Bird Droppings February 20, 2012
Getting back to my routine
“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?” W.H. Davies, 1911, Welsh Poet
Over the course of a few days I have posted two pieces to my Facebook account or I should say shared two pieces I did not find either. The first was a brief description of an event where an internationally known violinist went to a busy transit stop in Washington DC and played for forty five minutes. The entire episode was filmed secretly and people who passed by at a point were asked for phone numbers. Researchers in the experiment found literally less than ten percent of the people acknowledged the great musician playing. I found the posting on a friend’s site and reposted after several hours it had been shared and reshared several times. Later in the day another friend found the original article from the Washington Post and posted the link. I shared the link and among the editorial was the above quote from 1911. I responded that I seriously doubt in today’s hedonistic society if anyone would take a moment out of their routine and schedule for the day to listen.
Maybe I am getting more cynical after a week or more of a winter break I am ready to get back into my normal school routine. We are all creatures of habit and routines I am finding many times even totally predictable. I was thinking back a few years to a day my wife called to me in the wee hours of the morning as I was starting to write, our son was sick, a virus had struck hard and none the less he was a very sick fellow. I had written about an hour and was near finished as we went into action. After running her to the clinic for medicines and such and the store for fluids I went back to writing and in between I lost what I had written. I really wasn’t very happy with my situation although in researching I found an interesting author Donald Schon, so all was not lost. Schon was a professor at MIT in education and is known for his theories of learning and reflective practice.
“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, The Reflective Practioner
About seven or eight years ago our school had been audited and reviewed by the SAC’s committee. It was a several day process as reports were prepared. We are every so many years getting ready for a review as all public schools do and all through the school various committees and groups would be getting paperwork in order. As I look at schools however I do not see as much perhaps of a change agent as Schon would demand. Yet schools constantly will follow whims and fancies of authors and researchers, this reading program or that writing program. Program writers make very large sums of money as do the consultants that recommend various products designed to help you stay and meet accreditation and NCLB standards. I have found that in many schools there is a comfort zone and many teachers will fall into that be it habit and or routine. It is not about a continuing transformation as Schon outlines.
“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 Scion, 1973
How do we keep a self-identity and still be able to change? How do we make our routines work for us?
“The need for public learning carries with it the need for a second kind of learning. If government is to learn to solve new public problems, it must also learn to create the systems for doing so and discard the structure and mechanisms grown up around old problems.” Donald Schon
I was thinking as I was writing about a former student who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD. Every day it would be a challenge to deal with this fellow when he went on an OCD roll. One of my favorite memories of him on a particular morning he started in with asking repeatedly. “Can I hold Stevie?” Normally while not a serious matter I would let him ask and I answered as I do almost every morning. “No not just yet.” For those of you who do not know Stevie, she is the wonder snake, a ball python about 50 inches long and 21 years old. She has been at the school as long as I have. Anyhow each time he would ask I would answer almost like a tape recorder.
Finally a student who was talking with me and not in my classes says Mr. Bird that was 52 times he has asked. She proceeded to tap the young man on the shoulder and said “I loveeeeeeee you!” as smoochy and little girlish as could possibly be done. My little OCD fellow took off across the room. In some instances letting an OCD individual run their course is fine and I am in a world of my own on planned ignoring other times it takes a change a sudden change of thought processes and OCD stops abruptly. As I was reading Schon again this incident popped in my mind. Sometimes it is the way the problem and or habit or routine is done that is the issue and a new way is needed sometimes abruptly. Often as in this case it happens suddenly but many times we do have time and as I do every day often reflection can be a tool for change.
“In every case of reflective activity, a person finds himself confronted by a given, present situation from which he has arrived at, or conclude to, something which is not present. The process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference. What is present carries or bears the mind over to the idea and ultimately the acceptance of something else.” John Dewey
We can review and reflect on our days and using past and present knowledge build our next day and get ideas from that. We can illicit change through careful and calculated refection.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Every once in a while an Einstein quote really sounds good. He was a very smart man I am told. Sometimes we need to change our direction our point of view in order to move on. Some might view the young man asking 52 times as stubborn and or I for not stopping him and letting him go on as stubborn. But I watch teachers and parents do this day in and day out and they are not being treated for OCD they are caught in a rut. For too often they continue day by day doing the same thing knowing there are better ideas and directions. Take a few moments and think are you locked in or if provided with information could you make a change. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.