Sunday, March 16, 2014

Putin's Russia: Has learned its Cold War Lessons Well !

The Ukraine Crisis will  be the defining moment for Western foreign policy in the early 21st century.  The Soviet Union of the Cold War era  had the military strength,  however it carried an Achilles heel: an unproven economic system that eventually brought its downfall.  We are not about to experience a second Cold War .  Russia today is a far more dangerous adversary since it has both the military muscle and the far reaching economic strength that it has learned from the West.

Putin's Russia has quietly rebuilt its military along with developing major economic resources and connections,  that the West  and the world cannot ignore. Here is what we do know and what to expect:

 Vladimir Putin has an extensive record of intimidation, trampling on individual rights, ignoring rule of law, clandestine operations, and has been actively preparing for this and other infringements upon former satellites and republics of the former Soviet Union for almost two decades. As long as Putin is in power the West is in for a rough ride.                       

The Ukraine Crisis is not a surprise! This has been years in the making!  The timing could  not have been better as Russia today  feels confident economically and militarily that she can withstand any economic sanctions that the West can dish out. Unfortunately for the West, Russia is more than capable of standing alone.  We are not dealing with Cuba or Iran.

The probability of the Ukraine being split from west to east is more than likely.  The West  can continue its sanctions and resolutions which mean little to the new Russia.  Expect most  of Eastern Ukraine to fall under Russian influence or annexed outright. There will be other developments as well.

The West will need to make it very clear "militarily" where it stands and be sure to communicate that directly with the new Russia.  The sooner this happens the better. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Direct Message on 21st Century Education from Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens has a direct message for educators in the 21st Century in the novel Hard Times! This biting social commentary on the failure of  Victorian schools of the 19th century is a wake-up call for all our schools today !  The teacher Mr. M'Choakumchild! explains the philosophy of the day. (note the teachers name! ) 
     'Now, what I want is, Facts.  Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts.  Facts alone are 
      wanted in life.  Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.  You can only form the minds
      of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.'

The Industrial Revolution and the Victorian Age is  where the culture of the "Work" place became the culture of the Ragged Schools of  Industrial England and ultimately in America's schools.  Schools became assembly lines, one size fits all, bells organized time concisely and success was marked by measuring, weighing and Grading  finished goods.   Workers who didn't fit in were suspended or given detentions.  The mantra of the day was : Work-Work-Work - and thus England became the workshop of the world ! Schools and factories were practically interchangeable! 

Does your school culture resemble a factory?  Do you work Bell to Bell !  Bell work? Timed work? Work stations? Work sheet ? One Size fits all ?  It is time to take the work  out of the school and introduce the learning of the 21st century . 

We have now entered a  creative age where real learning takes place in programs that empower and nurture students to act on their innovation, imagination and creativity.  Creativity will be the real mover of our economy and the globe. 

As always I welcome your comments and I will reflect further on Imagination, Innovation and Creativity in the future!  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Benefits of a Pure Michigan Winter!

Driving to school early today with single digit temperatures and strong winds I wanted to reflect on the blessings of  a Pure Michigan Winter.  Are you ready? 

         Pure Michigan Winter

1.  Improving  Driving Conditions:  Months of overcast days with little or no sun reduces the glare on my windshield providing a safe view of the road ahead.

2.  Safe Driving Incentives:   Thousands upon thousands of orange barrels blowing along medians and multiple lanes on highways -provide an incentive to travel at minimal speeds and sharpen  driving skills. A great deal of daily fun weaving around these temporary moving barriers. Thank-you Michigan Department of Transportion for not putting these away before winter!

3.  Images of Spring :  Icy  Snow squalls that can come up out of no-where are a constant reminder that spring is just around the corner and instead of snow it will be the flowering  petals flying off the trees in April or rather May!  - -  perhaps June?

4. Boosting National Economy:     Our Michigan home and car  is well stocked with batteries, candles, flashlights, blankets  and several generators.   Living in Michigan in the winter means that gale force winds, hail storms, ice and snow will create power outages on a regular basis, and without these our home would not have the supplies that we currently have.  Without a Pure Michigan winter these supplies would be at the Home Depot down the street!

5.  Winter Workouts:  There is nothing like adding an extra workout pushing out   neighbors  stuck in snowbanks.  These impromptu exercises  deliver aerobic and anaerobic benefits! 

                      There is nothing quite like a Pure Michigan Winter!  Enjoy! As always we welcome your comments.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Important Lesson I Learned On the Mother Road!

Route 66 - The Mother Road !  Several decades ago a friend and I traveled the entire 2300 miles and some change from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier !  We were heading to the promised land so "we could live offa the fatta the lan"!  We were young, idealistic and California Dreamin ! 

Just outside  Warwick, Oklahoma our beat up Ford Pinto was gasping for air, well actually water since all indications indicated an overheated radiator ! Not a major problem as long as I could find a gallon or so of water. Pulling off 66 we went down a dirt road and came across a scene from the Grapes of Wrath!  Several tired buildings, abandoned vehicles, a well pump, and a farmer .

My attention was on the water spicket - our savior!  Nearby sitting in the shade of a tree was a  farmer,  chewing tobacco and what appeared to be some type of straw in his mouth.  It was a very hot day with a little wind moving among the few pieces of parched grass near the water pump. 

The farmer barely acknowledged our presence!  I asked him if we could have some water for our car!  "As happens sometimes a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than that moment".   The elderly man just nodded yes and looked in the direction of the well .

We ran to get a large container and placed it carefully under the spicket and raised the large handle up and down expecting a torrent of water and to our amazement :  Not a drop !   

A faint smile came across the farmers well weathered face and he approached us: "Boys if you want to get something out of the well you have got to put something into it"!    

How right he was !  I proceeded to work that handle up and down until blisters started to form and the water came out like I was at Niagara Falls!   Although I didn't know it then - I was introduced to one of the most important lessons in life!

  If you want to receive something positive out  of Life you have to put a "sustained effort"  into it!
Nothing worthwhile or fulfilling comes easy !  A very important daily lesson !  One day I am going to buy an Antique Well Pump and place it in my classroom !  Thank-You Route 66 ! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eight Reasons Neighborhood Schools Are Special !

In class today we were discussing the impact of the Idea of Progress that developed in Western Europe in the 18th Century.  A key  part of this development was the importance of a meaningful education.  Our conversation turned to the reasons why people live in our  community.  

Students indicated that our nationally ranked Neighborhood schools brought their parents to the Grosse Pointe area.  

I certainly realize the importance of Neighborhood schools since my family moved to Grosse Pointe  twenty five years ago.  Here is what our schools help maintain  each and every year.

1.  Overwhelming parent support at every building.
2.  Focus on family, neighbors, community.
3.  Students walking to and from school.  No buses.
4.  Many grandparents, parents went to these same schools-Tradition !  (Fiddler on the Roof) 
5. High achieving students with an emphasis on the Arts.
6. Buildings are quaint, atmosphere is warm and cozy -  that lived in feeling!
7.  Outstanding staffs at all buildings.
8.  High School students that give back to the community on a regular basis. 

As always feel free to comment on this or any of our postings.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here are 15 Reasons Why You Need To Discover the Arts In Your Teaching!

Got Art?   Could you use a multidimensional tool for meaningful learning on a weekly basis ?  Who  couldn't? -  you reply ! I have a confession to make:  I use the Arts every day shhhhh ..........! 

Could be a  quote from Dickens, a  clip from Casablanca, a Painting by Vermeer,  Beethoven on guitar,  Mother Courage and War, Viva La Vida and Romanticism,  Wordsworth and Daffodils, Coleridge and Plato,  Elizabeth and the speech at Tilbury.  Some days even a video game.  Yes,  video games are the ARTS !  ( some of them! ) 

Once you start using the Arts both you and your students will need a daily dose.  Trust me, I know!  

Let your creative juices run wild and the Arts will be your best friend this year. As always looking  forward to reading your comments and responding to the questions that you may have . 


               15  Reasons Why You Need To Discover The Arts In Your Teaching 

1.    The  Arts  provide the means for every student to learn.
2.    The Arts are symbols that are as important as letters and numbers.
3.    The Arts cut across racial, cultural, and economic barriers in the classroom.
4.    The Arts help integrate mind, body and spirit.
5.     The Arts enhance academic achievement.
6.     The Arts promote higher order thinking skills .
7.     The Arts develop independence and collaboration.
8.     The Arts are an exercise in imagination.
9.     The Arts can become part of a more meaningful assessment program.
10.    The Arts will foster new avenues in student creativity.
11.    The Arts will encourage the use of personal strengths that often go unnoticed.
12.    The Arts provide immediate feedback and reflection from students.
13.    The Arts help clarify differences and similarities. 
14.    The Arts will make connections  that lead to a deeper understanding of a process.
15.     The Arts improve attitude, social skills and creative thinking.              

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What It Means to be a First Grader.

Sunday morning here in Michigan and my not very well organized thoughts on what it means to be a first grader. - They certainly are not afraid to ask questions!  Wouldn't you agree?  When they speak they are so articulate, full of ideas, perceptive and express genuine enthusiasm even for the most mundane activities!  Well this is what it means to be a First Grader !  

1.  Have fun in school !  They use Gum drops in order to create a chart or graph and YES eat them when they are finished!

2.  They play special games like " I am Lavender" to learn to accept and respect differences in our  world!

3.  These students  practice being Super-Citizens. It starts in the classroom helping their classmates and supporting the community.  Connecting the dots on the "Liberty Bell" becomes a ringing endorsement of their spirit !

4.  They share stories with one another as they keep track of the Tooth Fairy completing charts on     the missing teeth in the room ! A monumental event for all of them !

5. They learn a very Big Word to help keep them out of trouble - NO ! 

6. They are taught fairness and justice in class activities revolving around the school community.

7. First Graders recognize the special people in their lives by creating home made Thank-You's! The Best Kind!

8.  First Graders spend a great deal of their time writing and reading!  They share their ideas and stories and play make believe on what they would like to do when they "grow up" !  This is a very special group!  A very special group indeed!  God Bless !

   Our prayers are with the wonderful students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary.