Endeavor to Persevere

Bird Droppings March 16, 2010
Endeavor to persevere

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

How do you teach perseverance, that stick-to-itiveness that can be a part of the human experience? I watch many teachers flounder when students leave that realm of attention and then teachers claim there is no work ethic. One of my favorites is they have a poor work ethic. So in effect if a student can not do a specific piece of work they have a poor work ethic. An easy solution and I say excuse. I wonder if we have a genetic propensity for work, or is that a modeled behavior, something we have learned or acquired along the way.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life – “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, 1893

There is a certain amount of self, involved in perseverance. There is a certain amount of desire to do more than that which is where we are. There is perhaps an ability to not be content with current situations or a desire to do more than we normally do.

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” Author Unknown

“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling.” Lucretius

It has been said that mountains are worn away a drop of water at a time and mountains are built up much in the same manner. I recall seeing the limestone formations in caves formed by dripping mineral rich water over thousands of years growing into massive pillars of mineral.

“But the moment you turn a corner you see another straight stretch ahead and there comes some further challenge to your ambition.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I am sure Sherlock Holmes never said “I quit” but quite the contrary often at that moment when all seems lost he would continue on a minute piece of evidence to solve the crime. But how do we teach this wonderful concept of perseverance, how do we instill in students, in children or even in adults to that end. My wife and I were talking a few days back and she mentioned how with some children a disability such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be good in school staying on task and such. However there is of course the down side when that obsession is coming in and out of the room ten times or giggling incessantly or better yet drumming with a pencil. But how do we get that OCD type attribute in a positive way into others, that intuitive stay with it and get the job down attitude. I recall trying to open a door when we moved in our last house and had a set of keys probably thirty or so and every lock was a different key trying each key one at a time and dropping the ring only to start again. Granted we could not get in till we found the right key for that particular door. First thing I did there was have the doors rekeyed to one key.

“Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.” Author Unknown

I really do think nature makes it the last key on purpose. Just it always seems to happen that way it will never be the first key that is the right one. Occasionally I will scan the student drive at school, the public drive which is where students place their projects and files. There are so many that are incomplete, only partial efforts. Some of them are ideas that were great when conceived and left to dwindle. Maybe we could put something in the water fountains at school? Maybe we could find a way to increase adrenalin flow when ideas begin? Maybe we could model the behavior we want? There are so many maybes in this world as I sit here thinking.
So where do we turn? What direction do we look when we try to get students to try one more time? A sneaky favorite of mine is the wonderful twenty minutes to get ten minutes. OK class, there is ten minutes left. After two or three minutes pass, OK class nine more minutes. Amazing if the flow is there how many people will never look at the clock and continue working. I have stretched many ten minutes into twenty or thirty when needed. I was working with two guys who were ready to quit when they started and we got nearly an hour and a half of work done, in only “ten minutes”.

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is up to us as parents, teachers and as friends to keep the beginnings going and hopefully to reach endings.

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” Robert Louis Stevenson

So often in life a great idea is one that was simply continued another step. Thomas Edison is the wonder king of perseverance and even after thousands of failures he kept going and finally found the right combination of glass, gas, and fiber for a light bulb.

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” Buddhist Saying

Sometimes in life it is only turning a child slightly where they can face the right direction and the problem is solved. In working with a group of teachers this past week, so many teachers and parents can not see that there is more than one right direction. It is my way or else attitude always seems to pop up. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser I have found that we all are different and it is that individualism that is the driving force of mankind. It is finding that persons direction and to keep on walking and to often be there to lend a hand or shoulder when needed. I do not think I was ever a fan of day light savings who needs it when you get up at three in the morning anyhow and enjoy the solitude of early morning but for another day as I have for so lone please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Searching for freedom

Bird Droppings March 15, 2010
Searching for freedom

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.
We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. Attending a wedding shower yesterday in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading writing pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction. However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who is the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.
Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control they have few if any liberties. Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has n=mee looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.
But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set our selves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Appraoch to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.
As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly eight years. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years As I look back and each day find in harms way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harms way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow our selves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.


