Where Am I Going?

First off, a very quick update: My wife has been pregnant, and we’re about 23 weeks in (more than half-way there). She’s beautiful, she’s wonderful, and we cannot wait until we get to meet our baby boy Theodore ❤

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This was taken at the half-way point.

So as we’re preparing ourselves to become parents, one thing comes to my mind: career. There’s a ticking time bomb in my honey’s belly, and when it erupts, I need to make sure that I’m setting myself up for a career that will both be fulfilling for my soul, but also be monetarily capable of providing for my family. I am lucky that Lily will be the breadwinner in our family, but that should not make me complacent with my own position in my career.

I need to make more money, and teaching like this will not help me achieve that.

There are ways to squeeze out some extra cash in my district. I could be an adviser, I could teach summer school, or maybe even have a crack at doing some tutoring. There are plenty of avenues to make some extra cash in education, but it seems like there’s too much work added on for the few hundred or thousand that it would yield. The growth of my career will allow me to make about $90,000/yr… about 20 years from now. When I’m 50. That just won’t do, and who knows how much that will change over the years, given how volatile the American Education System is right now (and it does not look like it’s going to get much better anytime soon).

The common trend for most people in my situation is to go back to school, get a master’s degree, and join the administration. I could, if I pushed myself, become a principal or even a superintendent one day if I go that route. To be more humble, I could also pursue a degree in being a guidance counselor, which I think I could do a decent job at. I’ve considered those two routes extensively, but I know at least where my heart lies: neither.

 I want to be in educational tech.

At least in my district, there seems to be a massive misallocation and mismanagement of investment into technology. You always hear these hyperbolic motivational speakers ranting about how America is falling behind in the tech department and so needs to bring their education up to speed on it. Well, my district at least attempts that, but squanders a big chunk of what vital tax-payer money we receive.

  • We provide students with laptops that are not built to last (and are so bottom-of-the-barrel that they end up failing within a few months) and also a lack of infrastructure to keep up with maintenance. So we say we are one-to-one, but in reality we are not.
  • We have, as a staff (in my place at least) that is technologically illiterate. We prefer to use pencil and paper simply because it is what we know, and we are afraid of treading into foreign territory.
  • We are battered and overwhelmed with a large number of third-party programs, applications, websites, and “tech” tools. This would normally be a good thing, but the lack of integration and ease ends up boggling even the more seasoned veteran users of technology. Test taking programs, math assistance programs, that one website that students can use to check their grammar, and the millions upon millions of dollars we promised to Blackboard Inc. to provide us with a horrible user-unfriendly and outdated workflow management system… these things run the staff into the ground, and thus run the students into the ground with them.
  • The training provided to both staff and students is abysmal. We aren’t taught how to utilize the tools at our disposal, and whenever we are, it is in the most pain-staking way possible. (We once had a training where we had to listen to a monotonous speaker showing us heavily distorted images and watching a video of a dude watching a video) We are given tools and not taught how to use them before being ordered to use them.
  • We are just archaic in so many senses. We waste paper by creating “order forms” for things like copies, discipline, and other administrative tasks. We have so many redundancies and inconsistencies in just the way our system functions that every single task becomes incredibly tedious.

The administrators, the teachers, and ultimately the students are then turned off by technology because of these things, and it pains me to see it because it is not difficult. The whole point of technology is to make life easier, not more complicated!

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F*** this s***, bruh

Technology is Horribly Implemented

That’s where I want to come in and help. This is where I want to focus my career, and this is where I want to build my legacy. I want to be the teacher (or even the tech coach or tech adviser) who is responsible for making the little everyday things in the classroom run smoother because of technological integration. I want to be the one who smooths all the bumps and pockets of disruption caused by misunderstanding. Let me make this clear though: I do not want to be in IT. I want to be a tech-minded educator.

I want to teach teachers and staff to incorporate Live Documents. I want every student to use Edmodo or Google Classroom (and thus Google Drive) so that they can never lose their essays or homework assignments again. I want to create a paperless system so that teachers can navigate through their essential tech tools without feeling like they’re digging through a pile of junk. I want to figure out a way for schools to embrace social media instead of avoiding it and being fearful of being destroyed by it. I want to teach the teachers, the administrators, the support staff, and the students how to use certain tools to make their lives easier and also make school more engaging. That’s what I want to do.

My game plan is simple: if I stay within this district, I’m now under the strong impression that I need to really champion for myself. I’ve been very humble since the start of my career. I’ve helped teachers learn some of the district-pushed technology (despite my qualms for it), and I’ve even gone out of my way to teach teachers some of the things that I use (in regards to tech) for my classroom. I need to make myself more known. I need to establish my credibility to my superiors that I am capable and adept at pushing technology to the staff and to train them.

Will this remove me from the classroom? Yes and no. If I become a tech coach, I won’t be able to teach as much, and that’s okay. My students will no longer be children, but adults (and actually, probably students eventually when I need to push something). I will be able to affect more individuals and allow learning to be achieved in a tech-friendly environment.

The Dream State?

A coworker of mine–Paul–and I spent a lot of time last year day dreaming about this, but we have an idea. We want to start up our own consulting firm centered around this idea–to push on tech incentives and to teach teachers how to use technology in their classrooms and to teach schools how to use technology to their advantage. I don’t even know where to begin with this kind of thing, but that’s where I want to be. I want to set my own hours, work on a topic that I find to be extremely satisfying and exciting (and fulfilling most importantly). This is where I think I will be able to have a lasting impact. This is where I will have my legacy (at least in terms of career, because my boy is going to carry on my legacy <3).

 

Random Teaching Ideas #1: Interdisciplinary Gym Class

I guess this will be a very random series. As you may already know, I am a teacher at an inner-city school district somewhere in NJ (not that hard to figure out if you’re a decent internet stalker). My students are very behind in their fundamentals, emotional growth (at least in terms of respect because some of them have been through more life events than I have), and are the victims of a questionable upbringing and very flawed system stacked against them. Many of my students have already grown to be detached from school at an early age. I won’t get too much into it, but if a teacher has one reckless and rowdy student, that’s manageable… but to handle a class that is 50% of those kids, a lot get through the cracks as the teacher tries his/her best to establish control.

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Engagement is extremely difficult with my students.

At least the purpose of this series (which I will populate randomly throughout my time here on WordPress) with ideas that can hit some higher levels, ideas that I should probably expand on later (and tie it with the common core standards), and keep in mind as I plan throughout the year.

So here we go.

