Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fork Through Dog

"In the deepest ocean, the bottom of the sea," Weird Fishes by Radiohead.

So I got the Whitbread Award winning book "The Curious Incident Of The Dog At The Night Time" as a birthday present a few days ago. I already read it a few years ago, but then I noticed that the book got missing when I tried looking for it to have a reread, and I told this to a friend of mine nonchalantly, and whadayaknow, two months later the friend gives me a copy as a gift. I am very grateful.

Fun fact: I do not reread books. I'm lazy like that, I suppose. Plus, I have a lot of books remaining on my yet-to-read shelf, so it discourages me from reading stuff I've already read. Thus, know that since I wanted to reread this one, it is a very, very good read.

I got through the book in a little over 24 hours. Sure the book isn't very thick (221 pages), but again that is very rare for me. Even Catcher in The Rye took me 3 days to finish. So yeah, this book is a big deal. To me, at least. It made me laugh throughout, and cry towards the end. "Heartbreakingly endearing" was the phrase I used to describe it in GoodReads.

Now for the bit with spoilers. If you haven't read the book yet (and you want to before reading what I have to say about it), you should probably get back to this post after reading it. 

If you already have (or you don't want to), then let's go.

One of the most striking things about the book to me was the depiction of how a family copes with having a child with autism. The parents are obviously very stressed with what Christopher has and how he is. It finally ruins their marriage with the mother having an affair with their neighbour (who later on proved to be a douchebag. HAMEKAU!) and moving out of the house, leaving his father to take care of Christopher by himself. 

The parents' relationship with each other is very interesting (and, if I may add, depressing) to observe since it depicts how having a child with autism can make a marriage take a turn for the worst. But I don't think it was Haddon's (the author) intent to make this the case. What he might have wanted to show was what goes on in the mind of a boy with autism when his parents aren't able to manage themselves well enough to be stable emotionally for the sake of their child. They took out their anger on each other and did not communicate very well (every time they got within sight of each other, all they seemed to do was shout) and this led to their marriage falling apart. The main reason the mother gave for cheating on the father was that they stopped talking to each other, and this shows how immensely important open and honest communication is in making a relationship work, moreover when you have a child with autism to take care of. They failed to do so, leading to the deterioration of their relationship with each other, and, in effect, with Christopher too.

Having said that, it is evident that both the parents love Christopher very much. His father, I could say, loves him to pieces. A particularly gut-wrenching part of the story was when Christopher locked himself up in his room and his father knocks on his door and tries to talk to him to no avail, and he just sits in front of Christopher's door for a very long time. That was tragic. Try imagining yourself trying to talk to someone you love very much but they don't want to, and they run away from you. You would just feel helpless and hapless and all you can do is just sit there and cry and regret what you've done and wish you could turn back time to undo what you did. That brought me to tears, imagining myself in his position and being so powerless.

I've met a person with autism before. He was 13, almost Christopher's age. He wasn't as high-functioning as Christopher was, but I got the general idea of how having autism looked like. And I gained a picture of the screaming and the retaliations that entails being in contact with a person with autism. I don't know if I would be able to cope. But of course, I need to understand that no test given to me would be given if I wasn't strong enough to get through it. I need to remember to keep calm and communicate.

It's a very powerful book. If you want a better understanding of what goes on inside a person with autism's head, then this is the best example I can give you.

May peace be upon you.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Practically Teachers

"But it never seems to be there when you want it," Black Treacle by Arctic Monkeys.

So I'm undergoing my prac right now. Three weeks in and I would say that I'm adjusting well to the teaching life.

The class that I got is great. They are on-task most (if not all) of the time. Misbehaviour among the students is rare. And in this I am very fortunate to have received a very well-behaved classroom.

Hearing stories from friends who got other schools (especially all-boy-schools. Not to be sexist, but yeah) and the trials they have to go through every time they enter class can truly shake you.

An example would be the situation in one class where, whenever she turns her back on the class to write on the board, a fist fight would almost certainly break out. What would you do and how would you continue the lesson?

Friends have admitted to wanting to quit teaching altogether because of the challenges they go through when entering classes. But these friends, it's not that they feel like the students cannot be helped. Not at all. It's just that they feel that they aren't doing a good enough job to be seriously considered in the profession. One friend expressed that she feels bad for the students for getting her as their teacher, since she doesn't feel that she is what the students deserve. The students deserve better. The students deserve the best. And she didn't feel that she was anywhere near good enough.

And to be honest, I sort of feel the same way too. The students in my class are good. They're great, even. They would go on to achieve great things in the future, I'm sure of it. But will I be a teacher who pushes them to their limits and help them achieve things they never thought they could? Or will I be just some other teacher who they'd forget the name of as soon as I/they leave the school? And if I look in the mirror and see the latter, then I may as well not be in this profession altogether. Let someone better suited to become the former lead the way.

But realistically, as our lecturers are quick to point out, it's still early days for us. Three weeks into the job is nowhere near a long-enough period to determine whether or not you'll be a good teacher in the future. They tell us to give it a few years. And as long as we pass this prac duration, we'll have a chance to prove ourselves to ourselves. That we'll be better teachers than we thought we would be, and still want to improve, for the sake of our students.

It is within my hopes that in a few years I will be able to be that teacher who inspires my students to greatness, to bring them to the thresholds of their own minds, to invite them to challenge their notions of what is right and wrong and develop their confidence to speak their minds, but not before honing those minds to understand that the world works in mysterious ways and that asking questions and looking for the answers is more important than the answers themselves.

I'm asking a lot of myself. Whether it's too much, we'll see.

May peace be upon you.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Alchemist

"Hello mister, pleased to meet ya," Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone.

So I finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho the other day (yeah, I is slowpoke, I know). Basically what the author intended for the reader to get out of reading the story is that one must be bold enough to pursue their dreams and be confident that the universe will conspire to make your dream a reality, as long as you keep pursuing it. A very "The Secret" kind of concept, if you will.

I found it inspirational and it was a kick in the backside for the little-old-me who is too lazy to get off bed and do anything outside my comfort zone. The story is definitely capable of being life-changing, but I guess I'm too deeply set in my recliner that its effect on me wasn't to that extent.

As mentioned in the previous post, I'm on GoodReads, so I entered this book in my "read" shelf. I made my way to the "reviews" section of the book and I was surprised to find as many negative reviews as it did. This is one example:

"I'm not sure that I can capture my utter disdain for this book in words, but I'll give it a shot. I read this book about three years ago and just had to re-read it for book club. It was a steaming pile of crap then and, guess what? it's a steaming pile of crap now."

Then a thought struck my mind. Mr Coelho, he wrote a book about pursuing your dreams and he did exactly that: he wrote lots of books. And now look at him; an incredibly successful author whose books fly off shelves worldwide.

Now we take a look at these negative reviewers. They spit out bitterness and criticize the book for not being good enough for them, and where are they now? A commenter on GoodReads. I'm sure they are the envy of the world.

What I'm getting at is it doesn't matter whether or not Mr Coelho actually does produce steaming piles of crap in written form. What matters is that he was/is audacious enough to pursue his dream and persist with it to the end. He is now one of the most successful modern authors alive. 

Those reviewers, they read the book. Sure it's definitely within their rights to dislike the book. They can dislike any book if that makes them feel better about themselves. But the thing is, they didn't get what the book was trying to say. The book asked them to get off their perch and actually start doing something. Something that would occupy their time so much it would leave them no time to post negative comments on a book-sharing social media site. 

They didn't get that. And they put in the time, thought and energy to post something so resentful and bitter that only revealed more about themselves than the book they were reviewing. I feel sorry for them. They could be so much more if they took the effort to do something about it. But Paulo Coelho is still up there being a best-selling author, last time I checked; and any credible author out there right now certainly does not post such reviews on an app called GoodReads, so they can't be very successful authors who publish books any better than the book they bashed, could they?

I'm not saying that I am successful by any measure. If anything, I am still struggling to find my own personal legend. But I try not to be bitter about people who are successful. Even if I am, I certainly don't post it online, because that would only reveal how pathetic I really am. 

Even if you do feel pathetic, you don't need to reveal to the whole world that. It serves no purpose. None at all.

Main point, you can dislike any book/music/person/thing you want. But if that thing has something beneficial, take it. Use it to propel yourself to become better and hopefully more successful. Don't, at any cost, just sit there being bitter without doing anything about it. I'm telling this to myself more than anyone else, really.

May peace be upon you.