December 1, 2013 By
November 17, 2013 By
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Gustav Jung
Most of us do it every day – we judge the people around us. And we do so through the lenses of whatever prejudices and perceptions we might have of that person. We really don’t take the time to put ourselves into their shoes. Even Simba couldn’t help but leap to conclusions about Kovu in “The Lion King 2”.
We had a class this week about empathy, what it means to be empathetic and the neuroscience behind empathy. It was an amazing lecture; it really gave me a lot to think about. It made me wonder about whether in my everyday life, how much time I actually take to put myself into other people’s shoes. And it made me think back to the times that the people around me were empathetic to what I was going through.
As far as classes go, it was a thought-provoking one. Seeing videos of little babies displaying empathy, MRIs of persons feeling pain when someone they’re close to is in pain really kinda drove home the message that empathy is something innate within us.
Why then, do so many of us still walk around preoccupied in our own little bubbles?
As a society, we can be pretty quick to judge people based on their clothes, their house, their car or their phones before getting the chance to see what kind of decisions they make, what type of actions they take.
And there are just so many misconceptions about everyone floating around.
If there’s someone sitting off to the side by himself, obviously you judge him as being snobbish, when actually, he’s just extremely shy. We’ve all had these ‘shy moments’ and we should be able to at least remember them when seeing someone behaving just as we did during those moments instead of leaping to the conclusion that the person is standoffish.
Yes, it’s true, some people are more intuitive and more perceptive than others and they’ll be better at showing empathy, but we’re all capable of empathy and we should try to be empathetic to the best of our ability.
It’s easier to just pass off someone as being lazy or a slob just because they’re dressed a bit sloppily. But the thing is they could just be having a really bad day. They could be a hard worker, they’re usually impeccably dressed, it’s just that today was an ‘off day’ for them.
We need to remember to empathise with the people close to us. Too often we miss the people right in front of us, and we gloss over the things that might be going on with them. We have to start being there for them and taking the time to just listen.
We can’t always empathise with every single person around us – we don’t know everyone nearly half as well enough, but we can at least try to be more considerate, to be more human.
November 10, 2013 By
Well it’s November again, and apart from being the month of my birth, November is also chock-full of other such important events. It’s Remembrance Day on Monday and I remember at QC there’s the Remembrance Day Ceremony where the Youngest Boy and Girl have to march down the aisle to lay wreaths in honour of those who have died for our freedom.
All too often, we forget that nations are built on the sacrifices of the generations who preceded us. And it’s for this reason I’ve always been quite teed off by Guyanese, especially fellow students, who’ve benefited from those sacrifices, yet so casually emigrate and forget their native land.
In Guyana, November is also set aside as “Tourism Month”. Living all my life in Guyana, I guess I’ve never been as appreciative of all the natural beauty and fantastic sights that we have in Guyana as I probably should have been. But to be fair, it’s a little hard to walk around in perpetual awe over the beauty of your surroundings when the person walking right in front of you just dropped their empty Corn Curls bag right onto the street. We really need to cut down on littering – it really is pretty disgraceful – not to mention unhealthy.
But nonetheless, we have a beautiful country. I remember on our fifth form geography trip down to Lethem. All of us were awestruck by the mountains, the freshness of the air and the all-round good feeling we had just being there. If the Kanuku Mountains left me speechless, then the sunrise in Lethem took my breath away completely. Sure we had to ‘rough it’ and toughen up a bit, but it was worthwhile – I couldn’t ask for a better set of people to endure the 18-hour trip with!
And on my flight back to Trinidad on Monday, looking out of the window, I was awed by how Guyana looked just spread out below us, with its rivers just winding through the forested land. But also how fragile the coast was, protected as it was from the tumultuous Atlantic just by mangrove and that sliver of sea wall.
Guyana has so many beautiful sights to see and places to be – the land itself has done half of the work, all we Guyanese have to do is to market the beauty! Every year my family took a vacation in another part of Guyana.
Also, being abroad has given me a greater appreciation for Guyanese cooking. We really do have some of the best food in Guyana. And that’s something we really need to emphasise when persons visit Guyana. I do think we should stress our local foods much more – but surely our chefs can be a bit more creative. We might have to pander a bit to some unadventurous taste buds but I’m sure most tourists really want to experience authentic Guyanese culture. Then, of course, we’d be perking up our local farmers.
