Friday, April 16, 2021

moving toward an age of wisdom

The news this morning is like the news of too many other mornings: More people killed through gun violence as the enraged or insane deliver mayhem on the soul of our nation. If all politicians cared about people and not power they would have fixed things after Sandy Hook when teachers and kindergarten students were targets of wrath, but if that didn't move them toward action, what can? That they refused to fix things then still amazes me. This interesting editorial by David Brooks, "Wisdom isn't what you think it is," suggests that wisdom is more about listening to others than about what we can say. And I pray for the development of wisdom.

One of the rules I have posted in the woodshop at the Clear Spring School is Listen. The rule is not just about what I say in the form of instruction. It's also about the tools and the sounds they make that inform us of how they are interacting with the material, wood. For wood, being real, is one of the sources we draw upon to engage wisdom. One of the things that becomes clear is that while we may quickly know a few things, on a superficial level, practice is of enormous utility. And as Brooks points out you can quickly grasp other people's knowledge, it takes living and listening to attain wisdom. And true wisdom is less about what you can do, and more about the ways through which we enable others to act courageously and with wisdom of their own.

One of the most common notions of wisdom is that it "comes with age." And yet, we can spend a lot of time doing the same dumb things over and over and not necessarily get wiser in the process.

Knowledge comes from a variety of sources: conversation, books, radio, instruction, television, personal observation.
Knowledge may be acquired either directly or from a third party.
Wisdom emerges from reflection on personal and collective experience.
Wisdom involves understanding the relationships between seemingly disparate events and things and is expressed as action toward improvement of the lives of others. It's not about sitting on our hands, it's about putting them to work.

The following is from Charles H. Ham and his book Hand and Mind, 1880: 
"Nothing stimulates and quickens the intellect more than the use of mechanical tools. The boy who begins to construct things is compelled at once to begin to think, deliberate, reason, and conclude. As he proceeds he is brought in contact with powerful natural forces. If he would control, direct, and apply these forces he must first master the laws by which they are governed; he must investigate the causes of the phenomena of matter, and it will be strange if from this he is not also led to a study of the phenomena of mind. At the very threshold of practical mechanics a thirst for wisdom is engendered, and the student is irresistibly impelled to investigate the mysteries of philosophy. Thus the training of the eye and hand reacts upon the brain, stimulating it to excursions into the realm of scientific discovery in search of facts to be applied in practical forms at the bench and the anvil." 
And so, you will find that it is not enough to read about wisdom and the idea of wisdom may seem pretentious, unless you, too, are inspired to explore the wisdom of your own hands. Plant a garden, play instrumental music, make something of useful beauty.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Kindergarten woodworking


Yesterday my Kindergarten students made color wheels, a project that had some hammering for the first time.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

color wheels...

Today my Kindergarten students will have their first weekly lesson in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School. We're off to a late start due to Covid-19 precautionary delays.

We'll make cool color wheels. Unlike the color wheels used by artists, these are made of wood and the wheels can be spun to visually mix colors.  The project includes sanding, nailing, drilling, assembly and decoration.

This was a favorite project introduced in 2018 and remains a project that even older students enjoy. 

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning likewise.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Getting a grip

I've been thinking about Teacher Effectiveness Training and found this interesting article in the New Yorker, "The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence," by Merve Emre. The article points out the 25th Anniversary of the very influential book by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, that promoted the idea that we are each responsible for our own emotions and the effective management of them to thereby fit into the prevailing culture and economy. It suggests that those who manage to control their emotions manage to get ahead. Goleman's book starts with a quote from Aristotle that avoided an important part. I've highlighted in bold the important point that Goleman skips. 

Anybody can become angry-that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.

Are we to be stoic and repressed for the sake of the smooth running of things? Or would it be best that we recognize that emotions are not be be repressed but utilized to bring change and betterment, as well as a better and more cohesive understanding of each other? Can we offer training not in the control of emotions, not to squelch but to empower?

