Eye of the Optimist -seeking enlightenment

Posted on September 20, 2016 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (1)
For a teacher, it is always gratifying to have well motivated students excited about learning. I find that there are always a few in every class. They express appreciation for the teacher and the lessons. They try hard. They ask questions and want to learn more. Their eagerness feeds the motivation of the teacher, who may feel better about going to class and do extra preparation because of those eager students. If I did not find such students in my classes, I would feel less positive about the job of teaching.

This term, I am fortunate to have a whole class of keen students in a new English as a foreign language course. The subject of this particular class is news. Students read and discuss news under my guidance. Many participants of this class have told me how glad they are to be learning more about what is going on in the world through news. I especially remember one day when they were playing a board game featuring questions about current events; they responded quite well, so well that many of them wanted to play the game again. 

This particular English news class is entirely made up of international students, most of whom hail from China.  My experience with this class has not only lead me to reflect more on student motivation, but has prompted me to compare and contrast Chinese learners of English with their Korean counterparts. I am beginning to see differences in the motivation as well as learning styles and way of thinking between the two types. 

By comparison, Koreans are more narrow minded as they are more bound by tradition, their ethno-national identity, and family goals. They are thus less socially concerned. I do not mean to say that Korean students are on the whole less empathetic or sensitive. Certainly, there are a lot of hard-nosed and single minded Chinese solely concerned with money and property. That is evident. However, I am talking about young adult Chinese who visit another country to engage in university studies, including language studies. Regarding that kind of student, I would say they are more open-minded and socially concerned, while less hidebound and rigid thinking. By comparison, Korean students tend to look inward and focus on their individual or family goals. Also, tradition leads them to expect that parents  and the state serve them; many carry a sense of self-entitlement, I would say. They have apparently bought into the US-Anglo-american ideals of material wealth and beauty, and slogans of commercialism and capitalist style prosperity and status. Furthermore, they are usually stuck on sentimentalist catch-phrases, preferring to conform to the flock. They lack the habit of investigation, especially concerning the how and why conditions are as they are. They want to know every facet of instruction for a task, then follow mechanically, and with the most efficiency and least labour. They want to the know the requirements of classroom work in detail, for example, and prefer to the walk the line rather than explore. They want everything modeled or set forth for memorization and mimicking. They tend to take the work of the educators and the availability of the opportunities for granted. The Chinese, on the other hand, are more apt to want to explore, and they abhor squandering materials, education, and opportunities.

I have a friend who recently left Korea after many years of teaching Koreans here. He has started working in China and told me that China is "very different." I have always understood it would be quite different. I am waiting to hear how he compares Korean students in South Korea to Chinese students in China.

Eye of the Optimist-value of debating

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 5:24 AM Comments comments (6)
Why should you debate?  Harvard-Westlake Debate Team website

For the Experience in Itself
Debate has been fittingly described as an intellectual sport. As with any sport, the thrill of competition and the uncertainty of outcome serve to energize the whole team. Debaters are players; those who are committed instinctively aspire to ever-higher levels of play. They are judged on the skill evident in their performances.

 A good debate is both serious and playful. Debaters soon become skilled enough to achieve what my students call "the zone," or what psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls optimal experience or flow—the experience of focus and complete involvement in an activity that is often "so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
- Jon Kendall. “The Case for Debate: Intrinsic Motivation for Thinking and Writing.” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. April 10, 2014

For Improving Education
Critical thinking and argument skills -- the abilities to both generate and critique arguments -- are crucial elements in decision-making… In all careers, academic classes, and relationships, argument skills can be used to enhance learning when we treat reasoning as a process of argumentation, as fundamentally dialogical, and as metacognitive… It is imperative that high school students, of diverse personal, moral and intellectual commitments, become prepared to confront multiple perspectives on unclear and controversial issues when they move on to college and their careers. This is not only important for assuring students are equipped to compete in the marketplace of ideas but also to maximize their own cognitive development more broadly.
- Rabbi Shmuly Yankiowitz. “A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for Argument in Education.” Huffington Post. October 13, 2013

Eye of the Optimist-who is the audience?

Posted on March 10, 2016 at 5:27 AM Comments comments (1)
For my business writing editing course, we have been studying a consideration of the audience who is to read the product that the writer produces. A writer can communicate better if she understands who she wants to reach and who will be reading her work. By putting herself in the shoes of the readers, she can find the best style and supply the most useful information or insight.

Who is my audience here? My primary audience is me, as this is a blog journal which I share in a public space. Actually, I have multiple audiences, though I do not know who they are. I know a little from the 30 or so comments I have received to date over the course of two years. I can only guess and imagine who most of you are. I began by supposing that I am writing about a general theme that many people may appreciate, which is positive thinking, and I offer reflections, information, and suggestions on that theme.

Since embarking on this writing course, which I mentioned above, I have been thinking about who my readers are. I want to home my writing for your benefit and mine.

Today I share with you some reading material from the aforementioned writing course. It is an excerpt on audience and writing, from the book, "Advanced Study in Writing for Business and the Professions," by Anne Hungerford, and published by Simon Fraser University in 2005 (p. 54-56).

"This exchange between writer and reader is a complicated process that contains the potential for many breakdowns in communication. Good writers realize the complexity of their task and strive to understand their audiences as thoroughly as is possible. They know that if they can put themselves in their readers’ position and interpret their material from this perspective, they will reduce the gap between writer and reader considerably. Moreover, if they acknowledge their readers’ attitudes and concerns in their documents, they will facilitate comprehension substantially because their readers, responding to material that is focused toward them, will be able to assimilate the message more easily. Many writers, however, fail to perform this crucial task. Some find their readers intimidating and, consequently, choose to ignore them; others are so interested in their content that they focus exclusively on their subject and, inadvertently, leave their readers behind. By far, though, the majority of writers are simply unaware of how central and important their audiences are. They think it is the reader’s job to understand what they have written, when, in fact, it is the writer’s job to build a bridge of communication by understanding what the reader will bring to the material and by shaping the document to reflect the reader’s concerns. Although they have lost contact with their readers, these writers are often writing to an audience of sorts—themselves."

