Monthly Archives: November 2011

Invisible Lessons

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What do I like most about teaching?  The lessons I never planned; the student produced detours that suddenly interrupt the well thought out lesson plan.

Sometimes it is an irreverent comment from a student that makes a class collapse into laughter.  At first it annoys me.  I’m right in the middle of “important information” that I have to deliver and some kid funnier than I, kidnaps my class to prove he is more entertaining than the teacher.  In that moment I have two choices; enjoy the joke with them or annoy all of them.  I choose to laugh.

Another time a class discussion will take us in an unexpected direction as a student recalls a poignant moment from her life.  The class is riveted to her comments.  Her story touches them.  My professional self screams to me, “You have only fifteen minutes to teach them the next ten points in your lesson plan.”  Fortunately my human self realizes that that student has interrupted my well planned presentation with the most important lesson of the day.  I have to release and make a U turn.

Life is exactly like my classroom.  We are busy rushing from one item on our to-do list to the next, when traffic turns the interstate into a still life painting.  A baby is born on an unexpected time table and we stop everything to celebrate. Or the phone rings right in the middle of our busiest season to tell us someone we love has a serious illness. In an instant our priorities change.  We schedule an unexpected vacation and reexamine our choices.

It’s the unplanned lessons that touch us the most.  When emotions are involved, when we “feel” things we remember.   In life and in the classroom the lessons invisible at the beginning of the day are usually the ones most memorable in the long run.

Ask the Hamster

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We’ve all seen those crazy hamsters running on an exercise wheel going nowhere.  We think to ourselves, “Where does he think he’s going?” Sometimes we may even grin and feel superior.  Doesn’t he know he’s in a cage and only running in circles?

The joke is on us. Think for a minute about the parallels between caged hamsters and human beings.  Hamsters realize they need to exercise and jump into the wheel.  They run without caution going faster and faster. When they’re finished they jump off invigorated.  Humans go to the gym and jump on the treadmill or maybe even stay at home in their cage and work out on a rowing machine.  They work until their stress level is abated and their need for movement is fulfilled…just like hamsters.

I doubt that hamsters spend much time ‘thinking’ about why they run.  Their bodies need it and so off they go.  Humans think plenty about the advantages of exercise.  But they also sometimes think too much about the exertion or not enough about the benefits of exercise and have to plead and bargain with themselves to commit to movement.  That’s me!  Sometimes they refuse to exercise at all.  Score one point for the hamsters.

However, humans take running in circles to dangerous levels in another way.  Too frequently their lives are rushing in frenzied paths from one activity to another.  They go from work, to a gym, to a dinner meeting, to a social commitment.  They go home too tired to relax, but they answer their emails, voice messages and
texts.  They fall into bed and wake up early to begin the exhausting cycle all over again. They find themselves
accepting projects and volunteer responsibilities without ever stopping to ask themselves whether those activities are the best use of their time.

Humans have the ability and intelligence to ask…to question their motives…but too often they don’t. Instead they ask themselves why they don’t have the time to take steps toward their real dream.   Why are they
working so hard and yet feeling unfulfilled and exhausted?  They don’t take the time to ask themselves
important questions.

  • If my life were to end tomorrow will I be satisfied with how I’ve lived?
  • What is my big dream or real mission?
  • What have I left undone?
  • What are my authentic values that my life has failed to reflect so far?
  • How can I arrange my life to be more in alignment with my honest goals?

This is not simply an exercise.  It’s choosing a path for our lives.  If we don’t start now, when?  The human brain weighs between 1,300 and 1,400 grams.  A hamster brain weighs only 1.4 grams.  Are we making the best use of all that extra brain power?  Ouch.  Start now.  What will you do differently?

The Beginning

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Welcome!  Thanks to a great deal of encouragement from everyone… students, friends, teacher pals, and fellow writers.  I have at last taken the plunge into blogging.

Splash!  My entry is probably more a cannon ball than a well executed dive.  Dozens of well intentioned people have shoved me into the deep end.

Why?  I enjoy writing and love to share and receive encouragement.  That is what my blog home will offer and welcome.  I’ll reflect on thoughts I’m having about life and its triumphs and challenges.  My students would call this circle time.  I hope my readers will find ideas they can use to improve their own lives too.  My blog home will be better if you are willing to share your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement for others here also.  Please enter into the conversation whenever a topic speaks to you.  I don’t mind sending my writing out into the universe, if I know it is reaching you (yes, you!) and making a difference.

Special thanks to Josh who probably nagged me the most consistently about blogging and Abby who helped me create my site.  Where would I be without my young friends who pull and sometimes push me forward?

Finally I’m embracing a new goal.  I hope you’ll follow along.