If only we can make a difference

Bird Droppings August 19, 2016
If only we can make a difference

 

I walked out last night to a partial moon it was exceptionally warm with the high humidity which has become the norm. However, between the clouds I did see a jet stream that was perfectly in line with what tiny faint hint I could see of the moon almost as if a line was drawn and the moon was moving along the line among the clouds. When I come out in the early morning hours and look East Orion sits just above the persimmon trees and today the moon was gone but clear as could be was the constellation Orion. I think Orion has been checking out the persimmons or since a hunter watching for the deer that come to feast on the ripe fruit falling to the ground.

 

“The purpose of Living Values: Educational Program is to provide guiding principles and tools for the development of the whole person, recognizing that the individual is comprised of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.” livingvalues.net

 

When I first read the lead line to this website it is too good to be true, someone after my own heart. As I thought it is not just about content but context as well although in public school spiritual has to be a carefully handled word. Yesterday as I do many days I borrowed from John Dewey’s pedagogy, and this is a similar line looking more at the whole person in talking with some teachers during professional planning.

 

“In confronting the many challenges that the future holds in store, humankind sees in education an indispensable asset in its attempt to attain the ideals of peace, freedom and social justice. The Commission does not see education as a miracle cure or a magic formula opening the door to a world in which all ideals will be attained, but as one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, oppression and war.” Jacques Delors, Learning: The Treasure Within, UNESCO

 

ALIVE, The association for Living values Education International was founded by the United Nations a few years ago. As I read through the literature the concept of teaching values intrigued me. Is this maybe where we go wrong in public school focusing on the content within the curriculum covered on pages one through five hundred only? Maybe this is where students lose the desire to learn being force fed piles of facts or does it happen elsewhere.

 

“The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son. The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe. The Doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration. He is supposed to be in communion with spirits… He cures the sick by the laying of hands and prayers and incantations and heavenly songs. He infuses new life into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practice…. He clothes himself in the skins of young innocent animals, such as the fawn, and decorated himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird …” Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute

 

Much of our culture, or who we are, is learned behavior from our community setting. We learn much of who we are good or bad at home. Several years ago I wrote a paper about “The Sixteen Hour Syndrome” that time kids are away from school. As a parent-teacher and now grandparent I see students leave school and go home where any semblance of value and order is disavowed. Students were unlearning  anything that had been taught. Teachers have eight hours of which transportation and breaks and lunch come out of so maybe six hours to try and instill values and information. Some could argue that should school be the place for values to be taught? It is a place, and teaching is occurring so do what you can.

 

“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.” Fredrich Nietzsche

 

“You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.” Denis Waitley

 

Students theoretically should bring some tattering of values to school but going back to September 11, 2001 which coincidentally was my first day back to teaching after a twenty-three year break a student informed me he was the first in four generations not to run moonshine. Interestingly enough last night on the history channel a show memorialized moonshiners as an integral part of our history and that we had to have them in order for progression to occur. This was while the host sampled various brews from around the country. If you are raised that moonshining, racism, bigotry, anti-government and a good one today belittling women is appropriate. Now then imagine the impact of those eight hours in school with a female teacher who by chance works for the government and doesn’t drink. After battling with that type of student, teachers are weary, and they are not just in the south. So the issue becomes how do we as teachers even attempt to alter values.

 

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

 

“Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes it obstructs your vision.” Hsi-Tang

 

In many societies, the raising of the children is a community effort not just the biological parents. We all need to work together be it in parenting and teaching and in working towards a world we can eliminate the sixteen-hour syndrome, and children can learn to appreciate life and all that could be there for them.

 

“Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.” Thomas Dewey

 

Perhaps that leads to this idea. The other aspect is that in order to open properly that parachute has to be packed correctly folded and arranged so it will open when the rip cord is pulled. Far too many children have not had their parachute folded properly before the jump and will crash and burn. As I look back over the past few weeks of school and writings teachers are expected to check the students parachutes and repack them daily. Teachers are often expected  times to even postpone the jumps till everyone is ready. But in life as in parachuting there comes a time when you have to learn to pack your  chute. When it doesn’t open, it is no one’s fault but your own.

