A Perspective of Perspective

Image result for perspective pictures

                I’m going to provide here one perspective.  It comes from a lot of education (growing up, at a university, and through my own research).  Also, I taught for many years, adjusting along the way, but always holding true to the basics, creative lessons, and getting the students to think for themselves.

                While growing up, we need our parents to guide us, more so by being responsible examples and providing the family experience, if we seek to verbalize what is natural.  And we need those day to day events, chores, discussions, fight among siblings, friends, sleepovers, and more.

                But there’s something else.  Real life.  We come into the world natural.  But we also come into the world surrounded by the culture and beliefs (I’m speaking here of the video culture and fads of the times, but more.).  If that culture and belief system is healthy, allowing kids to be kids, and parents to raise their children by understanding and simplicity, our young ones feel safe, take on adventures, but always remain true to what they know inside, though they may need direction and experience the school of hard knocks.  This second is necessary, for without falling, struggles, bullies, and such, we don’t know how to deal with the difficulties of life.

                Education is a tool, like anything else.  But it’s how we learn.  As a teacher, I wanted the students to have their basics to mastery, but I didn’t want them to be intellectual.  I wanted them to be real.  I wanted them to talk from understanding, from themselves, day to day life, and from real experiences, not cogitate on the abstract and ideas that simply flutter into our minds from television and gaming and youtube. I never wanted them to answer questions on what they think I wanted them to say. I already know what I think and believe. How do they “see” things?

                Let’s try this another way, for I’m not quite putting it as I understand.

                A good friend of mine has a fantastic grand-daughter (He shared this story years back.).  She was a happy-go-lucky child, going to a private school I believe, and enjoyed her friends and hobbies.  She liked drawing and such.  At some point, someone (I don’t remember who.) told her what wonderful artwork she was doing.  This made her happy.  However, for some reason, she started feeling the compulsion to keep making the art, improving, but the fun had gone out of it.  Why?  Before, she never thought about it.  She liked drawing.  It was natural.  She liked making pictures and other art things.  But when too much attention was drawn to her work, it changed the entire dynamic.  She could no longer just enjoy.  My friend explained, had he not intervened and got her off worrying about being a great artists, she might have done something terrible to herself as she grew older.  He asked her to quit the artwork for some time, then come back to it when natural interest motivated her again.  But this time, do it because it’s fun. A week or so later, she started up again, but without any conundrums about being a great artist, and then she was whistling all the while.

                You see, we have a real self.  That real-self lives by understanding, but not understanding that comes from others, but understanding that is revealed within, day to day, without thinking about it.  Just living.  You see your room needs cleaning, so you pick up the clothes, put your toys away, and maybe sweep up.  You need money, so you get a job, or baby-sit, or mow lawns, or create jewelry, or whatever.  You live as you see.  It’s natural.  But, yes, it does come with some guidance, but also by observing the parents and others.

                The desire for a higher education is often outwardly directed.  We see others going to college.  We hear that college opens doors.   We see society supports a university degree.  And like that young lady, we feel the “pressure” to get that higher education.  The world approves. Of course, some rebel, but often to serious detriment.  It can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You aren’t inwardly motivated to sit in classes, garner grades, get the degree, then find a job that you’re prepared for.  But if you don’t, you feel the “sting” of not going to a university, not getting that higher education, not getting the house and two cars and 2.5 children.

                Make no mistake.  I think learning is important.  I believe the basics are paramount.  I believe responsibility is a very important aspect of life.   We all have to grow up.  We all have to work.  It’s part of life.  I went to college for the degree, but also to take some classes I thought were good for me, but I also engaged jobs of interest, took on hobbies, and discovered the ease of learning without thinking that you’re learning. I quit college when I no longer saw the purpose, but after working a few years and gaining experience, I went back, this time knowing why I was returning.

