Bird Droppings February 18, 2012
A blue sky and warm weather
It has been an almost nonexistent winter here in Georgia, I had to wear a jacket maybe once and we had no snow on the ground at all this winter. Actually being out of school the past week has given me time to ponder quite a bit. Many mornings in the cool air I would have to wrap up in a blanket to go outside for my morning meditations and dog walks. Our weather has daffodils blooming and tulips ready hopefully no late frosts to kill them back. I have had to scrap ice off windshields maybe three times this winter quite a change from past two years.
As I start each morning wondering about where and when and why I was sitting here thinking when I opened up my email and it was one of my regular student visitors to my class room that had emailed me last night. The last week of school for several days had not said a word during the day and just come in and wrap in a blanket and fall asleep on the sofa in my room before school starts and at lunch time. She says she has been tired every day. The email was to inform me she was moving back with her mom and the life of back and forth and live with mom one week live with dad and step mom the next and live here and there where someone would have her. Why do we seem to make kids disposable or just when we need them? Here you take them I want some freedom and or this or that and then we wonder why kids have issues in today’s society.
Just out for a little over a week break another student has quit for other reasons and another is in trouble with the law and I hear mom doesn’t know what to do with him. In trouble at school picked up by police mom does not know what to do I hear this daily. Yesterday an email went around about a teacher from Virginia who writes for CBS news periodically that was addressing the issue of who is to blame for educational failures. The email was addressing student motivation as the issue. Teachers are to be motivators, content delivery systems and disciplinarians all rolled into one and the try and be friends with kids although I was talking with a teacher who declines to be friends. But this teacher is defining friends as someone who I would go out with after work for a drink with.
I started wondering how I defined friendship since I do not drink and seldom go out with people I tend to be monastic after school. I would have to address how I define friendship in my own terms.
“The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear.” Maya Angelou
A crucial aspect of friendship is listening it is so significant to just being there to listen and not comment about yourself.
“Your friends will know you better in the first minute they meet you than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.” Richard Bach
So often friends are there and for me I use the word friends quite loosely. I consider many people friends even though I do not socialize with them. In order for trust to be on a level of significance friendship is a prerequisite. For students to trust a teacher to a point of totally honesty and with many kids I work with, honesty is a serious issue. You have to have trust and respect and being a friend to kids is integral for that to get accomplished and to help kids succeed.
But as I thought about that motivation concept as well a key point. For many years I have wondered why some kids are learners and others just want to pass and nothing more. We have parents who get upset when kids are challenged often times. I Heard recently why is my daughter not getting an A in your class she has A’s in every other class. Seems she missed two assignments and a major test along with failing a quiz so she has a failing grade. This is not to say she could not have an A if all her work was in. The parent responded she was working on her other classes to get A’s that’s why she missed assignments can you not give less work.
I keep wondering if it is our technology that some of use it daily for everything to enhance and to go beyond but many use technology simply as a means to make things easier. Georgia passed legislation where in graduation test rooms all electronic devices have to be turned in before testing so no cheating can occur. Took an act of state legislators to make this happen.
But as I think technology has altered the arena as some students use prewritten papers from online and copy and paste to create papers and never site sources claiming originality. I recall a student attempted to turn in an essay to me on a subject they were researching and actually went in and misspelled words to make it look like he had written it. So as I read over his paper I asked what does disenfranchise mean and he said what word is where and how. I said you have it in your essay. I was curious I never heard you use that word. I see several misspelled words and no commas and periods but what does that word mean and I got around about answer nowhere near being even close. Eventually he started rewriting and actually did the assignment. Sadly he quit school soon after and one day he did get a decent job working for a local municipality.
So why do we choose to want the easy way and why do we teachers often choose to not motivate? On a state and federal level performance is measured not n motivation but answers on tests. It is content knowledge which is memorize the night before kind of stuff. It is easy to cram, teach how to take a test, and it’s done. The hard part is context, making sense of all we learn and so many students really do not want to do this. Seldom do we even test or measure for this critical aspect, shy of an occasional lab or project. What many teachers forget is that context does give meaning and ownership to information and greatly improves retention. Also you know what it applies to and friendship as well.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.. It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival” C.S. Lewis
I read this statement from the great writer and theologian and it hit me like a stone thrown at a mirror. It is about as paradoxical as it goes. Using education again as a foil content is that survival aspect and friendship, art and philosophy are the context, the value added aspect and these things make life meaningful much more so than just surviving.
“Friendship needs no words…” Dag Hammarskjöld
Perhaps I like this quote the best and perhaps it means the most as I wonder and ponder this morning. The former General Secretary of the United Nations defines friendship by not defining it. Friendship does not need definition or explanation it just is and you know it when it is. Let us seek peace in our daily walk and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks.