Our perceptions vary greatly about life

Bird Droppings November 8, 2021

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

Over twenty years ago, I was waiting to go back to teaching after spending nearly twenty-three years in the publishing business. I was anxious. I had gone by the high school and signed a few forms and talked with the principal for an hour or so. Then the next day came, and within hours I was immersed in a day I will not forget. It was my first day back teaching.

In contrast, I spent most of the day locked in a small resource room on a school lockdown. It is not hard t remember the date, and the 9-11 bombing happened while I was still introducing myself to my students. We did get to know each other.

I did this again about two years ago, although I did not quite have the same situation I was in last time. A new county, new school, new students’ new staff, and a much larger classroom. I had spent some time in the building and picked up keys and a computer. I thought I was ready. Interestingly I was more prepared than I was twenty years ago. With a couple of degrees, a good bit of research and writing, and thousands of students’ worth of experiences, I think I can handle almost anything a Monday can throw at me. I still dread Mondays, and perhaps for the first time in my teaching career not looking forward to going to work.

I have worked with over fifty different principals, superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and assistant principals. Numerous department chairs, curriculum coaches, instructional coaches, and various other titles in public school teaching. I had many I disagreed with, and they are long gone. Some went back to teaching; some were fired, two were in jail, and some were great education leaders. However, as I go to work today for the first time in my teaching, I have never felt a person shouldn’t be in educational leadership as much as I do now. Leadership is now about power. It is about being an example of what it is you want your employees to attain. Perception is a strange thing.

“To different minds, the same world is a hell and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am coming back to perception. My own is significantly different than my walking into the classroom twenty years ago. Each moment is for each other, and as I use the word repeatedly, our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson eloquently states, “the same world is a hell and a heaven,” depending on how you take it. How we live life, and our reactions can be construed much the same way. I have been on a journey my entire life and yet went with the flow for many years. Now I try and savor each moment and second.

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

We live in a world of contrast, black, white, and a swirling of gray, then somewhere, there is a dividing line to separate the differences. Our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the variations is our dealing with life.

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

Many years ago, I recalled a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water each morning. One was new and held every drop from the river to the house. The other jug had a crack in it, and a steady stream of water leaked out from the river to the house. Often when arriving at the house, the cracked jug would be empty. One day the new jug, most boastful, said to the cracked jug, how can you be so happy you never complete your task? Each day all your water leaks out, and you come home empty. The cracked jug said, smiling and never once upset, “have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

I find this so true in high school among students; some who are so capable choose just to pass. “I have a seventy. I am passing. That’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work on each aspect of their endeavor. Every complex sentence is a chore, but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Graduation test five times each time. She would be closer to gaining points as she went. Finally, she passed by two points. I have read how the school board has again passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy. Sadly, within that are the girls and guys who try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but because of ability. Yet, they are in jeopardy of not walking at graduation.

I have read how we need to uphold that standard numerous times, but it is a faulty one. There are exceptions, and another young lady is one, and she and her mother fought with the county office to walk. She received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off. She took testing classes, studied hard, and had been a good student all twelve years, and she was an honor student. She wasn’t a person who did not deserve to walk. She tried more than many who did walk, but our view was a failure, and we punished her at graduation time. She quit school the last week of school and went on to get a GED.

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge 

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down, and perception is radically different.

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

So often, we limit ourselves. We set up the roadblocks and stopped dead in our tracks, all possibility of success. I have seen students do this and quit at education. Sometimes it may be a teacher’s fault for not answering a question or responding in a way that is perceived as meaningful to the student. But ultimately, as teachers and learners ourselves, we need to try and breakthrough and build students up.

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale  

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make; there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So, novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow-men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson  

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. Last week as I was helping someone do a paper, a question was asked: “when did racism start? Was it during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man; some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal at signs of racism with the Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with, more information, more knowledge, more data to compile, and their response is what had been looked at one way has become different.

“There are times when you just get down. You feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone famous as a model, making it more prominent as an actress. As her modeling career started to dwindle, she thought all was over, but interestingly enough, now she models perhaps more that she is famous as an actress.

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in life. Col. Sanders changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame, and their attitude did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

Every day I hear a student blaming a teacher for being a sorry teacher. I have never yet listened to a student say they were a sorry student. But I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy “it’s passing,” and where does the blame lie if blame is appropriate in effect. We are the culprits not a teacher, not the book and not the class we choose. We choose, and we choose to fail or succeed. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on 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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