Bird Droppings February 21, 2010

For many of us in graduate school and in our general course of doing things reflection is an integral part. It has been nearly ten years since I began putting my daily sojourns in life on the internet and sharing with others.

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection because others can push you to look deeper and harder; to go places you may not think about or even be willing to think about on your own. When you tell others your story — when you share with others what you did and why, what happened as a result, why you think it happened, and what it might mean — several things take place that do not happen when you process your thoughts alone:” Hal Portner, Teachers as Learners

So often In the midst of researching and thinking an idea comes forward and or is found that can truly change your course and direction. Recent bits and pieces in my own life have left me thinking and wondering. As I ponder several years back there was a Foxfire course in teaching using Foxfire’s Core Practices, and then Piedmont College’s Education Department and their attitude toward reflection which very much impacted me. I was working with a student recently and developing ideas on how to use digital imaging, we all see so differently. Perceptions vary so much person to person.
Many times when I am taking pictures I will end up with reflective images views of lakes, streams, images reflected from cars windows and such even at a past homecoming dance an image in the lobby of the high school at night as I was photographing students coming in and of me in the circular lobby reflected in each pane multiple times. I recall an image from years back and was using it to show students effects that can be had with careful viewing. A large alligator was laying along side its pool in its enclosure; it was parallel to the pool so the image reflected in the water was literally a duplicate of the great alligator. Was it one alligator or two it appeared that there were two alligators lying together touching toes?
My students came back with images that made me proud literally a camera filled with reflections, one viewing the other as the picture was taken so both photographer and model are in the reflection almost as if standing next to each other. These were powerful images from a couple of novice teenagers. Many schools began banning journaling sites on the internet. In one county several arrests were made directly from information from a particular website.

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection” Hal Porter

I was reviewing sites earlier today trying to see if any were available anymore at school as I am limited in computer capability as far as filters go here. The journal writing on many of these sites are reflections of individual’s lives, in many cases a reaching out for others opinions for approval and for social interaction. I realize there often is a dark side and have read many times where individuals tear each other apart. I respond daily while at home to many of my past and present students recently to a former student currently away at school that left a note on my own site. I hadn’t heard from them since graduation four years ago, reflection time for sure. My daily sojourn into my own contemplation has been a public display for many years both in my email list and on my several networking sites. For me reviewing and pondering as I say the day previous has helped me find answers as I read, as I write, always looking for others views and ideas on that subject even though it may be only a quote or thought.
My students who turned reflection as they photographed into art or into contemplative images perhaps have taken a different approach as they view the world much in a similar manner. The do perceive not perhaps, not directly and in living color but in a mirror image with filters and screens or is it us as adults we who see through filters and sun screens and image enhancers and miss so much of what really is there.
Life is moving, flowing, transgressing, and always alive whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. I begin a new journey soon moving from one course of thought to another trying as I can to pass pieces to my students offering bits and pieces as I go.
Years ago I recall my dad getting a small weekly booklet “Bits and Pieces” full of thoughts and inspirations and it is the bits and pieces we share as teachers that add seasoning to the lessons, it is here we add context. Perhaps in my reflection today is a good analogy to teaching. Many cooks (teachers) simply throw the meat on the flame and cook. Others will marinate, season, carefully monitor the internal temperature, and even carefully select the cut and quality of the meat before cooking. As I ponder there are so many similarities to teaching. Far too many times I have watched teachers throw the meat out often even without cooking seeing their students as simply savages who can eat it raw. Some others just seer the edges a bit and unfortunately there are some who over cook and burn the meat, I am bored is heard through the room.
I tried an exercise many days back I made a referral sheet for students to refer teachers and then proceeded to make a teacher evaluation sheet for students to grade a teacher, a rubric of course. It was an interesting idea and came out as they had a hard time with why they were bored. Students say it but cannot pinpoint a specific reason many times. Maybe bored is an over used word and as in cooking maybe bland is better. Perhaps a tad of seasoning added would change everything. Many tears ago I had a history teacher who would walk in never look at the class never take roll and set his book on the podium and begin reading the book. We all had the book and literally could follow or read on our own soon people stopped coming as day after day he read from the book. Within a few weeks less than half the class was there, those that came slept since it was 8:00 class. Amazingly nearly everyone failed and he had covered the material in minute detail he read every single word in the book, but bland was an understatement. Did I mention he was monotone as well?
A few Fridays back I tried a bit of an experiment. We did essays on, how do you know if a teacher is good or bad. Midst the turmoil and we actually had some pretty in-depth answers and then came the gem. This essay was coming from a kid who is pretty much a parasite on humanity and the educational system. After two paragraphs of whining and complaining he had an epiphany, you look for wrinkles to determine a good or bad teacher. If there are 50 or more that person is a bad teacher. He surmised that wrinkles are caused by being stressed and if a teacher is stressed they are not enjoying themselves and if they are not enjoying themselves in what they do they can not be a good teacher. I thought to myself, from the mouths or should I say fingers of babes. Today please consider peace as an alternative and please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

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