16 October 2018      

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John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

Teachers Everywhere
Rachel Naomi Remen

tom walsh

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There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.  There are seven million.

Walt Streightiff

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mistakes are part of the dues
one pays for a full life.

Sophia Loren


John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

One of the least disguised of the Master Teachers in Disguise is Mistakes.  Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving.  Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?

This seems an invaluable aid to learning, and yet many people avoid situations in which mistakes might take place.  Many people also deny or defend the mistakes they've made--or may be making.

There is a story told of Edison, who made, say, 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before arriving at the light bulb.  "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" a reporter asked.  "I didn't fail 1,000 times," Edison replied.  "The light bulb was an invention with 1,001 steps."

Why don't most of us see our own lives in this way?  We think it goes back to unworthiness.  We assume a façade of perfection in a futile attempt to prove our worthiness.  "An unworthy person couldn't be this perfect," the façade maintains.  Alas, being human, we make mistakes.  Mistakes crack the façade.  As the façade crumbles, a frantic attempt is made to hide the hideous thing (unworthiness) the façade was designed to hide--from ourselves as much as from others.

If we didn't play this game of denial with ourselves, we would make mistakes when we make them, admit them freely, and ask not, "Who's to blame?" or "How can I hide this?" but "What's the lesson here?  How can I do this better?

The goal becomes excellence, not perfection.

One of the best examples of how strong the taboo against making a mistake has become is the use of the word sin.  In Roman times, sin was a term used in archery.  It meant simply to miss the mark.  At target practice, each shot was either a hit or a sin.  If you sinned, you made corrections and tried again.

Today, of course, sin means, to quote the American Heritage, "A condition of estrangement from God as a result of breaking God's law."  Whew.  No wonder people avoid even "the near occasion" of sin.  Some people treat mistakes with the same reverence.

Mistakes are valuable if, for no other reason, they show us what not to do.  As Joseph Ray told us, "The Athenians, alarmed at the internal decay of their Republic, asked Demosthenes what to do.  His reply:  "Do not do what you are doing now."

In Hollywood, mis-takes are common.  (That was wonderful, darlings.  Now let's get ready for take two.")  Give yourself as many re-takes as you need.  Stars do it.  ("I didn't feel quite right with that one, Mr. DeMille.  Can we take it again?")  Why not you?

A Hollywood song (lyrics by Dorothy Fields) sums it all up:  "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again."  Or, to quote an African proverb, "Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped."

If you're learning, growing and trying new things--expect mistakes.  They're a natural part of the learning process.  In fact, someone once said, "If you're not making at least 50 mistakes a day, you're not trying hard enough."  What the person meant, we think, is that growth, discovery and expansion have mistakes built into them.

To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.

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Teachers Everywhere
Rachel Naomi Remen

I can clearly remember something that happened when I was in third grade.  I was walking with my mother on a downtown street in New York City, pushing through crowds on our way to I no longer remember where.  I had just been put in a special class at school because I had done well on an IQ test, and my new teacher had told us that being in her class meant that we were brighter than most of the people in the country.  As we moved through the hurrying crowds, I remembered this and was filled with an eight-year-old's outrageous pride.  I told my mother that my teacher had said I was smarter than most of the people around us.  She stopped walking immediately and knelt down so that we were at eye level with each other.  As the crowd flowed past us on either side, she told me that every one of the people around us had a secret wisdom; each of them knew something more about how to live, about being happy, about loving than I did.

I looked up at the people passing by.  They were all adults.  "Is this because they are all grown-ups, Mama?" I asked her, taken aback.  "No, darling, it will always be that way," she told me.  "It is how things are."  I looked again at the crowd moving around us.  Suddenly I wanted to know them all, to learn from them, to be friends.

This lesson became lost among the many others of my childhood, but shortly after I became a physician I had a dream that was so powerful that I remembered it even though I did not understand it.  In this dream, I am standing in the threshold of a door.  I seem to have been standing there a long time.  People are passing through the door.  I cannot see where they are going or where they have come from, but somehow this does not seem to matter.  I meet them one at a time in the doorway.  As they pass through they stop and look into my face for a moment and hand me something, each one something different.  They say, "Here, here is something for you to keep."  And then they go on.  I feel enormously grateful.

Perhaps we are all standing in such a doorway.  Some people pass through it on their way to the rest of their lives, lives that we may never know or see.  Others pass through it to their deaths and the Unknown.  Everyone leaves something behind.  When I awoke from that dream, I had a sense of the value of every life.

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The art of living does not consist in preserving and clinging to a particular
mode of happiness, but in allowing happiness to change its form without being
disappointed by the change; happiness, like a child, must be allowed to grow up.

Charles L. Morgan



I've definitely learned patience the hard way.  I grew up as a person who was probably more patient than his peers, but still quite impatient.  I wanted things now, and I wanted to finish things as soon as I started them.  If something needed to be done, I often didn't respect the process necessary to do it well; rather, I tried to get it done as quickly as I could, and that tendency often resulted in rather mediocre results.

I remember one incident that was rather representative of the way that I did things:  when I was in my last year in college, I needed a bike and I didn't have much money, so I figured that I needed to get a used bike.  Unfortunately, there weren't many being offered in my price range, so I bought the first one that I found within my price range, even though I had misgivings about doing so even while I was making the purchase.  And the misgivings should have guided me, but I needed the bike now, I thought.

It turned out to be a horrible bike, and one that I couldn't really ride comfortably.  A few days later, I saw some very affordable new bikes in a store, and I felt like an idiot because I had to buy one if I was going to have a bike that I could use.  In that case, my only loss was some money, but as tight as money was then, it also caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety to lose even that relatively small amount of money.

One who is master of patience
is master of everything else.

Lord Halifax

That's a relatively minor incident that involves money and material goods, but it does illustrate an important point:  sometimes in our minds, we believe that something has to happen quickly if it's going to happen at all, or if other people aren't going to be disappointed in us.  The truth is, though, that you can't eat an apple until it ripens, and it will do so when it's ready.  If you eat it too early, you will pay a heavy price in stomach pains (and I can vouch for this, too), just as trying to get a job done quickly often results in a very poor job--so the praise that you expect for finishing quickly is replaced by the criticism you receive for shoddy work.

I know where much of my impatience comes from.  As I studied about being an ACOA, I learned that the instability of my younger years caused me to get used to broken promises--and to think that if something didn't happen now, it wasn't going to happen at all.  The outing that was promised this weekend never happened because of someone else's actions, yet if that same someone came home and said "Let's do this now," it did come to pass.

As the years have gone by and I've learned to become more patient, I have seen an amazing transformation in how I see the world and how I feel about the world.  As I practice patience, I see that other people--especially my students-- very much appreciate the fact that I'm not being impatient with them.  And they tend to learn more when they can learn in their time.  My patience allows me not to expect too much too soon, for I've learned that not everyone can grasp everything immediately in every subject.  Yes, my students have to learn certain skills and concepts, but some of them will get them immediately, and others won't get them until we've repeated them for several weeks.  That's just life, and the timing I want isn't necessarily the timing that my students are able to meet.

Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence
of action; rather, it is "timing"; it waits on
the right time to act, for the right
principles and in the right way.

Fulton J. Sheen

Developing patience, in my experience, requires a lot of self-talk--the positive kind.  When I need to be more patient, I need to remind myself, "it doesn't matter if it's done in ten minutes or in twenty"; "It's not that important if we leave at this moment or if we leave in fifteen minutes"; "I want the job to be done now, but I also want it to be done well, and I still have four more steps that I have to do well, or the finished product won't be as good as I want it."

It also requires us first of all to be patient with ourselves.  We often have such high expectations of ourselves that we tend to be very impatient with our mistakes or our own lack of sufficient speed.  Our own impatience with ourselves, in fact, often leads to lower self-esteem and lessened self-respect.  And as Brian Adams says below, impatience breeds a lot of very negative feelings, and they can be disastrous when they're directed at ourselves.  When we learn to be more patient with ourselves, there are many more positive feelings that result, and we become much more capable and much more effective in all that we do.

Learn the art of patience.  Apply discipline to
your thoughts when they become anxious over the
outcome of a goal.  Impatience breeds anxiety,
fear, discouragement and failure.  Patience creates
confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook,
which eventually leads to success.

Brian Adams

Sometimes we mistake patience for weakness, but the patient person often realizes that it's much more important for another person to discover his or her own gifts and shortcomings--the patient person doesn't feel a need to "fix" other people, and sometimes will let certain things slide until the other person recognizes the problems.  Patient parents often let their kids make the same mistake two or three times because they know that a lesson learned oneself is almost always preferable to a lesson given to us by an authority figure like a parent.

Our patience can be a very important boon to ourselves, but it also can be a very welcome and very helpful gift to other people in our lives.  The cashier who makes a mistake can stand to be shown a bit of patience.  The co-worker who's overwhelmed with work and who hasn't been able to get to our project yet.  The child who's still learning how to do something and is taking a very long time at it still.  So many people can use our patience, and their lives will be made much, much easier when we share it with them.

And our lives, too, will become much easier, much more effective, and much more pleasant when we develop our patience and we become patient people.

More on patience.




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Have the attitude that
no one, except you,
owes you anything. 
Give without expecting
a thank-you in return.
But when someone does
something for you, be
appreciative of even
the smallest gesture.

Donna Fargo

Positive Expectancy
Bill O'Hanlon
an excerpt

It seems that one year, there was a class of students who were so unruly that they burned out two different teachers.  One teacher took early retirement and the other decided to get out of teaching altogether.  This class was so bad that substitute teachers began to refuse to take it.  So the district called a teacher who had applied for a job but hadn't made the cut that year.  They asked her if she would be willing to come in and finish out the year in return for the promise of a full-time position the next year.  She eagerly accepted.

The principal decided not to warn the teacher about the class, afraid that she would be scared off if she heard what she was up against.  After the new teacher had been on the job for a month, the principal sat in on a class to see how things were going.  To his amazement, the students were well-behaved and enthusiastic.  After the students had filed out of the classroom, the principal stayed behind to congratulate the teacher on a job well done.  She thanked him but insisted that he deserved thanks for giving her such a special class, such a great class, for her first assignment.  The principal hemmed and hawed and told her that he really didn't deserve any thanks.

She laughed and told him, "You see, I discovered your little secret on my first day here.  I looked in the desk drawer and found the list of the students' IQ scores.  I knew I had a challenging group of kids here, so bright and rambunctious that I would really have to work to make school interesting for them because they are so intelligent."  She slid the drawer open and the principal saw the list with the students' names and the numbers 136, 145, 127, 128, and so on written next to the names.

He exclaimed, "Those aren't their IQ scores--those are their locker numbers!"  Too late.  The teacher had already expected the students to be bright and gifted--and they had responded positively to her positive view and her positive handling of them.



Remember:  not everyone will like you, your goals, or your actions.  But don't let
the fear of criticism stop you from doing what you want.  Accept criticism as a
part of life, and learn from it where possible.  And, most importantly, stay true
to your own values and convictions.  If others don't approve, so what?

Jeff Keller




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