This is one of those photos that holds me and won't let me go, as if it's grabbing me and saying, "Look! There is more here than meets the eye. Here is an answer to one of your questions. Don't look away."
The student in the picture is crying after I read "Oh! The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss to the class on the last day of school, and the one I wrote this post about:
We Are All Connected
Wanted to share a comment I left on a student's photo. I think it reflects how important we all are to the world around us when we allow ourselves to be our best and brightest selves.
In this student's foto I was in the background with my hands on the shoulders of the student who was the hardest to reach, but WAS reachable, thanks in large part to the student I wrote this to.
As the Prince of Persia said, It was "Difficult, but not impossible". We are all treasures worth fighting for and protecting:
".....you brought such a positive, pure loving energy into the classroom that I felt and used to give to and empower others. Without you I’m not sure I would have had the strength and energy to reach everybody else, including those hardest to reach. But we did it! WE did it!
This is why I got on you so hard when you would break down and shut down. Who you are and the positive impact you can have on the world around you is far too great not to be turned loose like a mighty river. You make a very BIG difference in the lives of others. You did in mine, and in the lives of those I reached out to, helping how “we are all connected” become even clearer to me.
I did the same with her older sister who four years ago was very brilliant yet very shy. I challenged her to do something she was afraid of, which was going on the school news. She agreed to apply for a position as long as it was behind the camera.
I went to the technology director who ran the news and asked him to try to get her in front of the camera, which she eventually found the courage to do, and was the focus of a post called, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Not B___!"
Last month I went to her 8th grade Shakespearean play, and was so blown away with her performance I gave her a stone I found outside of Shakespeare's Globe theater in London, with this note:
This is a stone I found outside Shakespeare’s original Globe Theater in
There is absolutely no limit to what you can do or be in this world, except for the limits you give yourself. As Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be – that is the question”. (Hamlet)
How big will you allow yourself to be?
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.”
~ William Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, 2:5)
Always be your biggest, most beautiful self. At times this can take more courage and energy than you think you have. The bigger your dreams the bigger the fears and obstacles you’re going to have to overcome.
Do it anyway.
Because when you make your dreams happen, you give others around you the courage and energy to make their dreams happen too. So….
Be big in courage,
Be big in smarts
Be big in happiness
Be big in heart
We’re all going to die someday. My question to you is, “What are you going to die for?”
The answer is, “Whatever it is you end up living for.”
Are you going to live just to get by and “make a living”? Or are you going to live for something so big inside of you that it changes the world on the outside? Live passionately for something so wonderful that it lives on after your death.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, 2:2)
I see greatness in you, and give this Shakespeare stone so that every time you look at it, you see and feel your greatness even more.
I have since given away six more Shakespeare Stones to six more incredible young spirits. One of them whom I didn't even know but was so impressed by her, was moved on such a deep level that her mother told me she cried after reading it.
Even though we may not be able to move solid objects with our energy, this is proof that we are all incredibly capable of elevating other human beings with our elevated, appreciative energies.
I did have this person's younger sister in my class this year, and although it was only for 3 short weeks, it was more than enough time to see she was far better than I was at organization.
I allowed her to teach me and will continue to apply her wisdom next year, calling it "KDM Time" and trying to stop teaching 5 minutes before class ends and have the students help me clean and organize the room.
"In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Einstein proved that time and space (the reality of our world) is a result of where we tell our matter and energy to go (our bodies, thoughts and feelings). Our brains pick up 4 billion bits of information a second, but can only process 2,000 of those bits at a time (an example of how we only use 3-5% of our brains in this time and space of our evolution as human beings).
Most of us choose to process information that serves to confirm our current reality or what we have been told is our reality, instead of seeing past "what is" and into "what could be", in both ourselves and in others.
So back to this picture:
One day after this was taken I was standing next to a child abuser whom the law hadn't been able to stop, which meant the child was falling through the cracks. While the parents of the child hugging me are phenomenal (and the dad is technically the step dad but so much of a real father he's the kind of man I was writing about in a post called, Be More of a Man), the parent of the child in danger is much less than phenomenal.
(Ironically the "Be More of a Man" post, intended to bring out the best in my fellow man, is the one I've received the most death threats on from "tough guys" feeling threatened by what was said and feeling they have to prove their "manhood", making me feel we have a long way to go before we're where we could be.)
This poem about child abuse was sent to me by my Scottish "brother", Stuart, over in Scotland.
It's a terribly sad poem but terribly true for too many children. Too terrible to allow to happen if it can be stopped. "The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,760 child fatalities in 2007....With the exception of FFY 2005, the number and rate of fatalities have been increasing over the past 5 years." (http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/fatality.cfm#children)
And where the traditional/legal means aren't working, it's time for non-traditional means to enter. Otherwise it's letting people get away with murder; physically, mentally and emotionally.
It's called "Daddy it Hurts"
My name is Chris
I am three,
My eyes are swollen
I cannot see,
I must be stupid
I must be bad,
What else could have made
My daddy so mad?
I wish I were better
I wish I weren't ugly,
Then maybe my mommy
Would still want to hug me.
I cant do a wrong
I cant speak at all
Or else im locked up
All day long.
When im awake im all alone
The house is dark
My folks arent home
When my mommy does come home
I'll try and be nice,
So maybe ill just get
One whipping tonight.
I just heard a car
My daddy is back
From Chariles bar
I hear him curse
My name is called
I press myself
Against the wall
I try to hide
From his evil eyes
Im so afraid now
I'm starting to cry
He finds me weeping
Calls me ugly words,
He says its my fault
He suffers at work
He slaps and hits me
And yells at me more,
I finally get free
And run to the door
Hes already locked it
And I start to bawl,
He takes me and throws me
Against the hard wall
I fall to the floor
With my bones nearly broken,
And my daddy continues
With more bad words spoken,
"Im sorry!", I scream
But its now much to late
His face has been twisted
Into a unimaginable shape
The hurt and the pain
Again and again
O please God, have mercy!
O please let it end!
And he finally stops
And heads for the door
While I lay there motionless
Sprawled on the floor
My name is Chris
I am three,
Tonight my daddy
I know this sounds blasphemous, but I don't care. Where God doesn't show up I'm stepping in.
And here I was, standing next to this person, pretending not to know anything, using the excuse I had bumped into his kid earlier and I was just stopping by to say "hi" (which I had to set up a few days earlier by literally bumping into him on the street and talking to him until I found something I liked about him).
But I wasn't feeling strong, completely worn out from the school year. As he talked I wanted to take my hand and separate his head from his neck. He disgusted me. But using violence to stop violence only makes the problem worse. When I'm not around, what's he do? More violence to his kid. No cycle is broken, no better future created, only already broken people being further beaten and broken down, and if they survive this most likely repeating it in their future.
The highest and most evolved forms of strength and intelligence serve to find solutions to problems. Forcing kids to learn and behave doesn't make them want to learn on their own and govern themselves. It's even worse with adults. So how in the world, how in this time and space, was I supposed to have the strength to not be violent and have the intelligence to plant seeds of him being more of a man, while at the same time stopping the abuse? (turn off the song if it starts to replay)
This is what I saw in my head. This is what came to me and what I felt in my heart. This moment was the answer. Great, big, powerful and pure love that her parents and sisters and past teachers had given so much of it to her that she was able to give it to me........and by the true grace of this beautiful person, I was able to find enough of it within myself to give it to this man so ugly inside, so he would be able to give it to his son who was dying inside.
The only way to change someone's future is to change what they are doing, thinking and feeling in the present. I know it seems crazy, but as Seal said, "Miracles will happen while we dream. But we're never going to survive unless we get a little crazy." The bigger the dream, the crazier and more passionate we are about turning it into a reality......the bigger the possible miracle as a result.
Hoping for a miracle doesn't produce one. You have get hungry, or crazy, for it.
Just as a good teacher creates understanding and new thoughts by connecting what they don't know to what they do know, I stopped paying attention to everything about him that disgusted and angered me, and started discovering and processing as quickly as possible everything he was saying for insights into how he knew his world to be and how he could justify what he did.
Instead of "teaching him a thing or two" I had to first learn a thing or two about him. This created the teaching moment that I don't think would have been possible had this girl not allowed herself to feel what she did and hug me with such love and vulnerability to give me a vision and FEELING of how good and pure we all can be, even this "bad" and "ugly" person I was trying to help become good and beautiful.
I used "Fireland" (my nickname for her) and Einstein to help me see a new "time and space" for this person as I planted seeds of how he could change and to do it in a way his brain could make sense of it. I talked about how his child WAS good and how good parenting could bring it out even more. Ideas of how my own father handled me when I was "bad" were shared to enlighten and guide him to what he could do differently right now and after I left.
