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Hey, you, get off of my cloud.

Impulsivity + Meanness=Regret.

I am still trying to find forgiveness for something I did when I was about seven or eight years old. When I was on the playground, one cold, crisp Texan school yard afternoon, the bell rang, and we went to line up. One of my classmates, a sweet, shy boy, while running to line up, was tripped by me. I impulsively stuck out my leg, and down he went. The look on his face when he was getting up was so sad – the meanness was so unexpected, so abrupt, that I knew, I knewI had done something near unforgivable. I will never forget the look on his face. (I know I helped him up, said sorry, but the damage was done.) I am the one who provided that kid with the experience of people are jerks, and sometimes do cruel things for no reason. Yea, me.

Since I can’t find the little boy (who’s obviously not little anymore) that I tripped in first grade, since the vast detective work of Google, Bing, or others will not find this one soul out of billions, and, I don’t remember names, exact dates or locations, I may never be able to find him and say, “I am sorry. I acted rashly, impulsively, but it may have hurt your feelings, and you still may remember it, and it hurt you for a long time.” 

Sharing this anecdote with students, one girl commented (several times), “that’s mean, Mrs. L,” until I finally had to say, “Yes, I know…it was mean, and I regret it, feel guilty and remorseful every time I think of it. Now let’s move on.” I would like to think that one act of impulsive, yet intentional bullying was out of character for me. That perhaps I was just ‘trying it on,’ and answering an inner curiosity about what is it like to do something wrong…totally, and absolutely outright wrong. But that sounds like a lot of mental justification.

 Trolling for interesting podcasts the other day, I came upon a This American Life episode called “Mind Games” that made me think about how people treat each other, and how if it’s based on lies, it usually doesn’t work out. At all.

This led me to listen to another episode from May, 2002, titled ‘Devil on My Shoulder.’  The premise or theme is that we humans are in constant struggle to choose right versus wrong, moral versus immoral behaviors, and we have so many outside influences pushing us, tempting us, this way and that, that sometimes we are compelled to blame it on a ‘devil on our shoulder,’ feeding us tiny lies and whispering small, but powerfully motivating ways to act unkindly. While my personal philosophy doesn’t include a personification of immoral judgements sitting on my left shoulder, I do believe in a dash of free will along with decision making, cognitive abilities thrown in with a cup of destiny, frosted with fate. Meaning, whether or not you believe in devils and angels, deities and do-gooders, we humans are still faced with the burning question, “what does it mean to do the right thing, and why do we sometimes NOT?”

 When I think about what I did, my heart hurts. That’s guilt. I might be a bit mired (stuck) in this one event, true. I am not sure why I’ve had difficulty finding atonement. If one of my children did something like this, I would tell them to learn from it, not to behave in a mean way again, and move on. So, I guess in that way, perhaps if I took my own advice, I can say I did learn from it. I never tripped anyone else again, and certainly never intentionally hurt anyone again. I just hope that somewhere out there, that boy knows I am sorry.bored angel

“Safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other.”-CS Lewis

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Stir it up.

Oh, kids. I’m starting to sense it. It’s that time of year when you’re looking at your assignments, feeling overwhelmed, like a deer in the headlights, unable to move forward. Now to mix some metaphors: The bad habits are setting in, like early morning frost, slowly creeping in, freezing our minds, getting us stuck in fixed thinking. You’re a frozen deer in frosty headlights.  I can sense my own bad teacher habits bubbling to the surface, like so many globs of oil, getting everything filmy and gross.

I don’t want to be that kind of teacher–getting angry and frustrated. Letting the sarcastic comments slip in. I want to keep believing. Believing that you will take in what I’m saying, and what you’re saying–we talked about what makes students successful today, and come up with a pretty cool list. Two of the biggies: Read Directions and Ask Questions.

But how do you define success?

To me, success is problem solving in a creative way. Knowing when something is not working, and finding another way. Breaking a bad habit.

I believe what we’re studying right now is really interesting – I could spend a lifetime thinking about it. But I’m not Joseph Campbell. I’m not a professor in mythology and comparative religions. I can still think it’s pretty fascinating, though. But if it’s not coming through as something that’s interesting to you, we need to find another way. Creative, thinking people find a way to make what they’re learning interesting. Boring, stuck people don’t.

Look at this blog, and see if anything sparks you, or if it takes you on a reading journey across the Internet: http://www.kerismith.com/blog/ 

Make a wish...
Make a wish...

 

Let me know what happens.

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Holy da Vinci, Batman!

