Discover the Successful Student in Every Child: The Essential 55

April 8, 2013
In :The Essential 55,” award-winning teacher, Ron Clark shares his “rules” for successful and inspiring teaching.

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A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available.

Today’s Fond Farewell is by the late Chris Burdett-Parr, who played an invaluable part in the early days of Support4Change.

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Books on my shelfBooks on My Shelf
From time to time I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

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The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child by Ron Clark

Review by Chris Burdett-Parr

I first reviewed this book some months ago in an “uncorrected proof” version – looking nothing like the final published version that now sports the fun, animated cover that is so perfectly designed for this book

Even at that time, the material shone out from that bland and basic formatting, and I knew that, yet again, we had found another special, one-of-a-kind book that we could share with visitors to Learning Place Online (Webmaster’s note: LPO was Support4Change’s previous incarnation).

As the cover states, this is “an award-winning educator’s rules for discovering the successful student in every child.”

The award-winning educator is Ron Clark, 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year, and he made it difficult for me to choose just one or two rules from The Essential 55  to feature as examples in this review. Originally from North Carolina, he has been a teacher since 1995, teaching in some of the most difficult schools in the country.

Ron is really a remarkable man, as you will discover by reading the story of how he became a teacher, and that observation will be even more apparent when you reach the acknowledgments section. He is one of those unique people who comes along – all too rarely – offering insight, originality of thought and, above all, understanding and compassion for all people, not just his students.

He acknowledges his 5’1” grandmother who loved “Guiding Light,” collards, and snuff, as a major influence on who he is today:

She, along with my parents, gave me a true southern upbringing, which included respect, manners, and an appreciation of others. In addition to those ideals, I was shown how to enjoy life, take advantage of opportunities, and live every moment to the fullest.

He continues:

Once I became a teacher, it became evident to me that many children aren’t exposed to the type of guidance and opportunities that I had when I was growing up. I have tried to set an example for my students and be a role model like my family members were for me. In my attempt to give them an outline or a guide to now life should be lived and appreciated, I compiled this list of lessons.

The Essential 55  is well-designed — light in weight, compact, and the typeface is easy to read. The rules are featured, 1 through 45, with a short bold type heading describing each one. This is sometimes followed by an explanation of why the rule is so important, or how the author relates this to his students, and perhaps an anecdote regarding the rule:

Rule 4 — During discussions, respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas. When possible, make statements like, “I agree with John, and I also feel that….” or “I disagree with Sara. She made a good point, but I feel that …” or “I think Victor made an excellent observation, and it made me realize…”

This is a rule I feel should be imposed in every boardroom and meeting in every workplace in America as well at every family dinner table. Too often we disregard the comments of others and don’t set the type of climate that will allow people to speak freely and voice their thoughts and opinions. All too often, people are worried about what others will think of their ideas, and that they will be ridiculed or belittled and that their comments will be disregarded. I imagine there are hundreds of times every day when the best idea in the room goes unheard or isn’t even voiced. (He continues with an anecdote.)

We are featuring this wonderful book not only because the lessons taught instruct children on the ways to behave and interact with their teachers and fellow-students while in the school environment, but because of how well those examples also translate long-term into living a responsible and productive adult life.

 

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Is What You Believe Worth Writing About?

March 18, 2013
People from many different walks of life share their personal philosophies.

 

Books on my shelfBooks on My Shelf
From time to time I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

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This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, Edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, Forward by Studs Terkel

Review by Arlene Harder, MA, MFT


Back in 1952, Edward R. Murrow introduced several thoughtful essays by people who shared the principles that guided their lives. Now a new set of essays are presented with thoughtfulness at a time when it is especially important, I believe, that we pay attention to what we believe, and why.

This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, in association with National Public Radio, offers, as the dust jacket says, “a stirring and provocative trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs— and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them — reveal the American spirit at its best.”

I was intrigued with these essays from the very first chapter when I read Sarah Adams’ philosophy about life, which is to “be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.” She believes that the cornerstone of life is based on the principle that coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness, a practice in empathy, a practice in the honor of honest work, and a practice in equality.

Although I would give this book a five-star rating, I think they might have found a better subtitle than the one they used, which is “The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.” Even though the editors acknowledge in the forward that not all of the writers are well-known, by having “remarkable” as part of the title, some readers might get the impression that only people with great accomplishments have great philosophies.

Rather, I believe that most of us, if given a little time and willingness to rewrite what we want to say (I’ve never written anything that didn’t need at least a little editing, and often a great deal) could create essays that are equal to those in the book. In fact, you are invited to visit http://www.thisibelieve.org and submit your own philosophy of life.