 

“If a man who cannot count find a four-leaf clover is he entitled to happiness? You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience.” Stanislaw Jerszy Lec, Unkempt Thoughts, translated from the Polish by Jacek Galazka

 

As I read a few of Lec’s words, this morning many are dark foreboding telling of a time when death was near the doorstep in Poland during World War II. Executioners and death are a major topic looking through Unkempt Thoughts a rather large collection of anecdotes. But when I saw these particular two lines the first is so true of education we pass the child through knowing he cannot “count” are we truly happy when he finds a four leave clover and patience is learned but it does take patience to learn patience otherwise you would have run out of patience. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and please let’s make sure parachutes are packed right for that first jump and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings August 18, 2016
A spiritual side to teaching

 

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

 

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, to me and I have given away several copies now over the years.

 

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

I have been back in teaching thirteen years and have watched teachers burn out and simply fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting their all into what they do, and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

 

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

 

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students, you open your heart as palmer indicates, and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

 

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer
In my  journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural as I am discussing my journeys since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude that for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred, and some will scuff how you can say that, it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

 

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

 

In the several years that I have come back to teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my  opinion, that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, and it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It was nearly thirteen years since I wrote a trust scale for human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead, and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What is the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and should embrace it or find a cure?

Bird Droppings August 17, 2016

What is the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and
should embrace it or find a cure?

 

I was away from my computer for several days due to a blown fan. Could be the mass production of hot air or downloading some photos from the weekend so I may be a bit wordy today letting it all out. Granted I used a school computer these past few days but just not the same. It has been nearly sixteen years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my  observations of a group of twenty-eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time, I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to attend even to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in his  teaching it could have been mine.

 

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my  intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

 

Sixteen years ago for me was coming back to teaching after a twenty-three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However, those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses, I seemed to find an underlying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

 

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and experience together a more serious and harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

 

The sixteen-hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen-hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen-hour syndrome.
On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and two Five-hour energy shots, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times, I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogenous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores, we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.
Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jigsaw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manner, it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways, it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

 

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans makeup a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children, but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

 

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

 

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

 

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.
While many parents, school reformers and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents, school reformers and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period a student is at home and out in society that is approximately sixteen hours during the school day. John Dewey is very well represented in my readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

 

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the total of conditions that are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

 

It is the total of our experiences that makes us who we are, and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.
Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “castoff the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

 

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

 

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.”

How do we attempt to see beyond the facade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.

“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

 

Dr. Glasser, of course, sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools  all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, like how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and religion and offered a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

 

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
.
Ivan Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen-hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

 

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

 

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their  life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student-centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes, “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum.” How does this author view a successful teacher?

 

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community, and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

 

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid-1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from the point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

 

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded need. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.” Dr. James Fowler

 

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring, compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes, but few attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?
I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory Universities, Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my  studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts, I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

 

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in the center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

 

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in the classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well-written on, and numerous others have addressed community.

 

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, classroom, business or government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

 

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

 

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school, not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

 

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes the learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

 

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem-solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

 

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen-hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harm’s way in your heart and on your minds and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Now my past studies are making sense

Bird Droppings August 16, 2016

Now my past studies are making sense

 

My head feels like a sponge from even with taking sinus meds. We have hot weather and high humidity and my head always feels it. Perhaps why I was sitting thinking back to a day we as teachers in Walton County were not paid as it was one of our furlough days imposed by our governor and of students were not in school. It had been a teacher’s workday to finalize grades for mid-semester and for training.  I did not sit idle but used time to work on research and papers for my graduate school studies. I am sitting here this morning trying to sort through piles of what needs to go first. School work for which school and when is it due kind of morning. Teaching high school and college and in graduate school and juggling due dates and names and folders. Maybe that is why my head hurts this morning. In less than a month I will be sixty six and that thought has passed through my pondering lately more than once and who knows maybe my brain is getting old and tired.

 

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

 

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote? As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experiences the hour glass does clear. However if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine through previous experiences how we have responded and or would respond.

