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Tuesday
May242016

A poem a day - require it

Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.

from Blessings by Ronald Wallace on The Writer's Almanac, May 20, 2016

Click the link above and read the rest of this poem. You will be happy you did.

The Writer's Almanac

Somehow my Facebook page now alerts me to new daily entries of the Writer's Almanac. And when I click on that link, the first thing to appear is a short poem. Most days these words do not fail to move me.

As a former English teacher, I've probably read (and coerced others into reading) more poems than the average bear. And after a decades long hiatus, thanks to the odd teamwork of Garrison Keillor and Mark Zuckerberg, I am reading poetry again.

I won't get much traction on this, but I would prefer that if school hours are limited that students read poetry rather than learn coding. I would rather they read novels than textbooks. That they learned to use math to study everyday living rather than simply take tests on calculus.

Schools should focus on creating human beings, not workers. The human mind is relatively easy to understand; less so the human heart.

Monday
May232016

Maslow for employees

... the thing that really enables individuals to engage with their job and the company they work for – a sense that their contribution is IMPORTANT. This feeling of significance, especially within a large company is absolutely vital if a member of staff is going to feel any real affinity and advocacy towards their paymasters. If you make your staff feel as though they are integral to the company’s values and goals then that’s when you have reached the high engagement holy grail.  How Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Influences Employee Engagement Steve Smith, HRZone, April 17, 2014

In Keep Your Building Technicians by Keeping Them Happy (School Library Journal, May 2000), I suggested 7 ways that may help keep good technical workers working for and with you. Had I been thinking, I could have arranged them on a hierarchy as Smith did in the chart and article above. (That was brilliant.)

Were I writing the article above today, I would add an 8th means of keeping techs - 8. Add increasing levels of responsibility to each person's job on a planned and regular basis. My young'ns working for me need to show on a resume that they have the skills needed for better jobs in the future. Yes, I want to grow people as well as run a good tech department.

Good technical support people are no easier to find today that they work in 2000 or in 2014 - perhaps even more difficult know how demands for their services have increased as more businesses use technology in more sophisticate ways than ever before. In addition to good technical skills, our best staff also have empathy, communication and other human relation skills, including the very important ability to help others without making them feel stupid or incompetent. See also The DJ Factor.  I take credit for only one piece of a great technology department - the ability to recognize and keep a great staff. Period. Remember:

Top salaries won't keep to staff. Top working environments that honor the upper levels of Maslow's Employee Hierarchy of needs might.

Tuesday
May172016

Hiking on the brain; hiking for the brain

Recent studies about the effects of hiking and nature have been directed at understanding just how this recreational activity affects both the physiological and mental aspects of our brains. One of the main reasons for this glut of research is because we’re spending so much less time outdoors, overall. The average American child now spends half as much time outside as compared to only 20 years ago. HALF. Only 6% of children will play outside on their own in a typical week. Conversely, kids are now spending almost 8 hours per day watching television, playing video games, or using a computer, tablet, or phone for recreational purposes. That number actually jumps up to 10 hours if you count doing two things at once! Overall, Americans now spend 93% of their time inside a building or vehicle. What hiking does to the brain is pretty amazing. wimp.com, April 11, 2016

... the Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been giving kindergarten and first-grade students two 15-minute recess breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon to go play outside. At first teachers were worried about losing the classroom time and being able to cover all the material they needed with what was left, but now that the experiment has been going on for about five months, teachers say the kids are actually learning more because they’re better able to focus in class and pay attention without fidgeting.  Texas school triples recess time and sees immediate positive results in kids. Scary Mommy, Jan 9, 2016.

In just a couple weeks, I am driving to Arizona where my 10 and 15-year-old grandsons and I will do a three day hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And hopefully back out again. I'm not worried about Paul and Miles making it, but Grandpa's not getting any younger.

On each of their vacations with me, the boys have been subjected to some sort of physical challenge - climbing Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota, bicycling the tunnels of Wisconsin's Sparta-Elroy trail, or hiking the Temperance River on Minnesota's North Shore. The boys are both in Scouting and luckily have parents who enjoy camping and nature as well. My hope is that the love of being outside will become ingrained. (As a farm kid, I didn't have any problem getting enough "outdoor" time.)

While I have long enjoyed the physical pleasures of walking and being outdoors, I am reading an increasing amount about how important being outside and exercise is for both kids and adults. The link between good physical health and good mental health is pretty well established. If more doctors  prescribes Nikes, they'd need to prescribe fewer anti-depressants, blood pressure drugs, and who knows what else.

We shouldn't be surprised in the least when educational researchers finally discover that recess improves reading scores more than all the basal readers put together?