Posts tagged Leadership
Posts tagged Leadership
There was a time not so long ago - let’s even go so far as saying one month ago - that I was not only the leader of the school as its principal, but I had the fastest typing score posted in the school’s computer lab: 75 words per minute. Our students have access to a speed test in typing and part of their weekly Tech Curriculum includes work on typing - a 21st century skill. So when the opportunity to use the skills I learned in 9th grade- yes 9th grade in Mrs. Johns’s typing class came up, I jumped at the chance to see where my typing skills took me. When I was a youngster if I hit 40 words per minute, I was thrilled. But now that typing and keyboarding are such an integral part of my every day and most people’s every day - I thought I could do better. And I did. 75 words per minute. Mrs. Parks, our school’s Tech Aide even posted my score and the high scores of each student in each class who typed on the big white boards in the lab. I was the King. No student was anywhere near me in proficiency. 18, 24, 19, 12 words per minute - no problem, I thought. That mark will be there until the year ends.
As Lee Corso on College Football GameDay on ESPN says, however, “Not So Fast My Friend.” Because there was a wrecking machine on the horizon that I didn’t see. His name is Drew and he is a fifth grader. Drew started to creep up the charts by hitting 30 words per minute. Then he hit 40 words per minute and then all of a sudden the other day he topped my score in the low 70s. I did what every mature principal and instructional leader would do, I set out to top his score - and I did with the score of 77 words per minute. Take that Drew. I went one step further and said to Drew in the morning, “Have you mixed up the passages you have been typing or are you doing the same one each time?” I figured my strategy would slow down the wrecking machine because he had memorized the passage and didn’t need to think about the words, capitals, and commas. He said he hadn’t. Again, showing my maturity, I said, “Try a different passage and see what it gets you.”
Well, Drew did. And guess what, he outplayed me at my own game. He looked at the passages and chose the one that was the hardest and he calmly typed 81 words per minute. Drew, I bow to the King. You are a typing genius and a great sport.
This example shows the power of teachers like Mrs. Parks who sets students up for success. It also shows the power of visual goals, self-motivation and internal competition. Drew is a talented young man on several fronts. He is an exceptional reader and a curious learner. He is also quite a typer. I have been schooled by a fifth grader in typing and I am not sad to announce it to the world. Because this is just another example of how students can shock and amaze us when they are given the opportunity, supported, and have a motivation to drive them forward. Good job, Drew. I bow to the King - but don’t worry - you are now setting the pace and I will try to top you.
Today was the final day of the C.L.A.S.S. Summer Institute. I can honestly say that this was the best three days of professional development that I have had in two years. Outstanding, focused, and worthwhile. I once again thank the Cole PTO for funding this and for their support of our teachers’ professional development in the past and in the future. Here are my notes from day three of C.L.A.S.S.:
Opening by Barbara encouraged all educators to:
*Don’t Worry - everyone is under the same stress. All of our jobs is to help others. Also, if you are reflective and fair; hardworking, and open to being the best teacher you can be.
*Don’t Dread - Don’t dread your principal coming in to evaluate you. You are a good teacher. Take the expectations and the modeling, training, and hard work and knock it out of the park.
*Don’t Regret - You got into a noble profession. Don’t regret becoming a teacher and don’t regret these changes. Whatever we can do to help students learn, we are obligated to do.
IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY!!!!
(Checks for Understanding) - Jim
Clip Charts or whatever you use as a tool with students, I ask you to conceptualize. If there was a clip board in the school lobby that your name was moved up or down based on what you did or didn’t do or whether you hit a deadline or not.
If you are only checking for understanding using ‘raise your hand’, you are not checking for understanding.
Feedback: “It might make you mad, but it will make you better.”
*Constantly weighing it but most of checks are play it
Give and Take
Students brainstorm a list in connection to a lesson. Each person finds a partner and trades one or two examples from their list that their partner doesn’t have. Then they move to a new partner and trade. Teacher can collect or observe to check for understanding.
Students are given a triangle shape to write in. They write down one thing (per teacher direction) in each corner Students then share one or more of their corners with classmates while the teacher listens to checks for understanding. Can also be collected.
*Brain needs 20 practices to acquire knowledge. Learning disabled child needs 40
*Divide students in half. Half inside circle half outside circle. Inside circle turns around and partners with outside person. Share idea or thought. The inside or outside circle then moves one way or the other and then the process continues.
Talking Pencils (surfboarding)
*Students partner up. Each partner has a dry erase marker and white board. Teacher poses question and students write their answer on the white board, students can then trade or show the answer. Students communicate only through writing.
***White boards are a MUST for checks for understanding!
**Neat idea - have labels with students name on the back. When you do the exercise, grab the boards of those that missed the question and you can confer with them later - a great way to check
Quiz, Quiz, Trade
Make a set of cards with questions regarding curriculum (Answers should be on the back). Each student gets a card, finds a partner, shakes their hand, then asks their own questions. Partners trade, then find a new partner. Teachers circulate to check for understanding.
Your Number Is Up
*Number student off in learning clubs. Pose a question for the entire learning club to discuss and UNDERSTAND. Everyone is responsible for the correct answer. Call out a number. That person stands up and is responsible to share out their team’s answers. (Call the student who you know doesn’t have it
3, 2, 1
*Write down the three things you need to know for the test. Find partner. Share.
*You and your partner write decide what the 2 most important things that you both agree are the most important.
*Return to your learning club. Share all of your ideas and write down, then as a group decide what is the most important thing to know for the test.
Behavior with Judge Ruby
*Even if you don’t feel like it, we have to show our students we are “Glad to see them.” Get over it. The message is what they need. Sing in front of them, do whatever - make them feel you are glad to see them.
*Emotions are contagious. Students will accept what you project to them. Whatever your emotion is, it will spread to your students - positive or negative.
(Table Talk Activity)
*Who made you want to extinguish your torch?
*What behaviors were displayed?
*What was the goal of the behavior?
*How did you handle it?
(Talking in Table Talk is good for adults because it offers perspective and also allows you to vent. It also shows that everyone else has similar struggles and what worked and didn’t work. »> Keep this in mind with your students. They need this time to share, collaborate, and also build relationships).
If we don’t address a student need or worry, that is going to be the only thing on the child’s mind. We are all dealing with emotions.
There’s not a book big enough to address all the behaviors that you will run into. Because once you think you have seen it all; here comes another one that you have never seen.
Behaviors are hard. “Farmers constantly till the ground. They till, till, and till it some more. You have to do that with behaviors. You have to try it, try it again, try it once more, and try it again. You may not get it right, but if you don’t keep tilling the ground, you have no chance for the crops to grow.”
Why Do Students Misbehave?
*Avoidance of Failure
STOP AND SURVIVE
*Teach the Lifeline or Life Skill
*Opportunity to learn and set a goal
*Practice. Expect positive outcome.
Clues of Behavior
Teacher Feels Student Goal of Behavior
*Irritated, annoyed > Attention or boredom
*Angry, Hurt > Revenge or Power
*Frustrated > Avoidance of Failure
Use examples in your class when you are reading a novel and put two characters against each other or put them in different scenarios.
If you don’t know the why to the behavior, how do you deal with the behavior?
Toy Box Leadership by Ron Hunter, Jr. (Jim)
Rocking Horse: Efficiency - It’s fun and feels great to be on a rocking horse, but you really aren’t going anywhere. It’s very easy to be “all show and no go.”
Slinky Dog: The front end (the brains) of Slinky dog is constantly pulling. Pull through communication, courage, example, determination, but be PATIENT.
Mentoring- Like Play Doh leaders resemble whatever makes an impression on them.
Succeeding comes from intentionally choosing who and what shapes you.
Ingredients of Play Doh leaders are:
*Strong Moral Compass
Creativity: It only happens when you let go. Four requirements of Creativity
Creativity Killers: lack of sleep, stress, health problems, dark or noisy rooms, unexpected interruptions…. FEAR
Mr. Potato Head
YOU MUST HAVE THE RIGHT FACE FOR THE RIGHT PLACE
Eight faces every leader and teacher must pack:
1. Empathetic Face-Don’t let stress get in your way of why we are here.
2. Confident Face-If they don’t see it on your face, the kids will notice.
3. Intense Face-You have to have intent face at times to instruct
4. Attentive Face-Give undivided attention when someone talking to you
5. Disappointed Face-People have to know that you are disappointed
6. Happy Face-If you are unhappy all the time, your kids will feel it.
7. Sincere Face-People can tell when you are faking it.
8. Optimistic Face-You have to know that it will get better.
Ethics: You have to make the right turn.