 

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

 

I am not a big fan of fishing as a sport and often draw strange looks when my students hear me say I do not fish. I enjoy the solitude and quiet but not the sitting and waiting. Although once or twice I do have fish stories I could pull out both by chance with my cousin from Florida. One took place in Wisconsin when my father took my cousin and me fishing for Muskie and one in Florida with my family when we came upon a group of mating sharks. But they are food for thought another time and writing.

 

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

 

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

 

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Thoreau

 

Choosing to look, to see, to listen and to hear these are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others. It is so much easier to be what another wants us to be. It is only in hearing and seeing for ourselves we can as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn. We must be awake. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

 

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the          reason so many of your songs are about love?’” from a Hopi elder

 

As I thought is that the problem in our society so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of the United States, could it be a lack of love? In many of my readings for graduate school we are looking at whose eyes and whose voice perceives what is occurring in life. So much of history has been interpreted by a limited number of people and in a very select and often biased view. So often it is only the winner’s view of the world we see from history.

 

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes   along.”  Winston Churchill

 

We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to politics or popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing. Much of history has been written this way. Many indigenous peoples have been eradicated and literally been the bad guys in history. Their land was taken away and we make them the bad guys. Listening to politicians and power brokers today this is still evident. Calling such endeavors such as bilingual education not in a nice way and or even one of my favorites “voting ghetto” this adds to a couple of the most ignorant statements of recent political gibberish.

 

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  Albert Einstein

 

The more I read of his ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. I think it is funny how what we remember him for is more military oriented work on the atomic bomb than his philosophy of life which was pacifistic and antiwar. He loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction and even at one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

 

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more   than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so     aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

 

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to 19th century thought and this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks.

 

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.”  William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

 

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation at one time. There are many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do. The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools. Yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress them. We cannot seem to understand that the ten year trend of standardized testing has done nothing to improve teacher quality and or student’s abilities other than to take tests. I saw this quote from the late John Holt yesterday in passing on another person’s Facebook page and it made me think.

 

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

 

Holt and I disagree on many points I am sure as he was one of the first major advocates for home schooling however it was not based on religion but on learning. I agree with him that traditional schooling is ineffective. I try and function within and try to provide a slight as much as I can alternative to traditional teaching. I have been a fan of John Dewey and experienced based learning for some time and schools using his philosophy in many ways are not schools but learning environments. I watch current “reformers” trying to even more cubby hole and categorize and traumatize teaching and in theory learning. I am sorry teaching to a test is not anything but rote memory practice. A concerted effort is being made by corporate America to strip away individuality, soul from our youth and make a profit at it.

 

I have used this example before but since it is a good one I will again. My son in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it right, the teachers way. Later in high school during his second semester of calculus he found his methodology was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and again in four calculus courses at Georgia Tech. His math teacher in eighth grade did not have an understanding of calculus and therefore could not respond other than to say he was wrong. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children learn from them and before I go too far a last quote to end this Monday morning meanderings. This is from ancient Israel.

 

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

 

Well I got a bit carried away but several ideas to mull over ponder and reflect on so be safe this glorious week ahead with projected rain and all, and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?

Bird Droppings August 15, 2016
I wonder if there is such a thing as Essential Education?

It has been almost six years since I was discussing various educational philosophies and pedagogies with my son the then graduate education student. One happened to be essential education which per his text is only a slight step from perennial education which basically is reading, writing and arithmetic period. There is little if any art or music what so ever. As I looked through my files an author popped up who dabbled in or wrote the book on essential education, Ted Sizer.