The courage to teach

Bird Droppings March 12, 2010
The courage to teach

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or for worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subjects, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to teach

Perhaps some teachers might not need to go to work some days. As I began reading Palmers book this idea of a mirror image of an inward look ties in with ideas of my own of trust, of building a comfort zone with students. Then as I look beyond teaching is this not true for every aspect of our lives, teacher or not. Should we each not be going further than simple existence? Palmer describes the process as coming from within. Palmer uses the word project and truly we do project our inner selves as we walk through life.
Are we comfortable with who we are and where we are? Daily I will find people who are seeking answers sometimes to only very simple questions and other times more perplexing and deep. It is this process of looking for answers that builds us into who we are. It is this process of inquiring that adds to our ability to deal with and go beyond daily issues. It is taking what seemingly is defeat and turning that into victory.

“It goes on one at a time, it starts when you care to act, it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean more.” Marge Piercy, The low road

I went to a landscape companies display area the other day. They specialize in aquatic landscape design, waterfalls, fountains, stone work and ponds. Sitting by their office door is a boulder with a hole drilled in it and a fountain bubbling out of the hole. This package is $1550.00 installed according to the sign attached. Next to the price is what constitutes the fountain, its ingredients so to say, 250 pounds of river rock, 200 pounds colored crushed lava rock, a drilled boulder, pond liner, ten landscape timbers, 1000 pounds crushed granite and a pump kit. Many pieces make the whole.
I was amazed by the simple fountain and how peaceful it was, water bubbling out of a rock flowing over into the river stones. It was in part a sum of its parts and pieces and within a pump kit pushed the water and created the package. Yet without the boulder it would have been only a bubbling in a pile of rocks. We are each of us similar. We are pieces of a whole and inside a driving force as Palmer uses the word soul and heart interchangeably in his book. If that pump stopped working on that simple fountain all effect is gone nothing but a big rock is left. We need maintenance on our heart and not just our physical heart, our emotional heart so that that fountain flows and the entire package has meaning. As we go out in our day, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could script great teachers

Bird Droppings March 11, 2010
Wouldn’t it be great if we could script great teachers?

As I watched the several various movies about teachers over the past few weeks it recently it hit me, wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow provide a package for teaching, write that perfect script anyone could follow and it would allow anyone to be a great teacher. Then it hit me hard, indirectly that’s what curriculum in theory is for and various educational packages that publishing companies stake their names on. So why does it not work?
I was inputting my last bit of data for my research project for the day and was finding pieces of my student’s puzzles as I went. Most of my students that I have served in the last nine years have improved grade wise when they were in my classes and or I was case manager for them. Granted I do not teach like most teachers. I rely heavily on empathy and innovative creative ideas to stimulate and make the time they have in my class a learning experience and fun. I thought back to the movies, it is so hard to imagine Morgan Freeman not being a great teacher. But I know he studied his character Joe Clark as good actors do and his interpretation was from what I have read dead on.
In each individual there is a personality that you can not package and bottle. The greatest possible program in the hands of a sorry teacher will not change the fact they are a sorry teacher. So far to my knowledge we do not do personality transplants. In “The School of Rock” while Mr. S was for a moment content to idle away and collect his sub-check a note of music hit literally. He found a mutually exciting interest, to the students and himself. Something we often do not look into, are we as teachers enjoying what we do?
Bit by bit as I watched Julie Roberts have to reexamine where and what and why and then get hit with traditions and the boxes of societal demands, I know even today this happens. I have talked with my professors over the years and still carry on dialogue with them many times about one of my concerns, how so many teachers go to a graduate school program and do not make meaningful use after they leave. I am concerned! I have watched numerous graduates collect their additional money and not once utilize what they have learned or seen.
How do we bottle and or script a great teacher? I wish I could come up with a solution and a simple method. It is about the person inside. It is about empathy. It is about experiences and utilizing those pieces. There is an old adage that many teachers are simply folks who can do nothing else. The drab boring monotone teacher, even knowing all the content in the world will teach few. It is about entertainment. Maybe scripts have been written but then the audience changes and what do you do? We live in a society of change of flux of disequilibrium. It is about balance but keeping enough of a leaning over to keep growing. It is perhaps about the pathway.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