 

 From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the comic-book author Bob Kane, (books by this author) born in the Bronx (1916), who was working at DC Comics in 1939 when his editors began asking for more superhero characters to follow up on the success of Superman. Kane thought about it over the weekend, and on Monday morning he turned in some sketches of a character he called Batman. The character made his debut in DC Comics number 27, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” in May of 1939. He is alter ego of multimillionaire Bruce Wayne and one of the few superheroes in the history of comic books who doesn’t have any special powers. He’s just rich enough to build himself special crime-fighting gadgets. Kane said he based the character partly on Zorro, because he liked the idea of a fashionable rich guy dressing up as a vigilante at night to fight crime. He got the idea for Batman’s costume from a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a bat-winged flying machine.

So, burning question:

Your faced with a creative challenge. What do you do? What resources will you draw from, (literally, if you’re an artist, or figuratively, if you’re tangling another sort of task)? Did you ever imagine that Bob Kane would use the genius of a 420-year dead guy to inspire him? Happens all the time.

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Giving wolves a bad name.

I really hate lies. Lies make the world so…diminished. I’m not talking about the “little white lies” that we use to not hurt someone’s feelings, although those can be pretty dreadful, too. I’m talking about the big whoppers that put people’s lives, time, and trust at risk. Lies are as old as time. I’m also not talking about stories that everyone knows is a story and is enjoying. I’m talking about intentional, deceitful, “I am knowingly trying to pull one over on other people” lies. I have students who are so in the habit of lying, they don’t even know it. The first thing out of their mouths when they’re answering a question is a lie. Example: Me to student: “Please change your laptop screen–(laptop screen is filled with gang/street imagery)–you are only allowed to have a solid color, or our mascot.” “No way, Mrs. L! Another teacher told me…blah blah blah blah…” Since other teachers are even more strict than I am, I am CONFIDENT another teacher did not say it was okay to have those images on her laptop. One. Hundred. Percent.  I had one student whom I said hello to in the courtyard before class, and then when she was tardy, proceeded to tell me the bus was late. Um, yeah…the bus may have been late (it wasn’t — we hear announcements) but apparently you weren’t ON IT BECAUSE I SAID HELLO TO YOU IN THE COURTYARD FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO!

(Deep breath.)

Now, there’s the news story out of Colorado about the crazy dad who told everyone his little boy was up in a balloon. I only listened to this story from the peripheral (sidelines), but when I heard more details I was horrified. The parents must be devastated! If I lost one of my children, I would never recover. Teachers who have lost students are never totally the same. I am not being dramatic when I tell you it breaks your heart.

And then it came out that this dad was lying, it was a hoax. 

What should happen to parents who make their children play a part in a nationwide, no–worldwide– deception? Who manipulate the media in this way?

As my husband said, ‘We (people in general) want to help those in danger. How are we going to want to keep doing that, having a moral and ethical reaction when some one’s really in danger?”

Take care, students — this is why your parents and teachers want you to be a “critical thinker.” Don’t take part in the lies that undermine the trust.

I trust you now, too–don’t lie to me. I want to help you when you’re in danger, of any kind. Especially if you’re being dangerous to yourself.

Read this fable, and compare it to the modern news story:

http://www.dsokids.com/public/LessonPlans/Peter%20and%20The%20Wolf%20Story%20Sheet.pdf

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113899352

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Rome wasn’t written about in a day…

This writer obviously had a burning question that became the focus of his life’s work. The question is: what will be your passion and focus?

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1764 that Edward Gibbon (books by this author) thought up the idea of writing The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His six-volume work, published between the years 1776 and 1788, covered more than a thousand years of Roman history, from 180 A.D. to the fall of Constantinople.

Gibbon wrote in his autobiography: “It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted fryers were singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind. After Rome has kindled and satisfied the enthusiasm of the Classic pilgrim, his curiosity for all meaner objects insensibly subsides.”

Rome had cast a spell on Gibbon. He wrote that he was not very “susceptible [to] enthusiasms” and never pretended to be enthusiastic when he didn’t actually feel it. “But at the distance of twenty-five years I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night, I trod with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.”

Gibbon became known as “the first modern historian.” He tried to write objectively, and in departure from his predecessors, he relied heavily on primary source documents rather than on secondary sources such as official Church histories. He made extensive — and eccentric — use of footnotes.

Gibbon argued that the Roman Empire’s decline and fall were a result of a couple of major factors: changing military practices and the spread of Christianity. Rome had begun outsourcing its military jobs, hiring paid mercenaries from around the world to defend the Empire, and Gibbon argued that this made them susceptible to the “barbarian invasions” to which Rome fell victim. Additionally, he argued that Christianity’s emphasis on the heavenly afterlife reduced the incentive for Romans to sacrifice for the cause of their Empire and the accompanying earthly riches and glory.

http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/romans/

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