Saturday, April 29, 2006

Yahoooo!!! At last I can see the light :)))

Aahh! I feel so relaxed and much better. For some reason, everything is turning out to be positive for me. The most rewarding thing is the attitude of my students. Most of them come from very turbulent backgrounds with no proper guidance or orientation towards the value of education and life. However, that shouldn't be an excuse for them to get away with their silly pranks. Sometimes, the pranks are pretty dangerous and injurious to self and others. Most of them have never learned to respect others, never have been taught to show gratitude for the help and concern others shower on them. They also use words which can hurt others feelings. However, they have heard the adults use those words and have never been corrected to stop using them. No one taught them not to grab anything they come across as theirs'.

As an Educator, I believe we need to inculcate all these moral values in the students. It took me some time but I can see some positive results, which are making me so happy. I can see my students showing more interest in learning. Some of them knock my door asking me to give them some work, which made me jump with happiness. They no longer fear tests and are ready to take more tests in such dry subjects as math. They are learning to respect their peers and their friends and show gratitude towards their mentors. All this makes me feel sooooo happy. Well, these are such small achievements but at last I feel so much better.

For all the struggles that I have gone through the past 8 months I have learned a few good lessons, which include:
Never think that you are a waste because of your failures
You need not be diplomatic. Sometimes if you feel what you are stating is right, then go for it.
Everything is not your fault. You cannot control what is beyond your reach.
Do not hesitate to let others know that they are hurting you.
Leave your work at work. Take a break from it and forget completely about it till you return back to work.
Believe in your instincts.
At the same time do not jump into conclusions.

I wish everything continued the same and these students see the light too :)))

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The glass half filled

After a series miserable events in my life, I cannot but feel depressed dejected and socially withdrawn from every other thing around. However, this doesn’t help much. Life sucks! Everything is so bitter and drab. You come across the world with the enthusiasm to change; you put in your best only to realize that more needs to be done. A lot of loopholes, which you cannot fill in but for sure, you can be blamed for not doing well. All this after going through a lot of hardships? All this for being passionate about a cause? All this for working so hard to realize one's dreams? What have I not done to get here? I chose a very uncommon and a challenging career. Looked out for opportunities to grow in it. Worked to enhance my scope and the areas wherein I can help. Went to graduate school and successfully finished the school year. From a shaky start I ended up with a great GPA at the end of the coursework. Funded my own education and was able to secure a job to realize my dreams and understand what I wanted to do in the future.
Now, Wait a min? What am I complaining about? Am I supposed to complain or be happy for getting what I want? Well, of course every one goes through a lot of hardships. Most of them are a result of some unavoidable situations, which we have to take up. But, this isn't fair. Yes, My job is a huge struggle. Teaching students with emotional disorders is tough. Working in a small town where diversity is a not heard of or people from other communities are not welcome is tough. Working with parents who are biased and who want things their way is a not a new thing. So why is it that I always focus on my obstacles and failures? Why is it that I am not happy about my accomplishments? Why can't I see the glass half full? Why am I always focusing on the empty part of the glass?

Well, I think we all go through the stages of enthusiasm, struggle, pessimism, frustration and giving up and then reconciliation and improvement. I think I am in the last stage. Or at least I want to think so. The fear of failure and the fear of not living up to the expectations is what troubles me the most. However, I am learning that no one is perfect and that is exactly how we learn.
I want to change my attitude and am looking forward for more positive experiences. I am looking out for opportunities wherein I can utilize my skills and grow as a professional and serve the field of disabilities in the best way possible.

Another one in a row

Well, I thought things would be much better if I changed the shuttle service but I was wrong. I had another bad one while returning from LAX to home. It is really amazing how the drivers function without the necessary networking or technology to help them reach the customers to their destination.

We were about 4 passengers in the shuttle. After I had requested for a shuttle, I got into one wherein the driver hardly maintained any eye contact with the passengers. We had to do a lot of guesswork to know whom he was addressing.

The first passenger was to be dropped at Montebello. It was surprising too find the driver asking the passenger about the freeway to take to reach Montebello. The passenger told him the usual route, which he usually took and helped the driver figured it out. After he had dropped him, he came back to the cab. Looking at three of us announced "Pico Rivera! Now who needs to be dropped there?” " Me”, I said in a very excited tone. "So what is the cross street?” I gave him the address. "Well, that doesn't ring a bell". Now I was baffled. Montebello was just beside Pico Rivera. I was very closely observing some of the main streets and found we had passed Beverly Rd. But, as I rarely traveled that way, I did not want to confuse the driver. "I can take you to Whittier Blvd and ...", "That would be great cos I know the way from there", I exclaimed. "Alright ", he said and started off.

Now, as I do not drive around in LA I wanted to make sure we were going in the right direction. We got onto Whittier Blvd. However, we kept driving through the strange streets of East LA. Whittier Blvd is a very long street, which extends all the way from East LA to Norwalk . I wanted to make sure if we were heading towards the east side of Whittier Blvd. "So are you driving towards Norwalk or LA?", I asked him. "Towards Norwalk. We are heading east", he said. Well, then that should be fine. I said. However, I kept looking out to check if were moving in the right direction. Something made me feel we were not really right. "Do you have a GIS system or any other navigation system to help you out?, " I asked in a very curious voice. No I do not have anything. Now this was a big blow to me. Here I was in a cab wherein the driver wasn't even sure which way to take me. I blamed myself for not being acquainted with the city so well. But what was the necessity for me to do that? I do not drive and also its’ the responsibility of the cab driver to be more acquainted with the streets and how to get around. Any ways, I could see the faint picture of the skyscrapers in LA downtown. Even before I could say anything, I asked the driver to find out if we had any freeways around. "Well, we are heading towards LA . I can see those huge buildings. You said you knew the way. We are heading in the wrong direction. How do we get to your place? This is a mess man," The driver kept showering questions on me.

I was really angry with him. “Well, I paid you to do that for me isn’t it? “, was what I wanted to blurt out. Any ways, I did not want to waste any time. I asked him if he could head towards a freeway most probably I5 or 605. He turned his cab. “May be we should ask someone who is walking down the street”, I said. “Oh leave it. I don’t know how much more time it is going to take for us”, he said in a frustrated tone. Well, I was really angry and mad at him. However, I did not waste any time and tried calling some of my friends. Their phones just kept ringing and then the calls was diverted to their voice mails.

Meanwhile, the driver asked one of the ladies in a car for the 60 freeway. We got onto 60 and he kept looking out for Rosemead Blvd. I had called Ram to find out the exit for 60 freeway. It was confusing for him to track down. After 8-10 min of talk on the phone, I hear a voice from the front seat saying” It’s ok, I will figure it out. Just tell me what the cross street is”, I wasn’t able to hear him and the girl in the front row repeated it to me. Slauson and Rosemead , I said. Pretty soon we were on Rosemead and then took the south exit. After 20 min or so we came closer to Whittier Blvd. The driver was elated and pointed to the signs. Yeah Whittier Blvd,” Well, I knew we could get here if we kept going on Whittier Blvd. However, I wanted to make sure we were heading East and that’s what I asked you”, I said. Well, I got confused because of the roads and so thought we were heading east he said. This time his voice was more calm and relaxed. I felt that he realized his mistake. Any ways, we reached my place in another 10 min. It was raining by then. He got my suitcase out and after complaining for a little time for collectign my charges through my credit card, he left.
This one was not quite an adventure but it might have been to those two teenagers in the cab who were puzzled and anxiously waiting to get home.
I am really surprised at the way the shuttle companies run. I had some knowledge of the roads and the streets, but what about people visiting LA the first time? How do you think they would be able to locate where they need to go?

Lesson learned: Be aware of the major streets and major freeways connecting your destination. It is always good to have the directions printed down before you take the shuttle. Also make sure to ask the driver well in advance if he knows the way.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Beware of the shuttle driver ! This happens in US too

My previous trip to the airport was quite an adventure. Well, my recent trip was also quite spicy! However this time it was not the air carrier but the shuttle driver who really left me in a shocked and tormented state.

The last time I had to make last minute plans to fly to India. Hence I had to also arrange a shuttle in the last minute which was quite a pain. I wanted to avoid the same mistake this time. I was to visit my fiancé in Dallas for the spring break. I reserved the Red Shuttle
two days in advance. I had a minimum day at school and added to that the last period of the day was my prep. So I had no problem leaving early and on time to the airport.
On Friday, I got a call from the primetime shuttle dept to confirm my reservation. I did confirm the reservation and also requested if they could pick me up at 12:25 instead of 12:00. The person on the phone said he would inform the shuttle driver but he couldn't promise me. That was still fine with me. I had brought my stroller with me so that I can leave from work to the airport.

Time passed very quickly. I had an IEP the other day and had to finish some paper work real quick. I worked on it very swiftly. Meanwhile at 11:50 I got a call from the shuttle driver asking me about my location. I described to him that it was a school. He informed me that he would be there in 10 minutes. I said that was fine and told him to call me back when he was there. Meanwhile I scurried through my paperwork and finished everything in time. I did not get any call. However while getting some of my things done; I kept looking out into the campus for the shuttle. At 12:20pm I get a call from the driver who was complaining that he had been waiting there for me and he would leave if I did not come out. I again asked him where he was and assured I would be out. He informed me that he was near the school. Meanwhile while I was still talking to him, I got a call from his supervisor telling me that his driver has been waiting for quite some time and that I did not show up. I promised him that I would be out in 2 min and asked him to describe the color and the type of shuttle which was waiting out for me. I was unable to see any burgundy colored van which had any wordings like "Red Shuttle" on it. I hurried out with my stroller and handbag and kept looking all over the parking lot. I get another call from the supervisor who informs me that the driver is leaving. I let him know that as promised I was out and had been searching for this shuttle which he had described but found none. While I was still on the phone talking to him, I see a burgundy van coming from the right side of the school. I wave to the driver and he stops. I hurry down the road, cross it and apologize. The driver picked up the stroller in a hurry, dropped it behind and in a strong voice told me to get in and close the door. I do as he said.
After getting in the cab I once again apologize for the confusion and try to ask him as to where he was parked. He tells me that there was no parking space available and so he was parked somewhere else. I was puzzled! The school has a huge parking lot and vehicles could be parked on the roadside too. No wonder I was unable to locate him. Any ways, I was more than glad to get into the cab. Even before I could take a breath of relief, the driver turned to me and in a very strong accent told me that I need to pay him $34.00 for the cab charges. Confused and still trying to understand what he said, I asked him to repeat himself. Hurriedly and in a very angry tone he told me that I need to pay him cash $34.00 for the shuttle charges. Surprised, I reminded him that I had already paid online using my credit card. He told me that the card did not pass through and that I need to pay him so that he can take me to the airport.

I understood his frustration. However, I told him that I would pay him using my debit card once we reach the airport. He demanded that he needed money right away and stopped the shuttle near a gas station which had an ATM. Even before I could talk, he demanded I get down and get the money. He also told me in a harsh voice that he was doing me a favor by stopping me in front of an ATM. Well, I had to get money anyways. I was still confused and was still trying to understand what was going on. However, I did not have any time to waste. I decided to the take the cool man approach of not arguing but giving the person time to cool down and then explaining everything. Meanwhile, I got down the cab, withdrew $100.00 from the ATM (I was charged an extra $1.50 for withdrawing money from the ATM). The driver got into the cab. Then he asked me if I had the money. I assured him that I did. While turning the vehicle, he turned back to me and demanded that I give him $34.00. Now that was the limit of my tolerance. However, I still maintained my cool and told him that I would pay him the moment I got down the shuttle. He was too adamant and kept repeating himself. I showed him the money which I had withdrawn. He was still not happy and continued to harass me. In a very calm but assertive voice I asked him to give me the phone no of his boss. Well, he became more offensive. He raised his voice and did not listen or even allow me to speak. He showed the time and told me that I was too late and I had to pay or else he would leave me there. I still told him I wanted to speak to his supervisor. Now way the guy was going to budge. He threatened me that if I did not give him the money he would drop me there. Well, that was more than I could ask for. I said "Ok" in a firm voice . My Ok sounded like a victory for him and he blushed. But the moment I reached for the door knob, he became very ferocious and swearing in his native language pulled open his driver's door, shouting swear words, took my stroller out and left me at the gas station.