Being away from home has made me miss it of course, and it’s also allowed me to view Guyana through new eyes when I visit. I’m looking for the changes, for the improvements, I’m more appreciative of this country that I grew up in. And imagine I’ve only been away for two months! I can only imagine what the feeling must be like for Guyanese that visit Guyana after living abroad for years.
After his first visit in seven years, my father kissed the ground on deplaning.
We have a glorious country, full of rich heritage and wonder. So let’s remember that this November, and this Tourism Month, maybe we can do a bit of touring and visit parts of our country that we’ve never visited before.
November 3, 2013 By
“As truth be told, homecoming never gets old” – Hlovate
By Anu Dev
I hadn’t fully realised just how much I missed home until it dawned on me that the reason I was in a fantastically upbeat mood all of last week was because I was coming home for the weekend. For a while I worried that maybe I was getting used to the Trini food!
Diwali has always been one of the festivals that’s important to my family and me, so I’m thrilled that I’m getting to spend Diwali at home my first year away. For me, Diwali is inextricably linked with my childhood memories and good times. Peaceful times. This is the perfect break to give me some time to decompress from the rigours of med school life. And, of course, it’s just the best thing in the world to eat my mom’s cooking again. (Well, an uncle did drop off a “care package” of mom’s home cooking a few weeks ago – but that quickly became a distant memory!).
I visited the Leonora Market yesterday and I was pleased to see that Diwali preparations seemed to be in full-swing. I saw a lot of smiling old faces. There were vendors selling diyas literally a foot away from each other. I guess it doesn’t get more competitive than that! And of course there are enough fireworks being sold to light up the sky for possibly the rest of the year. But surprisingly I didn’t really hear too many Diwali bhajans being played.
But Diwali is definitely in the air. As my dad drove into the village from the airport Friday night, we had to take a different route, since the Dharmic Diwali West Coast Motorcade and programme was winding down in fine style at the end of Uitvlugt. I know I’ve been in a ‘Diwali-mood’ for the past week. “Diwali ayaa re”, anyone?
I’m looking forward to the whole experience of cooking Diwali sweets, lighting up the diyas and of course singing Diwali bhajans. I’m especially looking forward to the cooking (and the eating that follows, if you don’t mind!). And just soaking up my home vibes.
And by the happiest of serendipities, my birthday happened to fall yesterday – the day before Diwali. So it’s beyond incredible that I got to turn 18 at home. My family’s planning, my school’s schedule and the date for Diwali were all aligned! I’m finally an adult! But if the truth be told, I haven’t gotten any blindingly spectacular epiphanies about adulthood yet.
I’m just relieved that I’ve successfully ploughed through the first two months of living on my own.
But while I’m here I’m planning to enjoy and savour every second of my time at home.
It really does feel good to be home. “Home sweet home” is not just a cliché…it says it all.
October 27, 2013 By
Last week I wrote about the importance of writing the CAPE exams because not enough students write CAPE in Guyana. And it’s really not that surprising because CAPE isn’t as well publicised as CSEC is here. I know I’d never heard of CAPE until fifth form, I was still walking around talking about A-levels.
And in general, we don’t make such a big deal about CAPE results. We bring out the marching band, the confetti and the red carpet for our CSEC top students, but our CAPE top students are given a much more lukewarm hurrah.
Like this year, it felt like our CAPE results were announced as a by-product, or side issue to the CSEC results. But as someone who has done both, I can say that by the time you reach university, the things that you did at CSEC really don’t matter as much as what you battled through at CAPE.
We need to encourage more kids to stay in school and do CAPE and one of the ways we can motivate students is to offer them the chance of national scholarships at the CAPE level.
The Guyana scholar used to be awarded after A-levels, because they knew that sixth form exams were the ones that really mattered.
And our national scholarships should be focused on the STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) areas. Those are the areas that we need to have skilled professionals in to develop our country.
If there are more national scholarship options available at the CAPE level, maybe we won’t have students writing 70 subjects at CSEC in the hope of topping the Caribbean to get that scholarship.
I’ve written before about the importance of our streaming system and how important it is to stick to your stream instead of mixing and matching to make up 70 subjects in the hope of getting that Caribbean scholarship. We should be offering scholarships in specific fields of study so that kids would have some sort of motivation to be the best in their chosen area of study.
And of course, more national scholarships could hold the answer to our brain drain problem. In Trinidad, The Bahamas, Jamaica and Barbados, all of their scholarship students are expected to return to their country to serve for a particular number of years.
And I don’t think that that’s unfair. It makes sense; your country is paying for your education of course you have to give back something to your people.
It’s a win-win for both our country and our students. We could send our top students abroad to get the highest quality education and then have them return home to develop our country.
And hopefully we can get to a point where the development is so significant that our scholars will stay not just because they’re obligated to, but because they genuinely want to stay because of the great opportunities that they could have right at home.
Let’s bring back the Guyana Scholar and let’s offer more national scholarships to our students. We have so much potential in our young minds; let’s give them the opportunity to flourish.
October 20, 2013 By
It’s always disappointing when things aren’t allowed to reach their full potential. Like how we have all of those rivers in our interior flowing down precipices just looking pretty, when they could be used to generate hydroelectricity, providing our nation with a valuable renewable energy source. We spend our time squabbling about present cost instead of looking at opportunity cost.
But even more disappointing, is when our most valuable resource – our human resource – isn’t allowed to reach its full potential. In Guyana, over the years we’ve produced some of the brightest minds around. Remember our Guyana scholars? It’s been so long since they abolished that scholarship but yet persons like my dad still talk about the Guyana scholars with awe. Persons like Walter Rodney are still revered to this day – and he wasn’t even one of THE Guyana Scholars. And of course, if you’ve ever stepped into QC’s auditorium, you’d see the boards up with the names of all of the Guyana scholars.
Going to QC for the past seven years, suffering through enjoying the experience of our biweekly assemblies, I’ve become well acquainted with those boards and I used to wish that we still had the Guyana scholarships available, desultorily wondering if my name could be up there with the greats.
We need to bring back the Guyana Scholarship that was awarded to the best GCE A-level student which has now been supplanted by CAPE. And also offer more national scholarships to our students overall. President Ramotar made a good start last year but we need to award more to students who’ve battled through CAPE. Maybe not 412 like Trinidad dished out this year but we need significantly more than we have at present.
Going through the CAPE experience I can say that it was a quantum leap from CSEC. Going into Lower Six we were informed upfront that we’d be expected to cover 80 per cent of the work on our own, with our teachers there to cover the remaining 20 per cent. Compared to CAPE, we were practically spoon fed at CSEC. And the level of the work at CAPE compared with CSEC is so much in depth. I never thought I would reach a point in my life when CSEC would seem as simple as Common Entrance, but then I did CAPE and well, I found myself wishing I was still back in 5th form.
But in terms of preparing me for university, CAPE did a much better job of preparing me for university than CSEC ever could – I learnt a lot about how to use the resources around me to learn things on my own. So do I regret doing CAPE? Not in the least! In fact I would recommend that all students writing CSEC wishing to proceed on to university or any tertiary institution continue on to write CAPE.
To be continued…
October 13, 2013 By
“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.” – Albert Camus
I’ve been in school for the past 15 years of my life and having been in school for so long, I have a fair idea of what different types of teachers could be like. Some go about their jobs like they truly love what they’re doing, others seem to go through the day like teaching is an obligation.
But no matter what their teaching attitudes or stance, we learn a lot from our teachers. Teachers teach more than just science and math and all the other “subjects” – they teach ethics as well. In addition to the weekly one hour of “Pastoral Care”, they do this generally through the most powerful medium – not through words but by their actions.
Their behaviour impacts their students strongly. And of course, it’s always best to lead by example, so we’re most likely to do as our teachers do, rather than as they say.
Quite a bit of my personal values and sense of ethics is a product of the influence of my school teachers. Of course, the major chunk consists of values directly instilled into me by my parents, but on some level, we’ve all been influenced by our teachers.
My current value system is a melange of what I’ve been taught at home and whatever modifications my experiences have forced me to make – with me spending a third of my time every day in school.
And I realised how damaging it could’ve been if I had teachers whose values and ethics standards were not that solid. What if I had teachers that throw things and scream at their students, calling them names, belittling them? If a student didn’t have a strong personal value system or positive role models, they could easily accept that sort of behaviour as being okay, or acceptable. And they might carry over that type of behaviour into adulthood in their professions and personal lives.
Our teachers as a consequence have great power; they have the most interaction with us, especially during our young, impressionable years, when we’re still forming our opinions of the things around us and deciding how we want to fit into society.
More emphasis should probably be placed, when training teachers, about their role in moulding the values of their students.
Values like the importance of confidentiality and the importance of privacy could be emphasised by the teachers so that when the students leave the school system, they’ll be able to function like adults that are capable of respecting the persons they interact with.
Others like the importance of accountability, punctuality should all be established as being important from a young age. Teachers that violate these tenets in their classes do damage beyond the details of the “subject” not being covered.