“Pedagogy logically is a subject for which schools of education are – or should be – responsible. It all depends; of course, on how those schools define pedagogical skill. Is pedagogy merely the training necessary to contribute to a penny-bank system of schooling? Is teaching more a science than an art? Is sophisticated teaching the instruction of ideas and skills, matters of speaking and telling? That is, can we describe the steps a teacher must make, ultimately as a matter of habit, in enough detail to allow careful testing to determine whether the work has succeeded? To my eye, teaching – pedagogy – is an art … a demanding art. There is science to it (just as with painting) but also style, the quality of a person’s actions whether that person is fifteen or fifty. Getting others to learn, which includes helping them acquire skills, is a subtle, complex business… Pedagogy depends on a teacher’s character, his experience, his willingness to examine what is going on in his classes and to test his judgments against those of others. It requires self-confidence and a willingness to listen to the view of others. Those of us in education must accept this inevitable fuzziness and learn how to live with it as artists do.” Ted Sizer

A friend posted a link to a blog that happened to have this quote yesterday and attached to my Facebook page that is synchronistic. As I looked further in my various articles and readings this version of essential education is a bit more than what my son’s text from two years ago implied. There are several very good ideas in terms of education and learning in the programing at the Tara Redwood School.

Essential Education Pedagogy
The pedagogy developed by Tara Redwood School and Essential Education includes the following:
• Knowledge of the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions is as important as knowledge of the outer world
• An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning is preferable to one that fragments and divides knowledge
• Individuals often have dramatically different learning styles; all learning styles are valid and must be both acknowledged and nurtured.
• Learning rooted in direct experience far surpasses in depth and endurance learning by indirect methods
• Generally accepted subject matter can be enhanced by integrating a Essential Education approach and accompanying methods and techniques
• The intuitive wisdom of the individual can be developed by dialectical discussion and debate exploring philosophical, spiritual and moral themes.
Tara Redwood School. 5810 Prescott Road. Soquel, CA

Sitting here thinking about a specific definitive pedagogy and I am one who seldom uses the word many thoughts. Over the past few years I have been exploring my own ideas of what is pedagogy and how I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers who was controversial in 1968 and his ideas still are considered perhaps utopian to borrow a few words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching are themselves controversial as well. I have borrowed over the last several days from John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, Foxfire and today the Tara Redwood School. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations. Having for most of my life being involved directly or indirectly with in working with and teaching exceptional children and adults I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. I tend to stick with things that work well and always are tuning those ideas that I do use.

I mentioned my use of the Foxfire Core Practices and tools such as a trust scale I developed back in 2003. Numerous times I have brought up my use of animals in my classroom and addressed the impact that being involved with snakes for example has on attitudes and especially on developing trust with students. I do believe relationships are a key to teaching building and maintaining positive relationships with students can open doors to learning.

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

In our world of accountability in education test scores rule. With the factory oriented mentality leading the way in teaching many do not allow time for relationships and or care to have that as an aspect of who they are as a teacher. John Dewey over and over again emphasizes community as a key in building an effective learning situation.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core
Practice two

“The work teachers and students do together enable learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three

Foxfire is based on working together and involving the community of the school it is about building and establishing relationships and I have found in my research long lasting relationships between students and teachers. Part of my own approach has been using Facebook as an extension of my class room. Many photos from school events are posted as well as my own daily journaling. Occasionally a former student will send a note thank you for the thoughts or just what I needed today. Recently one of those notes was from a student from eleven years ago when I first came back to teaching. I was last night night accused of being the best teacher a student never had and teaches us all his ways whether we are his students or not. Got to thinking hope that is for the better.

“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. “ 21st Century Schools

As I was reading various articles and papers this morning John Dewey again is continually through the pages of critical pedagogy, experiential learning and Foxfire. Much like in so many other theorists and practitioners works Dewey seems to crop up. When I read this short note from 21st Century Schools about Critical Pedagogy several key elements caught my attention. Education strengthening democracy and social change almost directly parallels John Dewey.

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” John Dewey

As I wonder about how should we really be teaching children I keep coming back to providing context for the content. With accelerated lesson plans and curriculum maps and everybody trying to attain a one hundred percent pass rate on the various tests that we are mandated to give to students in Georgia and across the nation little time is left for context. We are leaving the most valuable learning by the wayside in order to get the quick score on a test. I end each day with please lets us keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts. As I am pondering maybe we should include children subjected to a battery of standardized tests that do little more than provide the numbers David Purpel writes about but within all of this still remember to give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

Bird Droppings August 11, 2016

Finding the right spot for the puzzle pieces

 

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 

 

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit and so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

 

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

 

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

 

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

 

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really this person was a philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

 

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

 

“Parents are not quite interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

 

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and where was ADHD when I was a child.

