Guidelines for Fully Living, Part 4

  1. Be still and quiet
  2. Do not interrupt
  3. Apologize
  4. Mind your manners
  5. Watch the watchers
  6. Go boldly where no one has gone before; do it.
  7. Shoulders back, chest out, head up
  8. Don’t take yourself too seriously
  9. Rest is as holy as work
  10. Practice, practice, practice (if you want to improve)
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Lessons Learned on the Navajo Nation

As I near the end of an amazing two-part adventure (5 more days, but who’s counting?), I reflect on what I have learned.  Part one of the adventure was living on the Navajo Nation.  Part two was my first foray into teaching at a public school.  Both adventures taught me much.

Living on the Navajo Nation provided many lessons:

  1. Government dependency can lead to poverty (40% of the Navajo people fall below the poverty level) and high unemployment rates (60-75% on the Navajo Nation, depending on the source).  From my observations living among the Navajo, both poverty and unemployment can be directly attributable to government dependency.
  2. While the Navajo people are amazing, bright, and resourceful, a very high percentage of them are bored, depressed, and in poor health.  Diabetes is epidemic among Native Americans.  An estimated one in eight will get the disease (thanks, largely, to commodity foods).
  3. The Navajo are losing their language.  In nine months, while walking through the hallways, being in the cafeteria, having students in my classes, and other observations – I never heard any two students speaking to each other in any language other than English.  I do know that many of them know how to speak Navajo, because that’s the only language some of their grandparents speak, so they must speak Navajo to communicate with the grandparents.

Teaching in a public school taught me more than I taught the students:

  1. Public schools are in trouble.
  2. The source of the trouble is debatable, but I suggest that government dependency is again one source.
  3. Standardization, lack of self-discipline, and poor discipline practices are other sources, in my opinion.
  4. The last, and possibly most damaging source of the problem is the lack of parenting skills.

Hopefully, I learned some things from my adventures that will help me be a part of the solution to these serious problems.

Discipline and Love

I frequently told my children, “There’s nothing you can do so bad that will make me stop loving you.  And there’s nothing you can do to earn my love.  I just love you because you are you!”  I occasionally remind them of that, although my youngest is 28.

I frequently appropriately touched my children.  A loving, approving pat communicates love and acceptance.  I also hugged my children frequently.  There is no substitute for hugs for expressing love and acceptance.  This seems to come naturally for mothers, but father-hugs are just as important.   Fathers, hug your children!

Love for my children included discipline.  The purpose of discipline is to teach that actions have consequences.  Here were my quidelines:

  1. Discipline in love, not anger.  Wait until I cool off.
  2. Remember the purpose – to help them remember not to do that again
  3. Do not administer physical discipline with a hand – hands are for expressing love and acceptance
  4. Allow the discipline to sting, but not wound
  5. Remember to communicate why you are administering discipline
  6. Remember to be sure to remind them afterward that you do love them – enough to do this
  7. Forgive
  8. Avoid pointing a finger at them.  (That leaves three fingers pointing back at you!)  Having a finger pointed at you can be threatening or demeaning.

Consequences and Discipline

An important aspect of teaching children/young adults is the concept of consequences for behavior.  When I was young, I was told to not touch a hot object, or I would get burned.  Of course, I eventually did touch something hot, and the burn became a highly effective teacher.  My parents didn’t tell me to not touch a hot object just to be in control or to be mean.  They cared about me.

Part of teaching about consequences is caring enough to allow children to suffer the consequences of their actions and love them enough to discipline them.  The purpose of discipline is to teach that actions have consequences.  Discipline must be administered in love, not anger.  Discipline should be coupled with loving communication.  Discipline is not to be administered with a hand; hands are for expressing acceptance and approval.  A loving, approving pat communicates love and acceptance.  Restaurant waiters have learned that an appropriate, brief, gentle touch of a customer almost always raises the tip amount.

Appropriate discipline is minimized in most public schools today.  It is minimized in many homes too.  Too bad!

Parenting and Public Schools

You’ve probably read about the terrible consequences of newborn infants being denied human touch for an extended period of time.  It is not good!

Public schools deprive students of human touch.  The kids touch each other – hopefully appropriately.  But teachers refrain from touching students – for good reasons.  There are, of course, exceptions.  I teach in a culture where touch is often minimized.  I taught here for several months before I recognized the negative impact that had on me.  My wife, a trained counselor, tells me that humans need at least eight hugs per day.  I often go days without a hug, since my wife and I work in separate locations and sometimes go several days without seeing each other.  That’s tough.  The toughest part, is hug deprivation.  I wonder how much impact that has on public school children?

Discipline in Public Schools

PHS added a dress code this year.  Oh, the outcries of offense!  But the administration stood firm.  The dress code policy reduced violence in the school.   Ninety-six students were expelled (not suspended) the year prior to the dress code.  This year, the first year of the dress code policy, one student has been expelled

Ninety-five percent of the prior year expulsions were a result of fighting, drugs, and failure to make academic progress.  All that changed this year.  Teachers report a big difference in classroom performance, student attitude, and learning.  The administration and staff took charge of the school.  Rules and order govern the school, not gangs and violence.

A dress code is a form of discipline – something sorely lacking in most public schools.   PHS would almost certainly benefit from other forms of discipline, but this is a good start.  When students receive discipline, they can develop self-discipline.  Self-discipline leads to success and positive accomplishments.  Thanks, PHS, for this great example.

Teaching in the Public School

Two quotes:

“Teachers face an impossible task of truly educating students in a world where traditional support of their efforts by administrators and parents has evaporated.  Those young people who are entering or thinking about entering the teaching profession should think about taking lessons on how to be a magician because navigating the sea of expectations they are about to enter is fraught with distraction and misdirection.” – Alan Stocker

“…although [I] am aware I could not withstand the crushing workload and confinement of high school teaching in this country.” – Milan Kovacovic, college professor

At the school where I teach, lack of administrator and parent support and unrealistic expectations loom large.  The workload for teachers is indeed overwhelming.  Teachers are treated as employees, not professionals.  Even worse, to me, is the lack of discipline.

In addition, the great majority of students lack self-discipline and positive role models.  I felt incompetent most of last semester.  A fellow teacher, at least as old as me and a 9-year veteran just at this high school, told me recently that she felt incompetent (something new for her).  And a veteran administrator (principal) also told me a few weeks ago, “Sometimes I just feel so incompetent!”  The current systems promote this feeling of incompetency.  The public school environment is unhealthy for teachers.  We need a revolution in public schools!