Our teachers can hold great sway over how we might turn out at the end of our tenure at school; they could be the difference between whether we become successful professionals, or whether we go about our jobs in a very unprofessional manner.
We need a solid foundation in professionalism, and our teachers can give us that, hopefully by their actions and not just their words.
October 6, 2013 By
Yesterday, October 5th, was set aside as World Teachers’ Day. Teachers are the persons who pass on knowledge, mould us and prepare us for the future. A teacher’s job is never easy, and it doesn’t end when they step out of the school compound. There are exam scripts to be marked, assignments to be graded, lessons to be planned out. Like surgeons, teachers are always on-call because most of them give us their numbers or email addresses to contact them at anytime.
As a student, I can safely say that we’re not always the easiest group of people to deal with. We complain about course-work, we gripe about difficult exams, we blame the teachers for not covering the material with us well. We talk in class, pass notes, applaud each other for ‘standing up’ to the teachers, when sometimes all we’re really doing is mouthing off the teacher to look cool.
But we don’t do it because we’re malicious. We do it because we’re thoughtless. We don’t really consider how our actions in the classroom might impact our teachers. We don’t consider the teachers who actually care about what they’re doing – how’d you think they feel when we decide that their homework wasn’t as important as some other subject’s?
That’s what days like World Teachers’ Day are supposed to get us to consider. They’re supposed to make us start thinking and step out of our own personal little bubbles for just a little while and put on someone else’s shoes for once.
Because it’s not easy trying to get 30 students to all understand the same concept. Everyone learns at different paces – how do you strike that perfect pace? How do you get students to get enthusiastic about poultry and cattle when they have all of the entertainment of the Internet just a click away on their phones?
Students have to acknowledge Teacher’s Day and show their teachers that they appreciate the dedication of their teachers, in whatever big or small way that they can. I’m not a teacher, but I do know that for me personally, even a small compliment goes a very long way in making me feel better about myself and about what I’m doing.
At QC, we do things a bit differently – we have our teachers’ day in February. And the Prefect Body is usually in charge of getting the entire school involved in putting on a show in honour of our teachers. And in planning the show earlier this year, we had to do a lot of thinking about our teachers. And we all did a lot of self-reflection and most of us were struck by the enormity of the impact our teachers have had on us.
Teaching truly is a noble profession. If knowledge is power, and one of the most precious things in life, then teachers are the ones who get to spread that knowledge to millions of school- children every day.
September 28, 2013 By
We can try to be prepared for every eventuality. We can do our best to try to figure out what’s ahead, but the truth is we’re not in charge of our external
environment. We can certainly try to predict how the people around us will act or behave, but we can never be 100 per cent sure. We have to learn to improvise, or at least be open to the concept of having to make the best of what circumstances we’re in.
We have to try to be a bit more flexible, to be willing to accept things for being what they are, instead of how we want them to be. And once we don’t spend time panicking about things not being exactly as we wanted them to be, and instead think up a new plan of action, we might be surprised that the end result might be better than expected.
Unexpected things will always come up and maybe in our preparations, we should start preparing ourselves to have to think on the spot or make quick decisions, instead of just preparing for a single event. It’s not the end of the world if you’re missing some ingredients from whatever you planned on cooking, just alter the dish and create something new.
We could go into a classroom to teach a group of kids math, expecting them to be excited and enthusiastic about the subject already, when in reality, they’re all falling asleep at their desks, drooling as they’re anticipating dinner.
So what should that teacher do? Improvise! Try to MAKE the subject interesting, use videos, visual aids, and relate the subject matter to real life situations. One of the biggest complaints students in math classes are often times heard repeating is, “When will I ever use this in real life?” As a teacher, you should help them realise the possible ways in which they might actually use trigonometry outside of school. Some kids are more maths oriented, and naturally have a liking for math, but what about the others? You have to come up with ways to teach the subject so that they’ll actually want to learn it.
And every day we’re thrust into new and unexpected situations. We could show up at a meeting, expecting other people to take charge, but for whatever reason, they just can’t. We could be the ones who step up to the plate. We can adapt to the new role of leader and sometimes we’ll find that it’s a position we thrive in.
And of course there are the little improvisations we make every day.
Singing a song and can’t remember all of the lyrics? Most of us just make up new ones. Do the new lyrics always make perfect sense? No, but they allowed us to finish the song while keeping in tune.
We need to be more willing to accept circumstances for being what they are and adapting to do the best we can. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”
September 21, 2013 By