Example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 8, 2016
Example is such a simple lesson plan

 

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

 

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl G Jung

 

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

 

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

 

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

 

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

 

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

 

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.

“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

 

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.
“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

 

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.

“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”

These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

 

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

 

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

 

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

 

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.
I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.
SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Waiting for a miracle

Bird Droppings December 7, 2016

Waiting for a miracle

 

Miracle is used often by people of faith. It is an explanation for things that happen with no apparent cause and or rationale. It seems we all sit waiting for miracles perhaps waiting for that solution to pop up, to show its self and poof all will be better. So many times through history events have happened that provide for the concept of miracles and again so many provide based on a lack of proof. Perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics or within a language of need. Each of us has found the bottom of the well on occasion and for each many times a ladder has come. It has been for some a hand built one from within the well piece by piece. For some others they simply climbed out under their own strength. Watching the daily news unfold I am hoping for a miracle.

 

I recall a story of a farmer and his donkey I have seen somewhere in my readings. It seems the farmer was so tired of the stubborn donkey he threw it in the well and invited neighbors over to bury this mean stubborn donkey. As the neighbors shoveled, shovel by shovel the well was filled in. Amazingly there towards the final few shovels a dirty donkey that had simply climbed a bit higher with each shovel of dirt jumped out and ran off. The farmer was left with a filled in well and no donkey. Was that a miracle for the donkey? Perhaps, yet we can also rationalize quick thinking and patience with the donkey and who knows maybe stubborn was the wrong word.

 

I recall a few months back when I spoke with several mothers some by chance or synchronicity as Jung calls it. Our washing machine died and the repairman could not come till after the holiday so I loaded a pile of teenagers dirty laundry into my car and proceeded to wash or attempt to wash clothes at a launder mat. Since this was my second sojourn the first thing was finding my book from the other day and I asked the woman in charge and she immediately went to her office and pulled my book out with a note attached. “Someone left this book and I am sure will come back for it”. The book was “Teaching from the heart” by Sarah Day Hatton. Perhaps it was a small miracle that my book was still there may be so or was it more a Jungian sort of thing leading to another step another conversation.

 

It seems the woman who runs the Laundromat has an autistic son and when she found the book felt this was a book most people would not be reading and it must be special to someone. We talked for nearly an hour as my clothes washed and dried discussing how her seventeen year old son was progressing. As I sat another mother came in this time a former student’s mother her washer had died as well. We talked about how her daughter was doing and progressing. Then I received phone call on my cell phone from another mother who lost a son many years ago and is still looking and finding the pieces to her puzzle daily.

As she talked about a story of a rope, scripture, devotion and finding peace within her and in others for nearly thirty minutes we talked. I use James Redfield’s term coincidence quite often and was corrected, not coincidences I was told. I offered then synchronicity perhaps as Jung says and that word was more acceptable.

 

Timely meaningful happenings seemingly by chance all in a short span of hours amazing how my family does not like to take me any where I always end up meeting people and talking. I went looking this morning for one author and stumbled on another. It has been several years since I first read, Care of the soul, by Thomas Moore. Moore was a monk for thirteen years. He is an avid student and learner gaining a PhD in religion, and in psychology along with a master in music and philosophy. Moore is a teacher, psychotherapist and writer he has a unique introspection on faith and life.

 

What amazes me each morning as I start is so often I really am not sure where it is ending.

Not necessarily a good lesson for teaching creative writing but since I don’t do that I am okay. I started looking for a course in miracles and several lecturers who feature miracles in their writing. As I looked on a favorite site Thomas Moore is now a featured columnist and I looked at his site. Thinking over the past day and events another idea emerged and within miracles there is a sense of belonging of community for lack of better wording and pondering. I was caught in a paragraph from Moore’s site. I highly recommend a look at his website when time allows. Within the context of miracles and the world in general, so often teenagers get confused by all the horror and death. Moore was addressing this in previous paragraphs and lead into this thought.

 

“We could ask the same question about the thousands of children being killed and horribly wounded in wars across the globe. This horror exists because we have not matured enough to create a world community that genuinely serves the welfare of our children. Again, it’s a theological matter. We operate under an infantile illusion that the religions are in competition with each other, and we battle our anxious beliefs with literal weapons. We profess religions that are ninety percent ideology, full of ego, and, in the face of this pseudo religion, create a secularist society, which by definition is incapable of genuine community.” Thomas Moore

 

I was looking at Yahoo news today and three of ten articles or so were religious related granted it is a holiday season in several different religions. One that catches my attention is a court over turning intelligent design which some school systems and politicians are pushing. The Iranian President declares a ban on western music, clothing, ideas, morals, and who knows what else. In Bethlehem this time of year always conflict between various denominations and religions.

