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Stones of Time

Source: Stones of Time

Olga provided great pictures of water and stones along with a haiku and two quotes. Today, I had a conversation about how do we change the world. I commented that we can only live in the here and now.

Confucius reminds us to do any change we begin with small tasks. When we are mindful and present living in the here and now, we understand the small tasks that call for our attention.

Pericles counsels us that others see and understand the imprint of our living in our actions. Our deeds reflect who we are to children, students, co-workers, neighbours, etc. That was part of our conversation today, as well.

What is most indelible are not our words, but our actions. Who am I as a person is a strong message.

 

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 Gift

Hans-Georg Gadamer described eloquent questions, as questions that do not have pre-supposed answers. Eloquent questions become and bound dialogue.

I used eloquent questions in my dissertation to explore how teachers experience using curriculum. Instead of arriving as a prescribed text with fixed answers, curriculum transforms into questions. Each student’s and teacher’s lived-experiences transform into questions held gently so as not to injure. The word transform means to go beyond the existing form and through the gift of dialogue and eloquent questions we can.

Denise Levertov‘s poem is about holding other’s questions as if they are fragile and are the answers to one’s own questions. Questions are gifts. When we watch a child open a gift, the joy is in watching them turn the gift to explore it from different angles. After all, differences make a difference.

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

Two Kinds of Intelligence

Rumi‘s words remind me, as a teacher, that my teaching is more than just providing information for students to learn in a rote way for recall on a test.  If what children and adults learn does not have meaning to them, it becomes “yellow or stagnates.”

On the last day I taught, my students gave me a card and gift, but it was the words they offered that meant the most. They told me it was not learning from an official curriculum, but the “other things” that would mean the most to them in later years.

Curriculum comes from the Latin currere and means “running a course” and relates to living one’s life. In running the course and living one’s life, the other tablet comes to life. It is who and what that are close to our hearts that mean the most. As we live life, we discover what that means in sometimes surprising ways.

It is what we reflect upon and are mindful of, reflecting who we are, that brings the greatest joy to our running and recounting the course of our lives.

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

 

Part 2, Sonnet X

Rilke wrote romantic and philosophic poetry was ahead its time. In a time, when our tools are often taken-for-granted appendages, it is essential to take time and recall the mysteries of life. I think he reminds us that the systems we create act as a machine, too.

When we take time and meditate over living, we find those extraordinary moments lifted from the ordinary. To live in proper relationship with our world and each other, is to (re)member there are always things we cannot understand.

Remember comes from the Latin, meaning call to mind and mindful. John Dewey proposed the word mind was a verb. It is a way of caring and tending to the world much like a gardener takes time to care for their garden.

The Machine endangers all we have made.

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

A Bee

When I taught poetry, I included haiku and writing them overlapped with our Social Studies curriculum. Bashō was a traditional Japanese poets in a Social Studies unit. As well, I asked students to draw pictures to add richness to their poetry.

Several parents and one administrator questioned the value of writing haiku. I told them it was finding the right word to express one’s self. That was enough for most adults, but the administrator and one parent did not get it. What is ironic is both make their living speaking publicly and I think writing haiku might be helpful.

I chose this haiku, because quite often we struggle to give up things we do not do well and seek the comfort of safe places. In this case, the bee is comfortable in the peony and is reluctant to leave.

Usually, the students enjoyed writing poetry and understood the benefits. Several students used poetry to keep notes in other classes. The students were concerned about the 5-7-5 syllable pattern than actually writing poetry. I told them to get their broad ideas down, find new words, and massage the pattern into place. They took their time and learned how to use a syllabus in the process.

How reluctantly

the bee emerges from deep

within the peony

Anatomy Class

Today, I looked for a poem and, after some searching, settled on this one by Betsy Franco. I had not heard of her before, but the poem is interesting. I wondered what my students would have thought of it.

The poem is playful and inviting. People want to play and explore the world they inhabit with others and we are often left surprised by what we discover.

Franco points out the paradox of the words we use and inanimate objects like chairs, clocks, and kites come alive. Perhaps, in the minds of children, they do live. Maybe words and language are less of an impediment to children. They are present to a world that is fantastic and subject to a myriad of interpretations.

The chair has

arms.

The clock,

a face.

The kites have

long and twirly tails.

The tacks have

heads.

The books have

spines.

The toolbox has

a set of nails.

Our shoes have

tongues,

the marbles,

eyes.

The wooden desk has

legs and seat.

The cups have

lips.

My watch has

hands.

The classroom rulers all have

feet.

Heads, arms hands, nails,

spines, legs, feet, tails,

face, lips, tongues, eyes.

What a surprise!

 

Is our classroom alive?

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