Steer clear of the Seven Social Sins:
1. Politics without principles
2. Wealth without Risk
3. Pleasure without conscience
4. Knowledge without character
5. Commerce without morality
6. Science without humility
7. Worship without sacrifice.
*Building begins with CONNECTING
*Six 8-studded LEGO bricks can be connected and arranged in 915,103,765 different positions.
*The ‘t’ of LEGO Leaders
Strategy: “Success is in the set-up”
Army men leaders have face to face contact and know the potential of their troops
They are constantly counting:
1. Counting the troops
2. Counting the types
3. Counting the time
*Have students write down the “Gifts” that they bring to the table and share with their group
*Be a Messenger
“Illuminate to Communicate”
4 Parts of the Lite-Brite
*The light bulb - the idea, intent of your message
*Black Paper filter - 90% of input lost.. what makes your message stand out?
*Viewer: Audience - know who’s listening
“A leader is never more closely watched than in the moments following a failure. Staying down is not an option.
FALLING DOWN IS INEVITABLE
Anticipate it, learn from it, don’t duplicate it
Have Proper Weight Distribution
*Share something that is weighing heavily on you.
*Share something you are really excited about.
(Once you share, say, “I’m in” and they are ready to learn
Have you ever watched the pure joy of children running to get the Tootsie Rolls, suckers, and other treats that are thrown from the floats to the throngs of spectators that line a parade route? It’s that unabashed pure joy that is rarely captured past the age of 14 on many people’s faces, but fills you as the viewer with a sense of calm and a bit of joy.
On occasion, when I drive through Stockwell early enough in the morning, I have the pleasure to see a group of former students who are now middle school students waiting at an intersection for their school bus. It has become somewhat of a habit for me to slow down and throw gum, mints, or in the case of this morning’s heave: Sugar Daddy’s to them out my car window. I get that same look of pure joy as the kids scramble to pick up what I have thrown. It’s childhood at its finest.
Why do I share this sugary anecdote this morning? Because the bus stop and the candy remind me of two things that give a pep to my step on days when outside pressures and demands can weigh you down: children and relationships. The look of pure joy when the candy is flung is priceless. But so are our children. We all got into this business because we loved children. The bus stop reminds me of this. The second, relationships, is the cornerstone of my philosophical educational base. Building, maintaining, and cultivating relationships is the difference between purely coming to work and what I hope we all do come to school. I love seeing the former students that once passed these hallways grow, mature, and find success. It affirms what we do and it affirms that our time with them is never-ending. I still am in contact with some of my teachers, some of whom are still in the trenches: Cindy Honegger, Bob Feemster, Diane Mettes, and Nelson Bane. They made a difference once and continue to make a difference for me now, in my 43rd year of existence. Relationships matter.
As I tossed the bag of Sugar Daddy’s toward the students this morning and it wound up landing squarely on the roof of my car, I heard, “Mr. Pinto, you’d better work on your aim!” You would expect that from a group of middle school students. I then heard the two words I love hearing the most, “Thank You”.
My response, “You’re Welcome!” followed by the request: “Share!”
You make a difference every day through your focus on children and the fact that you build and cultivate relationships. Today, I ask you to seek out one child who has been a bit of a strain, put your arm around him/her, and find a positive. Then, take a moment for yourself at some point in the day and just sit back and observe. Children are our finest asset and as great as your life can be traveling around the world, seeing exotic sites, and meeting interesting people, soak in this moment of observation because you are never going to be in a spot again where you will have so much influence on what ‘can be’ again in your life. Thank you for all that you do.
I have started a new collaboration with my students. They are recommending books for me to read and I am kind of getting into it. This collaboration began with Isaac told me, “I read the Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and it changed my life as a reader forever. Interesting. I had to read a book that would change a fifth grader’s life as a reader forever. So, I said, “Go check it out of the library in my name.” Little did I know that it was 500+ pages. But it was interesting. It taught a lot about Egyptian mythology. Even though I am not particularly a cat person, I enjoyed Bast, the Goddess of Cats the best. This genre is not my favorite, but the book held my interest and I did become exposed to several Egyptian Gods and Goddesses along the way. What was the coolest was the dialogue with Isaac: “Mr. Pinto, how far are you in the book?” “Do you like it?” “Isaac, I’m at this point in the book. This character is kind of creepy.” Riordan has written several more books. My goal is not to read the entire series, but to get a flavor. These students would not have been exposed to this information most likely had it not been for the book.
Next, it was Drew’s turn. He recommended The Lightning Thief again by Rick Riordan. This is the first in the Percy Jackson series and deals with Greek Gods and Goddesses. Again, this is not my favorite genre, but I have enjoyed the dialogue. What I am amazed with has been how engrossed the students are in the characters and how much they know plot lines. Drew was no different. He seemed genuinely excited by my progress through the book. He also was a walking encyclopedia of Greek Mythology knowledge. Fascinating to me. I finished this book and again enjoyed my time with the book and with Drew.
Next, 39 Clues by Rick Riordan, was the referral by Josh. Are you noticing a theme? Lots of Rick Riordan. This time, the book I read took me with the characters to Russia where I learned about Rasputin and some Russian history. Josh again asked me for my progress and again filled in some clues along the way. I finished this book this morning.
Carson gets a crack at me next; then Evan; then Sarah. I am hoping that a non-Rick Riordan book appears at some point. But I have some great take-aways from these books. First, I read only the books I have not read before. So if someone suggests a book that I have read, I said, “Nope, give me another book or another series.” This I hope branches student thinking, but also forces me to read something new and different. Second, students try to find books that I might like but I also get a feel about what interests them. And, it keeps me present and up with what is popular and what is hot in the world of my elementary readers. Also, it has increased my dialogue with students on an academic front in a way similar to how I would converse with an adult who I offer a book and say, “I think you will enjoy this book.” Finally, this interaction has opened another gate. I am now referring books to students to read. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is making its rounds through the fourth and fifth grade. My question, “Do you like it better than Hugo Cabret? If so, why?”
I have always said that one of the highest compliment I can offer someone is to offer them a book and say, “I think you will like this.” It is nice to have this interaction with students. I have learned a lot. And, it is interesting that the books I have read so far are teaching students a lot without them even realizing it.
If you are from a large city or have visited one (which reminds me of the word ‘tourist’ that I taught to my first graders yesterday), you have probably seen a street drummer. These wizards of creativity bang out tunes in subways, on street corners, and in public venues - playing their tunes for tips. Here is a YouTube Video of a street drummer if you haven’t seen one. They craft their songs using odds and ends from their world - buckets, cans, bottles, etc.
Every Friday on announcements I have the privilege of reading the names of the students in my building who sign the Principal’s Book of Excellence. This is a book that has pages for each teacher behind tabs and lines for students to sign their name and also the life skill that the teacher, instructional assistant, bus driver, custodian, whomever - has found needs to be celebrated. The students have a slip that they bring up to the office and they sign the name and go through a ritual with me that includes me affirming their effort and my pride in their accomplishment. It’s great fun.
Well, a few Fridays ago, I was sitting there waiting to do the announcements when one of the regulars with the student-run announcements was sitting in a chair near me. He is a fifth grader named Elijah and he is a good boy. What I like about Elijah is that he is very laid back - sometimes too laid back for his teacher’s and his mother’s liking, but still - a gentle child with a million dollar smile. However, Elijah has another talent besides being a good boy, getting good grades, and being likeable - he has an ear for music. One thing he does that just gets my blood pumping is that he can drum. His father is a very talented musician and the genes flowed through him into Elijah. When he was a third grader, Elijah demonstrated his abilities during the talent show - using pots and pans and buckets. Last year, I held an impromptu jam session for him at the end of lunch using pots from the cafeteria and serving spoons. Well, as I sat there two weeks ago, I said, “Elijah, I want you to street drum me an introduction to signing the Book of Excellence each week.” We did it for the first time and he didn’t disappoint. I will get permission from his mother and tape it sometime and post it to this blog, but for now, let’s just say he is talented.
After the performance, the announcements stream throughout the day so that teachers can watch them when it is a good time in their day. I was talking to a teacher later in the day and she was marveling at Elijah’s talents and how some performers bang the drum, play an instrument with their mouths, and play another with their feet. This teacher said, “What talent. I couldn’t do that.” Nor could I.
