Saturday, January 15, 2005

Professor Dan Begonia of San Francisco State University has been using Coming Full Circle in his Filipino American Studies courses. He recently sent me the following email -- which, to me, shows the transformative power of LOVE in the class room. Thanks, Dan!

Thanks, Leny. The combination of your book and Ver's book is perfect. I can only hope that I will be able to continue to use the winning combination in the forseeable future.

FYI: I always start out having them read the last chapter first in CFC. After reading that, my students are hooked and will often read the whole book before I even assigned them the weekly chapters. However, some students get lost when you start using the technical Filipino terms - that's where Ver's book becomes very useful because he offers clear definitions of the terms and their logical connections. Because of the nature of the assignments and activities (including a 15 hr retreat towards the end of semester), students are usually very emotional when the course ends. Many of my best and brightest volunteer to return as TA's, each of whom becomes a team leader for the groups organized at the beginning of class. This spring semester I have 22 TA's, some of whom are veteran TA's with 3-4 years of experience in helping administer/facilitate the class.

My TA's have included Chinese, Lao, Korean, Japanese, Euro-American, Thai, Mexican, as well as Filipino TA's (unfortunately no African Americans - yet) It's a testimony to the universal appeal of the courses which, as you might imagine, are always packed and have huge waiting lists because of referrals. The course last year was the subject of a huge front page article in the school paper.Our dean once acknowledged me in a very public way for consistently having the highest class evaluations in the entire college. He said that the class ratings were always "off the charts" and recommended that faculty who had evaluation problems should consult with me to learn from my teaching style.I mention all this to you not to brag, but just to let you know that using your book in the last couple of years has multiplied exponentially the potency of the course for all students, not just Filipino students.
I truly LOVE teaching that class.

As a last comment on the significance of the class at a high personal individual level, I have had 5 pairs of students who met through the course - all of whom eventually got married and I was always included in the wedding party. I was blown away when one of the couples informed me a few years after they graduated that they named their son "Danilo" in honor of me because of the way the class had changed their lives. I cried when I read their email testimonial to me that included an invitation to be a godfather for the child. I wish I could have sent you a copy. Unfortunately, my computer(s) ate it and has been lost forever. Fortunately, I have shoe boxes and photo albums filled with letters, cards, and photos sent to me by students and entire classes as mementoes of their transformative experiences. Many of the classes still meet on their own at re-unions, bonfires, parties, etc. years after.

Ironically, the students have no clue as to how they have transformed my life as well, thus vivifying one of my favorite proverbs that I share with my students at the beginning of the course:

"Every person you meet is a like a book ready to share its knowledge and its wisdom. At the end of our lives, the quality of our existence can be measured by the size of our library" - African proverb.

Cheers and thanks for your constant support and encouragement and much gratitude and admiration for the good work that you do,

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