Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dream Planning

     A few days ago I mentioned the steps one must take in order to be a good teacher, I mentioned them without giving any explanation or details about them. The steps are: 

1. Planning
2. Listening
3. Communicating
4. Actualizing
5. Opening

So in this post I will try to expand on the first step: Planning.

     It would sound redundant to say that one must plan if one is to achieve anything, but looking closely it is clear that there are many questions related to the planning process and the actions needed for an efficient plan. Not only the things we are supposed to do have to be included but the timing on which they occur and this is the most difficult aspect to plan. Timing. 

     In the book Breakthrough, 

Roger Seip tell us how it is important to have time for ourselves, time that has to be taken out of the business of our lives so we can focus on what is really important and not what appears to be urgent distracting us from achieving our dreams. Seip recommends at least 15 minutes every day to meditate on our goals, a weekly encounter with ourselves, and a quarterly day when we should spend the whole day thinking about what happened in the las three months and what we would like to happen in the next three months. 
Summarizing, we need time for ourselves:
a. Daily (15 - 30 minutes)
b. Weekly (1 - 2 hours)
c. Quarterly (1 day)

     In preparation for our teaching for each lesson plan we must have time open for discussion and time to ponder about the concepts in class, as we review those ideas that have been just introduced we have to remember those that have been introduced and used before. Repetition is time consuming and has to be part of the teaching plan. Therefore the teacher has to make the students aware that as there is a teaching time there is a learning time. For the learning process there must be a plan too, this plan of course should include repetition as part of the learning time.

    On a future blog I will continue talking about Listening but for now it is clear that listening need some space too, some space-time. How can we create this space-time? 

Friday, May 16, 2014

One Never Stop Dreaming

Even though I haven't written about my dreams, I have been dreaming. Dreaming about what is coming next, immediately and on the long run. At 66 I am confronted with situations that make me wonder about the long run. A few days ago we went to visit our daughter so we could spend "Mother's Day" with her. On Sunday we went to a nursery near Everett where my daughter lives called "Flower World" it is a very nice place! It is huge and have lots of plants for sale, one in particular we were happy to find: A fig tree. A black fig tree. My wife goes crazy for black figs, see loves them and when ever we can find them at the grocery store we buy plenty of them. I think she can eat a pound by herself in a single time. Well I am exaggerating here because I think she will take it slow so her figs will last longer. But I think she can eat a full pound in one day.

Anyways, as we were buying the fig tree I was wondering how long would it take to start having fruit? Would I get to eat some of it? Started thinking about all the fruit that I eat now from trees my grandfather planted more than 50 years ago, like the plum tree that just died last year and that I replacing it with a new tree. Did my grandfather dreamed about these trees?

These last day at work we have been celebrating colleagues that are retiring. One has been at WPC for 35 years, other for 25 and so on. I have been there for 14 so it is not long that I myself will have to retire. So what are my dreams until I retire? and what are my dreams for when I retire? and afterwards? One underlying issue of course is good health, physical and mental good health. So my first task is to keep healthy and improve my health with a good diet and exercise. Mental health as physical health depends on exercise, so for my mental health I have to keep learning. Keep using my brain and my intellect so it keeps working in good shape. One thing I am doing is learning something new all the time, from learning how to improve the things I normally do, like using Moodle for my classes, learning more about things I like, or learning something new, like new languages in computer programming.

I have no idea if these new things like planting a new tree will be part of my future. Or if I will be part of their future. But I feel that dreaming is about dreaming and not about the dreams. As someone said: Happiness is the road and not the finish line.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Thank You For Letting Us Dream

Thank you for letting us dream. Is how Andrew Hunt and David Thomas end their acknowledgements in their book The Pragmatic Programmer.
 I have enjoyed reading this book so much even though I am not a programmer, but the underlying framework in this book is not specific to programming but related to the general philosophy of life. How do we prioritize, organize, and accomplish writing great computing code is in a way a metaphor for how do we live our lives.
It was a nice surprise when I read the end of their acknowledgment as I am writing about dreams!

As I have been aware, mindful of how, when, and what I am dreaming I have been dreaming a lot too, but it has been a bit difficult for me to keep up with my writing. Hope that as my regular semester classes are winding down and the summer break is coming in, I will have more time to reflect and write.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Forgotten Dreams

There is some volatility in dreaming as ideas come and go. Yesterday I had very nice day, again the weather was gorgeous, but my classes went well. One particular I'm very happy to report is the fact that a student whom I had supervised in writing a paper about paradox a human condition won the award of best HUM 410 paper for this year. When I summited her name for the award I was aware of the quality of the paper but I knew that there were other very good papers presented so I didn't have high expectations about winning.

I mention this because as I was going about the chores of the day I was dreaming, and thinking about my dreams. One thing I was thinking is: I should write this as I may forget later on, and I did. I did forget!
So now that I am trying to remember what in heaven I was dreaming about, I thought about writing about forgetting your dreams. How often it is that we do things in a way that are not connected to our dreams. We normally do things that are "urgent", things that somehow are imposed on us and we must do. But these things are not really "important" if we consider them in the light of the dreams we have.

Why do we do this? Is it because we have forgotten our dreams?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Going Back (Just a Little)

Last night I didn't have time to write, so this morning I will be taking a few minutes to reflect on what happened yesterday related to my dreams of tomorrow. Yesterday was a busy day full of interesting encounters with colleagues and students. One student in particular that has been a joy to see him grow and mature gave me the opportunity of having lunch together. It was a true pleasure chatting with him and getting to know him a bit more, a confirmation of my dreams of a great future.
When I dream about the future I think I put a lot of responsibility (and pressure) on my students. My motto is: "I teach so I touch the future". Teaching is a way to change things now so they will become the future. The heaviness of this statement then relies in the fact that teaching is important in the molding of those who will determine the kind of future we'll have.

So what are the skills, and most important, the philosophy of a good teacher? what are the tools that a good coach that will transport the students from where they are to where they will be, must have?

Without getting in detail I can answer with a short list that I will analyze later on.
1. Planning
2. Listening
3. Communicating
4. Actualizing
5. Opening

Is there another one that I am missing?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Moving Forward

As I write about my dreams I am continuously reminded of bad dreams. I'm not talking about nightmares where one dreams about monsters, death, violence and other extremely unpleasant situations that as is explained in Wikipedia will cause strong emotional/mental response. No I am talking about those in which one finds oneself in a situation that is unpleasant but not extreme, in a situation that one may feel stuck or awkward like when I dream that I am still working where I used to work. For sure that can't be defined as nightmare as I used to like my place of work and still have friends there that I remember with warm feelings.

Why is that I have this dream that is recurrent? What unfinished business I have that makes me go back there in my dreams? Is it related to some kind of failure? Is there something that I would like to fix from my past?

Now, trying to fix something in the past is, I say by definition, a lack of forgiveness. In this case it might symbolize judgement by me on my performance then. Did I reach to my full potential? On the surface it looks like I did very well, as I reached a high level in the academic and structural environment of that time. As a scientist I was named "National Researcher" and received the stipends corresponding to that title. Participating in professional associations I was named "President" of the Mexican Geophysical Union which is a national organization; and other things as well.
So where is the motivation to revisit those times? It looks like deep inside me there was a limitation, a sense of emptiness, and a lack of accomplishment. As I think about it now, and looking back into the past I am discovering that superficial accomplishments are not what we really desire or that really gives us satisfaction.
It is about time that I pause and take time to assess what is that in the deepest corners of my heart gives me satisfaction. It is about time that I find what is the marrow that nurtures my life and my existence.

Questions that come to mind are based on what is my idea of purpose. This moment, this day, this time as the connection between past and future is what it is, so I have to think about what I am doing as this is the only time I have. And ... these questions are what make me dream!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Nightmares are not dreams

It is usual that one's dreams (when asleep) are a reflection of what is going on in our minds and hearts. Many times our dreams are relief valves for our anxiety and will subjectively have a meaning related to our subconscious world. Of course the interpretation of these dreams has been a source for millennia of speculation and more recently of hundreds of books. But I want to focus on the dreams we have when we are awake. Even though I could share some interesting dreams I have when I am asleep, like when I dream of flying, or the nightmare of seeing myself working where I used to work and having the feeling of being stuck; but that will have to wait for a future blog.
Going back to day dreaming, to think about having aspirations. I have to differentiate between aspirations that are possible, accessible, and desirable to those that even though they may be highly desirable they are -at least for the time being- out of reach.

