Journeying with My Students Through the Travails of Writing

 

Free Writing Exercise: Free write as if you are leaving your home and taking a journey you’ve never dared to take before.  Source

I came across this site once while looking for fresh materials for my writing class. Although I had my own teacher-crafted lessons and exercises to give my students, I found the activities that Ms. Davis shared were very interesting. Thus, I decided to join one of my classes in doing some of her suggested exercises, so here goes:

August 2, 2013

Start: 11:07 AM

Here I am, one small overnight bag in my right hand and a backpack slung on my shoulders, standing at the threshold of my home. I can step forward onto the main gate, and out onto the street, or I can go back to the house while there is still time. I wonder what has led me into taking this journey into the unknown. I didn’t even bother telling anyone in my family, but I feel this is right for me at this point. I feel that at this moment in my life, I must go deeper into who I am and what I want from life. Unless I go away, and far from anyone close to me, I shall never be able to seek what I am seeking.

So with another small step, then another, I now find my way through the streets in my village. Time is running out as I feel my heart already aching to rush back to my family, so I must be brave and continue walking onto the terminal.

Finished: 11:14 AM; 176 words

 

My reflection on my freewriting exercise

In my experience, when I first started at 11:07, I was a little critical of my ideas, but I continued and after two minutes, I felt I was another person, no longer Marichu, so it was easier for me to go deep into my very short story. But after 7 minutes, I felt, I had to grope for ideas and words, so I stopped. Now, I will have to go back to it later in the next few days.

At the same time, while doing the exercise with my students, I could just imagine how it must be real challenging for them who came from non-English environments, and who were only beginning to appreciate writing in English.  Also, at the time,  perhaps because the topic was something I had not touched on previously, I realized my own difficulty — hence, I came to understand my students’ own struggles as well, more clearly.

The most important lesson for me here as a teacher is to be able to empathize more with students’ situation, their learning contexts and capabilities. This is indeed essential to avoid exerting undue pressure on them.

I have always found it to be truly effective when students observe me drafting examples on the board, and revising/editing along with them, yet I would just take this for granted. My own experience that morning, however, has given me a fresher perspective, and newer impetus.

The good news is my love for writing often spills over in the way I teach them to write. Hence, in no time at all, most of my students in writing come to enjoy crafting interesting, vivid compositions. Not only that, they declare that they have come to love the language itself. More so now, when they see me eager to learn more along with them!

 

 

 

 

A Message on the Great Fr. Reuter

As my first share with www.englishallyoucan.org, here’s a piece by Lotis Key regarding her experience as a young girl. Read on and find out what relationship she had with the late great Father James Reuter. — A. Ramirez

I Love You Father Reuter

I was twelve when my parents divorced.

My father was a tall, golden haired, blue eyed American, who’d served in the Pacific, and returned home flourishing a delicate souvenir from the Philippine Islands.

My tiny mother, observing this new world through almond shaped eyes, looked up to see tall, white America, bending down to examine her. They spoke slowly and loudly at her, remarking to each other, “Isn’t she cute?” My mother had her Masters, a PhD in English literature, was fluent in four languages, and did not like to be referred to as cute.

After two painful decades of having to buy her shoes in children’s stores, she broke the law, and with two half-white daughters in tow, escaped back to Manila.

I wasn’t yet a teenager when we stepped off the ocean liner. The intense heat, the constant swirl and hum of laughing, yelling people, was overwhelming. My mother moved quickly to hide us, and within a few weeks, my younger sister and I were installed in a Catholic girl’s school: St. Paul’s College of Manila.

It was unclear. We were barely religious, maybe only very slightly Catholic … at Christmas. Who was St. Paul? We were children, why were we going to a college? Ah, the confusion was only beginning.

Both of us came equipped with English, Spanish and casual French. The lingua franca was Tagalog, which we could not read, write, nor understand.

Both of us were much taller than the Asian girls our age. My sister was a blonde. I had a forest of curly hair. Like a nightmare in slow motion, we were buried alive, in a landslide of shimmering, pitch black tresses, that flowed from the heads of graceful, miniature nymphs. These girls didn’t guffaw their laughter, they giggled demurely. They didn’t argue a point; in disagreement they pursed their lips and lowered their eyes. They didn’t push or shove; they pouted and turned away slowly, lifting high, one perfectly curved eyebrow. We were wildflowers blown into a hothouse of exotic orchids. They wanted to talk about love. They looked us over and asked … did we have a brother? We had no brother. Ohhh, tooooo baaaaad.

We also didn’t have the right shoes. The right socks. The right book bags.
This was the 1960’s and we’d been raised by bohemians who’d encouraged us to speak our minds, ignore our appearance, and argue both sides of Fidel’s take-over of Cuba.
We were American peasants in bad need of a full spa make over.

To make matters worse, we had no father. Not only had my mother married a white man, she’d divorced him, and retuned home with two fatherless girls. This information produced a wave of deep shock that washed over everyone around us. Where is your father? Will he come to get you? Will you see him again? Does he have another woman?

My sister, being younger, took it more in stride and prospered, artfully winning friends with her honeyed locks and dimpled smile. I closed and toughened. My mother had managed to escape imprisonment on the wrong planet, and one day, I would do the same. I was an alien who would never, ever, paint her fingernails.

Then, one morning, studying alone on the stone steps of the school chapel, my life was changed. I looked up, to see a tall man in a white cassock crossing the quadrant, Sister Nieves, and Sister Joanna, hurrying to keep up with him. He was talking in the loud voice of the white male, not hushing his tones for propriety’s sake. He was striding along purposefully, not mincing his step to accommodate the women. The bright sun on his golden hair haloed him, making his approach akin to that of a bright comet. Was I dreaming? Was this a saint? Was I dead, but didn’t know it yet?

The angel marched straight towards the chapel, and hypnotized by my approaching destiny, I froze. Looking down at me, a homeless animal crouching on cold stone, he smiled and said brusquely, “You must be the fatherless girl”. His eyes were blue, blue, blue. This was the first white man I’d seen since having bolted America. In coloring and shape he looked startlingly like my father, whose memory was evaporating within me.

Sister Joanna said, “Her name is Lotis”.
Sister Nieves said, “Lotis, this is Father Reuter”.

I was paralyzed, like the kitten before the tiger. Father Reuter, put his large, white gold hand on my curly head and said, “Come, talk to me, I’ll hear your confession”. Confession? What was that? What should I confess? That I felt ugly and stupid? That I hated this place? That I hated myself? Ignorant of the concept of personal sin, unaware of what confession was supposed to consist of, these were the things I told him.

I talked to Father Reuter that day, and many, many more days, over the years to come. He heard my “confession” in person, every week or so, and the rest of the time, I talked to him in my heart, in my dreams, in my prayers. In reality he didn’t treat me any differently than any other little girl. I was no special pet or favorite. I don’t know if he even thought of me at all outside the confessional. I am unaware if I ever made any particular impression on him. No. It was him who made the impression on me.

Father Reuter, had been sent to the Philippines, by the Jesuits, just before WWII and was interned by the Japanese. At wars end, the Jesuits asked him to stay on for a bit, and he did … returning to the U.S. for a visit, only once, in the next 60 years. There was nothing of the effeminate about this priest. Nothing soft, flabby, or repelling. His love was not vague, distant, or carefully guarded. A gruffly practical, quick tempered, get to the point!, kind of priest, he could grab you by the back of the neck, give you a shake, stare you down, and demand immediate love and obedience in the same instant. He was a steely eyed, unflinching priest, who rarely whispered when he could shout, loved with an iron fist, and was simultaneously feared, and adored, by all who knew him.

In this day of gross immorality, I don’t know if anyone can understand, how, without the slightest hint of sexual impropriety, a little girl can love her priest, and find her salvation through him. But it is true. Father Reuter was more than a man, or a priest. He was a father.

