Sitting waiting for inspiration

Bird Droppings May 1, 2011
Sitting waiting for inspiration

Nearly six years ago at our county wide teacher kick off meeting which is traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome for the new school year we always have a speaker. Someone is paid to come in and inspire us as teachers it could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seems each year they try a new approach. I would enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter but so far no such luck. Generally we car pool over to the high school gym near our county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub. However a recent speaker to our seniors reminded me of that meeting nearly six year back. A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. The quest speaker for our seniors made this point as well about first impressions. So I start today with a quote from a young college professor.

“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III

Prior to at aforementioned annual teachers inspirational gathering in the county a professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards podium and then the hip hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world wide consultant and motivational speaker.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather

We teachers sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting students attention.

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and tack coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the class room inspiring students to learn. It has been over forty years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have set at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and as a professional management training coordinator.

“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder

I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly nine years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

This is what teaching is about inspiration I wish all teachers could have heard the comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting the example for students. I have heard that before many times and some how it does not sink in with most teachers. So as we head towards a school end for the summer and End of Course Tests the next few days at our school please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Problems are often misunderstood explanations

Bird Droppings April 20, 2011
Problems are often misunderstood explanations

“Although you may understand the explanations, if you are still suffering because of problems, you clearly do not understand the true nature of your mind, your body, and your senses.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Transforming Problems Into Happiness

Every day I deal with numerous issues among students in the high school in which I teach. I listen many times as students tell their explanation. I will often start my own statement with “as a parent looking at this”. When looking at a situation it changes depending on your view point and your perspective. Kids often forget they are not alone which is a key factor. Some of them want to be alone and wish they could get out of the house literally. I joke about the students who want to go to Valdosta State University in Valdosta Georgia. If you can imagine Georgia as a large rectangle and in the bottom most corner on the eastern side is Valdosta just about in Florida. In effect it is the farthest away college from anywhere in Georgia. So you can be far away from home and still get the Hope Scholarship which is available to Georgia students.
I think many people struggle with life myself included because we do not take time to truly look at honestly and openly where we are and why. Yes I can give you definitions and facts and from experience give you context of that content possibly even the true nature of ourselves but it is in actually living out that content that we understand.

“Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of your suffering are created by you, by your own mind.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Zopa is displaced Buddhist monk, a native of Nepal transplanted to India during the Chinese Communist takeover. We are our own biggest problems. I watch students anxious and depressed all from self induced fears and stress walking down the hallways. In our modern world stress is our number one killer and stress is self imposed. It is our interpretations of everyday events and then in turn its effect upon us. A good example is the number one solution according to The American Psychological Association for depression is to talk to someone, counsel, discuss and communicate. It is far more effective than any medications.
Why is this not used as much as several of the leading selling drugs on the market for one of the major psychological issues of our time? Possibly because we want a quick fix. We want solutions now, immediately, and definitely not after five sessions. Side effects and such no problem give me the meds is the common response. I don’t have time to talk, to meditate, to understand and or communicate with anyone. I just want better NOW!

“The greatest problems of humanity are psychological, not material. From birth to death, people are continually under the control of their mental sufferings. Depression happens in the first place due to being under the control of the ego, self-cherishing, attachment, anger, broken vows and pledges. This depression is caused by the ego, the self-cherishing attitude and the self-existent “I”. So rather than accepting the depression, give it back to the self-cherishing attitude. Use the depression like a bomb to destroy the wrong conception of the I. Then meditate on the emptiness of the self-existent I.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Ego self cherishing attitude

As I listen to students who are depressed “I” is used a lot. Rinpoche offers a solution in getting away from “I”. For a number of years I have been a fan of Carl Jung’s ideas and thinking. Jung sent a letter to a friend who was depressed and this letter is in Jung’s writings on depression.

“I am sorry you are so miserable. “Depression'” means literally “being forced downwards.” This can happen even when you don’t consciously have any feeling at all of being “on top”! So I wouldn’t dismiss this hypothesis out of hand. If I had to live in a foreign country, I would seek out one or two people who seemed amiable and would make myself useful to them, so that libido came to me from outside, even though in a somewhat primitive form, say of a dog wagging its tail. I would raise animals and plants and find joy in their thriving. I would surround myself with beauty – no matter how primitive and artless – objects, colors, sounds. I would eat and drink well. When the darkness grows denser, I would penetrate to its very core and ground, and would not rest until amid the pain a light appeared to me, for in excessu affectus [in an excess of affect or passion] Nature reverses herself.” Carl G. Jung in a letter to a depressed friend

Stop wallowing in self pity and doubt find a friend talk about it. “I would raise animals and plants and find joy in their thriving”. Try and seek alternatives to moping and self absorbance. Delve deeper seeking what it is that is bothering you. Most situations of depression from my own experience are when a person self imposes their own isolation and withdrawal conversely you have to also un-impose and open doors and windows to let in light.
Perhaps it is our own hedonism that has brought about the tremendous increase in depression. We want so much and truly need so little. Our world is centered on wants and demands wants. We end up starving ourselves emotionally for lack of need fulfillment. We set ourselves up as being above all else and much like Humpty Dumpty when we fall the shattered pieces are impossible to mend. Ego and self are the culprit in this dilemma often being better than others is a birth right many believe and daily strive to prove in clothes, attitude, cars, friends and other superficially significant to them things.
I was looking at several senior pages at our high school year book which is at the printer and soon will be going out. Some were literally flagrant I am better than you pages it was advertising trying to prove to everyone and individuals self worth. Somewhere I read it is in how you live people really seeing who you are. It is the example you set that sets you apart and or marks you for life.
I walked about outside literally four times this morning with our dog. A few hours back it was out briefly into a swirl of clouds over head amidst a deep blue sky. More recently the clouds are gone and the moon is lighting the entire back yard and everywhere there are moon shadows. I wanted to sing Cat Stevens song, Moonshadow. For each of us life is a deep blue sky with swirling clouds and it is sorting through the clouds and finding again the stars and moon of our own being and building upon that. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.