Saturday, November 20, 2010

1. Make Things Better

Sure, it's way too general.

In my quest to find the 7 essential things to teach, I give myself lots of latitude so that I can encompass everything that is important to me.  It still helps me to focus my instruction and helps students to direct their learning, but most of all, it makes what I teach purposeful.

Make things better. 
This could be the most important item on my list which is why I put it first.  Isn't it the point of education?  (Of living?)  This item actually began on my draft as "Solve problems."  It wasn't enough and sounded too reactive.  I want my students to go into any situation with the mindset that they can improve things or learn from them (in turn, improving themselves).

The Japanese have this idea of Kaizen, continuous improvement.  Everything we do in life is to move us forward, to enrich our lives, and build upon what we've already done.  I really like that idea.  (I like it so much I was thinking of getting a tattoo with the Japanese symbols for kaizen, but the characters are too busy and too intricate.  I thought that it was a whole lot of strokes that would really hurt. That would not be life enriching to me.  Perhaps a nice wallet photo?)

With respect to what we do in school, making things better is why we teach science: so we can figure out how things work so we can make them better.  It's why we teach history and social studies: so we can learn more about ourselves as a community or a society, figure out what we did right or wrong and continue to move forward. It's why we teach any kind of communication: to share ideas and work things out.  It's why we teach math: to solve problems and organize the world numerically.  It's why we teach art: to add beauty and culture to the world and our existence. 

When it comes down to it, it's why we teach everything:
Improve your mind, improve your self, improve your world.

Making things better is both simple and complex. On the complex side, it is why green initiatives have become so important. We want to improve our planet, but the factors that are working toward destroying our planet are so numerous and complicated that it can be overwhelming. This is why the mantra: "Think globally.  Act locally,"  is so helpful.  It pares down something complex into something manageable.  On the simple side of making things better, it is why we tell jokes to friends.  For even a small moment, we improve the spirits of someone else and in turn feel good as well.   I think that is something kids could manage and get their heads around: "Improve the world one smile at a time."

1 comment:

  1. Firstly, Greggie! This is brilliant! It is funny that you chose a Japanese symbol to express it. Only funny in the sense that recently I was trying to express to my gp how much her care and attention over the past two years had really bettered my life, that what she does touches lives more deeply than she might know. I also chose a kanji symbol, but it was shibui. I LOVE this! It even more aptly describes what I was trying to express to her. I could not find English words that conveyed the message as well as one kanji symbol did. The complexity and simplicity of the one symbol said it all. Much like the complexity and simplicity of which you have written. Love reading your blog. It resonates with me and also makes me think.

    Here is the bad news! Don't be a wimp!!!! Get the tattoo. It is perfect for you! I always wanted the kanji symbol for balance but I am a woman and gravity ravages my body in a way that doesn't ravage a man's. I am worried that gravity may later turn my tattoo into the symbol for something less pleasant!