Honesty as Policy

Bird droppings August 5, 2011
Honesty as Policy

I walked out to a very still and quiet morning around two thirty this morning. Being my official first day back to school (work) I looked for a smiling moon sort of a good luck charm to no avail. I would use this reference to a moon from back in the day “a smiling moon” a good friend who would read my notes would always respond explaining how the sun and earth and moon would be in certain positions and create this effect. But what about back in the day before astronomy and telescopes and science when man simply took what was presented and formulated a rational which at that time would many times be the explanation.

“A fortress earns greatness by enabling courageous defenders to gloriously defeat the enemy at the battle’s very onset. Whatever excellent qualities a fortress may possess, it will be of no avail without men of excellent action.” Tirukkural

I have written numerous times about the interactions of students, teachers, principals, parents and community and as in this ancient verse from nearly 3000 years ago each aspect is important, crucial to success of the whole. It takes students to make a school great as well as teachers, principal and staff. It takes the support of those through the parents and community. Asking for signatures on progress reports or various documents is a minimum of support and so often students take that away by signing their own.
Several years ago it dawned on me that one of my students who always turned in her paper work ahead of time had not been home yet.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” Sigmund Freud

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Eventually As I learned there was no way my favorite student went home between first and third periods I questioned the validity of the signatures yet still was assured they were real. I do require turning in the next day now at least to maintain a safety net of some level of trust.

“There is one way to find out if a man is honest; ask him! If he says yes you know he’s crooked.” Groucho Marx

I raised the question about politicians last night in a discussion and why would anyone choose to be a politician because you are immediately suspect. Something else I have seen with politicians is that they eventually are gone, friends are still there.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person’s in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate now knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

Oh it is so much easier to not be at the doorway when a friend comes by with a problem to be too busy talking or working at a task. However time and time again people come to the doorway that need a friend and it is honesty that brings them not deceit. Violent demonstrations break out at a peace rally has been almost a news mantra for decades now. Arguments over a statue of the Ten Commandments or teaching of evolution versus creation, issues, politics and opinions.

“The honest man must be a perpetual renegade, the life of an honest man a perpetual infidelity. For the man who wishes to remain faithful must take himself perpetually unfaithful to all the continual, successive, indefatigable, renascent errors.” Charles Peguy

We live in a society so immersed in dishonesty it is like my student who turned in her paperwork third period and I believed her about parent signatures. We watch advertisements and listen to politicians who manipulate data. Even religion is biased for and against ideas and topics depending on the atmosphere at hand and political view. Historically churches have changed theology dependant on public view or royal edict. It is interesting and even silly looking back from a historical view. I made a statement about George Washington and his refusal to have clergy at his death bed and several people could not believe the founding father refused to have a pastor at bedside when he was dying.

“Honesty is for the most par less profitable than dishonesty.” Plato

It is sad that even thousands of years ago man knew mankind and the great philosopher Plato would make that statement. That unfortunately still holds true. It is always about money. Be it national politics, local politics, religious politics, and or school politics eventually it is money. Gas prices have gone higher than anytime recently not because of a shortage but an energy bill is pending that benefits oil coal and gas companies not consumers. Many months ago legislation was defeated in a Democratic house to not drill in wilderness areas in Alaska the black out on the East Coast has been actually at one point been declared a terrorist act and in other speaking an energy issue.
Generally by looking who will make money you will find the culprit. Ages ago in the first crusade a group of knights took Jerusalem from the Muslims during the first crusade and subsequently The Knights Templar a group of warrior monks ruled Jerusalem for many years till they lost favor and literally were destroyed from within and their lands and wealth confiscated. Interestingly enough Jerusalem fell and was not taken again for over a thousand years. One of the most difficult of tasks is teaching children to be honest in a world that thrives on dishonesty and deceit.

“To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education.” John Ruskin

But we start with children imposing our standards immediately and in a few short years teach children to be dishonest. Language acquisition and honesty run hand and foot on a developmental scale interestingly enough.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

Several years ago I was sitting in a class and a good friend made the statement that a child with conduct disorders will eventually at adulthood will be a sociopath that is someone who cannot tell right from wrong and or does not want too, an example might be Jeffery Daimler or so many other serial killers. Conduct disorder children ninety nine percent of the time will either eventually end in jail dead be used car salesmen, politicians or evangelists. His comment was not one of scorn for religion or politics but for a society that allows this to occur, which reminds me I have a book to review of Dr. Sutton’s. We essentially will support the worse possible person in an important job many times knowing this if we benefit in some way or think we will. Amazing this world we live in and to end today which may be the hottest of the year in Georgia so far, keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart. Always as a last thought check the door next time you hear a knock you may have a friend in need.

Can we try and define Quality?

Bird Droppings April 22, 2011
Can we try and define Quality?

I have begun reading extensively the past few weeks putting together thoughts for my dissertation for my doctorate at Georgia Southern University. Among those that passed through my hands these past few days and actually a few minutes ago on my writing table is, The Quality School, by Dr. William Glasser, M.D. It has been sometime since I had looked through it but by chance was among the ones I pulled out as I read this week.
As I went about my day yesterday at school I had my usual flow of students through my room some want questions answered or to borrow a camera. Others want to say hi or use a computer to print out a project or report. AS I look ahead a week or two as we wind down many teachers have will have completed their lessons due to early end of course tests from the state and then it will be crazy. As in years past some students will be bored so they will come to my room to discuss snakes, salamanders and frogs or take pictures digitally and work on their various projects and images on the computers. Occasionally someone is tired and will fall asleep and wrap up in one of my hand woven blankets thrown o the old futon in the back of the room.
What always amazes me is my old second hand beat up rough looking futon is like a magnet to students and teachers alike. I have had kids want to buy it saying it is the most comfortable sofa in the world. So that leads me to quality and how do we define it? As I read through Glasser’s book I recalled one of my own credos. Number one on Bird’s list for schools is that students have to want to be there. If students do not want to be in school you are starting off in a losing mode before you even get to try and teach.

“Students tell me that a good teacher is deeply interested in the students and in the material being taught. They also say that such a teacher frequently conducts class discussions and does not place themselves above them, and they are comfortable talking to them.” Dr. William Glasser

Something caught my attention as I read what students wrote in my yearbooks over the years. Several have been writing in each yearbook for each of the past four years now and many are good friends. Some teachers would argue that point.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

As I read the various yearbook quotes “Thank you for listening” “Thank you for just being here” “Thank you for understanding me” I started to think what is a friend anyhow? Is not a friend someone who will listen without criticizing and trying to resolve each petty detail?

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” Henry David Thoreau

Building on this idea of friendship and going back to Glasser who uses in his idea of a quality school the concept of choice theory; which is providing opportunity for choice from teachers and students. It is building choice into the program so there is ownership of what is being learned.

“True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.” Dave Tyson Gentry

It is difficult for me to sit quietly recently I sent an email to one of our assistant principal’s about how our minute of silent meditation went to 2.7 minutes and broke down costs and such I was being sarcastic since I do enjoy my meditative state probably more so than most do.

“One doesn’t know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one’s friends who believe in one rather generously mean to one.” D.H. Lawrence

One of my reasons for picking up the book by Glasser was to look at similarities to the Foxfire approach taught at Piedmont College and that I am developing my dissertation on and about. Foxfire is based on a democratic class room promoted by John Dewey as early as 1918 a man considerably ahead of his time.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.” Abraham Lincoln

I was sitting watching the Trial of Billy Jack a few months back and listening to and watching how Billy Jack conquered his inner demons. He was focusing on the days of turmoil and tribulations that he had experienced. My wife always picks on me when I watch my hero Billy Jack. Yesterday a red tailed hawk caught my attention as it flew alongside me as I was driving home chasing a mouse. When I arrived at my house a storm was coming through it seemed with clouds swirling over head and as I looked out the window sunshine was streaming in as well. I ran out and was thinking perhaps our first rainbow of the year would be across the sky but not yesterday.

“A true friend embosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn

A teacher then is a friend according to William Penn founder of Pennsylvania and staunch pacifist. If we as teachers would take this view of friendship perhaps more would happen in education.

“Education is the process in which we discover that learning adds quality to our lives. Learning must be experienced.” Dr. William Glasser

Teaching is showing and giving quality to life.

“Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.” Dr. William Glasser

Towards the end of the one of my favorite of all time movies, Bill Jack as I am listening, a comment is made by the heroine, “peaceful evolution versus violent revolution” and I thought what a powerful and interesting idea. Can we spread friendship; can we be better friend’s higher quality friends? Maybe just maybe we can create a better world if we put our minds to it. Yesterday a bill was signed and some feel money wasted but as I think an effort is being made to better educate and better provide capabilities for hungry and needy children and how can we ever say that is wasted money. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind.