Saturday, April 30, 2011

learner.org

The Scholastic Instructor Winter 2011 issue lists http://learner.org/ as number 21 in the list of "25 Best Websites for Teachers". Personally, I'd put it up there at number 1! I've just spent an hour-and-a-half at the site, and the topics, interactives, and full courses just blew me away! If I only had $196 on demand, I would register for a course credited in Columbia University.

The most fun I had was at the Physics Interactive Lab http://learner.org/courses/physics/interactive/lab_interactives/subatomic.html, reminding me that Physics was indeed my favorite of the Sciences! Videos and other professional development resources are just a click away!
http://www.learner.org/workshops/workshop_list.html
Here's hoping that teachers out there will get a "click" out of learner.org.


Resources for facilitators (anyone can facilitate!):
http://www.learner.org/workshops/site_leader.html

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DON'T FLUNK THE HEALTH AND SAFETY TEST!

                                                                        Fire Drill 2009

When the school year opens in June, one of the more hidden concerns would be, WHAT VIRUS WOULD WE BE FIGHTING THIS YEAR? WHO'S GOING TO TEAR HIS ACL IN THE VARSITY GAMES? We cringe in remembering SARS, AH1N1 in previous school years, not to mention the ubiquitous Dengue threat that keeps us all in high socks and reeking of Off lotion. Likewise, we shudder to think of the mishaps and little accidents that happen in even the safest parts of school, to even the most behaved children, or during cheering competitions and basketball games where landing on the wrong foot or getting an elbow to the nose are ever present threats. While children breathe and run, anything may happen, and schools can only install proper safety checks and procedures to make sure that health risks and injuries are avoided, or at the very least, minimized.


As the sayings go: "Better safe than sorry" and "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure", schools must really have a solid  health and safety plan in place. This plan must be familiar to ALL, not just a few. Parents and students alike must be kept abreast of health and security policies. Everyone must understand that a little inconvenience--queuing for temperature checks, bag searches, etc.--goes a long way in ensuring that everyone within the four-plus walls of the school are safe and well. 


Besides plans that we hope won't go bump in the night, a series of informational talks, fora, and workshops must form part of every school's health education curriculum. WE DON'T NEED A TEXTBOOK FOR THIS! I suggest that the school health personnel (doctors, nurses, dentists), building officials, and school administrators collaborate with the academic team in drafting a year-long program that addresses new or recurring issues on health, nutrition, wellness, epidemics, substance abuse, disease prevention, healthy lifestyle, safety, security, disaster management and preparedness. Independent sessions for teachers, administrators and parents should be incorporated into the curriculum. Community resources (fire department, local health office, private sector experts, etc.) must be tapped.  Most importantly, the whole school system must work in synergy to achieve the general goal of well-being and safety for all. 


There is no final exam for this. It is when a school is tested by fate and the elements, and it emerges unscathed, that we can truly say that we passed the test.

Useful resources:

Department of Health calendar:
http://www.doh.gov.ph/doh_annual_calendar

Philippine Red Cross webpage on Disaster Management:
http://www.redcross.org.ph/dms

Lesson plans galore (sign up needed):
http://www.educationworld.com/a_tsl/archives/pe.shtml
http://www.teach-nology.com/teachers/lesson_plans/health/nutrition/
http://physicaleducationresources.com/default.aspx
http://www.lessonplanet.com/search?keywords=sports+marketing+education&media=lesson
http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/educators/lessons-main.asp

Brain Health!
http://www.brainready.com/blog/thetop5brainhealthfoods.html

Health and Medicine web powerhouse:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/

Milk stuff:
http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/pdf/parents/12-tips.pdf

Saturday, April 23, 2011

UP GOES "FORT"!

Reposting this from:
http://carillon.up.edu.ph/?p=2598
UP going Global with satellite campus
The University of the Philippines will soon build a satellite campus at the Fort Bonifacio Global City, thus joining the growing family of business corporations and institutions at the former military camp.
Dean Santiago, vice president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority said the UP Professional Schools in BGC will cater to law students and those pursuing graduate studies in business administration and engineering.
“It will also have a school for statistics,” Santiago said.
The UP expansion project will rise on a 4,300-square meter lot within the institutional area located at the northeast side of the Global City which is accessible from the C-5 Road, Santiago pointed out.
The UP satellite campus will be the newest addition to the schools housed in BGC’s institutional area that include the International School Manila, British School Manila, Manila Japanese School, Manila Gospel-New Life Christian Academy, and Every Nation Leadership Institute (formerly Victory Leadership).
Santiago described the site as “very ideal and conducive” for studying because it is very accessible for students residing in Makati and other areas in southern and western Metro Manila, as well as adjacent towns and cities in the suburbs.
“They (students) would be spared of the perennial traffic jams on EDSA on the way to Diliman,” Santiago said.
The establishment of the UP presence in Global City is part of the ten-point agenda which the UP Board of Regents approved at the start of UP President Emerlinda Roman’s term. Since then, the UP Administration has been looking around for a location for the offering of courses that would cater to the students who work/live in the Makati and Taguig areas.

Friday, April 22, 2011

NEVER FEAR. K-12 IS HERE?



Two years ago it was Understanding by Design (UbD). Pricey seminars later, the furor has died down, and schools and teachers have stopped asking questions (well, they still have to design "Essential Questions" for Stage 1) and have accepted the fact that UbD will creep up the high school ladder (it's now on second year high school's door) until it reaches the 4th year. Or is it the 6th year?


Now, everyone is poised for K-12 (not K+12. Bro Armin Luistro wishes to correct the plus sign).Based on the Discussion Paper on the Enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program (http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/K12new.pdfof the Department of Education, universal Kinder will commence this school year 2011-2012. The K-6-4-2 model (see figure above) adds an International Baccalaureate-type framework intended to prepare graduates for tertiary level and workplace challenges.




Unlike most government-led proposals, this one I cannot diss at the moment. The intentions are noble, and the timing is perfect. It also assures us of consultations and collaborations with stakeholders, so for us in the private schools, this is a positive sign. The discussion paper preempts critics' claims by promising to do major pencil-pushing particularly on budget constraints and teacher-and-classroom-shortages. However, the October 2010 paper may be too late in mustering the education sector's forces, unless something is being done as I write this blog.


Certainly, I am all for two additional years in high school. Get those kids ripe and ready before releasing them to the west wind. From my modestly vast experience of dealing with high school graduation batches, I am loathe to say that only a handful coming down the stage with diplomas clenched in their fists are actually mature enough for the world's marketplace. When graduates step out into the sunshine, they're barely 16, or pushing 17. Developmentally, they are still wired to text all day, survey their friends' fb pages, go on an emo-trip, and other similar, seemingly mindless, often infuriating-to-us-old-timers pursuits. Guidance counselors in high schools know this and will understand. But will the Department Chair of Theology have the patience of a saint? Methinks not.


The key is in the curriculum. Two years is a lot to waste if the curriculum is a copycat of the first four. This is where I demand for collaboration with industry experts and practitioners in the Senior years (Year 11 and 12). Utang na loob, huwag na mag-insist na dapat LET-passers lang ang magtuturo sa levels na ito. Let engineers teach Physics, and Siliman University writers teach fiction writing. Textbook publishers had better step up too. Just browsing the recent crop of high school textbooks makes me shudder. No wonder the kids would rather play DOTA and search Google than stare at those boring, outdated textbooks.


The other key is in corruption-proofing the entire education system in the Philippines. Let the budgets flow where they should. Enough said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

UP KONG MAHAL, WHAT HAST THOU DONE?

Blogger's Note: 
I am compelled to repost this blog entry of mine (originally posted in 2008) as a reminder of my simple, but profound experience as a UP student from 1987-1991. I worked like a dog to get that diploma, and to this day, I am a proud alumna, proud of surviving the flame tests, ego-bashing, endless papers, and library hounding. I am compelled to repost this because to confer an honorary Doctor of Laws on a president barely one year in office, with nothing to show for tangible, measurable reforms, IS AN INSULT TO ME AS A UP GRADUATE. UP Admin, ano ba yan?!


An excerpt from PNoy's speech during UP's 100th Commencement Exercises:


Tandaan na po sana natin, na tulad naming mga nasa gobyerno, nandito kayo dahil sa taumbayan—para sa taumbayan. Utang ng loob ninyo sa Pilipino ang karangalang mag-aral at magtapos sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Balang araw, haharap kayo sa napakaraming bulong at tukso. Sa araw na iyon, sana maalala ninyo ang hamon ng isang nakatatandang Atenistang nasa harapan ninyo. [Laughter] Patuloy po sana ninyong dalhin nang taas-noo ang pangalan ng inyong pamantasan: ang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.


