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

Friday, May 27, 2011

THINK, FAIL, LOVE

This post is the text of a speech I was asked by vote of the students to give at their Honors Awards Assembly.  The underlined words are those I worked into the speech based on an earlier post of the 100 Word Club.


Congratulations students. It is truly an honor to be up here, to have been chosen by you, the SHARP 8th grade students here at Shakopee Junior High. I am humbled you would invite me to speak.  I just hope I have the aptitude to carry it off with aplomb.

Parents and extended family, thank you for your part in their success.  Strong parental involvement is the number one predictor of student success.


Students, to get here you have demonstrated you can LEARN. In fact, you are here because you are all excellent learners. You have learned how to do any number of sophisticated tasks.  But the ability to learn mainly suggests the ability to follow directions, to memorize things. You have the potential to move on from where you are today. And to do so I believe you must consistently and persistently do the following three things:  Think, Fail, and Love.

·        You must be able to THINK FREELY
·        And you must be willing to FAIL PRODUCTIVELY
·        You must choose to LOVE DEEPLY

Thinking freely does not diminish learning. It enables you to use what you learned to figure things out. TEN years from now there will be jobs that don’t exist today.  We don’t know what they will be, so we cannot teach you today how to do them and you cannot learn how to do them today. But if you are able to think you can figure out what to do when that time comes. If you are able to think you can ask the right questions. You can discover. You can invent. Thinking freely enables you to see a need and take the necessary actions to benefit others.

Thinking freely also means you will FAIL. If you think freely, if you ask questions, if you try to discover, try to invent, you will fail. But FAILING is the only path to success.  If you never try, you will never discover, never invent. You may never ask questions.  This is safe, but boring and an egregious waste of your minds. The trick to failing is to fail productively.

I did not grow up in Minnesota so I did not learn how to ice skate. When I first moved here I decided to give it a try. It was kinda fun, but I didn’t know how to stop or turn. So I either crashed into the wall or I fell. I fell often and I fell hard. So I decided I would not fail at skating anymore.  You know what I did?  I put away the skates. I have not failed since. If I continue with this choice it will be impossible for me to fail, but there is no way I can achieve success either. For me to learn to ice skate I have to learn from my mistakes. I have to be willing to fail productively. So how do we ensure we fail productively?

That’s where LOVING DEEPLY comes in. If we think freely, there is no guarantee we will be doing good things with our thinking. We can be unloving and exercise free thinking.  Hitler comes to mind, so does the scam artist who just stole someone’s identity, or the person who figured out how to open your locker and steal your phone, or even the person who talks behind your back. Each of these examples exercised thinking, but none made a positive difference. None failed productively. That is because none love deeply by their actions. So when we think freely, we MUST love deeply if we are to make a positive difference. 

So I challenge you to make a positive difference. I challenge you to think freely, to fail productively, and to love deeply.

And as successful as you have been, you are in the position to make a positive difference largely because of your parents. They have not been perfect. No one is. But the number one reason you are in this auditorium today is because your parents have thought freely, failed productively and loved you deeply. 

Pass it on.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Like Falling Off of a Bike


Let me ask you something.  When you were a kid, when you learned things; how to ride a bike, tie your shoes, play catch, bail out of a swing, climb a tree,  feed the dog, etc . . .  Did you receive a report card?  A letter grade?


“Sally, you earned a C+ on bike riding today. A bit wobbly, but an enjoyable learner”, mom joylessly intoned. 

Of course you didn’t get a letter grade. Instead, you got scraped knees, loose shoes, fat lips, the willies in your stomach, and too much food on the floor. And you know what else you got?  You got better. You got honest praise. And you got a smile on your face because you did it.  You did it. And it didn’t take a report card for you to know it.  You knew when you didn’t get it and you knew the instant you finally did. Remember that feeling? Remember when you finally rode your bike, or first jumped out of a swing? Of course you do, and I bet you’re smiling on the inside right now, recalling fondly the uneven road to learning something new.

I believe schools today are making the road too smooth. We are a standards based and a grades based nation, and that has caused us to change our emphasis. Student use terms like, “I passed!” or “I got an A!”, when they should really be exclaiming, “I did it!” Can a grade tell you what they learned?  Can it tell you what they can do now that they couldn’t before?  There’s a huge difference between, “I got an A!” and “I did it!” And there’s a different style of teaching that elicits each of these responses. 

One style emphasizes teaching, the other style emphasizes doing. One style tells them what to learn, the other teaches them how. There are successful styles in between, where admittedly I find myself. Each year I venture farther out to the how style, yet still holding on too much to the teaching style. It’s safer to tell them what to learn, but it’s time for me to scrape my knees and spill too much dog food on the floor as I launch out on how to let them figure it out for themselves.

By the way, do you still know how to ride a bike? Nice job, you get to keep your A.


For other of Dave Driver's works see The Bottom Turtle

Monday, May 2, 2011

Polly Want a Cracker

Many years ago my wife and I owned an African Grey parrot. In addition to being thoroughly entertained we became educated. We learned what we said over and over again. We learned what phrases and words we unconsciously repeated and we learned when we were most apt to repeat the. For example, I learned that I always said, “Well, okay . . .” just before I said, “Goodbye”, because the parrot began to beat me to my ‘goodbye’. I also learned that my allergies were annoying to those around me. I sniffed constantly, but only when the parrot sniffed back in my tone did I realize I needed to do something about it. I went to an allergist and he fixed my problem. It was too late to do anything about the poor parrot’s sniffle.

If you had a parrot, what phrases would it pick up? What would you learn about yourself?  Ask your close friends. Ask your family. It might be kind of fun.

I am going to ask my current students. I am going to learn from them what phrases I repeat. I am going to learn which ones are annoying and ineffective. Then I’m going to get those phrases fixed.

For my past students, here’s your chance. You have taught me many things.  I am asking you to let me peer into your world once again.  What phrases did I use? Which ones are keepers?  Which ones should I never do again?  

Well, okay . . . Goodbye.