Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called Physical Labor, a moment of an encounter called Year Number Five, and a moment of a perspective called A Contradictory Character.
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Hello and welcome to Episode #36 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, join me in this journey. I am Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Physical Labor, Year Number Five, and A Contradictory Character.
A moment of adversity called: Physical Labor
We were getting married, and my boyfriend wanted to renovate his house before we moved in. I didn’t know anything nor had any skill in remodeling a home. I didn’t know that I would be participating in the process. I soon learned that Anson was a handyman, an extreme perfectionist, and a do-it-yourself kind of guy. While I thought these traits were okay to have, I didn’t expect Anson to attempt to forcibly shove them down my throat and make me try to be like that.
Anson didn’t ask me if I wanted to do the physical labor; he assumed I would do it since it was our house. I didn’t know what I was getting into when we started this project. All our hours not at our jobs, not eating or sleeping, were spent working on the house. The fun of dating quickly became a distant memory. This enormous project was all-consuming and trying my patience. Anson was not a good teacher in showing me how to do things. I was not much interested in learning either.
My first task was sanding the floor moldings in the nook. Anson thought it would be an easy task for me to do; I thought so too. It was boring to do but looked simple enough. It became a nightmare. Every time I thought I finished, Anson would say I missed sanding another speck of old paint. I needed to sand until not one dot of old paint was left. I learned how extreme Anson was in being a perfectionist. He took all the fun out of doing anything when he was in that mode.
Once I was done with the baseboards in the small nook, I had the rest in every room to do. It seemed as if I could not do a perfect enough job, so it took much longer to complete than I thought.
After finishing the sanding task, I painted varnish on the cabinets. I thought this would be quicker since they were kitchen and nook cabinet doors only. As it turned out, it was an even more difficult task. Any speck of dust that flew on the cabinet doors would ruin the smooth perfection. And it would need to be redone. Each task became worse than the previous one. I hated doing all the details as I endured Anson’s nitpickiness and complaints.
I told Anson I was not good at doing the tasks, and he needed to do them to have the results he wanted. I suggested he hire professionals to do the job perfectly. He said they didn’t do a good job, which was why we were doing things ourselves. He hired people to do some things, and he kept complaining about how they didn’t do a good enough job even though he paid them. I learned that I was not the only person who couldn’t do a job to his satisfaction. The workers didn’t have to hear his complaints, but I did!
The more time we spent fixing the house, the more I began to wonder if I should marry him anymore. One time he was on his screaming rampage because I didn’t do something perfect enough. I finally couldn’t take it any longer and took the bus home back to my apartment. When I got home, he had driven over to my place, waiting for me. He appeared to feel bad, but I think he just wanted a workhorse. I went home thankful I still had my place to retreat and wondered what I would do if we were married. Where would I go? It was a scary thought.
When we weren’t working on the house, we got something for the house at Home Depot. This errand meant there was more work to do. I came to hate Home Depot and doing any do-it-yourself tasks. Doing the actual work was not as bad as enduring Anson’s demand for perfection, screams, and lectures.
Somehow, we finished the renovation, and I was still alive. Unfortunately, I married Anson but later divorced him. His temper and anal quirks were unbearable. But I have to say I certainly learned how to be a somewhat handywoman because of him.
After divorcing him, I bought my own house and did handy work I could do. If I couldn’t do something, I’d tell myself there was a way. If I found it, I did it myself. However, I knew I had limitations and knew when to call the professionals before pulling my hair out!
A moment of an encounter called: Year Number Five
Comfortably situated in a school I had worked in for four years, I was suddenly thrown out of it after a ten-day count of students. I had spent two weeks setting up my classroom with bright yellow fadeless paper on the bulletin boards ready for student work displays with rainbow-colored borders. Because of a decrease in the number of students, I was out of a job. With little notice, I had to swiftly pack up and look for another job when the school had already started for two weeks.
Fortunately, I quickly found another job and moved in over the weekend. Little did I know what I would be in for; my pleasant and safe world in the first four years of my career was about to be turned over upside-down. Luckily, I didn't have time to unpack and set up before the first day of class. My new students would have destroyed all my hard work if I did.
My new students threw trash on the floor, scraped pencil marks on the desks, dented class furniture, and threw things at each other. Instead of listening to me, they fired profanity at each other, shoved chairs around, flung papers to land on the floor, and gave each other mean looks that would potentially erupt into a fight. Sometimes, I'd hear someone saying something quietly, and then suddenly, with loud movements, two kids would get up and engage in a physical fight.
I had learned not to touch students even if I wanted to break up a fight. In my four years of teaching elementary school, I had never seen such violent behavior, frequent use of profanity and nasty words, disrespect for property and human beings. And I was teaching a class of third graders!
One time, it was time for dismissal, and I reminded a student, Stan, to put his chair on top of the desk so the janitor could quickly sweep the floor. He did not say anything to me, but he looked at me. Then Stan held up his chair towards me, ready to throw it at me. I told him to think of the consequences if he threw it at me. Luckily, he put the chair on top of the desk as initially requested.
Another time, as if he had nothing better to do, Sam, another student, had a rubber band in his hand. He stretched it and aimed it at me. I said if he snapped it at me, I'd call the office on the phone, and he'd get suspended for attempting to harm a teacher. Fortunately, he put the rubber band down.
I had only been with this class for two weeks, and I wondered how I was going to survive. I looked to see if there were other job openings. Since school had already started, there were few positions. I noticed that what was left available was in dangerous neighborhoods similar to my school's location. I had enjoyed the first four years of my career, and was I ready to quit the profession altogether? It was a scary feeling. I had nowhere to go, and I didn't know what to do.
Everything I had learned about classroom discipline didn't work on this group of students. I needed to think of something or try something I had never tried before this class. Other teachers told me I was the fifth teacher for this group of students, and it was only the first month of school! They said my being there for two weeks was already longer than all the previous teachers who lasted one day to one week at the longest. The full-time school psychologist told me that I could handle any student if I could survive this school. I knew the school was not in good shape because schools rarely had funding for a full-time psychologist, and this school had one. It had to be because it was in dire need of one, and they could not afford to cut corners in having a full-time one. Since I didn't have a better school to transfer to, I decided I'd better make the best of my situation. Further, what the school psychologist said seemed to stick in my head. Perhaps it was because I am a person up to meeting challenges.
After two weeks of horror, a resource teacher whose room was near mine walked in. She said the school had a school-wide discipline plan. She proceeded to demonstrate it to me. Immediately, I saw students respond to it. Ms. Gatlin, the resource teacher, all but spent five minutes showing me how it worked. It was simple enough to do. Seeing that students responded to it, I immediately implemented what I learned in those five minutes of the demonstration presented to me.
I soon discovered I had to do it frequently to keep students behaving well. I felt like a policewoman constantly fighting for law and order. Before I could even finish saying one sentence, I'd need to stop to address discipline issues. It was not enjoyable. I no longer felt like a teacher; I felt like a policewoman.
Lessons would go something like, "Today we are learning about (STOP) the three branches of government. They are (STOP) executive, legislative, (STOP), and judicial. In the judicial branch, the judge (STOP) decides if a law (STOP) has been broken. In the (STOP) legislative branch, (STOP)….." Each time I stopped in mid-sentence, I stopped to deal with a discipline issue. I would draw a star next to a name for positive behavior and erase a star for negative behavior. On top of that, I'd need to state exactly why I drew a star or why I erased a star so students would be clear of what behavior warranted a star and what didn't.
Though I did not enjoy doing it, it worked better than any other discipline approach I tried. The more I practiced it, the better I got at it. It even helped me to become an expert multi-tasker in the classroom. Implementation was easy, and it allowed for flexibility and customization. I decided which behaviors were considered positive and which behaviors were considered negative. I decided how many stars or points were needed to earn a prize. I customized the discipline plan and became an expert at it.
Amazingly, in less than two months, my class became the model class of the entire school. The classroom became orderly. Trash was no longer on the floor, desks and chairs were left neatly arranged. Students stopped throwing things. The profanity and mean words stopped. Students were pleased to see their work on the bulletin boards. Students were paying attention in class. The number of interruptions to my sentences decreased. Suspensions became a rarity. Respect, law, and order descended upon this class.
