What am I grateful for?
The answer to this depends on when it is asked, and it fluctuates according to where you are in your journey of life. Very few of us have the wisdom to be grateful when life throws us a curve ball. Some of us, when looking back, may see the positive effects many years later.
Louis Schwartzberg’s yoga-and-meditation-style speech awakened my senses. I have so taken it for granted and suddenly, I am grateful for my eyes that helped me receive 80% of the information, and for my ears that give me the gift of hearing the nature, and listening to the knowledgeable voices in my life.
I studied in two convent schools before college. The most rebellious thing that I have ever done in my life was to be baptized in a Catholic church! I grew up in a protestant family! When sending us off on the graduation day, Mother Superior reminded us that we should take it upon ourselves to bridge the two cultures of east and west. Those words stuck with me since then.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to be taught by the nuns who were inspiring and kind. I am grateful for the opportunity to immigrate to this country and slowly grapple the idea of bridging the two cultures.
The Chinese word for interesting is 有意思, which literally means, ‘has meaning’. For something to be ‘interesting’, it ought to ‘have meaning’. If it does not have meaning, it must not be interesting. I am grateful that I always seem to have meaningful and interesting jobs in my career.
Someone told me once that I will not run out of guardian angels in my life and that they will appear when I need them the most. I do believe that angels come in and out of our lives as we need them. I am very grateful for all the angels who did appear in some of my hardest moments in life, and for those who will in the future. It is them who give me hope, faith, and confidence to take the next step.
Sharing one of my spiritual enlightening moments that always helps me put things in perspectives. I am genuinely grateful for stumbling into one of his books in the library the year that marked a turning point in my life.
(No need to start from the beginning, use this URL to jump to the 8m20s marker directly. ) http://youtu.be/2BVJfAXp_Hc?t=8m20s
I remembered that in my youthful days, my friends and I would find a nice day to sit in front of of a train station or bus terminal and do some ‘people watching’. We would then make up stories about the ‘chosen’ ones, why is he walking so quickly against the traffic, why does she have a notepad in her hand, why does he look worried, why is she smiling… ? We did not really have a full fledged story on anyone, that was not the intent. It was just an exercise (game) to check how observant we are, and how quickly we can catch the mood of our objects, and tell a compelling story, well, at least the opening of the story.
It’s not until the past two weeks did I find out the name of the exercise/game that my friend and I played is called connecting-imagination-and-creativity-to-empathy. 😀
The story of the Blinds and the Elephant has been retold many times. Each of the blinds insists their version of the story is true, but none actually ‘sees’ the whole story. What each ‘sees’ is merely a single story. While each one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the whole truth.
The discussion of empathy recently reveals another layer of the story. It is the empathetic view of those who happens to know that they are merely single stories, and fully understands the subjective opinion each holds, AND makes an effort to tell the whole story. If the blinds admit that they are blinds, and are willing to accept new concepts, great! But if the blinds do not even accept the fact that they are blind, and continue to insist on their single stories, then they may never ‘sees’ the whole truth. May we all have the wisdom to find the multiple stories!
Empathy – the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. ~Roman Krznaric
While Krznaric and some research suggested that Empathy is a ‘habit’ we can cultivate, I, on the other hand, believe that it is human nature that we are born with.
I learned that from my son, when he was two.
We were in the local supermarket. I was pushing the grocery cart while my two-year-old sat in the top of the cart. Suddenly, some baby burst out crying in the next aisle. My two-year-old was so concerned that he urged me to go ‘hold’ the baby. I told him that it was alright because the baby’s mother must be taking care of him. He persisted and said, ‘His mother must not be doing a good job’, and he continued to push me to holding the baby. That was when I knew that empathy is a natural instinct. He was confident that when he cried, I would be comforting him and holding him. By putting himself in the crying baby’s shoe, he understood the baby was in need of someone’s comforting. And his understanding guided his action to urge me to find the baby, to hold him and to comfort him.
Roman Krznaric’s Six Habits of Highly Empathic People outlined some very interesting ‘habits’ to think about. Some of them seem quite manageable such as Cultivate curiosity about strangers so that we can understand the world inside the head of the other person. Krznaric suggested talking to strangers, and that ‘all it requires is courage’, I might add that it also requires some risk taking as well, especially when we were brought up to not to talk to strangers.
Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk about the danger of having only a single story resonates well with me, especially her following words,
“Single story creates stereotype.
The problem with stereotype is
Not that they are untrue,
They are incomplete, they make one story the only story.”
Empathy requires wisdom (and common sense).
Whenever I hear about the jump-on-the-band-wagon mass actions inspired by single stories, I wish that I had the creativity and means to bring empathy into the picture; or at least (by borrowing Adichie’s words again) to raise an inquiry… What if my roommate knew about the other side’s arguments on China One-Child Policy?! Or about the Tibet Movement?
As Seung Chan puts it in his Realizing Empathy video connecting creativity and empathy, ‘Only when you are willing to listen to a different perspective, will you be surprised by a new way of thinking.’ Here is the video.
Symphony, as defined in Webster dictionary, is the consonance or harmony of color.
Its synonyms are balance, symmetry, harmony, unity, which are the design elements that we learned about in the first few weeks of our class.
So as a world language teacher, what does the ‘symphony’ thinking skill means to me?
Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (1999) identified “The Five Cs” as the pillars in the standards-based instruction in the world languages classroom. They are Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.
“…is the ability to put together the pieces…” ~Daniel Pink
Communication emphasizes what the learners can do with the language so that they can communicate by listening, speaking, reading and writing; and share ideas with each other.
Cultures provide the opportunity for learners to develops a better understanding and appreciation of the relationship between a language and the culture of the given language.
It is not until we understand the culture of the native speaker’s language, do we understand some of the underlined significance of culturally appropriate expressions or behaviors. As the language teacher, my job is not only to teach them the pronunciation, the vocabulary and the grammar only, but to also share with them the rich culture of the people for them to develop the ability to connect the origin and the outcome.
One of the most discussed differences between the eastern and western family structures is how the society views the family dynamics between adult children and the parents. In the westerners’ eye, it is considered ‘odd’ when an adult child, especially a son, still lives with the parents, let alone a married couple still live with the in-laws. While the western culture encourages independence and individualism, the Chinese culture holds a deep regard to the Confucian philosophy of filial piety which is a virtue of respecting one’s parents and ancestors. Living with the parents or in-laws is precisely one of the ways to show respect and to look after them on a daily basis.
“…to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields…” ~Daniel Pink
Connections is about connecting the study of the world language with content of other subjects such as math, music, science, etc. There is endless opportunities for world language teachers to collaborate and team up with teachers in other discipline on joint projects which allow learners from both disciplines cross-learn some aspects of the subjects and maximize their
appreciation of the enriched curriculum. I often team up with visual arts and dance teachers to integrate performing arts and visual arts elements in my curriculum. There are also units that integrate science and social studies with the target language.
Comparisons is about encouraging learners to compare and contrast the languages, the practices and the products between the target language and the native language.
Many Chinese speakers have a hard time using ‘he/him/his’ and ‘she/her/her’ correctly when they speak English. It is because in Chinese, while ‘he’ and ‘she’ are represented by two different characters, they share the same pronunciation. It becomes a challenging effort to differentiate them in speaking English.
Many non-Chinese speakers find it bothersome when encounter such error from a Chinese speaker, and misunderstanding occurs. Once we develop the understanding of the cause, we will be more empathetic about the grammatical error, and will be more receptive to the actual content of what the speaker tries to convey.
“…to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair..” ~Daniel Pink
Communities, as the last pillar in the Standards, is about extending the learning experience from the classroom to the community, as well as being a life long learner who can continue the learning on their own after they leave the language learning program. As a teacher, it is my job to sustain that curiosity and desire to learn, and to help the learner to acquire the skills to learn on their own. It is different from the way I was taught where the teacher’s job is to ‘spoon feed’.
A well-equipped language lab used to be the ‘technology’ for a world language program in most schools not too long ago. In 21st Century classroom, the technology has evolved to interacting globally via the internet with web 2.0 tools over the cloud.
Education, particularly in Asia, is a competitive field where students constantly compete with each other for good grades and to get in top-ranked universities. The concept of collaborating was virtually unheard of. However, one of the 21st Century skills is collaboration – a very foreign concept for many native Chinese teachers, and definitely a challenge to be taken into account when creating lesson plans.
“…to produce a unified and pleasing sound.” ~Daniel Pink
Symphony thinking is about establishing relationships. It enhances language and presentation skills. To be an effective world language teacher, it is imperative that we embrace Pinks’ symphony aptitude to achieve that whole new mind, and find a whole new approach in curriculum design. Just as it is not about the bassoon player or the first violinist but with the entire orchestra (Pink, A Whole New Mind), it is not about any particular tree, but about fostering the ability to see the forest when it comes to teaching a foreign language.
