Bird Droppings November 26, 2018
Can we teach children to love learning again
This has been a perplexing time of my life. The thoughts of leaving retirement and going back to work and literally only a week left of retirement part one sort of over whelming me. I have a paper submitted that I am waiting on a response. My former isolated country existence has been shattered by houses going up next door. My car is filled to over flowing with stuff for Goodwill. Perhaps that is what has hit me the most lately how we accumulate stuff. Fifty t-shorts collected over time, favorite magazines, it may be most anything but stuff. Granted I do not include books in stuff. So perhaps it is getting rid of clutter in life and simply wondering what is next got me seriously thinking back.
It has been a bit over two years ago a car wreck in North Georgia and a young man was killed and his passenger who was a good friend of my youngest son was severely injured. I came to find the young man who lost his life was the son of a friend who baby sat our kids years ago. My thoughts rambled back a few more years to when I drove to my son’s accident site and watched as medics pulled him out of his car and life flight took him to Grady Memorial Hospital. We were called to a staff meeting first thing one morning several years back and told of one of our teachers had been in an accident and there were fatalities. She was ok but in the other car two died. In each of these accidents lives were changed radically in a brief few minutes as I read literally thousands of posts in social media. I had co-taught with this teacher and went into the class unsure of what to say and do the day after. I shared my heart in that class of these traumatic events, and most of the students walked away as they do so often with blank stares, ear phones plugged in and or giggles about a friend’s texting. I saw the apathy we as adults have taught so well.
It has been a few years ago when a young lady who happens to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt same colors and sequence of colors but no confederate flags. The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning or colors. I watch the politics play out and the colors are there for sure.
“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela
I recall a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why do we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweat shirt and my students reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever as an answer. Whatever is a quitter’s statement? Had that student answered with arguable statements from the rightwing Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.
“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sense, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha
I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and somewhere between the two quotes is an answer. I have never being satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.
How do we re-instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black elected in a general election, and to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison nearly twenty seven years.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. “ Nelson Mandela
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom
Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helped South Africa in their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. “ Albert Einstein
Why children stop questioning and stop that desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough. I often think that teachers to stifle learning, the second they stop a child’s questioning or turn their back on inquisitiveness.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another. Children are taught in school to follow the pathway. I often make comments about the red lines in my grand childrens school. My grandson informed me to stay on the line pop pop.
“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.
“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall whichever comes first. As a child I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barn yard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.
“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day a thousand times over. “Kent Nerburn, On Education and Learning
I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before too and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one. It has been nearly fifty years since it was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret what gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and answer. Please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)