                As a teacher, while providing lessons and projects, we have discussions from time to time, usually on a Friday, after the week’s work has been accomplished.  Let’s talk careers.  Let’s talk about what you like to do.  Let’s talk conflict resolution.  Some kids mow lawns.  Some kids help out at family businesses.  But I ask them, what you like to do, if you like anything.  And I provide many examples of personal and other people’s experiences.  Then, some kids talk about what they want to do. It’s easy to see the ones who are just saying something versus the ones who have a real interest.

                The point here is not to create pressure.  It’s to see what they are interested in.  Remove “ideas” that work against their inner knowing.  We talked “Shark Tank.”  We talk summer camps.  We talk baby-sitting.  What do you already do that is fun, which might one day turn into a career?  One student liked cooking, which was obvious.  I suggested to his family to allow him to cook meals for them.  He liked the idea.  Who knows?  If he thoroughly enjoys the process, perhaps one day he might venture into opening up a restaurant, working for one of the top establishments, open a catering company, or who knows.  He might even work in another field, cooking great meals at home.  Another girl, after being in my class, had a great business idea.  I suggested she continue the research, work for someone in the field so she can learn hands-on, then perhaps open up her own business, but that she would have to be prepared to work 20 hour days.  She actually loved the idea.  It was in her.  But I always explain, you’re not doing this for me.  I don’t care what you do.  You do have to be responsible:  we all do.  But whatever you find, you’re doing it because it’s your idea.  I won’t applaud you (I’ll do this inwardly.).  I probably will forget you were ever in my class (I won’t.).  But I prefer their motivation to be inward.

Will some kids do these things to please me, or other adults in their lives. Perhaps. But it will be healthy because I want them to do what they do for themselves.

                I’ve had students come back enthusiastically, telling me of what they are now doing as adults.  They see I’m happy for them.  But because they found their own road.  Some have families.  Some are career-only at present.  But whatever, it’s their self-discovery.  They’re intrinsically motivated. 

                I’ve explained to them, that a university is one way.  There are many roads.  They get to choose, but choices also come with success and consequences, but they get to live their lives.  If they fall, they have to pick themselves up again.  They can learn as they go.

                For myself, most of my learning was outside the university (I would say at least 90% outside.).  Work.  Hobbies.  Interests.  Research when I was curious.  Learning things so I had more for the students.  And much more.  I followed interests.  Fixing my cars.  Read the manuals.  Go to the junk yard.  Mistakes?  Learn and fix. 

                But people who’ve found their identities in being intellectuals often don’t realize they don’t know who they are.  They think they know.  But they don’t realize the reasons they went down their road.  They don’t know how to be themselves.  They need to surround themselves with others who “appreciate” the dialogue of intelligence, but it’s not a dialogue of real interest, but to “seem” intelligent and be respected.  I suppose, for some people, that is who they think they are.   For others, it becomes a terrible “fix.”  They feel a pressure to continue a charade, to keep up “the act,” to be admired, all the while needing those drinks at the end of the day, wondering why they can never relax or be themselves.  And the fear to start all over, to give up the façade, giving up the respect.  Well, that can lead to all types of calamities.  However, it can also be the start of really living.  Be brave.  Be willing to give up the attention.  Start over.  Even in older days.  I’ve seen those who have done so.  It’s like a breath of fresh air.  All their lives, and they were responsible, but feeling like they had to be something they weren’t.  Some find second or third careers.  KFC anyone?

More Ideas: A Sample of Design

Image result for creativity pictures

                Here’s a little tidbit:  a compilation between teachers, sharing ideas, putting together lessons and projects, both mini and more complicated. 

                At the beginning of the year, we had prepped a plethora of worksheets, both supporting standards specifically, or more creative, but also supporting education (some online created).  On the walls, we had business cards.  The students, in their “free time”, could write letters (which had to be edited) for which I would mail.  Sometimes, businesses answered their questions, and this served to open their minds to future careers, business talks, and grammar practice. 

