On a Beach Walk: #57 (Wind)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Wind is one of our earthly constants. Although it may only be slight at our planet’s surface, winds are constant throughout the atmosphere.

Today the wind is strong and gusty – not a whispery breeze. Today the wind provides a strong headwind as I walk.

Today the wind roars as it passes my ears. Today is more of a slap than a feathery touch – but tomorrow may be different.

Today’s wind causes me to think about other terms associated with wind – gales, gusts, squalls, storms, cyclones, hurricanes, typhons, tornadoes, vortices, and more. Other terms describing wind come to mind as sea breezes, mountain breezes, desert winds, easterlies, westerlies, prevailing, polar, topical, headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds, and there are more.

The wind is as moody and fickle as people. Winds change throughout the day and from day to day. The winds of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all different – yet the wind always speaks to us in the form of spirits, messages, metaphors, and similes. But do we listen? Does anyone even know the language it speaks? Maybe the wind just stimulates our own private thoughts.

The wind is mysterious. We don’t see it, but notice its effects. We can’t hold it, but feel it on our body.

Like us, the wind can be conflicting and complex in its messaging. Like the wind, change is constant in life – and an absolute certainty – especially as technology seems to be moving us to change faster and faster. To some, change is an uncontrollable feeling of a piece of paper being tossed around by the wind.

I watch an approaching helicopter fly into the stiff wind. It flies straight, but the pilot positions the aircraft at an angle for reasons I do not know – but it must be because of the wind. That stiff wind is also the resistance that comes with change – that resistance for maintaining the comfort of the status quo.

Whereas the wind provides resistance, it can also be directive. Like moving with ease when implementing an idea. Who doesn’t like the wind at their back? That wind also allows us to float with ease – but to some, it can be like riding a wild bull.

From causing leaves to rustle, flags to flutter and refreshing our skin, the wind is poetic – it’s moving – it provides imagery to us all. The wind can be soft or rough – fierce or gentle – hot or cold – damaging or refreshing while delivering a variety of messages. Yet, the wind is free – free to do as it wants – even imposing its will.

Wind – that natural flow of atmospheric gases along the Earth’s surface – simply, the movement of air.

Wind – that force moving sand along the beach, changing the landscape, or eroding stone.

Other planets have winds, but solar winds are not the movement of gases.

Wind – a key component of song and movie titles as Gone with the Wind, Inherit the Wind, Blowin’ in the Wind, Candle in the Wind, Ride Like the Wind, They Call the Wind Mariah, Colors of the Wind, and many more.

Wind – a necessity for recreation as moving sailboats, flying kites, windsurfing, hand gliding, paragliding, and more.

Although the wind can be many things, the wind on the beach can provide a freshness that only the winds of the sea provide. The wind can be one of the reasons why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Career of Two Halves

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Everyone evolves in their job or career. It’s different for everyone; however, not only do each of us change, different reasons initiate each bit of change. Do you have a single moment that changed your career life? If so, do remember the key components as place, date, time, and situation?

I can’t imagine a teacher getting it right on Day 1 of their career. After all, one enters their classroom from the protective confines of observations, experiences, and student teaching – but now that new teacher is all alone with the elements.

To me, my teaching career involved two halves. Content and discipline dominated the first half. After all, two of my strengths were organizing and explaining information.

I recall a story of student who came to my defense when a peer complained that I was so hard. She explained that I was easy because I presented the information well, laid it out in front them, but the content was hard – not me. Oh my, is biology ever heavy in terminology. On the other hand, I later determined that didn’t mean I was a good teacher.

The labs were OK, but not my strength. Like most science teachers, labs were done to support/verify the already-presented content.

I don’t know how it happened, but professional development was very important to me. State, regional, and national conferences were always on my radar. I tried to attend those within a reasonable distance, plus I didn’t mind providing some of my own expenses because (the way I saw it) that’s what professionals do. These conferences were learning experiences – although a side of me (like most teachers) was looking for ideas to fit into my system – after all, I (like most teachers) know what is best for my students.

Toward the end of my career’s first half, the school district hired a math-science curriculum coordinator. Although primarily a math person, I processed her thoughts because she was good at stimulating my thinking. Besides – I had already heard this information before at the conferences; but I didn’t put my knowledge into action.

I wish I would have recorded the date, time, exact setting, and circumstances of the next event. I recall being in a session at a National Science Teachers Association regional conference in Louisville, Kentucky when the light bulb became bright – causing me to proclaimed, “I’ve done a great job of doing it wrong all these years.”

Reflections can be powerful, and I wonder how many people would admit what I did – especially one with 13 or so years of experience. From that moment in Louisville, I committed myself to change. During the rest of the school year, our coordinator encouraged me to try some things – similar to test driving a car – which I did. I also identified areas where I needed training – plus where to get it – and I eagerly attended several intense classes and workshops for 6 months.

As the next school year started, my teaching approach and philosophy changed 180 degrees. I shifted from a lecture-based to activity-based – from teacher centered to student centered – from content driven to application based – from textbook driven to the textbook being an aid – from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side – from dispensing informing to students to having students learn for themselves – from me telling what they needed to know to me guiding their learning as they figure it out – from me tweaking prepared activities to me designing my own lessons that had a clearly defined instructional strategy.

There is no question that the last half of my career was more rewarding than the first half. I loved the challenge of developing and implementing a lesson. My most rewarding moments would be standing and looking at a classroom of every student engaged without me. I wrote my own lessons and was very good at it. My first-half strengths of organizing information and controlling the classroom helped immensely. After all, I had been there and done that.

The last half of my career taught me how to teach. It taught me how people learn. It taught me that change can occur – especially when driven from within. Yes, it made me stubborn with teachers I encountered who held onto the past of teaching how they were taught.

I later had some years in training development for businesses. I cringed when hearing someone say, “Anyone can teach” – well, in business it’s “anyone can train!” I knew I had arrived in my new endeavor when I was disagreeing with the majority of others in the field around me. After all, I had the advantage of knowing that telling isn’t teaching, and telling isn’t training.

On a Beach Walk: No. 31

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The sand is always shifting. The beachhead is different every day due to continual waves and changing tides.

Daily winds easily move the dry sand from place to place. The moving grains of sand stings my legs during gusts or very windy days. The city places old Christmas trees from residents by the dunes to catch moving sand and build the dune. On the other hand, violent storms as hurricanes easily reconfigure the landscape.

Shifting sand is a metaphor for change. Oh, how life has changed during my 65 years. Thinking about the change those in their 90s have seen is mind boggling – after all;

I remember the rooftop antenna delivering 3 television stations to our black and white TV.

I remember picking up the phone, dialing zero to tell the operator the number I wanted to call.

I remember party lines – although we didn’t have one.

I remember the excitement of the first TV dinner that was either baked chicken or Salisbury Steak that had to heated in the oven.

I remember cooking popcorn on the stove with heated oil in a large pot was the primary option.. Jiffy Pop was a big deal!

I remember frequently playing with many neighborhood friends outside.

I remember Charlie – the milkman delivering milk to our house.

I remember stores in small towns like mine had vibrant downtowns providing everything that people needed.

I remember going to the movie theater, which showed a cartoon before the featured film.

I remember our town’s 6-lane bowling alley using a person to set the pins before the age of automatic equipment.

I remember using a slide rule in high school and college.

The sand is soft and the water is refreshing, but change isn’t easy. People and organizations fight change, but change happens out of necessity. We can’t return to the life of what was in whatever year one selects because those days are not only gone – but won’t be returning! – and to think that technological change is happening faster than ever.

It is not easy to imagine life 15 years from now. If I’m lucky, I’ll see it as an 80 year old. What will my nephews and nieces see when they are my current 65? If humans can figure out how to get along, it could be a wonderful world.

Change is good, but somethings do not need to be replaced, such as walking the beach being good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Views of Education: Vol. 2 – Change

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As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. A person described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was the voice in the wilderness. I spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. You may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own so I’ve numbered them only for reference.

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Today’s Topic: Educational Change
1) Change is a journey, not a blueprint. Change is loaded with uncertainty, difficulties, and excitement. Change is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy. In the difficult times of change, three keys are necessary to keep the process moving toward the vision: the presence of a vision, support, and encouragement. Because education reacts to immediate needs, it has a long tradition of short sidedness, education lacks the long-term commitment that is necessary to implement change. So let’s embrace following further behind society.

2) I’m not pro-teacher, not pro-student, not pro-community, and for God’s sake not pro-administrator … but I am pro-outcomes and pro-processes that leads to benefits for the students and society. Thus the mismatch: producing an early 20th century product for a 21st century world.

3) Change is difficult. Some will refuse to travel the journey, yet others will reverse course along the way, which also means some will not survive – yet the strongest, the committed will arrive to establish a new way.

4) The body of knowledge continues to grow, but school processes remain relatively unchanged.

5) Society’s It-Was-Good-Enough-For-Me Club will prevent change from occurring, so pseudo-reform will occur to create an illusion of change rather than change itself.

6) At best, reform has simply been a “tinkering” of the old system; whereas restructuring involves overhauling the existing system to establish a new operating structure.

7) Given the amount of change needed, the educational system would be best served by shutting down for a year to reorganize and retool.

8) Change is more than a determining if we are going to have a Homeroom period or not. After all, the best reason for not having one is to put it back in place down the road.

Previous posts in the series

Reform

On Lenten Sacrifice to Help Us All

Today Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday, thus the start of the season of Lent; the season leading up to the most festive day in the Christian church.

During this 40-day journey of renewal, many will give up something substantive as chocolate, alcohol, or candy. A less popular way to look at Lent, but possibly more meaningful, is not giving up something, but to give something. One could give time to the needy, a neighbor, or their community. Giving something that isn’t normally done is a justifiable sacrifice that is in the spirit of the season.

No matter what the choice, whether in the spirit of giving up or doing, I offer these Lenten suggestions to our beloved members of Congress.

  • On this day, Ash Wednesday, and the day after 90% of the polled public gave President Obama a range of positive marks for his speech.
  • On this day when Congress itself has an approval rating of about half of the president’s.
  • On this day, the day after while having to watch a polarizing Speaker Pelosi in the background as President Obama called for bipartisanship.
  • On this day, the day after the Republican response of we’ll support the president when he agrees with us.

Give up partisan BS.
Do work toward constructive solutions.

Give up party-first mentality.
Do act and embrace a country-first approach.

Give up letting others think for you.
Do go against your party more often.

Give up talking against the other party.
Do listen and think.

Give up citing crap as “all economists we’ve talked to”, thus stop listening to one view.
Do listen to a variety of economists, thus listening to other views.

Give up using statistics selectively to lash out against the other side.
Do use a full complement of statistics to gain a fuller understanding of the problem and seek solutions.

Give up any pay raise and cost of living adjustment for the rest of your term.
Do pass legislation that freezes your wages and adjustments so you only receive them in years of a budget surplus.

Give up personal frivolous spending in individual budgets.
Do cut budgets of all individual members of Congress and each committee by 20%.

Give up fear mongering and trying so hard to make the opposition look bad.
Do work on strengthening your position.

Give up arguing about which partisan solution is the best of the worst.
Do work for something better than each can offer.

Give up groups of 4 or more (2 per party) going on a government-funded trip.
Do pass legislation making all expenditures by members of Congress as transparent as possible, thus readily available to any taxpayer seeking the information.

Give up fund raising for any Political Action Committee (PAC); including your own.
Do pass legislation that no member of Congress can have/lead a PAC.

Do get your head of your butt.

Amen.