Monday, March 31, 2014

Mental Wonderland: Inspiring Hope & Greatness

Before you scratch your head in perplexity, let me say this, "Give this video a chance!"

SEE. THINK. WONDER (Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education).

Two singers rendering a foreign language song can be helpful as an instructional strategy? Yes, please give yourself permission to wonder (three words I'm borrowing from Philip Yenawine's book (2013) which my colleague Enoch Hale highlighted to me). Also, part of the effortful joy of learning new things involves the deployment of grit (Angela L. Duckworth, U Penn, has been conducting studies on grit), "the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals" (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, cited in The Duckworth Lab, University of Pennsylvania website, 2014).

Tell me what you see-think-wonder when you get some downtime to watch this lovely video. There will be different interpretations. For me, I've been watching this for months and here's an attempt at articulating my mental wonderland, briefly.

I had a powerful visceral reaction. I see two talented singers making beautiful music. I connected deeply with the way they emote the lyrical content. It doesn't matter that I couldn't understand what they were singing initially. Just google and you'll retrieve the lyrics and translation in less than a second (see link further down this post). This video demonstrates magnificently how non-verbal language (gestures, facial expression and tone of voice) can communicate ideas in a compelling way even when the verbal language is unfamiliar to us. The ability to take any topic and convey the the heart and emotions behind it with such intensity and delicacy is the mark of a skilled artist and communicator. And that these singers are.

In a class, I can envisage using this video to stimulate conversation and provoke students into exercising various thinking moves (Ritchart, 2002). Teaching about diversity, multiple modes of knowledge representation etc... This video is a tool with numerous thinking-rich possibilities. I also chuckle imagining how students will react when the lyrics are unveiled (see below)!

I think about a previous part of my professional life where I sang, produced and directed plays. I taught for many years in Singapore. I want to inspire hope and greatness again, something Eric Jensen wrote in response to Larry Ferlazzo's question about teaching. I want to work like that, live like that and ignite students with that. That passion.

I wonder what that pursuit might entail. For sure, there are a few major challenges. But I wasn't brought up to quit when daunted. I was raised to be Filiae Melioris Aevi in a crucible of excellence. (Loyalty to one's alma mater cannot be faulted surely!) Education fulfilled its promise in my life. How can I make that happen for other students?

For a long time, I've been ruminating over two big projects close to my heart. Staging my dissertation and publishing the narratives my participants entrusted to me. I've sat on these 2 projects for 9 months now. It is time to be a good stewardess of those stories my participants have shared with me in the hope that their voices will be heard. I will have to find ways to flesh out that trust.

Lyrics to song with English translation. What do you think they were singing about? :) Were you surprised when you finally found out???


Ferlazzo, L. (March 24, 2014). Response: Great teachers focus on connections and relationships [blog]. Retrieved from

Pausini, L. & Fabian, L. (2005). La Solitudine [YouTube video]. Retrieved from 

University of Pennsylvania, The Duckworth Lab. (2014). Research Statement [webpage]. Retrieved from

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