Bird Droppings February 19, 2010
Pondering so many things on a Break
Last night I read through numerous posts from an old graduate school online class site. We had a reading from a paper on a program that was developed in the mid 1980’s in California. The program with one teacher in one school was so successful they as a school board decided to implement across the district. Some saw the AVID program like so many great efforts becoming a packaged canned program for anyone to implement. As I read the article and thought in terms of my own long range plans.
I want to teach college down the line and train teachers in my later years. One question that has perplexed me is how we teach a student in an education program to teach for example, this AVID program. We can provide all the tools, forms, calculators, notebooks with cool logos, a special room, and anything else needed to implement the program. My question is will it work? As I read my own posts and many of the others I found myself commenting on a singular attribute. We can emulate the program and replicate a million copies of notes and details but we can not emulate the passionate teacher who developed the program. How do we get new teachers to emulate the great ones and as well be creative and imaginative in there own right?
I thought back to an incident in 2003. I recall very clearly how my son just went to bed after working on his computer all night and was telling me to get more sleep as I was getting up, it was about 3:30 AM. The previous day as I gave out an assignment one of the aspects in the assignment was to ask five questions about the topic that was chosen and proceed to answer them. One particular student, who happened to drum in a band, thought he could choose something he “knew about” and be done. He of course chose drums, I should have known and the question was where did drums originate? His answer was so simple he thought, Africa.
I asked questions him a few questions to get him going, when, what country, how long ago, what were they made of and are you sure it was Africa? I was being a bit mean as he had spent at least four minutes on just topic and questions. He proceeded to change his topic because drums were too hard. This was not a dumb kid by any stretch of the imagination but extremely lazy. Each time his one word answer would be met with additional questions as I explained you are answering a question but not really answering it. More often than not I explained when giving a simple quick answer it only gives a very limited piece of information. For example Africa is a huge country. I went a different direction for a few minutes with him. Where did the light bulb originate? I said answering the United States leaves so much out.
“The lazier a man is, the more he plans to do tomorrow.” Norwegian Proverb
As I thought about my student and readings and pondering I often wonder what makes us so lazy, myself included. Why do we have to have a quick solution or answer? Why can’t we look deeper anymore and it seems we live so superficially much like believing we can replicate a program by simply copying the notes. So much is missed by skimming along and only trying to finish or duplicate. For nearly twenty three years I worked in reproducing manuals for training programs, it is easy to produce a thousand manuals I used to be able to get a page count, binder size, number of tabs and if any four color was involved and how much and give a production time to the minute. But I also was on the development side and recall months of research and effort put in to provide the original manual.
“Man wants to live, but it is useless to hope that this desire will dictate all his actions.” Albert Camus
If we could channel energy used for selfish means and redirect perhaps changes could be served. Camus brings up one of the basic motivational premises of man survival. Many psychologists, authors and others have all started at this point. But what separates us from the lower primates? Watching high school students I wonder many times if survival is even a factor.
“Each today, well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and each tomorrow a vision of hope. Look, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life.” Sanskrit Poem
When we can finish a day and look back and say well done the feeling and attitude that prevail can lift us into another. I am working on an idea which works around a behavior premise of antecedent, behavior, and consequence or more simply ABC. In all that we do behaviorists see an antecedent which leads up to a behavior but the behavior is also predicated by what will be the consequence. I raised the question to a friend of what if we could have ABABABAB where the antecedent leads to behavior which leads to a higher function of another antecedent and so forth almost in a way what I was trying to get my drummer to do. Socrates did it well answering questions with questions.
“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” Lao-Tzu
“A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes its worth is $12, made into needles its worth is $3500, made into balance springs for watches, its worth is $300, 000. Your own value is determined also by what you are able to make of yourself.” Source unknown
As I look back at the student seeking a one word answer for a life long question this quote came to mind. How often are we content to simply have the five dollars instead of a little work and the Three Hundred Thousand dollars? One aspect of learning and teaching is getting students to view effort as a positive thing not just work. Many teachers have not learned to recognize effort which often negates that attribute in some students.
“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989
Each of us lives in a society, and or a community and as much as we choose so often to be individuals as well as we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of interactions which going back to mentioned AVID program and or for example in my own experiences with Foxfire that makes these programs succeed.
“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George
We have to be working together moving in some direction and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting, and arguing among ourselves and motion and growth is limited.
“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith
Watching high school students form clicks or groups and adults forming clubs and social groups we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us, limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. We may be sharing a simple task but so often it is really a distant one. TV humor even plays on this subject several times in old Seinfeld and Will and Grace Sitcoms, giving is a chore, a burden and the characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts this one popped up.
“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright
Wright was actually speaking literally, yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people, we still psychologically, emotionally or sociologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.
“The most difficult thing we do is to not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain
In a recent project assignment several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question, they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad was not the issue it was over with.
“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck
I read this quote and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over, still you wait just as the rest do so is there really any benefit. I am always amazed at how this always elicits my favorite catch phrase “I don’t care”. I think it should in bold letters read “ I really do not care about myself” As we enter the end of a week break from school our world is troubled and sore we are able if we try perhaps to make a difference even if in a small way. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.