Who's never been much for dabbling ~

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Training Children to Death

Please check this blog regarding the child abuse death of a young girl after parents follow the recommendations of the Pearls who run a church and wrote the book: To Train Up a Child


 I signed a petition asking Amazon not to sell this book.  I know that is in itself controversial, but lots of people are buying this book of insanity.  In my job I read weekly Child Protective Service report.  It constantly amazes and saddens me what adults are willing to do to children. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

School Reforms Ignore the Reality of Poverty

It's time I speak out about the notion that a educator working in a low socioeconomic district should be judged on their effectiveness to teach by the same criteria as an educator working with students from a middle class or wealthy community.  The education "reformers" are playing into the hands of those looking for profits.  This is about money, not student growth and achievement.

More than half the students from our district ride a bus to school, some more than an hour each way and part of the route is on a dirt road.  Many walk or ride a mile and up to 10+ miles to get to the bus stop on poorly maintained roads not accessible after rain or snow storms. Their "school day" is 5am - 5pm, some longer if they have to stay after school.  How is this the teacher's issue to overcome?

Some of these homes have neither electricity, nor running water.  How many of the people writing the current education policies use an outhouse and can't take a shower or bath every day?

Most of our students are on Free and Reduced Lunch, which is code for below the poverty line.  These students get a breakfast and lunch every day at school, but many return to a home with little to no food to eat or food that is of low nutritional value because that's all they can afford.  Is food insecurity and poor nutrition not a barrier to brain development and learning?

We have children who miss school because their parents can't afford to wash their clothing or don't have fuel to drive to a laundry mat, can't afford medicine or to drive to a clinic. 

Poverty, depression and the resulting substance use make for more domestic violence, sexual abuse and addiction than I care to write about here - it's high, you'd be sad.  I stopped counting the number of students in our district with a family member in jail.  I also stopped counting the number of children from single parent homes, but it's in the hundreds.  Even those with two parents often don't have one or both greeting them when they get home because there are no jobs here, so the parents take work in other places and leave another relative or older sibling in charge.  We have two and three families living in the same trailer or apartment to make ends meet and deal with childcare issues.  Will their homework experience be the same as the 2.2 children-white-suburban-upper- middle class evening?

We have high ELL numbers and although I'm glad these children know their language, it's not a language that is easily translated to English - it's Navajo ... you know, the language that's so difficult it was used by our military because it couldn't be decoded by the enemy!  (Thank you Navajo Code Talkers)  It's a proud culture and a descriptive, visual language, but tough for the brain to switch back and forth.  It takes time, but we don't get one more minute to educate this child than the one who's parents have graduate degrees and walls full of books. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that these students are not bright, talented and teachable - they are, but for people sitting in board rooms in Phoenix or Washington to assume that a teacher here will be able to move a student through a rote, standardized, heavy on the testing curriculum in the same manner and time frame as a student in Scottsdale, Arizona or Loudoun County, Virgina, is incomprehensible. 

We're still working through bitter generational memories of forced boarding schools and broken promises.  The Navajo unemployment rate is 42% and the medium household income is $20k.  The graduation rate is 56% so we are feeling pretty good, but hardly complacent about a 70% graduation rate in our district.  If we can't get it higher this year, we're failures?  We don't need to be threatened by sanctions and labels to work hard to graduate everyone.  We're educators; that's what we do.  If we were looking for an easy way out, we would have pursed a better paying profession in the first place and we certainly would not have chosen to work in a community with so many challenges.

What is the motivation for veteran teachers to stay when they hear day in and day out that if they don't jump through 12 more hoops they're not worthy of a pay raise, perhaps even a job at all?  How will communities dealing with the challenges of student poverty attract young talented educators?  Why would anyone trying to make their living and define their worth in the world take the chance of working in our district when rubrics and data crunchers hundreds and thousands of miles away will judge their effectiveness?

If our teachers were afforded the time to spend building crucial relationships and offering additional support programs to our students instead of filling out endless paperwork and teaching to the mind numbing barrage of tests, we might be able to make more progress, but teachers are now told by politicians that they can't make their own decisions regarding the students that are sitting right in front of them.  Others outside of the education profession are now making these decisions, thus making the actual teachers less effective, leading to stress and personal despair, burnout and droves of educators leaving the classroom for good. 