 

As I sit thinking the term genuine community is an interesting one. Could we even consider this, that might truly be construed a miracle considering wars have been fought over religion for thousands of years. When you get down and dirty however it is never ideology but actually more over money but religion was easier to accept. Can we become a community each step in its place. As I talked with my friend who had lost a son and for her the story unraveled over years not instantaneously there was not a blinding flash of  light but pieces falling in place one by one leading to that day in the launder mat and our talk. It may be a long term miracle perhaps? My miracle would be to no longer have to ask my friends to keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts that would be the miracle I seek and perhaps if we can chip away piece by piece at building community at building relationships at climbing up each shovel full of dirt up one at a time what seemingly is getting hit in the face with a shovel full of dirt could in effect be freedom and maybe even peace someday and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What do we really know?

Bird Droppings December 6, 2016

What do we really know?

 

“Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.” Henry Giroux, The War against teachers as public intellectuals in dark times, 12-17-12, Truthout

 

Over the past years I have read so many articles and blogs glorifying concealed weapons and toting how a single armed teacher could have saved the day in Newton Ct. I find it so very interesting that the largest lobby for guns and gun ownership seldom offers a solution other than more guns. Occasionally they will offer to sit down and help come up with a solution, but it never happens. I read an article or post where someone compared making a bomb at home, that was done on a huge scale with easily purchased fertilizer and diesel fuel not enough years ago in Oklahoma City or have we forgotten the children who died there. A concealed weapon would not have mattered in that situation. As a psychology oriented teacher and having spent many years working with severely disturbed students I continue to look towards more support to mental health where funding has been stripped to the bone dating back to Ronald Reagan. Many facilities and mental health situations are in private corporations hands that while taking care of their sic human needs for those who need help they do very little actual caring for. Sadly there are so many issues and so many answers flying about and seldom help offered.

 

. “The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

 

Yesterday I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

 

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

 

I just went back and reread UGA professor Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

 

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well.  But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

 

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

 

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

 

Today and the past few days we are involved in end of course tests in our high school. As I think about this four teachers had four distinctly differing percentages of pass rates. County, State, and Federal officials look at pass rates only. My first question is, are these classes the same in makeup? How many included special educations students since new state laws allow up to ten and more if approved. How many at risk students and remedial students that have not tested well in previous grades. After looking at specifics say in the biology test. The highest pass rate was in an advanced class of biology with a one hundred percent pass rate. As we went through the scoring the numbers of special education students and at risk increased to a teacher whose class had a seventy seven percent pass rate had sixty three percent either special ed and or at risk. What was also amazing was looking at top scores a higher percentage of non-special ed and non at risk students exceeded ninety percent than in advanced class.

So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, and our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I went into my room at school to write today thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.

 

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes we can. So many years ago a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

It is about telling our grand children

Bird Droppings December 5, 2016
It is about telling our grand children

Yesterday my wife and I took our local grandbabies for a movie and lunch. We went to a movie about oral traditions Disney’s new kid’s movie Moana. Being a fan of oral tradition I took notice to how each symbol and decoration on walls and hangings had significance and meaning. Some were ones learned by elders others made by current artists in the village.  I thought to our Christmas tree and various decorations we have collected over the years. One is an interesting contraption my oldest son picked out when he was two or so, and always a conversation piece. I shared with my wife how our tree was a family history of sorts. In the spirit of tradition every year she gives our grandchildren an ornament for their tree. Thinking back to Moana oral family traditions we need more of them.

After a busy weekend of visiting, shopping, decorating and family time I was trying to recover and more things needed to be done, garlands and lights up and more shopping.  I had a few moments to enjoy the company of three of my grandchildren. Last year this time my grandson and I learned to crawl upstairs of course that is where the play room is and he soon learned the intricacies of stair climbing. My mother had a blanket for him and he settled in wrapped in his new blanket and was occupied for thirty minutes sitting in my lap. We talked not of the specifics of philosophy or spirituality but of which Mickey Mouse character is the best. There will be time as he gets older to share stories and wisdom.

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life-long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

I look forward to the day I can tell all my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our life-times.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my granddaughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons and what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

“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 intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

So in the midst of a holiday season I am wondering what lesson should I first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

 

 

 

Can you give it one more try?

Bird Droppings December 2, 2016
Can you give it one more try?