                At one table, we had materials for students to create their own games.  The object here was for the students to learn steps, instructions, utilize art and grammar, but also strategy and socializing, for they would play their own and others’ games.  Of course, we had board games in the class, and on Fridays, when they were completed with the week’s work, they would play games, but others would work on art projects.  Origami, which is high on instructions, was at one corner.

                From the wall, in two classes, we hung cardboard television sets:  huge cutouts where the students could read their speeches, sing songs (usually duets or more), read plays (which we sometimes acted out later), or do a commercial (Crest, soap, toys, whatever….).  The targets were writing expressions, verbal and speech, grammar, art expressions, and more….

                In the class, for example, those kids who were done with work had the above choices.  Sometimes, if they came up with their own ideas, if I approved, they could work on them.  I loved the creativity.  In this way, ideas spurred, growing, which encouraged them and their enjoyment of the learning process. 

                A couple of students wanted to build a city. I created the base:  streets, parks, and such, and they provided the buildings, signs, and more.  This led to discussions of what stores, what laws, and what else needed to be included.  Later, the kids created islands, a society, and wrote stories of events occurring on them. 

                In P.E., we taught basketball (including different coverages), kickball, soccer, and sometimes softball.  Later, at a different school, we included volleyball.  We also included games we had either learned elsewhere or looked up online.  Paper airplane competitions, which would relate to science and the economy.  Something another called “Australian Handball”.  That’s taking a large square, 16 sections, and the bounce a small tennis ball, everyone trying to get the king/queen position at the top.  We talked about games from other cultures. 

                As the years passed, we created other lessons, some regarding technology, but the points was to encourage enthusiasm and thinking for yourself, which works better when the students have quality base of education.  Yes, we had hard work.  Grammar was very important, and projects could last weeks depending.  There were hours of simply hard work, and the bar was high.  Some days was pure hard work.  But we always broke it up, eventually, with creativity.  All class and homework must be done.  The purpose was learning hard work and responsibility, but also creativity.

                And yes, when it came to taking tests, they did well.  There are a myriad of ways to ensure the standards, and I’ve discovered, the more hands on approaches seem to sink those ideas longer term.  I’ve wondered, if we could stay with the same group of students for several years what might be accomplished, where the creativity and learning go, and what careers might be pursued.  Creating circuits in class, using paper cups and string to convey sound, learning about the inner workings of businesses (Yes, we had worked in businesses before becoming teachers), and more.  Kite flying.  Rubber band ran cars.  Science projects using the scientific method.  Who knows?  Like music.  Play an instrument while the other kids are finishing their assignments.  The ideas are endless. 

Why Parental Educational Decisions

Image result for history of the world pictures

This is an area I’ve spent some serious time giving attention.  I hope I am able to convey the importance of the subject.  As a teacher, tutor, coach, and instructor in other arenas, my first job was to teach the curriculum, but through lessons (both school materials and created) and projects, my goal was to educate and get the students to both “see” for themselves and think for themselves.  This requires guidance.  Some students are already there (few), some grasp it quickly, and others at various times.  And with parental support, the progress increases. 

                First, I want it understood I’ve never sought to get kids to “buy into” any beliefs.  Yes, regards responsibility, family support, speaking honestly and such, getting your work done, that the students understand I believe.  But with a basic framework, which is necessary to running a class, we learn, discuss, and work.  But as they progress through my class, my work is to get them to “see” things from an understanding point of view.  Not, just think.  Not just repeat what you’ve learned.  Not just agree with the teacher because the teacher thinks so, though I explain that while they’re in my class, they do have to follow the rules.  Not just believe something because that’s what others’ have told them. 

                With respect, I even welcome them challenging me.  You see, I want the challenge.  In this way, we can have a real discussion, something I don’t see much in the world.  Socrates believed is what he talked about, but also welcomed challenges.  He wasn’t looking to be right in his own eyes, but to truly find understanding and answers.  In this way, he changed the way many people of the times saw things.  Being near him was like a breath of fresh air.  Here was a man who truly observed and wondered, seeking after truth if you will. 

                Why is this so important?  A country descends or improved depending upon its citizens.  We have a constitutional government with a framework designed to support individual freedoms.  This is necessary.   Individual freedom is necessary to have any kind of freedom that’s lasting.  For if one person’s freedoms can be removed, so can others.  And in this, we all have to have the understanding and freedom to “think” for ourselves.

                At one district, I remember at one school, a mock or practice election.  The students would have some “dittos” to read.  They could discuss, and obviously talk with their family and friends.  But on the voting day, they would enter a “booth” alone, and could cast their votes any way they wanted.  No one would ever know who they voted for, for they also didn’t have to include their names.  Disturbingly, some students who told me they were voting one way changed when they discovered others voted differently.  So I asked, why?  If you’ve studied the issues, discussed with others, but were certain of who you wanted, why would you change your vote, especially when no one would ever know?  They didn’t even have to tell me.  I saw “fear” in their eyes.  They didn’t understand the concept of real freedom.  Oh, some complained from time to time about not getting their way, wanting their “freedoms”, but what would they do when it really mattered?

                Again, a country improves or descends depending upon the citizens.  What we do day to day makes a difference, one way or the other.  As a teacher, my goal is simply to educate, prepare, but also to get the students thinking for themselves.  This requires quality information, a true understanding of history, but also inquisitiveness on their part.  Outside information the school and I provide, they can research on their own. 

                Along with reading to understanding, we include essay writings (pro and con, comparison/contrast, argumentative, opinions with citing/support, and more).  We also include story writing where students are to consider what characters think and reasons for their decisions.  In this way, the students must realize decisions are based upon believes and information.  But “they” are the ones to make those decisions.  And when the kids/teens read their “stuff” to the class, others can learn how they think:  how others think. 

                Then, when we discuss things like current events or historical events, the reasons why things happen, we can watch them thinking, being introspective, and reasoning.  I think this, teacher.  Okay, why?  Another has a different view.  The difficulty here, though, is students who find their beliefs challenged deciding not to speak up anymore.  That’s where I come in.  Even if I disagree with what they “see”, I don’t tell them that.  I might bring up, later, other things to consider.  Later, after they have had time to get used to speaking up, I might challenge them.  But I also explain that I might take the opposite view even if I don’t believe the opposite view, simply to get them thinking.  I might actually agree with them, but I want them to know “why” they believe what they believe, and be willing to alter their beliefs if new information brings new light to the subject. 

                After all, these kids/teens will be the voters and leaders of tomorrow.  But if they don’t understand our real history, don’t understand the issues of the day, and aren’t willing to listen, observe, and think for themselves, they won’t know how to make informed decisions.  They will go with their “friends” just because it’s popular.  They will go with what the crowd thinks, or rebel without knowing why.  They will go with what unexamined thoughts are in their heads.   And they won’t grow in understanding, stymied by their own lack of curiosity and sense of responsibility. 

                Honestly, I couldn’t care less if students would vote differently than I would.  But I want them to vote from understanding and realization with the information they have, which improves with research and study.  But that’s something they have to do, away from me.  You see, I firmly believe a nation of people who think for themselves, who truly understand real history, who observe and listen, and live lives of responsibility, will make the best decisions overall.  And parents can help by talking about history and current events, allowing the discussion to be open, unafraid of differing ideas.  For it’s the willingness to challenge your own beliefs, really looking at why you believe what you believe, that finds the best answers.

In Crowd or Being Yourself

Image result for cliques pictures

From our earliest memories, many know what being in the “in crowd” or being excluded feels like.  Most children want friends, want to be liked, and want to be esteemed in the eyes of their peers.  And a healthy appreciation and honest friendships are certainly what we all would like.  But there is the other side of what we experience.

                It’s “funny” that, upon looking back, we can find more meaning then we understood at the time.  My memories go back to three years of age.  I can remember, when we visited family and another child  was there, looking for attention.  Not too many years later, I remember trying to make friends with the neighborhood kids, but my sibling and they would “ditch” me, leaving me alone.  Like many young kids, I cried.  My sibling would return and apologize, realizing the hurt.  But it would happen again.  I wondered why. There is a dynamic here.

                When I was preteen to a teenager, I had more friends than ever before.  This memory seems to remain.   A bully charged me, but didn’t do anything, just looking to see me flinch.  Later, when I saw another kid, I did the same, but caught myself.  Why did I behave that way?  Why did I look to place “fear” in another as it happened to me?  Sometimes, among friends, we took pleasure in “outing” someone who wanted to be a part of our group.  Again, I found myself wondering about this.  I noticed, I could be as cruel as the bullies but never felt right about it.   There was a “pecking” order in life.  I saw it.

                In college, I noticed a certain “group” think.  As any student going to college, we looked for friends, which of course we found.  But, I had learned to “watch” people interacting.  I noticed, when the professors would want us in study groups, again, I was in the “out.”  I really didn’t want to be in any study group, preferring to learn on my own or with my own chosen friends.  In those study groups, I again saw those dynamics.  “They” supported ideas even if better ones were available.  I would go along with good ideas, but when I suggested something different from the majority (and how did they become a majority?), there was this look in their eyes, they looking at each other.  You know the expressions.

                Through observations, different jobs, a career in teaching, I had the opportunity to observe these dynamics in others.  In my classroom experiences, I had noticed students who were either left out of the groups, sometimes ridiculed, and some angry.  Mostly, they explained, they wanted friends.  They wanted to “belong.”  But sometimes, even in that desire to “belong,” they wanted to rebel and be respected for that.  But for all of that, their sense of self was coming from others.  From the way their “world” reacted.  From what they saw in their families.  From “friends.”  “They” had come to need others’ reactions for a sense of self.  Something that started earlier in their lives.

                You want to be friends, I asked one lonely student.  Then you can’t “need” them I explained.  You just have to be yourself, cooperate in activities, but don’t “need” their attention.  If you really like soccer, then play soccer with the others, and you’ll find some friends.  If you don’t, at least you got to play with them, and don’t worry about having best or close friends.  Just be yourself, but not as rebelling against others.  If you are yourself and want friends, without being needy, you’ll make them through participation.  But there’s nothing with time alone either.  A healthy balance. 

                Some of them got it, and without effort, friends came to them.  I explained the others saw your independence and like that.  Some others didn’t like this.  They couldn’t understand why they couldn’t make others like them.  I explained, friendship is something no one owes anyone.  It’s simply people liking others, sharing ideas and/or activities, but each person being themselves.  And if you have to be alone, you’re not upset.  You can enjoy time alone.  With others, or alone.  And others “see” this self-confidence:  if it’s real.

                This is the difficulty so many face today.  We see it in the news, on television, and everywhere else.  Exercise and wear tights.  Take selfies.  Go on this dating site.  Be popular.  Get into activities so you can make friends and be popular.  Makeup.  Persona.  How to talk.  It’s all part of losing your identity.  And more often than not, they don’t know how to live with alone time, not happy with themselves.

                So, someone asks, what can I do to make friends?  Good question.  But if your sole purpose is to make friends, what will those friends be?  Real friends, simply through each being themselves, come together.  Oh, you like that show?  So do I?  I think we should spend more on the space program.  Yeah, I’d like to learn more about Mars.  And so forth.

                Whether your children are home schooled, go to a public, private, or charter school, being themselves is number one.  Thoughtful.  Respectful.  Friendly.  Sometimes sticking up for themselves.  But not desperate to be liked or included. You go out to the playground and meet with others.  You join the music club or play sports after school.  You have hobbies and share.

                There’s an old saying that still applies today.  In history past, we have time and again witnessed individuals who were different from the rest, sometimes considered oddballs, yet they were the movers and shakers than created positive changes.   “They” had learned, or always knew, how to think for themselves.  Like when I realized gravity is not a pail of water swung by an arm, or one can learn anything on their own.  Something inside showed the way.  But of course, having friends, getting married and having kids, being part of a team, is enriching.  Our lives, when we are true to ourselves and are so with others, become enriched.  But in honesty.  For if we “sacrifice” what we understand and believe in order to make those “friends”, what kind of friends are they?  And how will we feel when we are alone, having not held onto what we know is right?

                But we are scared.  We “see” those “individuals” who stand alone, making positive differences.  They might be married, have friends, but we also see the many who tear them down.  And we don’t want that, even to the point of fear/anger.  So as in some of my jobs, I watched employees gathering around the one they perceived to be “in the know.”  Oh, she knows how to talk, how to lead, and seems in control.  I’ll go eat with her and listen to her ideas.  Never mind you might have ideas just a high quality.  Never mind you’ll have to continue talking “their language” for however long you are in that group.  And yet, it is the true individuals, the ones who are looking to understand, who know themselves and others.  And as they age, they are “okay” with who they are.  They didn’t compromise their value. 

                This all starts young.  Parents, by being themselves, loving their children, and giving them time to grow up (Sometimes, this means home schooling them in the early years or more.), but also setting ground rules, preparing them for the years ahead.  It’s important that kids do not find their identities in others, but make friends while being themselves.  And in those friendships, each person honest, they share time they both can appreciate.  And when it’s time to go home, you don’t feel lonely.  Yes, there’s give and take.  Yes, relationships grow.  But like one person said, to thine own self be true. 

By the way, how many believe that those in those cliques are truly happy? They live, always having to perform, never ever able to express honest ideas, and always looking for attention. That’s the price of popularity, never truly happy.

Holding to Understanding

Image result for doing homework pictures

                Recently, we’ve heard of a teacher being let go for not giving points for work not turned in.  Questions arose about points given for being in class, even though no work was accomplished.  Others shared that the children must do the work to earn credit. 

                Thankfully, I grew up during a time when America was number one in the world, and I am very thankful for this, though, at the time, I complained about work as with all my friends.  The teachers (well-educated teachers) taught, we listened, and we did the work.  When we failed to turn in an assignment, we garnered no credit.  On rare occasions, if we pleaded with the teacher, promising to turn in all our work, we got to turn in the assignment late, but at far reduced credit.  Sometimes, and rarely, a parent might plead with a teacher, and on rare occasions, the student might get to complete the assignment, but again, at far reduced credit.  However, if the student again failed to turn in work, no extra time was given.  They just failed the class.   And towards the end of the quarter, some students would ask for extra credit, so a few points might be earned, enough to get over, but the extra credit was more often more difficult than the regular assignments, and some students had to go to summer school if they wished to pass onto the next grade.  Some didn’t make it. 

                These were very good lessons in life.  If I had work, I had to do it.  If I complained to my parents, they would suggest I work harder, get started earlier, and read the materials over.  The responsibility was placed upon our shoulders.   Hey, if other kids could do the work, I should be able to do as well.

                What I learned is I do as well as I do.  No one was going to give me anything I hadn’t earned.  But if I did well, then the work showed.  Thankfully, when I went to college, I put in the time.  With additional time and work, I learned better ways of learning, but still garnering A’s.  I did the work.  I never asked for extra credit.  I just stood by what I had done or didn’t do.   Only one professor was horrible, but I did what I had to do to pass the class because it was mandatory.  Yes, if he didn’t like you, your grades suffered (I know this because my paper and a classmates were basically the same after we compared [After we got the grades.]).  She got an A.  I got a D.  So we knew something was up, for it happened time after time.  But I didn’t complain, just continued, and passed.  I learned something there.

                Our youth, in more often circumstances, are not learning the lessons of life.  If the youth don’t learn responsibility, think feelings are the only things that matter, how will they cope with life and the difficulties we all endure?  How will they handle work when the boss tells them they will soon be fired if they don’t shape up?  How will they teach their own future children responsibility if they don’t know it themselves?  Parents are the guardians of their children.  They must know who influences their children.  They must do this, love their children, but also hold them accountable for their efforts. 

                As one who has taught for many years, I have seen this.  Young people who walked into my room, thinking they would have the run of the class, quickly discovered a teacher who was determined, cared, but would always hold them responsible.  And when the class understood they had a teacher who cared, but would cut them no slack, they worked harder, and with time, their self-esteem increased, and they too healthy pride in doing well.   But with changing times, this is becoming more difficult.  We’re forgetting the lessons that our generation grew up with which leads to a higher probability for success.  But parents, who are the guardians, can lead their children to become successes in their own rights.  Mommy, Daddy, this work is too hard.  Well, dear, you better get started and reread the material.  By the way, until your grades improve, you’ve lost your video games and smart phone.  But that teacher’s too hard.  Welcome to the real world, honey.  Better get back to work.  And no, you’re friends cannot come over, until your grades improve.  Mom!!!  You want to lose more priveleges?  No, I’ll get to work (We don’t support learned helplessness.).  It’s a habit we build over a lifetime.  And it leads to greater success and self-esteem.  Love is also tough-love.          

Class Management and Fun

Image result for supernanny pictures

                Two of my favorite shows are Supernanny and The Dog Whisperer.  In the show Supernanny, Joe Frost demonstrates natural patience, love for the kids and teens, but from a responsible parent position.  We would watch the difficulties parents were having (i.e. kids misbehaving, not listening, taking forever to stay in bed, fighting with siblings, and much more).  When Joe Frost entered the homes, immediately, the children calmed down. She would spend the first day observing the family and how the parents interacted with the children, making recommendations afterwards.  Then, she would either demonstrate or give advice and guide.  The main thing is she was organized, cared, and was very consistent, knowing what works with our youth.  The children came to respect her more and more, so when she left, they were missing her.  Of course, she would contact the family on a later date for an update.  Every time we watched, the parents were getting more sleep, had a better relationship with their children, and the children were happier.

                In The Dog Whisperer, what Cesar demonstrated was calmness.  He usually identified the miscommunication between pet owners and their pets, that the owners should be the leaders, but this requires understanding the dogs.  Through calmness (for animals react to our emotions), consistency, and organization, he teaches the owners, so the owners become the pack leaders.

                As a teacher, I have always enjoyed the classroom, teaching, but also encouraging creativity.  But I understood early, the teacher has to be the pack leader.  However, a good teacher also encourages the students to be leaders themselves.  This requires time and understanding.  However, over time, with consistency, caring, and direction, the students are working together and getting along.  Even the students who seem to want to try the teacher, through calmness (for young people react to adult emotions), but also leadership and consequences, they learn to realize it’s better to learn and do the work, for in that, they will gain information and understanding that benefits them.

                Although, in the early years, I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching experience, times were changing.  To meet these changes, I knew I had to improve upon management skills.  The Dog Whisperer and Supernanny were two shows that explained what I had always known, but they put much more music to the songs.  They showed, in real time, and through watching, I could better understand student behaviors.  Having said that, I knew the importance of patience, organization, and consistency, but also consequences and a firm stance.  For what class doesn’t have at least one child that won’t test the teacher, who doesn’t listen to their parents, and has made difficulty with other teachers and adults.  It’s a learned behavior.  And if one student or more are creating difficulty, and get away with it, others will eventually follow.  Eventually, we have difficulties where none should exist, for each teacher creates an environment that is exclusive to that classroom.  Of course, staff cooperates, and understanding the dynamics goes a long way to improving overall school behaviors.

