I Tried to Write a Poem to Express My Gratitude

I tried to write a poem to express my gratitude
But I got lost in lines and beats and rhymes and a dismal attitude
So I threw it out and started over, plunged headlong into the verses,
And turned my gaze on all the ways my blessings far outweigh my curses

That’s the secret, that’s the mystery, that’s the never-ending story
Not to pretend that in the end we find misfortune less than glory
But to count the good more thoroughly and embrace the coming days
With confidence and a constant sense of thankfulness and praise

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues
(Image: “A thankful heart…,” by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, to one and all.

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Let the Light in You Shine (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Dabo Swinney’s birthday, so I took a look at one of his many inspirational quotes. Coach Swinney is the second-winningest head football coach in Clemson history, trailing only the legendary Frank Howard, but along with success on the field Coach Swinney has emphasized preparing his players for life beyond football.

Today’s video is a little different from others in the Between the Black and the White series, in that I broadcast it live on Facebook in the morning and only later transferred it over to YouTube. As such, it’s a little poorer quality than my previous videos and doesn’t have the title card and credits and whatnot. Anyway, here it is:

Here’s the quote from Coach Swinney, in case you don’t want to watch the video:

Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.

I think that’s good advice, even for the vast majority of us who don’t have many opportunities to stand in the spotlight — actual or metaphorical. I’m sorry to say that when I’ve had such opportunities I haven’t thought too much about the light I could bring with me, the light I could let shine though me (or out from me). I hope to do better at that, this week and into the future.

And I trust that you will let your light shine bright as well! Have a great week!

___
(Possibly) Related Videos:
Brave Knights and Heroic Courage
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times

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I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

___
P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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Death Will Kill Millions (But You Already Knew That)

A cheery thought for All Hallows Eve, eh?

Actually, the headline was my reaction to seeing the title of this New Scientist article, “Climate change will kill millions but you knew that already”

“This is the major health threat in the 21st century around the world, and there’s an urgent need for us to address it,” says Hugh Montgomery of University College London, co-chair of the consortium that produced the report, called The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

But if we work harder to switch to clean energy sources, we’ll likely see huge health improvements, the report says.


(Image: “Death,” by Robert, from Flickr on Wikimedia Commons.)

The whole thing sounds like idealistic wishful thinking that imagines the status quo as something that has always been in place and that should continue to operate indefinitely, when the historical truth is that change — beneficial as well as detrimental — is the way of things. The natural systems in which we live are dynamic, not static, and the pressure we apply to keep one part steady is likely to produce other changes we have not anticipated. And Death waits for us all.

So the greater question, it seems to me is: what are we doing with our lives?

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Brave Knights and Heroic Courage (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today we look at a quote from C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is well-known as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — published on this date in 1950, from what I understand — but this quote comes from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”…

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

I think that holds true when writing for anyone, not just writing for children. I much prefer stories with characters who face up to difficulties and do what’s necessary to work through them, even if they might not be “heroic” in the truest sense. And, especially for those of us who don’t have to practice it day by day, stories can remind us that we ourselves are capable of courage, and perhaps instill in us the bravery we need to face our challenges, if not actual enemies.

Have a great week!

___
(Possibly) Related Videos:
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Every Student A Scholar?
The Musashi-Heinlein School

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Monday Quote: Stand Tall In Troubled Times (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Leif Erikson Day, so today’s quote is attributed to him.

Erikson — literally the son of Erik the Red — is credited with being the first European to land on the North American continent beyond Greenland. He’s also credited with saying,

We are all leaders, whether we want to be or not. There is always someone we are influencing, either leading them to good, or away from good.

Who are you leading? And are you leading them to good? I hope so, and I wish you success this week as always!

___
(Possibly) Related Videos:
Monday Quote: Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Just Doing Our Best
We Are All Unfinished Products

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Monday Quote: Stand Tall In Troubled Times (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today’s quote, and one that seems as relevant now as it did 45 years ago, is from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The video is only a little over 3 minutes long, but if you just want the quote itself, it’s from Justice Marshall’s concurring opinion on the 1972 case of Furman v. Georgia:

At a time in our history when the streets of the Nation’s cities inspire fear and despair, rather than pride and hope, it is difficult to maintain objectivity and concern for our fellow citizens. But, the measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis. No nation in the recorded history of man has a greater tradition of revering justice and fair treatment for all its citizens in times of turmoil, confusion, and tension than ours. This is a country which stands tallest in troubled times, a country that clings to fundamental principles, cherishes its constitutional heritage, and rejects simple solutions that compromise the values that lie at the roots of our democratic system.

Here’s hoping we can continue, as a nation, to stand tall in troubled times.

___
P.S. Let me know what you think of this video version of the “Monday Morning Quote” series. Thanks! GR

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Off We Go …

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

On this date in 1947, the United States Air Force became a separate, independent service under the newly enacted National Security Act of 1947. So today’s quote must be:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At ’em boys, Give ‘er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!


(USAF 70th Birthday Logo.)

The “Air Force Song” was originally written in 1938 by Robert MacArthur Crawford and entitled “Army Air Corps.” Since the song became part of the Air Force when we became a separate service, that goes to show that our Air Force pioneers knew a good thing when they heard it!

I look back with great fondness on my time in the Air Force. To those with whom I served, and especially to all those serving today, I offer deep gratitude and a proud salute!

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When the Darkness Comes

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week. I’m considering doing a few of these by video, to see how that works….)

It seems fitting today to present quotations relating to eclipses, in recognition of the eclipse that will cross over the continental U.S. this afternoon. Without further ado …

William Wordsworth recorded his impression of an eclipse over Italy in Memorials of a Tour on the Continent. His poem opens,

High on her speculative tower
Stood Science waiting for the hour
When Sol was destined to endure
‘That’ darkening of his radiant face
Which Superstition strove to chase,
Erewhile, with rites impure


(Image from NASA video of 13 November 2012 eclipse, from Wikimedia Commons.)

A couple of stanzas later, he wrote,

No vapour stretched its wings; no cloud
Cast far or near a murky shroud;
The sky an azure field displayed;
‘Twas sunlight sheathed and gently charmed,
Of all its sparkling rays disarmed,
And as in slumber laid,

Wordsworth, then, had an unhindered view of the event. In contrast, I’m afraid the forecast calls for clouds where I will try to see the totality of the eclipse, but the weather is only one of many things out of my control. Hopefully the clouds will scatter at the right time.

Moving on, it seems apt to quote Victor Hugo from Les Miserables, given the rancorous discourse we’ve heard in our cities recently:

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.

In some respects, the struggle in our polity is a struggle for our national soul. Will we be a nation dedicated to a proposition, and specifically to the proposition that all men — all people — are created equal before God and before the law? Or will we be a nation that turns its back on that proposition?

Though in some respects it seems dark now, and cold, the light will dawn again. But whether what we experience is an eclipse — a brief interruption — or a long night, remains to be seen.

With that in mind, permit me to close with the first stanza of my as-yet-unrecorded song, “When the Darkness Comes” —

When the darkness comes, who will bring the light?
Who will run and hide? Who will stay and fight?
When the darkness comes, will we survive the night?
When the darkness comes, when the darkness comes

I hope you get a good view of the eclipse, and that the sun shines warm upon your face.

___

P.S. I would be a poor self-publicist indeed if I didn’t use the occasion of the Moon blocking out the Sun to draw your attention to my lunar colonization novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds. It’s available as an e-book on Amazon or as a trade paperback on Amazon, and in many other venues as well. Ask for it at your local bookstore! Thanks, GWR

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