there are some parents who become so busy making bucks while forgetting their other responsibilities for their children. They believe that money could develop everything in their child -- send them to good school, hire them good tutors, have them enroll in special classes and many other spendings just to "ensure" a good future for their children. Little did these parents know that genuine affection felt in every endeavor of their children is more than what good tutors, schools and learning centers could offer.

Growing children need genuine care from people around them and aside from teachers, parents are expected to be with them during those times wherein they're needed the most. This would not be experienced by most of the parents anymore during their children's teenage years so why not take the opportunity? Show support to your children. They need more than just a tutor. I believe every child is capable if and only if proper attention is given to them. If possible, sit beside them as they do their homeworks. As they come home, ask them how they've been doing at school and share with their good and bad days.

I hope that parents would realize it before it's too late. A high school adviser back in the Philippines and a present high school teacher in Thailand, I have observed that parents would start to follow-up their children when problems already came out. They try to correct their children when they start to think. Teach children good habits before they come to know the bad ones.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Shot of the Current Bangkok Unrest


For almost four years of living and working here in Thailand, I should say that those years are not enough for people to call me Thai. My physical looks might lure most of the individuals to believe that I am Thai whenever I am with the locals but, still, my knowledge about the kingdom and my practice are very far from those people who are genuinely Thai. However, I do not keep this reality from letting myself to get into the current situation of the country where democracy has been torn apart and anarchy is about to be formed by people who know no respect to the law and the rulings of the kingdom and a government which have been averse in implementing the promulgated laws. Ever since I started teaching in the kingdom, I did not consider myself as an absolute foreigner. I have been working with Thais and have been with my Thai students in the classroom -- these and all which are not yet told are enough reasons for me not to act like an alien who doesn't care of the going-ons of the country.

Although quite tiring, I did not fail to read the news behind the headlines of two of the English newspapers in the country. Not to mention, those English newspapers contain almost the same news everyday -- the casualties of the current demonstration, the location of the mob, the pressure that each party is trying to push, the clash between the pro- and the anti-government protesters, and many other similar stories. The opinion page also contains almost the same but the good thing there is that I am able to examine and compare my point of view with those of the Thais and so I continue to indulge myself in getting the pleasure of getting information (or stress) from reading those newspapers.

A couple of times, I have been asked what is my stand to the current situation of the country but I also failed to share my stance not because I do not know anything about what's happening. Having been here for almost four years, it's very ridiculous to say that I know nothing about what's happening. I should not have been here if I could not show that simple interest towards my host country. I failed to share not because I am afraid that I would be wrong but because I want to spare myself from this current political turmoil. I have had plenty of it in the Philippines and I am fed up! However, knowing that you and other people have been too much affected by the situation, it's so awkward to say that everything is alright and you do not care about it.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thailand Unrest: An Expatriate's Point of View


Thailand has been my home for almost four years now. Needless to say, this has been my first destination outside my home country and I would always be thankful for it is in this country where I found a home away from home.

I first arrived in this country last September 2006. It was the very time when the military called for a coup which ousted the now-convicted Thaksin Shinawatra. Military government ruled the country for almost or more than one year until a coalition was formed by the People Power Party (PPP) which was said to be an ally of the former premier Shinawatra.

Months after the ruling coalition took its seat in the parliament; the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) started a huge demonstration which led to the dissolution of the parliament and other parties which then paved way to the placement of the current ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the government. However, instead of solving the problem, the situation came to worse when as soon as the new coalition ran the government, supporters of the ousted premier Thaksin formed another rally to defunct the seated parliament. Call for democracy has become endless since then and the political situation of Thailand has become unstable.

Lately, people try to put the blame to some other people (the leaders) for starting this misery. However,I personally believe that it’s neither Thaksin nor Abhisit who started this odd situation in Thailand – it’s the people’s reaction to what has happened that stirred the peace and order situation of the country. Thaksin Shinawatra has been proven guilty of possessing multi-million assets which have been earned by advancing his personal interests during his incumbency as the prime minister of Thailand and he must pay the price of such criminal offense. In all fairness, he (Thaksin) has done a lot of developments for the country but it doesn’t mean that his huge offense could be nullified through the advancements he made during his term. The means do not justify the end in such a way that the end does not justify the means. A criminal should be abducted according to the proceedings of the law. Meanwhile, people should not have called for a snap election just because they believe that Thaksin’s allies were to rule the land. They all have to respect the law which placed the government officials in their seats.

