Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learning At The MS, Part 2: Moth or Cockroach

"Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."           Helen Keller

     Recently I visited one of the ELA classes on our campus.  The teacher and students were in a lively discussion as I slipped into the room.  A student was explaining how she just did not like to take risks and did not want to fail.  The teacher answered, "Then I guess you're a cockroach."  What??

     I sat in a desk at the back of the room and began reading the poem that the students were discussing.  It was "The Lesson of the Moth" by Don Marquis.  The poem was a discussion with a moth on why they fly near light, when there is so much danger near light.  The moth answers in one verse saying, "It is better to be happy for a moment and be burned up with beauty than to live a long time and be bored all the while."

     The classroom discussion then began to be about the comparison of "Are you a moth or a cockroach?"
There is danger in risk, but without risk there is no reward.  Am I content to live on the ground without realizing the beauty above me?
     C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite writers, says, "We are content to play in puddles, like children, while the ocean is beside us."  I want to be aware of opportunities around me.  I do not want to be content.  Jeremiah 46:17 says, " They cried there, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise. He missed the appointed time."  The word opportunity or appointed in Latin is "ob portu" which was a ship waiting on the tide to head to sea.  I refuse to allow fear to prevent me from missing an appointed time to head out to sea.

     "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."    William Shredd

      I want to go on a mission trip overseas.  I want to risk danger to see the beauty of the light.  We live in a house that had four children and they are all living their lives.  Where are we supposed to go?  What are we supposed to do?  In the Bible there is a parable about men with talents.  The greatest judgement was to the man who buried his talents to be safe.  I refuse to be safe!  I will be a moth!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning At The Middle School, Part 1: Prejudice, Who Me?

I am a principal and one task of my job is to conduct "walk-throughs."  This is spending a short amount of time in a classroom to get a feel of the class, recognize the classroom objectives, and the amount of student engagement through teaching strategies in use.  I recently was in our speech classroom and the students were working with a partner filling out a personal survey.  One of the students did not have a partner so I sat down to use the questions and to be interviewed by her.  An interview directive said, "Name some of your prejudices."  Of course, I said I had none.  The next part of the lesson described that we ALL have feelings of prejudice and the rest of the lesson would help identify these feelings.

A middle school lesson caused me to have several days of self reflection and contemplation.  Prejudice means to "pre-judge."  It is a preformed opinion based on lack of information, insufficient knowledge, or irrational feelings.  On the world wide web, I confess that I am guilty of prejudice.  Let me name a few that I found:      

  • NASCAR fans - I have a mental picture of NASCAR fans in tank/halter tops, a Bud in one hand & the rest of the 6-pack in the other, and loud.  I have never been to a NASCAR event and every part of my image is "pre-judging."  I now know that lack of information drives these feelings.
  • Tattooed Persons - I am getting better at this one, but I have a long way to go.  I now make myself engage in a conversation with a wearer of tattoos.  I think it's because I am still wondering why.  Sadly I am sure this comes from my own culture and upbringing.  Insufficient knowledge causes me to not understand this group.
  • British - It has nothing to do with any past wars or any historical conflicts between nations.  I just feel they are looking down on me.  The most common word sounds so "fancy" and "uppity" when they say it.  It also irritates me that they call us "Yanks."  They also call soccer........ football.  I guess it is somewhat easier when someone from another country speaks an entirely different language, for me, anyway.
  • Drivers of "4 x 4" Trucks - Now I have had 4-wheel drive trucks and have lived in places where it was needed.   I'm talking about the trucks with oversized tires, lifters - that require a ladder for the average person to get inside, especially when they are driving these vehicles on I-35.  I know they get 2 mpg and I just don't get it.  Yes, I have irrational feelings toward them.
  • Canadians - They are so obsessed with hockey and I just don't get it.  Their national symbol is a leaf...........really?!?  All the cold fronts seem to originate from them.  Classic lack of information, because I don't even know anyone from Canada.
If you are a member of any of these groups, please forgive me.  I admit that I have allowed my own lack of knowledge form my opinions.  Maybe I should buy a 4x4 truck, get a tattoo, attend the next NASCAR event, and vacation in Canada & Europe.  Or maybe I just need to become more educated and less judgmental.