Bird Droppings October 7, 2019
Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is
It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day in some time I felt pretty good it could be it is fall break and later today my grandkids are coming over. It was last year on a spur of the moment while grocery shopping I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with a herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. I hopefully will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend I missed a mountaineering festival in North Georgia Saturday due to both my wife and I being incapacitated.
I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.
“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough.
As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky
It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example, a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?
“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College
Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.
“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce
“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe
Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.
“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden
Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.
“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)
I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.
“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird
As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.
“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini
“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland
I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids’ reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland
When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago, I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.
“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler
As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.
“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland
After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over their door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky
Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.
“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus, life is always new.” Thomas Merton
Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always knew if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)