Interdisciplinary Gym

Interdisciplinary stuff is always great. The best. It adds a nice spice and an extra level of depth when it comes to teaching. It teaches the core skill or brings about understanding in multiple disciplines, and is thus killing two birds wit one stone.

Rationale

The students of my school love sports (at least most of them do). They are greatly athletic, competitive, and enjoy some good ol’ physical exertion over mental strain. However, we don’t want our students to just physically test themselves. We want them to push their brains to the limit, we want them to reach new heights of the metaphorical knowledge… mountain? I don’t know. So the purpose of this assignment/project is to get students to do what they always do in gym: learn about their health, fitness, and sports; but also to incorporate elements of other disciplines to complicate things and to make the kids think about what they’re doing instead of just doing it.

Sorry Nike, you won’t simply do.

The following are just some ideas–obviously you can come up with a plethora of scenarios and equations that can have students compute before trying it out.

Assignment 1: How to Throw a Ball

Throwing balls is a pretty fundamental idea in sports and athletics. Baseball, football, cricket, whatever… it’s there. Point made.

We can have kids throw balls all the time in random sports and it’s all fine and dandy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to teach the students the logic and mathematics behind a good throw? This one hits home a bit to me because I cannot throw. I do not know the proper technique nor do I know the logic behind a perfect throw. I don’t know the right grip, the right motion, nor the perfect point of release.

Students can watch some instructional videos on how to throw a ball while simultaneously going over a lesson from the school’s physics teacher about inertia or the transfer of power or something. I don’t know because I’m not a science teacher and science was probably my worst class growing up. The students can practice their hypothesis on the best way to throw a ball in certain situations, then present it to their gym and science teacher at the end of the project (demonstrating how to throw a baseball precisely and quickly, a basketball’s perfect arch, a throw-in for soccer, etc…)

The fun thing is that, if done correctly, this will make students learn something that is extremely relevant to their interests. They’ll become better players because of it, and because they will see that this improves their game, they’ll value the importance of science and math.

Assignment 2: Student Stats

A simple running test and study. Students can study each other or themselves with this, by following a simple guide where they can analyze their speeds in different settings: sprinting, jogging, and all in between. This is already present in gym class whenever they do the fitness test, but that’s moreso measured by the teacher themselves. To make this more fun and engaging, students can create their own sort of video game bar to gauge where they stand physically.

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Imagine if students can create their own sort of physical stats sheet?

Now… I get it. Kids are insecure beings, and so to have their physical capabilities drawn out like this can lead to some crazy embarrassment, but I believe this can be outweighed by incorporating stat bars that are completely subjective (because it’s not like this assignment is an official document supported by any organization) like cleanliness, personality, etc…

Well, it’s just an idea. Man, I really wish I were a gym teacher right now.

Assignment 3: Physical Words and Body Language

This one I actually like and I think I’ll use it in my classroom in the future. It will require more research than just top-of-my-head thinking. Vocabulary is being pushed around heavily in my school, and I feel as though I’m very lacking in this aspect of teaching. In this assignment, students will be given some very specific vocabulary words. With those words (and they are given the definition), they will have to physically act those words out. Simple, but you can always add extra layers of depth by having kids use Snapchat or Instagram to spread the learning around.

Some Examples of Vocabulary Words

Another idea along these same lines is what I’d like to call “Body Language” which is, to provide students with all the emotions that a human can produce, and tie it in with some everyday physical activities. For example, students will learn how to walk happily, or angrily, etc…

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(happily walking) This would be a great way to teach adverbs.

I always feel like gym class is so underwhelming in my school. Of course, I could be greatly wrong because I do not teach those classes and I am not in the gymnasium dealing with the hundreds-at-a-time students running around and screaming. However, these are just a few ideas that I imagine would add another educational layer to our students’ education. But… what do I know? Maybe all the kids really need in gym is to just go out there and get a mind-freeing relaxation period where they get to run around, go buckwild, and let out some steam without having to work their brains any more after classes.

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

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The feast my sisters and I cooked this year while my parents were off on a big tropical cruise.

Happy new year to you and yours. I wish you all good health, prosperity, and success upon your future endeavors. The year of the Monkey has now passed, and we welcome the Rooster!

Chinese New Year (or, more politically-correct and accurate, the Lunar New Year) has, and is still, one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. This year was much calmer because there was a lack of the matriarch–my mother. However, in her absence, my siblings came together and we cooked our own feast in her stead. While the food came nowhere near what my mother produces (and don’t worry, that will change fast in the next year as we will try to match her recipes), it was a very warm time to spend with my sisters. This is the first CNY for my two Monkey nephews Nathan and Ryan, and the second for my niece Abigail. This holiday has really started to come full circle, as my fondest memories about this day were from a child’s point of view. There are so many traditions that we practice, and so many more that will come when one day my own children will practice as well. Some of it is downright silly, but I still find it to be fun.

I remember receiving those little red envelopes full of money as a gift from my older relatives (the married ones are the ones who are supposed to give these out to the young and the single). I remember the anxiety of accepting these envelopes, collecting them as though they were little Pokemon cards, and running home to count the money I had “earned”. Of course, I was taught to never look at the money until I am at the private leisure of my room at home, because it was bad manners to open up the envelope to see what was in there. I enjoyed saving that money and spending it on a nice meal, or a new toy, or whatever I wanted to back them.

As I got older, I started to understand the symbolism imbued in each and every single tradition–even though some seemed very outrageous, I understand and can appreciate it. The red envelopes became less of a “how much money will I get this year” and more of a “dang, let me see how much my family appreciates me”.

Now, let me explain that last quote, because the statement without explanation can come off as very materialistic and rude. Everyone in my family comes from different financial backgrounds. Obviously, not everyone makes the same amount of money. So expectations whenever red envelopes come around are pretty set. My aunt, who is 60+, coming from Vietnam with very little understanding of English and working at a Chinese restaurant.. I do not expect much money. However, when she gifts $100+ to myself, my wife, and my sisters… it carries so much weight. Not “wow, she must really love me because she gave me so much money”, but “wow, she’s sharing that much of her wealth with me because she must love me”. It adds a responsibility to me when I receive gifts like that, and it is incredibly humbling as well. When people go above and beyond what they’re obligated to do, and what is expected… it does not go unnoticed. It hurts me to know that people like my aunt take a bigger hit when they give $100+ as a gift, but it also fuels me to make sure I always do them right–show proper appreciation and make myself worthy of their gift.

