Bird Droppings January 5, 2022
Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration
I woke up a bit earlier than usual, although I did have an excellent night’s sleep. I started thinking about a day thrown off by an administrator’s discipline talk. The afternoon immediately following, we dealt with behavior issues the rest of the day. Simply doing classroom management was not my style. I enjoy storytelling and authentic 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 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 got underway. Blood on the tracks, by Bob Dylan quietly in the background. 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. In biology, I gave a talk about pepper moths and evolution and mutation. The research was 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 lifelong challenge 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. With all the austerity cuts, a new superintendent cut this program out first, which most teachers did not have an issue with.
Although I would have paid to hear and would enjoy hearing Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter, we never had that privilege. In the past, before the county cut out that start-up program, we would need to carpool 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 before the meeting. The guest speaker for our seniors also made this point 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
Before the aforementioned annual teacher’s inspirational gathering in the county, this same professor walked 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, and 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 the podium. The hip hop fellow moves toward the mike, take charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a worldwide 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 want to change students’ lives immediately, but the fundamental differences are 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 in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a genuinely great teacher inspiring students to learn in the classroom. It has been over fifty years since I was in his class, yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I have ever had. Over the years, I have sat at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and 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 the inspiration, and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teacher’s meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the critical component in teaching it is our example. It is setting an example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow, it does not sink in with most teachers. So, the next few weeks will be interesting as COVID-19 cases are climbing across the country as we head towards a weekend. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)