I felt pretty good after I completed the Shoe Story even though it seemed like it was a painful experience battling with one of SoundCloud’s links to be embedded on the post. I was pleased with the purity and cleanness of the audio which matches the student who was doing the storytelling.
But after the Studio session, I have learned to see the production from another angle. Going with the original idea of a sort-of-a radio show interviewing a budding media-artist, a jingle in the beginning announcing the start of the program and a musical fade-out at the end for a closure would have been a nice finishing touch.
Even when the story gets to the point about tossing out the old shoes, I could think of a way to record and incorporate the sounds of a garbage truck engine approaching, braking, the movement of the mechanical ‘arm’ reaching out from the truck grabbing the trash can, and finally leaving. That will certainly bring some life to part 1.
Part 2 of the interview is more of the storyteller’s own reflection on his work. Will sound or music be effective there? I cannot think of any appropriate sound to be added to the background, but perhaps a couple measures of light music in between to allow some breathing or thinking space for the audience.
Jenn’s series of audio clips documenting her day with her daughter is very enlightening. I have learned that it is a very organic style of telling a story, yet it conveys so much even though some tracks are just pure sound of what’s happening in the surrounding without anyone talking, such as the dishing washing, the baby crying ….
Sound – is a wonderful element! Must consider sounds in the next project.
(Darn it, I just thought about this…, should have presented this reflection in an audio clip and added some sound effects…. That would have been great lesson learned! )
Graphics borrowed from:
Bring to you live from Chapel Hill, here is Wesley….. and the Shoe story
<enter commercial break>
<return from commercial break>
Interviewer: Vanessa (genuinely interested in the subject)
Interviewee: Wesley (a 3rd year Media Studies student)
Recording device: iphone5
- GarageBand – (my Audacity was not working at the time)
- I edited out some of the ‘like, like, like, …’ !
- I played with fade-in/fade-out, but did not like the result so I un-did the attempts,
- I broke the interview into Part 1 and Part 2. My original concern was that the audio clip might be too long. But after I separated the track, I was really pleased at the result. The most part of Part 1 is to tell the story, and an narration of how the artist went about arranging for the videography. Part 1 ends strategically on a thought provoking reflective phrase how to personify things like put themselves into other people’s shoes! It provides a great segue into Part 2 which is mainly a reflection and self-assessment on the artist’s part.
- During the interview, there are noticeable camera shutter sounds (those are my sound effects, no…, just kidding… :D). Those were the two photographs I took using the same recording device. I considered tweaking/minimizing the sounds but, at the end, decided to leave them there because they add a little curiosity and whimsicality there.
- SoundCloud –
- It was easy to drop a sound file into the Cloud. Cris did a great job scaffolding the skills that we need for this project by giving us an exit task on SoundCloud after the class meeting last Thursday.
- However, embedding the audio track in WordPress is a bit challenging. I did exactly the same thing for both tracks, but one showed up in WordPress, while the other consistently displayed the link only.
- When I ‘share’d the track from SoundCloud, it gave me a popup with three options: Link, Widget Code, WordPress Code. Guess which one I chose the first time? Of course, #3! Isn’t that obvious!? The one that is dedicated to WordPress! Well, surprisingly, that one did not work. I then went to #2, then #1, I even tried the ‘pencil’, and the ‘Short’ link…. The result? I either got the same URL when ‘preview’ed, or nothing at all… the code completely disappeared after I returned to the editor.
- I Googled for expert opinions, I visited discussion forums…, thank goodness, I wasn’t the only one that experienced this kind of problem. But at the end of two hours of exploration, I finally sent out an S.O.S. , and went to sleep.
- I came back to WordPress the next day, and suddenly…. both tracks were embedded nicely in my blog! (I did not change a thing!!) >.<, The SoundCloud Genie must have come out last night to the rescue!!!
- I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will remain this way tomorrow!
Design elements attempted
- Trimming: the two ends, and some extended pauses were trimmed.
- Silence: Having silence in an interview does not work for me. I think it has its place definitely in a play or drama for building up the emotions, tension, etc. But this particular story is part-story-part-documentary.
- Fade in/ fade out, cross-fade: I attempted these, but decided that they were too distracting.
