Sunday, April 28, 2013

Practicing Personal Excellence Qualities

      One of the strongest concepts that I’m using this school year because of EFL has been the ‘personal excellence’ qualities.  I’ve tried different approaches to help my students build a strong foundation in the many universal principles that make human beings reach a higher potential.  Qualities such as kindness, compassion, love, courage, respect, patience, positiveness, helpfulness to name some of my favorites.  My latest approach has been to work together with each individual class on one particular quality per month.  I went ahead with this idea after reading another EFL blog by the Living Wisdom School teachers in Nevada City. See the link below.
 Sharing Harmony with Teenagers–A Game

    I had both my morning class and my afternoon class list some of the qualities that they had personally been working on.  Then we voted on one quality to work on as a class for a whole month.  Each week they work on their chosen class quality and write at least three example of how they used that quality in their composition book.  We get together and share our experiences once a week.  We share in different ways at different times, either in small groups, as a whole class, or both.
    For example, for April my morning class picked ‘respect’.  I asked  them to define ‘respect’ in their own words.  They came up with, “You should treat others the way you want to be treated.”  We also looked it up in the dictionary and found synonyms like consideration and appreciation.  Some of the examples of how they have practiced respect have included
respecting their environment by picking up garbage and helping to clean up their school,
respecting their parents when they are on the phone by not interrupting,
respecting their dog by not forgetting to feed it.
    The afternoon class voted on the quality of ‘being positive’.  Again they came up with their own definition like “seeing the good in things” and “confidence” which was pretty close to the definition that we found in our dictionary.  There were many examples from my physical students about playing a game in their chosen sport where their team was losing and they did not give up and kept going.  Some won some lost but they all agreed they felt better because they knew they tried their best, stayed positive and they didn't give up.  My favorite example was from one of the physically biggest boys in class who came up with such a feeling example.  He said, “I practiced being positive this past week when my grandmother passed away.  I chose to not be so sad and I thought about all the good times I had with her.” 
      I also asked them the other day, as we looked at our ‘Personal Excellence’ board,  “Can you think of anyone that you know or have learned about that could possibly have all of the personal excellence qualities on our board?”  I loved their answers!  The first girl said, “God!”  Another said, “Moses!”  (We are studying the Hebrews and Judaism in Social Studies.) Yet another said, “Martin Luther King Jr.”  More than one student said, “My mom!”

    It’s an honor to learn and practice these qualities along with my students. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Great Soul Moves On


     This past weekend on April 21, 2013 in Assisi, Italy one of the greatest yogis of our time and author of the book Education for Life, J Donald Walters, also known as Swami Kriyananda, passed away.   Education for Life, which started a new movement in education was one of over 100 books written by this prodigious author.  This does not include the over 400 pieces of beautiful and inspiring music that he wrote, including the oratorio “Christ Lives” or his numerous other accomplishments.  I am deeply grateful to have met him and benefited from all that he shared with the world.  This planet is a much better place, with more hope and light, because he lived among us. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Keeping Myself Light

    One of the great things about being a school teacher is the breaks that we get throughout the year to recharge ourselves.  Teaching requires a great deal of energy and we need to be sure to schedule time specifically set aside for internally recharging and keeping ourselves light.

    This past week was our school’s Spring Break.  I know that the demands of the final 4th quarter at our school are going to be staggering, so I decided to go up to the Ananda Meditation Retreat in the Sierra Foothills here in California to help me get ready.

    I did a 6 day seclusion retreat which meant that I was in a wee cabin out in the woods by myself.  It’s incredibly important to take time to realign our internal self with a quiet time out in nature.  I could feel the energy flowing right to me from all the trees, wildflowers, wild life, sky, and even the rain on a couple of days. I think nature loves to share her calm beauty if we gently attune ourselves to her rhythms.  I highly recommend getting away from the demands of everyday life by yourself to contemplate the important things in life.  Then when you return to teaching in this high stress modern world you have even more to give to your students.