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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Years ago, a theory of human development evolved along side Piaget’s famous work, but without the fanfare so often afforded to Piaget. The work of Lawrence Kohlberg and its relationship to Piaget’s is  broader than I want to examine here, but his Six Stages of Moral Development is worth looking at, even at a cursory level.

In a nutshell, Kohlberg posited that our human morals develop in six stages as we grow up. My question is: Could we hasten/improve the development of these stages simply by making our students aware of their existence?

I like to couch the stages in words which complete the statement “I am moral because…”

stage 1: I want to avoid punishment

stage 2: I want to receive the benefits of obedience.

stage 3: I want to be “good.”

stage 4: I want to be law-abiding (legal.)

stage 5: I want to be a good citizen.

stage 6: I want to be a good human being.

Yes, this short article is just a scratch on the surface, but some thought given to it might yield and idea or two worth pursuing. I plan on talking with my students about Kohlberg’s work and see where it takes me.

If you do the same, let me know how it goes.

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My Principal once told a story of a speaker at an educational conference who was from India. This Indian presenter summed up the major difference between education in America and the rest of the world when he said “In America you spend all of your time measuring the elephant. In India we spend our time feeding the elephant.”

How I wish I could spend more time feeding my students than I do measuring my students. Teachers with high stakes testing courses feel even more strongly about this than I do–I teach in the arts.

I was all inspired to blog about this but I was having difficulty putting it all into words. Then I read Canadian educator Jack Miller’s “Education and the Soul.” It sums the topic up so well I decided to just paste in my favorite paragraph and then let you go to his article if you wish.

The accountability movement  is another example of mechanization in the curriculum.  Teachers are expected to be constantly testing students so that the public is satisfied with the what is going on the in the classrooms.  Unfortunately, the tests focus on a very limited portion of the curriculum and ignore the important areas such as personal and social development.  These tests tend to  stress information that will be soon be forgotten by the student.  The student begins to see school as a game where succeeding is based on passing tests that seem to have no relevance to anything except what we might call useless knowledge.   When school is seen as a game, there is no vitality.  Classrooms become lifeless places where students focus on achievement in a narrow and competitive manner.  A curriculum of meaningless tests is another example of education without soul. 

Education without soul…what a frightening thought.

Link to Jack’s document: http://www.google.com/#hl=en&sugexp=kjrmc&cp=63&gs_id=72&xhr=t&q=The+accountability+movement+is+another+example+of+mechanization&pq=education+and+the+soul+john+p+miller&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&safe=active&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=The+accountability+movement+is+another+example+of+mechanization&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=9380054e42786d49&biw=1024&bih=600

 

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I know this is a repost, but I forget that many people will not read the very first article and understand the subtitle, so here is a repost of Always On.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned was on the deck of my lawn mower. It read “If motor is running, blade is turning.” As if I didn’t know that. Soon, however, it took on a deeper meaning for me. It now reminds me that we, as spiritual beings, are always on. We are always believing something, talking about some truth, sending out vibrations and signals about our true state of mind; not what we say we think or believe, but what we really think or believe.

If we doubt ourselves as educators, other’s spiritual antennae will pick up on it. If we harbor grudges, or suspicions about our students, we send that signal as well. Not only do we send out those negative signals, but we likewise attract more of the same negative feelings. We begin to see only the bad in everything and everyone. We no longer have joy in the classroom. We are easily irritated. We don’t enjoy our subject as we once did. It’s a vicious downward spiral.

But none of this matters if you don’t think of yourself as a spiritual being. And, nothing improves if you can’t see that you are always sending and receiving spiritual signals, either good ro bad (and the choice is yours.) And you can never reverse a negative trend without changing the inner dialogue which created it.

What you  must constantly consider is this: if you are thinking, breathing, and living, you’re communicating. Make sure the message is really what you want to say. Remember: you are always on.

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At my college, there was a huge (and I mean HUGE) rock that sat on the corner of a busy intersection. It was 12 feet high and nearly 20 feet wide and weighed several tons. Legend has it that it was found while excavating a nearby construction site for another building back in the day. The rock was found protruding about 9 inches above ground and had a visible area of less than a cubic foot. Workers with shovel began to dig–and dig–and dig. A backhoe was brought to dig–and dig–and dig.

When this monstrosity was finally unearthed, it was so enormous and impressive that no one wanted to blast it into smaller bits. Instead it was relocated to a busy intersection and became legend. Students would paint messages on it, post announcements on it, decorate it for homecoming–it was once smeared with sterno and set on fire! It was so much more than a rock.

Our students are much like that rock. We see only an outcropping in our classes. Underneath is an enormous and even infinite spiritual being behind that small human image we see each day. There are experiences, desires, feelings, emotional baggage, joys, successes, failures –you name it–all behind that facade. But I’m talking about something even deeper.

We may never understand it all, but the fact that our students know that we know and respect its presence means something to them. We don’t have to know all there is to know about them to respect their individuality and uniqueness of spirit. We just need to remember there is always more to them than meets the eye.

In time, as they know more about themselves, so will we.

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One of the most important things to remember about the weaving of the tapestry of life is that each one is supposed to be different. We each came into this world to work on our own image and not others’. That’s difficult to remember when dealing with our industrial style educational system. Oh yeah, I know how we are to differentiate instruction, but when it comes testing time they expect the widgets to conform to the same specs. (See earlier post about “widgets”)

So here’s our solution: We say “I have been to college to do this, and I know how to do this job. I have been out there in the world ahead of you and I have the experience to help you. Now I want you to do this my way and perform in the way that makes me proud and makes me feel good so I can give a good report to the principal and keep my job and make your parents happy with me.   Got it? Good! Now the first thing you have to learn in life is to stop thinking it’s all about you!”

I hope you’re laughing right about now. We can easily fall into this trap. The pressure of the grade is ever upon us. It can take perfectly good teachers and reduce them to cold-hearted widget makers.

The challenge, then, is to try to see the image on each student’s tapestry and discern what it is they truly intend to become. You have to somehow lead them out of their self-defense shelter [educate: from Latin-educare  to pull or draw out] and into your world where their individuality is valued.

Yeah, I know it’s a tall order. I also know you think you can do it.

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Each one of us comes into this world with a single thread. We start looping it and doubling it and weaving it into a tapestry of life. As time goes by, this tapestry gets not only longer but wider as well. We have experiences–learn things–that broaden our view and add color to the panorama our tapestry will portray. We spend our hours laboring on its form, investing our hopes for a joyous life into its images.

Then something happens. A knot in the thread, as it were. We get side tracked and the joy fades because our focus on future happiness seems shifted irrevocably in another direction. This happens again and again as we age and soon we forget all about our original intention. By the time we are adults we have adapted to this life of frustrated desires and accept as an axiom “Life’s not fair.”

We encounter students at different points of development of their tapestry, that is to say, all along this continuum of life. Every day something or someone frustrates their aim to have a happy life. The result is bitterness, confrontation, or as most of us teachers call it–drama.

We need to somehow remind them that these seeming failures are really just bumps in the road. And a simple failure is not the same as defeat. Defeat only comes when you give up. They need to be reminded of their original intentions and hopes and dreams. They need to be reminded to focus on these things daily, to think of the good their future can hold, and to regain their focus on their true goals.

That tapestry of life will start to look pretty good again if we can somehow teach them this lesson.

But we have to first learn this lesson for ourselves.

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The cliché is well deserved. Many a policy is “cussed” and discussed around the office water cooler. In the teacher’s case it is more likely to be the copy machine, workroom or teachers’ lounge. It’s the place where we “amp up” our arguments and garner ammunition for our agendas. We slam NCLB,  the latest teaching technique some enlightened guru has thought up, the next book study, conference, gate duty, whatever.

I cannot help but paraphrase Joe Girard (world’s greatest salesman) by offering this bit of wisdom: stay away from the water cooler. His point was that if salesmen spent more time interacting with customers and less time complaining around the water cooler they would make more sales.

I likewise offer that advice to teachers. You must keep a positive mental attitude if your are to survive the onslaught of paperwork, government regulation, and other ancillary demands on your time, just so you can do what you really came here to do: teach. What you have chosen to do with your life demands that you stay UP. Be a positive example for your students. I have stated it before and I’ll state it again here: you can never feel bad enough to change anything, only good enough.

Anything which brings you down, feels negative, produces worry, or in any other fashion saps your zeal for teaching must be avoided. If there are legitimate issues at hand, be an adult and devise a plan do deal with it later, but don’t waste your time and energy on non-issues. Don’t participate in the crisis. remember:

There’s no game unless you pick up the cards.

And keep your water bottle with you.

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