Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 17-18, 2011
Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

I took a relaxing weekend with family and grand baby and sort of got my thoughts together as the days went by. Somewhere as the rain dissipated last week we had a few good days of sunshine even though the temperatures were below normal and a chill has set in. I was running around all day yesterday taking my granddaughter up to her new home in Demorest Georgia just off the Piedmont College Campus. I got home relatively early in the afternoon and fixed dinner sat to write and download photos and my laptop hibernated since I forgot my power cord at school so I was in limbo for the evening. But all in all there is much to ponder and consider as I go into this day. I went out into the darkness this morning and watched the smoke from the sage and cedar embers dissipate into the slight breeze just before a brilliant sun rose in the east. Around me were the stars and a partial moon and sounds of a chilly morning were disrupted with the alarm of a car in the distance.
Today I will be writing and catching up as well as doing some gardening and gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold. Hopefully these days off will be filled with writing, a grandbaby, photos and reading. In my research I read the weekly publication from the NEA. I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication, The Educators Journal. An article caught my attention in a recent issue. In Georgia we have Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article addressed teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas just before my computer shut down that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. I am taking a few liberties with a bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky’s famous line.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far too low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the ambient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always new if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Sometimes we get to close to the edge

Bird Droppings April 19, 2011
Sometimes we get to close to the edge

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. Maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then nearly thirty five years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the Dr. House on TV. He is an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allows make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

I first used this quote nearly eight years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a new school and is still hanging in his office eight years later.

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson

It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security, he was one of the great all time linemen in pro football was griddling his head. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler

Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird