Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

Bird Droppings November 10, 2011
Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

“It is about learning not about teaching.”
Dr. Max Thompson

A semester is nearing the end and my daily journey for this semester will end. But it is a relief in some ways. While I have really enjoyed the classes, students and teachers I am working with it in many ways it is still a learning process for me. I have been working the past few days with a young man who is in our Early Childhood Education program. One of his projects is to write a philosophy of education which over the several years of graduate school I have done now several times. Each time it evolves and grows. I am hoping as I help this fellow finish his own philosophy he will gain an understanding of what education is all about. In my own defining I often look to Jean Piaget and his ideas on educating children. .

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done — men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

Maybe someday I will be famous too for studying my own kids or grandkids, yet out of that narrow window of research came some very insightful ideas on children and education. Something that intrigues me however is how much time Piaget spent with his children observing listening and I have always wondered if he interacted.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

Interesting how John Dewey who died in 1952 was making statements like this in 1914 John Garner was making this statement in

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Several times as I have written I have borrowed from Sidney J. Harris who compared education to stuffing a sausage or finding a fine pearl, which would we prefer. Many so called teachers liken education to the bucket filler we only have this amount to put in and then it’s full in this confined space, limited space at that. I prefer to think that a child is like a vast field or forest and when applied correctly and in a manner appropriate fire can make that field grow and flourish, a controlled burn, years ago lightening would do it now with society so restrictive it is controlled. This is somehow so similar to education.

“Education is too important to be left solely to the educators.” Francis Keppel

We are each directly involved in our own education as well as the education of every person we come in contact with. We are teachers to friends, family and even our teachers, professors and even enemies. Education is something that occurs continually not simply in school or college but it is elemental to existence.

“Education, we see, is not merely gaining knowledge or skills helpful toward productive work, though certainly that is a part of it. Rather it is replenishment and an expansion of the natural thirst of the mind and soul. Learning is a gradual process of growth, each step building upon the other. It is a process whereby the learner organizes and integrates not only facts but attitudes and values. We have been told that we must open our minds and our hearts to learn. There is a Chinese proverb: Wisdom is as the moon rises, perceptible not in progress but in result. As our knowledge is converted to wisdom, the door to opportunity is unlocked.” Barbara W. Winder

So education is far more than the confines of school of a class it is a task we are participating in from the day we are born till the day we cease to function as human beings upon the earth.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

For many years I had upon my wall a banner with this saying, a simple concept, but when you apply it to knowledge to education it becomes so much more powerful.

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

Dreams and aspirations can be achieved through education, we can and will fulfill our dreams if we continue to learn, to advance in our journey in life. It is those who halt who stagnant and flounder in the stream who never achieves their dreams. A movie title “What dreams may come?” Actually more about a concept of afterlife but as I look back life here now is what we make of it.

“Our dreams, and if we can think of it we can attain it” Frank E. Bird Jr.

My dad once told me that when I was a child and as I think back watching him putter with pieces of plastic, metal and such on the kitchen table, nearly fifty years ago. He was looking at various safety toe shoes as he puttered. I wasn’t sure what was going on but somewhere he had an idea a dream and eventually it became a metatarsal guard for heavy industry and reduced foot injuries and damage significantly. Dreams aided by education and we can accomplish anything.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli

It is Thursday morning and a our week is over since tomorrow is a holiday and to finish off one last quote from nearly 3000 years ago and with that have a great week and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

“Only the educated are free.” Epictetus

Teaching the unteachable child

Bird Droppings September 14, 2011
Teaching the un-teachable child

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

I was working with some young people yesterday when one who continually has been a problem for various teachers was acting out. It was easy, far too easy to see the behaviors he was demonstrating than to look past to any possible ability at the time. Working in a co-teaching setting this year I can see more distinctly the differing perceptions of another teacher’s versus mine. As I pondered during class as to what to do it kept coming back to find the positive aspects of this young man rather than the very obvious negative, reinforce the positive. It must be coincidence that I attended a conference training session on positive behavior support or PBS and just pulled that folder out of my files.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Aristotle

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

We met for a faculty meeting a few weeks back and one of the topics was the Governors Honors program which is six weeks during the summer for top students from high schools around Georgia. My son was privileged to go nearly ten years ago. When he came back he had a great difficulty dealing with students who did not want to learn. After spending a summer with peers who literally learned on their own and sought additional learning to come back to school where many students simply ride the waves and basically are just there, even in honors classes’ was hard.

