Saturday, July 7, 2018

Being Wrong and Learning From It

I think it can be useful to remember that we may spend our whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find in the end that our ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. And no one wants to be wrong.
However, being open to examining our own life's map sometimes takes courage, especially when our former conclusions don't hold up against new information.
For example, I often see my own students struggle to recast new images of other cultural groups from a distance, but when students from different countries begin to interact together on a closer level, they begin to deeply examine their former beliefs about one another. Apprehension and fear are replaced by kindness and understanding, and a deeper gratitude for others flourishes.
There can be concern for those who close their eyes and still cling to the top of the wrong ladder, so secure in absolutes. However, the richest relationships that I cherish have had been with those who are doing the best they can, and when I have found myself climbing up the wrong ladder, they are patient enough to redirect me. Sometimes, we need to shed intellectual hubris and certainly to find our way.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Improving Your Listening Skills

"When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen." -- Stephen Covey
At times as human beings, we are unfortunately more involved in business of correcting others than we are in deeply peering into their world of struggle and discomfort, seeing their perspectives, and validating their experiences. I think we tend to do this because we are often so sure that our worldview mirrors reality, and the worldview of others is somehow lacking.
One of my favorite books in called the Invisible Gorrilla by Simons and Chabris, two distinguished research and cognitive psychologists who explored who whole field of inattentional blindness and how we often don't see the world the way it really is.
So how does this related to my own field of language learning and intercultural studies?
The more my students explore, and at times, embrace new perspectives about fellow students from different countries, the more they can see that there is not just one "correct" way of doing things. They then demonstrate a greater capacity to shower generosity, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness in so many new ways. Simply said, this new understanding expands their vision of others and has a rippling effect across cultural boundaries.
In the end, everyone is enriched because of this new learning.

Security Systems

Sometimes, you hear stories in the news about totally laughable bank robberies where things don't go as planned. This conversation just might be one of them. I had a great time planning and recording this conversation for my site: Enjoy:

Mail service

When I ask students how many of them have sent a letter by regular mail recently, I often get blank stares. It seems that almost no one does that these days when services like email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are so prevelant.
That said, regular mail service has survived in different ways. In this video, I talk about the mail service in my area:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Uncertainty and the Joys of Life

One of the most invigerating and exciting parts of my day is when I enter a classroom with students from around the world.

Part of this excitement comes from knowng that I can open up my mind and embrace new perspectives and worldviews that had been previously unknown to me: ways of thinking, ways of relating to the world, ways of saying hello, ways to connecting with other human beings that I didn't know existed. Rubbing shoulders with international shoulders exposes me to new mental frameworks and knowledge to grow.

It also opens up new windows where I can begin to see that the worldviews I previously held could be wrong.

As human beings, we tend to value certainty, especially in the way we think and believe because it seems to provide security from the unknown. It's comfortable.

In the past, I felt secure in embracing certaintiy in cases, for example, when I traveled overseas and lectured on different teaching methodologies or perspectives on understanding other cultures. No one wants to be wrong, so clinging to what we know appears to be the safest way to proceed forward. And who wants to be inadequate in front of an audience where you are expected to be the expert on things?

Unfortunately, certainty can fall short in providing a framework from which to tackle and understand new things, and in some cases, certainty doesn't provide us with the mental tools to accept our wrongness and move forward and seek new ways of understanding the world.

Over time, I have learned that I by showing some humility and shedding some pride, my knowledge of the world just keeps opening up. I enjoy some uncertainty because it forces me to embrace the mysteries around me. I really am enjoying the ride.

Car Repairs

Our daughter called us the other day to let us know that she was having car trouble. Something was leaking. Hmmm. When your main job is teaching English and when you barely know how to change a tire, diagnosing car problems is like flying to the moon: beyond your skill. Fortunately, we were able to get the car to a mechanic. When you have such problems, I hope to find a good mechanic, but NOT like this one

Amazing Pets

When you think of lovable and intelligent pets, what animals come to mind? Well, watch this video. It might just change your mind about some things: