Dropping Pebbles in the Pond

I don’t know that this quote has been accurately attributed to Mother Theresa, but some time ago I came across a meme that did. The quote was:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Think about that concept. 

It’s unlikely that an individual or individual actions are going to create a world-changing difference. There are standouts in history where big things happen due to the ideas and actions of individuals, but on a day-to-day basis, faced with the challenges put in front of humanity in today’s world, the thought that one person alone can change the world for the better is a bit of a reach.

And yet there’s a reason we know who Mother Theresa is.

Whether it was her that said it or not.

I DO like the idea of ripples as a way to affect change.

Casting a stone though…Sure there are ripples. But it skips away and across, leaving that trail of expanding rings. Neat enough, but as a teacher, I’ll use a stone when I’m looking to smash a window or get attention. 

Like a teacher should, you know.

But my approach when I’m educating, which when you think about it is changing the world for learners’ through their perceptions of the world and their approaches to it, and this is whether I’m speaking of my own children or about students in my classroom, is more about dropping pebbles than casting stones. 

More ripples. More intersections. More influence. More opportunities.

Many pebbles when I can, and right where I am. I want to be in the ripples. I want to see them intersect and interact, I want to watch what happens when students see them. I want to collect the data on what happens when I know that they do and are reacting to that.

Then I want to use what I see to decide where more pebbles should be dropped.

I’m the teacher. I have been doing this for over twenty years and in my time before and in my time now my world has rippled across hundreds of years of collective experience in education and intersected and been influenced by every sort of little pebble from state legislative leaders of education, down through commissioners of education and state department regents, down through superintendents…down to food service workers, custodians, health office staff, parent volunteers, board members…

It has never really been education or schools that needed reforming, but a game is being forced into play as if it was and is. The world is placing its burdens on schools and educators are being expected to pretend that it’s the school’s responsibility to fix the world. This is where Mother Theresa nails it, I think. And she did it in this interview almost twenty years ago, around when I started teaching.

 “There is a poverty in your country that is just as severe as our poorest of the poor… In the West there is a loneliness, which I call the leprosy of the West. In many ways, it is worse than our poor in Calcutta.”

Our “American Exceptionalism” culture drives us into separation and isolation.

We are expected to accept “the economy” as the measure of our success as a people, and in schools that economy has become standardized testing data. The norming of results to take that data and further dehumanize a human endeavor has turned our eyes further from the children and more to the screens, machines and spreadsheets that only facilitate further dehumanization of the human endeavor to educate.

The way real educators should.

Those are some pebbles from my one hand.

In the other, I’m still holding a stone.

If the world is to be changed, I think that’s how to get it started. With the right pebbles dropped in the right places at the right time.

I had a bit of a break from my last podcast episode, and I’m still trying to nail down the platform and approach. The next one will get into examples of how I have actually made that pebble and ripples thing work. A little twisted, a lot of fun, and very effective!


Real Educators and Real Education Reform

This might just be the first segment of the first episode of a new podcast.

Hello all, welcome. Come in, find your seat, or I guess find a seat- I won’t be assigning any yet so it’s okay, just grab the spot you want for now and if there are any problems I’ll move people around. Just know that if you choose to sit next to your bestie I’ll be watching to make sure you can do that and still make good choices.

Let’s get some definitions out of the way first. Since this effort I’m making here is called Real Educators, and Real Education Reform I should share the hows and whys of my using the terms “Real Educators” and “Real Education Reform”.

First, “real educators”. In my mind, if you are involved in any way with guiding learners as they come to grips with how to navigate this world we’re sharing, then you are a real educator. Most of the time my frame of reference will be how that is happening within the public school paradigm with a focus on classrooms and hallways.

But from parents to police, from presidents and their favorite porn stars to the guy at the newsstand on the corner selling the rags that reveal the darkest secrets of presidents and their favorite porn stars…

Everyone plays a role, so the key is paying attention to the role you play and the potential that lies within. 

You can make a difference, and chances are you do make a difference, but do you know that you can and do make a difference? 

Do you know that what you do and how you do it is a part of the education of others around you sharing this world with you? 

Do you think about what that difference you make might be or could look like? 

Maybe you see it as incidental or insignificant but it isn’t at all. All those tiny interactions add up. No matter how brief or in passing they are, they, and you, make a difference. Even tiny ripples travel and spread to the edges of a pond. Like the muppets sang on Sesame Street, they’re the people you meet when you’re walking down the street each day- except now you know that in the lives of learners you are those people. You are those ripples.

So sure, as a teacher my primary focus is on that role and other roles within the day-to-day school setting but having played that role for over twenty years the number one thing I have learned is that I am only part of the “real educator” team. A chance meeting, an every morning or afternoon hello from a fellow familiar…from cashier to construction worker, from preacher to police, all of these other humans tell us something about the world we are living in and tell school children as well. From puppets to porn stars it all informs us as we move forward through life. And if you are lucky enough to come across porn that incorporates puppets-definitely let me know. 

Purely for research purposes you know, I am a licensed, professional educator. Your children are safe with me

A Story (Part 1)

Little Danny stepped up to get his sled. His cousin Brian stepped up with him onto the other track as the two prepared to rocket into the record books on the “Alpine Slide”. And to think that only an hour ago they were getting ready to just run around Gram and Gramps whacking the bee tree and waiting for someone to get stung.

This was way cooler than that.

Not that the bee tree thing wasn’t interesting. Every year that giant pine tree was humming with hornets, and they were all around the house, and everywhere in the yard. There were no popsicles in peace or ice cream cones in the occasional calm. The sugar would bring-em. You’d be stung for sure.That’s why it was starting to get interesting. Someone was probably getting stung, and each boy was pretty sure it was going to be the other, but neither really cared. It happened every year, a few times anyway.

It had started with “Go run around the tree twice and then back to the porch,” progressed to three-times around, and even to the next difficulty level: taking the thin, yellow, wiffle-ball bat and whacking the tree before dashing back to the porch. That’s when the hornets became more interested. Up until then, whichever waited on the enclosed front porch would see a wisp of hornets pull away the way smoke above a candle does when your hand passes through. A few hornets would trail after briefly and then return to the tree. The bat was another story. A handful came all the way to the door and almost made it in before the runner closed the door. It was a whack-run-watch as hornets tapped and bounced off the glass of the porch door.

Still, it just seemed not quite dangerous enough for a couple men like them. They climbed onto roofs. They dumped entire pixie sticks into their mouths and washed it down with the sting of ice-cold Coca Cola. They snuck beers and cigars. They let Grandma drop them off at weekend bible camp, but only because it was a chance to sneak away from campfires and songs and into the woods with church girls.

So they decided the real danger from bees and such might only be elevated to the level of their courage if they smelled more flower-like during their assaults on the bee tree. Before they could thoroughly douse themselves with their grandfather’s green, Skin-Bracer aftershave (that being the most smell-good thing a couple stinky boys could think of) the call to load up into the family wagon came. They were heading to Song Mountain and the Alpine Slide!

Which brings us forward in time to Little Danny, atop his sled, at the top of the mountain, ready to ride that Alpine Slide.

People have had to be airlifted away from this ride! Little Danny thought. Which is probably why the teenage kid at the top did the safety thing he did every single time to every single person, probably every year Little Danny had been coming. How to stay on the track, don’t stop in the middle, how to push the lever forward to go faster, how to pull back to…

Little Danny pushed off fast before Safety Boy could finish. Sure he was probably five or six years older, 18 tops, but he clearly didn’t know how big boys played!