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Education, change and the price of it all

  06:03:19 pm, by Castilino   , 303 words  

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Writers

I spent this afternoon in a very useful manner: watching the movie The Freedom Writers! There are many lessons one - especially a teacher / formator / educator - can learn from this movie. The one that struck me was the perseverance of the teacher... but this perseverance comes at a great price! I liked that particular conversation between the Principal (Ms Margaret) and Ms Gruwell. That part when Ms G is told to 'educate' the students, teach then discipline, not anything more, because they do not want to be educated. I think that's when the Ms G really becomes someone more than a classroom teacher. Imagine she taking up two other jobs so that she can earn some extra bit for her students... the misunderstandings with the other staff and management... then there is her own personal life crumbling down when her husband files for a divorce. Great risks cost. Those willing to make a difference have to pay a price. Change does not come free and easy. But great are those who are willing to pay the price.

Being on the formation staff I can very well understand the feelings and things going on in Ms Margaret's head. All very right and noble... but I too have to realise that education is more than just discipline, rules, respect for the teacher, obedience, formal lessons, classes... It means being able to touch the lives of students and making them believe that they can change and they can bring about a change for the better. It means becoming part of their life, not just the classroom. It means helping them become all that they can be. And what's the role of the formator in this process? Just being a facilitator, inspirer, encourager, challenger, a model... not the centre figure of their lives but a catalyst.

Extending the idea of 'system'

  04:14:24 pm, by admin   , 611 words  

I'd like to make three observations:

1. Something Fr Filiberto Gonzalez has said more than once since taking office: "I am more convinced than ever of the value of our 'system' (meaning SSCS) just so long as it remains flexible".
2. The fact that the Congregation's website is undergoing a major remake; that we are transforming it from proprietary ASP to free and open source PHP; that effectively we need to rewrite some 25,000 pages!
3. A now practised habit of mine of writing mainly in text only, then converting that to various media according to need by using command lines. This practice allows me to focus on writing and content. I let a program look after formatting the content according to the requirements of the media involved (e.g. pdf, or odt or other text format for the most part). I do this for three main reasons: (1) simplicity (2) efficiency (3) the ability to turn the single source item to various media according to need - for the most part either paper or Web.

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Not for what he was but what he made of us...

  06:32:21 pm, by Castilino   , 230 words  

Not for what he was but what he made of us...

Last night (or I should say, early this morning) after being surprised by the news of Fr Benji passing away, passing on the information to the Province, friends and well-wishers, posting the news on the website and mailing the same to others interested, I hit bed again. Only this time, sleep evaded me. It was only then that the fact that he was no more, really started to sink in. To have met him, spoken to him personally, driven him around the city, helped him with his talks and presentations and given him a bear hug at the airport before he left for Chennai, to imagine that he was no more, was a very uneasy feeling. No fear or sorrow, just heightened anxiety!

The day just passed by in trying to convince people/confreres that Benji really passed away and in the sudden manner that he left us, made this all more difficult. Anyhow, after all the hustle and bustle, I took up today's newspaper and my eyes fell on a beautiful quote about Nelson Mandela: "Every time Nelson Mandela walks into a room we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we'd like to be him on our best day."

Thank you dear Fr Benji, not so much for what you were, but for making us what we are!

Benji is no more!

  03:18:00 am, by Castilino   , 193 words  

Link: http://vcastilino.blogspot.com/2009/08/one-and-only-benji-no-more.html

The one and only Benji, passed away last night ... Fr Benjamin Puthota, the 7th Provincial of the Salesian Province of Chennai (then Madras, 1976-1982)and the first Provincial of the Salesian Province of Hyderabad (1992-1998) passed away around 22.00 hrs (IST) all of a sudden while in his community at Istanbul, Turkey. He was one of the first Salesians to set foot on Andhra soil, way back in 1964, along with Fr Panampara Abraham and the late Br Gabriel Fernandez.

Fondly known to all as Benjy, he was an epitome of Salesian spirit and a true son of Don Bosco. Known for his passionate love for Don Bosco and the Salesian charism his death comes as a shock to all especially those of us in India. Besides the several other qualities that made him someone outstanding was his far-sightedness. He was a visionary and he knew no obstacles to make that vision a reality. In this process he also knew how to get all those around him become passionately involved in what he dreamt for others. That is what made him a great leader and animator. He would set us ABLAZE with his mere presence!!

Moving out of 'I, me and mine'

  06:27:06 pm, by Castilino   , 210 words  

The community reflection on the theme of return to the young took a very interesting twist this evening when it came to the situation and Salesian involvement at the Province level. We are really proud to say that all - literally, all - our institutions cater directly to the poor. There is no institution about which we can say that it caters to the elite, "and also to the poor"... none!! However most of us felt that though we have the infrastructure and the setup to cater to the young in need, our focus is not the poor, not the young. Most often we end up doing the administration work (putting up new buildings, purchasing land, hunting for property, collecting rent, erecting compound walls, repairing structures which are not even 5 years old!!). Young people are not the centre of our mission. Secondly, we pamper ourselves! It is sometimes shocking to see that the running expenses of three or four confreres equals that of maintaining 80 to 100 of our boarding boys!!

In this context 'Return to the young' would primarily mean shifting the focus from ourselves, from our buildings and structures to others. Only when we can think of others before ourselves can we prioritize the lives and dreams of young people.

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