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a heart across the ocean

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New York City: Imagine

NYC Kent 2018 241

Entrance: Strawberry Fields

Central Park was featured in one of the very first movies I shared with my husband, the classic comedy the “Out of Towners.” Being first, in some ways it has some sentimental significance for both us. I guess, that’s one of the reasons why it was hard to exclude  from our list of places to visit in New York City. Besides that, being a Beatles fan, my husband has also a more personal mission – to pay his respect to John Lennon’s  Imagine Memorial which is located in Strawberry Fields.


Imagine Memorial Mosaic

As everyone knows, John and Yoko used to live in the Dakota Apartments which is just adjacent to the Strawberry Fields in Central Park. He was shot in December 1980 in front of  Dakota which took his life, and since then the 2.5 acres of Central Park was dedicated to his memory. It is named after the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever” written by John. It is a place he was said to have sat with his son many times and enjoyed the park.


Entrance: Dakota Apartments

During our visit, a local musician played Beatles’ songs while people poured in to pay their respect to John and view the beautiful “Imagine” Memorial mosaic. I must say, it was a heart-warming experience for me despite my lack of connection with the band. We took some photos, sat for a while to enjoy the moment, and then headed to the Dakota to see the apartment where he used to live.

It is still unfathomable to me how so quickly and so senseless someone could take a life of someone like John who was a peacemaker, very talented and still had a lot of beautiful music to offer. Life is sometimes very mysterious! I guess our trip to his memorial was another reminder that life is fleeting, and indeed we should revel in every minute of time we have.

         bucket list 5” Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world as one.”

                                                                    – by John Lennon

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New York City Part 2

9/11 Memorial

It was on Sept 12, 2001 Philippine time when I learned about the horrendous 9/11 terrorist attacks. I arrived at the embassy my usual time and was surprised that everyone from our department including the ambassador was already in. There was unusual silence in the room. All eyes were glued on the TV with the same stunned expression. The media reported the tragedy all day for hours: that four passenger airliners were hijacked, and two of the planes were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, USA. The first thing I saw when I looked at the screen was the sight of the tower collapsing. It was indeed heartbreaking and unimaginable. To many of us who lived through that day, we will never forget the pain and loss it has brought to so many people.

Since that infamous day, it has been on my bucket list to visit the 9/11 Memorial to pay respect to those brave innocent souls who lost their lives during the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing. While the dedication ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks was held at the memorial on September 11, 2011, it was only during our recent visit to NYC that my husband and I had finally checked it off from our list. From the Battery Park we walked across the street to the Freedom Tower which is most commonly known as the One World Observatory.





The feeling of being on that hallow ground was moving as you might imagine. It took a few minutes for us to register the moment: to juxtapose what we saw on 9/11 that fateful day and later the recovery efforts so valiantly undertaken on “the pile”, as the rescuers came to call it, and where we were now standing.


It was a beautiful place of serenity, of sounds of water similar to a gentle bubbling brook. There were images of artful concrete, bronze and steel, but now “the pile” is clean, untwisted and renewed like the American spirit that is embodied in every name that is inscribed there.


The construction of the Freedom Tower as well as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum only shows that no attack, small or big, can diminish the American spirit. From ashes we will rise to prove to any detractors that goodness will always prevail over evil.

God bless America!

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy. We learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl



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Summer Getaway: New York City

Known as the Big Apple, the embodiment of the American Dream can be (remember Blue Eyes singing Make It Here Make It Anywhere?) for many newcomers and natural born alike, freedom is symbolized by the Statue of Liberty which is located in New York harbor. I have always fantasized of visiting New York City (NYC) to see her holding her freedom torch  both representing strength and a welcoming respite. I had seen it on TV, in movies, magazines, and even vlogs, and almost every year I would plan on making my pilgrimage. Well, of course, it didn’t materialize until recently. It was sometime in May, after being offered four courses to teach in summer that my husband and I finally decided to take the plunge and gave in to my enduring heart’s desire and itchy feet. Surely, the sheer awe and magnificence of that experience will live with us forever.

As everyone knows, New York City is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 8,622, 698 population in 2017, distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), it is quite densely populated. However, inhabited as NYC, it is funny that you don’t really feel smothered at times like say Manila, Tokyo and other densely populated cities. From the airport, we headed to the Marriott Hotel in Manhattan which served as our launch site and accommodation for the next few days. The 45 minute ride from the airport gave us the opportunity to enjoy the landscape and people watch. Its architecture and bustling with life very much reminded me of Manila – just roomier: the towering buildings sitting on top of each other, busy streets with crowds of people heading to work, and, of course, its diverse and vibrant inhabitants/populace immediately appealed to one’s intellectual curiosity. There’s no doubt that NYC remains to be the cultural capital of the United States.





Another Bucket List Items Checked

When my husband and I booked our trip, we immediately made a list of places on our sub-bucket list that we wanted to check off in NYC. I must say, despite many distractions surrounding us (fancy restaurants and glamorous boutiques), we kept our nose to the grindstone. We hit the road and checked off our list one by one. In doing so, we covered a lot of miles walking as there are just too much to see. By the time we got back to our hotel, our feet were barking and just ready for a good night rest.

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Meeting Lady Liberty

Near the top of our list, of course, was to visit the Statue of Liberty. While my husband and I were both very excited to see her up close, we didn’t anticipate that it would be a little bit challenging. To see the Statue of Liberty, we took a ferry trip the from Battery Park to the Liberty Island. Besides the crowd, we didn’t expect that getting sea sick would be part of the adventure. Call it luck, but the loading of passengers on our ferry was like riding a bucking horse on a Hawaiian big wave. I saw some passengers being thrown about and sliding from one side to another before disembarking and while our boat was still tied to the dock. Ouch! It was a little bit disconcerting, yet once on the island, we knew it was all worth the pain.


Lady Liberty

One of the world’s most famous monuments, the 304-foot (92 meters) tall Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France in 1886 to commemorate the American Declaration of Independence. During the 19th century, Lady Liberty greeted exhausted immigrants travelling by boat from Europe hoping for a better life in the United States. Magnificent and full of grace, Lady Liberty is indeed the epitome of freedom and true courage.


If you are planning to see the Statue of Liberty in New York City, please don’t delay as we did. Take a bite out of the Apple as soon as you can!

Part 2 of our NYC trip coming soon… Thanks for reading!

When I am in New York, I just want to walk down the street and feel this thing, like I’m in a movie.” – Ryan Adams



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Chronicle 9: Summer Term 2018

We just concluded our Summer Term a couple of days ago. As I anticipated, it went dramatically fast and furious. After I started my Instructional Design course in mid-June, things really started to pile up. While my teaching classes had some interesting twist and turns, it was my ID course that I found to be a hornet’s nest. Immediately after reading the syllabus and the amount of coursework to be completed, I knew that it would be a nightmare for me as I was already dealing with teaching four classes. Like anyone who smells trouble, my first impulse was not even to open the Pandora’s Box, but rather head rapidly for the closest exit. While my ever supportive husband agreed with my plan, he asked me to give bailing some thought – at least for a day or two. So, I did. After some serious consideration and a promise from my husband that he would cover for me in some of my household responsibilities, I eventually decided to go with the flow and suck it up. It was the praise I received from my instructor after my first assignment that gave me the nudge I needed. Plus, as I slowly discovered, it turned out that my instructor’s bark was worse than her bite.

It was tough as most all summer sessions are! Nearly every week, I had to read 3 chapters, take quizzes, and work on written/technology related projects. I had to cloister myself in a self-imposed “house arrest” sentence every weekend to meet the deadlines. However, while the coursework was huge, considering I had limited time to study and complete the assignments, there’s no denying, the course content was rich and valuable. In 6 weeks, I accomplished a lot. Not only was I able to learn valuable Apps that I can incorporate in my ESOL classes, but I was also able to create my e-teaching portfolio and web site which I had as a goal for a very long time. So, what started as a nightmare for me turned out to be a blessing in the end. That being said, indeed Gugu Mona was right, and I quote, “When God says run, don’t relax, just run. It is for a reason.”


Playing with brushes and water color while on my summer break…

How are you doing this summer?


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Spring Break Part 2

Our Rendezvous with the Atlantis


Ever since I have finished reading the book by Astronaut Chris Hartfield, I have been eager to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. That was more than a year ago, but we decided to wait a little bit to ensure that initial crowds would thin as newness might wear off. Apparently, in reality this exciting exhibit continues to attract large number of fans all over the world daily. I put it on our bucket list just to cement the plan, and I was not disappointed.

Last week my husband and I were able to visit N.A.S.A. and finally checked off another item on our bucket list – seeing the Atlantis Space Shuttle up close and personal. The tour took us almost 5 hours of walking and some waiting, but it was all worth it. There’s no way to describe our experience, but (it was) truly a blast!

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Chronicle 7: The Home Stretch

It is unbelievable, our Spring Term is soon to be over. My students and I are now sprinting towards the finish line blazing through last few days of school. For me, it is mostly just preparing the final grades of my students after giving their final exam last week. I understand for many of my students, it was indeed a torturous week. Although I know some students of mine are never intimidated by challenging situations such as test-taking, still the majority of them never seem to escape the heart fluttering sensations when put in test taking hot seat. I have been there, and I know exactly how it feels.

Cognizant of anxiety’s adverse effect on students’ performance, I make sure to try and lessen it before it becomes debilitating. According to some studies, extreme anxiety can raise the affective filter and form a mental block, and no test takers ever want to experience that! So, one strategy I often utilize is lowering the affective filter, and (caution-shifting to way back machine) this reminded me of my former dentist during one of my nerve-wracking root canal procedures. Like many patients, the disturbing process of drilling teeth doesn’t appeal to me at all. Upon one memorable visit, my apathetic dentist came in to the room all business with his casual greeting to his patients, “Hello. How are you doing?” Somebody who would answer that question with “fantastic!” must be lying. For me, it was hard to pretend everything was fine when all I could think of was the upcoming ordeal, so I replied with all honesty, “Very nervous, doctor.” Obviously, I was soliciting some sympathy from him combined with assurance that I would survive the torment – but NO. Without hesitation, my doctor, who was busy putting on his gloves, bluntly retorted, “Well, at least I am not…” While other people may consider my doctor’s response uncaring, his perfect cadence in delivering the line made me laugh out loud. I thought that it was funny. Just imagine if we were both nervous; I’m sure that would be disastrous. That little bit of detraction was all I needed.

Language instruction, of course, is different from practicing dentistry. To be an effective instructor, I believe language learners should be able to learn in an environment that can give them the freedom to voice their views, ask questions, and make mistakes without fear of humiliation. That being said, during testing I make it a point to remind my students even before I read the test instructions that, pass or fail, their score doesn’t define who they are. As an instructor, it is important for me to create an “emotional eco-system” in my class where my students feel that they matter to me and that their work and efforts have value. So here are some activities, or a little bit of distraction, that I usually do before giving high stakes testing.


  1. Strategically schedule the test – usually a week before grade submission in order to give me and my students some wiggle room in case re-testing is needed;
  2. Providing my students with test coverage;
  3. Offering a practice test to familiarize them with the upcoming test style and my expectations;
  4. Affording clear rubrics for grading;
  5. Returning test papers after correcting them;
  6. Discussing the correct answers and giving opportunities for my students to “notice” or recognize their mistakes so they can learn from them; and,
  7. Offering words of appreciation and encouragement.

I must say, if there’s one thing that I have learned this semester after teaching for many years, it is to strictly adhere to my standard grading policy which is to be fair, firm, consistent, and, last but not the least, kind.


“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

Note: Special thanks to two of my wonderful students who handed me these beautiful bouquet of roses and Thank you card   during our End-of-the-Term party this morning.

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Chronicle # 6: My Time in the Pickle Barrel!

I went to work on Thursday to find out one of my classes would be observed by our instructional specialist. Surprise! Don’t worry, I am not in trouble. This is a routine observation. Maybe it was not also a BIG surprise as I was notified last month through an email that my class would soon be observed. The word “soon”, however, was vague. Other than the 6 weeks window indicated in the email, the date was unspecified.

As many of you are probably aware, a classroom observation is a formal or informal observation of one’s teaching while it is taking place in a classroom or other learning environment. In my college, it is usually conducted once a year by either one of our administrators or our instructional specialist. While the thought of it could initially make one feel edgy, it is really far less daunting than, say, a root canal procedure. If there’s one thing I might find worrisome about a classroom observation, it’s really just the uncertainty of the scheduling. After all, nobody would like to be observed during his/her most uninteresting classroom activities (e.g. giving a quiz, drafting a paragraph).  If one wants to showcase his/her greatest performance in order to win that “Oscar” (pay raise or promotion), definitely the classroom observation is the perfect time to put his/her best foot forward.

A classroom observation is very important. It is often used for a variety of purposes. The most common are: 1) to provide teachers with constructive feedback aimed at improving their classroom management and 2) an extension of formal job-performance evaluation. In my department, it is utilized for both purposes. Trying to maintain a high standard in our ELS program statewide, our administrators would like to ensure instructors’ high quality of instruction AT ALL TIMES. Thus, I suppose, it is the main reason why assigned observers conduct their class observation as a big surprise, if not just giving only a short notice.

Classroom Observation Checklist

Every school has its own comprehensive framework, agreed descriptors, and judgmental criteria when conducting a classroom observation. In our department, they are the following: 1) Demonstrates knowledge of subject matter; 2) Manages instruction effectively; 3) Stimulates interest in subject matter; 4) Encourages student participation; and, 5) Uses appropriate methods of instruction.

In all honesty, this approach is what I routinely attempt to achieve every day in my classroom. However, no matter how confident I feel in front of my students, still the idea of being observed by an administrator (who might give me a wanting evaluation which could eventually result in me being shown the door) puts me on pins and needles. I must admit, as part of my affirmation I constantly remind myself that other people’s perception about me is none of my business. Yet, on second thought, when it comes to my bread and butter, I allow this one exception to that axiom. Yes, I do care. I really, really do care!

The Groundwork

Since I received the email about the class observation, you might expect I have become very cautious and particular about my lesson planning. I wanted to make sure that I was checking all the boxes in the criteria base.

Besides carefully preparing my teaching materials, I also reinforced my effort by reminding myself to dress for success, multiplying my chance to superbly pull this one off. Knowing how my brain works, I recognize the ripple effect that good looks may translate to in my performance.  As Jason Statham beautifully puts it, and I quote, “Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. I would humbly add doing good to make it a good trifecta. That being said, the past few weeks I incorporated a little bit of style in my outfits to go along with that bounce in my step, mischievous grin, and that twinkle in my eye.


The Verdict 

Then came Thursday. I woke up at 3:00 A.M.  with a stomach bug disrupting my deep sleep. For hours I was tossing and turning in my bed. I almost decided to call in sick, but I toughed it out. I went through my morning routine and headed off to work. At 9 A.M. I started my first class, then trudged off to my next class at 11 A.M. As always, moving around helps me get distracted and forget whatever discomfort I am going through. The pain was intermittent, but eventually it subsided. Both classes went very well so much so I wished I had been observed in the morning. I went home, had lunch, took a short nap, and then got ready for my evening classes.

As it is my practice, I passed by the ELS office to check my mailbox before going to my classroom. As I entered the faculty office, I noticed that our instructional specialist was still at her workstation. I got suspicious, then curious, then hyper.  True enough, she was there to conduct an observation on my class – AT NIGHT!

Oh man, suddenly I felt my stomach churning; butterflies are free again. The stomach pain was back and was mounting a bigger attack, but there was no time to get sick this time. I said to myself “suck it up buttercup.”

I calmed myself down by starting conversations with my students who had started trickling in our classroom. I pretended to be all excited and happy to mask the growing revolution taking place in my tummy. Thankfully, my power ensemble gimmick helped me to hide my discomfort. Once I started my class, the churning eventually stopped, and before I knew it I was already oblivious to my observer in the back who was scrutinizing my performance. One hour swiftly passed and the ordeal was over.  I was so thankful I made it through without embarrassing myself (I am referring to getting sick).

I have no idea how I rated in my class observation, but I am sure I survived in no small part due to my dress for success trick, which helped me exude confidence and conceal the tennis match going on in my stomach. Thank God!

