Do we teach or are we taught, a great question?

Bird Droppings August 2, 2018
Do we teach or are we taught, a great question?


“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein


Andrea Teader does Podcasts, I happened upon one while sitting in my doctor’s office looking up storytelling on the internet. She started her Podcast, The power of storytelling in Teaching, with this quote.


“Tell me a fact I will learn. Tell me a truth I will believe. Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Native American Proverb


There is significant power in the story as a teaching tool. Over the years I have used with my students in college, high school and with much younger children always with great success. My goal is to share storytelling as a means to engage students in the curriculum and to help teachers tell stories. Once upon a time in a land far away, lived a young man, this may not be the way a dissertation could start but that is how stories start and children learn better using imagination than simply providing traditional linear lessons. So there is a story behind it in more ways than one. So looking at a new school year and hearing the scuttle butt of more of the same or worse, we as teachers can chose to respond. I like the word catalyst. Many teachers think of themselves as a cure all for the ills of education. I know I do on occasions. I ran into a friend this morning and was set straight. I was informed it wasn’t what I taught but what they saw about me. The example I was setting in how I responded to the students. Catalyst, I like it I am a catalyst.


“We as teachers should be the catalyst not the solution.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.


So many times when discussing students who are having difficult times an individual teacher’s perspective is all that matters. Recently I was about to thump another teacher in the head listening to comments about how if this student had a better work ethic. I have heard work ethic a lot over the years. This or that student needs a better work ethic. But what if you really do not like that teacher and or subject and better yet what if you have a disability that inhibits you from even taking in the information. Every day I see square pegs hammered into round holes. It is the way our education system works I am told. I am always amused that Mr. Einstein was one who did not have a great work ethic in school. Matter of fact he failed math a time or two and then he rewrote the books.


“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein


We rely so much on prepackaged, prewritten, preformed, precooked, pretested, pre-read, and pre-understood everything that creativity, imagination and uniqueness get left on the shelf. We have been giving make up Georgia High School Graduation tests and or End of Course Tests over the years in my old school. In theory tests of content with a smattering of cognitive questions thrown in however, several questions while multiply choice could be answered in numerous ways and here are high school students trying to analysis and answer questions for example science teacher’s question. What if you miss one of those questions and get a 499 and 500 is passing. A good friend who graduated nearly fifteen years ago had taken the science test four times and failed by a total of eight points and had not graduated. What if each time this person answered that one question the same way a question that is either incorrect or not answerable. This person was an A and B student and after four tries was too frustrated to try again.


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein


How and why and what should be taught are always at the crux of curriculum and instructional administrators challenges. But one of the most difficult aspects of education is instilling a desire to learn as Einstein states wanting to seek the mysterious. Too few are the students who truly want to learn most and not just simply pass and get on. In fourteen years of high school teaching one of my greatest moments was being asked who wrote the poem when I read Dylan Thomas. I was asked by a kid who most thought could not read and then he read the entire book that weekend. The mysterious is a mysterious thing.


It was suggested that I use idea of teaching as improvisational art during one of my classes to get back up to speed, after a seven year hiatus and a couple of grand babies. As I looked at the rationale for my dissertation I realized my own teaching is often very improvisational, taking a student’s interest and or question and building into our lesson, that teachable moment. Literally building a story with the student and class. I have said often I generally write lesson plans after the fact. However next time I teach that topic in my plans I have included that event and reflections. My teaching often becomes a tapestry of stories woven into the lesson and with the students in the class. It pulls ideas and flows through the class using the student’s interactions and interests to build on. 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)



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