There’s so much symbolism and tradition built into this holiday. Whether it’s the silly refusal to wash your head so you do not wash away good fortune, or lighting incense to your elders, to wear new clothes to soak in the good luck, or trying not to argue on the start of the new year… there are so many good intentions and strong moral messages in all the traditions of the New Year.

So it makes me a bit saddened. I won’t be able to teach my students about this wonderful holiday this year.

The only real Asian people that my students ever deal with work for the local Chinese Take-Out restaurant. It’s nothing against them, but it’s a very limited amount of exposure for them. There are no other Asian teachers (except for this one other English teacher) in the building, and I do not expect my coworkers to expose the students to Asian culture (because sometimes, it just comes off so poorly). I want to have the honor and privilege of teaching my students about a holiday that isn’t celebrated officially by the U.S., despite the large population of the country that celebrates it. I want to teach them about a culture that exists that is far different from theirs (or even similar in values). I want to share with them a joyous part of my life and my memories so that they can apply its wisdom into their own.

But I can’t, because I’m still recovering from my eye surgery (which I didn’t write about, but I had emergency retinal detachment surgery late December). Another opportunity lost for me, and it sucks. I feel like I’ve failed them.

My Thoughts on Pokémon Go

I remember when I was just in elementary school.

It was 1998, so I was heading into 5th or 6th grade. It was summer, and I was a kid who didn’t really spend too much time outside. It was hot, and it was boring; entertainment was a bit hard to come by (I’m a bit envious of kids these days, but also appreciative of how much I had to rely on creativity and imagination to survive those mundane days of old). I was subscribed to Nintendo Power and EGM at the time–my “cool” cousin got me into reading that kind of material. Except this time, there was a bit of a strange package with that month’s Nintendo Power… A VHS tape.

“This looks dumb.” I thought; boy, was I wrong.

Pokémon was a massive phenomenon, and I was very lucky to have been there for its induction into the American culture. Red cartridge or Blue–pick your side. Of course, we somehow–as kids–deemed it that the Reds were the cooler, better kids and the ones who got Blue came from poor families. Kids were, and still are, vicious. Snorlax was my favorite Pokémon, I watched the show religiously, I consumed so much in the card game, and I even made sure I went to the fast food chain that offered golden tablets of Pokémon. Was it Burger King or McDonald’s? I forget. It was a fun time, and for the next 3-4 years… Pokémon devoured my life. As the years passed, however, other things became popular, Pokémon released another series of games with critters that I just didn’t care for, and life went on sans Pokémon.

Fast forward about 15 years later, once the Pokémon craze settled, in comes this new mobile game developed by Niantec (the same makers of the much better game, Ingress). It’s an Augmented Realite Mobile Game that essentially uses information from your GPS to turn the real world into a game world. Schools, churches, and landmarks were transformed into Pokéstops, and all around the neighborhood were these Pokémon roaming around, waiting to get caught. Police stations and certain businesses became hubs because they were marked as gyms. The streets that I call home were re-purposed overnight.

Now this game seems inspired by a collective idea by all of us silly millennials who grew up watching, playing, and involving ourselves in the Pokéworld. “What would you do if Pokémon were real?” was always a fun writing exercise in middle school; hell, it was a wonderful icebreaker argument/conversation in college too! My buddy Sean and I would daydream about a Pokémon MMO where you would venture off into this awesome world as a no-name trainer and adventure through it all in search of being a Pokémon Master! It was a pipe dream, because we knew how Nintendo felt about online play (at least until recently), and how Pokémon was such a well-oiled machine that breaking away from the norm seemed financially foolish. So knowing the premise of this game… knowing very little from the description and the videos about it. It launched.

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The launch, at least to me, was abrupt and unannounced. It was trending on Reddit for a little bit because it was surprisingly released in Australia and New Zealand, then over the next two days in the US. It was messy, the servers were down a lot, it completely devoured my battery life, and there were nothing but Pidgeys and Ratatas around me. Still, I found myself all giddy and excited. Niantec was cashing in on nostalgia, and boy was it accruing a bunch of money over the decades. It has been a while since something that I involved myself so strongly in my childhood had come up.

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Unlike this heaping pile of crap

In the week after the US launch of the game, Pokéfever was back in the US, and it was beautiful, glorious, weird, and terrifying at the same time. Kids were going outside during the summer with their phones out, tracking Pokémon and trying to capture them. People were getting injured  as a result of the game. Someone found a dead body while playing. Now I’m reading about how thieves and muggers are waiting at Pokéstops to hold up and rob kids. It’s crazy, but this is all a direct result of the game. There are good, there are bad, but things are happening because of it. It sucks to see people irresponsibly driving to catch Pokémon, or kids who are getting themselves into trouble for not paying attention. However, I still can’t help but feel completely amazed and overjoyed with what this game is doing and bringing to the table.

People are going outside.

The other day I was playing tennis with my good friend Aaron. We went to a park over in Highland Park. We got to play (realizing just how old and out of shape we are) for about an hour, then decided to walk back to his place. En route, we noticed a few Pokéstops and an Abra hiding in the brush. We caught it, and ended up running into a fellow trainer (who clearly wasn’t dressed like he was trying to enjoy the park) who was after the same Pokémon. It was delightful, and we just asked him if he had found the Abra yet. We saw a duo of guys roving through the park with their phones out, letting their devices guide their every step.

People are going outside because of this game, and for that alone it is worth applauding. Video Games were always taken as this sit-down and shut-in kind of event. And you know what? It’s usually been that case. PKMGO is actually getting people off the couch and outside in the world walking and exploring their surroundings (and given the robbery reports, this is not entirely a good thing). What a time to be alive when games are making us leave the house instead of keeping us inside!

It’s becoming a social experience.

My buddy Kit (my internet wifey whom I’ve known since I was a shy and quiet little kid) is over in Long Island and she had a wonderful story to share. She’s a fiend when it comes to PKMGO, and she absolutely is a beast trainer in her neck of the woods. She and her boyfriend have established their dominance for (of course) #TeamMystic over there, and amid her newly established ritual of Pokémon hunting, she ran into a few other kids who were doing the same. This game became the obvious common denominator for these spawns of a different time, and they had realized that she was the famous gym trainer in the area. “You’re Aibi!?” they’d exclaimed, and were completely elated to know who it was that had a stranglehold on the region.

Now the stereotype for gamers is that we’re a very shut in, off-beat, off-putting, and strange group of people to socialize with. This may be true in some cases, others not-so-much, but what PKMGO is a foray for these socially reclusive into the depths of the outside world. They’re meeting each other physically, connecting over their passion for Pokémon! The game itself serves as a very easy ice-breaker for these people to talk to each other and get to know one another (something that I think this country needs more of).

