Monday, November 30, 2009

“Tell me and I forget. Teach and I remember. Involve me and I learn” Benjamin Franklin

Students Learning in the remote province of Kompong Speu

Students Learning at Pagoda Onalum

Students Learning at Bamboo Shoot School

Students Learning at Royal University of Phnom-Penh

The Liberationist, The Facilitator, and The Executive Teacher
Three Basic Approaches To Teaching and Learning

School is a place where students learn about themselves and about the world. And the business of the school is developing intellectual and nurturing the mind, not pampering the emotions. Yet, the levels of intellectual ability may differ, but all humans share the same emotional capacities to feel love, anger, empathy, caring, and joy. The practical curriculum should capitalize on this capacity between school and life, and teach our youth about the common humanity of all human beings. Education should help each person make his or her life more meaningful and fulfilling.

Often, in a classroom setting, teacher makes decisions regarding the information that needs to be covered and skills that need to be developed. Teacher should emphasize discovery and opening the world for the student. Learners should be full participants in the learning process. Education must rest on a solid foundation of knowledge about how to use it. Each teacher is a unique person, and it is by being really yourself that you really can become a great teacher. Since knowledge is power, these three basic approaches to teaching and learning give the teacher the power to choose way(s) to teach that will help achieve one of the noblest goals to which human beings can aspire: assisting the young in becoming thoughtful, competent, and caring adults.

Before examining each of the three different approaches to teaching and learning it is important to identify and remember the five elements common to all teaching framework called ‘MAKER’ framework (Approaches to Teaching, 2004, Gary D Fenstermacher and Jonas F. Soltis): Methods of teaching, Awareness of students, Knowledge of the subject matter, Ends that guide teaching and learning, and Relationships between teacher and students. Now I invite you to empty your cup (your own personal opinions and perception) and enrich your own conception of the role, purpose, and persona you want to be yours as a ‘wow’ teacher by reflecting on these different perspectives of teaching and learning.

1. The Liberationist Approach views the teacher as a liberator of the mind to wonder, to know, and understand, to imagine and create, using the full intellectual inheritance. Teacher with appropriate manner frees and opens the mind of the learner, initiating him or her into human ways of knowing and assisting the learner becoming a well rounded, knowledgeable, and moral human being. The liberationist teacher stresses initiation into ways of knowing and the development of the student’s intellectual and moral virtues. The emancipationist, a variant of the liberationist approach with strong social and political orientation, sees the social world as a place of constant struggle and oppression where those who have power, privilege, and status assert themselves and those who do not have power or privilege accept their diminished status and fate that follow from it. Furthermore the emancipationists argue that schools often serve as instruments of social reproduction in which the lower class learn to be docile workers who follow orders and the upper class are trained for leadership and the exercise of power. The end of emancipationist teaching stresses to free the minds of students from the unconscious grip of oppressive ideas about such things as their class, race, gender, or ethnic status and other forms of social repression. One becomes free of these oppressive ideas not simply by recognizing them as oppressive, but by doing something about them (Paulo Freire, Brazilian Educator, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 2001). The liberationist uses ends that guide teaching and learning and knowledge of the subject matter as dominant factors.

2. The Facilitator Approach who focus on the development and nurturing of each student’s unique capacity and personal characteristics to help them attain authenticity and self actualization. Teacher has a civic responsibility to model how to be loving, empathetic, just, honest, respectful, and caring individuals. Providing students with the opportunities to experience and practice these skills, along with providing cognitive development is their obligation. Teacher is like passports to these experiences. Teacher also helps students and adolescent become themselves. Students really learn and grow in their sense of self-worth. Teacher is an empathetic person who believes in helping individuals grow personally and reach a high level of self-actualization and self-understanding. He or she nurtures the personhood of the student by engaging him or her in meaningful experiences that connect with their lives (care pedagogy). The facilitator puts awareness of student and ends that guide teaching and learning central.

3. The Executive Approach views the teacher as a skillful manager of learning, and the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understandings, and competencies. Students must rest on a solid foundation of knowledge and the ability to think critically. Teacher conveys basic subject matter and skills as efficiently as possible. Careful developed curriculum materials and methods of teaching backed by research are very important. They provide the teacher with techniques and understanding to use in the management of the classroom and the production of learning. In this context, students learn by in large what they were engaged to study. The executive stresses the methods of teaching and knowledge of subject matter and put less emphasis on awareness of students, ends that guide the activities of teaching and learning, and relationships between teacher and students.

Today’s world is diverse and constantly changing. Educators must be prepared to deal with these challenges. Understanding, practicing and gaining perspective in one or all three approaches prepare you to function more effectively in different school settings with different types of learners. Knowing teaching is personal, my intent here is to offer and present new way(s) to teaching and learning for further reflection as well as new topics for conversation with your fellow teachers. Our common goal as teacher is to provide an environment that stresses the ethical and moral values of society and prepare students to become self-directed and lifelong learners. Students become active learners through active teaching. I salute you for the great service you render to the nation and its children.

Sources and for further reading check out:
1. Approaches to Teaching, 2004, Gary D Fenstermacher and Jonas F. Soltis.
2. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970, Paulo Freire.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Life Lesson: Introspection

International Vipassana Center at Pagoda Onalum

Vipassana Sitting Hall

Paccaya's Tranlation Sesssion with Ven. Sanghabodhi and Ven. Den

Lunch at the Pagoda with two other Kmeng Wat, Diman and Reuth

Life Lesson: Introspection

Being back home this time, I wanted to examine myself from a different perspective; to reflect and inquire about how I can contribute to the community. I chose to live at the International Vipassana Center in Onalum Pagoda for ten months. While everyone thinks of changing the world, I think of changing myself. I have wanted to live my life from the inside out and not from the outside in. I have wanted my life to mean something more. I have wanted to exist for the greater good, to directly experience anatta (no self) living with less and focusing more on right actions and not as much on results. I have wanted to choose a life I have reason to value. I have wanted to be content with who I am rather than what I have or what I do. My stay in the pagoda was intended to test my heart, to test my determination, to test myself and to develop my wisdom for my own personal growth. I have wanted nothing more than to be a right force (bala) of change to serve my country and humanity.

My introspection required me not only to see, know, understand and feel new things, but also to experience the same things in a new light. Nothing came easy to me in life. I had to do my own work. No one can do this work for me, because no one has lived through the life experience I have. Enlightened ones will only show the way. In the pagoda, I renounced most the householder’s life and lived with minimal personal possessions, with bare essentials. I lived on the charity of others; accepting whatever was offered as food, accommodation, or other facility.

My day at the pagoda usually began at 4:30 AM listened to the metta (loving kindness) praying by the monks and sat for one-hour Vipassana meditation. Besides helping with the daily chores; organizing, sweeping, dusting and cleaning, I helped prepare and serve meals to the monks with two other “Khmeng Wat” (pagoda boys). I called myself “Chach Wat”, pagoda old man. Whatever I received here, I tried to make best use of it; working hard to purify my mind. I enriched my general knowledge on Buddhism by spending countless hours reading, researching, learning, and understanding more on the theoretical study of Dhamma (pariyatti) as well as the teaching of Abhidhamma (ultimate science). At the actual practice of Dhamma (patipatti), I volunteered serving nine days Satipatthana course. I also took ten days Vipassana course to develop insightful learning about myself and learned to teach Anapana Sati (awareness of the incoming and outgoing breath) to the children. Everything happen in life is a process of natural phenomenon which possess three main characteristics included anicca (impermanence), dukka (suffering), and anatta (no self). Each breath I took is a path to experience the present moment and to liberation, the experience of arising and passing away, a small step to free myself from all bondages. Gradually, I become aware that I’m responsible for my feeling, and what I do with them. Through that, I have learned to speak my mind.

As I look back on my life, one of the most constant and powerful things I have experienced within myself is the desire to be more than I am at the moment—an unwillingness to let myself remain where I am; a desire to do more, learn more, accomplish more. But now, step-by-step I have learned to live my life in the present moment rather than the past. Everyday and every moment, I create my own future, my own welfare and misery as well as my own liberation. If I can learn to develop the mastery in this present moment, the future will automatically be bright. I am what I have. But whatever I have never last. Great renunciation (nekkhamma) is the renunciation of having. After critical self-examination, I have to “BE” first before I can “DO” and “DO” before I can “HAVE”.

Somehow, just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes and I am left the same as I began. It appears that my life is a constant irony of maturity and regression, but my sense of progress is based on the illusion that things out there are going to remain the same and that, at last, I have gained a little control. The more things changes the more I am the same. I am what I started with. More and more, I realize that achieving meaningful change in me will take time, and may be a lifetime.

My trouble is I analyze life instead of live it. Much of the stress I feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what I’ve started. From this experience, I have learned not to judge myself by how much I have accomplished. It is enough that I am of value to someone today. It is enough that I serve Lok Ta, my respectful 92 years old father, now. It is enough for me to sit down and listen to his advice on living my life according to the five Buddhist precepts. The rainbow is more beautiful than the pot at the end of it, because the rainbow is now. And the pot never turns out to be quite what I expected.

Little reflection was necessary for me to appreciate that my most troubling times have generally been responsible for my greatest growth. My life is full of challenges and obstacles. It is all about how I face them, how I come through them. When there is faith there is hope. I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith (saddha), I have corrected my path. My faith (saddha) and effort (veriya) have always brought me back home to where I really belong. I have persevered from tragedy after tragedy by mean of my personal wisdom (panna) to be my own master. I am the only one responsible for my life. Since I am the author of my life, I never give up on my aspiration to gain self–actualization. By observing and practicing ardently the four sublime states of Buddhism; Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (uppekkha), I find real peace and harmony. Yet, I know I still have a long way to go to be at peace in the way I want.

Challenge and opportunity always come together-under certain conditions; one could be transformed into the other. The way to be most helpful to others is for me to do the thing that right now would be most helpful to me. My motivation is to perform my part as a productive member of humanity, to contribute my own skills and efforts for the greater good. My only reward is in my actions and not from them. Everything I do influence those around me and everything I think and feel influence what I do. However to live my life for perfectionism would be sentenced myself to continuous frustration.

My life is more about caring and giving. I have come to understand that I cannot completely solve all the problems, but I can work toward resolving by changing the way I deal with it. I judge less and less my day by how much I have completed but rather to enjoy what I have done for the benefits others, especially the children, the vulnerable, and the poorest. I want to open the door for the next generation. The kids have to be educated so they can have a better and brighter future, and what more is there. I believe each human being, whatever their social level or profession, has a potential to fulfill. I know it can be done. We all can be and do much more than we think.

Today never hands me the same thing twice and I believe that for most everyone else, life is also a mixture of unsolved problems, ambiguous victories and fictional defeats—with very few quiet moments of clear and real peace. I never do seem to quite get on top of it. My struggle today is worthwhile, but it is a struggle nonetheless and one I will never finish. I don’t want to stand with the setting sun and think of things I have or haven’t done. I can never hide myself from me. I see what others may never see. I know what other may never know. I often ask myself: how have I dealt with disappointments in life? Is failure really bad? The idea of failing a hundred times as long as I succeed once keeps me going. I believe if I persevere enough, work at it, stick with it; I have a real opportunity to achieve something. Change makes all things possible, yet requires great courage and personal sacrifice. To me, right intentions are more important than results.

I believe no one is wrong. At most someone is uninformed. “You’re wrong” means “I don’t understand you”—I am not seeing what you’re seeing. But there is nothing wrong with you, you simply not me and, that’s not wrong. If I think a person is wrong, either I am unaware of something, or he/she is. I like to be very honest and very specific in my criticism. I don’t want the local Khmer people see me as an ‘outsider’ but as a normal Khmer person who cares as much about them, encourages them to do their best, and works hard with them. I think one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded and to be open-minded for positive change.

Being back home this time, I am astounded to hear from government notable words that are so far removed from the truth and dignity such as freedom of expression, equal rights to housing, health care and education, human rights issues and the culture of impunity. Yes, I see progress; I see new buildings, I see new constructions, I see new roads, I see new bridges, I see new sumptuous villas, but beside this make-up, I also see more poverty, I see more corruption, I see more nepotism, I see more abuses, I see more distrust, I see more intellectual degradation, I see more oppressions, I see more immorality, I see more burglaries, I see more hunger, I see more misery, and I see more widening gaps between the riches and the poor, between the powerful and the vulnerable. Endemic corruption, land grabbing, abuse of power and social justice are critical issues facing the country and inaction is not acceptable. There comes a point where we all have to accept that the current system is not working. I feel that justice must be the same for everybody. Everyone needs to uphold the principle that no one is above the law. When I can, I want to help. I want to make a difference. If I can bring a little happiness for someone else, I gain more in my life. It is when I forget myself that I do things that are remembered.

Moreover, it is better for me to remain hopeful than hopeless. History has told us over and over again that we all pay a higher price if we do nothing or we don’t do enough. Achieving meaningful change will take time and only take place through right actions. I have wanted to plant new seed, the seed of growth mind set. I believe we all can plant any seed we want in the soil, and if it's given enough time and attention, it will grow into a flower, vegetable, or tree. The same goes for our mind. We can plant doubt, mistrust, contentions, oppressions and negative thoughts, or we can choose to plant the most hopeful, success-focused thoughts; the four sublime seeds of love and ethics we can muster. With enough time and attention, those seeds will grow as well. Will they grow into a promising future or a mediocre life? That depends on what we planted. As the seed is, so the fruit will be; as the right action is, so the result will be. Since the results are unpredictable, no effort of mine is doomed to failure. I am hopeful the up-and-coming generation of Khmer people learns to embrace openness, to accept new ideas and critical thinking, and grows up to be an ideal generation free from lobha (greed), dosa (hatred), and moha (ignorance).

I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me, had I made different choice. This existence of mine is as moving as the clouds. To watch the birth and death of being is like looking at the movement of a wave. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky. Rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain. At the pagoda, I have stopped for a moment to encounter life, to be with my father and to serve others. This was a precious moment even if it was transient. It was a parenthesis in eternity but this moment has been worthwhile for me. After all, I am who I am.

I am most grateful to Venerable Sanghabodhi, my respectful father and head monk for letting me stay at the International Vipassana Center and tirelessly and patiently teaching me the art of being. I also would like to thank all those who were kind enough to share my insightful experience and helped me in many other ways during my stay at the pagoda. Their unconditional support and encouragement will be always remembered.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

About Buddhism

"I am Buddha, I am awake" Sketched by a second grade student

About Buddhism

The greatest achievement is selflessness
The greatest quality is seeking to help others
The greatest goodness is non-attachment
The greatest effort is not to concern with results
The greatest generosity is non-attachment
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions
The greatest achievement is selflessness
The greatest worth is SELF-mastery
The greatest precept is continual awareness
The greatest action is not conforming with the world’s way
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances
The greatest patience is humility.

Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist Master)

Monday, September 21, 2009

This I believe

Prek Samroung Elementary School and Highland Park Middle School

The core of teaching is learning about myself and finding ways to give that to the children.

This I Believe:

I believe the teacher-student relationship as the primary determinant of what students accomplish in school.

I believe a student is a great teacher and a teacher is a great student. In this learning environment, teachers and students learn from each other.

I believe listening is learning. Students begin to listen to teacher and teacher begins to listen to students. These great mutual understandings and respects develop.

I believe that every educational decision must be based on what is best for the whole individual. The intellectual, social and moral development of every student must be of primary consideration.

I believe the educational environment should be a caring, nurturing place in which all students feel comfortable and safe. Students need to feel comfortable in order to ask questions and seek answers without fear of rejection or criticism.

I believe in fairness and consistency when dealing with discipline issues. If students have a structured environment in which they are aware of expectations and consequences, then intellectual, moral and social growth is maximized.

I believe that students should be active learners. Thoughtfully planned and student centered activities help students become self-directed, life long learners. In my own teaching I have found that when learning is relevant and enjoyable students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning.

I believe that schools are a place where students learn about themselves and about the world. Content is an important part of any educational system, but problem solving and critical thinking skills are equally important. Students must learn how to ask questions that are significant, access and analyze information, and solve problems. These skills are crucial and will help students find their place in today’s world.

I believe I can provide an engaging and challenging environment where students learn responsibility as well as ethical and moral values. Life skills as well as basic concepts of right and wrong, integrity and honesty need to be taught, modeled, and consistently enforced and reinforced.

I believe that all students from diverse backgrounds can learn and that they do so in different ways. It is my duty to address the diversity in the classroom by providing individualized programs and a variety of learning environments to meet the needs of all students.

I believe in no child left behind and also NO PARENT LEFT BEHIND.

I believe education should emphasize personal growth through solving problems that are real to students.

I believe, if encouraging and nourishing environment are provided, learning will flourish because people have an inherent tendency to learn.

I believe students must learn to make good choices and to be responsible for their own behavior.

I believe that my role of the teacher, is to help create a nurturing atmosphere for students and to promote the growth of the whole person.

I believe that students need to be fully participants in their own learning. To do this, I must help them to develop the skills they need to be self-directed learners.

I believe students learn best when they actively explore their own environment. Learning should provide multiple hands-on experiences. Students know something by doing it.

I believe that students often learn better from other students. I endeavor to provide multiple opportunities for students to work together to learn. I also believe that children learn best when adults are available to guide leaning experiences (Zone of Proximal Development, Vygotski, 1978).

I believe students are motivated when learning situation challenges them. I am here to guide them and coach them through those challenges (Bloom’s Taxonomy: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation).

I believe more and more that teachers should be facilitators and guides rather than directors.

I believe that teaching which is accepting and demanding leads to the best outcomes of the children.

In conclusion, I value learning from the perspective of the human potential for growth, becoming the best one can be. The shift is to study affective as well as cognitive dimensions of learning. Beliefs include: human being can control their own destiny; people are inherently good and will strive for a better world; people are free to act but must be responsible; behavior is the consequence of human choice; and people possess unlimited potential for growth and development. There is a natural tendency for people to learn, which will flourish if nourishing, encouraging environments are provided. Education is liberation. It frees them from their pasts so they learn to live in the present and have hope for the future. It frees them from obstacles and a lot of things that can set them back. Don’t fight darkness. Just bring the light in and darkness will disappear. In this perspective, teaching is giving, caring and sharing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Vipassana Reflection

Dhamma Sitting Hall and Dhamma Student Residence

My Vipassana Reflection

Last month from June 3rd to June 14th, 2009, “to know thyself” more I took a ten-day Vipassana course as taught by Shri Satya Narayan Goenka at California Vipassana Center, Dhamma Mahavana at North Fork. After taking the course for the third time, I find the course to be beneficial to me. I have learned how to live from the inside out, not from the outside in through introspection, a process of self-observation and self–examination. I must admit it was still a hard and rigorous experience.

I believe the way to be most helpful to others is for me to do the thing that right now would be helpful to me. Since I consecrate my life to teach and help others for the improvement of livelihoods, I want to develop and strengthen insightful learning about myself. I want to directly experience the truth, not just intellectually in the realm of ideas and theories but the inner reality of the mental-physical phenomenon by observing things as they actually are, not as they appear to be. I want to make best use of my time, the opportunity, the technique to learn to liberate myself from the bondage of craving (raga), aversion (dosa), delusion (moha), and to enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness. I want to learn to live in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past and reeling into the unknown future. I truly believe with a strong heart and mind training, there is no situation so bad that I cannot be accepted patiently with an open accommodating and peaceful heart.

After taking refuge in the triple gem, the quality of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, and along with more than one hundred students and Dhamma workers, I was committed to a challenging ten days timetable from 4:30 AM to 9:30 PM while maintaining complete “noble” silence, silence of body, speech and mind. I was confined in a room that prohibited me to read, write, and pray. To give a fair trial, I was asked to accept and comply fully to the teacher’s guidance and instructions with an open mind. As an old student, I also abstained from eating after midday. Furthermore, I was expected to sit more than 11 hours a day, often without moving for an hour at a stretch, watching my respiration and experiencing body sensations (vedana).

There are three steps to the training given in a Vipassana meditation course. First, I undertook the five precepts (sila) for the duration of the course, a code of morality, not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, and not to use intoxicants. By abstaining from such actions, I allowed the mind to calm down in order to proceed further.

The next step was to develop control, mastery over the mind by training it to remain fixed on the breath (samadhi). During the next three days, I was asked to observe the physical function of the respiration. I kept my attention on the triangular space between the upper lip and the nostrils. I observed natural and normal breath as it was, as it came in, as it went out (Anapana). While I focused on my respiration, I observed the nature of the breath was strongly connected to my mental state. I encountered and experienced many difficulties to keep my mind from wandering around. The reality of my mind had its tendency, its habit of wandering from one object to another, and one feeling to another, one thought to another. It just didn’t want to stay in the present moment. It escaped from the present reality into the past or the future. It didn’t want to stay on the breath or any object of attention; instead it ran wild, untamed. Lost in ignorance, illusions, delusions (moha), my wild mind remained agitated and miserable. Therefore, through this exercise, I kept my mind on a present reality: breath that is now entering or leaving the nostrils. When the mind wandered away, I started accepting the fact. I realized as soon as the mind has wandered, naturally, automatically, it will return to awareness of respiration. I learned to concentrate my mind, making it sharp and penetrating as much as possible, capable of the work to the next step. By observing respiration, I have started not only to concentrate the mind but also to purify it. I had to fight my own battle. I had to work myself. No one can do the work for me. To liberate myself from this wild mind madness, I had to explore reality within myself.

The third step was to attend and purify the mind of defilements by developing insight. I sat for the next seven days to practice Vipassana (Bhavana-maya panna): experiencing my own reality by the systematic, choice less and dispassionate observation within myself of the ever-changing-matter phenomenon manifesting itself as sensations.

Since our life is the creation of our mind (mano-maya), it is very important to understand the real meaning of heart and mind. In Pali, heart and mind are one word (citta), but in English we have to differentiate between the two to make the meaning clear. When we attend to the mind, we are concerned with the thinking process and the intellectual understanding that derives from knowledge, and with our ability to retain knowledge and make use of it. When we speak of heart we think of feelings and emotions, our ability to respond with our fundamental being. Although we may believe that we are leading our lives according to our thinking process, which is not the case. If we examine this more closely, we will find that we are leading our lives according to our feelings and that our thinking is dependent upon our feelings. The emotional aspect of ourselves is of such great importance that its purification is the basis for a harmonious and peaceful life.

There are two aspects of the training technique: awareness (sati) and equanimity (upekkha. The first is to break the barrier between the conscious and unconscious levels of the mind. Hidden by ignorance, reactions keep occurring at the unconscious level; by the time they reach the conscious level, they have become so intense that they easily overpowered the mind. By this technique, the mind becomes conscious and always aware. The ignorance was removed. The second aspect is to remain equanimous; aware of all the sensations and not reacted to them, to tie to new knots of craving and aversion.

To understand the truth at the experimental level, I use my body as my own laboratory. I started investigating reality within the framework of the body via sensation. I sat and let reality happened. I learned to observe “what is; that is what is required. I accept reality as reality is to me now”. From observing respiration within a limited area of the nostrils, I proceeded to observing sensations throughout the body. I encountered gross, solidified, intensified, unpleasant sensations such pain, pressure, discomfort. I continued to experience the habit pattern of my mind, restless, always wandering from one thing to another, to roll in pleasure and reel in pain, remaining agitated like a wild animal. Here and now, I worked patiently, persistently and continuously to break the old habit of generating new sankhara (reaction) and attachment. On this path, whatever was unknown to me must become known.

My struggle was worthwhile, but it was a struggle nonetheless and one I will never forget. For a few moments, despite severe pain from sitting and the rigorous schedule, I tried to remain aware and equanimous to the sensations. It was a very difficult and challenging task. I learned to observe and watch the different sensations without reacting to them and accept their changing, impersonal nature. I experienced sensations arising in the body and feeling in the mind. By repeated practices, continued works, while I was in severe leg and back pain, I determined not to move until I had understood anicca, the impermanence nature of matter-mind within myself. I remembered at one precious point on the eighth day, I experienced bhanga, the experience of the dissolution of the apparent pain into subtle vibration. The strong sensation gradually became weaker, constantly arising and passing away. I also gained the knowledge of the impermanent self, anatta because there was no hard core to which I clung on to. Such moment was pleasant, very important and powerful in changing the habit pattern of my mind. However, if I developed craving and attachment to this subtle sensation, it defeated the purpose of Vipassana meditation. It was imperative to remain aware and equanimous at any moment.

The other important part of the Vipassana was to spread goodwill (metta-bhavana) to all beings at the end of the course. As all the Buddha’s teaching, the practices lead to personal growth and enhance the growth of all beings. Sitting there and after spending a challenging operation of the mind, I felt the wonder of experiencing a new untapped reality of the mind. I focused on sending strong and positive vibes to others. I wanted to share my peace, my harmony, my happiness and my merit to all.

Vipassana taught me the art of living with awareness and equanimity by eradicating craving and aversion. I have taken the first three hard and rigorous steps. It wasn’t easy but I keep walking on the path, step by step, towards my own liberation. I have realized I still have a long way to go.

Bavatu Sabba Mangalan
May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Price We All Pay By Being Obedient

The faces of the weak and poor people of Cambodia

"We must become the change we wish to see in the world"
Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be truthful and blunt. Cambodia is not at all like any other countries with the rule of laws. Whatever the powerful leaders and rich people want to do, they just do. We can see and feel this is everywhere. However, civil disobedience is not our real problem. Our real problem is civil obedience.

Our problem is that the majority of Cambodians has obeyed the dictates of the powerful have suffered endlessly from injustice, inequality, corruption, nepotism, incompetence, and poor governance, and many have been victims or even killed because of this obedience. We also know too well that it is dangerous to be right when the big government is wrong.

Our problem is Cambodians are obedient in the face of abuses of human rights –including inadequate housing, health care, education, as well as land grabbing, poverty, hunger, starvation, and cruelty. The right to earn one’s bowl of rice, to get decent healthcare when sick and to be able to send one’s children to school have been deteriorated. With the current law enforcement of the present administration, it is a “crime” to be weak and poor. Life is cheap for the powerless. The real bias is that the powerful and rich people are above the laws.

More and more common people complain bitterly about official inefficiency, extreme corruption, poor governance and brutality. Most government officials included law enforcement officers, military police, traffic control police, custom officers, teachers, administrators, judges, and people’ representatives often don’t dare to apply and enforce the laws against their big bosses and those with power and rich people. They only fine and punish those poor people they know they can fine and punish. The courts only protect the rich and powerful people. Yet, they all know the state law well. They all know what need to be done. They all know the widespread briberies. Why would they fight abusive powerful leaders and the rich people as well? The reality is they are all obedient because it is safer to accept the incompetence, corruption and poor governance. They are fearful of repercussions, retaliation, recrimination and reprisal for speaking and acting out on the impunity and dishonesty enjoyed by those powerful and wealthy people who perpetually create lawless environment all over Cambodia.

