We need to do more than belong

Bird Droppings March 10, 2011
We need to do more than just belong

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind, do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

As I sit here this morning responding to emails from yesterday I started thinking about how it is through our actions that we are perceived by so many. I recall several years ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make much sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing). Then you add hand gestures and increase the volume, and you are being perceived as out of control very quickly.
When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue, that too adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. Speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner again that fuels the flames of perception of being a person who has ceased to utilize their own self control. The corresponding result is being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view.
It is behavior modification time. Myself having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification I can perhaps offer a few tidbits. In today’s world of politically correctness and less critical verbiage we use less harsh terms, such as functional behavior analysis and task analyze. But in the end BM is what it is about. So what would I do if I could write the parameters for parental behavior at a basketball game? We would start with on first offense at a basketball game at the next game you can come but must wear a dog training collar.
Out in the stands or high up in the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this holding a button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control the increase switch, to raise the voltage. Some spouses may automatically go to max even for first jolt. Then of course you may have a child or spouse who has read B. F. Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button.
This could become the norm and sporting events would never be the same again. One half of the audience will be sitting twitching from shocks and the other half sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line today none of this would be necessary.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

Is that something we should teach? Many weeks back I used a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and acted only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily). One is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. I have done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year. Those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity? How often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions. We do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks about. We only want the status quo, peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them. We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error in a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very Biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in another Biology class, the same slide, same response from the teacher. He pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching in error and had never changed that slide. Again by chance three years later, assisting in a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone. While a good teacher, she was a poor learner.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing school work in my first period class. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not. Homework is a good example. “You need to do these twenty problems” the teacher will state. However if the skill is known, why do the assignment is the response from the student. If the skill is not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, maybe does not help either. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens. Students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue from the students.

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball –

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon –

When you can apply a piece of knowledge give it context it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing thought and something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable to give them context. This is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and soon curiosity is gone. I recall a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was talking with another teacher yesterday about learning and how recent research shows practicing taking the standardized tests has a direct impact on your test scores. DUHHHHH! But my brain storm goes a step further if test scores are only measure and practicing improves scores why not simply only do practice tests and skip all the class work. Of course then we got into real learning which for me requires real teachers. To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious. A teacher must also be a learner as well.
Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions in the operation of the school. These are truly democratic schools. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example of such a program. It is not politicians or school board members choosing curriculum or a social studies based state leader picking a math program it is students and teachers and parents working together to make learning work.
Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers as we tend to do so much of now. I like how so often we have study guides that are the test and we fill in answers day before and still some don’t get it. Back in the day Socrates would teach through asking more questions to have the students look deeper. Sadly however he must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

This is a good place to wind down today. As I sit here thinking pondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought from Twain. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

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