My Father’s Shoes

Nowadays, my father’s feet are often clad in loafers or sandals, whenever he goes out with us on family trips, near or far. At 89, he finds much ease of striding in footwear that affords his toes, heels, and soles comfort and breathing space. Back in the days of his youth, at his prime, he always wore leathers. Leather shoes for office and church, and leather slippers at home. He had his soft driving shoes though.

I couldn’t imagine how he moved about in those heavy footwear. But my father, with his 5’7”  straight back frame, cut a military figure, even never having been in the military, and walked with dignified gaits.

One thing I realize, my father’s shoes today have gotten smaller in size. Unlike in the past when his leather-clad feet were the first anyone noticed.

Still, my father’s shoes — then and now — are his and only his to fill.

On a deeper level though, try hard as they might – no one will ever be able to fill my father’s shoes.

He is – as most people say – holy, kind, and gentle. Once, already in his 80’s, he met a priest while on a visit to my sister at the convent. After a brief conversation with my Dad, that priest remarked, “You’re more priest-like than I am.”

As ever, Dad carries a quiet, dignified, genteel air about him. This affords him a stature almost akin to nobility. He draws instant respect from anyone who meets him, friends and strangers alike. Like bowing to him in deference or giving way to him without his asking. But the reason for this is my father’s prayer life, shaping the person that he is. You’ll get a sense of his authority and his humility.

Steeped in prayer since childhood, he led our family in our daily  Rosary and prayers. Until today, with my mother gone on, he continues to observe his daily prayer times throughout the day. Our home is like a convent, indeed. Having dedicated our home to the Sacred Heart, my parents have done their best to make our family a real domestic church. And that is what Dad is bequeathing to us his children and grandchildren. His and Mom’s legacy of faith.

Like silent waters that run deep, my father is a man of few words, yet bright and knowledgeable. A voracious reader, he sparked in each of us the love of reading and transformed his brood into a bunch of book geeks. He filled our home with books, volumes of encyclopedias and dictionaries, and most of all, the Bible. My mother would often say with pride my father had an IQ of a near Genius. Indeed, based on IQ tests he took at different points in his early life.

So as a young student back then, I looked up to my father for his sharp memory, keen mind, and vast knowledge, from religion to history to science and Math, and his great facility with English. Once, an American in one of the firms he worked for asked him about his perfect English – better than some native speakers. You see my father worked from age 14 with American navy personnel to pack some of their inventory.

Oh, he was his children and grandchildren’s Music mentor — our first voice teacher and and musical director – being gifted with a rich baritone voice. He taught/encouraged us to play musical instruments, most of which he could play well. I did learn to play the piano for a short time in early grade school, and my youngest son learned to play the banduria and violin (Dad’s forte) from him, too..

Yes, he was also a Math wizard. And our Math savior for our homework and projects. No wonder! He graduated as Salutatorian from High School (like his eldest grandson – my son who took after him), went on to UP, then Mapua University, for his Engineering studies.

A dedicated employee, he excelled in his career in Personnel Management (now known as Human Resources or People Management), rising from the ranks (as a working student) to being top executive in all the firms he worked for. He also served as a consultant at one big corporation, midway in his career.

With a large growing brood, he managed to juggle work and family life and church. Selfless. Loving.  Whenever my mother got pregnant, my father did the laundry and cooked our meals. He’d also take us with him for hospital visits to my mom and our new sibling.

Of course, my father was not without shortcomings. Slow to anger, he’d also run out of patience with us kids (seldom though) –  so with eyes glaring, he’d order us to a corner or upstairs to our room. Or tapped our butts with his leather slippers. Ouch!

On the road when driving (when he was still much able to), bad drivers and traffic tested his patience, irking him- but never to the point where he’d yell or rage. You’d better be sure though to keep your seat belt fastened. Sometimes, he can be obstinate to a fault too. That’s his human side.

Being my father’s daughter, I’ve got that little bit of him. And being not as holy as he is, I would cause ugly battles between us. Battle of wills. Yet, my father being who he is, would only forgive me. Once, during such confrontation, my father decided to go to the nearby Adoration chapel to cool off, rest, and pray.

 

A faithful husband

devoted family man

good provider

loving, patient father

thoughtful sibling

loyal son

now a doting grandfather/great-grandfather –

that’s who my father is,

And more…

I could list a litany of praises and accolades

but words will never be enough

to depict this wise, saintly, God-fearing man

that is my father.

And no one can ever fill my father’s shoes.

 

 

10 Ways to Keep EFL Students Engaged

Teaching EFL students is fun and fulfilling, but can also bring plenty of challenges. One common challenge is keeping your English learners motivated and engaged. EFL students, young and old alike tend to lose interest or focus as lessons progress in difficulty, for instance. This becomes a hurdle especially for new teachers with zero or limited teaching experience.

I remember my own experience as a newbie teacher, when I’d easily be intimidated by the different personalities I met in class – be it one-to-one or small group classes. But as I eased myself into teaching day by day, I discovered strategies that helped keep my students on their toes, focused, and interested with our lessons.

Here I share 10 ways by which you can engage your EFL students, no matter what their age and language level.

* Recognize the learning styles of your students. Experts say people have their preferred learning style or technique. Some learn better by reading or looking at pictures, not just hearing or doing. Some do well by hearing and listening. EFL students with this style learn new words better by hearing the sound of the words and repeating them. They understand quickly when they read aloud.

Some students learn better by doing. Hands-on activities, such as acting out a role, or drawing an image to represent a word, work best for them.

In my case, I’m more of a visual learner than tactile. I’m also auditory because I like listening to lectures or podcasts, with some background music to help me relax.

When you know your students’ particular learning style, you can adjust your teaching approach, lesson presentations, class activities, and homework to help them get the most out of your class.

See also this for more on learning styles.

* Do a student survey on the first day of class to gather data on this. You can download survey forms for this and other data about your students, or make your own questionnaire. The Perceptual Learning Style Questionnaire is one example. Another resource is the free online learning styles inventory test.

* Present lessons in varied forms. Use PowerPoint or any visual aids. Students today are digital.

* Avoid giving class lectures. Because you’re teaching language, your lessons can be activity-based, depending on the makeup of your students, size of class, and length of class time.

* Make your presentation short, concise then follow it up with activities. 15 – 20 minutes is a good length for one aspect of your lesson for the day. This is what I’ve also picked up from the conferences and workshops for teachers I attended. More than that can be boring or draining for students, especially the young whose attention span is short.

* Speak while writing on the board, and don’t show your back to them. Otherwise, they will do other things beside taking down notes or listening to you.

* Assign individual or group reports, or assign a lesson they will have to present to the class. It’s a great way to facilitate active, engaged learning because they get to use the language and you can ask their classmates to evaluate their presentation.

Now some teachers may or may not agree with me. But as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s better to increase student talk time vs. teacher talk time.  Especially for your beginner or low intermediate EFL students, let them have ample time to practice new vocabulary, and grammar points of the target language lesson for the day.

Let your students speak more than you do so they can increase their oral skills and become more familiar with the lesson. This is a sure way to keep them engaged in their language learning.

* Use rubrics, to assess their performance. Give the rubrics as guide for them, too. Rubrics are useful as well for class participation (individual or group), homework, and quizzes to help you track, measure their progress, and write your student progress reports. Search online for appropriate rubrics.

* Be ready with extra activities. Play by ear too whether you can complete the lesson in one meeting – because more important are your reinforcement activities or follow-up tasks, such as drills and substitution exercises, or whatever you have to check on how much they’ve learned for the day.

* Document what goes on in the classroom. This is useful for doing Classroom Research, at the same time inform you on how best to proceed with your teaching.

Teaching English as a foreign language can be daunting, but with these pointers above, your students will love learning English with you. And through time, as you develop your own teaching style and learn what work best with them, you can discover your own ways to help keep their interest and engagement level at an all-time high.

 

 

Our Garden of Life

Leonard Nimoy tweeted, “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

Sometimes when I see a beautiful flower in full bloom, I am tempted to pick and put it in a vase to enjoy it. Yet flowers stay longer right where they are until their petals close, wilt and fade. Sometimes in the best of moments, we forget to capture it in a photograph — yet perfect moments we experience are sometimes better left untouched, spared by the camera, and kept private.

Can we ever capture enough of the joy or pain, or the happiness or sadness of a moment? Many times, they remain just as beautiful or poignant, or hurtful pressed in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds, much like pressed or dried flowers…

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Image Source
Image Source

This indeed is our garden of life. The journey we take, with all our experiences, good or bad, is the garden plot in which we sow seeds of growth in a variety of ways —

These are the flowers we cultivate as we nurture the garden of our lives into full bloom – developing ourselves, cultivating our potentials until we reach our full flourishing. So as we dig deeper into the soil, the foundation of our spiritual selves, we also weed out what can hinder our personal growth.

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Image Source

Each of our experiences, the people we have and encounter, are unique on their own, and provide for us an enriching life – despite the mud, thorns and prickly bushes —

 

These are mistakes we make, the hurts we cause or are caused by others, the toxic people we sometimes meet — all these provide us invaluable lessons and insights so we become stronger, better persons.

Our failings do not necessarily mar the beauty and dignity of our persons, just as thorns do not mar the beauty of a rose…

And life still remains beautiful!

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Note: I first published this post in 2015, and this is my revised edition (2018): new title, new photos and with minor edits.

Best Loved Photos of Our Family Pets

Tomtom, eagerly ready for his photoshoot…

Outdoor cats ~~ these gentle-looking felines are not mine, but my sister’s. Yet I’ve become a familiar face. And they seem to know by now my fondness for taking photos of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So they gamely pose, no longer afraid, whenever I start taking out my phone. Yes, I only use my smartphone for many of my shots, like these cat photos here.

Using my phone cam’s manual settings — ISO 100, and tweaking the exposure compensation + or – here and there, I concentrated on how to frame and catch them in their most natural mood or pose. I think somehow, I’ve managed to get to their individual personality.

“Who me?”
Batman ~~ he used to belong to the neighbor until he found a way to my sister’s home and heart…

  “Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

– Sigmund Freud