Bird Droppings February 24, 2010
“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans
I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them. I grew up in a household where what we saw in our parents and grandparents, was for us how life was to be lived. They set examples for all of their children in how they should treat others and how they in turn would be parents. As I watch now a third generation of great grandchildren starting school I see that they were successful.
“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear
“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan
As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Several weekends back one afternoon while sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.
“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller
So much research has been done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about and numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.
“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts, the creator of Learning Focused Schools
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin
We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.
“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb
Sitting in with a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Just yesterday afternoon one of my students rationalized since he would fail anyway why do any work. Trying to unravel that logic is rough. Even though in recent days his grades were improving and he actually did his work over a break he decided to quit and not care. Asking why is even more interesting.
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”
These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed. Sadly pieces of their logic is, dead on. We have taken curriculum in schools to a level where often a good bit is meaningless to some students. It is hard for me to recall any time in my life I have ever used trigonometry. We have stripped away so many functional courses and provided in return college track sciences and math’s that can be over whelming and often frustrating for some students along with then exit tests that have to be passed.
“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer
Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s. Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work.
It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.
“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian – lived in every sense of the word – from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux
Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some I had data for graduate schools showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat. Several however who actually have difficulty reading the test and I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a masters program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45. I also said there are teachers in this school who only scored a thirty as well.
I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except, some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.
SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the world become more difficult with each moment it seems.