- Sound effects/music: I considered these briefly and forewent. Why? Here is my logic. Since this is a college student’s assignment, I intended to keep it at its purest form, most down-to-earth, honest, unscripted. I want the story to be told unedited. To match his status as a student and to maintain a sense of academia, I consciously made an effect to have nothing fancy, nothing ‘dressed up’. I was after the ‘transparent’ sound… of … sincerity and genuinity. The Art of Foley sound effects video is quite inspiring. It adds a very professional and sleek finish to the production. That will be for another time, another story.
If you are interest …… here is Wesley’s finished video production. Oh, the requirement for the assignment: Sounds Not Allowed!!
In a poem written at about 1000B.C., it talks about the integrity of a JunZi, i.e. a superior person who upholds all the virtues.
The story goes….
Once upon a time, an ordinary man walked through a melon field, and one of his shoes got stuck in the field. The man quickly bent down to fetch the shoe. The melon farmer saw that and thought he was trying to steal the melons.
Similarly, another ordinary man walked under a plum tree with low-hanging branches. The branches messed up his headpiece. While he was stretching his arms upward to fix his headpiece, the plum farmer came running and yelling, thinking that this man was stealing his plums.
The moral of the combined Idiom stories advise us that to be a true JunZi (i.e. a superior person), one would rather leave the shoe behind than risk to be suspected that he might be picking the melons from the ground. Likewise, one would also give up the headpiece without attempting to fix it in the second story in order to avoid the suspicion of stealing the plums on the hanging branches.
This idiom, In the Melon Field Under the Plum Tree, was recorded in the first Poetry Collection, Shi Jing, in 1000 B.C. This is the first Idiom Story that I shared with my students to remind them to never get themselves into a suspicious situation such as looking down at something under the desk during a test.
Growing up, I have loved listening to Idiom Stories that explain the etymology of an idiom. Most idioms typically convey positive messages or constructive lessons.
We love stories!
Children love stories, and grown-ups love stories….
Story-telling is a powerful tool to engage students in second language acquisition.
Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Story-Telling (TPRS) is a methodology that facilitates a natural order of acquisition by focusing on Contextualized Comprehensible Input through auditory and written means while collaboratively creating a story in an interactive manner with the teacher and the students. Students are captivated by the development of the plot first hand because they are experientially responsible for the turns and twists in the story line, with linguistic guidance from the teacher.
Ira Glass’s comments (advices) are interesting… and some are encouraging such as “failure is a big part of success”. I often encourage my students to feel safe to make lots of mistakes, because learning from the mistakes make the experience so much more meaningful.
However, his comments on Radio, such as those below, left me dumbfounded.
“One of the problems with being on public radio is that people tend to think you’re being sincere all the time.”
“Where radio is different than fiction is that even mediocre fiction needs purpose…”
I believe that in order for a story to be GREAT, it must be meaningful! And to be meaningful, it needs to have a function and/or purpose. The primary purposes are: to inform, to convince, to stimulate, to entertain. I found it difficult to accept that good stories can come from someone who is insincere about the story they are telling.
Best seller novelist James Scott Bell pointed out that most writers are not
content merely to write a good story. They want to “say something.” “that something” he said, “is usually called the meaning of a story. Meaning is the “big idea.” It is the moral message that comes through at the end. And all great stories have one.”
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton, who wrote Toy Story and Finding Nemo, says,
“The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.”
Now, THAT is what I consider sincere! And once upon a time, the meaning of a story mattered.
- How to apply TPRS for Best Results, Carol Gaab, http://tinyurl.com/akhudgy
- What makes a story meaningful, Don Edgers, http://www.tiny-lights.com/searchlights.php?id=517
- Writing a Meaningful Story, James Scott Bell, http://www.right-writing.com/meaningful.html
I must say –
THE PAST TWO WEEKs have been an amazing grace for me !!
From I once was lost ….
then . . .morning has broken, in search of enlightenment … .
I am trying to see your point..,
WAIT . . . I THINK I got it !!
I can see the Movement … or is it Graduation …?
But John Cleese said,
“While you are being creative, nothing is wrong. ”
So, I am . . .
and trying …
Slowly, but surely, …
I feel I am empowered . . . I can do it . . .
And while we explore the new excitement together, go for a ride on the magic carpet, we will sure find – awaiting for us is . . .
And Cris, we TRUST you!
Ooops! I did it again….. (･_･;)
I wandered into the kitchen to get a snack, and was completely distracted by the surrounding dots, lines, planes, shapes, and textures…. Not a moment wasted, I started snapping with my iPhone. What just happened here? The kitchen did not change. In fact, I haven’t cleaned it up for several days now… But suddenly, my visual sensory is super sensitive now…. I am NOTICing things… these things… called design elements!!
