A bit wordy but good

Bird Droppings August 22, 2011
A PS to my daily writings first:

PS. I received this note earlier today in an email and thought I would pass it on. The note is written by Dorrie DePedro from Coatesville Pennsylvania who along with husband Greg own Coatesville Flower Shop. My father was a regular and Greg’s dad knew just what to send to my mom for every occasion. Sadly it has been years since we lived in Coatesville. This is the seventh year for Lisa’s roses join in where ever you may be and spread the hope, love, peace and heartfelt caring that comes with giving of yourself.

“There is an old saying that “time heals all wounds”. I am here to tell you that really isn’t a truthful statement. When someone asks me when Lisa died I sometimes reply “It feels like yesterday”.
But…I did heal. Not because of time, but partly because of all of you. First person to help the healing process was the dear sweet man I am married to. He walked with me side by side thru every low spot, every valley and held my hand and helped me up the hill. Secondly, our faith in God was the glue that held our fragile hearts together. But then came all of you. That first year of “Lisa’s Roses” was a test to see if WE had the courage to do what Lisa wanted us to do. “Do something nice for someone”. We tested our theory that we could possibly ask you to help us through the memories of this tragic day. And you did. You came from everywhere with a hug, a smile, some tears, memories and prayers. That first “anniversary” was a day filled with love. We started that day with such sadness but believe it or not, we ended it with hearts eased knowing that we fulfilled what was to become Lisa’s legacy.
Year after year you have come. You will never know how much we look for you. Sometimes we think that maybe no one will remember. But you do. You remember the meaning of “Lisa’s Roses”. You keep the legacy of “Do Something Nice for Someone Today” alive. And those of you who cannot make it always keep us in your prayers. Sometimes you just drop us a note to let us know you are with us in spirit. We have people from a distance that buy their roses and pass them out to those in need. We have strangers that later write to us telling us how much the rose meant to them on that particular day.
Whatever the case, this is year 7…hard to believe. When Lisa was ill and so many people wanted to help I would ask her what to tell them. She said “Tell them to do something nice for someone”. Hence the legacy began. August 23rd we ask you once again to come and help us through this day. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “rules”, here they are: Come into the Flower Shop on Aug. 23rd and get a free dozen of roses. Keep one rose for yourself and give the others to 11 people that need a smile. It can be someone you know or a perfect stranger, up to you. Carry our sweet Lisa’s smile out the door and pass it on.
Please also remember those in our lives who have also lost children. I pray for them every day. Please pray with me that they may find healing. I wish them peace and I wish them the love and comfort that all of you have given us over the years.
My quote this year that is my favorite is: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain”. Thank you my dear, sweet friends for helping us learn to “dance in the rain”. God bless you!” Dorrie DePedro
The Sixteen hour syndrome and
Why we should embrace it

It has been nearly ten years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my own observations of a group of twenty eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to even attend to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in own his teaching it could have been my own.

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my own intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

Ten years ago for me it was coming back to teaching after a twenty three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses I seemed to find an under lying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and actual experience together a more serious and a harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

The sixteen hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen hour syndrome.
On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and a Five hour energy shot, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogonous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.
Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jig saw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manor it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans make up a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.
While many parents and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period of time a student is at home and out in society which is approximately sixteen hours during a school day. John Dewey is very well represented with our readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the sum total of conditions which are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

It is the sum total of our experiences that makes us who we are and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.
Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “cast off the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.
How do we attempt to see beyond the façade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.

“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser of course sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools literally all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, as how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and in religion and offers a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
.
Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their own life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum”. How does this author view a successful teacher?

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than a technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid 1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from a point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded nee. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.”

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes but few actually attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?
I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my own studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in a classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well written on and numerous others have addressed is community.

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, a classroom, a business, or a government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect, and emotion, and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and a learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harm’s way in your heart and on your minds.
namaste
bird

The Journey

Bird Droppings June 27, 2011
A new journey

“School divides life into two segments, which are increasingly of comparable length. As much as anything else, schooling implies custodial care for persons who are declared undesirable elsewhere by the simple fact that a school has been built to serve them.” Ivan Illich, 1971

I started with this statement from Ivan Illich who was an Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest, and “maverick social critic” of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects on the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, transportation, and economic development. From my own stand point it was his short book or essay, Deschooling Society, 1971 that caught my attention.
“Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education–and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.” Ivan Illich, 1971

