Posts Tagged ‘positive thinking’

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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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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I’m glad in a way that texting while driving is illegal in my area. Personally I cannot do it. If I were to hold my cell phone out to my right and try to steer with my left hand I would quickly drift to the right and off the shoulder of the road. The reverse is also true. Either way, I’m in danger.

Why? Well, we tend to go where we’re looking. We tend to drift in the direction of our attention. We usually wind up arriving at whatever destination we give our attention to, and it’s not always what we really want. Most of the time it’s just “whatever” and “where ever.”

When one of my children was learning to ride a bike, she was concerned about a small sapling in our yard.

“Don’t let me hit that tree!” she said. “I won’t” I reassured her, “Just steer toward me.” 

“But what if I hit the tree?”

“You won’t! Just look at me.”

She began to peddle then coast across the yard. And yes, straight into the tree. I ran over to her and through the tears and snubbing she said:

“I TOLD you I was gonna hit that tree!”

When you set out on a journey toward educational or professional success, look at your goal and focus on it every day. Imagine how it will look and feel to be the person you desire to be. Learn to stay focused. And as you learn to be good at it, teach your students to do it.

It’s much more rewarding that driving and texting.

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I love traditions. I’ve blogged earlier about our Christmas tradition called the Parade of Toys. Many school traditions are centered around seasonal sporting events, like homecoming, a bonfire, a dance, or some other rite.

But when I ask someone why they do something year after year that has no apparent value so far as student growth is concerned, I cringe when I hear “It’s just tradition!” Why are there some subjects we teach the same old way year after year and say “That’s just how you teach this!” It may interest you to know that the exponential rise in the use of multiple sensory inputs used by our students (games, phones, mobile browsers, cams, etc. and many time all rolled up into the same device) has had a surprising effect on student learning: they can learn faster than we can teach. I’m not saying they can assimilate it all or even use all of the information correctly, but as far as simple acquisition of knowledge? It’s fast!

This means I have to get creative. I have to think in a new way. They’ve been there-done that, and they are under-whelmed by most teaching methods. Students have a bad habit of devaluing knowledge. They only want to know what’s “on the test.” They think knowledge is only good for passing tests, getting the credit, graduating, and going on to get a job so they can spend the rest of their lives paying for things they want or need. “Knowing stuff” is no longer it’s own reward. Growing as a creative entity is not on their list of things to do. Making sense of life is no longer a priority. They are surrounded by uninspiring, uncreative, traditional people who tell them “Don’t get your hopes up,” and “Just graduate and get yourself a good job.”

Granted, graduating and getting a good job are worthy goals, but is that the end? I look at students everyday who I fear are just going to “settle” rather than go on and excel. I am outnumbered by the nay-sayers. I am not heeded like their peers and kin. I feel like John the Baptist  in the wilderness crying out “Get ready!” But all they see is this life.

So each day I have to try to be bigger than life. I have to try to create curiosity and foster hope and show patience and love to them. And somehow I still have to teach them .

But if they ask “Why are we going so slow?” or “I’m bored!” will I answer “It’s tradition?”

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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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