I imported the pictures to my Mac, and started identifying … this is pattern, this is texture, no…, wait, that is variety, and this is pattern…. hmmm, can this be both pattern and movement? Hey, did I just kill two birds with 1 stone?!!
A quick chat with Cris the next day brought clarity. You see, I was supposed to have a clear target first before I hunt for the object, hence, the ‘safari’!! e.g. I should put a target on my radar, say, pattern, and then put on my night-vision to find an object that represents pattern. No problem, here we go…..
Let’s see…. refrigerator, what’s in there….?
voilà, a dozen eggs…! alRIGHT!!!
Now, I’m on my way…. to design…!
Ah… don’t forget the Rule of Thirds, the Rule of Perspective,….
The Oatmeal for YinYang Balance is a play of positioning myself and the angle of iphone in my hand. Wallwisher does not seem to accommodate vertical image, and it rotates my original to a horizontal image yielding a sunrise effect. Here is the original.
I was very pleased to acquire the Vaseline effect on the circumference of the Barley. Can you guess how I accomplished that?
Another interesting kaleidoscope effect on the Barley.
I really like the creamy, yet chunky texture on the guacamole, although it didn’t make it to my wall – because texture is not one of the 10 elements! So I am sharing it here.
A sprig of cilantro would have been a nice garnish to add some lively green to it.
Another vertical image that Wallwisher decides to rotate to horizontal. So it is left off the wall.
I am displaying it here for reference.
Is it still a pattern that the holders are not all occupied with bottles?
I must have taken 50 shots trying to capture the split nanosecond of water drops leaving the faucet on its way to the white bowl. Can you hear the rhythm too? It was surreal-ly zen-like!
The white bowl does not do any justice to the actual splatter caused by the force of the tiny water drops. Perhaps a blue glass bowl next time…. If you look (/listen) very closely, you can see (/hear) the tiny ripples it creates.
I got rhythm, I got music, who can ask for anything more…?
I am almost done… two more to go…
Movement… movement… what’s moving in my kitchen…
Aha! Got it!! Flame!! Of course !!!
The most primitive energy…fire!! I need it to cook! The flame heads upwards, always! To capture it, I tried a few shots during the day, and again later at night.
Rule of Thirds!!!
I got it!!
Up, up, and away… !!!
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life… dig in the Dancing Flame…
I must say that I like the effect at night, with a soft peripheral light from far left behind me. I also decided that the flash light must be turned off, otherwise, it white-washes the beautiful purple center… and yields a pale sheen on the grill. (Ugh.. who needs THAT!)
With all the lights gone, in complete darkness. The flame looks a little eerie to me. The surrounding lacks definition.
Proportion is the last one I worked on…
I was planning to stop by the local market and rearrange some of the fruits in the produce section for the effect … but … suddenly (literally … as I am typing this….), here is the result! (I don’t use these measuring cups often, almost forgot that I have them.)
Last but not least, please indulge me a little for explaining the 8 Treasures Soup.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, food makes natural tonics to good health when you prepare it right. The “Eight Treasures Soup” is a dessert or snack which is consumed like winter tonic food on wintry days such as Winter Solstice and Chinese New Year. The original recipe calls for eight ingredients. The number eight is a lucky number in the Chinese culture. Different versions of the eight treasures yield different properties for healing. But essentially, it is all about balancing the energy (i.e. qi or chi, as we know it in U.S. ) and boost immune power. Key ingredients include red bean, red dates, lotus seeds, longan, sweet rice, millet (I used Brown Rice), Orange Peel, and brown rock sugar. Some call it “Eight Treasures Congee” because of the inclusion of sweet rice and millet or brown rice.
I first arranged the 8 treasures in small cups for the pattern elements. Then added them to the boiling water which calmed the water down. Brought it to a boil again – this was captured with a series of boils that were intensified progressively – yielding the graduation effect. To achieve the visual effect of graduation, the photos were carefully re-sized, and the spaces between the photos also grow with the size of each photo. Two Wallwisher posts were used to extend the length, i.e. denoting the ‘journey‘. The final outcome was placed in the center of the happy circle along with the 7 accompanying ingredients (one of ingredients was depleted in the journey //_o\). On hind sight, I should probably have taken a close up on the soup alone as the grand finale. Nonetheless, Bon Appetit!
Enjoy my wall, iDesign . . . http://wallwisher.com/wall/7w53xl9kt1