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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day by day

Author’s Note: This is based on the many walks I have to or before going to work.

Walking down the avenue
Not much to see or do
Reflecting on yesterday’s events
Look forward to today’s commence
Prayer is the start of my day
Keeps me grounded, on my way
Music travels through pink headphones
Its tune leads me to new milestones
Ideas flow through my head
New stories are yet to be said
 “You can’t walk” was once told
The sidewalk long, pavement cold
Its bumps pierce my feet
I continue to feel upbeat
The air is cool, sun is bright
My fire is ready to ignite
Ready to begin the journey
But first I buy a cup of coffee

Friday, April 27, 2012

The chalkboard, my playground

I love to write. I love to be creative. I love art. What a great way to showcase all of that than on a chalkboard. One of the best things about teaching is using visuals to explain something. In my case, visuals are used to explain grammar. I draw a lot so there are endless smiley faces, or pictures on the board. It really helps get the message across especially when practicing pronunciation. It's fun for them and me. I've learned early on in my teaching career that a positive attitude is necessary in order for students to learn. As I told my students two weeks ago, "If you're comfortable here [ESL class] then it makes learning English a little easier." For teachers, it allows us to share our creativity and interest in our students' learning. I've been teaching since 2005 and in every level of English class I taught, there's always a new challenge to overcome. I am not a grammar wiz and at times I forget the rules. However, I am not afraid of making mistakes, because that's how one learns. My students know that "Teacher" isn't afraid to have an "oops" moment, or use the dictionary to spell a word. I believe if students see that teachers are learners as well, they won't be afraid to try. I am always proud when students come up to me and say, "I will try my best." In everything we do, we must try our best. The chalkboard allows me to display my knowledge, art, as well as mistakes. It's my little playground, and I'm happy to be able to share that with my students.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy happy

I feel happy.

Happy 31st to me: I spent the weekend home resting and eating a Little Debbie cake. I even won $2.00 on a lotto scratch off! It rained on my birthday (4/22/12) but not on my spirit. I had a great week with friends and students. I enjoyed reflecting on the week's events. I was moved by all the lovely birthday wishes posted on  my Facebook page and Twitter. What a nice surprise! I didn't expect it. I appreciate all the love from my friends. I love them very much. It feels good to be 31. I feel more mature and settled with myself. I thank God for all His blessings. I look forward to many more birthdays to come.

Celebrating with my students: I had my good friends at my favorite bakery bake me an Angry Birds cake. They did a fantastic job. I couldn't stop smiling when he took it out of the refrigerator and inscribed my name on it. All I could say is "oom goy sigh" ("thank you" in Cantonese). My students were surprised when they saw the cake. Some laughed recognizing the big red Angry Bird on the cake. Angry Birds is my favorite video game. Before I could do anything, everyone pulled out their camera phones and said, "Teacher Teacher, hold the cake!" When I did, they yelled, "Cheese!" and all the snapping began. I felt like a movie star. Then I was asked to make a wish. At this point everyone was seated waiting for me to make my wish. I bowed my head for a moment and looked up at everyone. With a deep breath I said, "I'm so grateful right now. In January I had surgery on my hip. I'd wished to walk and go back to teaching by my birthday. And here I am doing both, so my wish already came true." I felt my voice crack and held back tears when they clapped saying "Yay Teacher!" The cake was "ho mei" ("yummy" in Cantonese) and we all had a nice time! I feel like the luckiest teacher to have such a great class. I'm still smiling.

I believe this new year of my life will be a good one. I look forward to what's next on my trail. So far, so good.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Class, pre-birthday surprises, and realization

This was a very good week for me with the start of my ESL class, getting to know my students, and the anticipation of my birthday.

Class is in session: Tuesday was our first lesson where students introduced themselves, started the textbook, and me introducing my colorful and bubbly personality. Already students said I dress "beautiful," and always match my jewelry with my clothes. I love jewelry. For homework, they had to write a letter telling me about themselves, and why they want to learn English. Their letters were moving in reading their stories, hopes, American dreams, and appreciation for being in my class. One student wrote, "The first time I met you I knew you were a good teacher. I like you." I'm very honored. I appreciate them, because they give me purpose and make me love my job as a teacher even more. When discussing role models in our lives, they said I was theirs because I'm nice and make them feel comfortable. I believe they are my role models.

Pre-birthday surprises: I received a birthday card from one of my students yesterday. Her message was lovely, and I thanked her for thinking of me. Today I met up with a dear friend (and former student) of mine. I was her first teacher here in the U.S. In showing me the school she now attends, the ESL program coordinator yelled, "Dara!" I couldn't believe it, this program coordinator is my friend and former co-worker/teacher. We taught together at another ESL program. My friend/former student yelled, "Wow small world right?!" I replied, "Indeed it is!" It was great seeing both of them simultaneously. Later, my friend/former student went to my favorite park and took pictures which we both love to do! I always enjoy talking with her, because she is genuine and always have a positive attitude. I love her very much, and honored to be her friend and former teacher. Lastly, another friend of mine picked me up from work tonight and took me out to dinner. I always enjoy her company and listening to her stories. I love her too.

