How serious is this problem ? By David Reid Otey

We have a problem, or do we ?  Maybe it’s only an inconvenience magnified by the fact that we hate  to be stopped to give extra thought to just about anything. Maybe we expect life to go continuously smooth on the basis of  feeling we deserve it that way.

Intensity, frustration, concern, doubt, fear–all of this stuff is prime plot material in movies and television shows, and many of us give ourselves a constant diet of this mind frame. It must affect us in some ways that are unhealthy for us. We live in a consistently electronic world where even programmed peace on television is interrupted by commercials. We are often subtly conditioned to interrupt our own thoughts, to train ourselves to be distracted on a schedule, tired of anything and everything after fifteen minutes, ready to make excuses every half hour to avoid and escape from anyone or anything.

One remedy is to try controlling  everything. Controlling our time, our thoughts, our actions, our plans, our steps to our dreams, our moments of breathing, talking and walking is a great demand upon our minds, bodies and spiritual sense. Where is the “surprise” in life going to take place with such watchful eyes upon every second, every person, every sound and movement?

Being aware and present is the most necessary factor to having ”sane” control: the kind of control which means we can 95% of the time respond correctly, appropriately and quickly to any frustrating or dangerous situation. Response is the key to control. We can have thoughtful responses based upon ability to predict points of interruptions, from inside or outside of us. Choosing planned times to focus on the steps of what is most important in our lives maintains the frequent and steady consistency needed for progress.

Maybe a problem belongs to someone else, who wants that problem to also belong to us with equal concern, intensity and time involvement. Maybe we choose to include ourselves in someone else’s problem of their making, to be a hero. Every problem needs three basic elements: time to analyze causes and solutions (which can take 2-4 hours average), comfort from friends and family (which can take from 2-4 hours), and action/response (which is up to the person who must do that part).

The time we take to involve ourselves in other’s problems must be given a specific and reasonable time limit. The comforting element has a purpose of building hope and confidence for the person to be able to make the chosen response. Dragging on this part of the process leads to codependency and helplessness, and will take time away from our own life needs.

Maybe the problems are not even ours to personally worry about. Wars and atrocities in other countries should not worry us, if we do not live anywhere near them. We can empathize with their needs. We can pray for them to resolve and reconnect in peace. We can donate money to funds targeted for their reliefs. We can prepare for how those events might affect some elements of our lives in our own country. In cases of other places being devastated by storms, we can travel there to be part of comfort and clean up if that’s part of our personal life goals. The point here is to stay away from an “end of the world” worrisome mindset. “End of the world” scenarios and media hype have been around for eons. We do our best in this world by staying focused on where we are, on what we dream to do, and on the steps of those dream goals along with our necessary daily needs.  Don’t worry, be aware.  Don’t worry, be focused. Don’t worry, be happy.  🙂








Kids are NOT Pill Boxes. By David Reid Otey

Kids are NOT Pill Boxes. By David Reid Otey

Pill boxes are nice for organizing the right pills for the right days and for the right times. This ensures having exactly what you need when you need it and in the right amount you need. There is no creativity involved in the process. It is cut and dry, simple as pie, easy as a straight line. Structure IS important for specific ultra sensitive issues such as medical needs and physical therapy and making healthy safe meals. Each of these areas have detailed task analysis, proven action-reaction relationships, undoubtable proven results from definite combinations of elements with very predictable expectations. BUT-kids are not THOSE kind of elements.

Kids are human beings. The variations of human beings cannot be simply classified by IQ, environment, heredity, neighborhood, county, state, country, continent nor economic status. The results of human reactions to thousands of variables have shown that one can always expect to be shocked and surprised at the predictable unpredictability of human beings. Senseless things can be of the upmost importance, like the songs, Red Solo Cup, and What does the Fox say. Humans shake their heads at each other, wondering if we as a species are going forwards or backwards, or maybe in consistent circles.

The attempts of government are to try really, really hard to force our species into some sort of straight line of great intellect and common sense, to save us from killing ourselves off or from making too many idiotic choices that could turn all of humanity upside down and drive us all back into caves. Standards have been the main chosen route to gauge the success of anything. Set a standard and make tests that match. Then make matching curriculums and the trio of success is certain. God bless the trinity of standards-test-curriculums. Great money maker, for sure. Great way to shake up a country into a state of confusion. While the public scrambles to deal with the pain and shell switch tactics being forced upon them, making them look the other way, government leaders associated with related businesses, who see the opportunities here, quickly make their moves for their own benefits.

I teach for a living. My occupation is steeped in absurdity. That means we are already working in a consistent fog. It is hard for us to see who is sneaking in to do us more harm than good. It’s never boring, that’s for certain. But it is very frustrating many times because the power we think we really have as teachers is only half as much as we are told. That’s ok, I guess. Because the real leaders of how things turn out are those little people sitting in the desks. You can try any trick you want. They all work for awhile, until the kids figure out the game—which their minds are always looking for–and then sabotage reigns.  Bandaid after bandaid, meaning standards after standards, cover a wound too deep to ever heal. I know this because I’ve watched the history of this nonsense. The government cannot apply the real medicine because of human unpredictability. Most of all the government cannot apply the medicine needed because it would mean losing their power, their hold over the districts monies, their demand to force education to be 99% College and University directed with no other equally viable alternatives. Absurdity Prime. Kind of like a game character isn’t it ?   End

Common Pits of education. By David Reid Otey 9-2014

Common Core education is the current life saver attempt for our country’s kids. Apples have cores. Then I thought–cherries have pits. There are a lot of pitfalls in education. Pitfalls that still didn’t stop our nation from producing the geniuses who developed the auto industry, the clothing mills, the medical, the legal and the psychological fields. Great laws have been written and passed by men and women educated by past curriculums full of pitfalls. Technology comes from great minds. For generations great minds sat in public education class rooms being taught by lesser minds using average curriculum. This not to say mediocrity is ok and should be accepted. I am pointing to the fact that the true energy, mindset, attitude, determination, creativity and desire to learn anything comes from within the student with the influence–positively or negatively driven–of family and friends and the overall environment of the community.

Now on my 21st year, I have been and still am a teacher of special education students. The pitfalls of public education that I see are the following.  Number one: Kids are made to learn sitting down most of the time.  Personally, I believe most people’s butts are made thicker to protect us when we fall down from wandering over rough terrain, as we investigate our world to discover and experiment with what we see. A professor of mine, Dr. Jani, told us that the process of learning comes in this formula to remember. MPCB: motor skills first, followed by perceptions followed by concepts leading finally to behaviors. He stated that poor exposure in either of the first two creates weakness and disabilities in the last two. The first creates the strength of the second and so on. I add to this the wonderful concept of multiple intelligences first sparked by Howard Gardner. Both ideas lead to how the best education process should be designed which is much more active than what we have been using for generations.

The second pitfall is creating confusion. I’ve told my students the following statement. ” You are very smart just as you are. You already know as much as what is written in five hundred books. You have been learning since the day you were born. Everything you’ve seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched and sensed inside of you has been stored into room type spaces in your brain. You never stop learning if you always stay aware.”  Then I tell them about what happens when they get to school. In school the knowledge they possess is broken down into little pieces they do not recognize. That confuses them and makes them feel ignorant and stupid. Then, if they cannot ”relearn” it to demonstrate it back to the teacher of confusion in the language and form they expect, the students feel like failures and begin to shut  down their natural inclination to be curious and wondering about anything. It becomes safer to simply accept the mind controlling toys to rest their brains upon.

The third pitfall is starving the brain. I have been fortunate in providing consistent food for my students throughout the day. They are allowed to eat during lessons in big group and during independent work times. They are allowed to eat mostly when they want to. I have fruits and vegetables and sometimes energy bars. They are better behaved and more focused because of that. I know and you know that every kid in every nation will eat all day during summer vacation to renew the energy of their wandering explorations. Their bodies burn food like crazy. Then during the school years they are fed only twice during a day instead of the four or more times they are used to. Food and education go together. I also believe that the more I tie food and learning together it is possible their brains stay engaged on thinking every time they sit down to eat.


JUST ONE ROUND TO GO. by David Reid Otey

One day will be the last day to do anything at all, and it might be blessed to extend into the night before the body gives up the spirit. For many there isn’t much time, if any at all, for reflection and change, for apologies and praises. So, I’m writing this all at one setting with no break, sitting in bed, a bit tired but feeling adventurous. 🙂 I will write about kids and poverty and teaching them because that is what I do for a living.

Every kid is normal for the genes they have, for the neighborhood they come from, for the brain training their families gave them and for the experiences and desires and dreams their clan direct them to.   Taught to try ? maybe, maybe not.   Taught to handle anything ? Maybe, maybe not. I call my special education kids ” swiss cheese” kids, because they know things out of order and have missing information. In the scope and sequence of learning topics, my kids can know the seventh thing without knowing the fourth. Probably because they somehow go together. They don’t have any problem with wanting to play, and they tire like all kids.  Butt they can’t keep up the pace. The other kids pass by the each one quickly. I love my work. I have variety, challenges, hope, adventure; a bunch of opportunities for contributing. And that’s why I give my grade school wonderlings some power of their own in our class. I am the example their parents cannot or will not be in guiding them to know how to see themselves as better than the insults and cruelty they will consistently have to deal with throughout their lives: the same negatives their parents experienced yet could not fight back against within their own psyche.  I allow the kids to find their talents and create with them in the class room. I give them trips to the world and to space on the school computer through virtual trips that are awesome. I give them cultural variety–the singing sisters and the Capitol Children’s Choir for the wonders of the human voice. It’s fine with me to hear a few of them sing like Peter Boyle in his characterization of Young Frankenstein. To me, it’s joy because their spirit is living and growing and experimenting without boundary, without fear. They watch artists create, like the painters who pour cups of paint over stacked blocks, to feel the call within themselves to ”play” with color and form and all of that.  One of my kids knows every single move of the pieces in Chess, and he almost kicked my butt in a game yesterday, laughing like an ape when he stole my Queen. I roared at him like a pirate. he laughed more. I can afford the time to let them ”become” some of what they are meant to be, to hopefully ”see” themselves as worthy and capable and imaginative.  There is marvel and magic and some of God’s creative power in every single person. What we can become and what we can create. What we can grow in and contribute towards. Those matter much more than conformity of knowledge.  And, so, now I must get some sleep. I have to say this was very hard to do when fighting sleep. 🙂 But I honestly made it–never once editing and never once leaving the laptop for a bathroom break. This round is up now. 🙂

Education–the struggles to get it right. Part One. By David Reid Otey

I teach Special Education for 95% of the finances I earn to eat, have a home, a car, clean clothes, pay bills: all the stuff you have to do, too. And it’s a big deal, really, to think about what ”real” life is. It’s being able to contribute to your own needs and desires first of all. Then life is made up of ”going somewhere” by having and practicing and perfecting skills in something you really want and like to do. That’s a brief synopsis of what education is ”supposed” to be for. Did I hear someone say, “How long have you been a teacher?” I’m glad you asked. Finishing fourteen years at this point. Plenty of time to absorb the challenges, to grow with the right turns and wrong turns of my planning and reacting choices, to eventually enjoy the security and reality of the absurdity of my occupation.

I love what I do. I love the variety of topics and of the kids. I love the electrical energy of curiosity and imagination from the grade school kids flowing all around me, as I walk up and down the halls. Their humor, their bravery, their “I own this world” disposition. The clock starts as soon as they show up for the free breakfast, forty-five minutes before the first class begins. I start then, too, because my morning duty is to help toss out leftovers when they bring up their trays. Rows of kids chatter, laugh, tease, maybe one will yell, but they all mingle. They all socialize, blend, slowly developing the future community. Out there dressed in many different ways, wearing various hair styles and walking proud, or meek, or somewhere in between, are the next business leaders, bankers, police force, medical personnel, social service people, art people, music people, everything under the sun. Maybe even one of the future Presidents of the United States is sitting there. I watch all of this, and I’m always thinking and imagining what their ”reality” will be. I wonder how well our system ”prepares” them for what they want to do rather than what everyone else wants them to do.

 You can read hundreds and hundreds of articles and newspaper reports about failing schools, angry parents, ”distant” politicians trying to “fix” schools in districts they don’t dare drive their cars into, school consolidations spreading like wild fires just to keep some form of education present for their youth, and especially about kids graduating high school with little to no sense about how to handle money, how to have a successful work ethic and attitude, or how to handle physical passion and personal relationships. The really crazy thing is that these reports come from every single generation in the United States, starting in the late 1800’s to the present.

A lot of money has been made for over a century now from ”utopian” curriculums, new ”paradigms” and many so called new ”cures” that promised to finally lead our youths and the nation to higher educational performance so that we can compete with the ”brains” of other countries. Well, guess what. Every new program isn’t really ‘new’. It’s always a redesigned format of something past generations have all seen before. The pretty packaging and the statements of ”scientifically proven and tested” for the new and improved curriculums and state standards are business as usual. Sometimes there are better ideas such as combining past programs that compliment and supplement each other, or that join the right and left hemispheres of the brain. But none of them touch the foundation of where all education begins. None of these programs can start where the spark of curiosity begins; in the homes of the children from the very first day they enter the house of the family they were born into. That is where it all begins.  

What I share next is to show the variety of emotional states of the students every school has and tries to teach. When I stand in front of my class and pass other classes during a walk down the hall, here is what I see. Kids that are loved by their families, kids that are tolerated by their families, kids that are almost hated by their families, and some kids with temporary families because their kin are dead or in jail, or simply ran away from the responsibility. I see kids who know more about drugs than some of the teachers, who know what pornography is and have seen it, who are used to having the police visit members of their families regularly and who know how get around town on their own late at night because no one at home cares where they are. I also see kids from families that are very poor but doing their best to work and make things balance out.  Single moms and single dads, working when they must, depending upon family to baby sit their kids. Then there are the poor families who have adults that don’t want to work and who have learned how to use the system. They’re not stupid, just lazy and living the way they want to. We also have the kids from homes where the parents care, work hard, know how to handle money, watch over their kids day and night, making sure they’re home by dark. There are more varied conditions and combinations of conditions. All of these conditions are what children live in and experience before they ever step into a school. I have learned that stereotypes fit reality maybe 60% simply by my observations. I have also learned that there are kids who want to learn, who have pride in themselves, who love to know things outside of their ‘home’ world and will work hard because they love what life offers—these kids come from every single condition I have listed. It was a curve ball surprise to me when I first noticed a ‘well-off’ kid manipulating, whining and throwing fits to get out of school work and try to get kicked out, and then see a poor kid in old clothes loving the school work and doing everything asked by the teacher, smiling, asking questions, really enjoying the process. It took awhile to see that attitude trumps everything else. The best books, the best programs, the best of anything is effective only if it is in the hands of a person with the right attitude.  End of Part One.