Passing along knowledge

Bird Droppings January 12, 2012

Passing along Knowledge


It has been nearly nine years since my wife and I attended a turning and burning, near Gillsville, Georgia. It was a gathering of potter’s, getting together to sell their wares and turn a few pots and of course fire up the kiln. All of the artisans we went to see are traditional folk potters using a wood fired kiln affectionately known as a ground hog kiln due to the fact it is often built into the ground. I mention this as a photo sitting behind the computer on my table of paraphernalia and books is of many years ago at a craft show in Perry Georgia, Mossy creek Arts and Crafts festival.

The picture is of an old man working at a potter’s wheel while my two youngest sons watch intently. The potter is the late, Mr. Cleater Meaders of Perry Georgia. Cleater was the nephew of famous folk potter legend Lanier Meaders, of ugly face jug fame. Both Lanier and Cleater have pieces in theSmithsonianMuseumof Art. Every year for the past thirty three or so my wife and I have been going to the Mossy Creek Arts and Crafts Festival twice a year and would watch Mr. Meaders turn pots. My kids grew up watching and fascinated as he would use his hands and take a lump of clay, knead and mold and then spinning on his wheel and turn that once formless lump of dirt into a work of art.


“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”  Eleanor Roosevelt


A potter uses ideas and dreams then molds and shapes that through the clay into art. Teachers much the same take children and mold and shape into students. Eleanor Roosevelt mentions the future belonging to those who believe in the power of their dreams. We have to as parents and as teachers instill hope and provide fodder for dreams to grow.


“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott


As I read this statement many Zen teachings and thoughts past through my inner being. I was thinking of a recent writing I did on my philosophy of teaching. Teaching is an osmotic event that in happening has both teacher and pupil gaining, learning and growing from the event.


“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” Thomas Carruthers


“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana


What a powerful statement and one forgotten by many parents and teachers both. Both quotes are what teaching and parenting should be about. As a parent you will hope your children will become parents, adults and your job becomes less and less, though never over. Some parents forget that. A teacher hopes that as their students learn soon they will teach others, and the circle is complete.

Every day I face the challenge of students who for one reason or another truly do not want to be in school. They would rather go through life not knowing anything than face learning. The joy and the thrill of learning has been dissipated somewhere along the line. It could be from a poor teacher, a poor parenting job, an illness or disease, some physiological reason and even psychological for that matter. Somewhere desire is gone along with drive, ambition, and hope.


“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein


Leave it to one of history’s greatest thinkers to sort it all out and show the issue. I have used this quote many times over the years. How do we make our teaching so potent, to overcome home life, friends, all the ills of society and any ills the individual might just have. It is a big how-do we?


“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


 Leave it to Ralph, I have gotten on a first name basis with Mr. Emerson lately, it seems we are getting to be rather good friends.


“Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Mahatma Gandhi


These are two different views and thoughts yet saying much the same from Emerson and Gandhi. If a child truly learns to think, which is the hard part the job gets easier. If a child can think then they really do not need teaching as much as directing. Watching a student who can think learn is amazing, as one piece leads to another and soon questions are asked and answers lead to more questions. Thinking probably would put teachers out of work. The real problem is getting students to think, that is the hard part.


“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer


One of my favorite authors of recent times is Sydney J. Harris who in an article on education compares teaching to stuffing sausage casings and how it should be more like culturing a pearl.


“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward


Several days ago a student said she was going toNorthGeorgiaCollegeto become a teacher. As I listened it dawned on me the greatest success story for a teacher is for a student to want to become a teacher. While this particular student was never one of mine she has somewhere had some great teachers who have inspired her. I look back on my own educational journey of nearly 50 years and it has been the great teachers along the way that inspired me. At times there have been some like Mr. Meaders who were not in a school but in the passing, talking with, and listening to the patience of a man turning a pot on a potter’s wheel while explaining carefully to the children watching. It was his passion that spilled over.

Sitting atop my debris on my writing table is a book by Robert L. Fried, The Passionate Teacher. Passion is what we should as teacher pass on to students. Passion is what in any aspect of life we should embrace to truly see all that is within it. 


“Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” Colleen Wilcox


I started with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which actually was the starting quote for a past Learning Disability newsletter that came out.


“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”  Eleanor Roosevelt


It becomes our job to help students believe in their dreams to overcome the obstacles holding them back and with that a final thought as I start up each day keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.



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