I wonder if we see each piece of the puzzle?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2013
I wonder if we see each piece of the puzzle?

Officially spring is here and around here daffodils are finishing up and most flowering trees are near full bloom which of course in Georgia means voracious amounts of pine pollen, everything will be soon yellow between rains. While cloudy this morning and raining the air is slightly cool and hidden behind clouds the moon is just starting to come back. The clouds are low lying and creating a haze with the lights from around the school. Moments make up each day we live and in those moments is where the pieces to our life’s puzzle play out. As I get older I find myself trying to not so much bring back pieces but to clarify memories and pieces of my past as I ponder today.

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” Henry David Thoreau

It has been many years since I first realized my father would often write late at night. I once asked why he kept paper and index cards by the bed and pens. He would have a thought and often spend hours writing in the middle of the night when it came to him. Over the years that translated into numerous books and articles on Industrial safety management and loss control. I have found the early morning hours to my liking quiet and peaceful I can write and read with little interruption and my mind is fresh and alert. I try and encourage students to journal, to write and to put thoughts down not just in texting short hand as many do in their texting but with real words and feelings. I actually came up with a lesson plan a few semesters back for a Shakespeare Sonnet to paraphrase in a tweet but using words not codes. I even developed a rubric for it to score and reflect on.

“What you get by achieving your goals is to as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Henry David Thoreau

I enjoy Thoreau more so now than when I was reading his works in high school. As I read his ideas and thoughts it is perhaps because I have experienced many of his similar thoughts walking about in the forest or mountains. It could be in seeing nature, listening to nature and wondering about life and where we are going in life that has drawn me to Thoreau.
I so often mention context versus content in learning. It is so hard to give a writer like Thoreau context if you have never walked a pathway in the woods or listened to a mountain stream. It is interesting as I describe Thoreau I thought of Helen Keller who was blind and deaf and yet had an understanding far beyond many of us with eyes and ears that physically work. Her context for her life was drawn in her hand by someone translating the world although she was sighted for a few years as a child. She had a great teacher who could offer an honest and true interpretation of life around them.

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau

As I was thinking about Helen Keller she was at first a rather bad student kicking, screaming and throwing whatever she could get her hands on. But she was won over by her teacher Anne Sullivan. She was won over by someone who cared about her. I made a comment about meaningless paperwork yesterday and as I went home and thought it isn’t the paperwork that drives a good teacher it is heart. I indirectly made contact with a friend from many years ago through email. I met her working in a camp program for disabled children and adults. She is still in that work. I left and came back myself after almost twenty years in the corporate world. I can remember my wife telling me why you don’t go back to teaching that is what you really love to do. It was a good call and now almost twelve years later I am still teaching.

“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” Helen Keller

An interesting thought as I sit and read today. How can a blind deaf student be encouraged to learn not only basics but college and then go on to become known worldwide as a speaker and not ever hear her own voice.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart” Helen Keller

This past Friday I was talking with several teachers about motivation, how do we motivate students who do not really want to learn? I was wondering as I read thoughts from Helen Keller and Thoreau.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence” Helen Keller

I was wondering how many teachers are optimistic as they walk in their rooms or are we pessimistic simply calling it quits before the door to the room even closes. This may not be a teacher issue as many state mandates for numbers of passing and failing and who will succeed and who won’t with predictor tests and end of course tests and graduation tests and tests of tests going on. It is almost as if we are trying to fail as a nation. We mandate more time to seeing where students are then trying to get them there. One of my favorites is a state test for end of course that has to be given three weeks before the end of the semester in order to be ready you have to cover all material and then three weeks are left. It seems the state needs three weeks to grade the tests that teachers could grade overnight.

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” Helen Keller

As I think back to my childhood we were encouraged to try more so than simply succeed. That may sound a bit strange. We were always encouraged but never demanded we were raised in optimism not pessimism. We were encouraged to think to imagine and ideas were never suppressed and extinguished. I wonder if with so many kids today if parents constant barrage of do this and do that has taken away the imagination. Does being a soccer mom or gymnastic mom supersede imagination and creativity? Stranger yet is does having that in shirt or pants for a hundred dollars take precedence over a thrift shop Hawaiian shirt and baggy pants for a dollar?
I think we as teachers often do the same with our students we tend to get lost in test goals and not illuminate creativity and imagination. We want to stuff information rather than teach how to use it. Time is short but I wonder what if we did take the time to teach how to along with the content.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.” Helen Keller

Far too often it is too easy to sit back and just let things go by. We were testing kids this week on the Georgia High School Graduation test and several as I walked back to my room after practice testing made comments about how they will Christmas tree the test, guessing rather than even trying. As I think so often so many of us Christmas tree life, just guessing no thought and where we do end up never really knowing where we might could have been. Thinking back in my own life I have many puzzle pieces I probably forgot along the way and maybe that is why I am thinking back and pondering did I miss something along the way.
I recall a fellow I tested a few years back I was doing transfer testing from a home school environment to public school setting. He had not really applied during home school looked on another students work and literally copied and had someone else do his answers when he could. It was kind of whatever to get through and it showed as we tested. While his home school grades were excellent he could not get any credits for most of his courses through our school testing. This is not about whether Home school is successful or not because most kids I have tested have done great and excelled. This is about desire, determination and motivation and all those good things. You will never know what pathways you could have trod if you never try.
Often it does take a good teacher, sometimes a great teacher to inspire kids. Hopefully one day I can look back and see kids I have worked with that have been successful. So today a new day peace to all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

(Wa de Skee)

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