“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

It is difficult to try and inspire those who prefer ignorance to education those people who are content in life being unaware. I often joke that you could go all day in a high school with seven or eight words. If you actually listen many teenagers can communicate with a few statements and words and literally you could walk through any high school in America and use those few phrases and words and communicate all day long. Unfortunately most perpetuate ambiguousness, my favorite is whatever, used perhaps more in a day than any other word in the English language at least in high school. I was asked by a teenager yesterday about something in front of me and if she needed to learn it will there be a grade when I said no she fine I am not interested.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature they have lost their innate capabilities.” R. Buckmaster Fuller

So often we discourage rather than encourage often due to behavior as I think back to my incident yesterday and a student who was acting out. My first reaction was to get rid of him, get him out of the class and I am the behavior teacher. I could march him down to the administrator and be done with it. The student did not want to learn and did not want to be in school. His attitude was “I am only here for insurance of I am not in school I do not get covered”. It is an interesting enough thought process to understand the reality of the world. So this student is in effect stuck somewhere where he doesn’t want to be yet currently not willing to learn.

“We learn simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.” David P. Garner

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” John W. Gardner

One of the great thinkers and reformers of education and society of the last one hundred years John Garner saw aspiration in students and in society.

“Josh Billings said, ‘It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too.’ Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves, and the modern world is particularly rich in such stratagems.” John W. Gardner

As I think back to my problem student, was his behavior an act of escaping from who he is and from where he is or was in life?

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

I got into a discussion after our faculty meeting with another teacher are we truly educating students, are we preparing them for what they may encounter in the real world. We bantered ideas back and forth and constructivism kept popping up in my mind.

“Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.” Engaging Kids, Funderstanding http://www.funderstanding.com/constructivism.cfm

Recalling John Dewey’s lab school and the idea you cannot learn about something truly learn without doing it as Dewey would say. In discussing with this teacher we drew a similar conclusion it takes hands on for students to learn beyond simply pouring facts into the mold. Going back to my problem student of yesterday perhaps looking at where was he coming from and where did he want to go and why and accentuating those issues would provide a pathway for him. Each day is a new day and each thought adds to the thought pool and process, it is about lifting up rather than tearing down. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Why do we fail?

Bird Droppings August 30, 2011
Why do we fail?

Many the time, I wonder why people stop learning. I see it in high school students and in college and graduate students. Almost as if a switch is thrown and poof no more learning I have reached my limit. I had a teacher approach before school started today about a student who scored a seventeen on a quiz. The student’s parents were asking for a retake and study guide which the teacher was complaining about doing. The student got a seventeen he deserved a seventeen period. Where is the learning curve giving a failing grade is not a motivator for many students who by high school are used to that and could care less. Achieving a passing grade by learning what is on the quiz and then retaking and passing is what school should be about.

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

I began the morning looking through several articles written by William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot, as well as several by Arthur Schopenhauer, an 19th century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology. Somehow in my reading earlier I ended up back on articles by John Gardner. I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the former students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. The other student said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. Still another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart.
I thought back in each of their lives. All failed in part or all of graduation tests in high school, one of the students had failed one a portion three times by a total of eight points as a result she did not graduate and she opted to get a GED. She was tired of failing or risking failing again.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I’m going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat failure in stride and move on, but for some students failure is a daily event and eventually they succumb and lose whatever desire to succeed they may have had.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing how this is so similar as I think back on life to my own experiences in fourth grade. I had a teacher who was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I wouldn’t notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A. I had two wrong and a C. My mother asked and the teacher stated I wasn’t working up to my ability so she was grading harder than other students. I quit trying in school for some time, until about two years into college.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you’ll be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. Watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn – example is the best teacher and they watch parents – if we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one exhibit is a barrel of light bulbs all failures and the plague reads it took over 10,00 failures to succeed but it did work – as I went further and read Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students I have – many have given up because the school society has given up – as soon as you take statistics in college you gather data and sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to their graphs and charts

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

Alfie Kohn’s starts his website with:

“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards”. The statement of “Learning by doing”, which is a common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name so let’s call it “teaching by doing” (TBD).”

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing about issues in public school for the past few years, he is a major proponent of public schools. It is how we teach he is trying to address, and instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that aspect is his desire. It is about promoting success rather than failure that we need to strive for in our endeavors as teachers and parents. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success and their futures. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Filtering into bottles

Bird Droppings August 10, 2011
Filtering into bottles

Starting back to school again today and sitting here on day one and thinking back. I remember how hard I was hit by the impact of No Child Left Behind so many years ago. I was testing or reading a test to students who within their IEP’s were allowed modifications in testing. As I read an idea hit me, a liter bottle holds a liter no less unless you choose to not fill it and no more or it will spill out.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Nearly a hundred years ago Dewey developed his ideas and philosophies about education. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time. Much of what he thought was ahead of where we are going today. Many months back I saw an interesting head line in our Sunday paper about the current educational mandate of “No Child Left Behind”. “Are we leaving children behind?” was the title.