My response, however, was this, “They couldn’t manage 24 students at the same time - handling their instructional and emotional needs and keeping the whole orchestra running and sounding smoothly. They couldn’t teach. Most people can’t.” I believe that. I believe that in many ways educators are street drummers. They are playing multiple instruments at the same time, keeping a flow of learning going, and maintaining awareness of their surroundings - all at the same time.
So, educators, I take a moment like I do when I see a street performer, and I marvel. I marvel at the talent of the musician on the street. But I also marvel at the talent of educators who are in many ways like street drummers - playing multiple instruments while maintaining a magical rhythm that creates the music of learning.
I had donuts on my mind this morning but the mind does amazing things. As I drove to school today I was planning to stop and pick up three dozen donuts that I had ordered last night. I even said to my wife before I left this morning, “Headed out for donuts.” So I drove to school and was almost there before I realized, “The donuts!” I turned around and headed back to town.
Several years ago, mentor and friend Barbara Pederson from CLASS spoke about brain paths and how the brain grooves paths for routine tasks. Your brain doesn’t even think about your route to school every day because you drive it so much, you don’t even think about it. Take a moment, do you even remember the drive today? Most likely, it was uneventful and not really something that stands out since you do it each day. Well, my brain did what it does every morning M-F – it drove me to school – and the donuts were almost left behind. But alas – I remembered and they were saved!
This event made me think of things we do each day without even thinking about them. It also made me think about the fact that when we change that routine, how painful it can be. Sometimes it takes a donut to remind you of the amazing things our brain can do. It also is a reminder of how hard it is to change what our brain gets set to do automatically. I will leave you with this happy note. The donuts got delivered, and yes, a big, chocolate iced donut with nuts on top sacrificed itself on my behalf. Have a great morning.
I find it interesting that so much of life is centered on the idea that people cannot be trusted and they won’t do the right thing. As an optimist by nature, I believe that most of us live our lives with a moral compass that encourages us to ‘Do the Right Thing’. But so much around us says the opposite. I see around me many fail-safes that are put in place to guard against someone being dishonest or breaking a rule. That is why Bags of Salt at the grocery store are kind of inspirational to me.
These yellow, blue, and green bags of salt sit outside the grocery store 24/7 - in rain, sunlight, dark of night, dawn to dusk. Sitting and waiting. They sit there most likely because they are cumbersome. However, they are a reminder to me every time I see them at a grocery or gas station that people do ‘Do the Right Thing’. I can honestly say when I purchase salt, I am more than a little conscious that my receipt is handy so if asked, I can offer it to show that I purchased 3 bags. However, I have never been asked. And I think the reason why is that salt isn’t necessarily the hottest commodity, but also people don’t take advantage.
We need to find opportunities in our world to reinforce the idea that people are still good by nature and act in a way that is appropriate. The next time you are feeling a bit low - that the world is filled with people who don’t act with honest and integrity - reframe that mindset when you see the bags of salt outside the grocery or gas stations. People are by nature good. Stay optimistic.
I am reading a book called At Home by Bill Bryson. One of the chapters discusses the heavy fines that used to be levied on bakers for underselling customers on loaves of bread. Because bread varied in weight each baking, and the science was a bit imperfect, bakers were often at the mercy of heavy fines. To combat this, many bakers offered ‘a baker’s dozen’ – an extra loaf or item when purchasing a dozen. So instead of 12, the customer received 13 for the price of 12. In this manner, they were insured the proper amount purchased by weight.
I think about public schools and realize that we offer “A Baker’s Dozen”. We are asked to teach a curriculum, but also give an extra loaf in the process – consisting of safety, citizenship training; breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner or extra food for the weekend; life skills; health screenings; etc. You get my point. If a child’s daily order could be measured like a bakery sale, public schools definitely offer a baker’s dozen. I appreciate the extras you throw in each day that go beyond the scope of teaching your assigned curriculum.
Jim Marshall, former defensive player for the Minnesota Vikings, had an experience that could easily have made him into a failure. In a game against the San Francisco 49ers, Marshall spotted the football on the ground. He scooped it up and ran for a touchdown as the crowd cheered. But he ran the wrong way. He scored for the wrong team and on national television.
