Sunday, September 2, 2012


Earlier this week, in my Upper I English classes, the theme of one of the lessons was "Great Teachers."  As I am apt to to do, I searched for video clips to enhance the book work and bring contextual examples into the classroom and mostly because I like video clips as a visual learner. I planned to show video clips of good and bad teachers.

Of course, for bad teachers, I thought of Ben Stein's character in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."  "Bueller? Buullleer?" Buuuuelller?" I find myself thinking that in my classes after I ask a question, even as benign as "How was your weekend?" and find 20 faces staring blankly at me.

For a good example, I thought immediately of the movie "Stand and Deliver," about a high school math teacher, Jaime Escalante who was a math teacher in a tough LA school.  I found an NBC clip about his legacy in memorial of his death. Part of the segment talks about the Spanish word - ganas.

Ganas, according to Escalante, means "determination... discipline.. hard work."  According to the Spanish dictionary, ganas also means "wishes or desires (to do something)."  Ganas can mean something as simple as  "Tengo ganas de dormir," literally "I have wishes to sleep." (Source:

What a powerful word and what an electrifying combination of meanings. To me,  it means that whatever you wish for or desire in life... requires your utmost determination, discipline and hard work to achieve.

As adults, we lose sight of our wishes or desires to be well, more "adult." We have to be grownup, responsible, and mature. We have to have that house, car, job, etc... but what was the last time you spent time thinking about what your wishes, desires, or goals for life?  Once you have those goals,  what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve them? It takes  determination and discipline to keep doing what is hard even when it would be infinitely easier to give up. It has been said that "there's no shortcuts to anyplace worth going."  

Sometimes, during the daily battle towards our goals, it doesn't seem like any progress has been made. We can get discouraged and want to throw in the towel. However, goals, like life is determined step by step and day by day.  There's a scene from the movie "Any Given Sunday" where Al Pacino tells a football team that "inches determine greatness."  Now, I haven't seen the movie, and I only came upon the clip during graduate school. It's a great speech with a core piece of truth.  It is our daily effort, our daily determination that shapes and molds us towards our dreams.  Then when we look back at our efforts, we see the whole picture, instead of just the daily small changes.

Lastly, to paraphrase, the Grand Canyon didn't become grand overnight - it took time and ganas.

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