                Young people love it when the adults show patience, but also are the leaders, take responsibility, and enforce good rules, requiring them to be responsible as well.  But young people often don’t come out of the package so to speak with self-discipline.  This is where the adults and parents lead.  And without leadership, they are left to the whims of friends and others who are rebellious and aren’t responsible.  In schools, it’s paramount that the teachers understand this.  For in this, the students feel safe and enjoy the learning process.  They respect the teachers and therefore, grow to become respectable adults themselves.

A Story Time of Learning

Examples of the ToM cartoon stories presented to the subjects. Panels show (A) cooperation, (B) deception, and (C) cooperation/ deception. (D) shows an example of a jumbled cartoon story presented in the non-ToM condition. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002023.g004

                Over the course of weeks, we had talked about stories read out of the text, which included main characters and scenes, not to mention what was happening.  We discussed what the “issues” were, any problems needing solutions, and how the stories ended.  What did you picture in your mind as the story progressed?  Were there concerns as you read?  What did you learn about the characters (i.e. their personality, likes and dislikes, concerns, and anything else)?  How might have you handled similar situations?

                On this particular day, we were going to begin creating our own stories.  First, we brainstormed ideas (On a previous week, we had worked on a story, as a class, so they could see the process from beginning to end, but also write the story, making changes where they felt needed.).  I explained most stories have a central problem, something that is solved by the end.  We need to decide what characters must be in the story, but as the story progresses, other characters can be included should they be needed.  We also need pictures of the main scenes (i.e. where the story takes place) and the main characters (so we can visualize them).  For today, what I’m looking for is the main idea, the main problem, and who the characters are.  Once this is decided, each student is to draw pictures of the main characters and answer some key questions about each (i.e. How old are they, what do they like to do, what is home life like, who are their friends, how do they handle problems, and so forth.  Usually, I ask for 5-7.).  Whatever they don’t accomplish can be completed at home.

                The next day, the students then create the main scenes, explaining what each scene entails.  What is happening in the scene?  Who is in the scene?  In this case, a paragraph each is sufficient (A paragraph should include 4-7 sentences.).  The purpose here is for the students to know their own stories before they begin.  Can they alter the stories as they write?  Yes.  But they shouldn’t divert too much, for then they will have to create new scene panels to support.  For when I read each story, I have the scenes before me, checking one to the other.

                After another day, on the forth, they begin writing the stories.  It’s important that the first story of the year I’m much more flexible.  The point is to get the students writing.  On the first story (which I don’t require panels), I’m encouraging creativity without too much concern over grammar and punctuation.  However, before the second or third story, we have worked on both, and the grade encompasses correct grammar, correct punctuation, an easily identifiable problem with succeeding solution, and quality characters (We use paragraphing, quotations, and other tools the students learn.).  For a fifth aspect, which is subjective, I look at the story as a whole.  Here, I need to be flexible, but as I learn how each student writes and thinks, I understand how they “see” things.  But it’s important that their stories is understandable to a reader.  Depending upon each class, I usually give the students three days to complete.  Usually, another day is needed.  For extra credit, the students who read their stories to the class garner more points. 

                What I have learned, over the years, is through story writing, the students understand different aspects of stories, “seeing” it first-hand, which helps them better “see” stories read out of the text.  In addition, through writing and reading, their grammar improves (Since I thoroughly check their writing from the third story onward, and they must “fix” the mistakes.  Also, we do sample writes where I’m checking grammar and punctuation), their reading improves, and this helps in math where reading instructions and word problems are important.  One other thing:  I teach them to draw word problems out.  Draw a picture of what the problem is asking.  In this way, you can visualize what the problem is asking and what is entailed.

                On the last story of the year (We might do 5 or more throughout the year.  In some classes, students want to do more, and those who do extra stories get extra credit.  I remember one student doing twenty page stories which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Flashbacks, more extensive panels, and more.), I’m open to their creativity.  In this way, they may come up with ideas I never thought of.  As I’ve shared with friends, sometimes I learn more from the students.  In this way, I have more to share with the next class.