It was the most devastating moment of his life. The same was overpowering. But during halftime, he thought, “If you make a mistake, you have got to make it right.” He realized he had a choice. He could sit in his misery or he could do something about it. Pulling himself together for the second half, he played some of his best football ever and contributed to his team’s victory.
Nor did he stop there. He spoke to groups. He answered letters that poured in from people who finally had the courage to admit their own shameful experiences. He heightened his concentration during games. Instead of letting the experience define him, he took control of it. He used it to become a better player and he believes, a better person.
Adapted from Mindset by Carol Dweck
“Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment” by George Leonard (copyright 1991): This book was recommended to me by a book seller at a local book store. He saw me purchasing several books on education and struck up a conversation. I had never heard of George Leonard, but this gentleman was obviously a follower. He had read all of his works. So, I took a shot in the dark and ordered the book. I found it interesting and it made me think. I try to think about a book after reading it and say, “What one piece did you walk away with?” For me, Leonard did a nice job of framing the concept of homeostasis in my head. This is the concept of remaining at a certain state - kind of finding a balance. He paints a great picture of why it is hard to lose weight and to change in general because your body tries to revert back to a level of comfort. His message also speaks to the art of enjoying the art of practice. So much of our every day and our life is made up of practice - practice toward a greater good or accomplishment. But those that struggle with finding enjoyment in their every day (practice) are doomed to a certain misery. Those that enjoy what they do and find that it is really part of who they are find happiness. I find this a bit insightful as I blog about a book I read with the intent to better my skills as a leader, to better my skills as an educator, and to better my overall views of life. This concepts makes me think about other books I have read recently including “Drive” by Daniel Pink. His description of Wikipedia serves as an example that so much of our life is now shaped by technology and also the generosity of others who truly want to share what they are learning. I also think about this in terms of Professional Learning Networks (PLN) that now exist thanks to Twitter. I enjoyed “Mastery” and would recommend it as a read both for educators/instructional leaders, but also for others trying to find their way in life amidst change. Here are some takeways I would like to share:
*Televison Commercials (p. 28): Try paying close attention to television commercials. What values do they espouse? Some appeal to fear (buy our traveler’s checks because you’re likely to be robbed on your next trip), some to logic, even to thrift (our car compares favorably to its chief competitors in the following ways, and is cheaper), some to snobbery (at an elegeant country house, fashionably dressed people are drinking a certain brand of sparkling water), some to pure hedonism (on a miserable winter day in the city a young couple chances upon a travel agency; their eyes focus on a replica of a credit card on the window and they are instantly transported to a dreamy tropical paradise). Keep watching, and an underlying pattern will emerge. About half of the commericials, whatever the subject matter, are based on a climactic moment: The cake has already been baked; the family and guests, their faces all aglow are gathered around to watch an adorable three-year-old blow out the candles. The race is run and won; beautiful young people jump up and down in ecstasy as they reach for frosted cans of diet cola… And the sitcomes and soaps, the crime shows, and MTV all runon the same hyped-up schedule (1) If you make smart aleck one-liners for a half hour, everything will work out fine in time for the closing commercials, (2) People are quite nasty, don’t work hard, and get rich quickly. (3) No problem is so serious it can’t be resolved in the wink of an eye as soon as the gleaming barrel of a handgun appears. (4) The weirdest fantasy you can think of can be realized instantly and without effort. Climax is piled upon climax. There is no plateau. And for the most part, life is a plateau. We must live within the plateau because the climax cannot always be day-to-day. It doesn’t work that way.
Quick Fix (p. 33): The quick-fix, antimastery mentality touches almost everything in our lives. Look at modern medicine and pharmacology. “Fast, temporary relief” is the battle cry. Symptoms receive immediate attention, underlying causes remain in the shadows. More and more research studies show that most illnessses are caused by environmental factors or ways of life. The typical twelve-minute office visit doesn’t give the doctor time to get to know the patient’s face, much less his or her way of life. It does give time for writing a prescription. A pioneering study by Dr. Dean Ornish and his associates in San Francisco has proven conclusively that coronary artery disease, our number one cause of death, can be reversed by a long-term regimen of diet, moderate exercise, yoga, meditation, and group support. No drugs, no operations. This program has been criticized by some doctors as ‘too radical’. If this is radical, then what do these doctors consider ‘conservative’? Is it a bypass operation that will split your chest wide open, that has a 5-percent chance of causing death, a 30-percent chance of causing death, a 50-percent chance of being unnecessary; an operation which might have to be repeated after a few years and which costs over $30,000. But all that doesn’t seem to matter. At least it is a quick fix.
Loving the Plateau (p. 40-41): If our life is a good one, a life of mastery, most of it will be spent on the plateau (the time between accomplishments). We must find joy in regular practice. Because so much of life is regular practice. If we cannot find joy in regular practice, a large part of our life will be spent in restless, distracted, ultimately self-destructive attempts to escape the plateau. An example offered by the author in terms of aikido:
“I was fortunate in my middle years to have found aikido, a discipline so difficult and resistant to the quick fix that it showed me the plateau in sharp, bold relief. When I first started, I simply assumed that I would steadily improve. My first plateaus were relatively short and I could ignore them. After about a year and a half, however, I was forced to recognize that I was on a plateau of formidable proportions. This recognition brought a certain shock and disappointment, but somehow persevered and finally experienced an apparent spurt of learning. The time time my outward progress stopped, I said to myself, “Oh d*#n, another plateau.” After a few more months there was another spurt of progress, and then, of course, the inevitable plateau. This time, something marvelous happened, I found myself thinking, “Oh boy, another plateau. Good. I can just stay on it and keep practicing. Sooner or later, there’ll be another spurt.” It was one of the warmest moments on my journey.”
*Love of Your Work (p.48): Love of your work, willingness to stay with it even in the absence of extrinsic reward, is good food and drink.
Teaching: (p. 57): Instruction demands a certain humility; at best, the teacher takes delight in being surpassed by his or her students. Gymnastics coach Bela Karole would have a very hard time performing the moves he has taught to both Nadia Comaneci of Romania and Mary Lou Retton of the USA. To see the teacher clearly, look at the students. Focus your attention on teh students. Even more, on the interaction. Does the instructor porceed through praise or through damnation? There is the brand of teacher, often celebrated in myth if not reality, who is famous for giving the absolute minimum of praise. When this teaching tact works, it’s through an economic principle, praise becoming so scarce a commodity that even a curt nod or grudging approval is taken to be highly rewarding. What doesn’t work, despite certain macho attitutude or to the contrary, is scorn, excoriation, humiliation - anything that destroys the student’s confidence and self esteem. Even the praise-stingy teacher must in some way show respect for the student in order to get long-term positive results. The best teacher generally strives to point out what the student is doing right at least as frequently as what she or he is doing wrong.
Good Horse, Bad Horse (p. 66): In his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Zen master Shunryu Suzuki approaches the question of fast and slow learners in terms of horses. “In our scriptures, it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse wil run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run wwhen it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn to run. “When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. It if is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best.” But this is a mistake, Master Suzuki says, “When you learn too easily, you’re tempted not to work hard, not to penetrate to the marrow of a practice.”
Visualization: Golfer Jack Nicklaus let it be known thathe never hit a shot without first clearly visualizing the ball’s perfect flight and its triumphant destination, “sitting up there high and white and pretty on the green.” A successful shot, Nicklaus said was 50 percent visualization, 40 percent setup, and 10 percent swing. It’s important to visualize.
Homeostasis (pp. 108-113): Homeostasis - the condition of equilibrium - condition of all self-regulating systems to resist change.
“In-Between”(pp. 141-142): Our preoccupation with goals, results, and the quick fix has separated us from our own experiences. To put it more starkly, it has robbed us of countless hours of the time of our lives. We awaken in the morning and hurry to get dressed (Getting dressed doesn’t count), we hurry to eat breakfast so that we can leave for work (eating breakfast doesn’t count), we hurry to get to work (Getting to work doesn’t count) Maybe work will be interesting and satisfying and we won’t have to simply endure it while waiting for lunchtime to come. And maybe lunch will bring a warm, intimate meeting, with fascinationg conversation. But maybe not. In any case, there are all of those chores that most of us can’t avoid: cleaning, straightening, raking leaves, shopping for groceries, driving the children to various activities, preparing food, washing dishes, washing the car, communting, performing the routine, repetitive aspects of our jobs. This is the ‘in-between time’, the stuff we have to take care of before getting on to the things that count. But if you stop to think about it, most of life is “In Between”