Taas-noo? No. no. no, not after that debacle of an honorary degree.




Funny how the UP Centennial makes me think not of the beehive that was Palma Hall, nor the cold white floor of the Faculty Center where my friend Ria and I used to sit, waiting for an audience with one of our professors. All my happy sappy memories are of Kalayaan dorm, that haven for freshmen plucked from every region of the country you can think of. I remember bitching about the food, and gagging at stories about the fish eating Dona Paz victims, and us eating the fish. I remember filling my dorm room walls with magazine cutouts of my males of the month (yet I don't remember who they are now). I remember Ely Buendia, pre-Eraserheads, sitting alone in the cafeteria, and teaming up with the St. Scho girls for the all-freshmen volleyball team. I remember swapping Loveswepts and Candelight romances with Shy and Rahnee, boarding Recto-bound jeepneys to get to second-hand book stalls, which would promptly fold up at the hint of a raid.I remember waking up one morning to a loud radio broadcast of a coup d' etat, which, until that day, I only read about in history books. I was on the first floor--Room 105--and the whole dorm was abuzz with coup news. Our first concern was, "May pasok kaya?" We then gathered that there were government troops storming Philcoa, a jeepride away from Kalayaan. Someone was warning us: "If you have subversive materials, tear them up or hide them!" I thought about my Loveswepts, dismissing them as non-subversive. I remember our Residence Assistant advising us to stay inside the dorm, but somehow, Rahnee and I were able to slip out to the Shopping Center at the back of Kalayaan. We were hoarding supplies--peanut cakes, sanitary napkins, Coke-in-cans. There was no telling how long we were going to be holed up in the dorm. When we got back, my daddy was there, waiting to bring me home. A group of dormers gathered around us as we got ready to leave. But the dorm admin did not allow anyone to leave unless parents themseves came to fetch them. My dad was the first one there, and I was the first to leave.I hated leaving my friends behind. Daddy explained that it would be irresponsible for him to take them without the knowledge of their parents. I waved goodbye, guilty and bothered. I was rather amused by his mode of transportation: a white cargo vehicle with the single word PRESS in big bold red letters, PRESS as in PRINTING PRESS, not Inquirer or anything. But I figured those flashing red letters did the trick. We were not bothered by anyone from any armored personnel carrier as we sped our way home.
I spent four years in UP, but that one semester in Kalayaan--my first 6 months alone in a big school--is the most vivid. After that sem, I was able to brave the endless lines of registration, my first great heartbreak, my 2.75 in Math.

Happy Centennial, UP kong mahal!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Show Some APPreciation!

I have to take my hat off to apps developers. Just how much time, brain cells and cups of coffee do they consume to give users the thrill and functionality of apps (applications software) ?  There is always an APPropriate one for everybody, every need. As a teacher/administrator, naturally I am drawn to education apps (most of the time, until a nifty free game preoccupies me for a few hours, like Math Motorway), and the FREE apps, of course.

I tried the sesame street app  with my godchild, Aliyah. Fresh from a bout of noisy crying, the toddler was entranced by the animals and vehicles crossing the screen, mimicking all the sounds the animals and the vehicles made. The app (http://www.sesamestreet.org/) links directly to Oscar the Grouch dishing out some "sage" advice to visitors. The rest of the site is a treasure trove of muppet memories which the 2008-born Aliyah shared with me with unbridled glee.

Ahh, mahjong ( http://www.247mahjong.com/ ). I've always preferred this to cards solitaire. After hours of figuring out class and teachers' schedules, I play this to keep my sanity.

 Another favorite of mine is the biblia app (http://biblia.com/). For personal quick inspirational fixes, I can always type on the search box and literally get answers. I can imagine in C.L. (religion) classes, a big screen version would be easy for teachers to refer to, highlight and use as needed.
I've installed several dozen google chrome apps so far, and not all of them make sense to me (a 3D image-making app is giving me brain freeze), but generally, like the much-touted Apple apps, they are meant to make the user use the app in a particular way for a particular purpose. Classrooms with ready online access and teachers with nimble fingers and perky imaginations are encouraged to try out applications software in their classrooms. Instant classroom management!

