Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BloG #44: He Said What???

This blog entry is being posted with the understanding that it may be edited or added to at a later date. Upon further inspection, I reserve the right to say "OMG! What was I thinking??" Thus will begin the process of either completely dismantling the whole posted premise with a swift toss into the trash can, or scavenging for the various bits of thoughts worth salvaging and piecing it together into a better developed, more concise train of thought, or something. So, there you have it...

And, here we go:

Riddle me this.... Have you ever made a mistake?

Riddle me that.... Did you learn anything from said mistake?


Me? I'm going to pause for a moment, allowing those who know (or have known) me to use this opportunity to pick themselves up off the floor and regain their composure, before proceeding with this textual exercise. . .

As for the first riddle at hand . . . Yes. I have charged forward head first into the occasional mistake. I will not be sharing details here, primarily to protect the innocent but also in an attempt to maintain some sort of online dignity.

My mistakes have typically evolved to become in-house lifelong teachers for me. Brick to the head, sometimes softened w/ a sponge - always full-on brain-wedgie. And I'm usually asking for it in my own ignoramus fashion. I liken this concept to my train of thought concerning skiing. If I proceed through a full day and never fall down, I personally feel I have not pushed myself hard enough. Opportunities for full-on learning were minimal. On the other hand, when I fall, my body and mind is receiving a plethora of messages from sensors sending gobs of juicy tidbits for my brain to chew on, (sometimes for the next 30 years). By that token, I would offer a qualified answer of 'yes' to the second riddle. Let me explain . . .

To say I have learned a lesson is a rather subjective statement. As an educator, I have the daily task and responsibility to project lessons upon targeted learners or students. It is my hope that the learners or students whom my lessons are being projected upon will receive said lesson and learn the desired outcome or objective from my projection. Here is where the air turns foggy, or the water turns cloudy, or the windows get steamy, or . . . you (hopefully) get the picture.

Suddenly, terms such as interpretation, perspective and frame of reference enter into the picture. Each learner or student whom my lessons are projected upon most likely received said lesson(s) through their own wildly unique filter, that cannot be duplicated by any other classmate or, for that matter, any other human being.

Each learner brings their own background and context to the table. These elements represent the evolutionary filter through which classroom interactions pass on their way to each individual's knowledge base. (By evolutionary, I mean that each student's filter is continually evolving. Their frame of reference today is not the same as the frame of reference they brought to the table yesterday.) If I am lucky, my projected lesson will pass through that filter. This is provided the student or learner is following the train of thought being presented (and staying attentive and/or awake).

Long story short . . . A lesson may be learned.

Riddle continues.... Was it the correct and/or intended lesson?

Let's take a small detour here:
A song I recorded on my most recent cd Don't Ever Forget alludes to this very concept. Considering none of my pieces have lyrics, that is quite an accomplishment! Indeed, I say this with all honesty . . . all of my pieces have meaning. They all come from somewhere inside that defaults below the level of external subconsciousness. Sometimes, I will understand a song's meaning early on. Others take time. Then there are the pieces I have not quite decoded or received their meaning yet. But I know it lurks beneath the subsurface. The challenge lies in figuring it out and embracing it while still bringing the listener to a similar wavelength through my playing and their listening, sometimes even before I've received that understanding.

But, I have digressed and must (attempt to) now regress. Alpine Road is a track that comes from a very tender place. The mere mention of those two words together bring to my mind an image of a perfect place close to my heart but is beyond reach, in my everyday life. I have been there, but am generally not afforded the opportunity to go back. To up and go at the whim of my heart would go against the responsibilities I have at hand. My heart beckons, but I cannot go.

Yet . . . Alpine Road represents a higher place. A place where we can look down at all that is below us. We can see things that surround us in that lower confine, that we cannot necessarily see when we are in the midst of said environment. The same can be said as we look back with time on our side presenting a distant perspective.

This is often where the lesson takes shape and form in the mind's eye of the the intended receiver. Yes, maybe a lesson was learned early on. But after climbing that mountain of time, distance and maybe even height, perhaps the lesson crystallizes into another form. Perhaps it joins a bigger part of the picture that we were not aware of as we sat in the eye of the storm. Perhaps we will never really get to know the whole context of the lesson.

Sometimes in the classroom, I want to just say to my students, "You'll understand this later." In an elementary world where concrete thought is king, that concept is far-fetched, at best.

So, mistakes? (to quote Sinatra) I've made a few. End of story (for now): Conclusion stands at the generalized theory - we're always learning. Whether we are learning what we are intended to learn depends on a great many factors.

One idea that can bring some clarity to what is learned (or being learned) would be to step away from the situation, by time, distance and/or height. This most likely is not immediately possible and definitely won't insure against poor decisions. Sometimes, we're just destined to make poor decisions. I am convinced of the inevitability of that one. The key is to see the mistake and learn from it. Otherwise, (now quoting Lennon/McCartney) a long and winding road with a potential unmarked dead-end may await our older self.

Life has a way of making sure we keep things interesting for ourselves, whether we want it or not. With that in mind, keep it real, buy Don't Ever Forget, listen to Alpine Road many times and ponder this thought process for yourself. Consider your filters. I'm guessing your conclusion will be slightly or even completely different from mine. Cool!  = )

Jeff Van Devender

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