Staring into the sky listening to an owl call: LEARNING – KNOWING – FINDING


Bird Droppings August 15, 2014
Staring into the sky listening to an owl call:
LEARNING – KNOWING – FINDING

When I went out on my morning excursion this morning or I should say several times as I think the moon plotted against me glowing through partially opened blinds. I heard several dogs add a coyote or two barking and howling in the wee hours of the day. Out in the stillness and dark you could hear owls were calling off in the distance. The area of the county we live in is relatively flat, and it is easy to hear surrounding calls from far off. Much of the land is still in timber although there are a few houses. Several hundred acres behind us are currently a corn field after being a wheat field in the spring and is standing eight feet tall in children of the corn style. My mornings are always a treat contrary to the verbal threats today on neighborhood dogs lives as I get awakened.

I received an email from a friend that helped steer me along the pathway many years ago. She has in her midlife crisis changed directions and found new answers herself as well. Something we sometimes do not get a chance to do is to thank people who have actually showed us or taught us in life. Often it is an expected situation such as at school with a teacher we expect to be taught; however true teaching is symbiotic it is not simply a one way street. There are thanks in both directions from the student to teacher and vice a versa. So this morning thank you to all the students and teachers I have had.

“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

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

So often I watch teachers believe they have learned all there is to learn; a great vocabulary and witty way and they are the world’s gift to students. But teaching is about learning and learning needs never to cease.

“There is no human reason why a child should not admire and emulate his teacher’s ability to do sums, rather than the village bum’s ability to whittle sticks and smoke cigarettes. The reason why a child does not is plain enough — the bum has put himself on equality with him and the teacher has not.” Floyd Dell

A simple thought yet so often true. Why do students not learn or reject a teacher? A simple thought equality, students even small children know when they are being taught down too and not taught too or with.

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

Somehow always an Emerson quote is floating around, and I have found Emerson had a world view that would be impressive to many in today’s world. But this thought is truly what teaching or education is about, taking a concept that some do not know and making that understandable to others. Finding a way to convey knowledge and develop thoughts. I have heard the term strategies thrown around from many educators, but there is more to it than a packaged strategy or curriculum.

“The teacher is one who makes two ideas grow where only one grew before.” Elbert Hubbard

Several of my recent emails concerned apathy and in emails with several friends we discussed apathy as well. One word kept creeping into the dialogue relevance making what is taught relevant. Apathy often is from lessons that have nothing to do with the student absolutely no relevance. I use the word context quite often as well when discussing the relevance. Hubbard offers that teachers are growing ideas, which is so true. John Dewey in his thinking addresses drawing from experience and using experience in education and learning.

“To teach is to learn twice.” Joseph Joubert

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw

As often as I walk into a classroom I find students who want to find answers or look for the new idea that is pursuing knowledge. It becomes so easy to teach when that process occurs. It is providing the atmosphere that will allow that to happen. Often traditional desks in rows and chalk board stifle creativity and something so simple a change as tables versus desks and rolling chairs open new doors.

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

I have often used an illustration from Sydney J. Harris of education should not be as so many surmises a sausage stuffing machine, but more like culturing pearls in oysters. Throughout our educational system especially in light of legislation such as NCLB, as an example, the sausage stuffing idea of putting in what is needed and filling the space is what many school systems and school reformers are promoting. I often wonder if somewhere there is a school and or school system where culturing is occurring and if there are any teaching openings there.

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

A simple definition for quality in teaching and capability of teachers – Great teachers inspire in their students.

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom
“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde

Recently in a meeting about a student a teacher complained that this student never finishes their work. I made a comment that I never had that issue. I produced a 300 word essay and said it was worked on till complete. I was asked how much time did it take and said three days. “Well, it should have been done in a day” was the response from the angry teacher. Too often teachers are looking at more than one piece of information the complaint was not finishing work that I showed is being done then it changes to time, which I was not worried about. Interesting how the addition of time alters the first complaint. So it becomes are we looking at completing work, staying on task or completing a given assignment in a given time, two different aspects and yet many see as only one. I used a quote yesterday from Sandy Grande referring to how the natural cycles are ignored in the white world which so often is the world of school.

“Those who trust us educate us.” George Eliot

This works both ways there needs to be trust in the student for the teacher and trust in the teacher for the student or true learning will not occur. Memorizing facts is not learning. Using facts to accomplish a goal and then understanding those facts is learning. Several years ago I recalled my middle son raising an issue while a student at Georgia Tech. In his senior design class, several students who were straight A students and at Georgia Tech that means have never left their rooms albeit always studying had a difficult time equating their learning to physical design. The book knowledge did not have context for them. These straight A students were floundering in senior design. My son while not a straight A student had great conceptual understanding of information from working in the lab.
I thought back a few years to a former principal who would dress up as a goat herder in his social studies classes when a teacher. He would use a method of teaching many would take offense to, almost a virtual history class. The students would live within the confines of the game, and in world history. Sometimes it takes dressing up in a goat skin and rattling bells to get a point across. So today a special dedication to all the goat herders (even those who were recently selected principal of the year in Georgia) out there, let’s rattle some bells and shake up a few minds. Keep students on their toes and thinking let us all make apathy a word never having to be used again. Please my friends let us all keep so many who have been harmed and all in harm’s way on our minds and our hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

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