Focusing on things that are possible and that I would like to see I happening during my lifetime I would have to rely on things that I have been doing lately. One thing that I have been doing is teaching. Currently I teach at a small college; a Christ-centered, liberal arts, urban college serving a diverse community. Like many liberal-arts college, our college is facing many challenges. Some of these challenges are related to the role of higher education in our society, the value of education as is evaluated based on the applicability of the degree to society. In some cases the applicability is related to the dollar amount that the graduate receives as yearly salary.

Thinking about my teaching I dream about an environment that is trusting and supportive. An environment that supports creativity at all levels and protects all academic activities of professorship. I dream of a society that has education as a high priority, a society that thinks of education as a great investment, that knows that the only way to have a healthy-democratic society is by having an educated citizenry. The society in my dream will reflect these values in the way in which we spend our tax dollars.

Is this dream truly possible? Is this dream possible by the action of one individual? What kind of steps do I have to take in order to make this dream a reality?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I dream of ...

... finding trust.

Yesterday I wrote about dreaming of having grandkids. The argument is that through my grandkids I would find legacy. Besides the fact that I would love to take my grandchildren for a ride on my motorcycle, grandkids for me are a continuation. The legacy of making a better world and contributing to society in a way that we would live in peace. I remembered Lenon and Garcia Marquez but forgot to mention others that have been strong guides not only like wind vanes showing me the direction of life at the time but coaching me in deep matters of the soul. One hero is Mahatma Gandhi who taught me the value of self confidence and to certain extent the meaning of basic humanity, where we all are connected and in the pursue of the same dreams. So here we go again, what do we mean by "same dreams"? Do we (humans) pursue the same dreams?

This is what I am finding out. It looks like no! If we define "dreams" in specific terms then: no, we don't have the same dreams. Even the fact that we all have dreams defined as expectations may be questioned. If one defines "having dreams" as aspirations I would be able to first enumerate which aspirations I have and then to explain why these aspirations are so important to me that I would call them dreams.

Trust is critical in one's life, we have to trust the people that surround us as well as the system on which our lives are sustained, but this is almost impossible as trust break-up by one will induce a mistrust of everything and everybody. There is a saying in Spanish that goes like this: "El que se quema con atole hasta al jokoque le sopla" (Who burns himself drinking hot milk, will blow to yogurt) Sorry for translation but as with jokes translating sayings is almost impossible due to the cultural nature of the phrase.

Here again I am bonding the present with the future as trust is needed now and becomes a dream for living tomorrow. The question then becomes how can I built it? how can I nurture and grow trust? trust on me, and for me?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dreams Are About The Present

This time is about connecting one's dreams with the present. But first I have to ask what is a dream? Why do we dream? Are there different kinds of dreams? Are there dreams when you are awake? What is the purpose of night dreaming when you are asleep?

Ok, to many questions for the time being! Maybe more will come up later so I will start today with not answering these questions but writing about a dream. It is not one that I have had during my sleep it is one that I have developed as I think about my future.

I dream about having grandchildren.
When I was growing up and thinking (should say dreaming) about the future, I would see myself as an adventurous scientist someone like my hero of the time Jacques Ives Cousteau. Never imagining that I would marry and have children. Until it happened. In 1971 I got married to Maria Eugenia a wonderful girl from my home town; and after a few years we had our first child Jorge. Jorge came after a few years of marriage not because we didn't want to have kids it just happened that Jorge took his own time to arrive. Almost fourteen years later Bernice our second child was born. This was in 1989, so it's been quite a while and I feel is time for more kids in our family, that is why I dream of grandkids. I dream of having grandkids thinking about the joy of helping in the rising of young minds with a bright future, descendants that will serve and work to enhance the conditions of the planet, as we need more and better educated citizens to participate in this great human project. The education of citizens of the world that will continue our legacy and the legacy of other great thinkers. I am thinking of two of my contemporary heroes John Lennon and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (GGM). In one of his last songs "Imagine" John Lennon said: "You might think I am a dreamer...But I am not the only one...I hope some day you will join us... And the World will be as one". In this strophe Lennon sums up what I dream, one world where we all get along, and that is what I want my children and grandchildren to dream too!

Before I finish let me say a few words about why dreaming is connected to the present with the understanding that I will expand these ideas in coming posts. In the book "The Power of Now" Eckhart Tolle writes about how the present is what we have, the past is gone and the future will never be, as the brazilians say: Brazil is the country of the future and will always be!

Finally a quote from Gabo (GGM) that is self explanatory about why I dream. "You don't stop dreaming when you get old; you get old when you stop dreaming."