While at times writers might consciously choose to write to themselves, might for various reasons see this inward focus as productive, many writers end up being their own audiences by default; that is, they have simply failed to consider their real audiences at all. Writers with this perspective experience difficulties because, in focusing on themselves, they deny the communicative function of writing. Frequently, for instance, they ignore their audience’s needs and select their content according to their own interests. In addition, they often choose a structure based on their own level of comprehension, a choice that fails to help readers who are always less familiar with the content. Such insular writing is, unfortunately, common in the business world, and it is the source of many problems that occur in business documents. To correct this problem, you need to answer the following three questions:
1. Who is my audience? If I have more than one, who are they? Which one is primary? Secondary? 2. At what stage should I admit my audience(s) into my process? 3. How can I focus my document to achieve communication with my readers? 

Communicating with Primary Audiences
 To communicate successfully with your readers, you need to admit them into your writing process and make the necessary adjustments. For example, you might be asked to compose a number of documents on the same subject for different audiences, each of them primary. If you make the common mistake of focusing on your subject at the expense of your readers, you will lose the opportunity to communicate effectively. Instead, you need to tailor your material to your audiences."

..."Strategies for Handling Multiple Audiences Business writers frequently find themselves in the position of writing to several audiences at once. Perhaps, for instance, a writer has written a report for a client that will also be read by several reviewers in his company. He might be tempted, under these circumstances, to focus on his reviewing audiences, since their feedback will be immediate and will reflect on his performance at work. These audiences, however, if they are performing their reviewing task correctly, will not be focusing on how well the writer communicates with them, but rather on how well he communicates with the client. Therefore, this writer should aim his text at his primary audience, the client, and consider his secondary audience, his reviewers, only at the later stages of revising. (A good way to help reviewers focus on the primary audience is to provide them with an audience profile.)"

Eye of the Optimist-Free Writing

Posted on February 27, 2016 at 2:54 AM Comments comments (7)
The value of free writing may be more than just loosening up the mind and shaking out some images and ideas so that you have a clearer idea of what to write and how to say it. It may help you become more creative. It may help enhance your understanding of you and your situation.

I've copied a blog entry from the Writing Forward website. This is a blog by Melissa Donavon and posted last September.

Creative Writing Practices: Free Writing
Posted by Melissa Donovan on September 24, 2015 ·
Free writing is not your train of thought.
One of the most valuable writing practices I learned in college was free writing.
When you sit down with a pen and paper and let words flow freely, amazing things can happen.
At first, free writing is a bit of a struggle, but if you stick with it, you’ll produce some gems. The trick is to get out of the way, and let your subconscious take over. Most writing exercises ask you to think. This one requires you do anything but that.
Free writing is not like other writing practices; it allows you to generate written material for a variety of projects. It can also help you clear your head or tap into your deeper thoughts.

Train of Thought

The first few times I tried free writing, I botched it. I would describe everything I’d done that day or jot down my thoughts on a particular subject in a random, messy way. Finally, in one of my creative writing classes, I got to hear some examples of free writing and something clicked. Free writing is not about train of thought; it’s about stream of consciousness, and there’s a big difference.
Here is an example of one of my early attempts at free writing:
I set the microwave timer for thirty minutes so that I wouldn’t write for too long, although I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt if I did. Usually I do free-writes in a journal. I have a tendency to reflect on the current events of my personal life during a free-write.
Yes, I was actually writing about how I was writing.
Train-of-thought writing is coherent. For the most part, the text makes sense, as you can see in the example above. The technique involves writing on a particular subject in a clear manner. This can be useful in many ways, but it won’t tap into your deeper creativity the way free writing will.
I use train-of-thought writing for clearing my mind or to prepare for writing a nonfiction piece as a brainstorming method to churn out all the information I have stored in my head. But when I’m looking for poetic images or vivid characters, free writing does a much better job.

Writing Exercises and Stream of Consciousness
After hearing another student’s free writing read aloud, I had a much better grasp on it. Here’s a sample of what I wrote once I better understood what free writing was all about:
in moonshine eyelet lace a rhapsody of liquors dancing off light reflected in the cut glass spoons stirring iced candy meltdown of hopes washed out memories of faded photographs and standing in line at a supermarket eyeing the magazines their eyes watching you like cats high up in trees crying for freedom but afraid to come down
The key to stream-of-consciousness writing is to relax your thinking mind and let the images of your subconscious take over. For some people, it takes a little practice, but once you get it down, it becomes a fun and creative practice. So what can you do with it?

Applications for Free Writing
Once you’ve built up a nice collection of free-writes, you have created a repository of images and lines, sentences, and paragraphs. You can now go through and harvest that material for your various writing projects. As you can imagine, the fruits of free writing lend themselves particularly well to poetry.
When I’m writing poetry, I often go through my free-writes with a highlighter, marking words and phrases that pop or strike me as especially meaningful or aesthetically pleasing. Then I pull these from the free-write and use them to compose a poem.
Free-writes can also be used to bring creative, colorful language into prose. Strong images and rich language generate work that is more literary in nature, and if done well, it’s a lot more fun to read. It will help you generate words that show rather than tell and make your story or essay come alive more easily in a reader’s mind.
Have you ever tried free writing? Do you tend toward train-of-thought or stream-of-consciousness writing? Are there any other writing exercises you recommend for creating more vivid prose or poetry?

Eye of the Optimist -continued study

Posted on February 26, 2016 at 5:28 AM Comments comments (1)
A few years ago, I decided enough with formal studying. I made an exception by trying to learn some Korean, but it has not been very formal. As for anything else, I've contemplated it and said, "No. No more." I thought about it because enhancing my credential as an English foreign language educator may be required back in Canada. However, I'm very reluctant to do that and I really don't want to do it. I would if absolutely forced to. However, I have found an alternate way to make a living back in Canada, and that is editing. One thing that encourages me besides my related experience and education is the convenient availability of training  and even certification in editing, should I wish to go that far.

I could get by on at least some part-time English teaching as I re-establish my life back home, but I plan to move on from that occupation into some role in editing. I found online non-credit courses to support this final career transition, which make it more likely that I could do it. I'd add the course and a referral from the instructor to my CV.

Am I contradicting myself here by swearing not to take up further formal studies and then announcing I am doing it? Not exactly. That is because the editing course is a non-credit, short term course without exams but with a formal acknowledgment. That is to say, the work load is light. The student has to participate in online chats, collaborate with class mates and complete a few small assignments. Only a few assignments are required; for one thing, part of the required work is editing each other's drafts. Sweet. 

I could get a certificate if I finished all in the editing program, but that is 144 stated hours of participation. I am not warm to that idea. The course I'm enrolled in at the moment, a basic business writing class, completes 30 hours. the next available one would be worth 12 hours of the program. That'd be 42 out of the way, leaving 102 more to go. I don't know about completing the program, and not just because of the time involved. The cost is also high: the present course had a price tag (inflated!) of over $800. The next would cost more than $300. Yikes. 

However, a track record of a few such courses tells the world that I am committed to the work of editing and am getting some formal training and knowledge to add to my ongoing experience as a pro reviewer of translations. As my instructor says, though, I have "got the papers" already. I hope to embellish the record with a reference from him, since he teaches all the online courses of this program. 

Anyway, my point in bringing this matter to the table here in this blog spot is to say that there are different ways of studying and online non-credit courses can suit some purposes. Some less formal but nonetheless structured and formalized study may be more suitable for some or some of the time. It is considered a business course, inviting anyone to sign up. It is not connected to academic programs. The online non-credit variety certainly is convenient. For me, it is all I want at this point in my life. It still keeps me learning and helps me to grow. It helps me make a living and find my way. 

One aspect of this kind of course is the practicality. The main teaching method is learning by doing. We create or use real documents from our work. We get feedback. We learn some techniques of improving our writing. It is useful.

I am finding the online non-credit study stress-free, though I have to keep on track and follow through. Failure to complete or respond would mean failure of the course, after all. It is not totally free, of course. It is informative and practical enough. As a writer, I enjoy the exchange about writing. It is meaningful to me because I am a writer and writing is a big part of my life, getting bigger all the time. Therefore, it is highly relevant, and motivates me because of that. It is different and perhaps better than being driven by a necessity to achieve scores on exams and assignments.

Eye of the Optimist-heuristics

Posted on February 19, 2016 at 1:26 AM Comments comments (1)
How to keep getting things done? It helps to develop a methodology or system for dealing with regular activities or a range of problems that are bound to come up. Everyone probably has some kind of way of addressing common tasks from shopping to dog-walking, from making soup to washing clothes, but how conscious is it? The less thought out, the less effective it likely is.

A heuristic is an approach to problem-solving. It is worth taking the time to spell out the steps to solving problems, beginning with the questions a solution needs to have answered, which is to create conscious methods. 

The added benefit is that you can pass along your most successfuly heuristics to others. Why should we struggle unnecessarily, spend more time dealing with regular tasks, and labor to start from scratch each time?

Here is a definition of a heuristic found on Wikipedia (English, of course).

heuristic technique (/hjᵿˈrɪstᵻk/Ancient Greek: εὑρίσκω, "find" or "discover"), often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples of this method include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, stereotyping, profiling, or common sense

Heuristics are strategies derived from experience with similar problems, using readily accessible, though loosely applicable, information to control problem solvingin human beings, machines, and abstract issues.

The most fundamental heuristic is trial and error, which can be used in everything from matching nuts and bolts to finding the values of variables in algebra problems.

Here are a few other commonly used heuristics, from George Pólya's 1945 book, How to Solve It:
  • If you are having difficulty understanding a problem, try drawing a picture.
  • If you can't find a solution, try assuming that you have a solution and seeing what you can derive from that ("working backward").
  • If the problem is abstract, try examining a concrete example.
  • Try solving a more general problem first (the "inventor's paradox": the more ambitious plan may have more chances of success).
In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules, learned or hard-coded by evolutionary processes, that have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to judgments, and solve problems typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. Researchers test if people use those rules with various methods. These rules work well under most circumstances, but in certain cases lead to systematic errors or cognitive biases ("Biases and Reasoning Heuristics"

Eye of the Optimist-luck and kindness

Posted on January 28, 2016 at 9:54 PM Comments comments (21)
Keep the faith. Small acts of kindness abound and fortune smiles, though you may not notice. Keep your mind and eyes open and you will see.

Here are some examples from my experiences yesterday. Despite some negative feedback, good things happened. People around me were generally thoughtful and helpful, though some of my students of last semester rated my teaching low.

When I went out yesterday, I noticed the guard's puppy shivering outside in the cold rain. This lovely friendly and well behaved 6 to 8-month old Jindo puppy is often left alone on a short tether in front of the building for long hours, even overnight in freezing temperatures, without company and proper food, water and exercise. The day before, I stopped to play with her twice and gave her some water. Yesterday, I took her and her gear inside the entrance to the building. She really wanted a walk and was trying to hold in her waste, but I had not time for her then, so she relented and went inside but piddled on the tiles. At least it was a bit warmer inside the building. The dog and gear were gone when I returned, and I notice they have not left her outside today, thankfully.

I had a routine medical appointment. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long in the queues. 

It rained and I had no umbrella, but a taxi driver offered to give me his umbrella when I explained why I wanted a taxi to go a short distance. Since I was headed to a store anyway, I coped without this nice man's generous offer; I said I would buy an umbrella. I needed to keep an extra one on hand, in any case.

While I was at the store, I left an item behind. It was bulky, so I put it aside while I was organizing my purchases in my shopping bags then forgot about it. After a stop in a doughnut shop and the walk to the bus stop, which must have consumed about 45 minutes, I realized my omission. Yet, the item was still there on a bench waiting for me to return for it. People in Korea generally do not commit petty theft. Rather, they show concern for people and their belongings.

Back at home, found another positive comment about this blog. The writer said they thought the entry about my day was a good article, and they implied that it inspired them to make a journal, too. I should feel optimistic about my writing.

The editor who is completing the formatting of my published ebooks was supportive. He confirmed that big online stores like Amazon.com steal materials, in that they sell without reporting sales so that they take all the revenue instead of giving the authors their share. The positive side to that is that it is likely more of my books have been sold than it appears. This editor gave me a discount on the formatting order because of the quirkiness and finicky demands of the e-publisher.

Further on the topic of books, I have ordered the textbooks for the online editing course I have recently registered in. There was a hangup in ordering the books from the institution's bookstore because of their administration practices of online courses between semesters. That is fortunate, because this hangup spurred me to look at other sources for these books. I found good used copies of them at discount prices, and was able to use an old gift certificate given to me a long time ago by a brother. After applying this gift coupon, I have a credit. That means I only have to pay for shipping. As there was a problem getting the items shipped overseas, I asked a friend to receive them and forward them to me. He agreed to do this favour for me! I can minimize the shipping costs this way, too, especially since I bought paperback editions and used copies whose lower value keeps the price of tariffs down.

Because I received word of some negative feedback from a certain group of my students, I looked at all my student evaluations for my teaching in the fall semester of last year, 2015. One group for the same class, whom I taught exactly the same way, gave me a perfect score. Three other groups of this same course rated me normally at an acceptable level. 

I need to keep all these positive experiences and input when looking at the negative student feedback. Sometimes there are groups where the dynamics and circumstances are against you. We sometimes find some students with a sense of entitlement who demand high grades yet do not want to work and are insulted if other less privileged and less traveled English language students receive better marks. Often, though, this kind of student expects to just coast through without having to work, but other students follow instructions and complete tasks better. Such were some students in the problem class. Many were also enrolled in a second course of mine, a writing course as opposed to the conversation practice course, and they brought this negative outlook into the writing class, too, resulting in negative feedback for this writing class. I have to keep it all in perspective for myself, no matter how my "bosses" interpret things. I know I have a pretty decent track record and strong effective teaching skills. this past semester, I tried hard to implement the best of my skills and knowledge in facilitating conversation practice. I went out of my way to make it interesting and create a variety materials and activities that would aid conversation and make the course experience fun for all. Despite such efforts, reviews can be unpredictable, especially when students are very competitive and stressed about performance.

I am fighting the nagging thoughts and negative emotional reaction that I am feeling this morning from the negative reviews I read yesterday. Writing this blog is one way to overcome them. Also, I think it best to stay away from the campus today, though I wanted to go to the campus gym. 

Anyway, I have already begun planning the spring semester courses in such a way as to mitigate the kind of problems I had last semester. Fortunately, I have not been assigned the same type of course for the next semester. Rather, I have some senior conversation courses instead of those 2nd year conversation courses. That is probably due the kindness and foresight of our Coordinator who made our schedules.

Anyway, I am starting the (secret) transition into the world of publishing by embarking upon the editing course. It is time for me to move on, so I plan to quit English teaching and move back to my homeland after this contract. I am not telling my employer this yet, just in case, though. The negative side of my teaching experience of late tells me that I am correct in estimating that it is time for me to make a change.

Keep a healthy perspective. Do not overlook the acts of kindness and good fortune of daily life. Do not underestimate it. If things are not working out, make some changes.

Eye of the Optimist-the Learning Process

Posted on January 16, 2016 at 4:52 AM Comments comments (5)
I have been thinking about the term "learning process." I know it is about getting new information, having new experiences or rethinking experiences, trying new perspectives and ultimately changing ideas and behavior. I think people generally think of process as an organic development. It is necessarily an individual development and can take place in different ways. As a teacher, I realize that there are teaching steps to go through engaging the learner and having the learner discuss or try things out after studying a lesson. 

I searched a professional definition in psychology and found a definition plus details about the learning process on a website called "Dynamic Flight." It is actually a private helicopter training institute (Dynamic Flight, Inc.), but it has a wonderful article on learning. I imagine it is for training the instructors, and I suppose it is copied from some consultant's material. Anyway, the website URL is http://www.dynamicflight.com/avcfibook/learning_process/ .

The page begins with a definition of "learning process" then dissects concepts of learning. I quote.

To learn is to acquire knowledge or skill. Learning also may involve a change in attitude or behavior. Children learn to identify objects at an early age; teenagers may learn to improve study habits; and adults can learn to solve complex problems. Pilots and aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) need to acquire the higher levels of knowledge and skill, including the ability to exercise judgment and solve problems. The challenge for the aviation instructor is to understand how people learn, and more importantly, to be able to apply that knowledge to the learning environment. This handbook is designed as a basic guide to educational psychology. This chapter addresses that branch of psychology directly concerned with how people learn.

Definition of Learning
The ability to learn is one of the most outstanding human characteristics. Learning occurs continuously throughout a person's lifetime. To define learning, it is necessary to analyze what happens to the individual. For example, an individual's way of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and doing may change as a result of a learning experience. Thus, learning can be defined as a change in behavior as a result of experience. This can be physical and overt, or it may involve complex intellectual or attitudinal changes which affect behavior in more subtle ways. In spite of numerous theories and contrasting views, psychologists generally agree on many common characteristics of learning.

Characteristics of Learning
Aviation instructors need a good understanding of the general characteristics of learning in order to apply them in a learning situation. lf learning is a change in behavior as a result of experience, then instruction must include a careful and systematic creation of those experiences that promote learning. This process can be quite complex because, among other things, an individual's background strongly influences the way that person learns. To be effective, the learning situation also should be purposeful, based on experience, multifaceted, and involve an active process.

Learning is Purposeful
Each student sees a learning situation from a different viewpoint. Each student is a unique individual whose past experiences affect readiness to learn and understanding of the requirements involved. For example, an instructor may give two aviation maintenance students the assignment of learning certain inspection procedures. One student may learn quickly and be able to competently present the assigned material. The combination of an aviation background and future goals may enable that student to realize the need and value of learning the procedures. A second student's goal may only be to comply with the instructor's assignment, and may result in only minimum preparation. The responses differ because each student ads in accordance with what he or she sees in the situation.

Most people have fairly definite ideas about what they want to do and achieve. Their goals sometimes are short term, involving a matter of days or weeks. On the other hand, their goals may be carefully planned for a career or a lifetime. Each student has specific intentions and goals. Some may be shared by other students. Students learn from any activity that tends to further their goals. Their individual needs and attitudes may determine what they learn as much as what the instruc- tor is trying to get them to learn. In the process of learning, the student's goals are of paramount significance. To be effective, aviation instructors need to find ways to relate new learning to the student's goals.

Learning is a Result of Experience
Since learning is an individual process, the instructor cannot do it for the student. The student can learn only from personal experiences; therefore, learning and knowledge cannot exist apart from a person. A person's knowledge is a result of experience, and no two people have had identical experiences. Even when observing the same event, two people react differently; they learn different things from it, according to the manner in which the situation affects their individual needs. Previous experience conditions a person to respond to some things and to ignore others.

All learning is by experience, but learning takes place in different forms and in varying degrees of richness and depth. For instance, some experiences involve the whole person while others may be based only on hearing and memory. Aviation instructors are faced with the problem of providing learning experiences that are meaningful, varied, and appropriate. As an example, students can learn to say a list of words through repeated drill, or they can learn to recite certain principles of flight by rote. However, they can make them meaningful only if they understand them well enough to apply them correctly to real situations. If an experience challenges the students, requires involvement with feelings, thoughts, memory of past experiences, and physical activity, it is more effective than a learning experience in which all the students have to do is commit something to memory.

It seems clear enough that the learning of a physical skill requires actual experience in performing that skill. Student pilots learn to fly aircraft only if their experiences include flying them; student aviation maintenance technicians learn to overhaul power plants only by actually performing that task. Mental habits are also learned through practice. If students are to use sound judgment and develop decision-making skills, they need learning experiences that involve knowledge of general principles and require the use of judgment in salving realistic problems.

Learning is Multifaceted
If instructors see their objective as being only to train their students' memory and muscles, they are underestimating the potential of the teaching situation. Students may learn much more than expected if they fully exercise their minds and feelings. The fact that these items were not included in the instructor's plan does not prevent them from influencing the learning situation.

Psychologists sometimes classify learning by types, such as verbal, conceptual, perceptual, motor, problem solving, and emotional. Other classifications refer to intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, and attitudinal changes, along with descriptive terms like surface or deep learning. However useful these divisions may be, they are somewhat artificial. For example, a class learning to apply the scientific method of problem solving may learn the method by trying to solve real problems. But in doing so, the class also engages in verbal learning and sensory perception at the same time. Each student approaches the task with preconceived ideas and feelings, and for many students, these ideas change as a result of experience. Therefore, the learning process may include verbal elements, conceptual elements, perceptual elements, emotional elements, and problem solving elements all taking place at once. This aspect of learning will become more evident later in this handbook when lesson planning is discussed.
Learning is multifaceted in still another way. While learning the subject at hand, students may be learning other things as well. They may be developing attitudes about aviation-good or bad-depending on what they experience. Under a skillful instructor, they may learn self-reliance. The list is seemingly endless. This type of learning is sometimes referred to as incidental, but it may have a great impact on the total development of the student.

Learning is an Active Process
Students do not soak up knowledge like a sponge absorbs water. The instructor cannot assume that students remember something just because they were in the classroom, shop, or airplane when the instructor presented the material. Neither can the instructor assume that the students can apply what they know because they can quote the correct answer verbatim. For students to learn, they need to react and respond, perhaps outwardly, perhaps only inwardly, emotionally, or intellectually. But if learning is a process of changing behavior, clearly that process must be an active one.

Learning Styles
Although characteristics of learning and learning styles are related, there are distinctions between the two. Learning style is a concept that can play an important role in improving instruction and student success. It is concerned with student preferences and orientation at several levels. For example, a student's information processing technique, personality, social interaction tendencies and the instructional methods used are all significant factors which apply to how individual students learn. In addition, today's culturally diverse society, including international students, must be considered.

The key point is that all students are different, and training programs should be sensitive to the differences. Some students are fast learners and others have difficulties; and, as already mentioned, motivation, experience, and previous training affect learning style. Any number of adjectives may be used to describe learning styles. Some common examples include:

Theories abound concerning right- or left-brain dominance. In general, those with right-brain dominance are characterized as being spatially oriented, creative, intuitive, and emotional. Those with left-brain dominance are more verbal, analytical, and objective. However, the separate hemispheres of the brain do not function independently. For example, the right hemisphere may recognize a face, while the left associates a name to go with the face. The term dominance is probably misleading when applied to brain hemispheres; specialization would be a more appropriate word.

Learning style differences certainly depend on how students process information. Some rely heavily on visual references while others depend more on auditory presentations. For example, visual students learn readily through reading and graphic displays, and auditory students have more success if they hear the subject matter described. Another difference is that some learn more easily when an idea is presented in a mathematical equation, while others may prefer a verbal explanation of the same idea. In addition, where hands-on activities are involved, students also learn by feel. This is sometimes called kinesthetic learning.

Information processing theories contain several other useful classifications. As an example, in the holistic/serialist theory, the holist strategy is a top-down concept where students have a big picture, global perspective. These students seek overall comprehension, especially through the use of analogies. In contrast, the serialist student focuses more narrowly and needs well-defined, sequential steps where the overall picture is developed slowly, thoroughly, and logically. This is a bottom-up strategy.

Two additional information processing classifications describe deep-elaborative and the shallow-reiterative learners. Testing practices which demand comprehension, rather than a regurgitation of facts, obviously encourage students to adopt a deep-elaborative learning style. Detailed information on testing procedures, as well as curriculum design and instructor techniques, is included later in this handbook.

As indicated, personality also affects how students learn. Dependent students require a lot of guidance, direction, and external stimulation. These students tend to focus on the instructor. The more independent students require only a minimum amount of guidance and external stimulation. They are not overly concerned with how the lesson is presented.

Students with a reflective-type personality may be described as tentative. They tend to be uncertain in problem-solving exercises. The opposite applies to impulsive students. Typically, they dive right in with enthusiasm and are prone to make quick, and sometimes faulty, decisions.

The social interaction concept contains further classifications of student learning styles. Like most of the other information on learning styles, these classifications are derived from research on tendencies of undergraduate students.

Some generalizations about these classifications indicate that compliant students are typically task oriented, and anxious-dependent students usually score lower than others on standardized tests. Discouraged students often have depressed feelings about the future, and independent students tend to be older, intelligent, secure, and comfortable with the academic environment. Attention seekers have a strong social orientation and are frequently involved in joking, showing off, and bragging. In contrast, silent students usually are characterized by helplessness, vulnerability, and other disconcerting behaviorisms.

Other studies identify more categories that are easily recognized. Among these are collaborative, sharing students who enjoy working with others, and competitive students who are grade conscious and feel they must do better than their peers. Participant students normally have a desire to learn and enjoy attending class, and avoidant students do not take part in class activities and have little interest in learning.

The existing learning environment also influences learning style. In real life, most students find it necessary to adapt to a traditional style learning environment provided by a school, university, or other educational/training establishment. Thus, the student's learning style may or may not be compatible.
Instructors who can recognize student learning style differences and associated problems will be much more effective than those who do not understand this concept. Also, these instructors will be prepared to develop appropriate lesson plans and provide guidance, counseling, or other advisory services, as required.

Principles of Learning
Over the years, educational psychologists have identified several principles which seem generally applicable to the learning process. They provide additional insight into what makes people learn most effectively.

Individuals learn best when they are ready to learn, and they do not learn well if they see no reason for learning. Getting students ready to learn is usually the instructor's responsibility. If students have a strong purpose, a clear objective, and a definite reason for learning something, they make more progress than if they lack motivation. Readiness implies a degree of single-mindedness and eagerness. When students are ready to learn, they meet the instructor at least halfway, and this simplifies the instructor's job.

Under certain circumstances, the instructor can do little, if anything, to inspire in students a readiness to learn. If outside responsibilities, interests, or worries weigh too heavily on their minds, if their schedules are overcrowded, or if their personal problems seem insoluble, students may have little interest in learning.

The principle of exercise states that those things most often repeated are best remembered. It is the basis of drill and practice. The human memory is fallible. The mind can rarely retain, evaluate, and apply new concepts or practices after a single exposure. Students do not learn to weld during one shop period or to perform crosswise landings during one instructional flight. They learn by applying what they have been told and shown. Every time practice occurs, learning continues. The instructor must provide opportunities for students to practice and, at the same time, make sure that this process is directed toward a goal.

The principle of effect is based on the emotional reaction of the student. It states that learning is strengthened when accompanied by a pleasant or satisfying feeling, and that learning is weakened when associated with an unpleasant feeling. Experiences that produce feelings of defeat, frustration, anger, confusion, or futility are unpleasant for the student. If, for example, an instructor attempts to teach landings during the first flight, the student is likely to feel inferior and be frustrated.

Instructors should be cautious. Impressing students with the difficulty of an aircraft maintenance problem, flight maneuver or flight crew duty can make the teaching task difficult. Usually it is better to tell students that a problem or maneuver, although difficult, is within their capability to understand or perform. Whatever the learning situation, it should contain elements that affect the students positively and give them a feeling of satisfaction.

Primacy, the state of being first, often creates a strong, almost unshakable, impression. For the instructor, this means that what is taught must be right the first time. For the student, it means that learning must be right. Unteaching is more difficult than teaching. If, for example, a maintenance student learns a faulty riveting technique, the instructor will have a difficult task correcting bad habits and reteaching correct ones. Every student should be started right. The first experience should be positive, functional, and lay the foundation for all that is to follow.

A vivid, dramatic, or exciting learning experience teaches more than a routine or boring experience. A student is likely to gain greater understanding of slow flight and stalls by performing them rather than merely reading about them. The principle of intensity implies that a student will learn more from the real thing than from a substitute. In contrast to flight instruction and shop instruction, the classroom imposes limitations on the amount of realism that can be brought into teaching. The aviation instructor should use imagination in approaching reality as closely as possible. Today, classroom instruction can benefit from a wide variety of instructional aids to improve realism, motivate learning, and challenge students. Chapter 7, Instructional Aids and Training Technologies, explores the wide range of teaching tools available for classroom use.

The principle of recency states that things most recently learned are best remembered. Conversely, the further a student is removed time-wise from a new fact or understanding, the more difficult it is to remember. It is easy, for example, for a student to recall a torque value used a few minutes earlier, but it is usually impossible to remember an unfamiliar one used a week earlier. Instructors recognize the principle of recency when they carefully plan a summary for a ground school lesson, a shop period, or a postflight critique. The instructor repeats, restates, or reemphasizes important points at the end of a lesson to help the student remember them. The principle of recency often determines the sequence of lectures within a course of instruction.

Eye of an Optimist-goal setting theory

Posted on December 29, 2015 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (7)
I just learned that there really is a theory of goal-setting. Actually, it has been around since the 1960's! It was first proposed by Edwin Locke and developed further by him and Gary Latham toward the 90s.

The end of the calendar year is a good time to assess and set new goals or make adjustments to your plans. For me, the process of personal goal-setting begins around my birthday, another annual mark, and it falls in mid-December anyway. Going through this process helps me to avoid dwelling too much on the past, though I do take a thoughtful look back, of course. Also, it helps to motivate me to go forward in life, and to feel positive about where I am and where I am going in life.

Now I find a well researched and established scientific theory to support and explain the success of applying this sort of goal-setting process of which many people already have practical and experiential knowledge.. It has been used in management but it can applied to various situations including personal growth. The awareness of this theory makes me more motivated to keep up goal-setting. Indeed, goal-setting itself is valued for its positive effects like contributing to motivation and getting results. The self-consciousness and the clarity of what one wants to achieve contribute to success.

I found a summary of goal-setting theory online on the website, www.mindtools.com. The title of the undated article is "Locke's Goal-Setting TheorySetting Meaningful, Challenging Goals" and its authors are the Editorial Team of the site. I copy it here below for my readers' edification.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
-Henry David Thoreau, American author and philosopher.

Many of us have learned – from bosses, seminars and business articles – the importance of setting ourselves SMART objectives. We know that "SMART" stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. But are these the only factors to consider if we want to achieve our goals?

Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham spent many years researching the theory of goal setting, during which time they identified five elements that need to be in place for us to achieve our goals.

In this article, we'll look at their research, and find out how to apply it to our own goals.

About Locke and Latham's Theory
In the late 1960s, Locke's pioneering research into goal setting and motivation gave us our modern understanding of goal setting. In his 1968 article "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives," he showed that clear goals and appropriate feedback motivate employees. He went on to highlight that working toward a goal is also a major source of motivation – which, in turn, improves performance.

Locke's research showed that the more difficult and specific a goal is, the harder people tend to work to achieve it.

In one study, Locke reviewed a decade's worth of laboratory and field studies on the effects of goal setting and performance. He found that, for 90 percent of the time, specific and challenging (but not too challenging) goals led to higher performance than easy, or "do your best," goals.

For example, telling someone to "try hard" or "do your best" is less effective than saying "try to get more than 80 percent correct," or "concentrate on beating your best time." Likewise, having a goal that's too easy is not motivating. Hard goals are more motivating than easy ones, because it feels more of an accomplishment to achieve something you've worked hard for.
A few years after Locke published his article, Dr Gary Latham studied the effects of goal setting in the workplace. His results supported Locke's findings – that there is an inseparable link between goal setting and workplace performance.

In 1990, Locke and Latham published their seminal work, "A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance." In this book, they repeated the need to set specific and difficult goals, while outlining five other characteristics for successful goal setting.

Locke and Latham's Five Principles
According to Locke and Latham, there are five goal setting principles that can improve our chances of success:
  1. Clarity.
  2. Challenge.
  3. Commitment.
  4. Feedback.
  5. Task complexity.

Let's look at each of these elements, and explore how you can apply them to your personal goals and to your team's objectives.

1. Setting Clear Goals
When your goals are clear, you know what you're trying to achieve. You can also measure results accurately, and you know which behaviors to reward. This is why SMART is such a useful mnemonic.
However, when a goal is vague – or when you express it as a general instruction like "take initiative" – it isn't easy to measure, and it isn't motivating. You may not even know you've achieved it!
How to set Clear Goals
  • Write your goal down and be as detailed as possible. Use SMART, and consider putting your goal into the form of a personal mission statement for added clarity.
  • Think about how you'll measure your success toward this goal. What specific metrics will you use?
  • Once you've set your goal, examine how it makes you feel. Are you excited? Does the challenge motivate you? If you don't feel strongly about the goal, you might need to clarify it or change it entirely.
  • Set clear goals that use specific and measurable standards. For example, "reduce job turnover by 15 percent."
  • Write down the metrics that you'll use to measure your team members' success. Be as specific as possible, and make sure that everyone on your team understands how you'll measure success.

2. Setting Challenging Goals
People are often motivated by challenging goals, however it's important not to set a goal that is so challenging it can't be achieved.
How to set Challenging Goals
  • Look at your goal. Is it challenging enough to spark your interest?
  • Develop self-discipline, so that you have the persistence to work through problems.
  • Identify ways that you can reward yourself when you make progress. Incremental rewards for reaching specific milestones will motivate you to work through challenging tasks.
  • Before taking on a major goal, research it thoroughly. This will help you be realistic.
  • Use the Inverted-U model to find the best balance between pressure and performance when you set goals.
  • Think about how you'll reward team members when they achieve challenging goals.
  • If possible, create some friendly competition between team members or departments. Competition can encourage people to work harder.

3. Securing Team Commitment
To be effective, your team must understand and agree to the goals – team members are more likely to "buy into" a goal if they have been involved in setting it.
This doesn't mean that you have to negotiate every goal with your team members and secure their approval. They're likely to commit to it as long as they believe that the goal is achievable, it is consistent with the company's ambitions, and the person assigning it is credible.
How to Secure Commitment to Goals
  • Stay committed by using visualizationtechniques to imagine how your life will look once you've achieved your goal.
  • Create a treasure map to remind yourself why you should work hard. Visual representations of your goal can help you stay committed, even when the going gets tough.
  • Allow team members to set their own goals. This will increase their sense of commitment and empowerment.
  • Use Management by Objectives to ensure that your team's goals align with the organization's goals.
  • Use Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory to enhance your team's motivation and commitment with small wins.

4. Gaining Feedback
In addition to selecting the right goals, you should also listen to feedback, so that you can gauge how well you and your team are progressing.
Feedback gives you the opportunity to clarify people's expectations and adjust the difficulty of their goals.
Keep in mind that feedback doesn't have to come from other people. You can check how well you're doing by simply measuring your own progress.
How to Give Feedback on Goals
  • Schedule time once a week to analyze your progress and accomplishments. Look at what has and hasn't worked, and make adjustments along the way.
  • Learn how to ask for feedback on your progress from others.
  • Use technology to track and measure your progress. Apps like Lift are a good place to start.
  • Measure progress by breaking difficult or large goals down into smaller chunks, and seek feedback when you reach each milestone.

5. Considering Task Complexity
Take special care to ensure that work doesn't become too overwhelming when goals or assignments are highly complex.
People who work in complicated and demanding roles can often push themselves too hard, if they don't take account of the complexity of the task.
How to set Complex and Challenging Goals
  • Give yourself plenty of time to accomplish complex goals. Set deadlines that apply an appropriate amount of pressure, while still being achievable.
  • If you start to feel stressed about meeting your goals, they might be too complex or unrealistic. Reassess both of these areas and modify your goals if necessary.
  • Break large, complex goals down into smaller sub-goals. This will stop you feeling overwhelmed, and it will make it easier to stay motivated.
  • Your team members might need additional training before they work toward their goal. Give everyone a training needs assessment to identify any knowledge or skills gaps.
  • If you notice that any team members are overwhelmed, consider putting them into acoaching or mentoring relationship with a more experienced colleague.

Key Points
Goal setting is something that many of us recognize as a vital part of achieving success.By understanding goal-setting theory, you can apply Locke and Latham's principles to your goals. Their research confirms the usefulness of SMART goal setting, and their theory continues to influence the way that we measure performance today.To use this tool, set clear, challenging goals and commit yourself to achieving them. Be sure to provide feedback to others on their performance towards achieving their goals, and reflect on your own progress as well. Also, consider the complexity of the task, and break your goals down into smaller chunks, where appropriate.If you follow these simple rules, your goal setting will be much more successful, and your overall performance will improve.

Eye of the Optimist -bad egg

Posted on December 4, 2015 at 5:18 AM Comments comments (0)
I often tell my students that they should not be English majors if they don't like studying English, whatever the economic and social motives for feeling like you should study English. It is not worth it if you cannot muster up any enthusiasm and it becomes a painful experience. I tell such students to find some other focus. After all, they can still learn some English on the side as it may indeed prove to be a useful complement.

For the first time, I told one student not to visit me or join my classes ever again because of his bad attitude. I blamed him for dragging down the spirit and energy of the class during the whole semester.

There are students with issues who have trouble coping for one personal reason or another, and they might lose focus and drag their heels because of the distracting or diverting problem. It can be a difficult situation to manage. A teacher tries talking to them and makes suggestions, shows willingness to make allowances and give the student more chance to catch up or make changes. She alerts staff with more authority or resources so that an offer of help can be made. Such individuals can be a problem in the functioning of the class, at which point they have to be told to pick up their socks, or attend under special circumstances but  cooperate and be quiet, or leave.

I told a young woman to leave the class because this student had not done assignments and exams, and stated clearly that she was not going to do them even after being given more time. It was the third time that this woman had joined one of my classes, so I knew her and her temperament. I know here to be a sharp student with excellent skills in English although she has not had any extra tutoring or immersion experiences. She is basically a bright and good kid. She had somehow coped and kept up with classroom activities before, even though she had some kind of panic attack or extreme drop in confidence and failed to complete the final exams. This time, she was so withdrawn and distracted that she could not follow what was going on and could not maintain a memory of the class work. I had to ask her to leave if she was not going to participate at all.  Her case is some kind of health or social problem, not motivation and attitude as a student, though.

Recently, I told a student plainly that he had a bad attitude and had been a problem in class. Though I kept my cool and professional comportment the whole semester, I told him I did not want to see him around again on the last day. He was a rotten egg.

I had a group of four far from keen students in a freshman English conversation class this past semester. They said their parents wanted them to study English, and a few had been to academies and to schools abroad. They actually had better skills than many of the others in the class, although they are not interested in English any more. They slumped in their chairs, fiddled with their mobile gadgets nearly the whole time, wandered in and out of the room constantly, missed classes or arrived late, complained all the time, did not follow through with the practice activities, and were negligent or tardy with assignments and homework. Their behavior affected the rest of the class, who were more motivated but shier and less confident in their ability to learn and master English.

Freshmen classes can be difficult to manage. There are usually social behavior and motivation issues. Also, it is generally hard for them to understand the spoken language. This was true of a couple within the group that I just described above, although their vocabulary and reading ability was pretty good. I had to pay attention to the class as a whole and could not devote most of my attention and energy to the four students with above average competency for freshmen year English conversation class. I had to keep at a steady pace, explain slowly and reinforce the lessons a lot for the majority in the class.

In this scenario, the keen high level student still takes the opportunity to talk a lot and ask the teacher questions. Such a person is usually highly motivated and that is precisely why they excel, besides any privileged access to learning they have enjoyed. I can talk to them and make their experience more challenging. Indeed, of the four most advanced students in all skill areas in this conversation class, three were well motivated and displayed a good attitude. Two of them took the opportunity to pair up and speak at their level together every day. The one with low motivation and a bad attitude, however, that one bad egg, slouched and slacked off. The remaining model student was put in the situation of having to pair up with the slacker, who was a bit older and constrained by peer loyalty and friendship; he was denied a lot of speaking practice because of this situation and therefore suffered because of this bad egg. It was plain to see that he was bored and frustrated, and he even mentioned it, while the other two advanced students progressed and got pleasure out of being in the class.

The bad student complained all the time. He expressed disinterest in nearly everything except computer games and tried to justify himself by giving the impression that he was disadvantaged for one reason or another. He did not signal an ounce of hope. He had nothing positive to say. He was disrespectful to me. He failed to do nearly everything I asked students to do in the class. He always gave lame excuses. He was the first to ask to end the class early. He did not follow lessons. I think he was manipulative. He knew that other guys would be compelled to show support and defend him. I think he was mischievous enough to want to affect the atmosphere and drag others down with him to his muddy existence. I also think that he was enough of a smart ass to consider himself good enough at English to be able to coast without thinking and still get an A. This tactic had not paid off. Because he was not heeding me and not following class activities, he performed poorly at a major assignment. Of course, he complained and seemed not to understand how a low mark was possible in his case, but I stood by my marking and explained how. I gave him a lecture about motivation and not choosing to study subjects that do not inspire passion, rejecting any morsel of suggestion that it might be the teaching that was the cause of his woes. 

This guy missed a couple of classes, though he was counting on a good attendance record to squeak through with an A or B+, I guess. It sure was nice when he did not show up. His absence brightened up the atmosphere and made the experience agreeable. 

On the last day, he again asked to leave early. The plan was a test followed by a last class of the semester party of sorts. I had promised to bring refreshments, which I had done. Yet, this worm was rude enough to actually ask me to leave right after the test. I said, "Yes, please leave. Leave forever. Do not come back. Do not sign-up for my classes ever again. You have a bad attitude. I don't want you around." That penetrated his feeble consciousness a little, and he showed a little shame. He stuck around, and I treated him like any other class member, offering him biscuits and drinks, but I really would have preferred him gone.

I hope you agree with my assessment and response to this one bad egg.

Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.

A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.

Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.

Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 

Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 

I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.

Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 

On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.

I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 

Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!

I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.

I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.

Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).

 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.

The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.

I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 

Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 

However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.

It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.

My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 

There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.

2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 

I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.

Ed Wise


15 January 2020