Teach to where the learning will be, not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 2, 2020

Teach to where the learning will be, not to where it is

I got a text from my middle son that a package was coming from my granddaughter and fragile. My box arrived today, and I thought I should open while videotaping. I carefully opened as per instructions from my granddaughter. I pulled out the stuffing and padding and found a handmade piece of pottery. It was an ugly face jug. My son told my granddaughter I used to collect them, and she made me one. On the backside was the crucial piece. She made some red flowers. I received a text explaining the flowers and a tape of Harry Chapin singing “Flowers are Red.” I highly recommend teachers and parents; listen to this song. A little boy goes to school and colors, and the teacher corrects him. 

“And she said…Flowers are red young man, and Green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way. Then the way they always have been seen, But the little boy said…There are so many colors in the rainbow, So many colors in the morning sun, So many colors in a flower, and I see everyone.” Harry Chapin

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day I felt relatively good could be the ugly face jug I received from my granddaughter. Last year on the 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 an herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in, my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. Hopefully, I will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend. I hope to make the mountaineering festival in North Georgia coming up I Missed last year due to 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 state’s curriculum 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

Last night, 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 of my Life, it was 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. For 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 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 learning and democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve Children’s Lives. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is the right 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 is still 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. In this quote, I expect a crucial element, be where the puck will 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 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 set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little to 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 the 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 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 problematic 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 read 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 1960s. 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 morning’s chill 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 ambient 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. The thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to Life and Life to thought that 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 regularly 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 1960s, 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,

 Mitakuye Oyasin

 (We are all related)


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