Fear seeks safety. Love seeks Truth. Please read and enjoy. Productive, truthful feedback welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Death of Schools

With Easter just behind us I have had a time to reflect on a question asked in church on Sunday. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” This was not directly asked of me, but apparently I also had my teacher hat on at the time because I remember smiling—more of a smirk, actually—as I thought, “that is a great question for America’s schools.”

Why do teachers seek the living among the dead? Why do we want better results yet keep our practices largely unchanged? Why do we insist kids use archaic tools such as the triple beam balances and at the same time prohibit the use of their electronic world? Why do we expect them to trust others, when we won’t demonstrate our trust for them; when we script their every thought and move. Why do teachers seek the living among the dead?

Why do school administrations seek the living among the dead? Why do they look ahead to school excellence yet focus their efforts on raising the bottom to the middle? That will make America great at mediocrity, but when is the last time you were excited by a mediocre anything?  Why do administrations seek the living among the dead?

Why do Federal and State education decision makers seek the living among the dead? Why do they demand better performance by kids, only to insist they are measured by standardized tests? Clearly what we need from our kids is innovation, not standard achievement? Synonyms for standard include normal, typical, average, usual, ordinary, and customary. Why do the moneylenders seek the living among the dead?

Why do parents seek the living among the dead? Why do they expect their children to be the future, yet allow them to stay up too late, feed them poorly, ask them to divide time and devotion between split households. Why do parents seek the living among the dead?

Why do students seek the living among the dead? Why do they expect good grades without putting in the work? Why do students seek the living among the dead?

Why do any of us seek the living among the dead for anything?  Why do we expect positive results to come from poor decisions? Why do we expect change to happen when no one changes?

How can we keep our schools from dying? In your circle of influence, what is your living and what is your dead? How can you, how can I, stop seeking the living among the dead?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Students are Like Puppies

Picture a puppy at play. Imagine one running at you only to be distracted by a squirrel, or a robin, or a leaf, or its shadow or tail, or any number of other things that sidetrack puppies from their task at hand. In fact, you can say a puppy’s task at hand is to get sidetracked. That’s when a puppy is truly being a puppy. But that’s not all they do.  They also wake up every morning embracing a brand new day, full of exuberance, inspecting everything, doing random things that make no sense to you, exploring their world, gradually understanding it, wanting to please you, and by their very nature—a wag of their tail and the cock of their head—trusting you to love them.

Now picture an 8th grader at school. Imagine their walking to school or getting off the bus only to be distracted by a squirrel, a robin, or by someone carrying a box of treats, wearing a funny outfit, or any number of other things that sidetrack them from the task at hand. For them, it’s been stipulated that their task at hand is school. And to their credit they wake up every morning embracing their brand new day, full of exuberance, inspecting each new thing, often making choices that make no sense to you, exploring their world, gradually understanding it, wanting to please you, and by their very nature—a smile, a look for acceptance—trusting you to love them.

Nice picture, isn’t it? Makes puppies seem like one of the greatest things on earth.  Makes teaching seem like one of the greatest professions. For it is truly a great feeling to be greeted each day, be it a bright smile or a wag of the tail, telling you how happy they are to see you, how happy they are to be there. And there are few things quite as rewarding as seeing a student’s eyes literally LIGHT up when they finally get it, or a puppy’s unbridled delight when they have mastered a trick. These responses come easily, when the stories are good.

But what about the ones from the puppy mill, or those that have been mistreated at home? They want to understand their world, too. They want to please you, to trust you to love them. But they can’t, not easily, anyway. Sometimes their story doesn’t permit it. Sometimes our responses don’t invite it.

Students are like puppies, some are easier to love than others. Some have better stories than others. Some stories are unthinkable.  All of them want to trust us. Can they? All of them want our love. Can we?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10 Tips to Poor Teaching

1. Ignore your students when they come into class.
2. Don't bother learning their names. That way you won't have to risk getting one wrong.
3. Keep them in their seats. They should 'just be able' to sit quietly all hour.
4. Don't treat them with respect. After all, they are just kids.
5. Treat boys and girls the same.
6. Or better yet, be condescending to the girls' drama and put down boys when they act up.
7. Make the whole class stay after for the infractions of one student.
8. Mistake their youthful exuberance for willful disobedience. Punish them accordingly.
9. Be suspicious of their motives. If you expect them to ruin your day, they will.
10. Tell your colleagues how bad your kids are. It will make you feel better about following the other 9 tips.

Feel free to add your tips. We've all had teachers we can draw from.

Check out http://ajleon.me/12-tips-to-ensure-you-never-ever-get-anything-done. This is where I got the idea for this post.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Time

The one constant in your life. It makes that promise to you, one tick at a time. Tick after tick after ceaseless tick. At least that is what It would have you believe. But Time lies. It is not constant. It stands still. It marches. It flies. It gets crunched, warped, lost, found, borrowed, kept, and made. We slice it and splice it. We kill it. We save it. It’s eternal. It’s fleeting. We ask others to give it to us. We even take our own. Sometimes you don’t have any of it.  Occasionally, you have all the time in the world. 

Time may be your ally but the clock is not your friend. Have you ever watched one? Have you ever watched an eighth grader watch one? My favorite days are when the bell rings and it catches us all off guard. On the other hand I hate wrapping it up only to find we have 7 minutes left. Either way the clock is deceitful; in one case it hides, letting time slip away, the other it mocks, smugly peering over its hands, which have all but stopped.

Why so fickle? One word. Engagement. If you are immersed in your undertaking, if your students are engaged, time disappears, learning emerges, understanding abounds. It’s the one constant in your life, it makes that promise to you, one enterprise at a time.