And after awhile when he began to feel he could trust me he confessed that he had trouble controlling his anger. I went back to the day before and felt the hug and all the strength it had in it. I looked in his eyes and said lovingly, yet firmly, that I would help him anyway I could, including that whatever he did to his child from now on I would do to him. Before I left I told him I was his brother and not his enemy, and as a brother he could count on me bringing out the best in him.
It's embarrassing to admit it wasn't the ideal solution. I feel I operate in the "in-between" worlds of what is and what could be, not yet quite smart enough to get others or myself to change immediately nor strong enough to hold back my own anger sometimes when enough is enough and I've reached my limit. Once a new standard has been set there are lines that cannot be allowed to be crossed any longer.
But I am getting there. I know this because I'm still searching for more answers and using my brain to see past what is and into what could be, processing as many bits of helpful information as possible. Today my kids and I leave for Atlanta where I will learn more about how Martin Luther King had the strength and intelligence to convince the world that the color of a person's skin doesn't define the level of his or her ability, even though most of the world told him he was wrong and walking on dangerous ground.
Bella wants to return to Abe Lincoln's stream where he played as a boy, and I'll seek the answers to how someone could survive so much failure in order to finally achieve so much success, and give inspiration to someone like MLK 100 years after his death.
Then we'll explore the Wright Brothers, who used not only massive determination and will in believing man could fly while the world called them fools, but developed the intelligence and ability to make it happen.(Knowledge is knowing what to do. Wisdom is doing it.)
Sofia wants to go back to Thomas Edison's boyhood home where I know I'll be inspired all over again to see life and education as one big amazing experiment, with each person being worth 1,000 possible failures in the successful outcome of getting their inner light bulbs shining and burning as brightly as possible. Most people see the darkness of life and turn away from it. Others shine so brightly that they walk into the darkness and turn the darkness away, even turning on the light in others. Every new light makes the universe brighter than it was before.
After the great Edison we'll see the Great Grandma Bette (91) and the rest of the Stuart Clan (including my young nephew Gavin who I'll meet for just the second time). Gavin's presence and everyone's reaction to him will confirm my theory that if we as parents and teachers could love and appreciate our children the same way we do as when they are very young, we could help them accomplish anything. Every single person learned how to walk and talk, because every single person was believed in and worked with UNTIL they learned how to walk and talk.
After this we learn to give up on ourselves and others far too easily. We stop living in the present and live in the disappointments and failures of the past and the fear of repeating them in the future. I find myself stuck here at times with certain things.
Then Grandma Bette will remind me how to return to living in the present and all that's possible in it as we appreciate and value each day as if it were our last. I'll watch as she feels all the love and joy of being with family, and feel all the happiness coming from her heart into everyone around her. I will be present with her. I will be completely happy in themoment.
And even though two of the four crazy dreamers we'll visit were killed as a result of dreaming too big for some in the world to handle, two were not. It's 50-50. Even if the worst case happens, and we all will die sooner or later, let's die for something beautiful. Let's die for something so amazing that the world is made more amazing by what we lived for, for however long we live in the world.
I am a new man already from the experiences of just the past few days. I imagine how much more I can become form the experiences of the next few, and the next few after that.
I have a place to stay in Germany when my roommate goes to play in a tennis championship at the end of July if I can come up with the plane ticket to get there. I hunger to stand in the same spot Einstein stood in looking out the window of the patent office wondering about the mysteries of the universe, becoming smarter as he did, and discovering the answers to so many of them for us.
Just as all of these people discovered ways to change the world for the better, I KNOW education CAN take EVERY student from where they are to where they could be, truly preparing them to thrive in the world.
And I KNOW this can happen in EVERY classroom across the world when we start teaching to the individual child and not to some test and/or as if everyone learned in the same way, which better be the way the teacher knows how to teach, which is usually the way they were taught.
No wonder education is so far behind. We keep teaching the same way expecting a different result, simply because that's the way it's always been done.
I am a man on fire trying to set fire to this land. I saw it in you, Fireland, and you in turn saw it and gave it back to me. Now I am Fireland too, and we are forever connected.
Thank you, Fire. Because of you and how we grew together and bonded this year, you did more than just shine as all children should. You helped me save the life of another child whose light was going out.