Germany at 70: The Constitution

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May 23rd, 2019. On this day 70 years ago, the West German government, together with the western allies of the US, France and Great Britain ratified the German Consititution, a set of basic laws that are binding and foster equality, freedom of speech and Democracy. The basic laws were the basis for establishing a democratic state, the first since the Weimar Republic of 1919. And unlike the Republic, which was dissolved with the rise of Adolf Hitler, who ushered in the era of Naziism 14 years later, the German Constitution has become the solid rock, one of the examples of how Democracy works even to this day, despite going through the hardships in the sense of politics, society and the economy.  This was even adapted by the former East German government in 1990 as part of the plan to reunify the country.

While there are booklets in many languages that have the Basic Law of Germany, there are some questions that are still open as to how it works in comparison to those in other countries, the US included. This documentary, produced by a bunch of American scholars, gives you an in-depth coverage and discussion to the laws that exist. Albeit Long, one can skip to some of the laws discussed or just simply play it in ist entirety. For those wishing to live in Germany in the future, even temporary, this is rather useful.

Enjoy the documentary! 🙂

 

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From the Attic: Berlin 1959

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Brandenburg Gate- behind the gate stood the Berlin Wall until 9 November 1989

Berlin, 1959. Two years before the erection of the Wall and the closing of the border that would separate East and West Germany until 1989. The city was in the midst of a rebuild 14 years after the end of World War II . People were still able to pass despite the city being occupied in four areas by their respective allies who liberated them from the Nazis: The USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Yet the passage is restricted. Inspite of the rebuilding efforts, there were some differences between what would become East and West Berlin. In this documentary produced by the BBC 60 years ago, the host of Panorama took a walk through Berlin and interviewed several Berliners, showing you the difference in terms of progression and regression. Enjoy the documentary! 🙂

Education Tip: 

Compare Berlin of 60 years ago with today. What has changed and what has remained the same? Do we still have a difference between the former East and West or has Berlin grown together?

You can choose another city in Germany if you wish- whether it is Munich, Hamburg, Erfurt, Dresden, Flensburg, Rostock- regardless of population and size. Do this comparison using this time with a time before 1989 or even before the Wall in 1961. Compare and present to your classmates. Many will be amazed at the difference and will provoke a conversation that will last an entire classroom session.

Useful for any language class, including English and Germany, as well as history, sociology, social studies and political science. For college level, that, plus architecture, engineering and planning. 🙂

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Easter Genre: The Beggar’s Greatest Wish

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Before saying farewell to Easter, we have a genre piece that is worth a read and something to consider. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the booklet written by Alyce Bergey entitled The Beggar’s Greatest Wish. The book was written with one theme in mind: The greatest wish of one person.

Before going to the plot, ask yourselves this question:

If there was one wish that you had that you wanted badly, what would that be?

 

Everyone has one greatest wish, no matter the circumstances.  Some who are crippled wish to walk again. Others suffering from poverty and other forms of adversity want to be rich. Those who fail constantly want to succeed just one. Yet most of us want peace after suffering from years of conflict, both home and away.

For the main character, Barthimaeus, an old man living in a one-room hut outside Jericho, he wanted to see, for he was blind and was a beggar wanting to find a place in the world, but was rejected by many. Day in and day out, he begged on the street and got next to nothing from the public. Every day he was ignored, spat upon, degraded and taken pity. Yet later in the story, his luck started to change beginning with him receiving a single coin and then culminating to his encounter with Jesus Christ, as He and his followers were walking down the streets of Jericho. He found the beggar and after learning what his wish was, his life changed for the very best.

Based on the story of Luke 18:37-45, the theme of the story was believing in miracles and how they can come true through faith and fate. Faith has to do in the belief that if one works hard and prays for the most important thing in life, it will come true. Fate has to do with encountering the unknown and having that wish granted. It can be through the encounter with the Lord or another person. It also has to do with certain events that puts the events in order of sequence that eventually culminates into one’s wish being granted.  Expected or unexpected, each of us have a special wish based on our trials and tribulations which eventually come true through our own actions and belief. If we didn’t have them, we would allow our world to unfold in front of our eyes that would not be to our best advantage.

When Jesus died for our sins, He left us the belief that miracles can happen if we have the faith and courage to make it happen- if we pray and also do our service. It goes beyond the fishermen story when Jesus came from Heaven to give them fish to feed themselves and their families. It goes beyond Job’s struggles when he lost everything to famine and drought and he got that back. It even goes beyond our own personal wishes in real life- mine has to do with putting an end to global warming and polluting the oceans.  While this book was written for children but has an explanation for parents, the theme is the same. It’s more of a question of what we have for our wish and what we can do to make it come true.

To close off this genre special, here are a pair of videos that was based on this story. I hope you enjoy and have a chance to read the story to your children:

 

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The Characteristics of a Great Teacher

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What is a great teacher? What makes a teacher great? What is typical of a great teacher? If there was a secret ingredient to being great, it would be great to know about it. Yet if we knew, and we would try and follow it like textbooks, life would be boring, both in the classroom as well as on the street. Perfectionism would bring out the worst from those who strive for it and those who rebel against it. Life as a teacher would be portrayed as inflexible, intolerant and inhumane.

What is a great teacher? Can we follow the footsteps of those who had once ruled the hallways and classrooms of our school? Or read about their lives as we stumble across them on the sidewalks through monuments and Stolpersteine? Or reminisce about the teachers of our time growing up, over a beer or wine at a class reunion? Some say that our teachers set great examples and play a role in our development, but only a few remain close friends for life.

What makes a teacher great? It’s about what you learned from the teachers you had in school; from those who were close and helped you succeed. It’s about learning from your own personal experiences, remembering the stories told to you while growing up, embracing in your own faith, and developing your passion for the job. Molding it together and being prepared to share them with others.

What is typical of a great teacher? It can be best described as follows:

A great teacher enters the classroom like it’s a concert at Carnegie Hall……

……..and comes away with a standing ovation at the end of class.

A great teacher shows competence in his subject and confidence in his class….

…..and never falters to those who think they are better than he.

A great teacher is communicative, humorous and open-minded….

…..and the same goes to the students if it applied correctly in class.

A great teacher always listens to the needs of others……

…..and finds ways to cater to them.

A great teacher devotes his time and effort in his subject with a passion…..

…..so that the students can do the same when learning it.

A great teacher teaches the students what is good and what is bad in life…..

……and follows these examples, both on and off campus.

A great teacher is a great storyteller……

…..and uses it to teach the students the morals in life.

A great teacher always embraces in new things for the classroom……..

……and is never afraid to part ways with the old.

A great teacher is flexible and spontaneous……..

……and never follows the rules like a textbook.

A great teacher never holds back on his opinions and truths…..

……and is not afraid of the opinions and truths from his students.

A great teacher is always creative and tries new experiement….

…..as long as he and his students profit from them.

A great teacher always makes mistakes in class……

…..and should not be afraid to admit being human.

A great teacher is also a great mentor….

….being the guiding light for those who need it.

A great teacher is always there if the student needs help……

…..whether it’s big or small, in school or outside,

….a  great teacher will always be your friend for life.

And when you have a chance to meet your great teacher- your mentor, friend and all- many years down the road, always remember what he taught you and why he got you to where you are today. After all, what he passed down to you, it’s your job to pass it down to your children of the next generation.

That is what defines a teacher a great teacher. 🙂

 

Author’s note: I had some great teachers growing up in Minnesota, but this one goes out to one who was an elementary school teacher and close friend of the family. I had her for the last two years before entering middle school and we became great friends afterwards. Many people knew her for the characteristics that I’ve pointed out here and it was through these key points where people like me took them and made use of them, both as teachers as well as parents and beyond. In her memory, this one’s for you with many thousands of thanks! 🙂 ❤ 

 

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Genre of the Week: The Poem of (Not) Getting Old, by Susan Reynolds

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I Am Not Old
I am not old…she said
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense
I am the fullness
Of existing.
You think I am waiting to die…
But I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey
Ask me anything.

 

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The America I Grew up In- A Comedy by Jeff Allen

Here’s a fun but yet sobering reminder of our childhood that we had- the best times where we could take the chances and experiment, risk getting hurt but learning the lessons the hard way. The childhood of today has risks but in the sense of fear of taking these falls, the risks and trying new stuff.

The America I Grew Up in is a comedy gig by Jeff Allen, who compares his childhood to what is seen today. Can you list what he and his friends did for childhood examples? Then compare them to what you (as a child growing up) did. What was the same? What was different? What would you like to do what this comedian did? What would you do differently, had you had a chance to turn back the clock for one day?

Try that wherever you go, but not before watching this rather funny clip. 🙂

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TED Talk: The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change by Greta Thunberg

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There have been some talk about the Fridays for the Future Demonstrations and all of the advantages and disadvantages of students walking out of school to demonstrate for climate change. On one side of the spectrum, skipping classes to demonstrate has had a resounding effect on politics and policies of each country, forcing governments to reconsider their laws and heed to the demands of the demonstrators. There are enough examples, big and small, that support this argument, including the top three that I have:

  1. The college demonstrations in the US against the Vietnam War- Starting in 1968, these demonstrations, albeit bloody, resulted in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term in office. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who wound down the war efforts by withdrawing troops and contributing to brokering a deal between North and South Vietnam. The war ended when the North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam in 1975, hours after the last US troops left.
  2. The Monday Night Demonstrations in East Germany- Starting in September 1989, the demonstrations that started every Monday evening at St. Nicholas Church ended up becoming a nationwide demonstration demanding change to a communist system that was considered broken. The end result was the downfall of Erich Honecker on 19 October and the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November. In the end, the peaceful protest also marked the beginning of talks for a reunified Germany, which happened on 3 October, 1990, and the domino effect that led to the end of Communism in 1991.
  3. The Parkland Massacre Demonstrations of 2019- After a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at a high school in Florida, a group of high schoolers started a protest to address the use of guns in the US and the lobby group NRA. The end result is a shift in tide from the right to have guns to the right to protect our children, even if it means voting out every single NRA supporter who rejects stricter gun laws.

But by the same token, many teachers and parents, as well as some politicians feel that skipping school to protest climate change is just a waste of time and that time should be spent discussing this in the classroom.

But as you can see in the TED-Talk speech by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, there has been too much talk and too little action. Many turn a blind eye for the sake of popularity and money. Too much  money has been wasted for conferences and speeches. And when the situation becomes unbearable where even the youngest generation walks out to protest the changes in our environment which are slowly becoming irreversible, then the time for talk is over and the time to act is now. The talk looks at the origins of the Friday for the Future demonstrations and how it has evolved since she started the walk-out process at her high school in Sweden.

Watch or listen to this speech and ask yourself what can be done to stop the destructive changes that are taking place to our planet. There are enough things to be done without talking about it.

 

 

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