Some of my fave apps:

Text reviews and test-making: http://quizlet.com/

Classic Atari game:http://chrome.atari.com/battlezone/

Massive multiplayer Scrabble: http://wordsquared.com/

Math race: http://www.mathmotorway.com/

Toddler games: http://differencegames.com/index.php?cmd=viewgame&gameid=95

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ordinary Miracles For Extraordinary People

This is for our morning reflection at the start of the day's Catholic School Leadership Program course. I wish I had time to do more effects, but then again, the final edit is reflective of our simple joys as educators. Ordinary Miracles for Extraordinary People.
video

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BOARD GAME-OLOGY

Blogger' Note: This is a repost of the January 2010 entry "Beat You At The Board Games" from my Lexaprone blog. I thought it would be cool for schools to encourage board game-time, hopefully to divert students' minds from cybergames, which, studies show, is one of the causes of poor academic performance among school-age boys. Now that's an idea for the next blog entry...





                                                                                                                  photo by Millette Espiritu




Call me the ungeek, but I never learned how to play chess. I can tell a king from a queen, and a rook from a knight, and that's about it. My curiosity about the game was piqued late last year when I finished reading Katherine Neville's The Eight, that pre-Dan Brown novel about religious and political intrigues across Western civilization history centered on the game of chess, so I fiddled with a lame computer chess version. Again, that's about it.

Even without chess, my shady 70's-80's childhood was replete with all kinds of board games. Almost every Christmas or my birthday, without fail, I would receive a board game as a gift, or inherit a second-hand set from my older cousins. Snakes and  Ladders, Backgammon, Monopoly.Pictionary. Mastermind. I've had sets that came and went. Because I was never a solitary child, I lived to play these games with family and friends. It's four players, or nothing! Here are some of the board games that have molded me into what I am now: bored of games (Get it? Get it?):



            (Prof. Plum, a murder suspect in the game Cluedo; photo from www.cluedofan.com)

1. Cluedo 
I totally channeled Nancy Drew with Cluedo. I even followed a British TV series on cable with totally different characters, but with essentially the same premise: find the killer, the weapon and the crime scene, you win. Anyone who's played it must agree with me: the game was so cool because of the "suspects"-Professor Plum, Mr. Green, Miss Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, and Colonel Mustard; the "weapons"-candlestick, lead pipe, knife, revolver, rope; and the "crime scene"-conservatory, kitchen, lounge, hall, etc. The objective is to be the first to make an accusation involving the three elements listed above, and for that accusation to be correct, as proven by the three cards inserted into a "confidential envelope" before the game starts. Before a player can make a logical accusation, though, he must first express "suspicion" using this linguistic pattern: "I suspect that (suspect's name, e.g. Col. Mustard) killed (the victim--it's always the same victim) in the (crime scene, e.g. conservatory), with a (weapon, e.g. knife). The other players will hint at whether that player is right or not, based on the cards they hold in their cards (e.g. another player must say "No" if he is holding one, two or all the cards mentioned by the player expressing suspicion). So basically, the game is all about deduction, process of elimination, and intelligent guessing. And now that I am writing about this, I'm itching to do some sleuthing in the house, for my precious Cluedo has been missing since I finished college...

2. Scrabble 
I need not describe how this ultimate word game is played. A bonafide worldwide sensation then and now, complete with a multilingual website and downloadable PC game version, this is the board game that slays all board games. I've had about four sets in my lifetime, from the bulky wooden set to the travel version, and all of them have helped while away those lazy afternoons. The most exciting part of the game for me is angling for the triple word block, and nearly wringing the neck of my opponent when he beats me to the coveted spot.

There's a Scrabble-like game called Upwords, which should be more challenging because you can stack up the tiles to form new words. My only problem with it is the monotonous color of the plastic board, so unlike the patterned colors of the Scrabble board. The scoring system is also quite ho-hum, with only one point given per letter per tile (except the "Q" which automatically comes with a "u"). The tiles are also difficult to grasp for some reason. If the manufacturer could only get these imperfections out of the way, it'll be the last word in board games.




3. Trivial Pursuit
My friend Rahnee brought this to one of our college sleepovers, and I swear we didn't sleep. As the name of the game implies, it's all about knowing popular culture-Western pop culture, that is. It means that you have to be familiar with Beatles songs, with 80's cop shows, with literary figures, world geography, and stuff you'll never learn in school, kinda like the opposite of "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". 

4. Pictionary
First you have to pray that you get a teammate who can draw decent stick figures. The rest is great fun which includes laying the blame on the designated artist even if he's already done a Picasso. The objective is for your team to get to the finish line by correctly guessing a teammates drawing based on the color-coded topics printed on the card. For the category "All Play", even the opposing team can guess what's being drawn, and mayhem ensues when everyone starts screaming their answers.

5. Twilight The Game
I just acquired this one from Jeje, a fellow Twilighter. I haven't even unsealed the box! But looking at the directions on the back of the box, I'd say it's a straightforward race to the finish, with the player knowing more about Twilight having the edge. One day soon I'll unseal the box and force someone to play with me; then I have something more helpful to say about it.
After all, the game might suck, but who cares? IT'S TWILIGHT!!!


photo by Millette Espiritu
[3 hours later]

So I couldn't wait. I opened the game box and spent an hour-and-a-half learning the rules, which to my dismay was a thousand times more complex than Scrabble. The race to the finish is actually the race to collect 8 scene cards before anyone else. To do that, you roll the dice, move your Cullen gamepiece around the board, land on a square and do what it says, which is mostly "pick one card." That's where the fun starts. So far I know that challenge cards have red and white daggers, one of which will ask the player questions about the movie (that threw me coz I prefer the questions to be about the book. Oh well.). If the player gives the correct answer, he has a chance to collect a scene card (He needs 8), but he is forced to discard one that he already has. To get to scene 7 and 8 (the prom scene no less), the player needs to get all 6 scene cards first. 

I have a few complaints with the material used for the game pieces. Cardboard Cullens (all gamepieces are Cullen crests) aren't going to live an immortal life. The text on the cards are also too small for astigmatics like me, though Alice Cullen wouldn't have a problem with that. The box itself is made of soft cardboard--not immortal either. It looks like a trial version, actually, as though Cardinal, the manufacturer, was still testing the product. I suggest that they make the box sturdier and the gamepieces more durable, since Twilight fans tend to be rabid ( I almost freaked out when I saw the James cards!).



Blogger's Edit 11 April 2011:
Have I used board games in class? You betcha. I conceptualized two that I'm quite proud of. The first was actually a simple back-forward-type featuring ALL the students in my advisory section. I made up wacky stuff about them, put their caricatures in boxes, and photocopied them so everyone has copies. I believe it was my schoolyear-end gift to the junior class of 1997. 


The other was a quest-type of game for my Oddyssey class. I printed clues on clue cards which led to questions on question cards that teams need to answer correctly to earn points. The Q-cards were hidden in strategic places around campus, or with school personnel who asked for passwords before teams can receive their cards. I started doing  this back in 1997, and every few years I'd muster the strength (coz it ain't no joke creating the game!) to conduct what I call The Quest. I am darn sure that I was years ahead of Amazing Race!





Friday, April 8, 2011

SAGE ADVICE

What can a humble, fledgling school principal like me learn from  school administrators who've been at it for more than 4 decades? Well, I'd say 4 decades worth of awesomeness! On the 4th and 5th days of the Certificate Course on Catholic School Leadership, after a whole slew of theories, paradigms and conceptual models, I noted down some inspiring and thought-provoking words from our speakers, Ms. Florina Castillo, former principal of St. Scholastica's College Manila, and tag team partner Ms. Didi Villegas (also a former Scholastican principal) on the Interdisciplinary Concept Model:



1. Curriculum is breathing in you every hour of everyday.
True! I am breathing it right now, trying to create a sane class program for Grade School and High School.

2. Find friends among fellow administrators.
I may not have BFFs in the administration, but I've got their backs, and I know they've got mine. it takes a great deal of trust to share leadership, weigh life-changing options and make crucial decisions on a day-to-day basis. Lasting conflicts in administration are not good for the health of the school.Having a common goal helps, and talking about how to get there is a great thing to do over shared coffee and doughnuts.

3. Find “other lives” outside administration.
Uh-oh. Got me on that one, coz I don't really have one. Unless I count the hours I spend with my mom, who's got Parkinson's Disease and other related illnesses, blogging like mad every night, facebooking...Life is what you make of it.

4. David’s slingstone is Goliath’s tombstone.
Umm, I've forgotten the context of this one.***Memory Gap*** But it sounds really nice:)

5. What is in our office reflects your person and your work. e.g. if the school has a scholarly thrust, the principal’s office must have many books.
Love this one. I am such an OC with my office. Everyone knows that I'm a voracious reader, so it's no surprise that I have piles of books in almost every flat horizontal surface of my room. I also have an overcrowded bulletin board, which doesn't really function as a memo board, but a display board of stuff I find relevant to my work. These days it's got thank you notes from students, my distinguished alumni medal, a Taylor Swift ad for reading, letters from the Ateneo Alumni Association and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a National Geographic calendar, and a couple of invoices. Clutter is my middle name.

6. “Catch-a-moment, make-a-memory”: don’t let go of small experiences, celebrate them in school.
I've had my share of these in the last 4 years of principalship.My quirky way of catching memories is to take pictures of students and teachers--the more candid the better--and printing them on letters to parents (i.e. high school parenting seminar), tarpaulins, and the school paper. My "victims" are often pleasantly surprised to see their faces published, and I didn't even photoshop them.

7. The principalship is a "Gift of Office."
If I didn't see this as a gift, then I would have quit after one school year. I've never seen this position as a place of power and authority. I am no different from any of the teachers who walk into my office everyday. I just sign more clearances and diplomas, that's all. The real gift is being able to design academic programs, faculty development programs, parent participation programs--and getting everyone in the school community involved in them.

I hope to have more notes on school leadership from the likes of Ms Lala and Ms Didi someday.:)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"GLOGSTER" REINVENTS POSTER-MAKING

POSTER-MAKING MINUS THE GLUE AND SCISSORS?  What's the fun in that? Actually Glogster (edu.glogster.com) takes poster-making into a whole new dimension by letting students use online tools--including video--to create everything from student council election posters to event announcements to online projects. Glogster is a multifaceted blog platform that keeps users engaged by offering an array of templates (color, fonts, frames, etc). It's also a very eco-friendly project tool, since no paper is wasted, and the hazards of glue and scissors are eliminated. Completed "glogs" don't get dumped into some stock room after the exhibit, they get saved in cyberspace (My glog below is nearly a year-old)! Students can also explore various forms of art compositions, like collages, newspaper layouts, print ads. But the coolest thing about it, from a teacher's point-of-view, is the interactivity that comes with class contributions to finished work. Here, the process is just as important as the product. Glog ahead and posterize!

Monday, April 4, 2011

THE BULLY REFORM PROGRAM: READ THE WRITING ON THE WALL

Bullying was not invented yesterday. Schools all  over the world have seats reserved for bullies, and yes, many of these institutions of learning have turned a blind eye to that practice of unfairly picking on people. It is a pathetic phenomenon that has plagued classrooms, comfort rooms, cafeterias, and cyberspace. The recent wave of bullying-related violence and suicides is a sign that all's not well. John and Jose (not their real names) reveal how they were pestered by the same group of boys, and repeatedly hit or kicked in the guise of horseplay.

Bullying is not right. Imposing your will and your punches on another human body is not right. What IS right is finding the right value to counteract the bullying behavior. I found KINDNESS, and I promptly splashed the concept on every wall on campus.





ENTERTAIN OR DIE: THE HUNGER GAMES REVIEW

Blogger's Note: I first posted this review of YA novel The Hunger Games in my Lexaprone blog on December 2009. Soon afterwards, it was reposted in the New Worlds Alliance website. I honestly tried to write reviews of the two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but I've been to lazy to do it, probably because I felt those sequels missed the mark that the first book so potently hit.


Imagine fighting to the death just so your loved ones could eat. We who have food on our table take it for granted, but not Katniss Everdeen, 16-year-old resident of District 12 in the country of Panem, a make-believe world where hunger, poverty and deprivation are everyday occurrences. The Capitol, Panem's Ruling District, has decreed that the 12 districts, as an indelible, chilling reminder of a quelled rebellion by District 13 against the Big C, should send one boy and one girl, aged 12-18, every year, to compete in The Hunger Games, a live action TV reality show broadcast throughout Panem. But The Hunger Games are no "Survivor", "Amazing Race", or "Wipeout." Competitors aren't just eliminated, they are murdered. The victor, the last man (or woman) standing, gets the ultimate prize: food for his/her district for one year.