There are many well known and well-documented cases of human rights abused, poor governance, and abusive incidents such as forced evictions, deforestation, large land concessions, degrading comments, extreme corruption at all levels. Just look around, witness, and experience it for yourself or simply ask any citizen, pick up and read any newspapers headlines or any official reports from the donor countries. Powerful leaders amass enormous fortunes; while leaving the country’ schools, hospitals, government buildings and other important infrastructures falling. The culture of fear, violence, impunity and injustice must be broken and eliminated. The government can do more and better to end the abuses suffered by the weak, poor and powerless by applying the rule of laws to all and paying more attention on social services for housing, health, food and education. Chances for better governance remain dim for the future of all Cambodians if we continue to be obedient to the dictatorship. It is not a criticism of the government, just the simple truth.

We all know economic growth has been the key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. We have built roads, bridges, irrigations, new council ministers building, and created laws. Recent data showed that Cambodia has made remarkable progress in several areas: garments, tourism and construction. We see a lot of progress and development, but we are also very aware that a lot of people are missing out – the appalling disparities of education, health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of Cambodian to live in despair. It is not just about buildings, but also building capacity and helping level the playing field.

The path to sustainable economic growth is lost to most of us if the culture of impunity and injustice persists because of our obedience to those powerful leaders and rich people who consistently and persistently abuse the laws for their personal benefits and greed. We all can see the unsustainable use of natural resources has depleted the national asset. The current growth has left most of the poor Cambodians with fewer assets. It affects small farmers by limiting land access. The lack of honesty, transparency and accountability by the powerful leaders continue to happen. The top leaders fail badly to lead by examples. They endlessly make great obstacles to all of us to comply with the rules of laws. For example, they continuously allocate large controversial land concessions to well-connected local and foreign firms. Corruption, greed, nepotism and power are the root cause of this culture of fear, and injustice. Uneven implementation and unequal treatment of the weal and poor will undermine the country’s intention to build a free and just society.

Our problem is we have laws in place but there is no practical enforcement, commitment, and a glaring lack of political will. Our problem is that people all over Cambodia are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. We have nothing to fight back. We only have ten fingers to pray for help. We all become prisoners in our mind and tolerant of the abusive and powerful tyrants. That’s our real problem.

"The time is always right to do what is right"
 said Martin Luther King, Jr.
(1929-1968). What we need is change; the change from inside. We need to do the simple things that bring people hope back. We need to be brave, speak up, tell the truth and act responsibly. We need to sacrifice, and stand up for our fundamental rights: freedom of expressions to bring equal justice for all. We all need to follow the rules of law and the constitution. We need to defend the real victims; the weak, the poor, and the powerless. We want to bring back the long forgotten tradition of peaceful and harmonious living; the values upon which Cambodia’s prosperity depends – including hard work, honesty, accountability, transparency, courage, and fair play.

“Once” is the beginning of all things. We can take this one quandary in our own hands. Being obedient is about real justice, legality, equality, and freedom of expressions for all. All successes, great and small, whether in temporal and daily affairs, derives from our courage to speak up and stand up for the truth. So never neglect even the slightest positive deed. Just do it for the benefit of all of us. People such as Mu Sochua (an elected member of parliament and a tireless advocate for women’s rights and the victims of social injustice) and her courageous lawyer Kong Sam Onn, and many others who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all have accomplished most of the important things in Cambodia. We all can bring the change we wish to see in Cambodia for our children and future generation sake.

Whenever we are in doubt just recall and look deep into the face of the weak, poor and powerless person we may have seen and ask ourselves if the steps we contemplate are going to be any use to them. We all must keep in mind:

One voice can speak with wisdom.
One heart can know what is true.
One life can make the difference.
One vote can change a nation.
It is up to all of us!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Simple Things We All Can Do Together To Protect The Environment

Simple Things We All Can Do To Protect The Environment at the Pagodas and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River

Simple Things We All Can Do To Protect The Environment

We all know illegal logging and environment devastation are big issues in Cambodia (please see The United Kingdom-based environment watchdog Global Witness’ reports on November, 2004, June, 2007, and February, 2009). Additionally, we can see that out of control littering becomes also a major problem in Cambodia. Garbage is everywhere: on the sidewalks, on the streets, on the road, in the river, in the national parks, in natural areas, in temples, in rice fields, in schools, in restaurants, in government buildings, even in pagodas. Public and free places (streets, river banks, etc…) become dumpsites, create awful odor, affect health, and spread disease.

Nearly everyone throw garbage, plastic bags and bottles, aluminum can, home rubbish, and other trash everywhere they go, everywhere they eat, and everywhere they visit. They form destructive habits to the environment and their own health. They forget that plastic materials, aluminum can and other non-biodegradable trash are not like banana leaves. If they throw them on the ground those non-ecological trash will be there tomorrow and for years to come. It is very crucial to put plastic and non-environmental friendly trash in its proper place, and especially to dispose batteries in a safe place. Those unmanageable and irresponsible behaviors have caused great damage to the natural world and created many public health hazards to all. If we don’t start doing something about this out of control littering, we develop more and more into a garbage country. People need to reform and change their destructive habits. Here is ‘Simple Things We All Can do to protect the Environment’.

To protect the Environment and to encourage other people not to litter, a group of students lead by Say Seyheang and Ngol Kean with the support of the teachers, parents, elders, young children and monks of the Buddhism Education for Peace Center organized a school team and a group of family and young friends for environmental activities for a clean up day. During Khmer New Year and Labor Day, the students wanted to make the “Pagoda a Better Place”, thus the “World a Better Place”. They decided to get together to pick up garbage, sweep, and clean Onalum Pagoda in the capital, Kampong Kor Pagoda in Kandal Province, Oudong Pagoda also in Kandal province, and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac river. They armed themselves with brooms and the motto ‘Clean Environment, Good Hygiene, Good Health, Long Life’. Through these hearty acts, it was their wish and most excellent start to keep Pagodas, the city, the country, thus Cambodia, clean for the benefits of all. Since Pagoda is a sacred and worship shrine, spotless pagoda creates a clean environment, generates wholesome heart and produces clear conscience. To honor our King and our public place, in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River must keep be free of trash.

Nothing like this LitterProject at Onalum Pagoda in the capital, Kampong Kor Pagoda in Kandal Province, Oudong Pagoda also in Kandal province, and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River has ever happened before. It is the students’ hope and aspiration that the interest and volition generated by their wholesome actions will inspire many more people, students, young children, parents, monks, farmers, government officials, leaders, and tourists to also take part in this LitterProject. Once people experience there own daily ability to make an environmental difference they will keep it up on their own-and may be even do a project in their neck of their woods. They will reform and change their destructive habits once they know uncontrolled littering damage the environment and their health. The keys for this successful LitterProject included:

1. They had fun doing it. After all, the students and everyone else were actively making pagoda a better place. Making “Pagoda a Better Place” and "in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River a Trash Free Place", thus the “World a Better Place” was their main inspiration. They wanted also to inspire other people to joining them and keeping the pagoda and Cambodia free of litter.

2. They kept it simple. Cleaning up trash was easy. All they needed are brooms, garbage bags, masks, dustpan, place to dispose the trash, gloves and most importantly a good heart with a smile. They really enjoyed doing it.

3. They invited other people to join them and never coerce them. It was their act of good deeds to contribute to the cleanliness of the Pagodas and the environment.

4. They told lots of people, including the press, CTN’s TV, and Radio Free Asia. They told them when, where, and what they were doing. Even if they winded up doing alone, they would speak of their intrinsic interest, good wills and volition, and people may want to join them next time.

5. They reminded people what they were doing matters. Having a clean pagoda creates a clean environment, good hygiene, good health, long life-good for them, good for others, and good for all. Everyone has a personal responsibility to be good citizen and not litter.

As I joined them and witnessed their unselfish actions and simple things they can do to protect the environment through this LitterProject, I could not help to reflect on the importance of saving the environment for the future Cambodian generation as stated in one of the Indian Cree Prophecy:

“Only after the last tree has been cut own,
Only the last river has been poisoned,
Only the fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money can not be eaten.”

Finally, as a volunteer teacher at Buddhism Education for Peace Center, I wholeheartedly support their LitterProject. I salute their initiative. To make Cambodia clean and people’s healthy, everybody needs to work together to not litter.

If you want help ‘Pick Up Garbage and Clean The Environment, TOGETHER’ you can contact Say Seyheang at and Ngol Kean at

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Father

My father, my brothers, and family 

My Father
“Wherever you go and wherever you are, get an education. Study hard for your future, then serve others,” advises my father to my brothers and me.

Lok Pa…forgives me for any offenses. As I grow older, I come to appreciate what I have understood as a child. The compassionate man has raised me; a person of wisdom, dignity, courage and grace, I have ever known. I respect him very much.

My father has been a monk since 1981. He presently lives at Wat Onalum. He turns 92 this April 2009, and the gathering at his ‘Chet Day’ (stupa) at Oudong Pagoda with all vipassana students, family members,  my two brothers and me is a birthday present for him. He is the consummate Buddhist, teacher, leader and a true pioneer of Cambodian Vipassana. As a son of a poor farmer himself, he wants to give back to the society. His greatest joy is giving and sharing his finding and learning to others. His greatest gift is straight talk and boldness. I really think he gets his energy from doing it.

After introducing Vipassanã (insight ‘seeing as they really are’) to the people of Cambodia in 1993, he has devoted himself to help others ended their suffering through the method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tension and problems in a calm, balanced way. He shows that Dhamma teaching and personal integrity are inseparable. Vipassanã is the art living. It has been tested and proven to be wholesome and beneficial to all. By practicing Vipassanã, wisdom (pannã) and compassion (karunã) will be developed. It requires some work and commitment on our part. Real change, drastic change will have to come from the inside. It will not come from outside. Vipassanã gives people real peace, harmony, and happiness. I value his understanding and sharing his art of teaching Vipassanã and marvel his work ethics. He is the spark and flame of all my continued learning.

He has undeniable strengths. At 92 years old, he still spends his limited time lecturing about the five precepts (abstain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and all intoxicants), translating Paccaya (cause or condition) in Buddha Abhidhamma (Ultimate Science), planting trees in different pagodas, teaching “one day” Vipassanã to his former students, visiting ailing people in hospital, giving out Dhamma books to students, building wells and irrigation for the poor, helping the most vulnerable, and perform many more societal myriads activities. What I have discovered about his legacy is people still praise and profit from his undeniable and unselfish works.

He possesses a unique personality: a combination of toughness and great caring for his family and people. He practices ascetic and austerity; clear, non-dogmatic, realistic and practical spiritual path that emphasize moral integrity, mental purification and personal insight into the basic truths concerning the human condition. He believes in himself. He helps raise countless family members faithfully. He donates his times and skills for the benefit of others. His remarkable teachings were given with the deepest kind of compassion for the welfare and the wellbeing of others. His life has been a gift to all who came to meet him. He leads by example. He has gained more than he has given. I respect his wisdom and his uncompromised commitment to make me a better person by following his footstep. He insists that only practice, hard works, commitment, and perseverance can gain liberation never by theories, and mere discussion. He plays a big role in my life. He is the mentor, inspiration and best role model for my brothers and me.

I’ve served him as best as I can. I regret I cannot be with him sooner. I want to tell him no son ever had a wise father. He plays a very important role in forming the foundation of my life and my brothers’. He was very hard on me and on all his children. I didn’t like it, but he knew that if he left me on our own I wouldn’t do it. He pushed me to work harder and he has done anything to make me better. Most importantly, he taught me Vipassanã, the art of living at the experimental level. It applies how I live my life. I have found it to be very helpful and beneficial to me. He instills in me the important difference to waking up for a reason and not having a reason to wake up. He makes me what I am today. I will never forget what he has done for me.

After attending two Vipassanã classes with my father, ordaining to be a monk, serving Satipatthana (establishing awareness) and completing Vipassana Children’ Course Teacher training workshop, I have learned, experienced and reinforced the true nature of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukka), selflessness (anattã) within myself. Since life is a terminal condition, I have observed my father has prepared himself for his death by eradicating all material and emotional attachments as much as he can. He values people who they are rather than what they have. I admire him for that. No matter how many times, I am with him, he always leaves me thinking he is unlike anyone I have met along the busy, challenging road of life. He is my spiritual guide. He inscribes such a positive influence in me that I will try to pass it on to others. He gives me internal peace. He shapes my life. I’ve never known a more unselfish person than him.

I am blessed and grateful to have him as my father. If I have become who I am today, it is because of him. I will cherish what he has done for my brothers, family, all his Vipassanã students and me. I will take his fatherhood advice and will pass this on to others: “Wherever you go and wherever you are, get an education. Study hard for your future, then serve others.” After all, he always says the best contribution one can make to humanity is to improve one-self.

Lok Pa...Happy ‘92’ Birthday and thank you, you have blessed my life in more ways than I could ever express.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Cambodian 'Open Society"

Here is my personal view on 'Cambodia Open Society' I published in the Phnom Penh Post on March 13th, 2009. The strength of any government is gauged by its commitment to building up the most vulnerable among its citizens.

May the next generation of Khmer people grows up to be an ideal generation with the seed of Dhamma-the seed of metta, karuna, mudita, and uppekka.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cambodia Open Society: From Closed Mindset to Open Mindset

"Please ask me, I want to know" students at Koh Kel Elementary School, Kandal Province

Buddha's Teaching of Open Society at the Elementary School wall of Koh Kel, Kandal Province: The Five Precepts and Metta (lovingkindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (Sympathetic joy), and Uppeka (equanimity)

Cambodia Open Society: from Closed or Fixed Mindset to Open or Growth Mindset.