Because Ms. Gatlin walked into my classroom to show me the principal's discipline plan, I put order into my classroom. Though other teachers did it, the results were not as eye-popping as mine. I concluded that consistency and frequency were essential to effective classroom management.
Because year number five of my career began horrifically, it was memorable. Because, with the help of Ms. Gatlin, I was able to overcome the challenges; I became a confident and self-assured teacher. I even became a teacher trainer for beginning teachers and a district-wide teacher presenter. Remember that when faced with difficulties, if you can overcome them, it is not just a victory for the challenge. It is a triumph in building the strength of character. Indeed, as the school psychologist said, "If you can meet the challenges at that school, you can handle any student."
Ms. Gatlin probably doesn't know it, but I wholeheartedly thank her for saving my career. Besides surviving year number five, the experience gave me great confidence as a teacher and enjoyment in teaching and making a difference for children for many years.
A moment of a perspective called: A Contradictory Character
I am at a party surrounded by lots of people and good food. It looks fun for an average person, but it is uncomfortable for me. It is annoying to have to make small talk about nothing meaningful and feel a need to talk to people to appear friendly with people; I'll probably never see them again. How meaningless is it? Worse, by being shy, reserved, and quiet, society makes you feel like something is wrong with you for being that way. I am careful with my words, looking innocent and introverted. I painstakingly try to engage in conversation with strangers or acquaintances at a party. I'd sometimes much rather listen to other people's stories or conversations and be entertained by them. I'd much rather be home enjoying myself in the peace than be in the noise of a party.
Though quiet, I wonder why my presence is so noticeable. Someone would say, why is she so quiet? Someone else would say I am like a volcano: Appearing to be ever so quiet as a sleeping volcano, but when I speak, it is like a volcano exploding because everyone will stop to listen.
When I was at a personal development seminar where people were encouraged to engage in the large group discussion or dialogue, you bet I would be quietly listening. Occasionally, though, I would speak up. Once, I stood up and said, "We could keep on talking about the word IMPOSSIBLE infinitely and all the obstacles in life, but we could just see "I'm possible" and move on. During break time, people would say to me, "so few words, but ever so powerful."
In another instance, when I spoke in front of a few hundred people at a business event, someone said that people listened without side conversations. I don't even remember what I said, but I remember the compliments of surprise or shock that I could say so little and be so impactful.
While I am a quiet, reserved, and shy person on the surface, there is a seething being inside dying to express so much that hasn't been described fully. More than that, this being (as if it is not me, but it is a part of me) is dying to come out as a professional public speaker and writer.
She wants to show her voice (that's me, but also doesn't seem like me on the surface), a voice that is not meek, but a voice that speaks and powerfully engages audiences worldwide with her thoughts and stories. Before she escapes, she has already done things that seem uncharacteristic of her. She hungers and does go skydiving and bungee jumping. She looks shy and reserved, but she is outgoing and adventurous by traveling solo all over Asia, meeting strangers, asserting herself to get help as needed, and seeing and doing things only a risk-taker would do.
She even went into business selling, jumping out of her comfort zone, and engaging in conversations with strangers to drum up business. Further, she dropped everything and moved to another country for years, seeking many strangers to talk to as she knew no one upon arrival. Perhaps these things are just seeping out before the lion roars. While doing all these exciting things, she fully self-expresses and feels free as a bird without constraints, without walls separating or protecting herself from others who may harm her, and without pretenses. Notably, she feels happy.
My contradictory character is the juxtaposition of a quiet person who doesn't usually talk much with a person who can comfortably speak in front of hundreds to a few thousand people and enjoy it. There is always more to a person than what meets the eye.
Key Takeaways: Though I hated the physical labor of renovation, I learned to be a handywoman.
Though I got the most challenging class of my career, it helped me to become a most confident teacher.
Though I am often quiet and shy, I am also an impactful speaker and adventurer.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Not Until I Was Twenty-One, The Tiny Kingdom, and The Meaning of Life Found. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe or click like on Youtube, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!