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TGIF

Today’s Friday, TGIF !

It’s interesting with the economy in the tank those folks with jobs feel differently about them.  Sure everything about their job may not be perfect.  The hours aren’t what they’d prefer.  Their boss is controlling and needs to micromanage.  Their coworkers may not be the folks with whom they would have chosen to spend day after day.  The money is only OK.  The work itself doesn’t fully engage their talents. The insurance is only fair.  No dental.  Yadayadayada…..
But, and it’s a big but, they have a job.  And how they feel about that fact is now markedly different.
Where before the job was a source of discomfort, frustration mixed with anger.  Now, to have work, to have a job when so many other folks don’t or soon won’t, is a source of comfort. Same job.  Same person. Yet everything’s different.
They can live with the hours.  Their boss may not be perfect but who is?  Their coworkers aren’t so bad either when you give them half a chance.  The money’s not bad.  The work itself now engages the mind in a new way and one’s talents also.  Sure no dental but at least they have health insurance.  That’s a plus.  And, hey, it’s Friday.  Things aren’t half bad.  I’m pretty lucky.

Play

A wonderful book from my good friend, Stuart Brown, MD
just released today!
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wwwbowenwhite-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1583333339&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Creating a Healthy Learning Environment, for students and teachers

 “In times of change it is the learners who inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”  Eric Hoffer


How do you create a healthy learning environment for teachers as well as students?  

Just doing what we’re taught may not provide us with the tools or insights to lead children in this ever-changing world. The best students have the best teachers and the best teachers are the best listeners and learners. If we want students to be excited about learning, those that lead and serve them have to be excited about learning too.

What is required for learning? There are different learning styles. But what is the final common pathway of learning? The juggling metaphor answers the question.

Many people have tried to juggle three objects in the air.  Few actually learn.  Why?  Everyone, barring a physical handicap, can learn.  Yet, few do.  

The reasons, when one asks, vary.  However, they share one thing in common.
The effort was made and the results demonstrate an inability to learn.  The reasons are rationalizations. For example, “I have poor hand eye coordination”.
I have never met anyone that couldn’t learn to juggle. 

Just having that expectation for those I teach helps create the right environment for learning.
When I ask an audience for someone to come up and demonstrate the skill, they do.  Yet, when I ask what’s the secret to learning how to juggle, they waffle.  Why aren’t they able to easily explain? 

The answer, the secret is you don’t earn the right to have the skill until you drop the balls enough to “get it”.  When you’ve dropped them enough you don’t drop them anymore and then you know how to juggle.

Juggling is a great metaphor for learning. Everyone can learn to juggle just as everyone can learn algebra.
  
Why?  Because we learn everything through feedback loops.  You try something new. You fail. You get feedback. You make adjustments. You fail again. You get encouragement and more feedback. You make more adjustments. You fail again. The difference between the best teachers and the rest has to do with the quality of energy that we put out while we give the feedback. That energy needs to demonstrate that we care.

If they feel our warmth coupled with our honest feedback and we hold the expectation that they can learn, they eventually do. 

And it isn’t just the specific subject matter that they learn.  

They learn that they can learn just about anything.  So can we.

Three cups of tea, three bullets for me

My wife is reading Three Cups of Tea.  The author, Greg Mortenson, is speaking in Kansas City tonight sponsored by Rainy Day Books.
Change has been on my mind lately.  It was a theme during the election.  There was so much excitment around the world when Obama won because the very fact that he is a Black man embodies change.  My buddy, Greg Tamblyn, sent a request out through cyber space for folks from around the world to send him newspapers the day after our election.  He received 60 papers reflecting the global excitment about our big change.  And he created a wonderful poster you can get from his web site: www.gregtamblyn.com which has front pages from about 20 of them.
I heard Mortenson interviewed on the radio yesterday, thought about Obama and about change  For those of you that don’t know Mortenson’s book is a great story about change.  He went to Pakistan to climb K2, the second tallest and argueably the most difficult mountain to summit on the planet.  He failed, was rescued by a local man and vowed to return to build a school in his little village.  The book is about his adventure and what he learned in the process of fullfilling that vow.
BTW, he has now been involved in building 77 more schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
What does this have to do with Obama?  Mortenson has invested his time, effort, energy and attention in remote areas of conflict where our troops and those of other natioins struggle to win the hearts and minds of the people.  At the same time they fight the Taliban.  And things aren’t going well.  The Taliban has re-emerged stronger than ever and Obama’s response is to double the number of US troops deployed to Afghanistan.  While our military forces struggle in their efforts on both fronts, Mortenson’s experience is different.  He not only has captured the hearts and minds of the people, he has Taliban converts teaching in the schools.
Perhaps I should restate that.   He has been captured by the friendship of villagers, just like the one that rescued him and had a conversion experience himself.  It wasn’t a religious conversion.  It was a psychological conversion and is still ongoing.  He thought he knew what was best for the people he wanted to help.  He had to learn that they in fact knew what was best.  It wasn’t a school that they needed first.  They needed a bridge.
What a wonderful metaphor.  Now Mortenson is a bridge.  He has gone over and come back with the boon from his quest.  What he learned can help us individually and collectively.  So much so that he now consults with the department of defense.  It seems that wives of military leaders have read his book and encouraged their husbands to do so.  Some, including General Petraeus, have.  In fact he sent Mortenson a note with three bullets:
1 Build Relationships
2 Respect
3 Listen
Imagine that.  I think he got it.  I hope he tells the Commander in Chief.  Maybe more military forces aren’t the answer.  However, another volunteer force might better serve our foreign policy aims there and elsewhere.  A real Peace Corps.

The more things change…..

The more things change the more they stay the same.  I imagine you’ve read or heard that said a time or two.  And we can see how that may be the case when we note the referenced item.  However, the reverse can also be true.  The more things change the more we can see how different they are.  Both can be true.  It’s a paradox.

And it’s certainly true of people.

Some would say that people don’t really change.  They may change some superficial things but underneath that façade, they’re just the same old self.  And sometimes that may be true.  However, with or without some obvious difference that others can see, real substantive change in people is possible and does happen.  I’ve seen it happen with patients.  It’s inspiring.

The truth is the decision to make fundamental change within didn’t happen until the status quo of their old life was broken.  Facing some life stopping trauma, say cancer or some other life threatening disease, they take a new look at the familiar of their lives.  What was important and time consumptive is seen anew.  An evaluation is made and old decisions reexamined in the light of an awareness about what is now really most important.

Maybe it’s also true of not only individuals but countries.  Maybe having this world stopping economic trauma break the globalized status quo we can summon the wherewithal collectively to fundamentally change.  A band aid won’t do.  The contagion has spread.  Metastasis everywhere.  Perhaps things have gotten so bad that the world, lead by the United States has reached a firm bottom.

Having lead the world here what are we willing to change to lead the world not just back to what was before rather forward into a new, sustainable, mutually beneficial, just, peaceful, playful community of nations?  And remember, that “we” also means you and I?

The Science of Play

Howdy folks.  Last weekend the National Institute For Play(NIFP) put on a conference at Stanford University.  The science of play was the focus and It was organized by Stuart Brown MD and Stuart Thompson PhD.  The former is the founder of NIFP and the latter is a biology professor at Stanford and the head of the NIFP scientific advisory board.  Stuart Brown was responsible for bringing Joseph Campbell to the public with productions of The Hero's Journey and Transformations of Myth Through Time.  He has been studying play and the consequences of play deprivation for decades. He also produced the PBS Series The Promise of Play, a wonderful 3 hour series demonstrating what an enormously important topic it us for Homo Sapiens. Both gentlemen helped Brendan Boyle, Co-Chief Creative Officer at IDEO and teacher within Stanford's Design School, put together a course on Innovation Through Play. It was a big hit. ( They were silly enough to inflict me upon their students. )

 It was the first annual such meeting and I hope it was the first of many.  It's interesting that we need scientific proof that play has value when we don't need proof that work has value. That's a given. It's also a good example of normal not being healthy that we separate the two.  I just wanted to share with you one very interesting finding that speaks to this.  When we are problem solving we need the cerebral cortex to be fully engaged in creating the best solutions.  Guess what lights up the cortex.  You guessed it, PLAY.  It's a scientific fact. Dr Jaak Panksepp presented this finding and much more in his presentation.  More on this later.

Oh, one parting thought.  The NIFP is a 501c3 non-profit and it cost $50,000 to put on this conference.
We need some moola to help defray expenses, fund more research and develop programs for parents,
educators, caregivers and business folks.  I know times are tough and our problems large.  Therefore creativity and innovation are all the more important.  Collaborative free play helps create the psychological space necessary for our brains to light up and light bulbs to go on.  If you know of funding sources that would be interested and/or individuals who share a vision for a more playful positive future that might want to donate call Stuart Brown 831-659-1740 or use the National Institute for Play
web site's donation process.  Play on….b

Safety & Security?

Hey kids, are we having fun yet? The economy is in the tank. The leaders of the country are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to first save the banks and then get them to trust each other to pay back any money they lend one another. I didn't even know banks loaned money to each other. If nothing else, we're all learning something about economics through trial and error.

In uncertain times, what provides us with some sense of safety and security? It's not our 401k. It's not the leadership of the country. Our presidents approval rating is 23% and believe it or not, congress is lower.

It's not….

So where is our safety and security? I think it's in our relationships and our values. What do you value most? Focus your energy and attention on that question. What comes up for you? Isn't it true that what you most value are your family and friends? And as the holidays approach, how can you get the best return on your investment, in a way that reflects your highest, most cherished values?

Stop now. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Go directly to your phone and reach out to those folks in your circle of support. Tell them how much you value them. Let them know that whatever else happens, you're life is enriched because they are present in your life. They are a present, a gift you treasure.

the final common pathway of learning, last four

We all have learned not to run into the street without looking both directions. We all learned that “right way” just like we learned how to do many other things “right”, “well”. But we learned by making mistakes and the feedback was usually accompanied with physical punishment or some other form of diminishment. What’s that? Not punishment but diminishing, belittling feedback.

“What’s wrong with you?”   ”Won’t you ever learn?” “Bad boy/girl, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Shame based learning leaves the child wounded on the path to learning the correct, right way of traveling through the world. Those messages get embedded into the fragile psyches of children. Then, when the child makes a mistake, the tape instantly repeats the negative self-talk:

“What’s wrong with me?”  “I never learn.”

The implications are myriad but for now recognize that once those tapes are made they impede the learning process. The child tries something new, fails, and feels bad. (Were we not told that we should feel bad when we make mistakes!?) How do they stop the bad feelings? Stop trying the new thing. Go back to what you already know how to do the “right way”.

Retreating from the new learning experience to the safe psychological space of competency, make sense. But in terms of unfolding giftedness that safe space is a “right way” trap. The lid it places on new learning closes out the risk of failing. It also limits the child’s ability to experience the adventure of life. Without risk taking there can be no adventure. What approach explodes open the door for the adventure of limitless learning? Anything worth doing is worth doing right? Wrong!! Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.

the final common pathway of learning, last four

We all have learned not to run into the street without looking both directions. We all learned that "right way" just like we learned how to do many other things "right", "well". But we learned by making mistakes and the feedback was usually accompanied with physical punishment or some other form of diminishment. What’s that? Not punishment but diminishing, belittling feedback.

"What’s wrong with you?"   "Won’t you ever learn?" "Bad boy/girl, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?"

Shame based learning leaves the child wounded on the path to learning the correct, right way of traveling through the world. Those messages get embedded into the fragile psyches of children. Then, when the child makes a mistake, the tape instantly repeats the negative self-talk:

"What’s wrong with me?"  "I never learn."

The implications are myriad but for now recognize that once those tapes are made they impede the learning process. The child tries something new, fails, and feels bad. (Were we not told that we should feel bad when we make mistakes!?) How do they stop the bad feelings? Stop trying the new thing. Go back to what you already know how to do the "right way".

Retreating from the new learning experience to the safe psychological space of competency, make sense. But in terms of unfolding giftedness that safe space is a "right way" trap. The lid it places on new learning closes out the risk of failing. It also limits the child’s ability to experience the adventure of life. Without risk taking there can be no adventure. What approach explodes open the door for the adventure of limitless learning? Anything worth doing is worth doing right? Wrong!! Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.

the final common pathway of learning, part 3

And, get this, punishment wasn’t required. Being encouraging, supportive was. What the heck happened? Don’t know. But something definitely happened. Our three year old runs into the street. We grab him, carry him back into the yard, give him a couple of swats on his bum, he screams in response and our startled spouse come running out to see what happened.

“What’s wrong?”

“Jimmy just ran out into the street. Luckily I saw him before anything bad happened. I grabbed him and gave him a spanking to teach him never to do that again. That’s why he’s crying.”   “Oh, Gawd, how scary. I just can’t take my eyes off you for a second.  Now, come in here right this minute. You’ll have to stay in the house with me.”

Why? Why can’t Jimmy stay out in the yard and play? After all dad, through spanking, through punishment, just taught him never to run into the street again. Why can’t Jimmy stay out front? Don’t be silly, you say. He hasn’t learned that yet. He’s only three.

Exactly. We learn by trial and error. Punishment isn’t required. But, feedback is: “Jimmy, you scare the life out of me. I’m sorry that I grabbed you like that but sit here for a while with me and watch. Do you see those cars go speeding down the street? If you run out there a car could hit you and hurt you. We don’t want you to get hurt. Here, take my hand. Let’s go down to the curb. See how fast they go. It’s not safe to play out here. If the ball goes into the street, you might forget and run after it. Instead, come get your mother or me and we’ll help. Remember, never run out into the street. Let’s go back there and have some fun. OK?”