This short book brought Illich to the attention of the general public. I want to emphasize one sentence. “The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring” After a couple of weeks of John Dewey and Foxfire I find this very significant.
I find as I ponder teaching, education and learning I continually come back to my father and his impact on my own concept of teaching. I remember all of the acronyms and quick one liners he would use to emphasize points. As I was thinking it hit me that it is the fourth anniversary of the last time I spoke with my father.
It was June 27, 2007 and I had dropped off some medicine my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey.
I drove down to Oxford Georgia after leaving to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I only drank Evian back then more recently switching to Smart water liters as they fit in car drink holders. Fortunately that is about my only idiosyncrasy.
As I headed from the county just before dusk a tall dead tree was standing to my left as I drove by. Stark and free from bark nearly white in the waning hour. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks. Watching me as I drove by, I thought having my camera what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in the speed of the car driving along and time I had to reach my destination. In Native American thought often animals are linked to us in a special way and provide us with bits and pieces of what we need as we travel in life.
I arrived just before they started and have always enjoyed the Emory at Oxford campus of Emory University I walked around a bit. The grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his rendition of Axel Rose’s and Bob Dylan’s singing a duet on that famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. They tend to stay up longer than me most nights. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey in to night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because she was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.
I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son had work this morning so I thought I would wake him up and he walked by. I had several vivid dreams over the next two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my son and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.
I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock in the morning June 28th. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought, listened and pondered for a few minutes. I enjoy the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rise in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some stones I had previously placed on the ground.
I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and she was fine.
It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnecting and meeting people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and all were his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my father’s puzzle.
“Knocking on heaven’s door” keeps resounding as I recall my sons singing that night four years ago and it was so many years ago another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I thought back again to 2007 with my father in law passing and a student who I considered a dear friend and then my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish all well on their journeys and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Peace to my father and all of my friends.
namaste
bird

Sitting at my kitchen table pondering

Bird Droppings June 10, 2011
Sitting at my kitchen table pondering

I am very much a creature of habit. I like my routines and seem to follow very similar pathways daily. I can understand when walking through the woods and seeing a rabbit run or deer trail I would myself be doing the same thing more than likely if I was running wild. For most of my adult life others have sought out my guidance on life issues. I was trained so to say between seminary and psychology and more recently education courses to be able to offer advice. All through my life I have always felt I had an intuitive side, an empathetic side that allowed me access too many peoples inner feelings and thoughts.
In working with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children and many times adults this is a good thing, although many times it can leave you drained. But I have always felt I have been successful reaching students in all of my classes across nearly thirty five years of teaching and training. When in management I felt I was able to address issues with customers and staff in a more understanding way than simply one of profitability. This could have been my downfall back in the day. I was more concerned about people than dollars. I might borrow a few words from John Dewey and his book School and Society.

“The primary business of school is to train children in co-operative and mutually helpful living; to foster in them the consciousness of mutual interdependence; and to help them practically in making the adjustments that will carry this spirit into overt deeds.” John Dewey

It is about what children take out into the world more so than how they score on tests and what curriculum is followed or not followed. Radical educator and philosopher Ivan Illich adds:

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstance. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school insofar as school, in a few rich countries has become a place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

While Illich is somewhat off the spectrum from many folks standpoint he makes a valid point. In many cases schooling is simply occupying that period of time in a child’s life and doing little in terms of actual education. I try and maintain contact with kids after they leave high school through facebook and myspace for example. Recently I have been using these programs to find graduates of The Foxfire programs to some what surprising success.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989
Each of us lives in a society, a community, a culture and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group where the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of interactions. Sounds like I am quoting John Dewey again.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together moving forward, backwards, sideways and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting and arguing among ourselves and that motion or growth is limited.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

Watching high school students form clicks and groups and adults forming clubs or social groups we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so much to ourselves and what benefits us as a first rule of thumb even unconsciously. It can be by limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves into a tiny space, even by sharing a simple task which so often becomes a distant one.
TV humor even plays on this subject several times in watching reruns of Seinfeld and Will and Grace sit coms giving is a chore a burden and the characters are literally parasitical instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts, this one popped up earlier this morning just before I ran the dog to the groomer.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was speaking literally yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do psychologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

“The most difficult we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

In a project, class room assignment several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question they just simply wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad was not the issue it was over.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

I read this quote and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over, still you wait just as the rest do so where is there any benefit in being finished. A favorite catch phrase, I don’t care, should read, I really do not care about myself. As we enter the end of another week our world is troubled and sore, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

The sixteen hour syndrome and why we should embrace it

Bird Droppings August 22, 2010
The Sixteen hour syndrome and
why we should embrace it

It has been nearly ten years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my own observations of a group of twenty eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to even attend to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in own his teaching it could have been my own.

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my own intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

Ten years ago for me it was coming back to teaching after a twenty three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses I seemed to find an under lying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and actual experience together a more serious and a harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

The sixteen hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen hour syndrome.
On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and a Five hour energy shot, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogonous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.
Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jig saw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manor it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans make up a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.
While many parents and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period of time a student is at home and out in society which is approximately sixteen hours during a school day. John Dewey is very well represented with our readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the sum total of conditions which are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

It is the sum total of our experiences that makes us who we are and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.
Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “cast off the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.
How do we attempt to see beyond the façade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.

“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser of course sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools literally all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, as how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and in religion and offers a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
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Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their own life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum”. How does this author view a successful teacher?

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than a technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid 1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from a point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded nee. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.”

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes but few actually attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?
I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory Universities Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my own studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in a classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well written on and numerous others have addressed is community.

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, a classroom, a business, or a government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect, and emotion, and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and a learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harms way in your heart and on your minds.
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