So, until next time when the verdict is read. Fingers crossed!

“If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, then you do good.”– George St -Pierre



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Spring Break 2018

My glorious week is just winding down from a self-imposed staycation to celebrate our Spring Break 2018. Here I sit getting ready to get back to work again. Although it was quick, I couldn’t be more grateful for having a brief interlude both from classes I teach this term and the graduate course I am currently attending. I know that every time I have a break from work (Spring Break, Winter Break, summer vacation, Teachers’ Day and so on), my husband is always green with envy. I understand many people assume teachers have lots of holidays on their calendars. However, the reality is during those holidays many of us are also working (yes, we are!) – only now at home. That is exactly what I ended up doing during this Spring Break. There was just a magnitude of work on my to-do list, and I was resolved to address each one during this brief respite. Thankfully, I did not disappoint myself.

Despite staycationing in the comfort of our home – spending most of my time in my office – working, and then roaming from one part of the house to another – I would not characterize my Spring Break as pitiful and boring. On the contrary, it’s the opposite. I understand that it has been a tradition among many people during Spring Break to travel and party. Obviously, that was not my priority this time (old chick here anyway). While we have some plans to travel this year, we are waiting for the perfect timing and weather (which also include the wild, “crazy”, and young revelers to migrate again north from Florida). So, what could be more exciting to do on my break but hang out with my own Brad Pitt 24/7. Oh yeah! My husband (BP in another lifetime) and I accomplished many things we had on our need-to-do and nice-to-do lists. However, I must say, the real thrill was getting the chance to spend each day together in complete solace and contentment. We are truly grateful!

Here are some images I captured while shilly-shallying and  dillydallying:

blog_springbreakEnjoying nature’s beauty
blog_springbreak2Visiting an art gallery

“Spring breathes new life into the world around us.”

Thank you for reading!


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Chronicle # 5: My Potential Teaching Persona

This week my class in Instructional Design (ID) discussed one’s teaching persona, which despite teaching for many years, I haven’t really thought about. I must admit, I find it very intriguing intellectually. As we explored the topic, Davis (2013) described it as “the way teachers present a certain self to their audience of students.” No teaching persona gets created overnight, of course. It is said that seasoned educators go through the process of tweaking and adapting their tone and body language overtime. Hmmm… very interesting!

As a face-to-face instructor, every now and then I hear snippets of comments from my students, which give me a glimpse of how am I perceived by my students. However, other than that, my teaching persona is something of a mystery to me. Since I haven’t been a virtual instructor yet (and my ID class is, of course, geared towards online teaching), for this week’s project, we were assigned to submit a paper on our potential learning persona. I thought some of my teacher friends/readers might relate, so I elected to share my project in this chronicle.

blog_teachingpersonaSpecial credit: shutter stock

First, as an ESL instructor teaching online, I should be mindful that my students are coming from a very diverse population: age, proficiency, educational attainment, economic status, and cultural backgrounds. Thus, I must be careful in the use of my language, albeit I am known as sometimes “humorous” in my face-to-face instruction. From the onset, I may have to devise a diplomatic demeanor to avoid being misinterpreted since gestures and facial expression now will be absent form of my schema. I must be poised by being tactful, defusing difficult situations, and building good relationships with my students. This I can demonstrate by being respectful and thoughtful in my language while still being firm, fair, and consistent in my instruction.

Second, I must also be cognizant of my students’ digital literacy, which from my experience may pose as a challenge to some of my students. Depending on what course and level I teach, I must be cautious not only in my instructional approach (use of synchronous vs asynchronous method), but also in my employment of other technology learning tools. I plan to demonstrate it by being sensitive to my students’ computer skills, as well as being selective to digital learning platforms appropriate for my students’ needs. For language learning, I believe simple but meaningful activities are the ideal approach, especially for the struggling beginning students.

I understand that this approach is easier said than done, but I plan for my students to remember me as a substantive instructor in terms of subject content, yet enjoyable, empathetic, and empowering of my students and vibrant in my delivery. In short, attending my online class would be like a Goldilocks-experience – not hard, not soft, but just right!   ***

“To teach is to learn again” – Oliver Wendell Holmes