The following is an excerpt from the book that expresses what I believe about the power of our actions. In the post on Caine’s Arcade, I suggest something like the following:

When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things
BY JODY WILLIAMS

Excerpt from the book This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

I believe it is possible for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. For me, the difference between an “ordinary” and an “extraordinary” person is not the title that person might have, but what they do to make the world a better place for us all.

I have no idea why people choose to do what they do. When I was a kid I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to grow up, have 2.2 kids, get married, the whole white picket fence thing. And I certainly didn’t think about being an activist. I didn’t even really know what one was.

My older brother was born deaf. Growing up, I ended up defending him, and I often think that is what started me on my path to whatever it is I am today.

When I was approached with the idea of trying to create a landmine campaign, we were just three people in a small office in Washington, D.C., in late 1991. I certainly had more than a few ideas about how to begin a campaign, but what if nobody cared? What if nobody responded? But I knew the only way to answer those questions was to accept the challenge.

If I have any power as an individual, it’s because I work with other individuals in countries all over the world. We are ordinary people: My friend Jemma, from Armenia; Paul, from Canada; Kosal, a landmine survivor from Cambodia; Haboubba, from Lebanon; Christian, from Norway; Diana, from Colombia; Margaret, another landmine survivor, from Uganda; and thousands more. We’ve all worked together to bring about extraordinary change. The landmine campaign is not just about landmines — it’s about the power of individuals to work with governments in a different way.

I believe in both my right and my responsibility to work to create a world that doesn’t glorify violence and war, but where we seek different solutions to our common problems. I believe that these days, daring to voice your opinion, daring to find out information from a variety of sources, can be an act of courage.

I know that holding such beliefs and speaking them publicly is not always easy or comfortable or popular, particularly in the post-9/11 world. But I believe that life isn’t a popularity contest. I really don’t care what people say about me — and believe me, they’ve said plenty. For me, it’s about trying to do the right thing even when nobody else is looking.

I believe that worrying about the problems plaguing our planet without taking steps to confront them is absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that changes this world is taking action.

I believe that words are easy. I believe that truth is told in the actions we take. And I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things.

Jody Williams is the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Williams previously did humanitarian work for people in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Her interest in advocacy began with a leaflet on global activism handed to her outside a subway station.

Reprinted from the book This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, eds. Published by Henry Holt. (October 2006;$23.00US/$31.00CAN; 0-8050-8087-2) Copyright © 2006 This I Believe, Inc.

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Books on My Shelf: Hand-Me-Down Wisdom

February 25, 2013
A book about opening our hearts to the wisdom of others

 

Books on my shelfBooks on My Shelf

From time to time I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

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My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen

Rachel Naomi Remen has written a wonderful companion to Kitchen Table Wisdom (reviewed here on the Support4Change blog). You will also want to savor each chapter, finding blessings of hope, kindness and compassion in each wise story and the profound lessons they eloquently express.

Although My Grandfathers Blessings : Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging uses a slightly different style than her earlier book, the author again uses a collection of essays to share stories that allow the reader to understand the lessons her patients, and their physicians, have learned about the abundance of blessings that come from opening our hearts to the blessing from others — and our ability to bless others through contributions we can make in every day’s interaction with others.

Although her grandfather isn’t the central figure in each story, she is able to carry into her adult life the lessons, insights, and blessings he taught so many years ago. It is almost as though he is still very much alive and sharing his simple, but not simplistic, lessons to all of us.

Remen writes:

Learning from life takes time. I rarely recognize life’s wisdom at the time it is given. Sometimes I am too distracted by something else that has caught my wandering eye, and not every gift of wisdom comes nicely gift-wrapped. I have often received such a gift only many years after it was offered. Sometimes I needed to receive other things first, to live through other experiences in order to be ready. Much wisdom is a hand-me-down. Like all hand-me-downs, it may be too big at the time it is given.

My Grandfathers Blessings is a blessing for anyone who is tries to navigate the trials of every day.

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Books on My Shelf: Essential Spirituality

February 11, 2013
The book Essential Spirituality offers exercises that will help you improve your quality of life.

 

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A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags. Enjoy.

Today’s Fond Farewell is by the late Chris Burdett-Parr, who played an invaluable part in the early days of Support4Change.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Books on my shelfBooks on My Shelf
From time to time I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

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Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind by Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.

Review by Chris Burdett-Parr


This marvelous book has particular resonance with me for several reasons — the first of which is the way in which it defines and addresses the subject of love. The second reason is contained in the book’s subtitle: Exercises from the World’s Religions to Cultivate Kindness, Love, Joy, Peace, Vision, Wisdom, and Generosity.