I'm not prone to believing conspiracy theories, but on this one, the trend looks clear: less public educators (and more shaming of public educators) means more Charter Schools and more money for businesses that are invested in the "business" of education.  Who's making a ton of money on education right now?  The four companies that are creating the tests, the prep material for the tests and those running Charter School and school chains. (Over half the Charter Schools investigated by Reuters created "significant barriers" to enrollment for low income students.)

I'm committed to Support Services for our students.  If we had more "wrap around" services and less judgmental legislators pushing bubble tests, we might have a shot at making a real educational difference to those from our surrounding communities.   This gets controversial in America, because we prefer to say you're not trying hard enough, but if you've made it this far on my blog post, keep an open mind and read this.

It's one thing to try harder, but at what? Is it really the truth that our students don't try hard enough, nor do their teachers?  Do we really believe that only teachers of poor children don't work hard enough?  I'm a fan of effectiveness and what is being forced on educators and proposed as the Yellow Brick Road to prosperity is so disconnected from the reality of our classrooms that it's like reading fiction - except they're serious!  Look underneath the finger pointing and you'll find profiteers making money by blaming teachers. 

Education will not be fixed without taking a long hard look at inequity in America and dealing with our children growing up poor.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mind Germs

Hopefully most of us wash our hands after we've used the bathroom.  We have squirt bottles of germicide sitting in our offices and stay clear of homes that have someone with a contagious illness.  We'll go to great lengths from washing our food and the tops of aluminum cans to wiping down computer keyboards, steering wheels and doorknobs - and no, I'm not a germ-a-phoebe.

Why is it that we don't go to these lengths to avoid mind germs?  Why do we willingly allow networks to fill our brains with useless, negative news, real life stories full of misery and programs of fiction that reflect some of the worst of human behavior: sexual assaults, drug deals, murder, abandonment, cheating and so on - I bet you can name a TV show, fiction or nonfiction, for almost any awful scenario you can think of.  It's contagious!

When do we take the time to clean away the filth and horrors fed to us and the poison of gossip that we drink by the gallons?  If you could, would you wash your mind of these infectious germs?  Do you have a method that duplicates spritzing antibacterial gel on your hands? 

There are methods and they begin with choosing to be aware of what you are asking your mind to digest.  First and foremost, PAY ATTENTION to the shows you consume, books you devour and the conversations you participate in.  None of these are requirements.  We don't "have to" watch a show that features a brutal murder every episode.  We don't have to watch a news program that features one negative story after another, each with NO relevance to our life. . .  and we don't have to rationalize this behavior by telling ourselves that we won't have anything in common with our friends if we don't.  Your friends like YOU, not what programs you watch.

Homework: watch a network morning news program and count how many stories they share with you that are by their own admission "sad", "so sad", "disturbing" or "frightening."

Consider "the purpose" of what you consume more than the product.  When you question your own motives, it becomes simple to make a decision. 
"What is the purpose of spending my (precious) time on this?"  
"Why am I really doing this?"  

When the answer comes back, "I don't know", "Because I've always watched this", "Because my friends do", "Because I get a kick out of hearing gossip", "Because I'm bored and there's nothing else to do"- that's the proof you have been unconsciously consuming mind germs and because you don't realize you're consuming mind germs, you don't even bothering WASHING! (insert an "Ewww" here)

Mindfulness takes practice, but it's worth it.  Meditate, begin a spiritual practice (qigong, yoga, tai chi, prayer), promise yourself some germ free programing and see if you start to feel better, less stressed, and better rested.  You'll find that you are able to keep your own thoughts on positive solutions to challenges, rather than defaulting to irrational fears and chronic worry . . . now why might that be happening, hmmm?

Keeping the mind germs away takes the same daily, even hourly practice that developing a hand washing habit took when we were younger.  Eventually you won't go out in public without taking care of washing and that's best for you and everyone else too!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

To Be On Purpose

We've heard all our life, "You did that on purpose!" and of course it's not meant to be a compliment but rather an indictment. 

Today we take "on purpose" off the list of indictments and place it by choice on our "To Do" list.  To make a decision with and on purpose is to create an expectation for our future, which also implies the effort it will take to accomplish our purpose. 

"Yes, I did that on purpose" can become our new motto, but it means commitment and we humans can be quite commitment-phobic.  Discovering and realizing our purpose can be a mysterious journey, but it doesn't have to be.  We all get plenty of "hits", messages or whatever you want to call those moments when you know you are meant to do something.  Sometimes we listen and often we ignore the calls.  Why?  Because the request may appear in-congruent with our current lifestyle - or? . . . scare us because it requires a commitment!

Not to worry.  We can change our minds.

Here's a place to start if you are lacking intuitive purpose messages:
  • When asked to commit to something, ask "What's the purpose?"  
  • Even a simple, "What for?" will help you define your next step.
  • Ask yourself these same questions and you will begin the culling process necessary to see your purpose path with increasing clarity.
Once you start asking yourself these questions, be prepared to recognize how often you spend time on activities:
  •  with no inherent purpose 
  • that apparently others understand the purpose but you do not
  • that there is a stated purpose, but it does not agree with you (jams up your values)
  • with a wandering or moving purpose, making it difficult to stay informed or clear about the point
  • with one stated purpose, which is NOT the actual purpose but rather a smoke screen (if it feels manipulative, it probably is)
  • others: _____________________ (feel free to fill in your own)
Also be prepared to recognize when you:
  •  feel energized by an idea or activity
  • resonate with the intended purpose (stated by yourself or another)
  • want to spend more time without regard for the effort or time involved
  • feel like you already know strangers you meet while engaged in a new project or activity
  • are compelled (or intrigued) to learn more
  • smile and laugh a lot or have an overall feeling of satisfaction
  • work hard or with fierce determination but it oddly doesn't feel like "work"
  • other: _____________________ (feel free to add your own)
Disclaimer: following a path of purpose may lead to feelings of passion (not the mating kind).  Your passion may initially feel uncomfortable because it can be out of your current comfort zone.  Proceed anyway - we created the current comfort zone and we can expand it when we choose to (just like adding a room to your house; it may be a mess for a bit and then provide you with more room for relaxation and enjoyment for years to come.)

Disclaimer #2: I am not endorsing the end of fun, because our purpose will include play, joy and love. However, many chase nothing but fun confusing it for purpose or passion.  Remember, without commitment, it's probably short-lived or inherently without a point and therefore it will not ultimately satisfy our desire for purpose in our lives.

I hope the days ahead bring you the joy of purpose and that you are overheard saying, "Oh yes, I did that on purpose!"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Extended Vacation

So I admit that 4 months off is stretching "extended vacation" a bit, but I feel the mojo coming returning.

Of course, I LOVE coaching and never tire of working with anyone interested in creating positive change in their life.

What else is on my rested mind? 

Music and reading, "Melting" (http://www.meltmethod.com/), meditating, walking, shooing carbs and still trying to respect the healing power of sleep (a long term challenge).

Be good to yourself -

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Traveling Our OWN Path

I was listening to Caroline Myss this morning on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday.  What struck me was her description of being on or off our path.  She insists that ever single person is here for a purpose but when we feel off our path (and suffering with that feeling) that we are not actually off the path, but rather we're managing poorly.  I'm pondering this as I always thought of it as on or off the path.  Her concept resonates as truer than mine. 

"Managing" our own journey means we must make the decisions that are right for us.  Of course it's fine to solicit support, read, study and listen, but ultimately, our choices are ours and the sooner we own that, the sooner we'll feel confident about the trajectory of our path - and listen to our intuitive voice.  This can be tricky without practice, because the Ego's voice is noisy!

Slow down your thoughts to tap into your intuition. (This will speed up with practice)  Reflect on choices and own them.

When we suffer, it is a clear message that we are trying to force ourselves on a path that is not ours.  If Myss is correct, we won't actually get to that other path, but merely slow the progress of our own.  Is our path always there?  I'm thinking "yes", but we must travel it, live on it, not just wish and dream about it.

One of the most seductive thought patterns is "that shouldn't have happened to me."  The problem isn't the thought entering our consciousness, the destruction begins when we believe it!

Myss: "Who should that have happened to instead of you?"

Is our path something to search for?  Let's consider for one whole week that we're already on it and all decisions, both small and large matter to the quality of that journey.  Don't seek out, seek in.  See how that works and let me know.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Belief Without Compassion

This is an email from Jonathan Fields. I follow his blog and watch his Good Life videos when he posts new interviews.  This post resonated with me and I hope it is meaningful to you as well:

Something interesting went down yesterday...
A major revelation by a public figure, Alex Jamieson, followed by a heated, sometimes respectful, other times vicious conversation. And it all went down through a combination of this week's Good Life Project episode and my guest's blog.
Alex burst onto the public consciousness in 2004 as the co-creator and co-star in the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me. The movie tracked what happened to her then boyfriend, Morgan Spurlock, after eating only McDonald's for 30 straight days and super-sizing his order every time he was asked to.
At the time, Alex was a vegan chef and educator, which made watching Morgan's spiral into health hell all the more difficult for her to watch. Once the experiment wrapped, she nursed him back to health with a vegan diet. She, in fact, had turned to veganism a number of years earlier as a way to heal her own medical problems.
With her new-found notoriety, Alex became a strong voice in the movement to live and eat more consciously and, because it had worked for her, that included being vegan. She's also always been incredibly open to other points of view and compassionate and accepting of those who choose different approaches to life and nutrition. This willingness to take people as they are allowed Alex to resonate with and help a lot of people. To meet then where they were.
But, for the last few years, she'd also been harboring a secret...
She was no longer vegan. Her body, she increasingly felt, was better served with a more mixed approach that included animal protein. She began eating meat again, always trying to do it in the most humane way possible. And her body and health responded well.
Problem was, she'd built her reputation and business around not just healthy living, but the vegan lifestyle. So, she knew "going public" with her evolution would cause not only personal upset among the vegan community, but also have a potential and real impact on the way she earned her living. And as a working mom, that's a scary thought.
So, she stayed quiet, until yesterday...
She'd finally reached a point where she felt she needed to step into her evolved reality and own it, no matter what the consequence.
Yesterday morning, I featured her in this week's episode of Good Life Project. We discussed her decision, along with a lot of other topics, in-depth. At the same time, Alex published a long post explaining why she was changing her approach. And she asked and hoped for compassion and understanding.
You can watch this episode over at Good Life Project or if you'd rather listen, just subscribe to GLP and you'll get instant access to the mp3 vault where can download and listen instead.
What happened after that was pretty stunning. The  comment section on Alex's blog exploded.
It was, in many ways, representative of the intense polarity that comes from unwavering belief in an ideology. It reminded me of the climate in Washington these days. Save one big difference. In the end, the voice of compassion seemed to vastly outweigh the voice of judgment.
On one side stood those steeped in vegan orthodoxy, fueled not just by the quest for health, but humane, compassionate treatment of animals. Noble to the core, 100% committed to the cause. To them, there was only black or white. Compassion to people or, depending on the research you follow, nutritional science, plays a back seat to the rights to animals.
On the other side were those who believed in the vegan lifestyle for themselves, but also exalted the good Alex has brought into the world and were willing to extend compassion to her and openness to her choice to do what felt right for her, even if they'd have made a different choice. And, then there were those who'd made the same choice as Alex, but had been hiding the closet for years out of fear of being shunned.
This post is not about veganism or the ethics of eating meat though. I take no position there. It's about something much bigger. Something that affects every person, every day in every way.
It's about how people driven by deeply-rooted beliefs behave toward others who are either non-believers or, worse, who've walked away from the faith.
I am troubled by the potential pain caused by action fueled by belief without compassion.
Belief in ideas, causes, movements and ideologies can be empowering. It can connect you with a likeminded community. I can pull you out of darkness and give you direction. Rules to live by, tools and support to better handle the uncertainty of life.
But without compassion, especially for those outside the sphere of belief, there is no understanding. No ability to see or honor humanity within the context of conversation. There is no opportunity for connection with good people who see the world differently. There is no window for learning, for insight, for wisdom or evolution. There is no place for respect, openness, tolerance or love. There is only martial law. Obey or be shunned. Judged. Outcast. Jailed. Or worse.
It's that way in nearly every form of intense belief. The entry levels begin with a blend of belief and compassion. Because it's easier to come to a set of beliefs and move into a community when there's an openness to where you're coming from. But the deeper down the orthodoxy hole you go, not infrequently, compassion cedes to absolute application of rule of law. Black or white. In or out. And if you're out, you're not just out, your not human any more. Not a brother or sister.
That scares me. Saddens me. Because, fundamentally, it tears apart a world that needs so much coming together. It fragments and silos people into tribes, driven by intolerance and disconnection beyond the bounds of the tribe. It depreciates and isolates the human condition at a time when our ability to connect with, honor and treasure others is our greatest tool for evolution, progress and peace.
Believe what you will. But lean into your beliefs through the lens of compassion. You don't have to agree with non-believers, but when you dismiss their humanity, you destroy your own.
As always, I'm just thinking out loud here. Open to others' points of view. Willing to stand in your shoes.
So, what say you on this topic?
And if the ideas here resonate, feel free to forward this email to a friend.
With gratitude,