Stuart's Spectacular Students

This is dedicated to my amazing students. The goal is for each and every one of them to feel unstoppable by the time they walk out of the classroom door for the final time in May. This chronicles their journey; their own Chronicles of Self-Actualization.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Chapter 5 ~ An Effective Teacher is an Effective Student

Years ago Bruce Lee's sifu told him about a Japanese Zen master who welcomed a university professor to his home to talk about Zen. Instead of asking the master questions, the professor spent his time trying to impress him with his own opinions and knowledge on the subject. After listening patiently, the master began pouring his visitor some tea. But when it was full he kept pouring. The professor finally exclaimed, "The cup is full, no more will go in!"

"Like this cup," the master explained, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

We tell ourselves we're open minded, but usually don't see that we're really not until we get tired enough of our good intentions producing the wrong results. Appropriately, on this Labor Day, wouldn't it be nice to have our labors produce more and more of the results we want?

If we're full of our own rigid opinions, egos, excuses and baggage from the past (hurtful/disappointing people and events), we're simply too full in the present to take in new and better ideas. Ones that WILL lead to new and better results in our lives.

And being too full, our same old thinking leads to our same old actions and our same old results, no matter how many times we change jobs, locations, and the people in our lives. We push and push and push, and when nothing changes become tired, frustrated and disappointed, sometimes even hopeless and depressed.

Yet all around us are those who can help us if we'd just empty our minds, becoming a student again of how to do it right this time. Bruce Lee was and is one of the world's greatest martial artists because he was also one of it's greatest students. Instead of defending his style as "The Way", he had "no way" by learning from every other art and adapting it into a brilliant and effective flowing system. (becoming an effective student of Rome's streets)

And before Lee, there was Emerson who said, "Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn of him". 2,500 years before this Socrates talked about emptying his mind, one of the greatest minds of all time, to allow room for newer and higher levels of knowledge and understanding to come in: "One thing only I know, and that is I know nothing."

That's a martial artist, a poet and a philosopher to learn from, and on Friday I needed to listen to them all. I failed miserably with a student, and had to empty my cup in a hurry. This week students from other homerooms came to me for reading and math. As happened during week one with a student in my homeroom, a few of these new students didn't turn in their homework......for the second day in a row.

When they didn't turn it in the first time I "hugged" them (water flowing), patiently explaining why it's important they do the work, trying to flow into them and make some meaningful connection.

The second day they came in empty handed I brought out the "hammer" (water crashing). It worked in week one with my homeroom student. It didn't work so well with one of the new students this week. At the end of class she stormed out and threw her backpack against the wall, collapsing to the ground in tears.

I wanted to "keep pouring" my opinions and perspective into her cup, but as I looked I realized she had no cup left to fill. I had washed away her spirit instead of her limitations and she had taken "her cup" and smashed it against the wall.

As much as I wanted to hold onto my full cup by justifying my method, I immediately dumped it out because it didn't matter if it worked for another if it hadn't worked for her. Many times we teachers, parents and coaches hold on to our rigid way of doing things by complaining that kids just don't want to learn, saying, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

Well, you can lead a student to school, but you can't make them think either. Instead of giving up on them, what if we helped them want to think, even if it meant changing "our way" of doing things? Just because what we're offering is tasty to us (i.e. teaching/parenting the way we were taught/parented) doesn't mean it's tasty or even right for them. Instead of forcing what we're serving down their throats, we have to empty our cups out (give up our rigid one-way style) and find out what they're thirsty for. What is an effective, yet still strengthening way for them?

If we keep doing things "our way" when it's not working, the way we're teaching/parenting/coaching can become detrimental and even poisonous, weakening and beating them down v strengthening and building them up.

Doctors don't treat patients all the same when they all have different ailments. That would be insane as many patients went untreated and some would even die.

If education is going to graduate more intellectually alive and healthy students, we have to go from being general practitioners (telling students what to memorize and controlling their behavior) to becoming brain specialists (guiding intellectual growth through inquiry and developing internal self-guidance).

The way to do this is by first emptying our cups of what we know about teaching when what we know isn't working. And we check for this on a student-by-student basis.

It's more important to be effective with every child than it is to defend our every word and action. So when I spoke with the Behavioral Specialist who knew this frustrated student, I really listened. I poured everything she said into my ears and into my mental cup, catching it all because it was empty of my own thoughts and opinions. Why would I hold onto them if they hadn't worked?

At lunch I found this student and apologized, admitting I was wrong in my approach, but that I would keep trying until I found the right one. I also asked for her help in doing this.

As I looked at her I saw eyes full of appreciation, and for the first time saw how big and beautiful they were. Before this I remember them as always being half-closed, almost in anger.

I told her I loved her and her great spirit, that I would teach her the same as if she was my own child, and asked why she thought she couldn't get her homework done.

She told me she has to take care of her brothers and sisters, including getting up at 2am to take care of the baby. I asked her how long her ride home on the bus was, and she said an hour. I asked if she thought she could try to get it done on the bus ride home, mentioning what a big opportunity it was.

She said she'd try it, and after I hugged her I told her that if she did try and did succeed, she would know something about her that I know; that she is capable of overcoming anything she really wants to.

Had I not emptied my mind, had I held on tightly to my thoughts of my way of teaching, I wouldn't have had room to learn her way of learning, and she would have hated coming into my classroom and learned very little this year.........including how to become bigger than the obstacles she'll face in her life, bigger than homework and bigger than Mr. Stuart.

And now I am a much better teacher for her because I'm a much better student of her.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chapter Four ~ Move and Be Moved Into Waves of Possibility

Near the end of the summer I drove my motorcycle one last time to the beach. As I felt the waves move me around I realized that as students (and adults) if we're not moving or being moved (internally) we become stagnant. If we're stagnant for too long we become infested with bacteria, algea and parasites. We become unhealthy and sick.

Sick and unhealthy thoughts lead to sick feelings which lead to sick choices and actions which create even more sick and unhealthy thoughts......leading to even sicker feelings and then choices and then thoughts.

We literally make ourselves sick and diseased.

One of my students thinks he is bad, and because he has no doubt about that, he doesn't expect much out of himself or hold himself to high standards. He doesn't expect to move or be moved. It's going to be an interesting year with him. Who will win, the one with complete faith, or the one with complete doubt?

These are drawings he made the first week of school.

Day 1 - I'm being eaten by sharks

Day 2 - I'm defeating a shark

Day 3 - I'm defeating 5 sharks

Day 4 - I'm defeating a giant dragon

Day ???? - He draws a picture of HIMSELF defeating the dragon

Now on that day I'll have done my job. I will have "won" because he sees himself as capable of winning. (Photo 1)

It doesn't matter how the world sees me; It matters how he sees himself in this world. Even if a statue were erected in my honor as being a great teacher, I am not a great teacher for him unless he sees the greatness in himself. Can I help him do that before I am gone and nothing more than a memory?

Yesterday morning I woke up to this news report as I accessed my email:

KABUL – A suicide bomber detonated his explosives as Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence visited a mosque east of Kabul on Wednesday, killing the Afghan official and 22 others.

Out of the 167,000 people across the world that will die today, 23 were blown to bits before I even woke up. And for what? An eye-for-an-eye?

Just as it takes a strong man to be a takes a strong and more intelligent person to find a peaceful solution versus striking out and "punishing them for what they did".

Since I have 23 students in my homeroom I was determined to go to school yesterday and make them even more alive inside by exploding the appreciation of life and possibility inside of them, especially the possibility of evolving into bigger-brain adults capable of solving serious problems in more intelligent ways than trying to kill the people they have problems with. (Photo 2)

If we really appreciate the fact that we are alive today, we become much more willing to face our problems and fears and doubts, and replace them with solutions, courage and confidence. (Photo 3)

I praised and hugged students who were rising above their limitations, and singled out and hammered those that tried to give up and not try. At the end of the day I felt I had hammered one particular student a little too hard, breaking his spirit instead of his limitations. And I felt bad.

As I was leaving I noticed something he had written and left on his desk:

"My goal for this year is to get smarter and get a 5 on the FCAT. I know I could do this because my teacher is Mr. Stuart and he never gives up on me and he pushes me harder."

I think the hammer broke apart what was holding him back, and allowed the waves of possibility to enter him. I thank Emperor Trajan for being someone who could inspire and enlighten me on how to do this. (Photo 4)


So I can remember and elaborate

Photo 1 -
I can't remember this emperor's name here on Palentine Hill in Ancient Rome. I do remember how he made all citizens, including senators, kneel before him and kiss his rings and feet.........He made others feel worthless and insignificant. He was murdered, and is insignificant and worthless to me as to how I can live my life to the fullest.


Photo 2 -
Bella's highlight on the return trip home was going to be able to visit Mammoth Cave. We spent so much time playing in the same river Abe Lincoln did as a boy that when we got to Mammoth all the tours were sold out. I told Bella we'd get a hotel and come back in the morning. She just wanted to go home.

I went back and told them how this was the highlight of my daughter's trip......and they told me there had been "a last minute cancellation". My smile to them was as big as Bella's was holding the tickets.....Looking at her face, I see just how beautiful life and love is....and why it's worth giving your life for


Photo 3 - Sofia at The Serpent Mound in southern Ohio. God bless her spirit. She would have fit right in with these highly spiritual people who lived thousands of years ago. I will do whatever it takes to protect and keep this alive inside of her. (Her Great Aunt, Sister Veronica, a nun in Ohio, 80+ years old and still going strong!)

Photo 4 - This is a statue of Emperor Trajan in the Senate House. He greeted others by name and shook their hands and hugged them. He made them feel valuable and under him Rome experienced some of it's greatest accomplishments.

This statue was remarkably found in its original color and intact, except for the head, hands and feet which were made of different material.

He is gone, but he lives on in me, and I am more because of it.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Chapter Two ~ Teaching on a Cellular Level

On this same day of great victory for one student (last Wednesday), there was only one name left on the board under "Strength Training" (things like "talking when others spoke, voice volume way too high", etc). This student could have seen this as a great defeat; gone home embarrassed, upset and ticked off, focusing on how unfair it was that he was being "singled out". (Photo 1)

Instead, he saw it as a great opportunity, turned down a friend's offer to play that afternoon, and focused on turning in a project that scored a perfect 100% on the gifted rubric. And he turned it in one day before it was due. Now that's desire, and victory over victimization! (Photo 2)

What happened was that he focused on being 100% responsible for his reality, and ended up producing the reality that he wanted.

How? For three days 100% of my thoughts have been on him being 100% responsible for his own thoughts and actions. That's 60,000 thoughts x 3 or 180,000 thoughts over three days.

180,000 thoughts surrounding him, infiltrating him, inspiring him and uplifting him to new levels of possibility and production. As he believed in himself he added his own 180,000 thoughts, creating a combined 360,000 powerful thoughts of production in just 3 days.

It's the same process my son and I use that allows him not to need his medicine to control his ADHD when he's around me. His younger brother, who is even worse, doesn't need it either. His mom and I are both trying to figure out exactly why this happens.

To be honest I'm not quite sure. All I know is that Brosden and I, his brother, my students.....we create a universe of total confidence, great ability and unlimited strength, and we do this together. We don't hope or try. We KNOW and DO. (Photo 3)

Since we shed and create millions of cells per second, it's possible that because I vibrate so strongly the emotions of love, laughter, life, strength, etc.........around me their new cells are created with new receptors for the natural chemicals (dopamine, elastin, etc) which allow us to think, feel and act at more powerful levels.

And if this is what is happening, as science suggests, this next example had an even more profound effect on this student, further changing him from the inside out on a cellular level.

I had him hold some papers in one hand and raise his other hand and face the class. I took the big picture of MLK off the wall and held it behind him, then shouted to the class, "What do you think? See a similarity? Martin Luther King had a dream. ____ had a dream. And they both Did Big about making their dream become true. You're not looking at the next MLK. You're looking at the FIRST ____, becoming his BIGGEST self! "

Kids from other classes came in at least three times to borrow his project and take it to their class. That's three more positive cellular changes.

Education isn't about only preparing students for tests. It's about switching them on and lighting them up to their true scientific nature of unlimited possibility (including in the microtubials, or our on/off switches, of the neurons in our brains).

And it's not about them becoming the next MLK, Edison or Lincoln. It's about them becoming the first ever THEMSELVES. They have never been here on Earth before. They will never be here again. Lasting, life-long education is bringing out and developing the gifts only they can bring to this world, and teaching them how to do it on their own after you're gone.

Can you imagine an entire class doing this for an entire year? Can you imagine entire school systems doing this? I had 27 kids come to my reading class yesterday (we're having homogeneous math and reading classes this year). That's a total of 28 people x 60,000 or 1,680,000 potential thoughts a day all on what we want. It's my job as their teacher to passionately focus all these 1.7 million daily thoughts to produce powerfully acting people.

Change DOES occur. Obstacles ARE overcome. And children DO BECOME their greatest selves POSITIVELY affecting the world. Even just one of these future men and women can become a WORLD CHANGER!

To ensure the action this year produces the results we want for tomorrow, all we have to do is identify what action each student should be taking each day for optimal growth. What specific areas of weaknesses should they be focused on overcoming on a daily basis? Let's change them from the inside-out on a cellular level. And let's change them permanently by teaching them how to believe in and change themselves. (Photo 3)


Photo 1 - statue of Julius Ceasar in Rome


Photo 2 - One of the pictures Bella took while driving to or from Ohio. The beauty this child is seeing and bringing to the world is incredible


Photo 3 - It's not right that we can't include pictures of the actual students. It would have so much more meaning. Living in fear and playing it safe is critically limiting. Can you imagine if this was our thought process while being taught how to walk?

"Don't try too hard, you might fall. As long as you try to do your best, it's OK if you can't walk." What!?! We don't try our best. We try UNTIL.

I chose this picture because it shows the singularity of focus in my eyes. No hoping or trying my best. I'm trying and doing until the student I was looking at got it.

This is exactly what made the Samurai warriors the greatest of their time; singularity of focus. And one of the reasons my first weblog was named "Samurai Teaching". Everyone around me, past, present, future, has something to teach me.

Photo 4 - Even if you only have three powerful people all powerfully focusing on the same end result (i.e. mom, dad, child - grandpa, grandma, teacher, etc) the result is POWERFUL (Bella and I with Marc Mero, founder of the terrific program Champions of Choices)

And believe me, Bella's spirit is just as powerful as Marc's and mine, which is why I grabbed the boy by the shirt who ran into her at Mammoth Cave. I'm here to protect this spirit until it's developed and given to the world. That's my excuse for sometimes "being too scary" as she and Sofia tell me, and I'm sticking to it.
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