I just described the Games. Wait till you meet the characters. Katniss, a coal miner's daughter, volunteered to compete in her 12-year-old sister's place. Her male counterpart is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son, who confesses on National TV that he's had a crush on Katniss since they were five. Media hype or true love? That's for the rabid televiewers to decide, and they seem to love the idea of star-crossed lovers with only one, or none, surviving in the finale. Katniss and Peeta, along with 22 other contenders, battle natural and artificial disasters, and each other, but in the end, the real enemy, The Capitol, becomes the target of social unrest once again. What happens next is in book 2 of the trilogy, Catching Fire.

As adventure stories go, this belongs to the family of "dystopian" literature where an alternate world is viewed as dark and depressing, where the characters are forced to compromise their very human nature due to their dire circumstances. William Golding's classic "Lord of the Flies" is an example, where boy scouts stranded in an island gradually lose their civility in the battle for jungle supremacy. Collins wrote a gem of a young adult novel, balancing bittersweet romance with often brutal cunning. Whether she intended it or not, The Hunger Games is a commentary on a materialistic society that preys on young people, making them crave, claw, and clamor, and in the process, lose their dignity and humanity.

Like the garden variety reality shows that smell suspiciously scripted,The Hunger Games has its contrived moments, beginning from the lottery that brought about Peeta and Prim's names, and Katniss' volunteerism. Put that aside, the book is a beautifully-written, character-intensive, techno-adventure novel teeming with love for family and simple joys of living. Older teens (15-19) will surely like it, and jump right into the sequel.

TOILET TALK

Blogger's Note: Another repost, this time from my very ancient blog Go Teacher Go, June 11,2008:


photo by Tin-tin Villanueva


As principal of a school with +/-500 population, I don’t get to mince words when it comes to reminding students to behave. So general assembly Mondays are always freaky, both for the guilt-ridden objects of my so-called ire, and for me. Sometimes, to keep a school running, I just had to be less than cool when I remind people about haircuts and unreturned reply slips. Discipline is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for young people who are simply testing the limits of teachers’ patience. Principalship 101 posits that I should step in when the teachers’ hairs are all frizzy and their freshly-manicured nails are all ragged, to do damage control.

So instead of giving the usual howdydo pep talk at the start of the school year 2008-2009, I decided to give a brief but succinct lecture on how to use the school’s spankin’ new toilets.

Why is that so vital? Because this is a school that has gone TWO DECADES WITHOUT RUNNING WATER AND FLUSH. So in case the students have trouble remembering what it’s like to swish-swish the toilet after every use, I had to give some pointers:

1. Flush, flush, flush, but don’t push the knob of the water closet knob to death. One gentle push is all it takes to bring down the “enemy.”

2. Don’t stuff the bowl with toilet paper and other inorganic solids (in the previous year our janitors found a ball of yarn, and some scratch papers!). Clogged toilets are the other enemy.

3. Don’t stand on the toilet seat. If it were made to be stood on, then it would have been shaped like your shoes.

There were a few snickers here and there as I intoned those reminders. I understand. But what really got them pumping their fists in the air and hollering like rallyists was when I said:

“We’ve got water from the faucets this year. Hallelujah!”

So I decided to push my luck. I went on to remind them about the newly painted lockers. I warned them that if their lockers did not remain pristine and pearly-grey by the end of the school year, there will be blood (okay, not that graphic). I pointed out that the canteen–er–cafeteria is now a queueing place, and the food is not all fried. So take heed, I said.

Then I had an inspiration. I said something like, “The changes are not just in the facilities. We expect that there will be changes in you as well, since you’re all one grade level older. You should be more mature now, more responsible. That way, the changes are really relevant.”

Do I hear applause? Is that a slap in the back? Hardly. It was a somber student body that looked back at me as I ended my little speech. I hope it was a look of reflection and realization: yeah, we’re all one grade level higher. That must mean something.

For us teachers and administrators, our words of wisdom can spell the difference between a mediocre performance and a truly stellar one. Section advisers who can level with students sans the threats and clenched fists fare better, eliciting more attention and long-term respect. As a section adviser in previous years, I would have an outline of what I want to say if I know I am about to give a sermon. I practice my piece before I deliver it. I want maximum impact. So with my little toilet talk that first hour of the school opening, I tested if indeed I made an impact: yes, thankfully, all the toilets were clean, happy places at the end of the day.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

THE GETAWAY

                 PLANNING SY 2011-2012 AT LA VIRGINIA RESORT AND HOTEL, MATAAS NA KAHOY, BATANGAS