 

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.” Satchel Paige often attributed to J. Askenberg

 

Teachers at my school judge seasons by testing season not weather. I am sitting here this morning trying to sort through what test practicing should we do today. Then after test practicing we will simulate test questions and responses. Test vocabulary is next and maybe a review game. Alright lesson plan nearly done leaves five minutes to cover photosynthesis. However on the weather side my herb garden is nearly gone as all of the salvias took a beating yesterday with cold. My angel trumpet plants have finally gone by the wayside although after literally hundreds of blooms they had a good run. I am ready for summer and officially it is not winter yet. As I thought sitting here I liked this quote to start my day today. Often when I stumble on a quote I try and find who this person is. J. Askenberg proved a bit difficult, I found this quote 160 times in sermons and lectures and various quote engines but not who this person was other than a writer. Then in my looking one more time I actually found this morning it was Satchel Paige who first said it and Askenberg is often attributed.

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas A. Edison

 

It has been some time since I had the chance to ride into Atlanta with my middle son; we were comparing football games from the previous weekend. Now he and several other Georgia Tech fans and graduates have a running blog site of course featuring Tech’s various athletic teams although he seldom in involved anymore. My son is a graduate and a very big Georgia Tech fan having been a past driver of the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech and a former avid member of the Swarm, and Ramblin Wreck clubs. Many months ago we got talking about a young man who went to The University of Georgia from the Air Force Academy, I recall our conversation. This young man walked on in football and became the starting Fullback. This young man perseveres and many the stories at our high school. One my son brought up was how in Calculus it would take him 45 minutes to get problems others got in 10 minutes or less. The interesting thing was he was Salutatorian of his graduating class, he never quit.

 

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliot

 

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.” B. C. Forbes

 

“Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal; while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.” Herodotus

 

Each step we take in life can be difficult; each new pathway we face as we plod along can have more bumps than the last. It is through effort we reach that place we are going. What if life were so simple and there were never difficulties? What if the road was straight and clear and only forward momentum was needed? I remember many road trips out west and roads that were perfectly smooth no pot holes and straight as an arrow for many miles, it was all I could do to stay awake. Life would be so boring without a bump or a curve in the road, or perhaps a fork to choose from as we go.

 

“We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.” Helen Keller

 

Most folks will not remember Helen Keller and may have seen the many different versions of “the Miracle Worker”. Annie Sylvan was a teacher who wouldn’t give up on her student Helen. Helen was blind and deaf and Annie found a spark and hope, and with Annie’s help Helen would go on to address leaders of the world in her public life.

 

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” H. Ross Perot

 

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” John Wooden

 

If you ask who was the greatest coach in college basketball of all time at my house John Wooden will be a unanimous pick. As I read this Woodenism, it is so true, so many students and teachers start out but at the first difficulty quit. It could be a difficult student that does not conform to a set pattern and way of doing things or a new teacher who comes to a class of students who are all ready to quit. There are answers; there are solutions if we choose to look. Edison had a barrel of failed light bulbs as a reminder as he proceeded to find a workable light bulb. It is about not quitting, the answers are there when you give it one more try. 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 in education?

Bird Droppings December 1, 2016

What is the Holy Grail in education?

 

Teachers in Georgia High Schools on block schedule are scrambling this time of year getting ready for the semester End of Course milestones. Basically teachers have been told by administrators to prepare for the tests. Teachers are encouraged to be proactive and practice test taking, do practice questions as openers, test and more tests. Of the past sixteen years never before have I felt the pressure to teach to the test. Sounds so simple but teachers do not know what is on the test. On one hand we are told it covers standards, so teach to the standards. But the tests are notorious for emphasizing certain standards and not covering others. So teachers are scrambling we just got last year’s scores and found out the proficiency rating changed from seventy percent to eighty percent. Some argue well that’s raising the bar. When is raising the bar absurd. If our student body is a cross section of America and a normal standard bell shaped curve is used eighty percent is top twenty percent. We can adjust curve of test and make a fifty to a eighty but with 10,000

Students and you are told to have all students in proficient range something has to give.

 

“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. Would it be political to say he reminds me of Arne Duncan or should I throw out the proposed secretary of education’s name?

 

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 as I think about a past weekend and driving over seven hundred miles and my wife and I, old folks are always worn out. Holidays are coming and travel is instore. We will be going all different directions, Warner Robins Ga. With in-laws, North Carolina to for a visit with two grand babies and then home to spend time with our Winder grand babies. Two birthdays coming up as well. It was nearly six years ago on a drive to Florida for our first granddaughter’s birth my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher, I borrow from it often.

 

“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 does 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 discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. I over the years have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my first 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 another teacher 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, retired teacher Pa.

 

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)

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