Emotional intelligence sounds like a wonderful term, a great catchphrase recognizing that how we feel is an important aspect of maintaining a grip on things, at both individual and collective levels. But emotions are best not kept in all bollixed up, but let out where they can be felt by others. We either set up a framework of active listening (one of the important concepts in Teacher Effectiveness Training) or we face times like we face now, with police on one side with their tasers and guns, and justifiably angry protesters on the other. We'd best get down to it, listen to each other get to know one another and develop empathy. And that should be what happens in school long before emotions hit the streets.

True emotional intelligence does not avoid sharing what we feel, nor does it disparage or marginalize what others are feeling. 

Make, fix and create...  assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Small works of art

Today ESSA will offer a short video in which I'll demonstrate matching grain in making a mitered corner box. The video will go live at 10 AM Central time and was made in the wood studio of the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. My thanks to Darla and Hilka at ESSA for producing the video. This page has links to the auction and to the various demonstrations.

I was awake for a time in the night thinking about Teacher EffectivenessTraining and ways that we practice being more effective in our communication with each other. I was first introduced to Teacher Effectiveness Training as a younger man just out of college when working with kids at the Porter Leath Children's Center in Memphis, TN. 

I was a group leader in a summer program for kids who had been selected for the program for having emotional problems. In preparation we were given a three day class in Teacher Effectiveness Training developed by psychologist Thomas Gordon. There is no way that a three day class in such a revolutionary approach to effective relationship building can turn off and around patterns instilled and reinforced over a lifetime, but there's power in the model that would transform the ways we communicate with each other. 

Later, as a parent at the Clear Spring School, my wife and I took a class in Parent Effectiveness Training, and the subject has kept coming up again and again during my time at the Clear Spring School because it works. Two things are to be remembered, and as simple as they are, old patterns of communication are deeply engrained and difficult to reverse. The Effectiveness Training approach involves a strategy of active listening that came from Thomas Gordon's therapeutic approach, and the extremely powerful "I message."  The I message is an assertion about the feelings, beliefs, values, etc. of the person speaking, generally expressed as a sentence beginning with the word "I", and is contrasted with a "you-message" or "you-statement", which often begins with the word "you" and focuses on the person spoken to.

The power of the I message is to claim power in social relationships through the admission of vulnerability. It is not to claim attention for oneself, but does enlist partnerships in the resolution of whatever problems we face. To say, "this is how I feel" carries ownership and responsibility, but also offers "caring others" an opportunity to help and to build bridges of empathy between us. It's odd that when we attempt to assert power over others by demanding, we seldom get what we want, but that when we offer sincerity and admit vulnerability we then have the capacity to change a few things, bringing others along into an effective relationship bringing the potential for change.

Throughout my time at the Clear Spring School, Teacher Effectiveness Training has provided a model for student engagement in conflict resolution, and interpersonal conflict resolution is probably the thing most needed now in this fractured world, and yet, even for us and for me, continuing refreshment and practice of the model is required.

Join us in raising scholarship money for ESSA.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Small Works of Art

Bidding starts today for small works of art to support the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Please join us for this celebration of hands-on activities. Tomorrow at 10 AM Central time, I'll demonstrate online. A schedule of other free presentations, can be found at this link:

Among the small works of art for sale are my own Postcards on edge. Each is made from vacuum laminated veneers and is stamped and postmarked by a clerk at the Eureka Springs Post Office. You will need to register to bid on these and many other fine works. Please join us. 

Make, fix and create... assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

note to readers.

Some readers may notice that I've not been sharing as much of late. It's because we're preoccupied with getting back to school, home repair and I'm attempting to write other things. So I'll share an earlier post and a photo from that. 

In education there's a widely held belief that learning is something that centers primarily in the head, but nothing could be a more foolish view than that. 

ESSA, our school of the arts is having a fund raiser/ annual event, Hands-on ESSA and I urge you to attend on-line.

Among the activities are an auction and presentations from a variety of instructors. I will have a video demonstration on mitering the corners of a box, and paying homage to line.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.