Often I reflect on the journey of life. The many directions I myself have traveled. I watch others step by step along the way. I listen as some stumbled and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

Wondering why so many of us each day think, perhaps too much, obsessing over reasons and rationale, and tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up our lack of enthusiasm and desire. I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point what is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along each day it is unique for me and for others. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live, Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed and Ellis states an art form, life is an art form perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we wield as we paint. Perhaps teaching too is an art form a spreading of color in a drab world wielding a palette much as a painter painting a masterpiece.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

We set the boulders in our own pathway; we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose and I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. However, we need to be aware than that we must also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zig zags, an easy journey constantly side tracked. It may have been once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping. In my own climbing of boulders and in pushing some out of the way I have come a long way. I have used in Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day many times.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

For many this may not mean anything and it has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the breath blown in the cool of the morning stillness. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning, tree frogs calling, and the red tailed hawks for ever crossing my pathway. Our scenery changes but life does go on and so as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Trying to raise a flag

Bird Droppings March 10, 2010
Trying to raise a Flag

Growing up as a child I recall the many stories my father would tell, stories of World War II, of Grandpa Niper, and my favorite stories of Native American warriors and chiefs. I am amused as my youngest son says back in the day. One story is of my father during World War II seeing the flag raised on Mount Sirabachi on the island of Iwo Jima as the American troops moved island to island in the South Pacific trying to end the war. That flag raising has been immortalized in statues, photos, films, and most World War II history books but I am sure it no longer is there on Mount Sirabachi.
That bit of land that long since has reverted to its native foliage and habitat. A good friend asked me about various aspects of his tenure at a former job signs he had been there were long since erased, covered, taken down, and new blank wall replacing a mural painted by students and more recently a newly adopted school logo. So often we only see with our eyes we are visual learners. When we landed on the moon, and or Columbus landed in the new world, we and they planted a flag, a visual stimulus to draw attention to the phenomenon, to add support to the effort, to make the ten o’clock news. Is that what we do simply draw attention? I think back to a recent film based on a novel written by the son of one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. The book, Flags of our fathers, sees the event from one persons view and its impact on the men involved and how so much more happened in that simple act of recognition.

“The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.” Donald Schon

Long ago as man clambered from his cave, change became inevitable. He was leaving the warmth of the fire he required clothing. As he became a hunter, he required new tools for the bigger and stronger animals that provided more for his family. As populations grew additional transformations from gatherer to hunter to social being occurred. It was not long till status, power and soon politics were booming. As I thought back to an early society, and whose furs were better, whose cave was warmer, whose club was bigger and whose totem poles and drawings were coolest. Days came and went and we are still finding these symbols of those who were there. Soon furs gave way to cloth and hunting to farming and soon cities and towns sprang up and grew and with that various additional aspects of human nature. I find it interesting as anthropologists uncover as the study the few remaining true hunter gathering societies that as they observe many of the more depressing aspects of human nature are not there. Greed and hoarding do not exist in hunter gathers and appear as we become an agrarian society and begin with the exchanging of goods.

“We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.” Donald Schon

In societies that sprung up each new chieftain made a mark initially in the genetic codes left behind and then in written form and art and other trappings. Soon as new chieftains came much as in the wild where a new dominate male lion will devour all of its former rivals cubs so the new gene pool is only his, we destroy and eliminate. We push our ideals and thoughts.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon

We must move past that base nature of man and build legacy into the souls of those still here. Teaching needs to go beyond a simple memorization of content and into truly contextual aspects of life. We truly need to learn not simply be told.

“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfils for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Schon

We need to get to a point in our system where internal transformation is ongoing even evolutionary as it may be, a constant growing and developing, not limited by that individual or idea but perpetuated by the societal needs and identity. I look back at where and when and emailed a friend earlier. I have learned over the past few years for what ever reason in education there is this great tendency to continually revert no matter how effective and how proven an idea is, to a more traditional methodology. I recall a teacher searching frantically for transparencies and a teacher’s manual for social studies many years ago for a subject she had taught for forty years.
Teachers seem to inevitably take the path of least resistance. This almost seems drilled into the teaching psyche. A professor shared the story of five monkeys with me and I have used in bird droppings over the years. I asked several teachers why this is so. Why do teachers come in so excited and in a semester or two end up like everyone else. One wise teacher said fear immediately. I thought about it and perhaps that is so. In the educational society so often administrations work so hard to be feared by students and faculty that perhaps even those who know otherwise fall in to that trap.
Fear drives human nature in all aspects and sorts of human kind we seem to revolve around our fears. Religion is based on fear, laws and rules all are focused and based on fear. Yet how difficult is it to accomplish, truly accomplish anything if fear is the driving force. When the fear is gone all leverage is gone. This is why it is so difficult to work with conduct disordered or sociopathic individuals and students. Yet when you change that fear to one of trust perhaps another story can and will be written.
When we look back at where is the legacy of anyone, at anyplace, it might be easy to say it was erased. Yet when Bird Droppings goes out each day and when those of us who adhere to ideals and philosophies that were presented and carried on, that legacy is being passed on and expounded upon and who knows where and when that will go. I have set as a goal to teach in the education field in college and hopefully one day will be able to. Today I have to be content with students I have worked with who continue to ask questions and seek ideas as to how to teach and move forward in their chosen vocation and career. Legacies are not in the trappings as much as what is carried away in the heart and soul of the person. The flag raising on Mount Sirabachi only took an instant and yet is etched in hearts world wide, and truly only time will tell. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Having a heart

Bird Droppings March 9, 2010
Having a heart

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, From the Sayings of the Buddha

Yesterday I worked with students expressing a news article in a visual form be that a drawing, power point, poster or any visual medium they could come up with. Over the past few years as I interact with people I have found the varying learning styles of each to be intriguing. That is learning styles which are how we learn, have been an issue I have looked at very seriously in recent years with graduate studies and with the children I work with who usually are in a non-learning mode.
Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorally, and or kinesthetically. We see, hear or touch to be more basic. Yesterday as I thought about how in our perceptions of the world how we hear, see, and touch and these impact that perception as well. The news assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide, or one piece of poster board and or paper to explain one of the main news articles out currently.
The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings of several years ago which I had done a similar project on and had my sample from. In a few moments about 45 seconds later images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us. Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide. Several students focused on ensuing political issues and local news such as the closing of a career center, one went after oil companies still showing major profits, and one how ever focused only on himself.
This student’s visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. I have commented to other teachers, students and parents how so many students have over the years become more self centered, I even throw out hedonistic periodically. For several months going on two years I have known this particular student, his focus so often is self motivated. So many of us are as I think introspectively but he derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself. He will sit passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know very abruptly and loudly. He will speak out loud to draw attention from a teacher, disrespect is an understatement, but it all is self focused, here I am see me. Granted many of my students have emotional issues.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” From Dictionary.com

As I looked at the internet to define sympathy it was shown as an interaction between two people or things that is affecting both. As I thought back to my self centered fellow. I wondered as he focused all day on him self does he have any sympathy at all. In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects, charity, and kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike. Each aspect in and of itself is a powerful statement but combined rather thought provoking.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and world wide.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason, and or possibly for gain. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others?

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity are not enough.” Simone Weil

A day or two ago I sent off a paper dealing with the gross concept of kissing frogs, a reflection on teaching in a way well a very warped comparison perhaps. But really a reflection on life maybe we all should be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the frog kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. With an animated film based in New Orleans about an enchanted frog receiving awards at the Academy Awards presentation perhaps it is appropriate.
Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years. But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/and or parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students.
In reality we are not kissing these kids but we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place to be who they are. For many years I have wondered where and why teachers quit. I see john Dewey and the Foxfire program as an example and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they disappear into educational la-la land. What were to be great teachers are now animation’s doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I woke up last night thinking about kids I have worked with who will never hold a job or have a difficult time and what if someone would have taken a risk early on back in elementary school.
I recall a Harry Chapin song I used only a few days back playing it in my class room about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red, green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape, is translated as charity. In the Greek, there are three words for love, Eros,
Philos and Agape. It is agape that is about being a supreme unlimited love and for some it is God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek word agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is a physical action and often elicits a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult is treating all alike again actively involved.
When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly ten years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind, originally I started with September 11th and then the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it was very simple thought. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words.
I recall a few years back the state of Vermont which operates on a town meeting format jurisdictionally had several towns that were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont to Iraq. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state was the driving force on this issue. That is action. Some folks are sending cards to soldier’s reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return active involvement and soon we all can be kissing frogs, having a heart and even voting. Sympathy is action not just thinking about it and as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Setting the example