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

How and why we educate children is crucial. Is it for some greater good or for the individual that we offer and provide education? Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning, to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn, he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room, many graduate school programs today teach democracy in the class room. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education, but respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

So often the simplest answer is the correct one. An easy word is encouragement and yet we so often use it to little. We can do better, we have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find answers. I have written now several times and reflected often on the idea of filling a liter bottle. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort the knowledge into groups or subsets. It is that information we absolutely need and can remember, what fills the bottle. For the less significant information perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill so we know where to find it.
The information we really do not need, it can spill to the ground. It is teaching the difference. It is teaching to sort and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. As Gray states it is to be independent of education and Sir William with having that “desire to learn it”. This is what teaching is about. So recently many children in our area headed back to school, it can be a great day and a wondrous day. Please a reminder to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart. namaste
bird

Filtering into bottles

Morning Bird Droppings July 8, 2011
Filtering into bottles

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Over a hundred years ago John Dewey had ideas about education that were considered progressive. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time and has gone since. Much of what he thought was considerably ahead of where we are going today. Interesting head line in our Sunday paper about current educational mandates and cheating on required tests all based on “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The title was, are we leaving children behind?

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

I have not been a fan of Allan Bloom’s thinking but this thought caught my attention. How and why we educate children is crucial is it for some greater good or is it for the individual that we offer and provide education. Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning and to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room and being a fan of Dewey’s and The Foxfire Approach to teaching this thought of Emerson’s ties right in. In some graduate school programs today they have classes teaching the idea of democracy in a classroom. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education where teacher and students are mutually involved in learning. But respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner
So often the simplest answer is correct be it an easy word encouragement and yet we so often use it far too little. We all know we can do better and yet we also have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer and not learn.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find the answers. Often this simple thought gets left by the wayside. Several days ago I reflected on the idea of filling a liter bottle, it only takes a liter. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort knowledge into groups and condense so the bottle is not just filled but contains the crucial pieces. That is information we absolutely need and can remember that is filling the bottle. That which is left who knows but maybe perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill with information we know where to find. The information we really do not need, can spill to the ground. It is teaching that makes the difference, that teaching of how to sort, use and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. Gray states that it is to be independent of education and Sir William says with having that “desire to learn it”, this are the keys. This is what teaching is about. So today many children in our area are home from school forgetting what they learned last year. As I came into the school today a little girl was registering for the upcoming year. She had dropped out and did independent studies while she had a baby and now is heading back to school. Today it will be a great day and a wondrous day and a reminder to all to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart.
namaste
bird

Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

Bird Droppings July 5, 2011
Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

I spent most of the past few mornings digging and planting, transplanting and repotting various flowers and herbs in our yard. I had several one poor lemon verbena that had been hiding for about a month still in a seedling pot and now about twenty four inches tall and that poor plant was very happy to be in some real dirt. My family got together yesterday to celebrate the fourth with a cookout and culminating in shooting off fireworks. My wife and I volunteered to babysit our granddaughter so younger generation could go blow things up. It seems my sister in buying firecrackers for a grandchild got some very potent ones and in the process one of my nephews a local sheriff decide they were best handled by a professional so he went and bought a watermelon to blow up. Not sure of the logic ion that but they had a good time. I have been thinking since early morning when the sun came up this morning and while I was digging in the dirt about this idea. Do we learn more from a ripple or a wave?

“Make ripples more than waves” Bob Algonzzine, Little book of Wisdom

This thought is number 298 out of 365 thoughts in his book. It isn’t necessarily in any special order it just happens to be that number. As I saw this comment in reference to a teacher in class as I recalled a legend from local Native Americans about throwing a stone into a pond or lake and watching the ripples dissipate against the edges of the pond. Technically as I looked up definitions ripples and waves are the very similar and even some said the same just in different velocities or size. But as I think this afternoon a ripple doesn’t have the force of a wave, sort of in education the difference between telling versus asking for something to be done. You are trying to accomplish the same event or solicit the same behavior but one has a lot more force behind it.

“It is nobler to convert souls, than to conquer kingdoms.” Louis Debonnaire

“People have a peculiar pleasure in making converts that is, in causing others to enjoy what they enjoy, thus finding their own likeness represented and reflected back to them.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

So often the teacher is the expert and it is their way period, saying such things as you will learn this now or else sort of thing. Waves have a tendency to do damage more so then sink in as they hit. Ripples are absorbed at the shore line as I thought deeper on this knowledge is no different. Is what is taught to be simply for Friday’s test or is it to be a life lesson?

“That, which proves too much, proves nothing!” Proverb

“You must make the product interesting not just make the ad different. And that’s what too many of the copywriters in America today don’t yet understand.” Rooser Reeves

I often wonder however when it is a ripple and when a wave. A new idea could knock some students over and yet be just what another student needs to keep momentum up. By coincidence my middle son was home this weekend and I recalled how he would come home from Georgia Tech several years ago to relax, the atmosphere at TECH is very stressful. A regiment of study, video games, study, read, video games and very little humanity time. On the other side my nephew would come home from another college to study because all time in his dorm was humanity time and no one was concentrating. As I think back it was funny they ended the weekend playing video games together before heading back to their schools.
As I sit here midst my debris a thought, that incessant barrage of ripples one after another nothing over whelming does sink in and it is absorbed. I often use and have cards sitting around my room at school with FIDO printed on them and on the back the acronym, Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over Again. This is the FIDO principle and my good friend B.F. Skinner’s philosophy and eventually it will sink in.

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Liane Cardes

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s idea is true however ripples or waves hitting on concrete is far more different than if it were hitting on a sponge. The big question is then how do we develop sponges as to learning and concrete as to character.

“The cynic says, ‘One man can’t do anything.’ I say, ‘Only one man can do anything.’” John W. Gardner

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

How often do we see people like this so restricted in movement and in thinking only a finger can be moved. Each day during school hours I can look down the hallway and see teachers who respond this way. As I have written the past several years I used the term boxed in, they are in their little box sealed up and new ideas concepts cannot get in. Occasionally they peek out but usually only to see if the wrapping is intact. Most of the time this type of teacher teaches with waves. BOOM, you got it or you don’t and I am out of here back to my box.

“I have always had the feeling I could do anything and my dad told me I could. I was in college before I found out he might be wrong.” Anne Richards

Recently I was discussing what makes a teacher. Part of my rationale is you cannot truly tell someone how to teach. In schools of Education they try and so forth in math science etc. I have found creativity and imagination get so often stifled as in Anne Richards quote by experts. We want to make sponges not concrete.

“We are hoarding potentials so great that they are just about unimaginable.” Jack Schwartz

“You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.” Brian Tracy

“Make ripples not waves” I was just thinking about days gone by and making waves in a pool using a kick board you push against the water and shove in a direction and make a wave. It takes one good hard push and you have a wave. A ripple is more of dropping a stone and from the epicenter of where the stone hits ripples play out one after another till they hit the shore. Perhaps the identical force is involved in terms of physics but in the ripple effect many hundreds of ripples play against the edge or the student and with the wave it is a onetime deal. So we are faced with a wave versus a series of ripples.
Funny how we approach each day sitting here this morning writing and thinking after watching the Trial of Billy Jack, a 1974 movie that was basically a younger generation film of the time, last night. Watching the movie a comment stood out. The main character is asked in court a question about America and he responds with this country has gone so far from the origins that it can never get back to the founding fathers true aspirations. In several discussions the past few days of graft and corruption that is constantly exposed in industry and government and yet little is done as in the banking industry where many built empires and only one major player was imprisoned others were simply allowed to start over and they are almost back where they were when everything fell apart a few years ago. We do not learn from the waves and far too often that is all that is thrown at us from those in power.
So as I sit back pondering which would I rather teach and which would I rather have to be a student within? An interesting scenario in that thought as my mind wanders about today. I wonder how many teachers teach and think in terms of being a student listening to their lesson. As I look at News this morning it seems we are still at war in many places and some countries are trying to aggravate further with rhetoric and missiles. So for another day and sadly one that is special to us here in the US our friends and family members continue to be at risk and many are in harm’s way. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Are we going in the right direction?

Bird Droppings March 30, 2011
Are we going in the right direction?