Reflection and realization: There's a saying, "The devil is always busy." This is particularly true when one is feeling happy. After all misery loves company. There are a few people I come across who are miserable. Some are envious, jealous, or just plain immature. There was a time when I would entertain such foolishness, especially if it meant putting my feelings on the line. I wouldn't say or do anything about it. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. I've learned that some people aren't meant to be your friend. Some things aren't meant to be apart of, or held on to. Efforts will be dismissed or unappreciated, and often times ignored. I am not one to shy away from this point, everyone has feelings at the end of the day. When feelings are being tested or challenged, there's only one thing to do...walk away from it. Everyone deserves to be happy, and to be around people who care about them. That's what I realized this week with the help of friends and my students. I thank them for reminding me that I am special and appreciated.

In this 31st year of life, I'm embracing happiness and peace of mind. I'm doing things differently this time around.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stepping stone: the return of Me

"I feel like myself again...I'm doing things differently this time around. I am a teacher for a reason, it's my passion. This is who I am."

I said this recently in a conversation I've had with both my mom and a good friend of mine. I am happy this is not only a quote but a reality. I am Me again.

6:30pm: "My name is Dara Fulton, Fulton like in Fulton Street. Next time you see this street name, think of me!" But if you don't wanna call me Dara, you can always call me 'Teacher.' There was some laughter and a few students saying "Teacher" when I said, " It's nice to meet all of you." I met my level 4 (high intermediate) ESL class tonight. This is an interesting group. Not only they're eager to learn and improve their English, but many don't live in the area of where our class is held. Some are traveling long distances just to attend class, my class. I'm moved by their determination, it's inspiring. I promise to make this an enjoyable class experience for them. In doing my part of the orientation, I discussed what I expect from the class and what they can expect from me. "There are two things I care most about in this class" I said as I wrote the word 'comfortable' and 'try your best' on the board.

As students looked surprised, with many of them smiling, I continued talking. "One of the things I've learned teaching ESL for almost 8 years now is the importance of feeling comfortable. If you're comfortable, it will make learning English a little easier. Always try your best. I don't care if you get 100% on every test or assignment I give you, as long as you try your best that's all that matters. Teacher is still happy." I noticed a lot of nods, smiles, even hums in agreement. Everyone seemed comfortable in my speech. Soon they will know how genuine I am.

After going over the textbook and general classroom rules, I began administering the BEST Plus test. I'm not a fan of this speaking/listening test for many reasons, but it does help me to see where students are regarding their pronunciation, listening, and speaking skills. Based on the test and observation, the students are definitely at an intermediate level, some higher than others. I look forward to beginning the first lesson tomorrow and helping them in their new language journey. They are a lovely group of men and women. What made my night was something one of my gentleman students said: "I feel comfortable talking to you. I understand your meaning and you're nice. I don't feel nervous. As you say 'try your best' right?" I still smile thinking of his statement and the facial expression he gave along with it. I appreciate his comment very much.

I feel returning back to teaching is not only a way to get back into the profession, but a stepping stone in my quest for personal fulfillment. I'm grateful God has allowed me to take this first step since overcoming surgery. I'm excited to see the two steps He will put behind me. Tonight was definitely a good sign of what's to come.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stand back

Stand back if you dare
No one will give a care
Speak loud your feelings
Life goes on its dealings
Reach out to be embraced
Your name easily backspaced
Cry out inner emotions
Who really listens?
Be patient and nice
Is like the new vice
Desired to be adored
Instead you’re ignored
Heart carries love
Travels free like a dove
Pray and believe
God has something up His sleeve
Must wait for His feedback
And not let your heart crack

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back to the norm

Don’t want to be
Back to reality
Alone again
Self is my friend
Difference is beautiful yet rare
Does any one really care?
Forced to keep things to self
Like texts on a bookshelf
Are called stiff and cold
Unwilling to see your gold
Refusal to admire true essence
That lies beneath the presence
Of what uniqueness stand for
Many assume it’s a “bore”
Since it’s not part of the norm
Leaving some to brainstorm
Reasons many don’t follow
The trends and the shallow
Scratching heads, wondering
Constant “huhs” and asking
Why can’t you be more like…?
Stand in protest, strike
Against what norm says
And proudly say, “Who cares?”
Because you are you, I am me
Happiness within self is key

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Leaf

Author's note: We are all leaves at some point in our lives but we must remain strong.

Leaf hangs on tree
Not ready to be free
Wind blows hard
Leaf loses its guard
Falling to the ground
Nothing else is around
Leaf is now alone
Wish it had known
How to fly
Not falling from the sky
Now must find its own way
In order to stay
Clear from being stepped on
Kicked around or torn
Hoping Wind will embrace
Leaf from Life’s face
Making it strong for any thing
And not afraid of failing

In love with the unloved

Author's note: Dedicated to the "hopeless romantics" or in my words, the lovers of love.

I love you
You don’t love me
How can this be?
In my head I can see
Together and happy
Not trying to be sappy
Our qualities almost the same
My love doesn’t contain
Any falsehood or disdain
You are embedded in my heart
Have been from the very start
Thinking about you
Something I always do
Praying for your well-being
Quietly hoping you’re not seeing
But hope you’re having fun
Just want to be that one
To make you happiest
Among all the rest
That claim to love only you
Which may not be true
Can make you a promise
That I am no actress
My love is real in all ways
 Hope you’ll see that someday