Bird Droppings January 8, 2021
Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration
I woke up a bit earlier than normal although I did have a particularly good night’s sleep. I started thinking back to a day that had been thrown off by an administrator’s discipline talk. The afternoon immediately following, we were dealing with behavior issues basically the rest of the day. Simply doing classroom management was not my style. I enjoy storytelling and real hands-on teaching and I finally reached a point where I said to myself “To hell with this”, there are ten minutes left in the day let us just survive. That bothered me. The saving grace was seeing my grandkids that Friday afternoon. I got up this morning and went to my computer to try and do a few things before the day gets under way. Blood on the tracks, by Bob Dylan quietly in the back ground. So, I will borrow a few words from Dylan going back to the sixties.
“Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan
I was pretending I just did not see all that day. A simple idea caught my attention this morning. In a biology I give I talk about pepper moths and evolution and mutation. A research done in England with a moth and industrialization. White speckled moths slowly shifted to black as pollution from factories darkened the sky and soot covered trees. Of all ideas to pop and make me realize I wasn’t teaching only filling in minutes just blowing in the wind. A peppered moth did me in. Inspiration is a key but the lifelong challenge e for teachers.
Nearly twenty years ago at a county wide teacher kick off meeting which was traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome for the new school year, led by an outsider brought in canned speaker. The county pays big bucks to an inspirational speaker paid to come in and inspire us as teachers. It could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seemed each year the county would try a new approach. A new superintendent back with all the austerity cuts, cut this program out first which most teachers did not have an issue with.
Although I would have paid to hear and would enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter but we never had that privilege. In the past before the county cut out that start up program, we would car pool over to one of the high school gyms near the county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub. However, a recent speaker to our seniors reminded me of that meeting nearly fifteen years back. A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. The guest speaker for our seniors made this point as well about first impressions. So, I start today with a quote from a young college professor.
“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III
Prior to at aforementioned annual teachers inspirational gathering in the county this same professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta or Monroe where the school is located he was just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards podium and then the hip hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world-wide consultant and motivational speaker.
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather
We teachers sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting students attention.
“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun
New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the class room inspiring students to learn. It has been over fifty years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have set at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and as a professional management training coordinator.
“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder
I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly seventeen years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. Now he is teaching Special education and head coach of a wrestling team with four straight state championships. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward
This is what teaching is about, it is inspiration and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting the example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow it does not sink in with most teachers. So, as we head towards a weekend the next few weeks will be interesting as COVID-19 cases are climbing across the country. 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,
(We are all related)