Bird Droppings January 9, 2012
“We may not live holy lives but we live in a world full of holy moments” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths
Today starts my first full week of school for this semester. Thinking ahead a bit fifteen weeks to go or so and graduation May 20th and summer break. I am already sorting piles on my table of my graduate work and student work along with books I need to read and emails to answer. I have been a fan of Kent Nerburn’s since my first suggested read nearly twelve years ago by a student’s mother. Today is no exception as I read a nearly six year old note from Kent’s a blog on his website. I highly recommend taking a look at his books and website kentnerburn.com. Kent was addressing a letter he received from a student a fifth grader who was requesting photos or pictures of Chief Joseph. Kent had written an extensive book on the flight of the Nez Perce focusing on Chief Joseph. As he illiterates when he was searching in his early twenties he had written to Norman Mailer asking could he come work for him and received a response.
“His note was brief. But I still remember his last line. ‘Write more than you have been writing.’ I’m sure it was just a way to finish the response. But to me, so desperate for meaning and direction, it became something of a creative beacon: if Norman Mailer said I should be writing more than I had been writing, then I should be writing more than I had been writing.” Kent Nerburn
As I read this paragraph and Nerburn’s next thoughts it dawned on me how often we as teachers and parents are asked for help and how often we tend to set that request aside due to not enough time so they can do it on their own, why me and all of the so many reasons to not help.
“It is a humbling experience to have a young person reach out to you for advice or assistance, whatever your role or status in life. It means they are open to your wisdom and your counsel. In that brief encounter, you can shape a life. We all get these opportunities, though not frequently. When they do come, they often do so in a clumsy or inarticulate fashion, because the young person who is reaching out has invested so much in the reaching that he or she does not do it with grace. Fumbling words, inappropriate requests, too constant a presence, a transparent attempt to seem worldly or knowledgeable — these are only a few of the ways this hopeful reaching for help and insight can express itself. We need to see past these clumsy efforts when a young person reaches out to us for assistance. We need to stop what we’re doing, open our hearts and ears, and hear what a hungry heart is asking of us.” Kent Nerburn
Nerburn ended his blog with a thought that he hopes he can do something for his young writer that will be of value to him. I have been pondering most of the weekend on a direction for an article for a National Educational magazine actually two differing directions have kept me stifled of lately. I keep seeing in my mind’s eye the idea of a funnel and how we take children and pour them through a funnel. We are constantly squeezing them faster and faster till they shoot out somewhere in twelve or so years. There is little time to answer questions if there is any time to even propose a question. We have to adhere to our curriculum maps and schedules and get data into those brains for graduation tests and end of course tests and test of tests. With all of the jamming of information and content we soon find there is no more room for creativity or imagination.
I once used the illustration of putting five gallons in a liter bottle in the end you condense it, you filter it and you take away what you as the teacher deem not of importance.
I was grazing through Barnes and Nobles education section and found a book written by a former US Secretary of education, no names at this point. He had in his attempt to declare what constitutes a good education made a list of what statements and or quotes should be recognizable by each grade and age. Ten of one list were from the Bible. Interesting and I thought is there an agenda here or what. As I read further in my reading while offering in science that evolution was considered by most scientists as valid it was still a theory and offered a choice of schools as a solution since most will teach evolution. He did offer how intelligent design was a cover up for creationist theories.
But I am back to my idea of funneling that of providing a list from a higher or I should say former higher up official of what should be learned by children which actually included Bible verses. Granted in today’s political debate one side is saying the other is doing away with religion what about those non-religiously oriented children and or other religions that would in this scheme of things literally be behind by not knowing that material and yet we do this constantly as we use a list of standards and norms for determining the rightness and wrongness of learning. I keep coming back to my idea of Swiss Family Robinson as a curriculum. Oh yes that book was on the list of should read books in elementary school. It is an early nineteenth century book as were many on his list “the classics”. Harry Potter was not on the list as were quite a few more recent books.
But this fellow is not alone I have watched counties and schools funnel thought and thinking by channeling in directions of what the community and administration think is correct. How many questions get left by the way side? How many teachers even have time anymore to listen to see if a question was even asked? What happens when the funnel gets so constricted that nothing gets through? But it is a new week and a new day and I am throwing away the funnel. I hope that I will have a question or two today and that I take the time to answer them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.