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, 1897

I recall many years ago taking a test that would indicate what we were suitable for and getting called in to the “guidance” counselors who in my day were wives of the football coaches. I never quite figured that out at our high school I was told I should look at technical training because of my grades and such. I was not a very good student in high school 597th 0f 795 students. It seems I was side tracked somewhere in elementary school about education, and periodically I would have a few flare ups of wisdom. The little flare ups during standardized tests were just enough for me to remain in college prep and high functioning classes all through high school.
So I was amused by the guidance recommendations. I was reminded recently of my turmoil in high school of trying to place me in a job before I knew what life was about and what was out there. I was thinking about Special Education and in our IEP’s we do a transitional plan at age fourteen. What do you want to do is asked and I have had three want to be a rappers on transitional plans over the years.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

For nearly thirty years I have had a Chinese proverb hanging on my wall.

“You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day: You can teach a man to fish and feed him for life.”

Having been to teenagers funerals to many times and thinking about all the kids I talked with there and on emails I really wondered, as I sat thinking this morning about trying to figure out what these students will be doing in twenty years. It made me think of my own life. I was thinking what do we really need to teach. With the advent of federal and state legislation demanding certain standards be met it is interesting how teachers and parents get left out of the loops and legislators decide.
As I look at John Dewey and John Gardner’s comments while differing in philosophies a point of interest. Dewey mentions a process of living give your teaching context making it meaningful. Gardner says not just cut flowers but to teach then how to grow the flower, not simply facts. What does this mean to me as a teacher?

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner

“WHEN most people think of the word ‘education,’ they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’ But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking, What true education should do?

It has been nearly four years since I did this lesson and it was quite an experience. It seems like yesterday I had two students in my class room and several were out during second period suspended or in School Suspension (ISS), this was a really rough group of kids. I had decided to do a class project that the class wanted to do. I set parameters that were relatively simply borrowing on my Foxfire teachings and trying to set up a democratic classroom.

1. Project had to be of interest to all students
2. Project had to be school appropriate
3. Students had to be able to learn academics in the context of the project
4. As the teacher I had to be able to measure learning
5. There had to be a culminating project and end point during the semester

So a day or two later when every one was in school we started by first coming up with ideas for the project. The class came up with several, wrestling, girls, cars, animation, photography, building and several very inappropriate for school if not in violation of state and federal laws.
One however that continued to peak interest and has been an integral part of my class as I use digital photography daily and every student has taken a camera home and taken literally tens of thousands of pictures. As the discussion progressed photography seemed to be the choice and eventually the project became a photography contest within the school sponsored by my second period class.
While tedious in the beginning as ideas it all started and soon took on a life of its own eliciting thinking from these kids. Naturally thinking was the big word and was the main task and for a few of them it was tiring but then on to next step. How do we get permission? Actually after the class decided I gone and gotten permission but students would have to proceed as if they do not have it and formally get permission.
Watching the thought process evolve from students who often simply do worksheets and or get in trouble. For students who read several grades below their actual level throwing ideas around about having a voting process and different categories and digital versus film it was a pretty amazing discussion. I argue day in and day out about having context to a lesson. When a student has context for the content it has life and meaning.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living” John Dewey

“If we are succeeding in our efforts to establish an excellent quality of present experience, people, teachers, students, administrators, parents should enjoy being in school; there should be fewer incidents of violence and nastiness; there should be more acts of kindness, more expressions of concern for others; more open conversation and fewer acts of control on the part of adults.” Nel Noddings

As a teacher I get frustrated knowing that information, understanding and knowledge of what is education and learning are out there in the nebulous but get rejected by a cookie cutter mentality that requires easy quick fixes and various publishers’ approval. I found this article from Nel Noddings and was amazed at her suggestions that follow many European and Asian approached to schooling. First that excellence in schooling is not that everyone meets a collegiate curriculum and succeeds in it but that individually we are providing and excelling in directions that we are suited for that individual student be that art, music, technology, industry or academics. This was written several years ago and if you get serious John Dewey was writing about this in 1897 over one hundred years ago and why do we never pay attention. The article is Excellence as a guide to Educational Conversation by Nel Noddings, Stanford University, 2004. We have to as teachers go beyond in many cases what we have been taught in education classes, which has been to do what is expedient versus real. It has been to try and not just teach “stuff” as Harris indicates. We have to bring life to education make it alive. As a parent and now grandparent this comes home as well and parents need to be involved. We need to wake up parents instead of simply letting them sleep through their child’s school experience. This is a community effort not simply one teacher and one student. Even though that is where it starts. Sydney J. Harris uses an illustration of an oyster and a pearl.

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

I got a bit carried away today. But as I read this last quote by Einstein who was left behind more than once in his educational experience at an early age can we as a society begin to look at each other as potential pearls instead of just sausages? I wonder as this school year is winding down and a new school year approaches all too soon. Try today to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
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