Tag Archives: thinking

The Last Human Freedom

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

 Viktor E. Frankl

I’ve had this quote sitting in my “hold” file for quite some time because I thought I wanted to decide whether I loved it or hated it. The dilemma piqued my interest enough to do some research… and that research revealed that Viktor Frankl was, in fact, a concentration camp survivor. His work (along with that of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche) in psychiatry also served as the basis for “existential therapy.” That’s a topic way too deep for a snowy Wednesday afternoon. If you’re feeling particularly heady, you might do some “googling” and learn a little about this interesting man.

When I did, I discovered yet a recommendation he made. He’s attributed with suggesting that the Statute of Liberty on the East Coast of our country should be complemented by a Statute of Responsibility on the West Coast. That’s a pretty good topic for consideration on any sort of afternoon.

I also have decided that, like having two statutes, I can both hate and love the quote. What I “hate” about it is that it’s a stark reminder of the horrible potential that exists in human beings. What I love about the quote is it’s a stark reminder of the potential for positive power that exists in human beings.

snowman_pointing_pc_400_clr_4412There was a time when we spent many hours in college classes (and after) considering these things. I do miss those times and am a little sad that I’ve not had an intense philosophical discussion in a long time. But on a snowy afternoon in Maine as I consider these heady concepts I find myself tempted to just go outside and make two snowmen. (A first grader gave me his drawing of “Frosty” yesterday I could use as a model. I chuckled at his lack of hesitation and amount of detail provided when I asked him who the snowman was.) Perhaps we should all build a “Frosty of Liberty” and a “Frosty of Responsibility.” In my snowy world, they are both the same size and they can, in fact, coexist.

The Best of 2012

top_3_pedestal_400_clr_6491Thanks to WordPress tracking, I’ve learned which were my three “most viewed” posts of 2012. In case you missed them, here’s the report and another chance to read them:

  1. Making Change and Not Making Changes  included some musings about a summer vacation to “Amish Country” and an old favorite farm stand. What makes this most popular position even more interesting is that I published quite a few reviews on TripAdvisor relative to that same vacation… My most popular/liked review was “The More Things Change…” my observations regarding our return visit after a ten year absence. Perhaps, as it has been said, “The Amish are islands of sanity it the whirlpool of change.”
  2. Giving Up Teaching…  I don’t know how much my “attention-getting” headline had to do with the ranking of this post, but it seemed important to share an important shift in my focus when I’m in the classroom. While I don’t fully subscribe to the idea of replacing the “sage on the stage” with the “guide on the side,” I do believe “The ultimate classroom management takes place when we engage the learners’ mind as well as their pencils.”
  3. Ten Commandments For Teachers truly surprised me, perhaps because they date back some sixty years. Perhaps we have more sanity in a whirlpool of change! Personally, I hope most who read this also read Back to School Rules… there were only three!

And it does occur to me that assuming it’s not too late to make a New Year’s Resolution or two, you might want to read “Making Change And Not Making Changes” first!

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2013… with the hope that your “best of” for the year is awesome!

What’s On Your Bookshelf…?

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

~Charles W. Eliot

One book I consider a quiet and constant friend is a dictionary. There are several scattered throughout the house. When I recently acquired a tablet, a dictionary was the first “ap” I downloaded. I’m also quite enamored of my thesaurus. But dictionaries are important to me for another reason. For some years now I’ve coordinated Valley Grange’s “Words for Thirds” Program–part of a global effort (The Dictionary Project) with the objective of putting a dictionary into the hands of every third grader. We’re just finishing up this year’s distribution and the kids from one school sent thank you notes included in a folder with my caricature drawn on the outside. (Thanks to  Piscataquis Community Elementary School third grade teacher Mr. Arthers for sharing his skill–and for making me look younger!)

These notes are both rewarding and entertaining. I recall a thank you note from one third grader a few years ago explaining that her father had built her a bookshelf in her bedroom to hold her new dictionary. (Most people would be surprised at how excited kids are when they receive their dictionaries. Competing with technology is not as difficult as one might expect. One of the frequent questions we are asked when handing out the books is “How many words are in here?” The students are quite entranced over the possibility of learning over 30,000 words and we try to explain that the book is not only theirs, the words in it can be as well.)

One of the “misfortunes” of electronic publishing and is that in time we’ll probably see fewer actual libraries in homes and books will be hidden in e-readers. Historically, these home libraries have ranged from entire rooms to a bookshelf above a child’s bed. And those shelves can be telling for we are displaying our best friends, counselors, and teachers.

Obviously, our bookshelf changes as we change. I recall struggling with this in a very practical way when we moved to Maine. “Weeding out” the library was one of the more difficult tasks. Parting with a book is never easy for me, even when it has served its purpose.

A recent article in Brain Pickings included a review of the book My Ideal Bookshelf based on interviews with  dozens of leading cultural figures who share the titles of books that matter to them most. The books we decide to read and keep are certainly a good representation of who we are, how we think, and what we value. Reading this review caused me to reflect on how different my shelves have looked over the years and I’m intrigued at which books have made it through several purges.

Were I as artistic as Mr. Arthers, I might consider drawing a bookshelf with eight to ten books on it to represent my profile picture. I suspect such an image would be much more telling than the mug shot I currently use.

Nap Time!

I just took a little self-quiz to see how much I “know about learning.” The quiz was recommended by The Training Doctor and I’m pleased to note that I did fairly well because I’ve pretty much given up on teaching. I’m increasingly convinced what we think is about teaching is actually about learning.

Anyway, one of the answers to a question included the observation “many experts believe taking a nap after learning something new aides learning.”

Woo! This explains the behavior of some of my students!

It also means I’ll be able to justify more naps!

Seriously, there is a lot to be said for naps. Perhaps I should offer a course on napping. Imagine the potential for integrating experiential learning! “Do not disturb–learning taking place” would take on a whole new meaning.

If you’d like to take the quiz, follow this link. After you’ve taken the quiz, have a nap!

“Sorry, I didn’t see you!”

The page and site I’m going to recommend is actually part of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s website… but you don’t have to ride a motorcycle to benefit from the information. You’ll learn one more thing about how your mind (and in this case, eyes) work. We’re actually talking about what used to be called “target fixation” — a term used in World War II bomber/fighter pilot training. The essence of the phenomena is that you will tend to go where you are looking and, if you focus intently on the target, you won’t see obstacles and hazards. Pilots were known to crash into their targets.

There’s lots of application here–from driving to managing. Who has not known a manager who was so focused on accomplishing a goal that he or she ignored circumstances and information? There can be a downside to focus when it becomes obsession–we start to “lose” our peripheral vision after as little as 20 seconds of staring at a single point. For a more technical explanation look up “Troxler Effect” and then commit to blinking and shifting your gaze while driving–and being aware of your environment when managing.

But first experience it by visiting this page: MAF Motion Induced Blindness