Bird Droppings March 8, 2010
Setting the example

I received an email many months and many nights ago from a friend in Pa., referring to comments I had made, she borrowed from scripture and how a house should be built upon a solid base. She was talking about how we get children to learn to want to learn. Yesterday I wrote after discussing in a few blog excerpts on facebook about setting an example as a teacher. How this is one of the most critical things as an educator we can do.

“Education commences at the mother’s knee, and every word spoken within hearsay of little children tends toward the formation of character.” Hosea Ballou

As I think back to when I was a child not that many years ago my wife says. We were read to and we were encouraged to read. When I started school I was essentially reading. I wonder as I work with high school students who struggle with reading if their parents ever even opened a book up with them or near them for that matter.

“Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and approximate to the characters we most admire.” Christian Nevell Bovee

“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other” Edmund Burke

“Children learn what they live”, across the room on my wall from my desk is the poster from Dr. Dorothy Laura Nolte and what amazes me is every once in a while a student is drawn to it and reads through. Several students have situated themselves under my poster during class since I do not have assigned seats yet they sit in the same spot every day and periodically will ask what is this word or that word as they look up at my 1972 black light poster I have carried with me teaching in many settings and many students.

“You have to set the tone and the pace; define objectives and strategies, and demonstrate through personal example what you expect from others.” Stanley C. Gault

“It is easier to exemplify values than teach them.” Theodore M. Hesburgh

I recall a situation several years back, where a family, dad and both sons were jailed at the same time. Seems this same family was where the oldest son at eleven would drive dad to the liquor store because he was not able to drive. Examples works both ways, today that oldest son is in prison for twenty years. When I think back to that same child as a student nearly eight years ago sitting in my class wanting me to read Dylan Thomas again and then borrowing my book, I wonder if I could I have done a bit more as a teacher. On Friday before I left school I had a visit from an old student. He graduated nearly five years ago and has worked one time since then. He had a good job and lost it according to his mother a different story then what he told. He got me thinking as to what his education could have done for him differently. He had been educated through a series of small classes mainly for behavior problem children and alternative settings. As I look back he was often educated in an environment that was safest for others and not necessarily the best for him. I started piecing together kids I still have contact with that are not able to hold a job or cannot get a job for one reason or another. Some are medical others psychological and often as in his situation perhaps people are afraid to hire him.

“Example is a bright looking-glass, universal and for all shapes to look into.” Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

“The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example.” Thomas Morell

I was fortunate growing up being in the family that I did. Examples were strong and powerful motivators and even today my children are motivated by their grandparents and all that they did in their lives. Maybe I was spoiled by the examples around me and I have always felt you can accomplish anything if you try and if you have the support and cooperation of family and fiends.

“I’ve always led by example and I’m not that vocal.” Scottie Pippen

Pippen is a quiet and essential player that played on six NBA championship teams with the Chicago Bulls. Scottie Pippin was an integral part of a team that did include Michael Jordan. I watched many basketball games in those days including a record winning season that literally seemed as if the Bulls could not lose. Pippins was that one with the key hand off or assist as Jordan scored on more than one occasion. My youngest son and I often talk about that team and the unbelievable stats that they accumulated during their reign. But it was Scottie Pippins example that also held a team of characters and some would say egos together.

“Example is leadership.” Albert Schweitzer

“Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read.” William J. Toms

I think back to memorable teachers and each set an example in their lives and how they interacted with students. Looking at my son’s teachers, the great ones example was a key teaching tool. Parents who have inadvertently succeeded in raising children often it is not a special formula but their example that lead their children along the pathway.

“A leader is a model whether he wants to be or not. He doesn’t have to tell the group to follow his example. In fact, he can even tell them not to follow his example, but they will.” Lewis Orens, The Pine Tree Web

As I was researching this morning I found a site Home School World and so often as a public school teacher home schooling will come up, as parents makes choices as to how to educate there children. Sadly over a million children are home schooled in the United States and most are due to religious or religious based biases and pressures. In a recent article a mother complained about home schooling material as she was homeschooling her daughter who was many grade levels ahead of her peers entering college at fifteen. At ten this child questioned the science book her mother had received from a major home school press where evolution was left out of the book and a ten year old complained the book was lying. Is there a place for home schooling I am sure for some it may be best. The following is in reference to public schools.

“Do responsible parents want their children to emulate the behavior of the teachers and children there? Disorder, ignorance, misbehavior, disrespect for parents and family, and worse are the norms in such schools, so they obviously do not provide the examples we want for our children.” Dr. Arthur Robinson, Children learn by example, 1998

Dr. Robinson is the founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine where he and associates work on several areas of medical research and home schooling curriculum and civil defense issues. Is example a powerful tool, both ways, I myself do not agree with Dr. Robinsons ideas on public school for there are equally as many and more good examples that many children would not have at home. I teach in a school recently recognized for achievement academically and in graduation rate as one of the top in the state. Public school can be successful. A dear friend is a principal at one of the roughest school in Georgia or I should say was one of roughest schools. His efforts earned him Principal of the year in Georgia and every year his school has made leaps and bounds academically. This is in a school with an over seventy percent transient population.
One aspect of learning and schooling, if done at home is that the only example is their parents, and who judges them. Perhaps if we could certify parents as teachers and here are kids being taught by parents who themselves are not very good teachers. I look forward to a good day where my students are learning and interacting in an appropriate manner. In the midst of writing I had to take a break my Westie was barking to go out and I am the night shift on dog taking out so at four in the morning standing on my back porch facing the southeast a big smile of a moon. Today will be a good day and just thinking out loud that means learning is working and or I am setting a decent example for my students. That might be asking a lot. As always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Sometimes others see us

Bird Droppings March 7, 2010
Sometimes others see us

Earlier in the day I was communicating with some friends in New York and the idea of example being the best teacher came up. So often the opposite can be said and example also can be the anti-teacher and children learn what perhaps they should not be doing. I was in Borders just a few hours ago and looking at books as I do so often. Many times just sitting and reading a few paragraphs or pages while I sit. Back on the education shelf a favorite The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer.

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge – and you knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.” Parker Palmer

It is a crystal clear and cool evening in Georgia with stars more than I can count sparkling over head today. Rumor has it could be another rainy night in Georgia coming up in the next few days although it will be warmer finally however seems I heard that somewhere on the news.

“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” Catherine Aird

I was thinking as I was trying to figure out why a photo would not stay in place in my email for today I will try and stick it at the end of this note or better yet maybe I will just describe it. Some people joke about my title for this email listing but another bird dropping is the feathers left by the way side by various birds that also share this world. For some just a feather left by a balding bird. However others will pick it the feather and save it as I recall the movie Forest Gump starting and stopping with a feather floating about. Pondering a bit it is just a little feather nothing special but as I use as the example the feather I found as I walked out of the Education building at Piedmont College nearly six years ago and happened to photograph it. It is actually from a Canadian goose that comes up from the lake onto the Piedmont College to feed on new grass back when there was a lke.
Back to my main thought many the time, I have mentioned example as how so often children learn, such activities even as walking and talking are learned by example. Learning starts as simple as watching and listening to parents and brothers and sisters and as children move to school peers and teachers. Many years ago a movie with Jodie Foster starring in it, “Nell” was the story of a young woman who was found in the woods and whose speech was babbling and confusing. The psychologists knew she was communicating and it took many hours to realize she learned to speak from her grand mother who had a stroke and had difficulty speaking. When her grandmother passed away in the movie, Nell had buried her and went on with her life till she was discovered. Sadly bad habits too are seen and observed and mimicked.

“There is no teaching to compare with example.” Robert Baden Powell

“Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and approximate to the characters we most admire.” John Christian Bovee

Children see us and then strive to emulate that behavior be it right or wrong. With situations over the past years like the shootings at Red Lake and Columbine and violent games, TV, movies and media coverage it is easy to see how some view these as threats to children and as catalysts for easily swayed mentalities

“A man who lives right, and is right, has more power in his silence than another has by his words.” Phillips Brooks

It is so difficult in its simplicity and so easy to blame a TV show or video game while pointing a finger holding a drink and cigarette and cussing after taking your medication for stress and to aid in sleeping.

“What you want others to do to you do not do to others.” Confucius

“The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is about example and those of us running around as teachers need to be all the more wary be that which our students see and then do. It may sound silly and it does seem we set the stage day in and day out for countless people to view and try and be like us. Somewhere, someone wants to be like you might be a good line in teacher training to tack on a T-Short or poster.

“Well done is better than well said” Benjamin Franklin

“You have to set the tone and the pace, defines objectives and strategies, and demonstrate through personal example what you expect from others.” Stanley C. Gault

Human culture is a perpetuation of simply watching each other run around it is that simply. I wonder could we so easily change humankind just by setting good examples. I watch Congress and the Senate and ethics committees changing rules so this person or that person won’t get in trouble that is a really good example. And well since no one really caught him doing that it is ok and or just because the constitution says so lets do it this way now because I think it s right today. Or on a higher level issue a signing statement as our last president did more than any president in history. Interesting how we get to where we are. Leadership should be setting the pace not be the ones you do not want to follow.

“This, then, is the test we must set for ourselves; not to march alone but to march in such a way that others will wish to join us.” Hubert H. Humphrey

It has been many years since Hubert Humphrey was vice president and senator for such a long and successful career. It has been many years since a truly great leader has been president. Someone who was not questioned and did not have secrets and who lived under shadows of this or who did set an example. Often I wonder if politics changes men and women. It has been some time since Jimmy Carter was president. He did not succeed as president and history will have many reasons, a common one was who he surrounded himself with, “they were not politically savvy enough” but as a man few provide the example that he does. As a man perhaps he has done more than any president in fifty years to better society and the world most of it after he was president.

“You can do what you want to do; sometimes you can do it even better than you thought you could.” Jimmy Carter

I have listened over the years to Jimmy Carter and he has lived as he believes he should there are no phony views for the cameras. People who have known him will say this is who he really is. Perhaps he comes across to some as a country farmer which by chance he is a peanut farmer from Georgia. When he nails a nail in a house for habitat for humanity it is not simply for publicity he is working up a sweat for the next nail. That is an example we should emulate. Today as you drive nails in life, are you showing off or just working up a sweat and ever nail every day is because you believe in what you do and who you are. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Dropping a feather

Bird Droppings March 5, 2010
Dropping a feather

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping a feather only to be found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special that moment becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning venture of rising early to journal, read and write for me it was a way of dropping feathers and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts.
It has been several years ago we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the and forgot about nest number two of purple finches who had adapted our ferns and front porch, three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern.
It has been several years since my first trip to Piedmont college and I am sure their will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate in conjunction with several faculty members at Piedmont. However that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten getting accepted in the education department and that aspect of my journey, something you are to do first rather than last, be accepted into the education school. As I left the education building walking to the parking lot a flock of geese met me walking along weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, fifty or so Canadian geese scurrying about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie.
I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss it doesn’t have to be a feather it could be a kind word a hand shake a certificate from first grade for spelling everything right and it can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some a lifetime. As a teacher, parent friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going.
In primitive societies a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal feathers emerald green iridescent and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death. Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor awarding an eagle feather for counting coop which is not killing your enemy simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs. What a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out. We have come so far in today’s world we “nuke em” no need to touch no need for honor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back with my wife was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting and a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks. It is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So for today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Do we fail ourselves?

Bird Droppings March 4, 2010
Do we fail ourselves?

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

A topic that continues to bother me is, why do new teachers after a semester stop being creative and imaginative and full of vitality. In my graduate classes we have discussed building community and seeking to build leadership and several others have voiced similar thoughts. As I went out today it was a one dog night, I should shout halleluiah it’s a miracle only had to take one dog out last night. As I was getting into my car as it has been the past few mornings it was almost a half moon and working on a beautiful smile of a moon for the weekend. Perhaps it is a premonition of a great day ahead or maybe a reminder that how we take the day which is often based on our own attitude and frame of mind. I kind of like the smile coming up for the weekend it has been a long two weeks of IEP’s and parent meetings and maybe I can make it through.
I began the morning looking through articles written by William Edelen, a former church pastor and fighter pilot, Arthur Schopenhauer, an 19th century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology. In looking at all o f these great writers and thinkers I some how I ended up back on John Gardner’s thought. I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning and why do teachers quit trying to learn and often trying to improve their own abilities. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard the other said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. Still another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart.
I thought back in each of their lives. All failed in part or all of graduation tests in high school. One of them had failed at least one portion three times by a total of eight points. She did not graduate and she opted to get a GED she was tired of failing or risking failing again.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I’m going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat, setbacks, or failure in stride and move on, but for some students failure is a daily event and often becomes literally addicting.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing as I think back on life to a fourth grade teacher who was grading me harder than those around me I think she thought I wouldn’t notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A, I had two wrong and a C. My mother on day asked the teacher about this when I brought it up at home and the teacher stated I wasn’t working up to my ability so she was grading harder. Guess what I quit trying in school for some time, it was about two years into college that real learning and desire to learn kicked back in and I still was passing most classes, mainly because I was a voracious reader and today’s youth have a tendency to not want to read far to easy to grab a portable video game, cell phone or turn on the computer. Playing with my Blackberry last night I found several voice recognition programs so I do not even need to use buttons or screen, talk about lazy.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you’ll be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

I Have been working with kids now the past nine years who often for most of their educational lives have been told they can not succeed. This particular test states you have a writing deficit or reading dysfunction. This test shows you have an inability to function in society as we normal people do. We set in motion at such very young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. I am working with a young man now who daily has excuses, some even perpetuated by his parents. Watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn, setting the example is the best teacher and they watch their parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed.

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one of the exhibits is a barrel of light bulbs all of TE’s failures and the plague reads it took over 10,00 failures to succeed, but it did work. As I went further and read Cole’s thought about drowning and was applying it to students I have seen many who have given up because the school and society has given up on them. As soon as you take statistics in college you gather data and sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail, far too soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to their graphs and charts.

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

I was introduced in a book club almost nine years ago to an educator and author Alfie Kohn. Many put Kohn on the outer fringe of education possibly even calling him a progressive revolutionary. Granted to traditionalists in education Kohn is a bit off the wall. Amazingly enough in that same book club I was reintroduced to John Dewey a seriously progressive educator who died in 1954 or so. Progressive is does not mean new in education. I am using from the first few lines of author and educator Alfie Kohn’s website:

“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards”

“Learning by doing, common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name — so let’s call it ‘teaching by doing.’”

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing about issues in public school for the past fifteen years or so. He is a proponent of public schools and it is how we teach he is trying to address. Instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that desire, promoting success rather than failure are keys to students making it successfully through school. Today two years ago was my eighteen day wearing school spirit shirts in a row on a world record effort ending with nearly two months straight of school spirit shorts and no short the same and I wore an old one in honor of a friend and former principal at our school. The front is just our name and logo. But on the back is what he considered the keys to success for education. Of course he read Alfie Kohn and as a matter of fact is the one I first heard of Kohn from. Celebrating Discovery, Encouraging Curiosity, Challenging minds and Applauding Academics were the four key thoughts on cards given out to each teacher and on the back of our teacher spirit shirts that year. I was always amazed at how many teachers and parents balked at those thoughts. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success and their futures. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.