Showing posts from July, 2006

Remarkable Jackie

In my first two years of teaching, I taught a remarkable girl, whom I will refer to as Jackie. She was the type of student who had to know why everything was the way it was. She always asked me to show her the veracity of theorems and the reason that any particular algorithm actually worked.

I must say that I always welcome this kind of inquisitiveness, and get frustrated by the fact that many of my students have been irreparably convinced that Mathematics was a subject where thinking had little to do with success! I often allowed myself to be manipulated into teaching the traditional way: the teacher gives lots of notes and then sets work from the textbook.

Jackie was different in this respect. Her questions were a breath of fresh air, especially when she was in year 8. That particular group was a difficult one to work with. They were very nice girls, but not the type for whom thinking or a high level of self discipline came naturally.

My biggest frustration was when I could not answer …

Grateful for every day?

Yesterday, a colleague asked me whether growing up in a time of war had changed me. Did I savour each day of my life?

Given his apparent expectations, My answer must have been disappointing. The fact is that, like most people I know, I live a life disproportionately dominated by mundane concerns. I plan for and worry about the future as though I were sure to live a long life.

One thing that I have learned from the war was the importance of a good education. When you hope to make a future for yourself outside your country of birth, education is your only passport. It is a sacred thing.

I remember many people using the war as a pretext for the way they lived. Those who stole or fought with militias said that the circumstances of life necessitated their behaviour. Those who turned to God, pointed to the absurdity of the things of this world. Everything was truly ephemeral and almost everything was pointless.

I was surrounded mainly by people in the latter category. I think their love for Go…

C'est la politique qui prime

I remember a time in my youth when a the leader of a militia was doing the rounds of universities. In one of his speeches, he emphasised the French proverb, "c'est la politique qui prime". Loosely translated, this means "Politics before all else". He argued that the students' education could not take precedence, sincec an unstable country would not provide them with a future. All considerations had to make way for politics.

I believe that people who love freedom and who have strong convictions always defy reality. A committed Christian forgoes some income to keep Sunday mornings free. A practising Jew limits his social engagements to keep the Sabbath. A determined student studies despite the bombs that take away both the peace and lights of his study area.

Obviously, my upbringing in a war torn country provided me with many opportunities to defy reality. I was blessed with parents who did not wrap me in cotton wool, and instead allowed me to grow and explore …

How I became a teacher?

Here's opening one's soul:

I remember one day discussing with my dad the fact that I wanted to study Education at university. He encouraged me to read about education and keep it as a hobby, but counselled me to do something which would earn me a more decent wage. I suppose this is not unusual, especially where I was born, where pursuit of a living wage often meant emigrating to the West or taking a post in the Gulf states.

The idea kept simmering in my mind, even though I completed an engineering degree and worked for a major telecommunications company. In the year 2000, I requested permission to apply for a training position in Europe. It turned out to be an inopportune time for my department to let go of any of its members. A few months later, we were closed down by the parent company and I found work as a trainer, contracting to a large US company.

The IT slump hit hard towards the end of 2001 and, despite signing with another leading software training provider, the contracts…