 

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

 

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to those same jig saw puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the next. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

 

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Amazing as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

 

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

 

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

 

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

 

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they know the value of things not the price. “ Santosh Kumar

 

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. Only a few moments ago a former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar. In trying to track down the unnamed quote I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook a huge following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words but they are good ones and worth repeating.

 

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

 

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 

 

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit and so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

 

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

 

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

 

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

 

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really this person was a philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

 

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

 

“Parents are not quite interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

 

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and where was ADHD when I was a child.

 

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

 

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to those same jig saw puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the next. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

 

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Amazing as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

 

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

 

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

 

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

 

“Do not educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they know the value of things not the price. “ Santosh Kumar

 

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself. Only a few moments ago a former student posted a status update with the line from Santosh Kumar. In trying to track down the unnamed quote I found Santosh Kumar. On Facebook a huge following for a young philosopher, and then I found the name is much like John Smith with thousands of internet hits. So perhaps this young fellow did not spout these words but they are good ones and worth repeating.

 

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

 

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What is the Holy Grail (solution/answer) in education?

Bird Droppings August 10, 2016

What is the Holy Grail (solution/answer) in education?

 

“Obsessive search for the holy grail through only that which can be measured and documented effectively diminishes the sacred and leaves us standing empty without souls.” Dr. Grant Bennett

 

A day or two ago I got a bit carried away and wandered into about two thousand words on what is it about great teachers and why can’t we teach that. Well in my discourse I did not really solve the dilemma but a response from a dear friend, a former professor in my graduate studies and who is a middle school gifted teacher got me thinking. I recalled a scene from an Indiana Jones movie where the old knight who has guarded the Holy Grail for thousands of years has an evil Nazi officer trying to pick the Grail from hundreds of cups.

 

He chooses a gaudy and elaborate chalice and soon feels the pain of his error and he disintegrates before our eyes. (Movie special effects of course) Shortly thereafter Indiana Jones has the same situation and chooses a simple plain cup to dip from the water of life in order to save his father. For hundreds of years we held an idea of a fancy embellished chalice as the epitome of the Grail and yet it was a simple cup that so often was not even seen. Looking back at Dr. Bennett’s thought in education we have sought the Holy Grail in testing, in curriculum, in various new-fangled gimmickry full of trappings and programs and maybe we truly missed the secret of good or great teaching and education.

 

I had to sit back ponder and think about my response a bit to Dr. Bennett’s follow up to my note of the other day. Seldom do I skip a day in my meanderings but this past summer gardening and grandbabies got the best of me on many occasions. It has been almost six years we drove to Florida for our first grandchild’s birth that my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher.

 

“It’s a humbling experience but I think that it is a good one too, for someone who writes books on education to come back into the classroom and stand up there as the teacher dues day after day and be reminded in this way be reminded what it is like in the real world. I sometimes think every education writer, every would be education expert and every politician who pontificates as many do so condescendingly, about the failings of the teachers in the front lines of our nation’s public schools ought to be obliged to come in a classroom at least once a year and find out what it is like. It might at least impart some moderation to the disrespectful tone which so many politicians speak of teachers.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

 

As I started this book by Kozol one of the first letters he writes about discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. Over the years I have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my original teaching job to a program I stated in Macon Georgia and then to a school in Warner Robins. But the day I recall most vividly and actually forgot about was when I started back after nearly twenty three years away from teaching. I started on a Tuesday in September of 2001. Just by chance it was September 11th. For most of the year had you asked me what day I started teaching I would have responded the weekend after Labor Day. However my principal one day came in and said what day did you start and I pulled out a calendar and sure enough my first day was spent in lock down. I was replacing a teacher who had a nervous breakdown dealing with the EBD kids that I was thrust into.