I panicked. I was really scared about missing my flight. This was not just a pleasure trip to my fiancé’s place. We had also planned to drive to the Arizona Mexico border to get my visa stamped. I was aghast at his behavior. I did not have any time to waste. Even before I knew I had dialed the number to the local taxi service. The guy was still halted at the gas station. I had to literally struggle processing too many things. Confused, terrified and also in a very stressful state, I asked for the address of the gas station and was confusing the local taxi cab operator with the address. Somehow the people at the gas station helped me and I was assured of the taxi in a wait time of 5 -15 minutes. While I was still on the phone and figuring out the address, the shuttle driver hurriedly approached me. Interrupting my call, he grabbed my stroller and told me that his supervisor has confirmed that my card passed through and that I need to get into the cab. I could not handle it any more. I just screamed at him saying "I am not going to get into your taxi". "Ok fine then ," he said. Arrogant fellow did not even apologize for his rudeness. He fled the scene. Meanwhile while waiting for the other taxi I tried contacting the customer service for the Red shuttle. Unfortunately the line was engaged for more than 10 min. I gave up. I was really exhausted waiting for the taxi. It was more because of the anxiety.

I kept looking out for it and kept checking about the whereabouts of the taxi. The faint green and yellow car from a distance made me feel better. I found myself sweating at that time. It was more out of relief than anything else. The driver noticed me waving and stopped right in front of me. He greeted me. Wasting no more time, I set my stroller on the back seat and thanked the driver for coming down. I also said a few kind words about the taxi service. He was happy with my comments. I did not want to take any more chances after my bitter experience and thought making the driver feel better would surely help me getting to the air port early. We started off from the gas station at 12:54 pm. On the way I tried to breathe more slowly and relax. The driver assured me that the traffic wasn't a problem at that time of the day and we would reach way ahead of time. As promised, we reached the airport by 1:25pm. I had to pay $57.00. Glad to reach my destination I handed over $60.00 to him and thanked him. He picked up my stroller from the taxi and wished me a safe trip. I thanked him and headed to the entrance.

It was a real learning experience for me. After I reached Dallas, I couldn't stop myself from narrating the whole incident to Ram. He was very angry and told me to call the customer service immediately. Again it was a long wait but at last I could get hold of someone. The person noted down the complaint and informed me that action would be taken against the driver. He also told me to write a letter to the president narrating everything that had happened. What surprised me was the fact that the company already had a lot of problems from the same driver and the fellow still continued to repeat himself.

The whole incident was a very bad experience. I wanted to share this with everyone and anyone who boards the shuttle or any other cab services and warn them.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Facing the reality

After all the ups and downs and the struggles which I have been going through, I have realized that everything happens for a cause. Moreover, one needs to be patient and wait for the results and not stress them to reach their goal. As an aspiring special educator, I entered the field with lots of enthusiasm and motivation to bring a lot of changes. However, it did not take me long to understand that my resources were limited and that I was tied down by some forces which were not under my control.

Through experiences I also learned that my job is not a cake walk. Considering my background, my ethics and the cultural differences, it was hard for me to face students who did not value education and who needed to be bribed to do their work. However, a couple of experienced teachers opened my eyes. Constant feedback and reassuring and reflection have helped me to reach an understanding.

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