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It’s Easy Being Green

30 Jun

Being a professional educator offers unlimited opportunity to  learn and  grow while inspiring others to do the same. The key to doing this well comes from staying true to one’s colors. In today’s world,  it’s easier said than done. We live in a culture of influence. Forces abound, and there’s always a bandwagon, fad, or gimmick to follow. Living in integrity and working purposefully, requires true knowledge of one’s self, values, and core beliefs.  It’s a matter of knowing  who you are, your home base, and your bottom line. So, how exactly do we figure this out?

When I  seek answers to questions like these,  I look for role models. I seek out those who  exemplify the spirit, and integrity of which I hope to follow.  I turn to the sources which will offer a lesson to challenge, improve, or even inspire  my current practice.  I find inspiration in text.  One such text that’s inspiring and fun  to read is the following:

  • Before You Leap: A Frog’s-Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons, by Kermit the Frog

Now, before you begin to wonder why this title, written by a pig-loving Muppet, made it’s way to my professional educator’s blog, let me explain. Jim Henson was a genius, a role model, and an artist. Jim Henson Fraggle Rocked.  Now, I admit, I may be a bit biased since I was a kid of the 70’s, and I’m of  the Muppet generation. I grew up on everything Henson and  proudly toted a Muppet Show lunchbox and matching thermos.  But seriously, the message that this puppeteering master left us, via his amphibious alter-ego, was his unwavering commitment to his mission. Jim Henson never strayed. His true colors shone brightly, and always a swampy  green, of course! The truth is, the world could never accuse him of being anything but himself.  Mr. Henson marched to beat of his own drum, albeit oddly with many friends, down a Street named Sesame.

As I reflect on the life of Mr. Henson,  I find inspiration in his work, and his Muppets. You see, Jim Henson’s success wasn’t accidental. It was a byproduct of living his dream and living in integrity. He knew who he was.   So, what’s the take away? What’s the lesson for us as educators, parents, and students?  How do we stay true to ourselves and work in integrity?  I think the answer lies in a  wonderful quote by Kermit, in which he offers the advice: “Innovate, don’t imitate.” As we listen to the words of Kermit the Frog, we know the true, resonant voice of the master behind those words. So now that we know, let’s go for innovation. Let’s march to the beat of our own drums, down a street of our own choosing.

I wish you the best in excellence and instruction.

I Think I Metaphor Once Before

22 Jun

Language teachers love words. Linguists love word parts.  Etymologist love word origins, and Teachers of English as a Second Language, just love it all. Word definitions, metaphors, similes, and idioms, are just plain fun.  For those who love language, and the details of which it’s comprised, will feast like a kid in a candy store on the on the following:

  • i never metaphor i didn’t like, by Dr. M. Grothe

In this smart and entertaining  mini-hardback, you’ll find what the author calls a “Comprehensive compilation of history’s greatest analogies, metaphors, and similes.” Now, with a title and description like that, how can one not clamor to the nearest bookstore to buy this? It’s a word feast.  It’s pure  textual non-fiction sugar, and you’ll quickly feel like that kid in the candy store.  I promise.

Dr. Grothe organizes this entertaining little gem into 15 very aptly named chapters. You’ll find titles such as: Humor is the Shock Absorber of Life, A Relationship is Like a Shark,  Reserved Seats at a Banquet of Consequences, and Life is the Art of Drawing Without an Eraser.  Each chapter begs to be savored, in small bites, similarly to great caviar.  Here are a few tidbits to enjoy:

  1. The poet of junk food and pop culture. Sheila Johnston, on Steven Spielberg
  2. A louse in the locks of literature. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, on critic Churton Collins
  3. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Fame is a pearl many dive for and only a few bring up. Louisa May Alcott
  5. A bagel is a doughnut with the sin removed. George Rosenbaum
  6. Unsolicited advice is the junk mail of life. Bern Williams
  7. Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. Moshe Dayan
  8. Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. Charlie Brown

Now, as much as I really enjoyed this title, I’d be remiss not to mention the fact  it’s a tad blue. Although cleverly delightful, this book does include some double entendre, adult wit, and occasional (though far from gratuitous) colorful language. My suggestion would be to save this title for readers of upper high school age and older. I offer this caveat because I’m an educator dedicated to serving children and families.

So, now that you know, go forth and enjoy.  In the words of Noel Coward, “Wit is like caviar—it should be served in small portions, and not spread about like marmalade.”  I hope you savor this little treasure, one tiny nibble at a time…or even heaped upon a big slab of toast with your favorite spoon.  Either way, you’re in for a treat.

I wish you the best in excellence and instruction.

The Infinite Probability of Success

16 Jun

The infinite monkey theorem[1] states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

In this context, “almost surely” is a mathematical term with a precise meaning, and the “monkey” is not an actual monkey, but a metaphor for an abstract device that produces a random sequence of letters ad infinitum. The theorem illustrates the perils of reasoning about infinity by imagining a vast but finite number, and vice versa.

This  leads me to roll the following thoughts around in my rock tumbler…

This infinite monkey theorem demonstrates how we could theoretically experience success if we kept up an attempt, forever. Now if success is possible when given infinite opportunity, it begs the question, who has that much time?  I don’t know about you, but as a school administrator, I must rely on a more practical measure.  It’s imperative we look for shorter term gains, rather than hoping  for success via the theoretical and probable accident. The truth is, we don’t have unlimited time to hunt and peck, one unsuccessful keystroke at a time.  We busy educators need results, sooner than later.

When I need results, I turn to research. I turn to the folks in white lab coats who have more theories, time, and money than me. I turn to experts who study and publish work straight from the think tanks.  A great deal of this research tells us that targeted goal setting, coupled with specific, manageable, and tangible action moves us toward success.

So, what’s this mean for us as professionals? We need practical strategy. Some of my favorite goal-setting tips come from the following books:

  • Strategic Acceleration, by Tony Jeary
  • The Power of Focus, by J. Canfield, M. Hansen, and L. Hewitt

In these texts, we glean these strategies:

  1. Clearly articulate one professional goal. Give it a timeline and purpose.  Make sure  the goal aligns with your core values. If not, chuck it, and start over.
  2. Determine why this professional goal matters. Remember, it only has to matter to you. Don’t be swayed by the next best thing. Bandwagons come and go. March to your own professional drum (even when off-beat).
  3. Determine what needs to be accomplished this month,  this week, and tomorrow. Write it down.
  4. Write a daily behavior which will move you one step closer to this goal. Write it in your daily agenda, calendar, or write it in Sharpie marker on your hand. Do whatever it takes to follow through with the behavior. Think about how you will hold yourself accountable for completing this goal.

These simple steps won’t require you to break a sweat, but will require a bit of brain power, which is a good thing in my book. Let’s be purposeful and not rely on the statistical probability that we could create a masterpiece when given an infinite amount of time. We don’t need a theoretical accident, nor typewriting primate, we just need good strategy–one keystroke at a time. Begin by planning, and acting upon, a daily strategy which will  ensure success, sooner than later.  Here’s to making each keystroke count.

I wish you the best in excellence and instruction.


[1] Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved June 16, 2010, from http://www.wikipedia.org