 

So here I was I had not taught a day in twenty plus years and stuck in a room I should say locked in a room with ten kids who all had been in jail or were on probation still. What do you do? Curriculum was out the door and over a few minutes we had our windows covered and all outside contact severed. Here I was with ten kids who were actually some of the worst in discipline referrals in the school in a tiny room for about five hours. I winged it and we got to know each other. It wasn’t long till those kids were coming to my class and not going to others which of course did not sit well with some of the other teachers whose classes they were missing. I thought about this and still at times wonder why was I being successful with them and the previous teacher that I replaced had a nervous breakdown. I come back to perhaps it is not something we can actually put a label on but an easy word to use is relationships.

 

Teaching is about relationships it is about building and maintaining them. I went out of my way to know these kids beyond the fact they were all jailbirds or into things most kids in high school would have never thought of. After my long dropping of the other day another note from a high school friend who taught Literature in high school in Pennsylvania for thirty six years loving every minute of it. I was asked the other day who was my favorite high school teacher and I could at the time only recall one. A former class mate from high school sent this email.

 

“Anyway…your point is well-taken.  What makes a great teacher?  I can honestly say that many teachers at Scott influenced me:  Joey Inners, John Kerrigan, Dave DeFroscia, Joan Tuckloff, and, of course, Miss Cristoforo.  They made classes come alive; they went the extra mile; they touched my spirit and made me realize what I could do if I worked hard and applied the talents I had.  I think Mark Twain said: Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater.  I think he was right.  If the students like a teacher, they will walk through fire for them. One of my favorite activities asked students to write a quick note to a teacher who made an impression on them, thanking them for what they did.  It was the best assignment ever.  Here’s a salute to all of the teachers who have influenced me.” Beckie Backstetter Chiodo

 

My father once told me that teaching was entertainment as well as imparting knowledge I am sure he had read Twains comment as much like me he had a vast quote library saved up which is sitting on my book shelf and I do borrow from occasionally. My father taught about industrial Safety and Loss Control and was in his day considered the leading authority in the field. He lectured in most parts of the world and often spent months teaching for example in South Africa to mine safety folks or in the Philippines or Australia. I went into a lecture many years back when we had an affiliation with Georgia State University and held many of his courses on campus or nearby. This course was in I think the Down Town Ramada Inn and I stepped in to watch the master at work.

He was lecturing about a topic and to make a point he got down in a football three point stance and said hike and charged up the next yard or so of carpet. My father was a lineman in college and even in his sixties was pretty imposing. He lowered and raised his booming voice. He used many learning tricks we teachers still use to help his classes remember ideas. A famous one in safety is ISMEC. Identify, set standards, measure, evaluate and correct or commend a simple acronym and it became a mainstay of Loss Control management.

 

I recall another idea from my father when he visited a plant the first place he went was the maintenance shop. He would talk to the supervisor and ask where they saw issues. I was always amused at how many safety guys would question my father about this tactic. His response was this was ground zero for knowing where potential major loss will occur. In the maintenance shop doing repairs for example repeatedly for a specific shift or piece of equipment will indicate a potential problem waiting to hit.

 

I started thinking that this could apply in a school. Several possibilities what teacher writes most referrals for seemingly inconsequential reasons? You cannot teach by referral. Look at remedial classes are there similarities with kids who are there? Did they have the same teacher? Did they come from the same school? What is their life at home? Far too often in education we start at the top and go down. I have found the gifted kids even without a teacher will do great. I am being somewhat sarcastic.

 

As I am reading Kozol’s book and now interested in looking at others of his I am sure I will be borrowing ideas but I would like to leave today with this idea should we start at the bottom or the top in trying to solve educational problems? I am no closer to finding the solution to how do we tell a great teacher but maybe some food for thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your 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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Can we find answers outside our windows?

Bird Droppings August 9, 2016

Can we find answers outside our windows?

 

As I read and pondered a world engrossed with money and how we can spend money. I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was trying to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote. This for me is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered.

 

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.”  Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

 

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle against the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in the book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently we had the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

 

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

It has been nearly six years since I was walking on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

 

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

 

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

 

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

 

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

 

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

 

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

Bird Droppings August 8, 2016

Sitting, wondering, pondering and dishwashing

 

In a roundabout way several earlier readings on the internet got me thinking and pondering as I do. So often we take our technology for granted.  My son and daughter in law are going through this right now which made me think about this piece of our family history. It has been about ten years since we moved into this house and a brand new dishwasher. About three years ago the drain pump went out and the dishwasher died on us. In thirty eight years of marriage we have had only four dish washers not counting rental houses along the way you might say they became a part of the family. We waited on Frigidaire to send a repairman, we needed our dishwasher and now you have to make appointments usually several weeks in advance. I recall my trips to various supply and parts places and new numbers of more places to call they were always eventful even synchronistic so to say. I find interesting people every time I go anywhere for that matter. After a week or two we did go get a new dish washer and after six months it decided to breakdown which was covered by warranty. It took nearly six months of wrangling to get a repairman out to inform us there was water damage in the digital switchboard. It seems in a dishwasher that uses steam heat as a component a vapor barrier was not initially installed. While it was fixed and did not cost a penny you become quickly aware of how we depend on simple technology. Within a year same issue and this time the repairman said don’t touch screen with wet hands.

 

Thinking back to that first repair and the fellow after a brief computer check of circuits and such and a screen and using his manuals it seemed to be showing the culprit was a main drive motor. After calculating labor and parts we would have to spend nearly three hundred dollars to fix our dishwasher but if we choose to get a new one, we get this visit off our purchase. Essentially it cost sixty five dollars to tell us our washer is broke. Of course if we bought from Frigidaire essentially we would have gotten a rebate. I need to get my mind off of spending money on dishwashers and write.

 

“Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.” Carl G. Jung

 

It is often easy for me to pull out Jung thoughts and ideas and get motivated for the writing ahead. As I went out to sit and think earlier, this all rolled through my mind. I am amazed at how carefully planned and developed our technology is. No matter how good you take care of or do not take care of machines last a certain amount of time regardless. The term planned obsolescence is often bantered about. We are a throwaway society. In an issue of National Geographic a few months back they were on one of the far flung Hawaiian Islands cleaning up. Sadly literally tons of debris washes in ranging from fishing nets, trash, TV’s, all sorts of stuff and sadly tons of it. Animals get caught up in the muck and often perish. One photo was of the contents of a baby albatross that had starved to death with a full stomach. The baby’s parents fishing in the currents had picked up numerous bits of trash either mixed in with the tiny fish they catch or that had been eaten by the fish and the babies stomach was full of plastic pieces that did not pass through literally full of trash that kept its stomach full and it would not or could not eat enough to live.

 

It was nearly fifty years ago Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady at the time started a cleanup campaign on our roads and highways. There were signs against littering and signs posted showing the fines for littering which were imposed and slowly we started cleaning up. But still we trash our environment.

 

But as I thought about it there is another side, as I look at this in a spiritual manner. People who live off the land hold their lands sacred honoring and revering the world about them do not seem to have this issue. Many hunting groups view their hunting leases in a similar manner, for example Ducks Unlimited fights to protect wetlands and waterways. Indigenous peoples use each aspect of a given animal or plant harvested while we discard so much. I have seen dumpsters in Georgia with deer carcasses all but the head thrown in. A few months back a deer was dumped at the high school antlers sawn off. There is a scene in the beginning of the movie “Last of the Mohicans” where Uncus, Nathaniel (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook shoot a deer. They honor the deer with prayers and ask forgiveness for killing the deer and say it will sustain them in the days ahead; there were no reality cameras filming and no bragging about eating what they kill. (Granted it was in a movie)

 

I watch churches locally in a similar manner. A situation I am very familiar with goes like this. Years ago members of a particular church were major donors to the growth and support of that church and were visited often by the pastors. As the days went by and illness befell these members and new pastor came to be the money was not flowing as it was previously and the family was never even visited. Where the money was, not where the need was, became the calling card of that church. I looked up a few lines of Jung’s words on how different love and power are. Who do we look to as great so often in society any more sadly it is those with wealth and power? Wisdom, love and honor seldom play a part any more.

