Daily Prompt: The Zone

While sitting in my cubicle with limited challenging tasks to occupy my mind and keep me busy I often put on my headphones and ease into my private zone in my cubicle. This allows me to drown out the senseless chatter happening in the world surrounding my space. I enter a zone where I can escape the continuous sound of broken English as colleagues and students discuss homework, attendance or quiz scores.

Alone in my zone, without office distractions and rare interruptions, I plan my summer vacation, apply for jobs, read blogs, make comments of the latest news on the CBC, listen to music, surf the Internet for entertainment and think about life outside my cubicle.  Some days I take a stab at the daily prompt at the Daily Post. Writing this makes me realize how lucky I am to have a job where I can relax in my own little zone and do whatever I want and be paid to do this. Most days move by quickly and my zone time comes to an end and I mark another day off the calendar before leaving my cubicle.

Daily Prompt: Placebo Effect

Once again I find myself sitting in my tiny cubicle without any classes or tasks at hand.  Of course many people would love to sit in a cubicle all day and get paid to do nothing. An occasional day of laziness and idleness from time to time is a nice break from a busy work schedule, but extended periods of idleness can have adverse physical and psychological effects on a person. Life without work and goals makes one lazy. Today I am suffering from a slight bout of “idleness”. I simply have nothing to do – I am tired of surfing the web, reading books, watching YouTube videos, strolling around campus, and listening to colleagues complain about trivial matters. So, I will take a stab at today’s daily prompt. Placebo effect: If you could create a painless, inexpensive cure for a single ailment, what would you cure and why?

I know very little about medicine, but I think a placebo effect is not an actual cure for any known disease. Instead it fools the mind into believing that an empty pill provides positive effects as a result of a person’s perception that it is a beneficial treatment. Thus, a placebo effect cannot be considered a cure for any serious ailment.

Now, getting back to my cubicle situation, I fear that continued isolation and idleness may deteriorate my mental health. Actually, this is not true. I am just writing for the sake of making my post a bit longer.

On a more serious note,  there are so many diseases in the world that are in need of a painless and inexpensive cure. It is difficult to pick just one to cure.  Yet, if I was given some mysterious power to create a cure for one ailment I would remove cancer from the planet. This terrible disease strikes people of all ages across the world. It knocks people down in their prime, often arrives without warning, weakens the old and wreaks havoc on the lives of so many people. No placebo effect can conquer cancer, but I pray that modern medicine will find a cure for this horrible disease in the near future.

Daily Prompt: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Another uneventful day  in my cubicle and I could easily nod off for a short nap and no one would even notice. However, I am not tired enough to fall asleep. So, here’s my take on today’s daily prompt from the Daily Post.

My cat loves to sleep on the sofa with a comforter as his pillow.

My cat loves to sleep on the sofa with a comforter as his pillow.

Many people complain about not being able to sleep or not getting enough sleep because of work schedules, family obligations, household chores, and the list could go on.  If anything, I may get too much sleep. The general recommended amount of sleep for an adult to maintain a healthy mind and body is between 7.5 and 9 hours.

Living in Oman, with few entertainment options, stifling heat for six months of the year, I often find myself hitting the sack early because I have nothing to do in the evening. I am usually fast asleep by 9 o’clock and I don’t lift my head from my pillow until 5 or 6 the next morning – a full 8 or 9 hours.

I wake up relaxed, well-rested and energetic after a good sleep. I start my day with a morning run, yoga or some stretching, followed by a healthy breakfast and tea. Then I try to stay busy the rest of the day so that my mind and body are tired enough, so that I can easily fall asleep as soon as I go to bed. I believe an active body and mind helps to ensure a solid sleep without any distractions.

As for dreams, I never remember the details, which probably indicates that they are not exciting or dramatic enough to disturb my sleep.

If you are having trouble dozing off after a long day here are some tips:

1) Close the curtains and turn off the lights. Light tells the brain that it is not time to sleep yet, so a dark room makes it easier to sleep.

2) Follow a routine by going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time the following morning. This helps condition your sleep and wake patterns, so you fall asleep faster and get adequate sleep.

3) Avoid caffeine drinks such as tea, coffee or soda in the late afternoon if you want to sleep well.

4) Become more active during the day. If your body is physically or mentally tired then it is easier to fall asleep quicker and rest better.

5) Don’t eat or do exercises before going to bed. Your body needs time to digest food and calm down or relax after exercise.

Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught

Here is my take on yesterday’s daily prompt from the Daily Post.

What makes a teacher great? Almost everyone you ask will have a different answer for this question. It is difficult to pin point the exact characteristics that make a  teacher great. If people could agree on this then there would be more great teachers. Teaching is a demanding profession that requires dedication, hard work, passion and a commitment to students. Many people can become good teachers but it is much more difficult to move into the category of a great teacher. However, there are five characteristics that are found in good teachers.

Communication – It is essential to communicate your ideas clearly and explain the tasks so that students understand. This requires thinking about what you want your students to do and the means to do it. And it also requires that you listen to your students and understand the difference between what they say and what they mean. If you can relate your vision to your students then everyone will be working towards the same goal.

Patience – It is necessary to deal with misfortune, difficulty, and annoyances without complaining, losing one’s temper or showing irritation. Good teachers are understanding and patient with their students. No matter how many mistakes students make or how many times they need to explain the same thing they do it with enthusiasm. The great thing about teaching in Oman is I get to practice this every single day.

Empathy – Good teachers recognize the value, importance and ability of each student. To have empathy you have to understand your students and their perspective. All students learn differently and in order to completely empathize with them you need to put yourself in their seats. I teach EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in Oman. English grammar and spelling rules that seem simple and straightforward to me offer many challenges for Arab speakers. They thrive in an oral culture; they love to chat, but many students struggle with the written language. In fact, many of them dislike writing. So, when I select writing topics for my class I ask myself one question. Can I do this in German? This has helped me to select more appropriate topics for my students because if I can’t do it in a second language then I shouldn’t expect them to do it.

Positive Attitude – Good teachers maintain a positive attitude even on tough days. Teachers have to be flexible and ready for schedule changes, discipline issues, challenging material, unmotivated students, demanding supervisors or complaining colleagues. There are days when everything goes wrong and teachers who can perform on these days are the ones who can make a positive impact on learners.

Teach by doing – It is not enough to explain new ideas or concepts. Good teachers demonstrate by bringing examples into the classroom. They draw pictures or diagrams and find other creative ways to share knowledge and facilitate learning. They encourage their students to take risks, accept mistakes and push them to overcome setbacks.

Lastly, I would like to be a good teacher and I constantly strive to improve and learn from my colleagues, supervisors and most importantly from my students. However, in all honesty, teaching is a job and not a passion for me. Thus, I will never be a great teacher.

The Bench

Daily Post Writing 101: Day 2 Challenge

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

This morning as I left my flat and stepped outside into the stifling temperature of a late spring morning in Oman I felt the beads of sweat slowly dripping from my forehead, down my checks onto the ground. I did not complain, knowing that upon my arrival at work, I would step inside a building, and receive a blast of freezing cold air.

Fifteen minutes later, I found myself slowly strolling to my office as my body adjusts to the drastic change in temperature. I turned on my computer, scanned my email and discovered I have another day in my cubicle with an air conditioner directly above my space, blasting arctic air, for seven hours and no work-related tasks to do. I went for a tea to warm my body and checked this blog and it was then that I was transported to a bench in my back yard.

I am suddenly surrounded by a hundred different shades of green. The trees and shrubs are awake after a long cold winter. The trees speak in gentle voices as a soft breeze ruffles the new leaves. The sun sends warm rays down to the nature around me and dries the moist, morning dew that lingers on the bushes below. The gentle smell of damp earth fills the air and the songbirds sing pleasant melodies. The robins  prepare nests for the little ones while the cardinals, blue jays, moose birds and sparrows play amongst the branches of trees. The squirrels make funny noises and sprint up and down beautiful maple trees that stretch to the sky. My mind and my senses embrace the cool refreshing spring conditions of renewal and growth as the wind splashes my face with clean, unpolluted air giving me energy and hope for the day ahead.

Although I have had the opportunity to travel and work in many different and exotic places I have yet to encounter a place as wonderful as the bench in my back yard.  I am counting down the days until I can sit on the bench in my back yard again.

Daily Prompt: Pride and Joy

What’ your most prized possession? 

Like most people I have too many possessions. When I look around my home I see tons of items that clutter the shelves, bookcases, and walls. Why do I keep all of these things? Many have emotional attachments and fond memories such as photos, passports, childhood toys or the antique sideboard that belonged to my grandmother that is now part of my home. Others are just material things that have little or no meaning but yet I hang on to them. I find it difficult to throw out things, believing that everything will have a use, at some point in the future.

With so many possessions it is difficult to pick one that is my most prized possession – the one that means the most to me. For the moment, it seems impossible. However, amongst my material things, I have an expensive “piece of paper” – my university degree which I consider as one of my most valuable possessions.

Although I have no emotional attachment to this “piece of paper” it cost me a lot of time and money. After I showed it to my parents I put it in a small fire-proof box on the dresser in my bedroom and it has stayed there in the same place for over twenty-five years. I have a scanned copy and a notarized copy of this paper that I have used on a few occasions to secure work visas for different countries. So, I guess this expensive “piece of paper” was a good investment because without it I would not be able to  post “reflections from my cubicle” in Oman.

Daily Prompt: Sixteen Tons

How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between? The Daily Post

Having a job is much better than not having a job. However, does this mean that I like my job? Working in a foreign country with a completely different set of values and customs ensures a day filled with adventure or misadventure, familiar or unfamiliar problems and challenges.

My job as an ESL teacher has its ups and downs. Most days students are cooperative and eager to learn. They arrive on time for class; carry out their tasks with enthusiasm and without complaining. I enjoy the interaction with students and I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end on the day.

Other days, for no obvious reason, the students are unmotivated, unruly and undisciplined. They stagger into class late, fiddle with their phones, chat in Arabic and disrupt the lesson. Classroom management is essential to survival on these days. I have to work hard to get the students to focus on their work. This requires energy and patience on my part and by the end of the day I feel tired and exhausted.

Working with many ESL teachers from diverse backgrounds is a learning experience second to none. (There are sixteen different nationalities in the English department.) Many of my colleagues have traveled the world, worked in other places and are skilled story-tellers. Every day provides an opportunity to learn something new.

Reading internal emails can be confusing, entertaining and challenging to comprehend. Just have a look at some examples from the last couple of days.

“This semester, I have noticed a most recent practice by a number of teachers in the center. Teachers waste first 10 minutes of their class time waiting for late comers to join classes. They keep hanging by classrooms’ doors hunting their students. Unfortunately, those teachers are sending false signals to students. Time waits for nobody. ”

“The mail sent 5 minutes before is incomplete. Discard that mail and follow the information given in this mail. Please do the needful.”

“The usual weekly sending of student list to your email will stop for the meantime as we will try a new way for you to access it. ”

“More so, since I was yearning to share my views and very eager to enhance more my communication skills, I decided to volunteer on the third topic. It went well and I made the crowd awed with my presentation and instilled something valuable in life. This is the remarkable feature of the Toastmaster’s Session – making the participants learned, inspired and motivated; that, at the end of the day they will say “this is my most valuable and most memorable experience.” In fact, you will not know what positive impact you can make once you had inculcated something valuable to people.”

Overall, my job is easy. There is very little stress in the workplace. I have academic freedom to do what want in the classroom. I can supplement my lessons with my own material or follow the text-book. My superiors are kind and helpful. However, the  best thing about my job is the two-month break in the summer.

In many ways I have a perfect job but it is not my dream job. I would rather have a job in my own country. I spent fourteen months at home applying for jobs but to no avail. The job market is tight in Canada. There are not enough jobs to go around. Yet, more and more temporary foreign workers arrive in the country as more and more Canadians are forced to seek employment overseas. This is the reality and until I get a job at home I am extremely grateful to have my current job.