Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who Do You Choose to Be?

Most people do what everyone else is doing,
regardless of what is right.
The heroic person does what is right, 
regardless of what everybody else is doing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Good Teaching


This morning I want to share with you this excellent article by Richard Leblanc, Ph.D., of York University.  In 1998, professor Leblanc was awarded the Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. His top ten requirements for good teaching was originally published in The Teaching Professor, Vol. 12, # 6, 1998.


  1. GOOD TEACHING is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is about substance and training students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaising with their communities.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other. Good teachers migrate between these poles at all times, depending on the circumstances. They know where they need to be and when.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are conductors and the class is their orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies. A teacher’s job is to develop skills and make these instruments come to life as a coherent whole to make music.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is about humor. This is very important. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to further enhance instruction.

  1. GOOD TEACHING is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible instructional support resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization from full professors to part-time instructors and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.                                                                                                                                                      
  2. GOOD TEACHING is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

  1. AT THE END OF THE DAY, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards…like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. It’s about the former student who says your course changed her life. It’s about another telling you that your course was the best one he’s ever taken. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Association for Experiential Education
Schools & Colleges Professional Group Newsletter
Spring 1999, Vol. 2, # 1

Sunday, March 24, 2013

One Tin Soldier Rides Away

I submit for your consideration this provocative piece by Stefan Molyneux.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Integrity in Action

Attorney Gerry Spence is the guy who made me consider becoming a lawyer. He's widely recognized by other lawyers as one of the greatest trial lawyers of all time. He represented the the family of probably-murdered whistle-blower Karen Silkwood, and Earth First Founder, David Foreman. 

He also defended Randy Weaver -- a very unpopular defendant. Weaver was said to be a neo-nazi, white supremacist.  A close friend of Spence's asked him to withdraw from the case.  Spence's reply (linked below) is a lesson in integrity.

Everyone should read it.

I hope you will.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

THIS is the Stuff of Heroes

Thinking today about what makes a hero, and how I can influence my students -- to make heroic choices.  Here's the story of Hugh Thompson, whose gallantry has been an inspiration to me ever since I first learned of it, back in around 1971.  His words ring as true today, as I can't help connecting his dots with Bradley Manning's.
Below is the text from the Soldier's Medal awarded to Thompson in 1998, thirty years after his heroic actions.


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier's Medal to Warrant Officer One (WO-1) Hugh C. Thompson, Jr., United States Army, for heroism above and beyond the call of duty as Pilot of an OH-23 Raven Observation Helicopter of the 123d Aviation Battalion, Americal Division, on 16 March 1968, while saving the lives of at least 10 Vietnamese civilians during the unlawful massacre of noncombatants by American forces at My Lai, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam.
Warrant Officer Thompson landed his helicopter in the line of fire between fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pursuing American ground troops to prevent their murder. He then personally confronted the leader of the American ground troops and was prepared to open fire on those American troops should they fire upon the civilians. Warrant Officer Thompson, at the risk of his own personal safety, went forward of the American lines and coaxed the Vietnamese civilians out of the bunker to enable their evacuation. Leaving the area after requesting and overseeing the civilians' air evacuation, his crew spotted movement in a ditch filled with bodies south of My Lai Four.
Warrant Officer Thompson again landed his helicopter and covered his crew as they retrieved a wounded child from the pile of bodies. He then flew the child to the safety of a hospital at Quang Ngai. Warrant Officer Thompson's relayed radio reports of the massacre and subsequent report to his section leader and commander resulted in an order for the cease fire at My Lai and an end to the killing of innocent civilians. Warrant Officer Thompson's heroism exemplifies the highest standards of personal courage and ethical conduct, reflecting distinct credit on him, and the United States Army.,_Jr. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Meaning of Honor

 For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.
Wm. Shakespeare, Henry V

Here is an article I just want to share with you.
Let me know what you think.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Heroes in Uniform

A Hero is a person who:
  • acts voluntarily
  • at great cost or personal risk
  • for the benefit of others, or for a moral or ethical principle
  • without any expectation of reward

Contrary to popular belief, putting on a military uniform doesn't automatically make you a "hero" any more than wearing hospital scrubs automatically makes you a surgeon.  A hero IS as a hero DOES.  The last military hero I know of was WO Hugh Thompson. But Bradley Manning certainly qualifies. If you don't know the stories of these two men, you should.