 

 

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Look at this!

Events are being held all over the world for Pokémon meet-ups: people just gather together and adventure. I’m going to one myself, and I know I know I won’t be the only one. This is one feature of PKMGO that I am proud of: it’s bringing people together. What a fantastic, heartwarming, and genuinely fun experience.

It ain’t perfect, but I’m hopeful.

Now, as a game, this thing has a bunch of problems. For one, it’s not very robust. Ingress has so many other features that PKMGO just doesn’t. It’s not a very impressive game overall, either. You catch Pokémon, you hatch their eggs, you battle at gyms, and you collect things at Pokéstops. The game’s engagement is very limited right now, among the technical issues that tend to always plague something at start. Some bad press is coming out with people exploiting the adventurous nature of the game. Hell, it’s most likely going to be a short-lived fad… but I’m hopeful.

Hopefully Niantec keeps adding to the game. Hopefully they add more Pokémon (I’d not learned too much about the newer generations past Gold, so I have no idea what half the Pokémon are anymore), allow the players to battle each other, and find a way to fill in the voids in the world (because schools, parks, churches, and municipal buildings can sometimes be few and far). Hopefully the game ends up being much more polished. I want to keep playing it, and I want games like this to keep coming out, giving the youth that play them (even though I’ve pretty much seen only twenty-somethings) a much needed dose of a different kind of fun–a natural one.

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P.S. A pet peeve of mine is when people mispronounce the name. It’s Poh-Kay-Mon, not Poh-Kee-Man. The freaking accent marker is there for a reason!

Hime Cafe — Another Pipe Dream

kaichou01So uh… I want to create a Maid Cafe in the US.

Sorry you’ll have to deal with this, but I’ve got another silly idea that I want to make happen. Bear with me, and hear me out at the same time. I’d like to present to you:

Hime Cafe — A Cosplay Cafe (maid cafe) in the New York-New Jersey area that would cater to a broad spectrum of interests. It will serve drinks and treats that will add a nice new touch to the cafe scene that has yet to exist for this very densely populated region of the country. So to help organize my mind, I’m going to try to flesh out what I have thought out thus far in my mind.

What is a Maid Cafe?

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A general jist of it.

For those who aren’t in the know, a maid cafe is a very strange phenomenon. It stems from the world of anime and manga, and is even a very weird activity to indulge in for the Japanese–the land of origin. It is a cafe just like any other; it serves desserts and coffee. However, what makes it far different from any Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts that you may know is that the kick is this: the staff are dressed up as maids! Bizarre, right?

So this idea, to better understand it, shares more similarities with Hooters than Starbucks. Food and beverage are definite selling points for the establishment, but what patrons are really paying for is the experience. What is being sold in a maid cafe is a slice of heaven and fantasy. Where Hooters sells sexy girls in white tank tops and orange short-shorts, a maid cafe sells cutesy and adorable. The maids become personalities like the Disney Princesses are in the amusement parks. What a maid cafe then is, is entertainment more than food service.

That is the general premise for HIME CAFE, except that it has a few other quirks that will customize it for an American storefront. It will be a personalized and unique cafe that you will not find anywhere else!

The Target Demographic

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We won’t just cater to this extreme demographic, but to all! To bring something from this extreme niche to the mainstream!

The typical HIME CAFE patron is one that has been around for the past half-century. Their numbers increase and replenish as time goes on, as the characteristic that binds all of them together is the interest in a medium–Anime and Manga. This even extends to the population that finds a particular interest in Japanese subculture as well, since the aesthetic of the Maid Cafe stems from Japan. These are the people who attend anime conventions (think AnimeNEXT, Otakon, Anime Boston, etc…) and potentially those who indulge in the “nerd culture” of the United States (think New York ComiCon). These customers are, sadly, not given many venues in which to devote their spending aside from these several-times-a-year conventions or smaller hobby shops scattered throughout their vicinity locally. The other patrons, in which we hope to accomplish with HIME CAFE, will come from the general population. With their curiosity, the unique allure and aesthetic of HIME CAFE, and the consistent high quality of service and entertainment, the common layman will enjoy what we have to offer.

The Experience

(Understand that the HIME CAFE experience will be altered greatly, but this is a template)

The primary product that HIME CAFE offers its patrons is an experience unlike any other, under the context and premise of a typical cafe experience. They will come in to enjoy our very friendly and welcoming staff, enjoy the aesthetic of it all (from costumes to the small utensils that they use), the delicious and decadent food and drinks offered, and be entertained by the showmanship and performance aspect of HIME CAFE. Each of these elements will reinforce the overall enjoyment of our patrons as well as the major theme of the cafe: cute, fun, and beauty.

The Staff

Anchoring the whole experience of the HIME CAFE is its staff. This is the main allure of the theme (thus, MAID cafe) and so this is the most important aspect. HIME CAFE’s staff will be masters of both service (in serving guests in the most accommodating and safest way possible) and hospitality. Each maid will have their own personality (their act) that will cater to the interests of our patrons. We will have the high-and-mighty tsundere, the presidential and commanding kuudere, the silent and mysterious dandere, the flamboyant and ever-happy deredere, the regal and sophisticated himedere, and possibly even consider a much safer version of the yandere. We don’t want any of our patrons being stalked and murdered!

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Errr… yeah, don’t want any maids to match this type.

Each maid will also cater to different “looks” as well. This will be indicated through their fashion, their demeanor, and their body types. You’ll have the short “chibi” type alongside the intelligent-looking “megane” type. Variety is the spice of life, and will thus help business boom as each “type” of personality donned by our servers will reach a different patron every time. So a patron may come into the cafe and even order the same things, but leave with a completely different experience. This fantasy look and feel extends also to our other staff. Food runners, cooks, host/hostess… everyone will be putting on a show.

As it stands right now (in the brainstorming stage), the initial staff must be efficient and essentialist in its inception. We cannot be wasteful in our assembly, as the room for error and waste in the beginning stages of HIME CAFE are the most unforgiving. The staff will consist of the following:

  1. Manager/Host — the ones who run the show, coordinate the flow of work into a reasonable and manageable manner. The manager is the filter, serving as the deciding factor after taking in all the information and variables in an equation. They communicate with the staff, with the patrons, and with the best interests of the betterment of HIME CAFE, go about their daily doings.
  2. Head Maid — this spot is reserved for my sister-in-law Cindy. This position is essentially the manager of the service staff (the other maids). She is the one who is most comfortable with all the inner-workings of the duties of a maid, and is integral and valued greatly in the hiring and sorting process for the rest of the maid staff. They deal with scheduling, with training, and with the direction of the service staff.
  3. Head Chef — this spot is reserved for Jason. This position has intimate knowledge of what the kitchen is capable of producing and at what cost. The Head Chef, while does have opportunities to interact with the patrons, is responsible for maintaining the menu of HIME CAFE.
  4. Cook — The duties of the cook is simple: cook. They are responsible for the quality of food that comes out of the kitchen. In its initial stage, we’re looking at maybe hiring one other cook to assist Jason in the duties of the kitchen.
  5. Maid — This is the most demanding but also the most rewarding position of HIME CAFE. The maids, the servers, are the stars of the show we provide, and must be capable of many things:
    -At the core of a maid’s duty is to be a server. To provide food, drinks, and deliver an enjoyable dining experience is essential. Nothing else matters if a maid is incapable of this.
    – Presentation is key for HIME CAFE, and so our maids must always take good care of their appearances. This means their uniform, (this will sound harsh, but it is honesty) their physical appearance, and their overall demeanor when it comes to the customers.
    – Showmanship is the highest platitude of what makes the maids at HIME CAFE unique and extraordinary. The maids we hire must constantly maintain their performance in this category in whatever creative ways they can. This means working on their character personality, their performance and skits, and also their general aesthetic.
  6. Expediter — This is the more open-ended position at HIME CAFE. The Expediter is merely just that: someone to expedite the process of HIME CAFE’s daily goings. That can mean helping in cleaning, running food, managing some menial tasks like handling the check, or even something as peculiar as going out to town to run an errand; the expediter is in the flexible role of assistance, which is vital to alleviate the workload for the staff so that they may collectively provide a better experience to our patrons.

The Menu

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The food has to be a major allure!

As stated in the previous section, the menu will be set after discussing it in greater detail with the Head Chef. We will serve an assortment of food and beverages, each focusing on the overall theme of the cafe in its cuteness and its elegance. Most importantly, the menu served in HIME CAFE will hit on several notes:

  • Deliciousness. No other category matters if we cannot deliver on this note. Nobody will order the food if it is not good. Nobody will care for any other aspect of the dish if they cannot stomach it. Our dishes will be good and with the highest priority in taste. While the novelty of the maid cafe will bring our guests in, our food and service will be what will guarantee return customers.
  • Simple and Clean. The dishes should all follow this belief. Everything we make must be, for our guest, simple and clean to consume. None of our dishes should involve our guests needing a wetnap or paper towels to clean themselves after. So, unfortunately, no BBQ, no hands-on dishes, and nothing that will cause unnecessary messes for both our staff and our guests.
  • Interactivity and Customization. Since the main selling point of HIME CAFE will be the maids, the dishes that we offer to our guests (be they an entree, a dessert, or a beverage) should always maximize the possibilities for our staff to interact. This amazement factor ties into the showmanship of the establishment, and this can be something as simple as allowing our maids to write messages on the food.
  • Decadence. The allure of a maid cafe is that the patrons are treated as masters and as royalty, so the food we serve should prop up that notion.

The food of the cafe will consist of the following categories: desserts, beverages, and entrees.

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I would feel bad eating this!

The initial plan for the desserts at least is that the majority of the bakes goods coming into the cafe will be provided through outside vendors. I know of a few friends who are bakers and, as a staff, we could go around to other bakeries to look for interesting and delicious products to buy and then resell to our patrons. We buy in bulk from the bakeries, and we sell at a higher cost to the patrons (we would essentially act as a vetting process for the patrons, deciding what is worthy of being sold and what isn’t). Some expected iconic desserts served at HIME CAFE can be parfaits, crepes, shaved ice, ice creams, and mochi.

 

The beverages will, for the most part, be prepared and provided in-house. Some very screen-shot-2012-09-25-at-3-21-26-pmstrenuous research must be done in all the different kinds of coffees, teas, and juices that we may provide our patrons at HIME CAFE. While this may not require all maids to be baristas, it may be something that will be necessary coming down the line for the staff. For a cafe to serve terrible coffee is a joke and will cause HIME CAFE to lose a considerable amount of credibility. Some expected iconic beverages served at HIME CAFE can be cappuccino, herbal tea, bubble tea, espresso, coffee, hot chocolate, smoothies, and juices.

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KUMA KARE!

For the entrees, our dishes will be an array of both iconic dishes you’d come to expect from a maid cafe and some very original dishes embodying the creative spirit of the establishment as a whole. The latter will be organized primarily with the Head Chef. Some expected iconic entrees served at HIME CAFE can be curry rice, croquettes, omurice, onigiri, and some warm sandwiches (paninis).

 

Each and every dish served at HIME CAFE must cater to the original points listed earlier, to help push on the consistent theme throughout the establishment.

The Entertainment and Showmanship

While HIME CAFE functions as a normal cafe (where the workers just so happen to be dressed up in a peculiar uniform), there are opportunities for the weird and quirky aspect to stand out. This is the entertainment aspect of HIME CAFE, which will harbor the fun spirit of what we want to do. This is what makes us special; this is what makes us so different.

The Uniforms
The most iconic aspect of a maid cafe is its maids, and the easiest way to discern a worker from a patron is their uniform. Without having met nor known any of our staff, our patrons’ first taste and impression (which is vital to how the rest of their experience plays out) of HIME CAFE will be in the appearance of our staff. Our uniforms will set the tone for the cafe, and so must accomplish several tasks:

  1. They must be practical. If a uniform is actually a noticeable hindrance to our servers from doing their everyday tasks, then it is no good. Each uniform must serve the primary purpose of allowing our staff to work uninhibited; it doesn’t matter how beautiful the uniform may be. They must be easy to clean, easy to maintain, and
  2. The uniforms are a modern take on the maid outfit. Sleek, elegant, feminine, and classy is the look we are going for. While I make the comparison to Hooters, I do not want HIME CAFE to have that same image. To reiterate, we are selling cute and classy, not sexy. Each uniform should be flattering to the server that wears it, but it must not overexpose.

Each uniform is to be hand-crafted by our Head Maid Cindy. Until the maid reaches that threshold where she has been qualified to her own uniform, she will wear a stock uniform already made and prepared. This custom and unique uniform will be an accolade for our maids, serving as a milestone in their adventure with HIME CAFE.

