Archive for February, 2007

undecided

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I envy Dimitar who’s going to Santa Fe to become a student at my favourite college Saint John’s.

For many people it’s really hard to choose a career. They explore all their passions only to find out that so far they have given up too many of them because they’ve grown bored. These people are afraid of making a firm decision as they might actually mistake what is to become a nuisance for the passion of their lives.

I do not think people should fret about that, especially if they’re going to liberal arts colleges, and even if they are not.

First, they should realize that it’s not only they who are changing all the time, that constant changing is not a fault but universal reality. So, people, embrace change and celebrate it. The world is changing, and if you’re not changing with it, then you might be in trouble. You should be prepared for lifelong learning to cope in an ever-changing world.

Second, when planning for their education, they should avoid attending college with the single idea of training for a specific career. Even if they’re being coached for a career they are keen on right now, they should not perceive this as the only thing they should be doing. They should realize that this is just a part of education, so they should supply the rest from other sources.

If I had focused solely on what people believe I am supposed to do with a degree in English and Bulgarian, then I would still be teaching at school and translating some stupid texts to earn the rest of the money I need to survive. You all know that I am doing neither of these.

I’ll be 36 soon, but I know that tomorrow I won’t be doing what I am doing now. I don’t know what I’ll be up to next year, in five years. I might become a medicine woman or run for the president (on the Lyd – Radina ticket). I might be doing a master degree in Eastern Studies / Liberal Arts at Saint John’s College or on in Social Enterprise at Cambridge. I might be a Feng Shui designer or a carpenter. I might be a writer or a publisher. I might be sweeping floors at Oxford or cooking meals as a happy housewife. I could become a school teacher again or a nun in Tibet. I could be the Minister of Education or a private business consultant. I could be running my own business empire or saving the world, or both. How could I possibly know?

I believe that good education is what prepares you for the transitions in your life. If you start getting it and never stop, then you’ll never feel as if you’ve made the wrong choice. You’ll be happily making choices every day.

avoid reading?

If you had grown up surrounded by books, if your parents had read to you and made up tales for you, if your grandparents (sick and tired of reading aloud to a three-year-old) had taught you how to read, if your mom had taken you to the town library to sign you up when you were six, then you’d take reading for granted and feel constantly deprived because there are so many books and so little time. You’d also be at a loss if you need to advocate reading. That’s how I felt while trying to explain the usefulness of reading to a student who believes that now that we have modern technology, the Internet and TV, reading has become obsolete, especially because it is a rather laborious and difficult endeavor.

At first, our conversation made me sad as I imagined this student’s future. Then I decided to try again and again and realized that I might need to turn into a crusader for reading. While taking a shower, I went deep into the issue and brought together seemingly unrelated phenomena. As usual, I thought I would need time to research, think, write, but I realized that there is no time for 16-17 years old students who believe they need to go to college. Thus, I decided to answer a couple of questions as soon as possible.

Can we avoid reading?
It depends on the way you plan to earn your living. If you want to use your brain rather than your hands and legs, then you’ll need to read a lot.

Pragmatic people know that reading provides you with access to information. What else can you gain from it?
It could help you grow smarter as practicing it requires using your imagination and reasoning a lot.

Why is reading harder than watching TV?
Look at the answer to the previous question: in order to get anything from reading, you have to think and imagine. TV does most of the thinking and almost all the imagining for you.

Can reading be completely substituted?
I don’t know. Reading is part of language. Even if you don’t read (the active side), but just listen (the passive side), you actually use language again. Some TV programs might use the difficult language you try to avoid by refusing to read.

Can difficult language be avoided? If you need to explain / understand difficult ideas, you’ll need to use / understand difficult language. Sometimes complex ideas are not amenable to oversimplified explanations. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Thus listening to complex explanations is not much easier than reading them. Try watching some university level video lectures on the Internet.

Can language be avoided altogether? Could we use pictures, video and non-language sounds to express ideas some old-fashioned people used to express through words? Why not? We could use gestures, inarticulate sounds, visual signs and symbols. Yes! As long as blind people do not use letters in order to read, as long as deaf people do not hear words, as long as dumb people do not pronounce words, we could make it! I wonder why, then, some autistic people are taught how to communicate through language? Shouldn’t we learn their ways instead? Isn’t it going to be easier if we are to avoid reading altogether?

Can we learn how to read?
If autistic people can learn how to communicate through language, then my students could too.

Should I teach my students language skills?
Perhaps yes, as their parents pay me to teach them language skills, as my students are going to take language tests and go to colleges, where studying is done through language for the most part, and finally these young people are hoping to do well-paid jobs, and most well-paid jobs rely heavily on competent use of language skills – reading, listening, writing, speaking.

You get what you pay for

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How staff works?!?

Millions of people buy the same product and pay the same price. Do they get the same thing? I don’t think so.

When some people buy a pair of shoes, they pay for comfort, and that’s what they get. When other people buy a pair of the same type of shoes, they pay for durability, and what they get is staying away from shoe stores for years. When some people buy a pair of shoes, they pay for the beauty of their shod feet, and that’s what they get. When other people buy a pair of shoes, they pay for a fashionable accessory which will make them belong to a group of fashionable people, and that’s what they get. All these people pay the same price for the same product and get completely different things.

Millions of people pay a lot of money for a famous brand product. Do all of them get the same quality? I don’t think so. Sometimes no matter what you believe about a product, realize it or not, you are affected by the juxtaposition of your expectations and reality.

I am not discussing the case when you’ve bought a defective brand product, which rarely happens, and you can get a refund fast.

I am talking about cases when you believe you pay for X, but the nature of the product is different, so no matter how much you wish to use the product for X purposes, it just cannot be used this way. Sometimes creativity is not enough; you should know reality. You might wish to use a shoe as a vase. Great! It’s cute to put a bunch of daisies where people usually place a foot. However, if you turn the shoe upside down, i.e. sole up, would you still be able to use it as a vase? No.

Let’s see how this applies to attending my classes:

People pay the same money and seem to get the same thing, but actually they don’t. Some people use classes to prepare for TOEFL and SAT; others use them to prepare for Bulgarian university exams; still others use them to get to know more about themselves, education, the world. All these people could be called smart and creative because they can really get these things from my classes. Still, I think some of them do not act either in a smart or in a creative way. Some students believe they could use my classes in a way they just cannot be used – remember the sole-up shoe-vase.

For example, some people believe that they could get what they pay for just by attending classes and not doing homework. Others believe that doing the obvious homework – the test – is enough, Some write essays, but do not read much / at all. Some people do loads of grammar exercises and dictations at school, whatever. In short, people try to study English in a way it just cannot be learned properly.

Another example – some people believe they could get into college by simply filling out application forms and writing essays they believe admissions officers would like to read. They take time neither to get to know colleges nor to get to know themselves. They believe they could just prepare the documents in a month, without even “wasting” time to browse college websites or read college guides, just by asking me inadequate questions. Well, successful college application just doesn’t work this way.

So, if you believe I’ll succeed in teaching you English and getting you into college the way your Granny has told you I should, you might not get what you pay for. I just don’t work this way.

our future website

A friend of mine registered a domain for us, so that we could have our own website. To honor our entering the EU, it’s the cool .eu You could check the address here.

I am waiting for all kinds of tips and suggestions about the new website. What would you like it to be like?

Be as creative and demanding as you can 🙂 People who are into web design and hosting could be more realistic and reasonable and tell us whether our website dreams might come true and how.

revive the forum

Have ever written in our forum? Even the most enthusiastic of us had deserted it, but things changed the day Dodo came back and wrote in the shoutbox that if you posted a message, he would buy you a drink 🙂

OK, I think the first drinks go to Maria and me.

I have just cleaned the forum from the porn spam and discovered that most topics have been hidden becaused we have not opened them for quite a while.

Here is how you can open hidden topics:

For example, you go to schools > lyd’s classes and there is nothing 😦 You see just this:

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However, you should not give up as you can do this:

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Thus you can see what we have written and comment on it. After you do it once, you won’t need to do it soon, as the topic will have been woken up.

Of course, you might wish to start new topics.

you can’t save them all

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Frustration is the unpleasant feeling you have when you try to achieve something, but you fail. This is a feeling I often get on teaching days:

– when I look into vacant eyes

– when I see bored faces

– when I sit among people who refuse to think, even about their own lives

when I preach, especially in an annoyed manner

George Carlin says “Kids are just like any other group of citizens. A few winners, a whole lotta losers. You can’t save them all. You can’t save them all.”

Accepting the fact that I cannot save them all is essential right now. It prevents me from being too harsh on myself. I have to repeat this saying every day, all the time, in order to survive.

Yet, I do believe that I can’t save them all NOW, but tomorrow I’ll be able to save more of them because I will have learned a bit more about how to do it.

what color is your envy

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If envy is defined as wishing to be in someone’s place, is it a positive or negative force?

Some people say that envy could inspire you to set a goal and achieve it. Others say that it may harm you, making you chase unattainable or alien goals.

After our Friday discussion, I would like to share some ideas about envy. Here I go:

Whether envy is a positive or negative force in someone’s life depends on how much he has grown up, i.e. on whether he has found out who he is and what he wants to achieve in his life or he still depends, most often unconsciously, on other people to choose his identity and goals for him.

To a person who has built his own philosophy of life envy is positive and demonstrates that the person has retained his childhood ability to be surprised, impressed, fascinated. It shows that a person is not complacent with his identity and philosophy but is prepared to notice and respect diversity. Whenever a grown up person is fascinated and wishes for a moment to be in someone’s place, he proceeds to explore and assess the situation in order to find out what it is under the shiny surface. If he finds out that it’s worthy inside, he assesses his own philosophy and checks whether he would just stop at the stage of expanding his perspective in life and accepting another bit of diversity to respect in other people’s lives or he would be glad to accept it as a meaningful part of his own life, thus setting a new goal for himself, one that is in harmony with his own philosophy and abilities or one that seems to be superior, though quite at clash with one’s current philosophy, thus deciding that it’s worth altering his values and goals.

To a person who has not learned how to assess phenomena on his own, to give them a reality check rather than taking them at face value, envy could be a devastating force because such a person does not have clear goals and values and is easily induced by other people who suggest taking different courses in the voyage of life. Thus he is like a sailboat, directed by capricious winds and unlike a stable ship, which is propelled by a powerful engine and directed by a competent crew. Depending on his courage and confidence, an immature person is likely to take one of the following courses. A brave one will embark on chasing a goal which may eventually turn out not to make him happy when achieved because it was not really his heart’s goal. If brought up as a fighter, he might arrogantly strive for an unattainable goal, never doubting his ability to achieve everything. An immature person who lacks the confidence and courage to try will sit down wistful and frustrated. Of course, there are some among the brave ones who have the abilities to achieve what they have striven for and at reaching their goal discover that it actually makes them happy, but I, personally, have met few of these.

Drawing on my experience, I could say that envy is just like many other phenomena in our lives, so whether it is going to be positive or negative depends mostly on the specific situation.