Posts Tagged ‘feeling good’

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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Years ago I was leading a small team building conference. The leaders were trying to get across the idea of moving from committee models to team models. In retrospect, I fear it was more of a “We’re gonna be a team, darn it, now do what I tell you!” kind of thing. The members wanted to be perceived as sincere when they entered the workplace, and not just as an esoteric group who had attended a seminar and wanted to share their pie in the sky.

At one point, I tried to assure them that if everyone on the team honestly bought in to the new vision, everyone else would follow suit and soon the new behavior would become routinized. I then told them what I call the 100th Monkey Theory. The theory is based on the study of Japanese Macacas in the 50’s, but I can’t recall where I heard it first, but Ken Keys wrote a book on the effect

The theory goes like this:

Imagine a monkey in the jungle looking for food. He eats the same thing day after day. Then one day, he finds a banana or mango in a stream, or perhaps washed clean after a rain. (In the real story, researchers gave the monkeys sand caked sweet potatoes) He realizes he likes clean food better than dirty food just lying on the ground, AND he figures out that if he puts his food in the stream it gets clean. This monkey begins to wash his food on a regular basis.

Soon, another monkey sees this behavior and tries washing his food as well. In time another joins, and soon many of the monkeys wash their food.

Now, at some point, let’s say when the 100th monkey begins to wash his food, if you were to see them washing their food, you would simply say “Yeah, monkeys do that,”  when obviously in the beginning they did not.

Routinized behaviors become the norm.

Then the point I was trying to make took and unexpected and beautiful turn. One of the people at the seminar leaned back and said:

“So what we need is 100 people talking good about our organization.”

I smiled and said “Yes, I suppose so.  Are you willing to be the first?”

He returned the smile and answered “Yeah, I guess I’ll be your first monkey!”

We had a good laugh and a good seminar, but the lesson outlived the session. So let me ask you. If what you need at your school is 100 people talking good about it…

Will YOU be that first monkey?

(To read the original story go to http://www.worldtrans.org/pos/monkey.html )

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Die-cast car collectors are all excited about GMP’s release of the 1:18 scale replica of the famous Ford Thunderbolt from 1964. This little car is so cool to look at (well, if you’re a car enthusiast.) But the most important thing that strikes me about it, and indeed other 60’s die-cast miniatures–HotWheels, et al–are how nostalgic they make me feel.

I once heard nostalgia defined as how you feel when the past seems better than the present is or the future looks. We long for the good old days. We remember how education was when we were the student. We remember high expectations and no toleration for disrespect. We seem to remember things being better.

The reality is that some things are worse. But many things are better. We must not fall into the black hole of gloom and doom. You still have good students, right? They still inspire you, right? You still get to give a lot of good grades, right? Then as far as the act of teaching goes, it is probably still rewarding in most respects.

Walk into that room everyday expecting the future to be better than the past or present. Build on those positives. Repeat those positives. Duplicate those successes.

Because the past is just that: passed.

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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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Years ago, when Edwards Deming, after researching Japanese industrial practices, brought his now famous observations and recommendations to the American production scene, I doubt he even briefly entertained the thought that any of these new paradigms would make their way into the public school classroom. TQM was (and is) a philosophy which strives to improve production by focusing on the process rather than the product. The concept is as simple as the great milk comes from happy cows marketing campaign from California dairy producers: Happy workers give better service and better service brings better products.

If you look very closely at many educational initiatives, you’ll see evidences of various industrial models (or at least some suspicious looking similarities.) Whether it is a revamped TQM, Kaizen, or 5S System, the idea of continuous improvement and enhanced production is there.

They appear to have, however, a major flaw. In each of the Eastern models, there is the “happy cow” element I mentioned.  Employee morale goes up. Stakeholder buy-in goes up. This is an obvious and intentionally stated goal. The American educational models, however, omit this. In fact, teacher morale and satisfaction, if on the list at all, are at the bottom of it.

YOU will have to be responsible for your own morale. You must find those satisfying moments when that light comes on for that student and you know they understand. Then communicate that not only to your students (celebrate!) but your colleagues as well.

Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.

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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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