If you would look at the current condition of the country, you would notice how lawless the people had become. Disrespect to public figures and establishments were prevalent in the preceding and the current demonstrations. Public places were seized which caused inconvenience to the entire public and weapons were used to agitate both parties. The people need to realize that in order for democracy to properly work, everybody has to respect both individual and public rights. Democracy is sweet. Democracy is good. However, democracy could also be the worst nightmare a society could ever have if the people would not learn to cooperate.

This time, people call for democracy which they believe has been robbed from them. If democracy has been robbed from people, no one has to be blamed because these very people who yearn for democracy are the very people who bypass the law which is the very important aspect of a democratic society. The law is the defining thread of every democratic nation and anyone who breaks the law should not be allowed to enjoy democracy. I don't think democracy has been too elusive for Thai people. In fact, the government has been too soft in implementing force and the law in punishing those individuals who violated the law for they are still after of benignly resolving the country's crisis.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Online Learning: A New Trend in Education?

Technology is everywhere these days. I remember when I attended a two-day seminar-workshop last 2008 where the participants were asked to think of as many e-prefixed words as they can. The purpose of the activity was for the participants to realize how tremendous are the applications of technology that most of the words nowadays have e- prefixes attached into it. Just think of e-mails, e-portfolios, e-news, e-books, e-magazines and a whole lot of words in the list.I am not wondering anymore if majority or all of my students in the classroom have their own computer and internet connection at home.

There are many speculations that a time would come wherein teachers are not needed anymore. What people would need in order to learn is a personal computer and an internet connection to stay connected with other learners. I have nothing to be afraid of with this trend because I know that if this time would come, they would still need human beings to design learning materials and have them uploaded in different learning websites or even online teachers who could provide support to the students. Every teacher needs to become adoptive and open to these trends which would likely dominate the world of learning in the near future. There are already studies which have been conducted to study the effectiveness of online learning and most of them handed out positive results.

However, if I am asked on the feasibility of online learning in providing holistic development among the learners, I firmly believe that it's far behind compared to face-to-face instruction. We all know how limited the human dimension is in online learning that sometimes, it's absolutely nil. How can we teach values in the cyberspace considering that values is not merely taught by words but through actions? Could someone who is unseen teach people about integrity, enthusiasm, courage and all those virtues? Well, it depends to the level of social and emotional consciousness of the learner but taking into consideration the young kids who just started to go to school and the teenagers who seem to be very aggressive at their stage of development, how can we assure that proper guidance is given among them? Online learning could be possibly implemented in higher education but I don't believe it would have absolute impact in the basic education level.


Monday, March 29, 2010

CHOICES


From the moment we wake-up until we end the day at the comfort of our bed, we are inundated with choices which definitely influence every subsequent action in the verve of our existence. Some of them may sound insignificant but, in actual effect, every choice we make is a crucial decision that enormously defines the shape of our being. Every choice we make either brings us closer to or farther from our preferred destination.

In the course of our decision, we might have been wondering why we opted for a particular thing over the others. What are the reasons in every decision we make and what are the inner motivations that drive us towards a particular decision? Dr. William Glasser, a famous psychiatrist who coined the Choice Theory, identified the intrinsic needs of every human being which provide the foundation for all the motivations which compel us to decide on a particular choice. According to him, every human being calls for love and connection with others (relationship), a sense of competence and personal power (self-fulfillment), a certain degree of freedom and autonomy, joy and fun (happiness) and survival. People choose a particular choice not because of the external stimulus acting upon them but because of the intrinsic motivations which are associated with their inherent needs mentioned earlier. For example, a person would not cross the street on green lights because he knows that people need to stop on green lights but because he has the inner drive that he might be hit by a vehicle when he would decide to cross. It’s not the light that makes the person stop but the fear that he might lose his life when he decides to cross the street. Therefore, motivation is internal. That is why I love to call great speakers as inspirational rather than motivational. There are speakers who could inspire us to do something but the motivation is in us. If one of our needs has been hit, surely we would do something.

Indisputably, our genetic supremacy to pick out a particular choice over the others is the very thing that lies in the narrow line that distinguishes human beings from animals. Whatever we are today, these are all outcomes of the decisions we made before. No one needs to be blamed for we are all responsible of our own actions. We’ve been given the choices and the freedom to choose and it’s our response to those choices that highly matters.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

EARTH HOUR 2010

Vote for the Earth, show your support and join this year's Earth Hour by turning off your lights on March 27, 2010 at 8:30 PM.

It's time to take your stand against climate change. Show to the world that you care. Click the banner on the left sidebar of this blog for more information on how you can cast your support for Earth Hour 2010.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Bangkok International Book Fair 2010


It's feast day for book aficionados once more as the 38th National Book Fair and 8th Bangkok International Book Fair would soon unwrap on 26 March to 6 April, 2010 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, Bangkok, Thailand. Publishers from Thailand and abroad would gather for this big event which would surely be patronized by the locals and expatiates in Thailand. Last year's book fair gathered 42 exhibitors and 1,300,000 visitors.

Aside from huge book exhibition, there would also be seminars and other stage activities to highlight the event. This year's exhibition would be having Japan as the guest of honor so we could expect Japanese culture to be highlighted in the event. It would be a great way to explore Japan without spending much for airfare and hotel accommodation. As this year's theme suggests, "Open a book, Open the world."

For more information of the event, click HERE.


Friday, March 12, 2010

The Real Challenge in Teaching

Recently, I realized that the most challenging part of my career as a teacher does not lie in my students' diverse attitude and behavior but in the type of institution where I belong. I am talking about the personal and professional support that I get from the school. The success of every teacher usually draws inspiration from the support they get from the parents, administrators and other education stakeholders coupled with trust and confidence. I believe there's no teacher who would come inside a classroom with a hope of destructing the students' lives. Every teacher hopes to improve the life of every student he/she encounters that's why providing support to teachers is an imperative since the support that a teacher would get would also support the development of the learners. I extremely feel disheartened to learn that there are education stakeholders who still look at teachers as mere individuals who need to follow what they want for the learners and not as professionals who deserve trust and respect for upbringing the society where we live in. My professor in the graduate school of education once cited an anecdote which tickled both my mind and my heart. According to him, when we notice that our children become physically ill, we immediately run to the doctor to seek advice or treatment for our children. Nobody would usually run to a doctor to dictate the professional what type of medicine should be prescribed. In short, we entrust our children to the doctors. The same thing we do to lawyers when we have legal problems.

As a teacher, it's very rude to you as a professional when you notice that somebody else is doing the job which should have been done by you. It seems like you are the worst professional in the world who is not entrusted of anything. If you implement activities in the classroom, people around start to criticize what you are doing. I am not wondering why a Filipino celebrity once commented that teachers are mere repeaters. "They just repeat what they have learned." Well, teachers would become repeaters if they would not be given the chance to become more innovative just because some officials in the education sector and even in the government as a whole seem to be more knowledgeable than them.

For teachers, starting a project or introducing something new in the classroom is usually a problem especially when you are surrounded by pessimistic individuals who seem to be very satisfied for what they are and objectionably think that innovations are nothing but new problems which would only disturb their practical routines. Sometimes, parents would come to you and tell you that what you are trying to do is just a waste of time and besides their children still have lots of things to do at home. There are also times when administrators disapprove you plans and proposals just because they do not coincide with theirs.

As for me, I know where I stand and I stand to the belief that I know my students more than anybody else at school. I am with them everyday and I personally experience in my classroom the kind of attitudes and behavior they have. Nowadays, lots of teaching methods and strategies came out and all of them acclaimed effectiveness in the classroom. They normally add confusion to teachers as to which method or strategy to use for they all claim to be supported by research. However, the caution is in every teacher. We're the one who are staying inside the classroom and we know which method would work and would not work for our students.