Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rogue Students

I have never, ever regretted having chosen teaching for a career. I love what I do with a fervent and sincere passion, and firmly believe that this is my calling and the classroom is exactly where I'm meant to be. I have had a generally smooth ride down the road and feel gratified to have shared my love for the English language and its literature with the countless number of students who have passed through my classroom. And when students from a long time ago reach out to me through social media like Facebook, and recall in particular a text that I taught them and that left an indelible impression on their minds, my joy knows no bounds, needless to say. In all honesty, my days at Lady Doak College, Madurai, India, were the best of the best, and the students in those undergraduate and graduate classes that I taught, occupy a very special place in my heart indeed.

In contrast, I must admit that my experiences in North America teaching international students haven't all been pleasant after all. Take, for instance, the time I was collecting the students' assignments for this particular university course, and asked the students to come up and leave their work on my table. One might think that students would be responsible at this stage of their education, so I was quite baffled when I counted all the assignments after class and found that I was short of one. It took me a while to go over the class list and figure out whose was missing, and when I questioned the student in the next class about his missing assignment, he swore that he had left it on my table. Since there was no way the assignment could have just walked off my desk, I knew the student was blatantly lying and took him to task for his behavior. The result was that the student wrote a nasty review about me, one that I took with a pinch of salt, and one that I didn't bother to worry about since I had informed the Dean about the incident anyways, and had learned from the other professors that he was a problem student after all.

Or consider the time when the Asian student in my TESL class openly asked me if I could fudge the numbers regarding her observation and teaching hours, that is, she wanted me to log in her required number of hours without actually having done any observation or teaching whatsoever. She seemed to have had the assumption that I was a corrupt Indian who would just go along with her hare-brained scheme of earning her degree without working for it at all. And then there was the student who flew into a rage and flung his paper on the desk in anger because he was unable to do the task given in class, unlike all his other classmates. There was also this older student who thought females ought to stay at home taking care of the husband and children and had no business teaching an English class! Trust me, they come in all shapes and sizes and ages from different countries, and are a stark contrast to those students whose adulation I revel in. It is this latter category of students who make me love my profession, and help me wake up with a smile each morning as I head for work everyday. Need I say more about why I have no regrets at all about my chosen career?!?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lunar New Year 2012

Enter the Dragon ... tomorrow is the Lunar New Year, and 2012 happens to be the Year of the Water Dragon! The majority of my students happen to be Chinese, and since we have Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese students who also celebrate it as their New Year, we had a big potluck party at work on Friday - enough to make me gag and not go near ethnic Asian food for months to come! Nevertheless, we all had a blast, and one of the mixers was to ask each other about one's Chinese animal signs - quite an interesting way of finding out one's age, mind you!

Celebrations of this kind by the immigrant diaspora in Vancouver is very heartening and delightful, and it is always an interesting lesson in cultural diversity, as we learn about other cultures as they showcase them through their costumes, food, music, dance, handicrafts, and so on. One can sense their pride in their culture, as they establish themselves in a new land and are immersed in an acculturation process themselves. Two months from now, we will be celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, as we will the other festivals of Vancouver's multi-cultural population in the days to come. For now, Gung Hey Fat Choy! Xin Nian Hao! Happy New Year of the Water Dragon and may the Water Dragon usher in prosperity to all of us this year!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snow In Vancouver

One of the reasons I love living in Vancouver is precisely because we get just enough snow to enjoy it all, but never to the point where we consider it a nuisance or a hassle. Unlike our counterparts in northern B.C., or the Prairies, or the Atlantic Provinces, or in the Northwest Territories, who are subjected to the bone-chilling cold, windchill, blizzards, whiteouts, and what not of winter, we in Vancouver, welcome the snow with delight and gay abandon, and that's only because we know the rain will eventually come and melt it all away. Nevertheless, when the mercury dips to a low, anywhere near zero, we never fail to complain as well, which makes our fellow countrymen roll their eyes and exclaim, "Seriously, is a minus 6 degree weather COLD for you?!? Suck it up, you wusses, you have no idea what a minus 40 degree weather is like!"

And so it happens, Vancouver got its share of snow at last, mid-winter, and enough for children to squeal in delight and run into the yards and streets and parks to make their very own snowmen, with the adults on hand to help them in their enjoyment of this once-a-year wonder. It's magical indeed to stand at one's window and watch the outline of the world outside being defined by the white stuff, falling ever so softly and blanketing the plants and trees and grass and lights and rooftops in its own seductive way. Coming from a country of blazing hot summers, I find the winters in my adopted homeland full of mystique and charm and romance, as I view them from indoors, particularly from the warmth of my living room. I love to keep this romance intact, and I dare not imagine the brutality of the elements in the wilderness beyond. Winter is beautiful when one feels warm and secure, but not in the least when one is exposed to its fury, and I clearly belong to the former category of winter/snow lovers.

South of the 49th parallel, our neighbors are being pummeled by Old Man Winter, but we in Vancouver are wholly into it. I, for one, am on the side of Vivaldi, and enjoy the snow whenever we get our fair share of it. Here's Vivaldi's "Winter" from his FOUR SEASONS of 1725, that captures how I feel about the season:

"To shiver, frozen, amid icy snow
In the bitter blast of a horrible wind;
To run constantly stamping one's feet;
And to feel one's teeth chatter on account of the excessive cold;
To spend restful, happy days at the fireside
While the rain outside drenches a good one hundred
To walk on the ice,
And with slow steps to move about cautiously
For fear of falling;
To go fast, to slip and fall down;
To go on the ice again and run fast
Until the ice cracks and open up;
To hear coming out of the iron gates
Sirocco, Boreas and all the winds at war:
That's winter! but of a kind to gladden one's heart."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Puppy Love

Is there any human being on earth who hasn't had a crush on someone while growing up? I bet there's none, and those of us who vehemently deny it are just being deluded, in my opinion. Puppy Love, as one might call it, is an intrinsic and essential part of growing up, that magical attraction one feels and unspeakable chemistry that one has for the other person. In retrospect, from the vantage point of adulthood, it all looks ridiculous, and makes you wonder what on earth you saw in that person in your teenage years. Sometimes, you even heave a sigh of relief, thanking God you didn't act on that crush and take it to the next level, considering that the erstwhile object of your crush is no doubt a loser now, in your opinion. No wonder it's called Puppy Love then, and aptly so!

The danger in puppy love arises when it causes too much of a distraction to teenagers and sways them from their dedicated concentration on their goals. The final years of high school being the most crucial years of one's life, it becomes quite problematic when teens are caught up too much in the crush and are constantly thinking/dreaming of this particular girl/boy, only to slip up in their studies and not make the cut after all in high school. As teens, we don't understand that poor grades mean no admission into a good university, and that ultimately translates into mediocrity in life. The hormones raging inside us make us lose perspective of the importance of doing well at school, and for those of us who are weak-minded, there is always a lot to regret in our adult lives.

What prompted this post in the first place was something I saw on my morning commute to work - a boy and a girl so lost in each other, when everyone else was rushing to work and to school. The teens were so besotted and into each other, the chemistry between them so palpable, that I wondered how on earth they would be able to concentrate on studies that day at school. Not a good thing at all, the sane adult in me thought. And then again, I frequently see teen moms and dads on my way to work, with babies in strollers, with the mom definitely having had to drop out of school to care for her baby, and the father to get a low level job to provide for the young family, and with that money not being enough, having to live on welfare for the foreseeable future. All this because of the raging hormones, needless to say!

Puppy love is inevitable, but if one is able to recognize it as just that, and not be distracted too much as to fail at school or earn poor grades, then all should be well! Growing up certainly is complicated, don't you think?!!? Phew!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Happy New Year 2012 to all my friends, family and loved ones! Here's to health, wealth, and happiness to all of us in the year ahead, and may all our troubles last as long as our New Year's resolutions. Speaking of which, yes, I have made a few of those myself, and despite the fact that I lack the strength of mind or the will power to see them through to the end of the year, I never fail to make them in the first place anyways. So here I am again, determined to stick to my exercise regimen, nurse my injured shoulder back to normalcy, eat healthy, maintain my body weight and dare not put back on the pounds I so painstakingly lost last year, catch up on my reading, etc., etc., to name a few.

If all the talk about the Mayan calendar and 2012 being the year of the Apocalypse should be given any sort of credence, then Carpe Diem should be the order of each day as it unfolds. Doomsday fears not withstanding, I am determined to make the most of each day and live life as happily as I can. I begin the new year, counting my blessings, as always, and being humbly grateful for all of God's mercies, great and small. I truly believe in karma, that what goes around comes around, so I'm determined to try my best in thinking good thoughts and doing good to others at all times. I am confident that Providence will guide my path and whatever gets thrown my way, I will be able to weather them all with His grace.

Happy New Year 2012 once again, folks!