Sunday, 13 November 2011

The road is long ...

There's no such thing as a road to nowhere. Every road leads somewhere and the experiences along the way are enriching. It should never be about the destination. It should be about the journey ...

It reminds me of the song "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads. The lyrics in part are:

We're on a road to nowhere
come on inside.
Takin' that ride to nowhere
we'll take that ride.
I'm feelin' okay this mornin'
and you know.
We're on the road to paradise
here we go
here we go.

People don't have the patience anymore to enjoy travelling. It's all about the destination. Their impatience in itself translates their lack of desire to move in-between. Leaving is effort and arrival is anticipation, but the in-between ... well, that's futile. We would want some kind of quantum teleportation in our homes, "Beam me there." Enter the destination and "POOF", we experience instantaneous departure and arrival.

In effect, the road is important. It's spiritual. It tests us at times when we are most vulnerable. Whether confined in an aeroplane, bus, train or car, we have limited choices of what to do. So, our patience is tested. We learn to wait. Our courage is tested. We learn to face everything we encounter.

Figuratively, we aren't on a road to nowhere. We're heading forward into the unknown. We don't know what obstacles lay ahead, but we push forward because we must. Faith inspires us to focus on the here and now and just believe the future will come.

What is our motivation? Fides, Spes et Caritas (Faith, Hope and Charity). Without these three things, we may feel as if the road is going nowhere.

Life is not just about the literal journey. If our spiritual road is well-maintained, with all the necessary signs of protection and guidance in place, we will travel all literal roads with confidence and patience. Whether or not the road is long, we will enjoy the journey (the in-between).

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Teachers should strive to do their best

It is so important that teachers strive to be their best in the classroom because the classroom is a place where children develop certain beliefs and are motivated by these beliefs. 

The classroom is a place where children form opinions, make judgments and determine values. Children use their beliefs to assign meaning to the learning situation, to form an opinion of working efficiently and effectively, and to evaluate a teacher and the teaching methods that are used. 

Children have certain expectations. The results that they get for their work, form their beliefs about success or failure. Because the work that is done in the different classrooms varies, children can easily lose interest. This happens mostly when the work is too difficult for them to understand or so boring that they aren't stimulated by it. A teacher can determine whether work is difficult or boring. In determining this, teachers should do everything in their power to help the children to achieve good outcomes.

A child's motivational beliefs are developed through direct learning experiences, observations, verbal statements, and social comparisons. These beliefs guide a child's thoughts, feelings and actions. From one subject to the next, a child will never think, feel or act the same. Whether positive or negative, his beliefs are very resistant to change. A good example to use is mathematics. When a child doesn't make progress in mathematics and his teacher has no patience with him, he will learn to dislike mathematics. He will like it even less if his friends tease him about his results. This negative belief that he has formed about mathematics will not be changed easily.

Teachers spend a lot of time with the same children during a year. It's important that teachers learn to understand their students. A good teacher will know more or less what each student's motivational belief is regarding her subject. This belief (positive or negative) may have been formed in a previous grade. Students usually hide their thoughts and feelings, and so the teacher needs to have more insight into their beliefs. A student's level of participation in a subject, his commitment to classwork, homework and assignments, as well as the results he gets determine his beliefs.

Teachers can help their students by looking at the following basic ideas:
  1. The classroom: Make the classroom beautiful and interesting. Learners must be keen to enter the room. They spend a lot of time in the classroom and need to feel comfortable there. The classroom also affects the teacher who spends a lot of time in it. The environment should motivate both the teacher and child, and make them feel happy.
  2. Attitude: When children come into a classroom, they need to know that the teacher likes them. They need to feel loved. A warm, kind and considerate teacher will always win hearts. 
  3. Discipline: It is good to remember that discipline is just as important as empathy. A firm hand is necessary. A chaotic environment cannot motivate or bring any good. When learners behave in an inappropriate way, it will help to discuss the situation with them. Treating children with the needed respect can help them to change their ways. Of course, some children are very difficult. Taking them to the principal or calling their parents will not necessarily solve the problem. In most cases, however, a good lesson with interesting work will help with the discipline. A well-prepared teacher will always have more discipline in her class than an unprepared teacher.  
  4. The work: Try to make tasks and activities meaningful and never give more work than that which is necessary. Giving too much work is ineffective. Teachers shouldn't give work to keep children busy.  When we want a child to practice something, the purpose is not to punish him in the process. If a child says, "It's too much. I'll never finish in time!" it doesn't necessarily mean that he is lazy. Try and find out why he thinks that it is too much. Help him to see that he can cope by adapting the exercises according to his capacity.
There are many other ideas that can help teachers to motivate children. These are basic ideas to work with. The key to success of course is that a motivated teacher will always have a better effect on her students. Teachers, therefore, need to be motivated and enthusiastic about what they're doing in their classrooms.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

How to control ourselves

We experience so many different situations every day and, without having to think about each situation, we adjust quite naturally to what we see, hear and feel. The minute we find ourselves in a situation that clashes with our desires, we battle to adjust.

A good example to use is sound. If we don’t like noise, our desire is to have peace and quiet. We want sounds around us that we can actually tolerate. The minute our peace and quiet are disturbed, and any given sound starts to irritate us or make us feel anxious, we are no longer able to adjust to the sound naturally. We become more and more aware of the sound, and it affects our emotional equilibrium.

We are truly amazing! We've been created to be flexible and adaptable. From a very young age, we are able to adjust to the world’s demands. The problem then doesn't lie in the situations we experience. It lies within us. We have different desires (wants and needs). These desires affect how we respond in situations. To be able to cope successfully, we need to control our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Controlling ourselves is not easy. Life has positive and negative energy and we are strongly influenced by this energy in our daily situations. We've been created to recognize negative energy, and also to make alterations and override our responses. The secret lies in how we react when we realize we are no longer happy within a given situation. In order to maintain balance, we have to learn to constrain our desires and gain control of how we respond.

How can we learn to control ourselves? Here are four steps to consider:

  1. Adjusting to meet the standards in life:
    There are different standards in life. We have to humbly comply with the standards that are set, especially if they're standards in a situation that we have no power to change. These standards can be found at work, in our neighbourhood, in relationships, in services, and many other things. We may have higher or lower expectations. In the case of having higher standards than those we have to cope with within a given situation, we need to learn to be less critical, less demanding, less selfish, and certainly less affected by the things that are not as good as we want them to be. We need to learn to be patient. If we can't change and improve a standard, we need to learn to accept it. On the other hand, if the standards are higher than our own, we may feel inadequate. We may feel we have to remove ourselves from the situation, whether it is work-related or a relationship, in order to cope. We should never allow higher standards to make us think less of ourselves. We should rather strive to achieve more. We have the ability to adjust ourselves and improve in order to meet the standard.
  2. Understanding ourselves:
    It is important that we understand ourselves. We need to monitor our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. When we fall short of a standard and it makes us feel unhappy, we need to initiate some kind of action to change how we feel. We need to remember what our reaction was to a situation so that we don't repeat unnecessary mistakes. We learn to change the way we think and react by focussing on our emotions. For example, if a dog's constant barking next door irritates us and we find ourselves in a situation where we have to move to a new neighbourhood or town, not because of the dog, but for other reasons, we need to remember that barking dogs irritate us. So, we react to this knowledge by looking for a place to stay where there are no dogs. It's not always easy to find a solution to a problem. Sometimes we can't change the situation, so we change our attitude. Instead of hating the dog, show love. Throw biscuits (not poison) and see if there isn't some sort of initiative that can influence the situation for the better.
  3. Applying willpower:
    We need to focus on willpower. It's an inner strength that we can rely on. If we want to see any change in our lives, we need to be willing to make sacrifices. We need the willpower to change ourselves: the way we think, feel, or react. It's an extremely tiring thing, though. When we land in a situation where self-control is necessary, we drain ourselves of energy. Therefore, we need to make sure that we eat healthily and keep fit. A healthy mind and body can cope better with emotional strain. In order to remain strong, we need to be motivated.
  4. Applying inner motivation:
    Inner motivation uses all three steps above to achieve its goal. Let's look at the following example to explain this. We are drunk at a party. We do and say whatever we please. The minute our parents or boss walks into the room, we are highly motivated to be in control. We set the standard. We monitor our state of mind and make sure we are in control of our emotions. We focus on our inner strength and manage to speak carefully, even if it is very difficult. Of course, we know that our attempt will only work to a certain point, but we do everything in our power to adjust to the situation. Without motivation, we will not be able to do this.
Yes, we are truly amazing! We've been created to be flexible and adjustable. We can change our minds and our emotions, and effectively cope better with life. The difference lies in what we usually do and what we are capable of doing, what we want to do and the effort we're prepared to put into doing it.  

When I look at myself ...

  The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that yo...