Bird Droppings August 19, 2014
The next great teacher: A new reality show with significance
I drove back to school about nine o’clock last night to run some copies and check on a few things. Walking out of the building the smiling moon was glowing through a patchwork of clouds. I did not have my camera and decided to wait till morning. Earlier this morning I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds as I took out the trash and sadly the moon was nearly totally wrapped in clouds. My wife had let her favorite show on the TV and at one this morning it was still playing waking me up, so I wandered outside. It was an exceptionally human intrusion on a quiet night. There were few human influenced noises present. I found myself thinking, wondering if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago only crickets, frogs, owls, and heavy dew and rainwater dripping from pine needles.
“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our federal education program No Child Left behind is about lifting standards higher to make the United States number one in education. Interesting concept if you have the most-rigorous rules does that make you the best school system or educational program? In news recently the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested, we need more students to succeed so we will raise the standards. So to say raise the bar educationally; the theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of any student.
I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us say acceptable is currently thirty-six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches, and you will succeed because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We use a megaphone now just as you jump and yell “NOW JUMP.” Interesting in this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs that are being undertaken more now do not succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students couldn’t clear thirty-six inches?
Was it the teaching method, or the physical ability of the students, was it the shoes they are wearing, perhaps the surface of the runway to the jump pit is too soft or slippery, is there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach. In any medium if a person cannot jump thirty-six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible, but several factors have to be in place, and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content with failure, they will fail.
It has been a few years since I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. He has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.
“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden
“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan
Coaching and teaching, the terms are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a superb Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot.” When I was riding Spot, we would be third or fourth but always place. When my trainer was on board Spot would win. I once asked a nationally known trainer and horse judge about this phenomenon and was told.
“You put a ten horse, and by ten, I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a one rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride. However, you put a ten horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Nationally acclaimed trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses Earl Burchett
As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students, and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For thirty-five years, I have asked how do we distinguish that good teacher and or coach from a mediocre one.
“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi
Commitment is the key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years, few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi perhaps the greatest of all coaches.
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi
“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi
The ability to succeed is based on hard work, desire, and determination. These are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.
“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden
Sadly far too often we only see the champion, how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. The truth of the matter is we live on a bell shape curve, and only a few will ever be the best. It is in the trying, and it is motivating students and trying as a teacher to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the downside of that curve; 50% will not succeed, mentality so why should I try harder.
“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne
A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame coach. “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do.” This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination and desire. It is about coaching. It is about succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy I am passing. That makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy. Who gave out seventy percent passes? But we do it all the time in all aspects of our lives. Can a thirty-six inch jumper clear sixty inches? Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form; he was also a student of physics and as such he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form; he lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. A world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop as it was called is now the jumping style of all high jumpers. Funny thing is today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first, and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort, and the world record keeps going up.
It is about ideas, determination and commitment and then any goal can be accomplished. Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort, and we have to look for the means of accomplishing the task. Federal standards called for research-based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few, so the field is narrow. The difficulty is doing new research is that it requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake and administrators as well and so we in trying to improve may have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research-proven programs, which in reality may or may not work.
There are so many questions to ask, are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching? Has this program truly been tested on a large group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program? One from personal experience, I have watched administrators then limit their program, due to their limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorite’s examples is a word wall, consisting of six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall, and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on the computer is not a word wall since it is not on the wall. A well designed graphic as a lead in for a working notebook in class is not a word wall. A set of personal flash cards is not a word wall. Having T-shirts with vocabulary words emblazoned or sky writing vocabulary words again not a word wall. It has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue only red. Teaching gets defeated by limits and impositions and parameters.
“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The hard part is finding those few real educators which lead me to what about a reality show and ten teachers to be and it could be called, The next great Teacher. The grand prize of a set of dry erase markers and erasers would be the prize and two cases of copy paper. Various situations would be presented, and teaching suggestions offered. Contestants would be judges by famous teachers, or even better politicians who have nothing better to do in terms of education, and this would also get them into a classroom where they could see firsthand real education. (Reality show education at least) Anyhow after a long week albeit a good week of school and teaching I still end with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and be sure always to give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)