Today Cambodia is still a country where an education is more often out of reach for thousand of children growing up in poverty and grime. I see people everywhere with nominal opportunity. I want to help level the playing field. While blaming and complaining others will bring no solutions, I ask the politicians to do as they have promised and to look at the public policies that are affecting everyday life in Cambodia such epidemic corruption, human rights, poverty’s alleviation, land grabing, applied rules of laws to all. I want to call on the nation to join me in searching for sustainable solution. But I don’t know how the nation will respond.

As a volunteer teacher, I commit and undertake to the educational development of Cambodia with vigor and without fear of retribution. I want to do more for my country and my people as an individual free from the political restraints. I make no apologies for standing up to speak out on any issue related to the basic standard rights that are in conflict with my understanding of common laws such as equal right and opportunity to education, human rights, justice for all, equal treatment, and fair play. Those vulnerable children may be destitute but they needn’t to be illiterate and ignorant. They also have the right to get an education to enjoy a better life in the future.

In my classroom, I work tirelessly to improve the students’ knowledge, self-esteem, confidence, and standards of living by providing them information, facts and data, assisting them along the way to self-empowerment and connect them to the world. While education is generally perceived as a mean to acquire knowledge which furthers the ability to manage information, I witness the poor people of Cambodia still cannot get close to educating themselves when they don’t possess even the most basic of necessities such as food, water, health care, resources, electricity, infrastructure, and access to the nearest schools. They cannot get the proper education intended for them. They cannot be successful and productive if they are illiterate.

To move forward, Cambodia should adopt the open society concept as a main vehicle for lasting growth and sustainable development. The open society is a concept originally developed by the Nobel Prize in Literature philosopher Henri Bergson. In open societies, government is responsive and tolerant, and political mechanisms are transparent and flexible. The state keeps no secrets from itself in the public sense; it is a non-authoritarian society in which all are trusted with the knowledge of all. Equality, political freedoms and human rights are the foundation of an open society. Although still in its infancy, I have been working on establishing Cambodia Open Society. I admit I still have a long way to go but I dedicate myself to the promotion and implementation of democracy and open societies. After all, the ultimate goal of democracy is not to pursue material abundance but to nurture the dignities and values of each individual. Open society is always open to improvement because knowledge is never completed but always ongoing.

To promote these values, I believe that, first and foremost, the people must have an understanding of their imperfections before they can learn. The majority of the people in Cambodia must learn to change from their fixed mindset to their growth mindset. Positive and constructive change makes all things possible. I witness this deficiency everyday by interacting with them. In my classroom, I work with my students to slowly changing and transforming their mindset.

With the fixed mindset, they spend a lot of time worrying about such questions “Am I good enough? What’s if I am not good enough? How can I believe you? Why should I trust you? Why should I follow the rule of laws when most don’t?” They often loose motivation for any activity in which they don’t immediately shine. They are lack of confidence. They are afraid to speak up. They have fear within themselves. They follow blind ritual and tradition. Mistakes are bad. Everything is difficult and impossible. Conversely, with the growth mindset, the type of belief system, apparent setbacks only fuel their drive and motivation: the result is a continual process of necessary risk taking and self-discovery; an outgoing journey of learning and development. They eliminate barriers of learning by asking themselves “What can I do to get better at this? What works? What is not working? What’s missing? I follow the rule of laws regardless what others think and do.” Mistakes are part of learning. Everything is difficult but possible. Their dignity improves. Their sense of worth increases. They have confidence in themselves to deal with the daily life pressures. They can do more for their own benefits and the benefit of others. They connect themselves to the outside world-freedom to think critically, act conscientiously, and express freely and creatively. “A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done” affirmed the famous American football coach, Vince Lombardi.

To help nurturing Cambodia Open Society, good governance and transparency play a big role in this process. There is a demand to return to the truth and the open society-the value upon which the Cambodia success depends-including honesty, trustworthiness, hard work, courage and fair play. That spirit must inhabit us all. All government officials must work toward achieving an acceptable level of openness by practicing what they preach. Powerful leaders must cultivate mutual respect and consideration, so as to create a feasible and reasonable balance of interest, instead of thinking and abusing unlimited power. They don’t have the right to rob or dispossess in any way whatsoever any other person or the commonweal. They must have a sense of modesty and moderation instead of an unquenchable greed for power, wealth, money and status. In greed and in power, humans lose their souls, their freedom and their inner peace to serve others, and thus that, which makes them human. They must utilize their political and economic power for keen service to their people instead of misusing it in ruthless battles for domination. They must develop and extend a spirit of compassion with those who suffer, with special care for the children, the aged, the poor, and the disabled. Their policies and actions must be transparent because transparency would strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.

To answer life’s most urgent question: what am I doing for others? I find satisfaction of knowing that at least I have made a difference and a small contribution in the lives of my students I teach and the people I met. An ideal Cambodia of Open Society is a transparent country with good governance, competent leaders with vision, accountability, sound institutions, hardworking and rationale citizens with growth mindset, and is under sound progressive management where all the people would one day be healthy in mind and body. Cambodia can become an example to the world, without poverty, by having a non-corrupt and efficient bureaucracy, developing a well-educated, development-oriented private sector, and protecting the environment.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Lotus Flower (Padma~Symbol of Purity)

The Flower of

All my life, I am always fascinating about the perfection of the lotus flower. Wherever I go, whenever I see this flower bloom, I often stop by to enjoy the exquisiteness sight and reflect on its natural beauty; its roots grow in muddy water, its long stem rises up out of the water, and its petal blossom gracefully toward the sun. As my inquiry mind goes to work, I could not help to think back of the quintessence of this magnificent flower. I come to realize that lotus flower is also one of the most important symbols in Buddhism (Padma-Symbol of Purity). The lotus takes time to plant its root and grow only from mud just as human beings can only grow from learning, making mistakes and failures, hard works, efforts, strong determination, and the practice of acceptance. The roots growing in mud symbolizes in ignorance or delusion, the long stem rising undefiled up in water symbolizes wisdom and spiritual growth. The petal blossoming gracefully symbolizes liberation, enlightenment, and nibbãna.

Life is continuous journey beset with problems and opportunities. Life starts with crying; birth is a great suffering. Every living being suffers. As human beings we suffer, and we should be allowed to acknowledge our feelings and we need to, say that we are hurting. Otherwise, we may become sick from suppressing our feelings. Being aware of our jealousy, perceptions, judgments and fear is already a positive step toward acceptance. When we accept ourselves as we are, we do not any longer need to change ourselves. The moment we become aware that we are being too critical of ourselves and we accept our negative seeds, we are making progress. People who are unaware of their negative energies will have difficulties making progress. The lotus knows that it can blossom beautifully because of the mud. For us the same is true. Throughout life, we encounter things that we don’t like, and are separated from things that we like. Unwanted things happen, wanted things do not happen, and we feel miserable. We have negative seeds within us, if we know to accept this, we accept ourselves. The lotus flower does not need to get rid of the mud. Without the mud, it will die. Unless we have garbage, we cannot have flowers. We should not judge others and ourselves. We only need to practice acceptance and tolerance. There will be progress without struggle. The process of transformation requires ongoing time, practice and patience. We produce garbage every day, so we need to practice continuously, ardently and to take care of our garbage in order to make it into flowers. Just as the lotus, we are the maker of our own future. We create our own welfare and misery as well as our own liberation. Real learning takes time, practice and patience. Nothing great was ever achieved without enduring. Make use of our time. We have to work; no one else can work for us. The benefit will be from our own work. This is the nature of the lotus flower. This is the nature of life.