Essential Spirituality truly does encompass, in a wonderfully refreshing and knowledgeable fashion, the world’s religions when addressing the challenges we all wrestle with as thinking and feeling human beings — fear, anger, motivation, happiness, gratitude, love, ethics, wisdom, awareness, peace, and as this quote illustrates, one of my personal favorites — the balance between science and spirituality:

There is no war between mature spirituality with its emphasis on directly testing claims and practices for ourselves, and mature science, with its similar emphasis on direct observation and testing. Consequently we can, and should, take note of relevant findings from modern science whenever they throw light on spirituality. Psychology in particular is now exploring relevant areas such as meditation, states of consciousness, and transpersonal development. These studies have thrown light on how spiritual practices work, confirmed some of their benefits, and led to the birth of “transpersonal psychology,” a field of psychology dedicated to integrating perennial wisdom and modern science. Essential Spirituality includes contemporary ideas and research findings wherever they illuminate spiritual practices. This makes possible a new way to assess spiritual claims.

Those of us lucky enough to have experienced love (whether giving or receiving) in its most powerful form — unconditional, infinite and profound — may have, along with many of the most brilliant minds in history, tried to define it adequately.

Rumi, the thirteenth century poet described it this way: “. . . love is the astrolabe that sights into the mysteries of God,” and in the same poem: “. . . if you want to expound on love, take your intellect out and let it lie down in the mud. It’s no help.”*

I found this book to come the closest to a satisfying definition of love that I have read in a long time:

Even at this stage, we think of love as only an emotion generated by and limited to our own minds. Yet many of the great religions paint a very different picture of love because at its deepest, love becomes so profound, so awesome, that it seems as much divine as human. This love is not personal but transpersonal, not only part of us but also part of the cosmos, not limited to our individual minds but part of the universal Mind, Spirit, or God. In fact, love may be a fundamental aspect of the very nature of reality, perhaps even, as the Encyclopedia of Religion summarizes it, “the single most potent force in the universe, a cosmic impulse that creates, maintains, directs, informs, and brings to its proper end every living thing.

* From The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition, HarperCollins: 302 pp.

 

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Book Review: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

January 7, 2013
What happens when we are faced with evidence that conflicts with our deeply held opinions?

 

Books on my shelfBooks on My Shelf
From time to time I will give you excerpts and recommendations for books I have enjoyed very much. Some are serious, others light reading. Some are still in print, others not so but still worth getting from the library. Or, they can be ideas to add to your holiday shopping list.
 
If you buy these books using the links in the post, you can help support the upkeep of the Support4Change website and blog. Even if you aren’t planning on buying them, I still think you will enjoy reading the excerpts and my thoughts on these excellent books.

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Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify
Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson


Are you amazed at how easily your boss denies he told you to do something he told you to do, or why politicians insist upon their position despite ample evidence to the contrary, or why people dodge responsibility when things fall apart, or why we engage in endless marital quarrels because we can’t admit we’re wrong, or why we can see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves?

For an explanation of why we keep our heads in the sand, I suggest you pick up a copy of one of my all-time favorite books. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

Backed by years of research, the authors show us scientific evidence of what happens when we are faced with evidence that conflicts with our deeply held opinions. Quite simply, our brains are wired to create fictions that absolve us of responsibility. Thus we are able to restore our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

Whether presidents or common laborers, mothers or fathers, you or me, we all justify our beliefs, make bad decisions, and commit hurtful acts. We accept inconsistent ideas and don’t see a contradiction between them. Of course, some of us seem more incapable of understanding the degree to which we fool ourselves than others, but no one escapes.

Any therapist can tell you this is true. We observe it in our clients all the time. Our identities are formed by our beliefs. Depending on how strongly we hold our opinions, our egos can make it difficult to change in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary. Therefore, to change an opinion can feel as though we are experiencing a death of the “self,” which is true, of course. It is a death of our old identity.

One illustration the authors used struck me personally. You see, years ago I was taught that people could easily suppress memories of being molested as children. I had several clients for whom I accepted this as fact based on what I was told in graduate school. Even before reading this book, which talks about false memories, I realized I was wrong. I believe this was one of the greatest mistakes I made as a therapist. I will always feel guilty in accepting a theory based more on supposition than evidence, which negatively impacted two families.

As I was reading the book, I kept thinking that it should be given to the president, members of his cabinet, and every politician serving in congress. However, based on what we can observe from those on Capitol Hill, it probably won’t do any good. The more strongly politicians believe their constituents who demand loyalty to one point of view, the harder it is for them to see—and act upon—another perspective.

Maybe the better step to take is to become aware of our own tendency to have tunnel vision and avoid voting for those who stubbornly persist in courses of action that move right into the path of quicksand.

Backed by years of research, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it. Once you’ve read it, you will never again be able to shun blame quite so casually.

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Book Review: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)