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Category Archives: 21st Century Education

The Great Paradox

As a teacher, I wonder how we keep children safe from themselves and, at the same time, not curbing their innate curiosity and imagination.

Pablo Picasso said “Every child is born an artist. The challenge is to remain an artist after you grow up.”

Albert Einstein stated “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

I am less concise, so I wrote a poem.

Born curious and imaginative,

Children do not have to be taught.

Yes, they can hurt themselves,

Ah, they need guides to walk with them,

Without inflicting greater harm.

The challenge lies in a question:

How do I guide them, without damaging them?

‘Tis a great paradox.

 

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A Vision

I am preparing to go to Miami of Ohio to attend a writing retreat. It is a curriculum theory called currere, which is the root word for curriculum and is an infinitive verb meaning to run the course of one’s life.

Currere overlaps with the methodology, hermeneutic phenomenology I used in my writing my dissertation. The two are reflective, explore one’s lived-experiences, and interpret them as data . After a person reflects on a lived-experience, they imagine how it might inform their teaching. They create a vision of the past and future in a way to create a vision for the present.

William Pinar compared this process to photographs that gain clarity as they develop. I had not used the method, but referenced Dr. Pinar’s work and he was on my dissertation committee.

Part of the process of preparing has been to use the method of currere. As I wrote, read, and reflected this Wendell Berry poem came into my view. Even though I am not teaching, I wanted to create a vision of what the wisdom might be like. As a young teacher, I can envision having used the process as a way to survive, to be still, enrich my teaching and student learning, and creating a memory native to my teaching. As Wendell Berry says, it was a paradisal dream. Hard work never is. It is its own reward.

If we will have the wisdom to survive,

to stand like slow-growing trees

on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,

if we make our seasons welcome here,

asking not too much of earth or heaven,

then a long time after we are dead

the lives our lives prepare will live

here, their houses strongly placed

upon the valley sides, fields and gardens

rich in the windows. The river will run

clear, as we will never know it,

and over it, birdsong like a canopy.

On the levels of the hills will be

green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.

On the steeps where greed and ignorance

            cut down

the old forest, an old forest will stand,

its rich leaf-fall drifting its roots.

The veins of forgotten springs will have

            opened..

Families will be singing in their fields.

In the voices they will hear a music

risen out of the ground. They will take

nothing from the ground they will not

            return,

whatever the grief at parting. Memory,

native to this valley, will spread over it

like a grove, and memory will grow

into a legend, legend into song, song

into sacrament. The abundance of this

            place,

the songs of its people and its birds,

will be health and wisdom and indwelling

light. This is no paradisal dream.

Its hardship is its possibilities.

The Contract: A Word from the Led

William Ayot wrote this poem as a reminder to those who aspire to lead that there are people who are led. This weekend is important to me as I am being “hooded” for my PhD in the Philosophy of Leadership Studies.

In my dissertation, I argued teachers are leaders. To educate means to lead out of childhood and youth in a caring way. Pedagogy is to lead children. The leading teachers undertake is serving and transforming the world they inhabit, preparing a new generation for the unknown beyond the walls of the classroom and the moment.

I understand teaching as a vocation and calling that gives me voice. It is expressing who I am at the very core of my being and becoming. It was a dream I pursued for years and shared with others. Hannah Arendt said action transforms the world in ways we cannot anticipate and know. Unlike work and labour action transcends time and space. Teaching was never work for me and it was always voluntary.

As a PhD in the field of leadership it is essential to recall this as I move forward and become involved in teacher education at the university level, working with teachers, and writing about the leading teachers undertake. Andragogy is leading adults.

And in the end we follow them –
not because we are paid,
not because we might see some advantage,
not because of the things they have accomplished,
not even because of the dreams they dream
but simply because of who they are:
the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;
captain, pirate, and parent by turns,
the bearer of our countless hopes and expectations.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.

For the Children

Gary Snyder wrote this beautiful poem about children being adult’s saving grace in the world. What is new fascinates and they wonder about the newness. For a small child, most of what they encounter is new and calls out to the child to explore and wonder over it.

There is zen and mystical quality to the poem with a reference to meeting in peace somewhere in the future. The essential part of peace is staying together, learning the flowers, and going lightly.

It is not learning about flowers, but learning flowers and going lightly, which I think will take a different way of teaching. This is not a new way of teaching. Instead, it is more likely we have forgotten it, being together and living gently in a world that only has so much to offer us.

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light.

“Natural objects should be sought and seen as they are, not to suit observers, but respectfully as if they were divine beings.” — Goethe

I took this picture several years ago as I drove through Jasper National Park. It was late August before the rutting began, but the bulls were trying to assert dominance. Despite this, people ran into the ditch and talking loudly. I kept my distance and got some great shots from about 100 feet away. As Gary Snyder counseled, I went light.

The Difference Between Judging and Discerning

Source: The Difference Between Judging and Discerning

I am on the road for a couple of days, so I am not sure what I can post in terms of original material. I turn to pressing some great posts from others.

Val‘s post resonated with me, because judging and discerning were part of my dissertation. Hans-Georg Gadamer used these concepts in Truth and Method and they formed a significant part of my conceptual framework, literature review, and conclusions.

Gadamer proposed humans judge the world, ideas, and people as they encounter them. He used the term prejudice, which is a way of prejudging the world as we engage with it and others. In effect, there is a right or wrong way to engage. I used parentheses, because it has a negative connotation and to slow the pace of reading. It became (pre)judge and (pre)judice, which annoyed two of my committee members.

When we take more time to read text and (con)text, that which encircles us, we can (dis)cern and (in)form ourselves as we realize the world and people are complex. WE ask eloquent questions that do not have predetermined answers. We let the question frame dialogue with the world and others.

Val said “when we detach [ourselves] from the belief of good or bad, and discern life’s multicolors and shades, we find freedom beyond the rules and conditioning of the mind.” We let go of judgements of a world that is cast in binary choices of black or white, moving to complex (con)textual understandings (sub)ject to discerning and seeking new and continuous understandings. Ted Aoki contended “and” means more than the binary nature of “or.”

2 By Lao Tzu

Through the concept of deconstruction, the philosopher Jacques Derrida argued we do not live in a world of binaries. Derrida contended between words that appeared to be opposites there was no space and they appeared as long/short. One cannot think of long without understanding short.

Lao Tzu made a similar argument in the first part of this poem: “is and is not produce one another.” Ted Aoki, who was an Alberta-based educator, described the essence of things as being embedded in their “isness.” In the second part, Lao Tzu spoke about a teacher being a person who teaches without a need to possess the words he/she speaks and receiving merit for their teaching.

While I was journaling this morning, I thought of teaching’s essential nature, which is less about the words we speak as teachers and the way we comport ourselves.

As a Frenchman, Derrida used the proper to describe how one comports themself. A person can have rhetoric to fool people, but they do not possess good character if their actions are improper and incongruent with their “good speech.” A person of good character is mindful of the words they use and how they sometimes betray their character.

Beauty and ugliness have one origin.

Name beauty, and ugliness is.

Recognizing virtue recognizes evil.

Is and is not produce one another.

The difficult is born in the easy,

long is defined by short, the high by the low.

Instrument and voice achieve one harmony.

Before and after have places.

That is why the sage can act without effort

and teach without words,

nurture things without possessing them,

and accomplish things without expecting merit:

only one who makes no attempt to possess it

cannot lose it.

A Prayer Among Friends

We live in a world populated by others and surrounded by things. Often, we take the communal nature of living for granted. John Daniel suggests we walk together “in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long.” He counsels that we spend our time with each other and the world generously.

Being present, mindful, and attentive to others and the world lifts our relationships from the taken-for-granted to the meaningful. We elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary, finding beauty in the smallest details that are easily overlooked in the busyness of our living.

Sam Intrator wrote about the etymology of companion, which is breaking and sharing bread on one’s journey. As a teacher, eating lunch with students became an important feature of my relationships with them. I got to them and they me during those more informal moments, adding depth to the pedagogic relationships.

I often feel eating lunch with students added to “gift of good work” that pedagogy calls teachers and others to be part of. Taking time with each other over meals is similar to a prayer spoken from the heart and the listening for responses.

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

 

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