Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘student’

Don’t Make Me Choose

41MwSno1CqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Confessions in the Dark: Twisted Lessons Collection – Book 2 by C. Yvette Spencer.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This was not what I expected. Confessions in the Dark turned out to be a well written novella, with an intriguing premise, and characters that reveal themselves more deeply as the story evolves. What was unexpected, were the moral, ethical, and religious arguments that were portrayed, and the depth to which they stand out without sounding preachy or condescending.

Seven people find themselves waking up in a completely darkened chamber, not knowing how they got there, or why they were selected to be imprisoned in such a place and fashion. There is a teacher, preacher, rock musician, CEO, student, retiree, and hair dresser, that must confess there deepest secrets in order to survive. The seven individuals are from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and families. I will not say anything more about the situation, plot, or events that take place, as every chapter, and step of the way, ads another twist and food for thought.

Confessions in the Dark had me wondering who was the worthiest to be saved; who had committed the greatest evil; and which player was the most honest with themselves, and their fellow captives. Every chapter kept me guessing, and had me changing my mind, as to who I could choose, if indeed I could ever do so. In some respects, this story was like a very good sermon being acted out in a passion play, with real people playing the parts, and having to live with the consequences. Ms. Spencer writes with heart and head.

Who’s Who?

An excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire, whoever that is.

images

Mistress Toshiba and her adherents were walking back from town when a long-time student of Zen, who had studied with another teacher for fifteen years, passed by.

“Good day Mistress,” the student bowed.

Mistress Toshiba laughed loudly. The student stopped and looked confused.

“Why do you laugh Abbott Toshiba? Was it something I said?” The Mistress laughed again. “Are you laughing at me?” That question made Mistress Toshiba laugh even harder. She fell to her hands and knees with laughter. She was laughing so hard that she began to roll around on the ground.

“I don’t see what’s so funny!” the student exclaimed.

The Abbott was finally able to constrain herself and propped herself up with her hand.

“If you could see yourself, you would be laughing too,” Mistress Toshiba grinned.

The students looked at themselves up and down and didn’t see anything out of place or a cause for ridicule.

“What are you talking about? There’s nothing funny about me.”

“Like I said,” the Abbott replied, brushing the dust off her robe as she stood. “If you could see your SELF, you’d be laughing too.”

At that moment, the passing student realized that she did not know what her SELF was, let alone if there was such a thing. She immediately fell too her knees.

“Dear Master Toshiba, I beg that you take me as your student and allow me to attain wisdom in your community.”

“You are welcome to join us, whoever you are,” the Abbott replied, “but you do not need my permission. Who do you think ‘I’ am anyway?”

More who’s laughing at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Troubling Times

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbAn excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

A student came to study with Master Tarantino Toshiba after a recent separation. She was fed up with relationships and said she was tired of the whole mating game. She’d rather go it alone and find peace of mind through meditation.

“Go back to your ex and give it a little longer,” advised Master Toshiba. “But this time make sure to meditate non-stop while engaged in any conversation or activity with your partner.”

“You’re telling me to leave and return to that selfish, nagging cheater and try again?”

“Yes, but try not to call them names, as that tends to make people feel bad.”

The student thought The Master had misspoken, since she had no idea what her ex was really like, but she trusted her teacher and returned home. After a month of re-kindled arguments and negativity, she returned to her teacher.

“This is not working Master. No matter how hard I try to meditate or have loving thoughts, they continually ignore me, put me down, and tell me what to do. I want to stay here with you and the other nuns to find some peace of mind.”

“If you can’t find peace of mind at home with those you love, you will not find it in a monastery, community, or distant cave.”

“But Liz is insufferable. Aren’t there times when one needs to move on?”

“What’s her name?” The Master asked.

“My partner? You know Liz.”

“Oh yes. I know Liz,” Abbess Tova said. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

“I assumed you knew who I was speaking about.”

“It is best to never assume anything,” replied the Abbess.

“Well, I apologize if I wasn’t clear.”

“No apology needed and it is accepted.” The Master smiled. “In this case, as I said before, there are times when some situations are hopeless and one must move on in order to find freedom.”

More satirical koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Work Hard, Go To Jail

Gabriel –

Diane Tran has a lot on her plate for a 17-year-old. After Diane’s parents moved away, Diane stayed behind and started working two jobs to provide for her family — all while taking college-level classes at her high school. But when Diane recently missed school due to exhaustion, she was charged with a crime and sentenced to pay a $100 fine and spend a night in jail.

Diane’s classmate, Devin, told reporters that between a full-time job, a part-time job, and making the honor roll, it’s no wonder Diane was tired. “She stays up until 7 in the morning doing her homework,” Devin says.

Judge Lanny Moriarty didn’t have to sentence Diane to a night in jail, but he wanted to make an example of her. “If you let one of them run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them?” Judge Moriarty told reporters. “A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence.”

Samuel Oh thinks working hard to provide for your family should not be cause for criminal punishment — so Samuel started a petition on Change.org asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane. Click here to add your name.

“Somehow Diane is not just an extraordinary worker and student, she’s an extraordinary human being with a fighting spirit,” Samuel says. “The institutions that are supposed to provide resources to youth and ensure justice are punishing her instead.”

There is some good news: when a reporter recently asked Judge Moriarty if anything could be done to get him to revoke Diane’s charges, he replied, “Yeah, it probably could.”

Samuel believes that if thousands of people sign his petition, Judge Moriarty will take this opportunity to do the right thing and revoke Diane’s charges.

Click here to sign Samuel’s petition asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane Tran, an honors student who had to spend the night in jail for missing school.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Jon and the Change.org team

The Zen of Teaching

The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom To Inspire Teachers by Donna Quesada (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011). Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Shared in three insightful and instructive sections (The Burned-out Professor; The Classroom; and Philosophizing Burnout) The Buddha In The Classroom provides situations, discussions and examples of how easy it is for teachers to become “the other” and see their students as “problems, situations, annoyances, complaining, disruptive and disrespectful”, especially when the instructor is caught in their own routines, ego and need to “control” or “teach them a lesson”.

Every instance of conflict, frustration or anger that is presented, is followed by a section called “Dharma: The Lesson for Teachers”. Dharma simply means teaching or “the teaching”. This is where the author brings in her experiences and conversations she’s had as a practitioner of Zen-Buddhism and yoga and how they can be applied to the classroom. For example, after a section on discipline and a student that has acted out, she says, “As any mother knows, even in the context of one small family, each child has her own character with her own unique needs.” It is no different in the classroom. Nothing can be set in stone for every individual. Connection, understanding and paying attention to our perceptions can change night into day.

Some may ask, how is Zen-Buddhism or meditation in the classroom, any different from other aspects of life. It’s not. The same principles and practices Ms. Quesada advocates for teachers can be applied in any situation and at any time. She states, “I used to tell my students: if I had to sum up Buddhism in just one statement, I would call it the discipline of letting go. Letting go of what? The ego. The self. The idea of self, and the cloak of separateness the ego-self wears.” The practice of letting go of one’s perceptions of self and others is never more apparent or magnified than it is in the classroom. That is what makes this book different than other titles, which proclaim, “Zen in Art; Zen and Writing, The Zen of Running, etc.” The author speaks from experience and shows how she applies mindfulness and consistency to the way she deals with grades, tardiness, disruptions, tests and other familiar issues that teachers confront daily. It isn’t fairy-airy ideology or philosophy that is proposed, but down-to-earth mindfulness and consistent work on our selves.

Ironically or perhaps not, the author teaches philosophy at a community college in Santa Monica California. Teachers and other readers will find however, that the Zen lesson plan presented contextually as a work of non-fiction, is equally valuable for teachers and students at all grade levels. She has found that the most effective learning and connections take place when we realize that, “There has never been anything else but the present moment, yet we continue to reside in the fictional world of the past and the whimsical fantasies of the future. We never give the same lecture twice. We are not the same teachers we were last year or even yesterday.” She says that bringing the practice of mindfulness or awareness to the moment and letting go of our ego helps us get clear and enables us to turn our attention wholeheartedly to the students. When we do this “there is a magical shift that occurs with this simple shift of attention.”

Not only is The Buddha In The Classroom something that can be utilized in its entirety, by sections or a few pages at a time, it is also easy on the eyes and deftly designed by LeAnna Weller Smith. It is a cross between a hardcover/paperback and in some ways resembles a small Christian Bible. It doesn’t matter whether you are religious, spiritual or meditate; if you are a teacher of 20 years or just starting out, you will surely find some pertinent gems of wisdom in this small collection, with which you can resonate and put into practice (in and out of the classroom).

Same As The Others

An Excerpt from ROP Stories by Sean Jones.

I an a Child, Same as the Others

Back in May we held a Celebration for Africa Day of the Child. During the ceremony one of our boys, Lucky, read a poem to the audience. Lucky is one of our boys who has been living at the ROP Center for many years. This is his final year with us as he is graduating from secondary school in December. He is the Center’s most talented performer, having written and performed many poems and songs about the lives of street children, songs that the children and staff request at virtually every celebration we have.

Lucky read his poem in Ikinyarwanda, so I didn’t understand much of it, but the children in the crowd, both ours from the ROP and others in attendance, cheered loudly after he finished reading it, so I knew it must have had meaning to them. A few days later I asked Lucky if he would mind translating it to English for me. He seemed very excited that I had asked and very enthusiastically promised to do it. Due to his school commitments he wasn’t able to sit down and take the time to write it in English until last week. He found me and handed it to me with a great smile on his face. I thanked him for it and asked if I could share it with the world. His reply was, “Of course, it’s for everyone.”

Despite the struggling English the poem hit me straight in the heart. It’s simple and genuine and even in its brevity you can’t help but get an idea of the pain these children must feel, and the hope they somehow find in life once someone, anyone, offers to help them. That’s all I say. I’ll let you make your own judgments.

Read entire story, Lucky’s poem and see more photos at ROP STORIES.

Speaking Kinyarwanda

Kinyarwanda is spoken in a number of East African countries, most importantly for me, primarily in Rwanda. I’ve been trying to learn it for 5 years now and still only remember a few words here and there.

When I’ve been in Rwanda to visit the ROP Center for Street Children and other reporting and projects, I’ve given it my all, but still feel like a child learning to read for the first time. I even had a teacher for awhile, but she’s probably embarrassed to claim such, since her student is so bad at it.

Here are some examples of Kinyarwanda to English (or vice-a-versa). It’s not that difficult to read, but to speak is another story.

umwana – child
abana – children
umwigisha – teacher
abigisha – teachers
umwigishwa – pupil
abigishwa – pupils
afite – she (he) has
bafite – they have

That doesn’t look to difficult, does it? Put them into a sentence though and I get lost.

Unwana wanjye – my child
Abana wanjye – my children
Be abigisha – her (his teachers)
Umwigisha wabo aravuga – ???
Mbese umwigisha wanyu arahinga? – ???

For now, I’ll have to smile and say “Murakoze” (thank you) or “Imana aguhe umugisha” (God be with you). When in doubt, it usually works to nod my head “Yes” as if I understand and smile.

Tag Cloud