Children Learn what they Live

Bird Droppings May 20, 2011
Children Learn what they Live

It is such a beautiful morning and quiet out side, I had the opportunity to sit and meditate for nearly an hour under the full moon today. I took our dog out and the air was still and nearly silent however the quiet and sounds that permeated were fantastic. A great horned owl periodically pierced the quiet along with a whippoorwill. As I listened a bit more carefully, still little noise even in the background other than handful of crickets and a soft breeze in the trees. I had burned some sage leaves in a bowl with a smidgen of sweet grass and the aroma added to the ambiance. For the first time in some time there were few human interferences available. Air conditioners were still as it was cool, cars were not quite moving on the nearby roads, and most normal animals and humans were still asleep. I started thinking about my on views on education and raising kids. I came back to some old ideas I have had around for some time.

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant

I have used this story several times over the years having shared this short thought in previous droppings and in classes. It is a story entitled “Our nature” which is from ancient Zen thought and writings I found this on a professor from Rdyer University’s website after seeing the story numerous times thrown out on the internet.

“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’ “ Dr. John Suler, Ryder University

As I look at this story there are many possible reactions. How foolish is the monk who gets stung, first he knows it is a scorpion, then he also knows scorpions will sting, and lastly he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. I find there are applications to parenting, friendship, and teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion. As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and Sydney J. Harris I came up on this article from Harris’s column Strictly Speaking. .

“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent

Yesterday in class I was listening to students tell why they have low grades as we get into finals. One made the comment “but I am passing I have a 70” and another blurted out “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through various notes and ideas I wondered how we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student. How do we change the attitude of so many? Most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion or why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”. Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster around 1972 or so in a shop outside Philadelphia. The poster is entitled “Children Learn what they Live” and was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte in 1972 and goes as follows:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves
and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Everyday I look across my room and there hanging is that ancient poster still as viable today as it was in 1972. Sydney J. Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation but he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion, an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example, is it that motivation is from inside. Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements it is what children see and feel as they grow up that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark.
Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.

“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte

It really is not that difficult. How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty possibilities presented. No matter how big the carrot dangled in front of us it must come from within as well and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. Today a beautiful day please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your minds.
namaste
bird

PS. Maybe, just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past thirty nine years that has kept me going and not to stepping on scorpions.

Empathy; Do we have it?

Droppings May 15, 2011
Empathy; do we all have it?

“The capacity for consciousness of ourselves gives us the ability to see ourselves as others see us and to have empathy with others. It underlies our remarkable capacity to transport ourselves into someone else’s parlor where we will be in reality next week, and then in imagination to think and plan how we will act. And it enables us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place, and to ask how we would feel and what we would do if we were this other person. No matter how poorly we use or fail to use or even abuse these capacities, they are the rudiments of our ability to begin to love our neighbor, to have ethical sensitivity, to see truth, to create beauty, to devote ourselves to ideals, and to die for them if need be. To fulfill these potentialities is to be a person.” Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself, pp. 74-76

Empathy is a very difficult word to discuss. For many it does not exist and others actually live by this simple word. As I look at May’s idea of empathy which is a capacity for consciousness I consider we are all conscious I would think. But it is being able to see and feel in someone else’s shoes that is the key to this consciousness. Love perhaps becomes an integral aspect of empathy. In my own views I feel empathy is crucial to any field dealing with people be that nurses, teachers, pastors and all who touch lives. For these folks empathy is a must and it is that gift that allows us to be closer and to be able to touch the soul of another.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession” Sophocles

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Theresa

Key aspects of empathy are kindness, love, and caring and these are all positive attributes of empathy. Adams says there is a ripple effect. I have over the years used the illustration of a pebble in the pond story many times. When you toss a pebble into still water and the ripples emanate out from the point of contact going till they hit the edge of the pond and in effect they return only colliding with the ripples still in coming. That small act does continue many times over. Several years ago a movie was made of small acts of kindness and the impact on a community I always think what if.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahil Gibran

“…successful learners also have insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding–in a word, empathy.” B. F Jones, The New Definition of Learning: The First Step to School Reform

“Understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

A simple word that can be so powerful if put to use. Empathy can be a tool for teachers, nurses, pastors and a key to the heart and souls of others. Recently in defining my own philosophy of teaching I used the word empathy as a key aspect of my own personal belief in teaching. Having empathy makes for a more meaningful and believable teacher. I was talking with a good friend the other day and discussing consequences. I have never given detention in ten years. I asked is detention a meaningful consequence? What if it is for talking in class as he was writing slips for detention? Well what else do I do? My answer was having class so intrigued they are not talking and mesmerize them to a point of attention.
Most consequences are due to not teaching and not empathizing with students. Trusting, understanding, and caring these are keys to successful teaching. I was asked about referrals and in school suspension and out of school suspension. I have found nine times out of ten writing a referral and waiting a few days for a consequence effectively negates the consequence so why not deal with in class unless it is such that needs immediate response. If the issue is serious enough and requires attention and immediate action; then go directly to administration. But more often than not with empathy it is not even happening so often it is seeking attention or a plea for help.

“In addition to the shared feeling and accurate understanding dimensions of empathy, some writers also focus on the empathetic person’s communication of understanding to the person whose “internal frame of reference” he or she has grasped.” Kathleen Cotton, SIR, Developing empathy in children and adults

“Regardless of conflicting views about the appropriate place, if any, of “values education” in the schools, people are generally able to agree that developing this capacity to understand, appreciate, and communicate meaningfully with others is an important and desirable goal. This enables us to move away from our differences of opinion about the specific CONTENT of “good character,” focusing instead on the PROCESS whereby people come to care about one another and communicate that caring through their behavior. “Kathleen Cotton

One of those times I wished I could say I wish I had said that maybe some day. So often we forget that this interaction with others is so critical to success in life. Not only in school but when you walk out the door to your home and to the store. Each moment we are alive we interact with others unless we sit on a mountain top somewhere contemplating about the passing of a cloud although that is not a bad thought. I wonder if there is a decent pay scale for that position. We interact and if those interactions are in an understanding way and I think it is empathy. So much more will be gained by both people. Kathleen Cotton writes further about developing empathy in students and adults and perhaps this is something we should be pursuing. Maybe we all should try and empathize a bit more and maybe then I would not be offering daily please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird