Monthly Archives: December 2007

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire

I went to visit my older sister this past weekend. I brought her a gift for getting her Master’s Degree in Education. The gift was a book called Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith.

I read the book before gifting it. (Is that wrong? I took great care not to break the binding!)

Anyway, this was a really great little book. I read it in one sitting. The book is written by a 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles named, Rafe Esquith. His students are typically immigrants or second generation. Most of them are from lower income families that don’t speak English as a first language. Despite all these obstacles, many of his students go on to attend Ivy League schools. If that’s not impressive enough, he gives them a love for the arts, and encourages them to be considerate to each other.

Rafe Esquith has been honored by both Oprah and the Dalai Lama. He is also the only school teacher ever to receive the president’s National Medal of the Arts.

This book is inspirational and motivational not just for teachers, but for parents, too.

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Filed under books, kids, opinion

Happiness

What is happiness?

A book I was reading (Geography of Bliss), made me really think about this. Here is a passage that made me stop, close the book, and sit in contemplation.

“[Philosopher, Robert Nozick], devised a thought experiment called the Experience Machine… Imagine that “superduper neuropsychologists” have figured out a way to stimulate a person’s brain in order to induce pleasurable experiences. It’s perfectly safe, no chance of a malfunction, and not harmful to your health. You would experience constant pleasure for the rest of your life. Would you do it? Would you plug into the Experience Machine?

If not, argued, Nozick, then you’ve just proved that there is more to life than pleasure. We want to achieve our happiness and not just experience it. Perhaps we even want to experience unhappiness, in order to truly appreciate happiness.” -copyright Eric Weiner/Geography of Bliss

So, would you plug into the Experience Machine? My immediate answer, before even finishing the paragraph in the book, was “No”. It was instinctual and I was puzzled by this answer until I finished the paragraph. Yes, he’s right. I want to feel unhappiness at times, and I want to achieve happiness on my own. I don’t want it artificially. Isn’t this, in part, the reason I stopped taking anti-depressants? Everyone told me to stay on my medication but I knew I couldn’t live like that. I felt numb and robotic. That wasn’t happiness because I knew deep down I hadn’t earned it.

And so, this gives perspective to the unhappy moments in life. It’s so easy to think, “If only I had this or that, I would be happy.” This or that can be many things. It could be money, a career, a college degree, a talent, a body type, a lover, children, a bigger home, a car, or even something as simple as a particular pair of shoes … but as we work towards acquiring these things in life, it’s funny how we never realize that whatever we had been striving for, once in our possession, is simply replaced by something else.

Part of happiness is simply enjoying the pursuit of that happiness. If everything you ever wanted was simply handed to you, how happy would your life really be?

“It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got.” ~ Sheryl Crow/Soak up the Sun

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Filed under About me, books, culture, depression, gratitude, positive thinking

How Big Is Your God?

I have just finished reading a book called, How Big Is Your God?: The Freedom to Experience the Divine by Paul Coutinho.

I have two words… Life. Changing.

A couple weeks ago, Carlos and I were sitting in the living room talking. The boys were asleep, the house was dark and silent. Somehow we got onto the topic of religion.

In the darkness I felt safe. I couldn’t see Carlos’ eyes on me and I blurted out in a loud whisper, “How do you know there really is a God?”

The words shocked me and I began to cry, because I knew that this was a question I silently ask myself every day. It was a secret I felt I couldn’t share with anyone. If I share it with unbelievers, then what kind of example am I? And if I share it with believers they may be judgmental, or if they’re weak in faith as I am, I may take them down with me.

Carlos asked me why it made me cry and I said something that I never wanted to acknowledge. I was crying out of fear. If I don’t believe in God, what does this mean for me? My Baptist upbringing had taught me about a vindictive, angry God who punishes sinners by sending them to a fiery hell for eternity. This was the God I could not understand, could not relate to, and felt, I couldn’t believe in. This was a God of wrath, a monster, really.

This book helped me to realize, among other things, that this is a very small God. We have limited God with this perspective. God is so much greater than that – So much greater.

If you seriously want to deepen your relationship with God and live a happier more fulfilling life, you must read this book. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. There are some parts of the book that speak directly about Christianity, but this is for anyone. I will warn you, this book is a challenge. It will make you think and it will open up new doors in your heart and mind that you didn’t even know existed. After reading it, I don’t think I’ll ever be quite the same.

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Filed under About me, books, change, opinion, positive thinking