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, November 23, 2009

8,000 Years of Evolutionary Lessons Packed Into One

Watching a program involving Columbus' arrival to America and all the way back to the Incan Empire of 8,000 years ago. Man has been around for a long, long time, and I can't help but wonder how far we've really come, how much have we truly evolved and liberated ourselves in this time.....

What I do know is that all of my students are going to evolve as much as possible in the year that I have them. They are going to free themselves from limiting beliefs that hold them back, the ones that make them worry about not being enough and what others may think of them as they pursue their dreams.

A month ago on a Date Night With Dad I had to apologize to my kids and lay down in bed when we got home. I was having a stroke. I had to unplug myself so I couldn't give anymore and just shut down. By morning I was fine, but since then I've limited myself to being a dad, teaching and writing while I regained my strength.

No answering emails or responding to comments even when they made feel terrific and helped me heal. Instead I gave that energy to my kids and students. No thinking about what I didn't want or could be worried about. I simply didn't have the energy to waste it on anything that didn't make the situation better.

Today was the first day of our Thanksgiving Break, and I feel a rejuvenated sense of passion for what I do. The faces of my students appear often in my head, and I see such aliveness in their faces that I know I owe it to them to help them evolve into powerful, loving and passionate creatures.

Forget preparing them for just an end-of-the-year state test. We're studying 8,000 years of what human history has taught us to prepare for an end-of-our-lives test.

We're preparing ourselves to have the courage and intelligence to discover where else the world isn't flat, where else do we have accepted yet limiting beliefs of how life is and what we're capable of.

We are preparing to evolve for a lifetime......for all of time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fearless Entities After a Dream

As I passed out the math tests Friday morning I played the beginning of Korn's song "Blind", which after a slowly building crescendo asks the question, "ARE YOU READY?"

I was also wearing a shirt that said, "Go Hard or Go Home" from the insane bodybuilding clan called, "Animal", which I would point to when the students looked my way during the test.

I admire anyone who challenges the limits of what they can be, do or have. And as big as we can build ourselves externally through our  bodies, bank accounts and list of buddies who approve of is the size of our spirits that allows us to become gigantic on the inside, abundantly and richly alive, and believe in ourselves no matter what.

It is this state that allows us overcome seemingly impossible odds.......what can be only temporary limitations for ourselves.......and just as importantly........for others.

If humanity is going to evolve past the, "Look at me and what I can do" world......and into the "Look at we and what WE can do" world, we have to change from the inside-out, and BELIEVE no amount of difficulty is too heavy for us to lift if we're willing to work together to develop the strength to lift it.

The student who is finally dreaming big but able to do nothing on math tests can't even add.On Monday she was sure 6 + 2 = 7. It is well-known fact that it impossible to teach someone 5th-grade math when they're only on a Kindergarten level..........unless....

"If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."

.......the impossible is changed to in-possible and the teaching goes internal in an unbelievably effective way. Since she trusts me I was allowed to wander around in her head this week, acting as electrician rewiring her neural network until she was able to begin understanding the basic math concepts that would allow her to figure out more advanced problems than simple addition.

We played, "I Have a Dream" and some Buddhist Zen meditation music for the rest of the test, and as time ran out I went over to her. I knelt down in front of the desk and looked at her answers. I reached my arms over the desk and wrapped her in my arms. Last week she got a 0%. This week she got a 40%.

Last week another student got his highest score, a 38%, and when another student said, "So what? You still failed", he said back, "So? I got a new high score. I'm growing!". I smiled and it was as if my heart could take a rest because the change had happened not just from an external grade, but from an internal change in his inner wisdom and strength.

And I KNOW this will happen with this girl too.

In fact the male student understands the concept of place value so well now that he's going to his former 4th and 3rd grade teachers next week to teach a lesson to their students. I heard these two teachers also cared for and pushed him like I do, so I've been bringing them into my head and heart to teach him this year; three teachers for just one student. And now he'll be teaching in the same class where just two years ago he had to be removed for punching kids in the face or throwing a chair across the room on a weekly basis.

"I believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel, but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and allow them to blossom."
Les Brown

And while all 23 students in class failed the first test 2 1/2 months ago, of the ones who took #6 on Friday only 9 are still failing (but growing), 3 scored a D (including the former chair-thrower), 1 scored a C, 2 scored B's, and 4 scored A's (one whose previous high was a 73% scored a 98%, and the student who scored a 100% last week did it again - freeing her to work on advanced math projects as if she was in a gifted class).

"You don't get in life what you want;
you get in life what you are."
Les Brown

The most beautiful, special and powerful thing about the results of all this newly created belief and ability, and the fact that it has created fearless entities after their dreams, is that it goes far beyond the walls of the  classroom...

It goes back into all those who have ever believed in them........and out into the universe for anyone wanting to believe in themselves more.............and for the rest of all time.

This is why "WE" are so important.

"Believing in yourself is not for you; it's for every person who has touched your life in a significant way and for every person your life will touch the same way five minutes from now, or five centuries from now."
Jaye Miller

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear Mr. Stuart (actual letter from student)

While I was writing the "Dear Mr. Stuart" poem last weekend for the student who scored a 0% on her math test, she was writing her own actual letter to me, which she gave me on Monday morning.

"hello Mr Staurt I was thinking on the other day when we took Big 20# Math test and I noticed I am failing Math class and I really want to pass 5th grade math I don't want to fail math I want to work harder then I did Before I want to Be aBle to help you sometimes and I missed you when I was ABsent that Day tell every Body I missingfriends. But I Still Just want to Pass 5th grade Math. Please forgive me

I Love you Mr Staurt

Nov 10th
You rock"

I told her I was going to keep this letter in my pocket until she got an A on one of these 5th-grade level tests, then shared my poem with her.

Today she takes another test, and we we find out if I've learned how to teach her better, and if she'll have better results on today's test. Dreaming Big, believing v just wishing things can be better than they are, is step one.

Step two is Doing Big.

Step two happens today

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dear Mr. Stuart

The student who scored a zero on Friday's math test can't even add simple numbers, which means she and I have to literally start from the beginning (kindergarten level). This is a lot of work to do in only an hour a day, but what about the other 20+ students who also need to be taught? Three of them are on advanced individual lesson plans. (Former student who has one of the most supportive parents I've ever seen. How can you not continue this support in the classroom?)

How does one doctor effectively cure more than one patient at a time? My answer is by the great capacity of our minds (on average we only use 3-5% of it). So even though I teach alone, I don't teach alone mentally. I bring the ESE teacher into class by constantly asking myself, "What accommodations would Ms. Wilson be providing right now?".

I also bring in the gifted teacher by asking, "What project would Mrs. Grimes provide to this student is she was gifted?"

And one student who is on an advanced lesson plan is a great teacher herself, and I've noticed particularly wants to help this failing student. Last week I told her mother that although her daughter was getting A's from me in reading and math I was failing in my job to reach her on deeper levels of thought and ability. She feels lucky and unworthy and still tries to remember what the answers are instead of becoming smarter by thinking what the answers could be and then evaluating her answer to make sure it's right.

I've learned to first focus on and deeply appreciate the things I'm doing right in life (including pushing past my imagined limits yet waking up still alive for another day...."Dude. You made it! And you know what they say about that which doesn't kill you....That means I can do EVEN MORE today.......I must be insane....actually just in case this is my last day I'm living fully and fearlessly....that's my insanity and I can live with that :-)"

This is what gives me the confidence to also appreciate where I can improve and look at where I'm honestly failing, and believing that today is the day I'll succeed.

From Friday's tests I could tell that this student DID BELIEVE she was able to think on deeper levels  as I watched her evaluate her answers in depth (evaluation is the highest level of thought as opposed to getting questions right because you have memorized the answers).

From this I know that this succeeding student now has even more to offer the failing student.

And what can I bring into the mix? The same thing I brought to the A student I'm now succeeding with on a deeper and longer lasting level: unflinching, uncompromising belief!

Dear Mr. Stuart

You silly, silly man

While I prove to you that I can't

You continue to believe that I can

Yes Dear Student

This is all true

But you're forgetting one thing

I know the Real You

And because at least four people will be teaching this one child today, all of our combined belief, intelligence and expertise will make this a very, very good day for her.

And that's how you turn an impossible situation (one teacher/doctor trying to truly teach/treat every student/patient at the same time) into a possible situation (four doctors treating the one patient)

This is how you change lives for the better.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Waking Up With More to Give

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By the time I went to bed last night I was completely drained and dead.

When I woke up this morning I was completely refreshed and alive.


Anyone can carry his or her burden however hard until    nightfall.  Anyone can do his work, however    hard, for one day.   Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly,    purely till
the sun goes down.  And this is all that life really    means.

— R.L. Stevenson 

(Author of such works as Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Child's Garden of Verses......and by a man who, a victim of poor health, found himself constantly at death's door. He died over 100 years ago at the age 44 but is still among the most popularly read writers of all time.)

I feel that by giving 100% of yourself to what you're doing during your waking hours, you give back to yourself 100% during your sleeping hours. 

Millions of our cells are being shed every second, and they are being replaced by millions more through mitosis in the same amount of time. Even if you conservatively adjust this process to one million per minute, that's 60 million new cells being created for every hour of sleep you get.

During the day not everything goes as planned. Before yesterday's math test the student who stormed out of class in the beginning of the year in pain from my poor teaching method with her (I dropped the hammer instead of realizing she needed the hug) wrote this:

"Hello Mr. Staurt (she still misspells my name) thank you for really helping me and when I got in trouble (a few weeks ago she lost it and started throwing chairs in the cafeteria) you hugged me and I really was joyful and I really want to pass Mr. Staurt's class and go to 6th grade and I know I can pass because you teached me how to do math.

THANK YOU very much"

And on a separate piece of paper she filled it with: 


She has changed from a person believing very little in herself and her world, to now dreaming very big. And guess what she scored on yesterday's 5th-grade level test?

A zero......nothing

And guess how I felt after I graded it?

A nothing. I had given her and her fellow students everything I had, and now there was nothing left in me to give. Even though the average student in class increased their grade by 17% and we had our first 100% score of the year, my best teaching scored a zero with her. She and I had both failed, and I went to bed with that fact. 

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious    triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those spoor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

(For Teddy character was ultimately about action and struggle, rather than good intentions and reflection)

 And since through my own struggles I've developed a powerful ability to focus my thoughts on what I want to see in the world, the cells that had nothing left to give died away during the night and were replaced by new cells full of power and hope and new intelligence of how I can help her succeed.

At the rate of at least 60 million an hour.

Next week is going to be the best week of her life. This is the fact I woke up to.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent    people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics    and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

(poet, philosopher, lecturer, and essayist who based many of his works from the observations he made in his journal as a boy.......Adding to my belief that we know the answers to life as children, forget them as adults, and remember them in old age)

“One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it    is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion    would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.”   
— Frederick Buechner 

(novelist and preacher who as a boy overcame the loss of his father to suicide, fueling a literary search for truth, joy, home and courage)



Monday, November 02, 2009

Chapter 10 ~ The Power of The Parent - Kicking the Desk Out of the Way

Before I came to teach at my children's school (and a few years before the famous, "This is Sparta!" scene), I was sitting around a table at the inner city school where I taught. The purpose of the meeting was to see how we could help a student who kept failing, partly because he had severe ADHD but was unable to take medication because his body rejected all types of medicine diagnosed.

One by one, everyone around the table said how they were doing everything possible and that his failure wasn't their fault. The parents, divorced and full of animosity, began blaming each other. I spoke up and said he was failing because I was failing to reach him. I confessed I didn't know what to do, but that I would keep trying to find a way, and that it was my fault.

It was as if everyone breathed a sigh of relief and sent all of the blame into me. I felt physically sick to my stomach and wondered why I had said that. I felt dizzy as we ended the meeting and I got up to leave.

Outside the door the boy's father was waiting for me. He told me no one had ever taken the blame for his son's failure and began to cry. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had his permission to do whatever it took to help his son.

Three months later this student (who I'll call Ant, which would make you smirk at my "creativity" if you knew his real name) still wasn't paying attention or working hard in class consistently. The state tests were in a month so time was running out. I remembered what his father said so I mentioned that since Ant wasn't using his desk perhaps we should get it out of his way.

I told him what I was going to do might be a little scary, but I was going to try something that might wake him up enough so I could work with the real Ant that was capable of focusing and making sense of what he was trying to learn.

I asked him if he trusted me. Because I had his parents' support at home he believed in and trusted me too (the mother also came forth later and thanked me). I asked him to move away from his desk and said I was going to show him who he really was. What he was really capable of. That he had ALL the power and strength he needed ALREADY INSIDE of him.

Then I shouted, "THIS IS WHO YOU ARE!"..........and kicked his desk so hard that it flew across the room and smashed against the wall.

He had tears in his eyes, but so did his father. He was now awake, and alive. And I had the opening I needed to reach him and teach him.

Yes, it put me in a storm of criticism from parents of other students who didn't know why I did that and didn't bother to ask, but instead called me "mad".

But instead of kicking Ant out of the way as another hopeless cause, I kicked and smashed his limitations and excuses out of the way, freeing him from his slavery of ADHD. In return, he overcame his limitations and  BECAME something he never had been before. In one month he became so powerful he did pass the state tests and graduate into the 6th grade (by one point which makes me wish I had done it earlier).

As teachers it is our job to reach every single one of our students, to stand and fight. Most of us stop trying because we have one parent criticizing us. All we need is one who isn't.

(to be continued...)

(side note to remind myself that this was my 1,000th post on the Samurai Teaching blog)
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