Friday, September 14, 2018

How Do You See Others?

People don’t seem to realize the power they have to make the world a better place.  Each day can be a new beginning.  Imagine you are walking down the street.  In many cities of America, there are multitudes of people.  They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds.  And unfortunately, many are homeless.  It began with the odd characters many called "hobos".  And decades later, we see more and more homeless.  What is particularly disturbing is the trend has shifted away from these odd characters with the reality of more families becoming homeless. 

So what happens when you encounter different people on your walk around your town?  Are you ruled by fear; wary of every stranger?  Or just the scruffy looking ones?  Are the neatly dressed folks more trustworthy?  It’s really hard to say.  We all have our own criteria, biases, prejudices, and fears.  We use these filters to live and get through each day.  And while I am all for personal safety, I also don’t want to live in dread and fear.  I am mindful of Geothe's words: “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”  . 

Consider this situation created by videographer and social experimenter "Johal".  Person A, a homeless person.  Person B, a man looking for his lost daughter.  Both are seeking help.  What would A ask of B?  What would B ask of A?  What would you do or say if you were cast in their shoes?  Watch this video clip.  Then think of Goethe’s words: “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” 

Teachers in a classroom of youngsters wield tremendous power.  Cloaked in a mantle of authority and supremacy, the very words they utter can move the world.  Words are merely utterances to some, but can also be devastating bombs shattering self-confidence and the world.  Once labeled as a disruptive student, others with little or no contact with that student are predisposed to accept what they hear from “reliable” sources.  Fair is a concept which seems to be a rarity on Earth (depending on the people in your circle). You have the power to make "fair" be less rare in our world. When you consider the state of humanity at this time, it becomes clear how significantly simple words impact our day to day reality. They form what we see, they morph it into something it does not have to become. Take some time to walk down your streets, go to your local "skid row" area or a homeless shelter and take a look at reality looks like for others. Use this experience to teach and live with a compassionate stance so we begin to project compassion instead of prejudice.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Power the Imagination

I honestly cannot remember the last time I picked up a fairy tale. I cannot remember the last time I truly got lost in another world. The books I read, about leadership, management, children, education, and neuroscience, etc. are all cerebral. These types of books require us to think, process and decipher the information for further use. Sometimes it’s to spark inspiration and help us make a difference in whatever we are working on at the time. Or to get out of a rut. Rarely do we as adults, just pick up a fantasy book and dive in, head first. We don’t. We are so caught up in all our new information and “nonfiction” lives that we stop remembering to play. To just be. We forget to pick up a book that goes beyond the newest science updates and strategies for success. We forget that learning isn’t all about facts, strategies and so on. It’s about letting that creativity within us come out and play. It’s about letting go of our “nonfiction” lives and embrace the possibility of the impossible. When we as adults can do this… when we can stop and embrace the fantasy we set a positive example for our children. We model to them that learning isn’t all about facts and strategies. It’s not only about subjects that seem like no fun. It’s about being creative and delving into the unknown. Fantasies give our children (and us as adults) the chance to stop and experience the impossible through a book. It allows us to be exposed to what others can create. This opens our imaginations to the impossible and sometimes to things that are possible. The word itself does say “im-possible”. The next time you go to the library or book store and your child wants a crazy looking fantasy book, don’t say no. Instead offer to read it with them. There’s no better way to spend time with your child than reading a book. And if you can make your imagination and theirs soar at the same time, it’s all the more worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Road Block to Learning: Self-imposed Limits

Everyone is an individual.  As such, they are unique.  So it's no surprise that everyone learns differently.  Students need to learn how they learn best.  They apply this knowledge to become their own best teacher.  To stack the deck in their favor, they need to create an environment for successful study.  Follow Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.  Start with the 5 senses and create a setting conducive to study.  Know the assignment.  Have all relevant materials on hand: books, paper, pen, references.  Avoid and remove distractions and sources of interruptions.  They also need to learn how to effectively manage their time.  People have different attention spans.  Use this knowledge to your advantage.  Those with short attention spans should not try to force themselves to sit and study for hours on end.  The results will be ineffective.

The power of the human mind is amazing.  Negative attitudes are like gravity; they tend to pull you down.  I can recall so many times in the classroom where frustrated students exclaim, “I can’t do this.”  Self-fulfilling prophecies of difficulties and hardship tend to come true.  Having made the statement, students often don’t try.  The power of imagination can create an insurmountable obstacle.  They have convinced themselves success is unattainable.  This begins the trip down the slippery slope into the pit of boredom, despair and less success in class.  It turns into a no win situation.  A positive attitude helps, but is no guarantee of success.  Simply saying “I can do this” is not enough.  You need to stack the deck in your favor and prepare to do the assignment or task.  For example, a young student says “I want to be a jet fighter pilot but I don’t do math.”  Do you honestly see this person becoming a pilot?

I have seen students contending for athletic scholarships but are failing in my class.  Discouraged, many drift into class late and unprepared.  They don’t submit assignments.  All this leads to poor exam results.  At the end of the term, they beg for a minimum passing grade.  “I know my grades are bad, but I am trying really hard.”  This is attended with statements of the many tens of hours they spent studying for my class.  Yet in their sport, they know practice is required.  They know they must show up at practice and to be on time.  In any athletic competition, there usually is only one winning team.  Both teams enter the match focused on winning.  Both teams are trying very hard.  It is important to try.  Without trying, you have no chance to succeed.  But trying doesn’t guarantee success.  Somehow, these students don’t apply this simple understanding to their academic studies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Questions Not Answers

A common perception (or hope) is that students go to school to learn.  Teachers tend to give tests to confirm students studied and learned.  The students are graded on the number of correct answers.  Before the lesson, most students often don’t think they know the answers.  So they ask questions.  Teachers often feel they must provide the answer to those questions.  And students expect to get the right answers to study for the test.  For most tests, there is one and only one correct answer.

Unfortunately real life doesn’t quite work that way.  For example, what is the correct answer to the question of “Who should I ask to the party on Friday night?”  Or, “What should make for lunch today?”  The truly “right” answer is usually relative and rather elusive.  The real world is complex and undergoes changes.  It is sometimes a very fluid and dynamic place.  For most of us, the “right” answer is relative to a number of factors that are both intangible/subjective mixed in with tangible/objective facts. 

One of the missing links in the question and answer system is listening.  The world is a diverse place.  Highly educated people (e.g. world recognized experts) are often not found in some of the places with very big problems.  Those places are often impoverished.  The people living there lack educational opportunities.  So they lack fancy diplomas and degrees.  They study in the “school of hard knocks.”  The lack of a diploma doesn’t mean they don’t know things.  To see a good example of the importance of asking good questions and listening carefully to the answers (and then asking more questions), consider Ernesto Sirollis’ talk “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!” You may be shocked to see how some of the world’s top experts can be rendered ineffective when they ignore the knowledge of impoverished, “uneducated” indigenous people.