As I contemplate the lotus flower, I establish inner contact with the aspect that is represented. Where we live, where we work, what we learn and what we do will influence who we are and what we accomplish in life. Just as the lotus, though it is born in the mud, grows up in the water, yet remains undefiled by the water, just so should strenuous person earnest in effort, remain undefiled. Lotus is The Flower of Life.


Monday, January 19, 2009

January 7th, 1979: From Liberation to Occupation

In Cambodia, January 7th, 1979 is a time of reflection for all Khmer people and real peace lovers. However, there are conflicted emotions about from the liberation of Cambodia to the occupation by the Vietnamese. The article I posted in The Cambodia Daily on January 7th, 2009: From Liberation to Occupation, reflects my view on the historical event. May all see the truth of what really happened!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What is teaching and Why I teach?

Pagoda Onalum, Elementary Class, Phnom-Penh, Cambodia,
Highland Park Middle School, Beaverton, Oregon, USA

What is teaching and Why I teach?
“Teaching is caring, sharing, and giving”

First and foremost, what is teaching? Teaching is a universal pursuit – everybody does it. Parents teach their children, coach teach their players, wives teach their husbands, husbands teach their wives, employers teach their employees, friends teach friends, professional teachers teach their students and students teach teachers. Helping people learn is teaching. In schools, the goal of teaching is student’s learning. The goal of improving teaching is improving students’ learning. Teaching is learning and learning is teaching.

Now why I teach? I teach because teaching is the most complex, difficult, challenging, and also uplifting, noblest and important job in the world. Teaching is the activity most clearly responsible for learning and thinking. Teaching provides endless challenges and opportunities for my personal growth. Every day, teaching tests my interpersonal skills, my academic knowledge, and my leadership ability. Teaching is giving. I give children knowledge, skills, experiences, and myself. Teaching is caring. I care about the children health, safety, growth, and self-esteem. Teaching is sharing. I share with the children real success, self-confidence, and internal motivation. This is the wheel of my generativity to serve the younger generation to develop and lead useful lives.

Teaching is giving. I want to give the children something priceless that could always be given back to others for gain rather than for loss, and something any of us can do, and yet few of us care to go to the trouble to do. I am always looking for innovative ways to enhance the children life chances by providing them continual, adaptive refinements of strategies and alternatives. I expose, engage and involve them in active learning so they will have the best possible chance to be successful, strong and healthy. There’s no better way to experience the joy of teaching than to see students’ joy of learning blossom because all students deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. Teachers are models of unconditional kindness, compassion, and love. By giving others something they didn’t already know and have, I have gained more than I have given and realized that hope shines in a world where hopeless prevail.

Teaching is caring. I care about children because by giving back of myself, I improve the world of people around me. I want to take part to create the pathway to the future of the children. I know that I am spending my life in an honorable pursuit and that my life has a purpose and meaning; helping every child becomes a productive and responsible member of the society. I believe each of us has a special gift that can change a myriad of lives for the better. Most of my dreams have come true. I want to be a vehicle to make their dreams come true as well. Yet, I admit I can’t teach everything. Sometimes I have sought refuge in my own learning, in gaining awareness-in the kind of education not found in school. Such topics are perceptions and judgments

Teaching is sharing. The basic concept of teaching is to give up one’s self interest for the sake of others. I have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm and my passion for learning with young people. I have the awesome privilege of being able to help others to help themselves. I can promote their sense of well-being, self-confidence and dignity knowing that self-esteem is fostered by being told, and reminded they are important, valued, and successful. I challenge young people to develop their individual strengths and specific talents. Teaching inspires me to think beyond myself for the benefit of others. As teacher, I am making a difference in the lives of the children, families, and the communities who would not otherwise have access to quality education. I can make a significant difference in the lives of students.

As I continue to evolve, learn and grow, I devote myself to create a culture of learning. New ideas and innovative concepts become useful only if I can figure out what to do with them. Study without action is fatale. Action without study is futile. My knowledge of teaching is not just based on books, theories, studies, lectures, but also from interactions and many gleanings from my experience. My hands-on approaches can only be gained from the practice and experience of teaching and learning. In this way, the theoretical knowledge and the actual practice were most beneficially combined to gain penetrating knowledge of teaching and learning. With a bit of new vision and a lot of heart, I can help shape the lives of the children. It is when we forget ourselves that we do things that are remembered.

In my country’s perspective (Cambodia), since schools are symbol of order and stability, to achieve growth that will be lasting, what needed are opportunities for government leaders, policy makers, school staffs, students, parents and community organizations to work together. The aim must be to build a different kind of school culture, one that develops an exemplary curriculum, identifies effective teaching approaches, eliminate all forms of corruption, cultivates teacher and students relationship, and establishes an atmosphere of mutual respect. Learning cannot be bought and sold. What scare me the most are the decreased moral and traditional values. Doing what one has to survive can result in devastation to one’s self-concept and self-esteem. I am motivated by the need to serve and give back beyond creating material wealth. People who lack possessions and materials wealth but do not lack spirit and happiness have inspired me. I teach who I am.

To sum up, I teach because I have the greatest opportunity to impact and to influence the student’s life. I experience the rewarding experience of teaching student to understand and value the importance of academic and practical learning, and to build self-esteem as well as self-confidence. Yet, I open myself to uncertainty not knowing prior expectation from the students. Each teaching day is a success in itself. I persevere because I have confident in their ability. I let my passion and my enthusiasm guide me. I fertilize the integration of morality seed within each individual student. In this process, I avoid set up expectation because the students might start discouraging themselves if they cannot achieve what I want them to achieve. I inspire the student through multiples engaging learning activities. I let the learning flows and drips slowly but effectively in their mind. They will succeed later and better. Just as climbing the mountain requires effort, strength and endurance. When they reach the top the view is spectacular. I require students to take responsibility for their own learning behavior and chart their own growth. The students need as much assistance as society can give them, individually and communally.

Finally, I have found that there is no such thing as real success in teaching but when I fail, I fail gloriously. Everyday even I show one student that I truly care about him or her is a great day for me. Each teaching day is a success in itself. What a rewarding profession and a joyous experience I have chosen; helping children of any age learn new skills, nourish their mind and acquire new insights. As mother Theresa said: “the miracle is not that we do this work, but we are happy to do it.” I am happy to teach.