Before I knew God in the personal way I now do, I knew Father Reuter in place of Him. Before I could accept God as my Father, Father Reuter was there to model that role for me. I was a lost child, who might have been lost forever, if not for this celibate male taking me for one of his children. He encouraged me to speak, and communicate, my thoughts. He pushed me to develop my voice. He made me understand that even if I didn’t fit in, I was valuable to him.

After high school I went on to a life filled with many elaborate diversions. I did foolish things, and was pushed by a curly haired, wild nature, to adventures that sorely tried all around me. I can remember times I would pause for an instant and think, “I should go to Father Reuter for advice”, but pride mixed with shame, would erase the impulse. In my heart nestled a deep fear he might no longer love me. Anyway, I was an adult now, capable of dealing with life.
I no longer needed a father of any kind.

I finally did go to see Father Reuter, but only recently, some 40 years since I’d last seen him at my graduation. I’m not taller than I was in high school, but bent over with age he was now shorter than me. His trembling hands and feet, were misshapen with arthritis. His golden hair was gone. He was wearing his cassock and seated in a wheelchair, yet when I entered, he struggled to rise, and kiss me.

I looked into his eyes and they were blue, blue, blue. I was twelve again, and struck dumb with love. I could barely talk, and in his fatherly way he understood, and did the talking for me. Nothing important really, just making enough sound to ease the tension and let the ghost years slip away. As time dissolved between us, the feeling of his strength, the powerful force of his love, the intensity and vigor of his fatherhood, coiled and wrapped itself around my heart, pulling me to my knees before God, in the very deepest of gratitude for this man.

Dear, dear man, I never said this to you, but I always wanted to:

I love you Father Reuter, and I always will.

 

Update: The above piece was a story shared by one of the people who supported me when I was starting this blog. In the beginning, this blog was open to anyone and to my students who wanted to share their thoughts and stories. But many of my friends and students lacked the time or the inclination to really write. I have kept their posts though in appreciation of their support for my blogging effort. A huge thanks and much love to you all! — Summer

My Saturday Epiphany

We are blessed differently — we Christians recognize this. Yet, this seems easier to think about in the abstract, for what makes it difficult though, at times, is not being truly grateful for whatever we have, — or being unable to accept the situation we find ourselves in.

Times when many ‘whys’ — borne of envy, fear, insecurity — assail our minds and erode our faith in God. Times when anger replaces the love that should fill our hearts, and we turn to put the blame on others, on things, and sometimes, on God Himself for the kind of life we have, never on ourselves.

It’s times like this when we need to pause, and reflect more deeply on how we can overcome such doubts. Where is the envy, or fear, or insecurity coming from? Are we  lacking in self-confidence; do our values lie in only the material? What is in the other that we value so much that we fail to appreciate our own? Do we use them as benchmarks for our lives? Don’t we recognize God’s intended goals for us?

Is God truly present in our lives, in ourselves? Perhaps, we  lean only on our own understanding without relying on His guidance. That is perhaps the reason we commit so many blunders. On the other hand, we should know that from the mistakes we make, we can learn our lessons.

God allows us to run the course of our lives through our free will –and when we fail, or stumble, He only wants us to stand up and try again and again. Like a child who is learning to walk by himself, he slips, stumbles, falters – with his mother or father silently watching so the child can get up by himself, and walk again. Like a baby bird who hesitates before he can fly on his own, we are just the same. Through our weaknesses we become strong. Through our mistakes, we become a little bit more perfect each day.

At the same time, too, God invites us to listen to Him, to let Him lead us, or let Him walk with us — yet many times we run away, or hide from Him. Then when we fail to reach our dreams, our goals in life, we start asking — why?

On the other hand, we may indeed be faithful, putting God at the center of our lives, and living the Gospel values. Yet, the more we seek Him, the more we feel God is nowhere — we experience what St John of the Cross calls “the dark night of the soul.” Hence, in our self-pity at times, with weakening trust, we cannot but feel unloved…

I for one have experienced many times being assailed by my fears and doubts, by my lack of faith. I sometimes feel so unworthy and so much unlike the great saints of the Church — that I cannot be like them, and so much away from God. I truly admire those whose faith is unwavering, whose faith even gets much stronger in the midst of suffering — physical or spiritual.

Yet, how good my God truly is — for on countless times in the darkest of nights, He makes His presence known to me. Like the glint of the early morning sun after a night of rain, God comes to freshen my soul.

took this photo in my father’s place one early morning after a long night of rain…

I love you, O God. Amen                                                                                                

Reading material

Note: This is a composition of my student which she contributed for this blog.

Learning at Asian Social Institutes (ASI), the students are mostly left to self study books and so do I. I read material alone in my room, but soon I am very sleepy. Thus, I looked for my friend for what we read handout together. I recognize that my friend who doesn’t know reading ways as well as how to read faster, so I shared with her about reading methods that I was learnt at East Asian Pastoral Institute for several months before coming to the ASI.

My teacher taught me skill of reading include three steps: First, Look over the entire article quickly, paying attention to the heading of the different sections and trying to get a general idea of the contents of each one. Second, read the article for the main ideas. Do not be distracted by words, sentences and phrases which I don’t understand. Don’t stop down every word and looking it in my dictionary because it will spend many my time. Instead, I can use context clue let guessing the meaning of words. Moreover, an important idea will be repeated in different words. Finally, I reread material two or three times quickly be better for understanding than once slow.

Besides, the teacher also taught me how to read faster with three ways: First of all, preview – if it’s long and hard. Indeed, previewing is especially useful for getting a general idea of heavy reading like long magazine or newspaper articles, business reports, and non-fiction books. Next, skim – if it’s short and simple. This means that skimming is good way to get a general idea of light reading like popular magazines or the sports and entertainment sections of the paper. Lastly, cluster- to increase speed and comprehension. Being mean, I look at groups of word instead of one at a time to increase my speed enormously. In other words, I read my material as fast as I can. Concentrate on seeing three or four words at once rather than one word at a time.

Rewrite reading’s methods, I share not only for my friend, but also for everyone who want to interest. Furthermore, I also want to thanks my teacher, whom is enthusiastic and patient taught us with all her heart, by practice reading English books every day. I hope that those who read this article also try practice well. It is also a way to thanks my teacher and please prays for my teacher has good health and condition to continue her teaching career.

The rain and rain and rain!!!

 

Today, the weather is not good. It has been raining for 3 hours on the morning. After that, it has stopped rain for an hour and then it’s starting to rain again, and until now it is still raining. Hence, looking at the window, I miss my hometown very much. I thought about my family, congregation and community where I used to live and serve. All of them love me very much although sometimes has something what I do is not good. Now I want to write many things about them, but I cannot because I am being rain of tears.
Lord, I offer my people what I love to you. Let’s keep them in your name as well as bless for them and be with them forever.

The Reason There is No Class

 

This is not my first time to go to a new class, but today I feel nervous with my new teacher and my new classmates. All day long, I was eagerly waiting for hours in my class, but today, there was no class because there was a storm that was attacking the Philippines.

I know in the Philippines there are many storms that happen in every year. This storm has just started. I have never lived in region which has storm, so I cannot have my deep empathy with people who are living in the storm. I have seen everyone hard after the storm and felt compassionate toward them. This compassion is described to through my specific actions: if the storm is near the place where I live, I try to help them overcome the bad effects of the storm; conversely, if it is far, I will share some of my matter to them. At this time, I am studying in the Philippines, am a new student, I don’t have time as well as any matter to share with Filipino. Consequently, I only pray to ask my God to blow the storm return offshore to the Sea. Or, if He doesn’t want to do that, He can lessen the devastation of the storm.

Maybe everyone wonders why I am nervous with my new class. I feel worried about it because my English is not good. My English listening and speaking skills aren’t clear as well as writing isn’t sure. Thus, I am afraid my teacher and my classmates ask me some question that I don’t understand and be able to answer.

I wish the Filipino and me could overcome the natural storms as well as the hurricane of language. Being so, we feel peaceful and confident in our life and in learning as well.

My new friend

There is a girl who lives in Ho Chi Minh City at Vietnam to invite me making friend with her through my face book. After talking together for a short time, she asked an appointment with me today because she wants to share her great ambition to me.

Her wish wants to make charity that helps the poor patients and helps the orphans, but she cannot make it alone. Thus, she needs many people who have aspiration as her. For the poor patients, she wants to establish charity cook rice for them every week. The finance is earned from distribution of goods of everyone who attend her group. For example, Mr. Tom, a member of the group takes a commodity from main company cost 500 Pesos after that he sell cost 800 Pesos. That interest sent to the group for charity. For the orphans, the group visits the children and has enjoyable activities with them. In addition to group’s activities spirit, the group also shares some confectioneries and toys for them on weekend. Furthermore, the group also cut hair for them in every last month.

After hearing from her, I also share with her a little of my experience about charity. I have set up a group of voluntary students. We collect waste plastic material in the residents’ houses to sell and the money is used to cook rice soup for the poor patients in two hospitals of Binh Thuan Province every Sunday. In summer, we launch the campaign “collecting school manuals to help poor friends.” These activities are disseminated largely in the Diocese.

Rewriting this legitimate aspiration, I ask to you who are reader pray for her best wish is performed in her hometown. May God bless for this good work.

Ash Medal!! by Cezz

 

With each rotation of the earth, you understood it? You, do you know where the world toward which we live? Do you know the stop-over of the route?
Are you in journey or you are left behind?

Long years have passed by since the history of man or before the beginning of man. Thenceforth began to travel the world. But how is traveling the world in which we live?
Do you agree that the route was in rough-road?

Every day we are bombarded by sad news reminds that human society is declining in the quagmire of confusing problems, the quicksand of endless trouble – and this despite
the wonderful advancement of technology and science!

True, people have made to rotate the world even though the moon. People able to walk on moon, but he does not walk on his own planet streets without fear. Can a person put
his home of all its fittings and furniture; but he was not able to fill it with love and stop the destruction of families. Mankind was able to do the dissemination of information through TV, radio, and phone but he did not teach people to live together peacefully holding the values and unity.

With education, mankind is equipped of knowledge and wisdom but it can never be able to inculcate in the minds and hearts of people the self control and not be taught as
communicative human beings. Mankind has amazingly joined the two ends of the earth and splices the separate continents and in the marvelous way people have had constructed the laboratory’s space. But despite the things he did not build a community quiet and at ease in his own planet.

Man has known the temper and circumstances of the weather but would not it be able to prevent or hinder the arrival of any neither disaster nor calamities. There are satellites roaming in the galaxy but despite this they still not able to explain the intricate universe and the things contained herein.

Nowadays, we have progressive medicine and will continue to progress; but why was not possible to treat the human disease and the emergence of various types of illness, nor the age and especially not the death that brings pain and grief to mankind.

We have reached the peak in the sciences and technology and still headings for great advancement but despite this, the number of poor is rapidly grown, there are still large numbers of hungry and do not prevent malnutrition in all the inhabited earth.

Different types of government tried but remain the division, rebellion and terrorism. It does not stop the war of the country to country, kingdom to kingdom, religion to religion, race to race or ethnic fighting and government versus rebellious group.

Mainly the sudden and rapid deterioration of human morality. There is the chronic abuse of drugs, alcohol and cigarette addiction, addiction to bad habits and obsession with money. An uncontrolled epidemic in the prevalence of common landscape prostitution and only increase the number of unintentional and unexpected pregnancy of young, wherefore the abortion was common solution to this situation. Fornication, adultery and even third sex is a stylish in-that-in the human society.

Where is the victory cry of humanity? Not the success that it is a great irony?

Thus, it’s true that man cannot direct his own steps perfectly or righteously!!

Now, can you halt the earth’s journey?  Can you tell me where it moving towards?

 

 

My Favorite Activity

 

I wrote this as an example of a stand-alone descriptive paragraph which I often use in my classes (EFL Intermediate level). Students do benefit a lot from others’ examples: student-written compositions; especially, they appreciate teachers’ own writings, and articles by professional writers.

 

As far as I can remember, there is one special activity that I have always enjoyed doing, and that is stringing words together in a poem. I started writing poems when I was only thirteen years old, but even before that, the rhymes and rhythms of children songs and verses I was learning in school had already fascinated my young mind. The personal poems my parents wrote to each other, which I would chance upon, also delighted me so much that I would recite them to myself, in secret. Reading them aloud would make my heart leap with joy at their melodious sound, especially after I discovered in first year high school, that the beautiful sound they produced was brought about by the way different words were woven together. At that time, too, I remember, I was fond of reading love stories. Hence my very first verses were all inspired by romantic thoughts, even though I had never had any boyfriend. I also remember using the simplest words I could think of and just coining them together to form a very short but rhythmic verse. Here runs one of my earliest verses: “Love me truly…This I ask of you…Be sweet and sincere…Like I have been to you… Say you love me…Oh say you do…I love you dear… So love me too.” Seeing my thoughts on paper then, and listening to the way these words convey my feelings, thrilled me endlessly. Because they were like music to my youthful ears, my poems comforted me whenever I felt bored. Then too, I gradually discovered that for every fleeting thought or emotion I experienced, there would always be a phrase or two that would dramatically paint whatever I was going through. To illustrate, here is a part of the poem I wrote when I was already eighteen years old: “Suddenly, the whole world seemed to crush down on me; an all-confusing pain swept over me as my last straw of hope…Was taken away from me…While my whole being and soul ached for him…He, whom I desire so much, stood there desiring another! How I’ve winced at that gleam in his eyes as he looked at her…How I’ve recoiled at the hurt, at the stabbing pain in my heart it had brought me…How bruised and battered I felt…Oh, how I wished I’ve never seen him again!!!” Whenever I wrote, a great rush of blood would race through my veins, sending me to fantasy land. Pen in hand then, my mind would take me as far as my imagination would let me, and the result of all these are the several collections of my own poetry I have kept all through these years. Even to this day, my spirit won’t rest until I have composed a verse or two that mirror my feelings, thoughts and observations. Writing poetry has always offered me a never-ending excitement and a deep sense of fulfillment for having created something beautiful that records my life’s fondest moments. This is, therefore, the most significant meaning of my favorite activity – that of defining myself as a creative artist who is able to partake of her God-given talents and share in His creative powers.

 

A REFLECTIVE EXPERIENCE

On Thursday last week, I went to Cubao where I had a most stirring experience that led me to a deep reflection. It was close to noon when I had to take a bus from Commonwealth, Quezon City to go to Cubao. In the bus, I asked the bus driver, “Please sir, when we arrive at Aurora Bridge, let me know.” Then the driver replied, a little impatiently, “Sister, can you speak to me in Tagalog? I don’t understand English!” Feeling sorry for myself, I kept silent and during my trip, I was so nervous that I did not even notice I had already passed the Aurora Bridge where I should have gone down. After almost fifteen minutes, looking outside through the bus window, I couldn’t recognize any place, any street. Suddenly, I shouted, “Para! Para! Para! Please.”

It was at Ortigas Station, along EDSA, where I got down, frightened and confused because that station was not familiar to me. EDSA was almost empty at that time, and rarely a person appeared on that highway. There were many buses passing along, but no one stopped because there wasn’t any bus stop! So I decided to walk back to Cubao, not only very angry and tired, but also hungry and thirsty.

While I was walking, many street people came into my view; some were sleeping under the tree, others were selling merchandise, while a few were begging for money. At that moment, the words, “Find the Lord in all things” struck me. I then thought “The Lord is in each of these people. Thus, instead of walking angrily, I must pray for them.” I reflected, “I have a house, food to eat, a family, a community, my sisters, and all other things I need – whereas these beggars don’t have anything at all.” Immediately, I prayed from the bottom of my heart, “My Lord, forgive me; I have been ungrateful to you.”

Soon after, my spirit renewed, I walked the rest of the way with a spring in my steps, more able to bear the heat of the scorching midafternoon sun. Finally, I arrived at Cubao, spent but relieved and thankful!