Virtual Coffee

When I took this photo, I was already in a state where I was thinking, “Let’s take Virtual Coffee outside today, for I need space to think.” But the day just progressed in it’s méchant way, and now I’m looking around for the bottle of wine. So if we all had our collective cups of coffee (or glasses of wine) in hand, I’d start with something a little upbeat.

I was hoping to find a Thai translation of Harry Potter to use with the kids at SOLD and went to a bookstore that looked promising from the outside. Thus far, in Thailand I’ve only found bookshops that are little more than corner stands or maybe the size of a small shop in a strip mall. It always made me feel a little alien, as I hid away at home with my Kindle downloads. Anyway, so I walked into this one and was slightly dismayed, though not totally surprised, to see it was small and had not much of a selection. But I knew Thai translations of HP exist, so out of desperation, I asked the girl behind the counter where I might find it. She instructed me to go upstairs. Pleased as I was to discover they even had a second story, I was overcome when I got to the top of the stairs and saw a store the likes of any of our largest Borders Stores or Barnes & Nobles stretching out before me, and full of people looking for books to read! In an instant I was home. I combed every inch of that beast, just soaking it all in. Simple pleasures, folks. Simple pleasures.

If we were really chatting over coffee or wine right now, I’d try to hold back, but I’d probably not be able to help myself talking about the death of bin Laden. And the truth is, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I feel a sort of grim satisfaction, I suppose, as it seems to mark the end of a chapter in our collective history. But I cannot quite rejoice in death, even in the death of such an ignoble villain as he. And one thing that worries me is the focus the news has placed on the celebrations everywhere. The world, friend and foe alike, sees this. What they probably don’t see are the thousands of smaller, quieter voices I’m seeing everywhere saying: This is not happiness I feel.

The part that I really wonder about though, beyond the politics, beyond religion or ethnicity, is I wonder what our younger generations will take away from this entire episode. I’m about 10 years ahead of the generation who came of age in a post-9-11 world. Their lives, more than mine, have been shaped by a world in which war is a near constant background, and politics ever more than before has been characterized by folly. Will this have as powerful an effect on this generation as the Vietnam War and Watergate did when those events eroded public faith in government and set in disillusionment on the national scale? If so, what will those kids take away from it? Or have they (or even we) become so numb that even something as big as this will roll of our backs in a few weeks’ time?

I can’t help but wonder.

Meanwhile, when I turn my gaze closer to the ground, to the immediate, I find myself again contemplating consequences for the future of children. When I taught at the university level in the States, and here again now, teaching disadvantaged children in Thailand, I find myself bumping up against the same thing: people held hostage by fears, too afraid of children to stand up and guide them. Too afraid to make them upset. Too afraid to make them do hard work. Too afraid to challenge them. Too afraid of not being fun. But then I read this post and was reminded of all the reasons I feel it is right to push the children, to be the disciplinarian, and to hold them to a higher standard, even when everyone else around me is saying “don’t expect too much from them.”

The thing that I found when I taught at university though? The more I pushed the students, the higher my expectations, and the less slack I allowed for laziness, the better the students responded. It’s like they craved the discipline. Sure, I got the stink eye from them a time or two. But when I got my evaluations back? It was nothing but gratitude. They found the harder they worked, the higher their rewards.

I refuse to believe it’s any different here. At least, not until I see any strong evidence otherwise. And hell yes, I’ll take a few stink-eyes if my students walk away from my class feeling they actually got something out of it, more than entertainment.

</end soapbox>

Have you read Amy Chua’s book? If so, what do you think?

Anyway, this month will be hectic for me. I’ve written 60+ pages of my novel so far (not counting any of the character descriptions, vignettes, scene layouts or synopses, of course) and I’m getting to the point where I’m fully absorbed by it and any attention directed elsewhere makes me itchy. But I’ll be going to Chiang Rai every weekend this month to teach and to help with Parents’ Weekend. School is starting up again at the temple, and I’ve gotten back into yoga, AND I have to fly down to Bangkok for several days to take care of some business (yay, another visit with Mr. Pig…). My days shall be quick full, and I’m already sorely behind on my 365 photo project.


Still, busy doing what you love? Not so bad.

And I’m very excited because I’ve just finished (well, almost) putting together a textbook for the kids at SOLD. I’m gearing my writing workshops to each focus on one element of putting together an illustrated storybook, from start to finish, so that by the end, the kids will have practice in creating, planning, and executing a whole project by themselves. The exercises will walk them through it, but we’ll also have some other reading & writing exercises to help build their vocabulary in English and central Thai, build skills in critical thinking & analysis (especially understanding cause & effect and understanding how we learn things through observation and attention to detail), and improve writing skills. I can’t wait to see how it all goes! And when the kids are done, I hope to somehow put their final projects on display somewhere. So excited!

Ok, I KNOW I’ve rattled on long enough. I can’t wait to hear how your week is going! Hope you’re staying away from crazy tornadoes…See y’all around the Virtual Cafe!

Join in the fun at Amy’s!



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7 thoughts on “Virtual Coffee

  1. Love this post girl…as a teacher and mother I understand that setting high expectations is essential for learning and character development….glad you found a bit of home in the bookstore!!!


  2. I agree, education is about discipline and challenging ourselves. The teachers I remember the most fondly are the one's that expected me to do well, and I did… because I had to. Being tough on your students will probably make them want to do better to please you, and when they do do better it will do wonders for their self esteems. (I realize I wrote "do" a thousand times, but couldn't think of a better way of putting it!)

  3. I'm probably the last one who should comment on Amy Chua and tiger mothers because 1) I haven't read the book and 2) I don't have kids…but of course I will anyway – this is the internet where everyone is allowed to voice their opinions, after all! :-) Besides, I just read an article yesterday (NY Times, I think) on this very subject, so…

    What's the compromise between tiger mothers and parents/teachers who want to be friends to kids? That seems to be what we should shoot for. Discipline and a firm approach are absolutely required. I'm reminded of a woman I knew who thought saying no to her kids was harmful to their egos. Really?! She ended up raising spoiled brats with senses of entitlement larger than you could imagine. But shouldn't kids also get the chance to just be kids? The article I read was about one family with a high school aged son who had his day mapped out for him from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week. Something like 30+ hours of that was extra tutoring and studying outside of regular school hours. That just seems crazy to me. What about art and music and sports and unstructured leisure time? I just feel that there has to be some middle ground. Parents and teachers can and should have high expectations for kids, but childhood only happens once.

  4. Funny you should say that about teachers. I still to this day remember my hard as nails fourth grade teacher. She rode us hard and made us challenge ourselves, but man I learned ALOT. I still remember her name Mrs. Fry. Wow!

  5. It's been a long few weeks round my parts, and I just have to tell you how wonderful it is to be back in this space of yours. I love, love, love your VCs because they are real, and you always speak about what's on the heart. I have the same exact sentiments as you about the whole OBL. I have a feeling we would talk for quite awhile about this because I have more to say than what can be written, as I'm sure you do, too.

    I'm excited for the progress you've made on the novel! That's awesome. :)

    At any rate, thanks for coffee. :) Bed is calling my name.

  6. I love this picture! I love the small, soft petals of the flowers against the round, rough rocks in the concrete, and the warm, brown (probably sweet) liquid floating in between. I am a lover of contrasts! Maybe I am putting too much into a seemingly innocent picture, or am I?

    I am not sure this is just a question of discipline in the classroom, or how hard is too hard when trying to reach a child's mind and heart. Jade you already know how I feel about doing something when no one else sees the possibilty. I think there is a more basic philosophy at work here. How can anyone tell you what you see with your hearts' eye, your gut feeling, your instict? Discipline and structure are meant to be a push from the heart, not a slam of the rod. Isn't that where we lose are way?

    I happen to think enthusiasm is severly underrated, so maybe that will explain all the exclaimation points to follow. I am overjoyed to hear you've been writing!! I can hardly wait to read your books that I will buy in the bookstore! You are a wonderful writer and can't wait until the rest of the world finds out what I already know about you through your writing. Keep writing!!