With each seasonal event, and with just general participation over time, our workers will gain access to the wardrobe of different and unique uniforms provided by the Head Maid (and also by other findings), which will allow our staff to present themselves as unique, so the look of HIME CAFE will be ever-changing.

The Maid Service
Whenever and wherever possible, our staff will seize the opportunity to treat our guests like royalty. When they walk in the door, they will be greeted by the staff as a whole. When the leave, they will be given a valediction. Maids will try hard to remember the names of their customers and even build a healthy and professional relationship with them (as anyone would normally in a restaurant/cafe setting). Chairs will be pushed in for our guests. Napkins will be folded upon their temporary departure from their seat. It may sound strenuous, but this attention to detail will be the impeccable service that patrons will notice and reward. Oh, and the maids will totally call you “goshujin-sama” if you prefer.

The Show
This portion is a bit more malleable simply because we need to constantly be cautious about how close to the origin we want our maid cafe to be. We want to make sure we customize the performance and more interpersonal aspect of the maid cafe to the interests of the patronage. Maids are able to play games with the customers, interact with them freely (so the staffing must consider the time necessary for each maid to provide proper service to patrons). Our guests come for the experience, and so everything HIME CAFE does is to adhere to that interest.

Social Media Presence
One of the major outlets for HIME CAFE is in its presence on social media. Through HIME CAFE’s social media account (particularly on YouTube), our maids will embrace their characters and personality types and present it onto the screen. We will produce (for fun) excursions, advertise products, announce all upcoming major events for the cafe, and many more! These small video projects will serve as an opportunity to welcome and encourage patrons who are on-the-fence about visiting to come and meet the cast that we have assembled at HIME CAFE.

The Eventful Cafe
One of the better things that will happen with the cafe is its dedication to the idea that every day is different. With the change of the seasons, with the coming of holidays, and with all the random happenings throughout the year, HIME CAFE will make sure to adapt and capitalize on the high energy of the patrons. Open Mic nights, working for conventions, community service and outreach–HIME CAFE will be very involved in the community and working all throughout the year to include different themes and activities so that our guests will keep coming back for more. This is a very fluid option, as the events we host (be they a karaoke night or a game show night) will not hinder the operation of the cafe normally, but add some extra spice to our schedule. Viewing parties, themed nights; whatever we can organize, we will!

The Giving Cafe
Community service and outreach will be very essential for the cafe’s success. Our hope is not to just have a store open and make some money; what we really want is the success of HIME CAFE as a fixture in the community that the operate in. Part of the jobs of the staff at HIME CAFE is to be performers, and with that comes the responsibility to do good to the world–this is non-negotiable. We will host, join, and participate in community outreach programs. We will join in soup kitchens, we will do our fair share of cleaning our part of town, we will visit nursing and retirement homes, and we will reach out to the schools. This portion is open-ended, but this is part of the philosophy of HIME CAFE–we are a force for good.

The Cafe Layout

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Clean, cute, and minimalistic/essentialist

This portion depends on the space available to us, but the HIME CAFE needs a sizable space to operate in. The space, whatever size we end up choosing, should be able to accommodate the following things:

 

  • Kitchen
  • Mixed Table Seating
  • Coffee Bar
  • Bookshelves/Library to store manga and board games
  • Stage for performances
  • Dessert station
  • Cashier
  • Bathroom(s)
  • Pantry

The Hub for the Anime and Cosplay Community
This might be too ambitious (as is everything else planned here), but the cafe will serve as a hub for the community. We will display (and sell for a commission) artwork created by talented artists from the anime community. Our maids will wear with pride and flaunt costumes created for them from fellow cosplayers. The desserts that we sell, while obviously provided from outside sources, are advertisements for the bakeries that stock us. HIME CAFE can and will serve as a bridge for our target demographic to the things that interest them, and we might even expose them to new things that they may be interested in.

The Obstacles

It might sound like I’m living in my head with this, but I am fully aware of many of the obstacles that lie ahead.

I know that I am inexperienced–I have never opened nor managed a small business, let alone a cafe or anything that could compare to a maid cafe. I know that I lack the capital to invest in such a project without digging myself into a great hole. I know of all my faults as a person in heading a project such as this, and the insane confidence I am attuning into the anime and cosplay community as well as in the people that I plan on working with.

Yet for some strange reason, I can’t help but feel a burning desire to make this dream come true.

 

Old Man Tang’s

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This is the idea!

At the current moment, I’m only 27 years old. I’m a fledgling teacher who’s in his third year of teaching English. I’m recently married and my wife and I are considering having kids. We don’t know if we’re going to stay in NJ, or if we’re going to move elsewhere in the nation. Kids are on the horizon (after our honeymoon), and my parents are getting much older, potentially leaving behind an empire of low-income housing in Philadelphia and New York. There’s so much potential in terms of where my life will go in the future, but there’s one thing that’s for sure for me.

It’s a dream that I’ve had since I sort of “woke up” from my very complacent and content living. I thought of it randomly one day in 2007, while I was aimlessly writing out whatever came to my mind during the downtime between classes at community college. When I’m much older, or when I’ve got myself into a nice and comfortable situation (a big IF, mind you), what do I want to do to let the time go by?

Noodles.

I love noodles. I love noodle soup. When I was young and all my sisters still lived at home, every Saturday we would be greeted to my mom’s comfort food: Banh Canh Ga.

 

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Banh Canh Ga. Delicious!

 

Simple chicken stock with chewy thick rice noodle, combined with shredded chicken. The way my mom makes it does not make it some massive culinary adventure. It was simple, it was delicious, and that’s all that mattered to me. This is, probably, the one dish my mom can make every single day and I’d be okay eating it. It’s this magical dish that makes me salivate even as I think of how I want to write this post. I’m not too knowledgeable of all the jargon used to determine flavor, texture, taste, and all things culinary, but this noodle soup just hits me right in the heart every time I have it.

When I got older, and I moved to Ohio, I needed to learn some dishes to cook (because I felt my body becoming physically ill from eating way too much take-out and fast food). This dish was one of the first dishes my mom gave me on my adventure away from home. I grew up eating this noodle soup, and for that I am forever grateful to it. Any season. Any day. Any situation. Banh Canh was always there to satiate my hunger.

That was the beginning of my culinary development. I’d gone from completely useless to technically capable from that point on. That was the launch pad for my love for cooking.

So I Want to Run a Noodle Shop

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Yeah. Just like in Kung Fu Panda. I said it.

This isn’t some massive ambitious money-making scheme. There isn’t some sort of desire to push on the culinary education of noodle soups to the xenophobic palette of Americans. I don’t want to win any awards. I don’t want to shake up the food scene. I don’t want to “put ________ on the map”. I just think it’d be a fun, cool, and interesting way to pass the time when I’m old. I can imagine myself, an old man with a head full of gray-and-white, tending to the shop.

I think I’ve got the skills and collective knowledge (obviously borrowed from my mother, my mother-in-law, and all the other chefs/cooks/really-good-at-cooking-stuff people in my family) to produce a delicious bowl of noodle soup. It’d be easy to prepare for, and extremely easy to eat.

So here’s how the shop would run for customers:

  1. Pick your stock.

    Customers would choose one from three stocks: beef, chicken, or vegetable stocks. Each of these stocks will be kept warm in the back of the shop, and I’d sell it until it empties. Each broth will have its own (obvious) flavor, so customers can choose their preference.

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    Mixing stocks is okay!

  2. Pick your noodle.

    Rice noodles. Egg noodles. Glass noodles. Macaroni even. So many different kinds of noodles are out there in the world, and I definitely don’t know them all. I’ll have a variety of noodles prepared (and rotated seasonally or just based on availability and interest) that customers can choose from. This will be the starch.

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    There are so many types!

  3. Pick your additions.

    The fillers are the things that you toss into the soup to add some extra flavor, protein, aromatics, garnish, whatever! Fill up your noodle soup with whatever you want aside from the broth and noodles. Add in some shredded chicken, some duck, an egg, scallions, lettuce, mushrooms, fish cakes… anything that a customer would want in their noodle soup to help it feel more filling and enjoyable, I’ll make sure I have as much of it prepared as possible.

  4. Enjoy!

    Slurp it all up!

As a sort of added bonus, because I know my mom sometimes gets so bored that she cooks to no end, there’s always a “seasonal” broth or dish that customers can choose from. My mom may make egg rolls one day, or spring rolls, or decide to cook some Pho; there will always be a “special dish” for sale for customers to tackle if they want something outside of the usual. There’s no obligation on my mother to make food to sell, and it spices things up with variety that even I won’t be able to predict.

The Look of the Shop

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It’d be cool if it could be in the middle of a park somewhere.

ac972cbee1c73a88a0e29b97191a6fa5When it comes to the storefront, I don’t want anything big. I’m looking to have a small shack the size of a small apartment with bar seating only. I’m hoping that the shack will seat a maximum of 15 people at a time. I want the customers to be able to socialize with one another (strangers talking to each other, how strange!). So you can probably tell: it’s very small and quaint. Wood exterior, with a very rustic look (not ultra-modern with LED lighting and sharp boxy edges). Nothing about the shop will scream luxury or contemporary–most importantly, I am not looking to attracting the “foodie” crowd.

The Essentials

Just so I can say that this post isn’t just day-dreaming, here’s a small little mental exercise for myself: what will I need?

  • Refrigerator to store ingredients
  • Small refrigerator to store drinks
  • Sink
  • Four big broth pot gas ranges
  • !NO CASH REGISTER! I am not looking to get held up and robbed–everything will be card only
  • Cabinets and shelves above the bar for bowls
  • Dishwashing machine
  • TV (when I’m old and running this place, I plan on catching up on all the wonderful films I’d yet to see)

    There’s obviously more I need, but these are the essentials that I need to make sure that the shop has.

The Mood of Old Man Tang’s Noodle Shack

Just like how my relationship is with my mother’s Banh Canh, I want the dishes of Old Man Tang’s to be that to the customers. Fulfilling, consistently good, and comforting food that you will come to grow up with. It will not change. It will not “try hard” in terms of constantly reinventing itself. You’ll find OMT’s to be that small shop you go to after a long day at work, to have a nice quiet meal by yourself, to hang out and watch the game when you’re all alone at home. That’s the feeling I want my shop to give off. It won’t look fancy, and it will be a good-looking shop to my eyes (probably not to others). There will be small trinkets that are littered throughout there–gifts from my wife, from the customers, or anything that I find in my adventures in life that I feel like showcasing at the noodle shack. You also can go there if you want someone to talk to, because I’ll always be there.

For the kids who come by, I’ll give them a free bowl when report card season is around and they’ve gotten themselves straight A’s. This would be a sort of nod to my teaching roots. Heck, depending on how well the business can stay afloat, I’d be more than willing to give people freebies for all the accolades they achieve in life. This is a prestige reserved for the regulars of OMT’s.

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Hopefully people don’t spend too much time taking pictures of their food.

The Legacy of the Dream

It’s always fun to daydream about making it big, but I know for sure that I do not want OMT’s to grow massively. These thoughts can surely change based on circumstance, I’m sure, but I feel that turning OMT’s into a franchise or to open multiple storefronts might compromise the communal and local ambiance and intention of the store.

To help me make ends meet and so that I’m not busting my butt too much, I’ll make it a key note to hire young help every year. Just a few part-timers (probably high schoolers or college students) to learn the process, to learn how to cook the broths and serve the customers. Part time jobs that are typical for kids these days seem to be working at the mall, and even then I feel like they miss out on an enriching experience achieved through working hard. Perhaps then the future of Old Man Tang’s may spawn from one of the helpers I hire. Who knows.

So uh, that’s it for now. This is just a dream that I have, and I do hope that I can make it happen someday. No grand epiphany. No direction in terms of evaluating the state of my life nor an analysis of culture, politics–nothing compelling this time around. Thanks for reading, folks. 🙂

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One day… maybe even soon!

 

 

 

Wise Words from Momma Tang

What’s up, peeps? David here. It may seem as though I’ve fizzled out right when I began in terms of writing, but my difficulty with writing in the blog is not time constraints, but just a lack of dedication in committing to a single topic. The post I originally intended to write was in regards to race, since it is such a hot topic in my workplace… however, I found myself ranting for nearly 5+ pages and barely even getting to the middle of things. I’ll elaborate more on that later on, but for today, a thought came into my mind: some advice from my mother.

Meet my momma:

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Momma Tang

I love this woman, and she loves me dearly. I can say that her love for me reaches a level that makes people question sanity. Her undying loyalty and championing of my cause has been the crux of many of my frustrations growing up–she sets a high bar and I’ve failed it plenty of times. We’ve been after each other’s throats (not literally, silly) at times, and she has been responsible for much of the man that I am today… as hard as that may be to admit at times.

Much of her outlook on life and philosophy of how to go about the daily musings are up for debate, and she and I debate about them once in a while. I feel as though I could probably write her manifesto on parenting. Hell, I plan on applying many of her techniques and I’m a student of her thoughts. I am her biggest critic, as she is mine; I am grateful in the end of it all for this. Amid the ideology she’s raised me on, one token of advice she had told me in passing one day has always stuck with me, and it is the advice I always give to my students and the advice I will one day give to my own children.


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No… that’s not me.

For some context: My mother, through her own mysterious ways, could probably tell that I was stressing out over school and work. It wasn’t that community college was difficult, but moreso that my academic confidence was at an all-time low because of my foolish first take at Rutgers University, which ended in my academic dismissal. It’s still the biggest regret that I have in my entire life. It helped shape me into the man I am today, but it still is the lowest point in my life. I didn’t want to fail again, especially at a community college (which is much easier than my time at Rutgers and also The Ohio State).

I’m sure my mother was worried too. I didn’t exactly have a good academic history for her to not worry about my performance in school. She also knew at the time that she couldn’t hold my hand anymore. She couldn’t hover over me to slap my wrist and say “no, don’t do that”.


 

She gave me some advice before I headed out the door.

She said this in Cantonese, so bear with me as I try to word this in English as close to her meaning.

“Remember, sai lo (the nickname that my family calls me by, kind of translating into ‘Little Man’), life isn’t fair. Don’t ever think that it is that way. You’re lying to yourself if you think that way.” — This definitely caught my attention. I arched my eyebrows and looked at her with a confused face.

“There will be people who will be smarter than you.” — I was getting a bit annoyed, because this was the worst pep talk ever.

“You will have some friends and classmates who just seem like they’re better than you. They work faster and can do so much more than you can. Look at how you and your father work. It took you four hours to install a door. It took your father fifteen minutes.” — I got defensive, of course, because when I did install that door, it looked so disappointingly bad that I wish I could’ve just burnt that house down in Philly.

“But know this: you will always have a chance to be better.”

“If it takes you five hours to study and be ready for a test,” she began, “and it takes another guy two hours to be ready for that same test, as long as you put in those five hours you will be on the same standing as him.” Now I know this logic probably has plenty of holes through it, but it was actually somewhat uplifting to hear. I had always struggled with being the little brother and folded when it came to academic rivals (competing against my sisters and also my classmates–particularly a boy named David Tong… you know, because he has the same damn name as me except for a single letter). Hearing this made me feel as though I were some sort of diamond in the rough.

“It doesn’t matter if that guy is smarter. If he puts in only an hour of work and you put in five into studying, then you can be better than him. You’ve worked harder and you’ve prepared yourself better than him.”

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That was it. It was a brief piece of advice, but probably the wisest words my mother has given me (in my opinion, that is). It worked so well for numerous situations in life, and it reminded me of that wonderful and quintessential American spirit:

Hard work can trump all.

That advice carried me through college, when I went into my major not having much knowledge at all of the classic literature that my classmates seemed to have been so intimate with off the get-go. I didn’t grow up going to church, so I knew very little about the Bible. It made me so frustrated in Uni when the literature I had to dissect was some sort of reference to Abraham or Job (I figured out at the tender age of eighteen that it is pronounced “jobe” and not “jobb”). My mother’s advice told me to suck it up, Google and Wikipedia the crap about all the references I didn’t get in class.

It even helped me when I was working in a restaurant. My coworker and I would always playfully have a “tip-off”, where we’d just compete to see who’d be able to squeeze out more tips from customers. I was at a disadvantage, because she was an attractive Latina, and I would just watch with a disappointed glare as customers just shedded dollars at her just because she just churned out a tease of cleavage at them. She slayed those poor high school boys. I would think “how the hell can I do that?” Well, since I lacked the tools to do that, I had to find my own workaround–providing nearly flawless service (so that the customers would even feel bad for not tipping me more). Yeah, it was more tiresome than squeezing my chest for some horny high schoolers, but it proved to me that I could achieve the same results if-not-better through diligence.

Sidebar: I believe that everyone should work in the food industry or retail at some point in their lives so they can see how terrible human beings are.

 

27offsuitAnyways, I give this advice to my students whenever applicable for many reasons. Being a
product of inner-city schooling, being a minority, being a non-native English speaker, being a child of uneducated parents, being a member of a community rife with drugs, sex, and gangs–a black hole of negativity and ignorance… many of my students find themselves dealt a pretty crappy hand.

 

First and foremost, it forces the simple truth about life: Life ain’t fair.

I see, hear, and feel it all around me: people who just spend their days saying “this world is not fair to me, boo hoo.” Students. Parents. Coworkers. Random strangers. While the fairness of life, especially in the United States, is definitely a topic worth visiting and realizing the discrepancies, it does nothing to better one’s own situation to just sit there and complain about circumstances.

My mother’s advice, thus becoming my words to my students, tells them one thing: It sucks, but it’s not hopeless.

Being a product of the same system that my students are going through, I see something that I know they will not until it’s far too late: they will never be ready for college. Not just my district, but the state of academia as a whole has this strange belief that every student must go to college. How is that possible for many of my students, who don’t know how to study, who don’t even know how to be respectful? That’s not an insult to them; I really do have students who just were never taught how to be respectful to each other. It’s not an attack on their character.

They graduate high school (which is honestly debatable whether some are worthy of graduation, but administrators and teachers have other forces-that-be that tell them that they cannot “fail” students. They get pushed through a grinder of inadequacy and mediocrity. There are many students who graduate from high schools all around the U.S. lacking the fundamental skills that would allow them to be more success in post-secondary school. Many urban students are from families that do not have any experience with post-secondary, so surviving the challenge of having to swim with ankle weights becomes even more daunting when they don’t even know how to swim, nor which direction to swim.

My mother’s words forces us to realize our situation–that we are starting off behind. It then gives us another serving of reality: That we need to step it up.

This philosophy has always guided my parents through their trying times. It explains how they have been through so much–how they started from nothing, and achieved the American dream when so many others haven’t achieved it. I’m sure these same words that guide me today helped them endure the racism, the criticism, the losses, the hardships, and every single thing that life threw at them saying “No, you can’t have this”.

Your circumstance is a product of your efforts.

Make up for your inadequacies. Navigate through the harmful labyrinth laid out before you. Figure out your weaknesses, strengthen them, and continue to swim against the current trying to drown you.

Here’s an awesome uplifting video for you :3