Trying not to trip on a grain of sand on the first day of a new year

Bird Droppings January 1, 2021

Trying not to trip on a grain of sand on the first day of a new year

I was so remarkably close to starting this day with the title of Bentley, however as I thought further some might elude that nomenclature to a rather pricey car. It was an old post on Facebook from a former student about moving and she needed help cleaning her apartment that got me on Bentley. Many years back I had a swimmer on the high school swim team. This was nearly twenty years ago and before I became founder of the INWTCSTA society (I never want to coach swim team again), I met a young lady. She had two sisters and at that time well that is another story. However she mentioned her youngest sister was in ninth grade and was a hand full, always getting into trouble. Next day as my coincidences go I met her in the hall standing with an assistant principal being written up for a dress code violation and talking back. As the years went on both she and her sister had numerous dress code issues. They had the blonde and black hair styles before anyone else knew about it and always a little too short of skirt or one too many piercings.

As the years went on the two older sisters graduated and I was left with that ninth grader who really had a temper at times. It seems she was constantly in ISS, in school suspension. It wasn’t long till near about every day she ends up in my sanctuary, my old class room studying or using the computers, often she would be asked to leave by her teachers. Finally as her senior year was coming up she was frustrated and went the route of home schooling through a local program and graduated ahead of schedule. I recall running into her a local mall and she was due to have a baby. She is told me she was naming her little boy to be Bentley. I remember thinking and wondering as youngsters have children how it will impact them. So now years later I am not at all concerned about it, she is an awesome mom with a great son. She is still taking everything in stride and not losing sight of her goals ahead working as a costume designer for the movie industry in Georgia.

“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” Robert Service

Over the years I have seen similar quotes several from Zen writings. Robert Service best known as the Yukon poet was quite a character having lived the length and breathe of Canada. As we tend to do so often in life we end up floundering on the small things. So often how we see things affects what we do and how we do it. For many years I have been of the persuasion that life is presenting itself moment by moment, the puzzle is slowly falling in place each piece one at a time. So often many people get locked in on a piece and not the whole final picture. They become limited in where and when and why.

I recall a puzzle several years ago. An artist designed the ultimate puzzle. It was white on both sides no real edges as it was an odd shape, with pieces that were very similar and yet each piece only had one place it would work. The solving of the puzzle was even quite impossible and an award was offered of $1,000,000.00 to the first person to solve this puzzle was offered. The problem was you would get so involved in each literally similar piece and could not see a whole, and without a context to work with the content went nowhere. I have said something similar about education so many times.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

Sometimes I wonder if in education we forget Yogi’s words, we get so caught up in the grain of sand we forget where we are going or do not know to begin with but still try and go. We end up some place else totally and often alien.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Stephen A. Brennan

Several happenings yesterday offered me ideas for today; one was listening to a former student make a comment about staying in school to get a high school diploma, so he wouldn’t have to work at a fast food restaurant all his life. Another was another former student who had quit school in ninth grade, home schooled and was coming back, and she missed socialization and found every job application had a check box for high school graduate.

“The person with a fixed goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal in a minimum of time and with a minimum of physical effort. Just pursue the thought unceasingly. Step by step you will achieve realization, for all your faculties and powers become directed to that end.” Claude M. Bristol

As I worked in Special Education, we wrote IEP’s for student’s, Individual education plans. In those plans were goals. Often they can be meaningless; seven out of ten times, seventy percent the student will not talk back to the teacher. Fortunately most students do not read their goals. I could envision a smart kid sitting there with paper and pencil keeping data just as EBD teachers do. Thinking to themselves, ok I talked back twice today out of six times I spoke with my teacher I will save up for later and be nice for a while. So just before the bell this students hammers the teacher and the teacher starts to write a referral and this wise student pulls out their goal sheet and says I am only meeting my goals, seven out of ten times I did not talk back, so you cannot write me up. I am mastering my goals.

“I learned that, before you reach an objective, you must be ready with a new one, and you must start to communicate it to the organization. But it is not the goal itself that is important.” Jan Carlzon

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? She asked. Where do you want to go? Was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.” Lewis Carroll

Perhaps where I see the issue is the student is one hundred percent in compliance with a mastery of only seventy percent. If I graded daily on mastery that student gets an A for the day barely passing, you learn quickly seventy percent is all you need to achieve most goals and once learned that is difficult to get rid of. Why not have a goal that states, a student will not talk back to teacher and will be evaluated daily by a self-check rubric, now seventy percent means seventy percent and the student is totally responsible for actions.

“The goal you set must be challenging. At the same time, it should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. It should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.” Rick Hansen

So often in education we run around with buckets if sand and keep filling our shoes, and never ever get to even see the mountain we are forever cleaning the grains of sand out one at a time. As Robert Service stated, “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” However what if we carefully remove that grain and start building a sand castle, every mountain started as a grain of sand. 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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