 

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”Dietrich Bonheoffer

 

As a people we have lost so much. We take as we need from each other and from others. So often we subsist only in that world immediately around us. WE ARE focusing only on that which we can see feel and touch, even in this world of instantaneous news and views. We have made ourselves disposable. How many times have you heard the phrase at work or in a workplace “no one is indispensable” essentially we are all disposable. As I ponder it used to be we learned a craft through apprenticeship and years of experience and you became a master craftsman.

 

Yesterday I was looking on the internet at Native American art. A plains survival kit made by Black Eagle an Osage medicine man eighty years old was selling for $2,200.00 it consisted of several pieces of bone and sinew. Essentially it was a primitive kit for a hunter in the prairies of ancient North America. The various pieces included several scrappers, needles and sinew and they were stored in a fringed elk skin bag. Back in the day Black Eagle would have given it to you if you needed it. Now it is a collector’s item being sold by an art store. I am wandering today perhaps caught still in the fifty percent off and buy one get one free and the throwaway society we live in. It is so sad we have become spiritually and physically disposable.

 

One of my favorite disposable sayings is “once saved always saved” regardless of what you do after that point you are ok. Searching for words and meaning in a world so intent on camouflage. I have kids who wear it to school daily and you can even get camo underwear. Although I haven’t quite figured that one out yet wearing camo underwear that is. When you go to the store is it oak tree or standard or tree bark and that depends on your quarry. We have grown so much in so many ways yet our capacity for others seems to lag behind.

 

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

 

Over the years I have read many quotes books and papers. There is a passage from a website on Native American quotes and stories I have thought about many times and it is so true.

 

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children. “Ancient Indian Proverb

 

I happened by a Barnes and Nobles bookstore yesterday and as I do often when there have certain shelves I check and found a small book in the Native American section. It was a book written in 1984 to work with rekindling the spiritual side of Native youth. I read the book as I sat in the bookstore and this one passage stuck with me. I was looking for a book to read to my grandchildren and this little red book was sort of sticking out. I did take it home with and so I share a passage from The Sacred Tree.

 

Respect:

Respect means “to feel or show esteem for someone or something; to consider the well-being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

 

  • Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
  • Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers and community leader.
  • No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting others hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
  • Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
  • Respect the privacy of every person. Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
  • Never walk between people who are conversing.
  • Never interrupt people who are conversing.
  • Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers or others whom special respect is due.
  • Do not speak unless invited to do so at gathering where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
  • Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
  • Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, plant world and animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or soil. If others destroy our other, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
  • Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
  • Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they say is worthless. Listen with your heart.

 

The Sacred Tree

Produced by Judith Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown and Phil Lane Jr.

Four Worlds International Institute

1984

 

I wish we could live each of these honestly and openly and remember there will be leave a place for those after us why not leave the world and people better than we found them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and peace my friends and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

What is this aspect you cannot teach teachers?

Bird Droppings August 5, 2016

What is this aspect you cannot teach teachers?

 

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

 

I have been a student in classes with and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

 

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber

 

I am sitting here rushing at my writing as my paper work is behind as always. There were no stars and silence was nearly deafening with the cloud cover and now rain. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing what I was seeing and imagining a hunter, a stag, a warrior, and dragons all emblazoned across the sky ass the clouds part. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

 

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber

 

It has been nearly twelve years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. When we would sit in our cohort and on that first day we were introduced to a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled the STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically it was a rubric to determine whether or not you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off of work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey. I have read articles arguing the merits of Danielson and Stronge but I see good points in their work. I do have issue with some of the bastardization school reformers have done with their words.

 

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson

 

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson

 

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I actually have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

 

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

 

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

 

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

 

It might sound a bit silly but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all of my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the text book on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

 

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block, Ethics and Curriculum

 

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

 

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

 

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can see quickly the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

 

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

 

You have got soul. “Many the time”, I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often ambiguous subject.

 

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

 

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and the “secret ”that“ sits in the middle and knows – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real.  Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points.  But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here at the school in my class room without students for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors and it is crucial we hold up our end.

 

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk With Spirit

 

I started this many hours ago and here I am bringing to a close an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird