In a world of data, can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings June 30, 2022
In a world of data, can we still use intuition?

I spent the better part of the last week either sitting on or walking on the beach at Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Whenever my wife and I go, we ensure we see the sunrise every morning. It was supposed to be raining, but we got a tremendous two-mile walk the first morning. That was the longest walk I have gone in two years without stopping to sit down. My cardiologist told me that a pacemaker would change the quality of my life, and he was not kidding. Sitting listening to the wind and waves, I tended to drift into a philosophical wonderland.

I had a thought this morning, and it is depressing when I think about it. We are training our new teachers in all the things that we as older teachers find wrong in education. (pre-NCLB) It hit me as we are teaching these new teachers how to take tests the “right” way. We are teaching all these new teachers that standardized testing is good and essential. We are teaching all these new teachers to skip the critical thinking parts of life to adhere to mandated standards. We are skipping the pieces that teach about imagination. Sadly, we teach we need to skip all these things because we need to concentrate on testing. I see far too often their courses are now being focused on how to take tests, how to teach kids to take tests, and how to talk to kids about testing. We are losing imagination, and we are losing critical thinking skills in our new teachers. A piece I find disheartening is we, too, are losing all the stories. We are losing all the creativity and individuality of the students by taking it away from the teachers.

The inherent skill sets often make a great teacher, and I am speaking of those almost instinctual attributes. Granted, in a scientific study, more than likely, these are learned skills, but there is an aspect that is still not with all teachers. I told a fellow teacher I could tell when a child has emotional issues after observing for a few minutes and listening. Granted, observations are part of most evaluations, but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years, several children I have worked with have recommended additional involvement and, unfortunately, also got to say I told you so in the future. However, I have refrained from actually saying that.

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

As I was discussing the final class debriefing, as it is called in a teacher training program, I recalled a thought that hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Some teachers fail; others flounder in intuition, a simple thought, and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom; it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

In a teacher training session on grading one time, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that. One teacher said do you have that written down? What is your starting point? How much planning time do you allow? I watched and heard in disbelief that this situation was one of the teachable moments going by the wayside. The person speaking turned around, stunned as I was, and said I do not plan; it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students, and each day they experience new things, and we build on that.

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

I began thinking of keywords in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Teaching anachronisms helped, and I found IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy, and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher, a good parent, and a good person.

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

Other researchers consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

So many years ago, Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

I saw this note, and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

I do not know exactly what this entity is; we call it intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers; some know answers, and others must understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days, I always seemed to return to a favorite quote.

“Life is about the journey, not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

One of my red-neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a destination goal, but the journey of getting there is as critical and crucial as a result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go, you see so much more. I recall a long childhood trip where we would play games looking for animals. If you look only for red-tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see, we up the chances of seeing something every few seconds or minutes. Open that to all animals, and now every few seconds, you are looking for details on the roadside, trees, and grass. Life is so similar; some people look for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies, I think.

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

I wish I had said that. 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,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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