Be Open: Inspiration Comes From Everywhere

Many people act as though the future is something that happens to them rather than something that you can create every day. Have you thought about what inspires you? It is interesting to consider that inspiration comes from everywhere if you are open to the possibilities.

The definition of INSPIRE is: 

**to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

** to create (a feeling, especially a positive one) in a person.

Merriam Webster provides the word history of inspire.

This moving little word may be traced back to the Latin inspirare (“to breathe or blow into”), which itself is from the word spirare, meaning “to breathe.” It didn’t take long to establish itself in a figurative sense, as our earliest written English uses of inspire give it the meaning “to influence, move, or guide (as to speech or action) through divine or supernatural agency or power.” Many of the early figurative senses of inspire are religious in nature, so it is not surprising to learn that the word shares a connection with spirit (which comes from the Latin word for “breath,” spiritus, which is also from spirare).

I am not a church going person BUT that does not mean I am not open to inspiration, support and guidance found from living my day-to-day life. Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere.

I subscribe to a couple reading listservs. I receive a daily email with descriptions of suggested books in categories I self-selected.  Recently a book series was profiled, published by Guideposts.  Guideposts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the world to believe that anything is possible with hope, faith, and prayer. Their programs extend to writing workshops and encouraging wellness.  I didn’t know Guideposts published fiction so I read the profile and decided to get the first book in the series.

I ordered the book through interlibrary loan.  It is not “blog-worthy” news that I ran an errand to get my book last week…however…what I found in the book is quite inspirational and something I would like to share.

Inside the front cover of the book were two pieces of paper.  Someone (or maybe more than one person) typed the content on the pages on two different typewriters.  Also, I could see there were pin holes in the corners of each page. Someone had tacked these pages to a bulletin board or wall.

Guardian Tree Productions blog shares several articles on responsible living. One article, Finding Guidance in Your Life, connects to the ideas shared in my blog this week.  I believe that being open to inspiration that comes from everywhere is a key factor to finding your path in life.

Guardian Tree states, “The key to finding guidance in your life is to start being responsible for your own growth.”

A Great Teacher = An Educator

I have been a participant in and a member of the field of education my entire life.  Many members of my family also worked in this profession.  In fact, my twin sister worked in middle school/high school for 33 years.  I recently listened to a TEDxYouth Talk by Timmy Sullivan.  Timmy shared his perspectives on the differences between a teacher and an educator. Others in the field share the same insights and distinctions made by the speaker.

A teacher is someone who shows up for a teaching job every day. He or she knows the content and likely teaching like a job. Whereas an educator is one of those people who goes farther than what is expected. It’s the teacher who makes relationships with students more important than the content, but because of those relationships, the content comes alive (Sackstein, 2016).

An educator educates. That is, they present the information, asses, revisit, and assess again until they are satisfied with the LEARNING that has taken place. To have all students learning an educator needs to be proficient at all kinds of different strategies such as differentiation, meaningful assessments, authentic assessments, scaffolding, and on and on. If you call yourself an educator you show confidence that you know your stuff and that you are good at what you do. Teaching does not imply learning, only teaching. If your students haven’t learned after you have taught, you have still taught and fulfilled the role as teacher. Education implies that learning is involved (Johnston, 2017).

Educator and teacher are two words that appear to be synonyms at first, but there are subtle differences between these two words. When compared with educator, teacher merely refers to a job title; teacher is a person who teaches in a school. But, an educator is a person who educates students. A good teacher can be called an educator. This is the main difference between educator and teacher (Hasa, 2016).

After listening to the TedTalk and reading on the idea of how learning and education can span a lifetime, I asked my sister about her experiences.  Interestingly, when I asked her who inspired her to pursue education as a career her response was the same as mine.  Our first influential educator was Miss B. 

Who or what inspired you to be a teacher?  

The person who inspired me the most to become a teacher was Miss B.  She was someone who, not only taught the skills needed for the class, but was also a person who was respected by the students and teachers for her candor, her sense of humor, and her ability to teach in a classroom setting as well as in the gym.  She was someone a person could learn from by just being around her and, students wanted to be around her.  I still think about her quite a bit and still laugh when I remember the “championship” badminton game that Miss B. and her partner challenged us to in our senior physical education class.  The class, as well as my sister and myself, “knew” there was no chance two “old ladies” could win this game.  Well, another lesson wasc taught by Miss B…..she and her partner actually stood in one spot throughout the game and proceeded to, literally and figuratively, run us around the court. We were humbler and ‘sweatier” from this experience.

What was your favorite lesson/topic to teach and what made this lesson/topic unique? 

I would have to say that the unit on Ecology has been a favorite.  The unit lends itself to discussions beyond the basic content. We talked about caring for the environment and how decisions made to improve our lifestyle can negatively affect the natural world.  Students interacted during a brief discussion about how and why decisions to improve the efficiency and ease at which we live could negatively affect the animals, the atmosphere, etc. Students began to understand that learning and becoming knowledgeable in areas they may not originally have any interest in will help them be able to make informed decisions in their future.  In the short time we were able to spend on this unit the students created thinking maps, worked together on computer and lab activities, and we had another fun review game using the SMART Board while students competed with their “teams”.  When I was able to “step back” and just watch my students, I saw them engaged, happy, confident, and excited about the quality of their work and their ability to carry on some “science discourse” as they “taught” each other and reflected on their answers.

How did you differentiate instruction for the different learning styles and abilities in your classroom?

To me, the goal of differentiating is to maximize each student’s academic and personal growth so that they develop the ability to take control of their own lives and learning.  When planning a unit, the first question in my mind is, “How do I divide time, resources, and myself so that I am an effective catalyst for maximizing the talent in all my students?” My priority is ALWAYS to ensure that curriculum is coherent, important, inviting, and thoughtful.  Every student must think at a high level AND must receive support when doing it.  I use flexible grouping throughout each unit.  Students may work individually, with their partner, with their lab group, or with their teams during any given unit. I have placed students in these groups based on their personal attributes, academic skills, attendance, and reading levels. As I consider the “whole” of what I cover during a given unit and I try to create a core of engaging activities to select from as I move day to day throughout the unit.  These activities include the use of technology, manipulatives, Thinking Maps, Cornell notes, lab investigations, creative projects and writing conclusions or summary statements on their Cornell notes (we call these our AH HA moments).

What did you think/hope your students would say about you after they left your class? 

I believe my students would say that I was someone who never wavered from the high expectations I had for them regarding their academic performance and their personal behavior.  They would say I was “tough”, consistent, treated them with respect and that I was straight forward and honest with them. They knew what to expect every day and they felt comfortable in my room. I also hope that they would be able to verbalize to others that they saw how much I cared about them and how much I enjoyed my “job”. They would say that I taught them more than just science. 

Describe your best day as a teacher.  What made this day so significant?     

I saw a quote in the gym when I was working out that said, “Your goal is not far if you believe in yourself.”  This is exactly what I want my students to know and understand as they leave my class and move on to 10thgrade.  My best day as a teacher comes in small parts rather than a whole.  It is when I see a student’s confidence build, when a student who never makes eye contact finally is assured and feels safe enough in the room to look at me or his classmates, when students interact with each other with respect, when a student earns a score on a test that he/she never thought they were able to achieve, when I am talking with a student about her importance to the group she is in and she understands well enough that her leadership is important that she says, “Oh, you mean I am the glue”. 

Some of her colleagues shared the following when nominating her for teacher of the year.

“She does whatever it takes to make each student achieve their best. She is great at analyzing data, the whole student, and searching for the best method or strategy to meet their needs.”

“As test coordinator, she helped me with a student lacking motivation.  She made a connection with him in about 3 seconds.  At once he was open with her and laughing at jokes, and I think it was because she made it clear IMMEDIATELY that she CARED about him.  It was a very impressive thing to watch.”

“She is the kind of person who gets things done without asking, which I really am trying to emulate.  While I am trying to figure out what people what me to do, she is in the process of doing it!”

“I am constantly amazed by the fact that she is knee deep in at least 4 or 5 major projects and is usually in charge of at least half of those projects.  However, it was not until today that I truly realized her strengths when I saw her go after a REAL student problem.”

Alrubail (2015) Edutopia article, The Heart of Teaching: What It Means to Be a Great Teacher” provides characteristics of a great teacher.

You are…My sister
KindYou show kindness to students, colleagues, parents, and those around you.Yes
CompassionateYou show feelings of understanding and concern.Yes
EmpatheticYou put yourself in someone’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Yes
PositiveYou stay positive when it’s tough and this has a tremendous positive impact on the students and everyone.Yes
A builderYou bridge gaps and build relationships, friendships, and a community. You look to make things better and improve things in and outside of the classroom. Yes
InspirationalYou uncover hidden treasures, possibilities, and magic. Yes

A great teacher is an educator. It seems to me that we are all learners and educators whether we are directly connected to an educational institution or not.  I believe we can be kind, compassionate, empathetic, positive, a builder, and inspirational throughout our life. Working in an educational setting as I did, my sister, my family members, my friends, and others provides us the opportunity to make a difference. Let’s hope that we continue that work once we depart the boundaries of the campus.

I followed Timmy’s suggestion to list my “teachers” from the past. My list included not only classroom teachers but also administrators, colleagues, friends. It was easy to determine which of those individuals on the list were my “educators”. Many of the most influential “educators” in my life held a position other than teacher. I encourage you to listen the TEDxYouth Talk. Then create your own list.

My questions to you are:

**Who are the people who have done the most to influence your personal development?

**In what ways were they influential?

**Are you a teacher OR an educator??

“The greatest good you can do for another
is not just to share your riches,
but to reveal to him his own.”

What I Learned From Dad’s First Job

A few weeks ago, I wrote a couple blogs on Keepsakes and Sharing Stories.  These blogs intended to relate and connect to the idea of keeping memories alive.  I often listen to NPR and especially like Story Corps episodes.  While listening to a couple podcasts this week, I realized that I did not know the story behind several of my keepsakes.  In my Keepsakes blog I shared a picture of the truck my Dad used for his first business.  I stated:

I have a replica of a 1948 F1 Green Ford pick-up in my office. The significance is my Dad started his first business using that truck. He believes “we are all made up of potentials which can grow to be actuals” so that’s what I believe!!

So now I was wondering, what IS the “story” of this truck and Dad’s first business.  All I knew was Dad loves trucks and he had a hauling business.  I had no “story”.

NPR describes Story Corps as:  

Stories of the human heart. A candid, unscripted conversation between two people about what’s really important in life: love, loss, family, friendship. When the world seems out of hand, tune in to StoryCorps and be reminded of the things that matter most.  


I knew the truck, and the business was important to Dad.  I wanted to preserve this story.  I interviewed my Dad to find out more.  Below is the story.

Dad, I have a replica of the 1948 green Ford F1 truck in my office.  You gave it to me many years ago as an incentive to work hard and achieve my goals.  I know the truck represents your first job.  I do not know the details of the job so let’s discuss it a bit. 

What was your first job and why the 1948 Ford F1?

As a lover of trucks AND a devout believer in the free enterprise system I stepped out on faith and traded my 1931 Model A Ford Coupe for the truck and started a hauling business.  At the time of purchase, in 1954, I had no idea that this truck was the first of a series for Ford that is known today as the F150 and the most popular seller worldwide for over 60 years.  

Tell me more about the truck.

As I relive those days and think about the truck’s overall appearance most folks would towed it to the scrap heap rather than overhaul it.  The seat had springs popping through the seat covers, floor mats in pieces, exterior dents, tears, and blemished finish.  It was not much to look at.  Within the first week I needed to replace transmission.  I had already obligated myself to a credit of $200 in trade for repairs.  I was at wits end about what to do next.  I made a call to the dealer and he settled by problem by sending a wrecker to tow the truck and repair it at no cost.

Why did you want to start the hauling business?

My part-time work at the service station was not steady enough but it was a good fill-in.  I had the truck payment, I helped out at home including a new washing machine, and managed to buy 8 acres of wooded land in the city limits. Age and experience at age 15 and up kept me from my most desired work with trucks but the ol’ F1 gave me a start toward being a real trucker.  My high school time was 100 percent daytime – no sports.  The only night activity was Wednesday night prayer meeting.  My nights were school assignments, paperwork for business and calls for hauling work.  There was no TV and only one radio and it was in the kitchen for mealtime.  Usually there was livestock duties also.  My coal/wood customers were also customers whose cinders and trash were done by the F1.

You were in high school when you started the business, right? How did you manage school and work?

Yes, I was in high school when I started the hauling business.  My high school time was 100 percent daytime – no sports.  The only night activity was Wednesday night prayer meeting.  My nights were school assignments, paperwork for business, some livestock duties and calls for hauling work.  There was no TV and only one radio and it was in the kitchen for mealtime.  

Timing during my school week was most critical since I had 1½ hours to make two coal pickups before the mine closed.  As I exited the school bus and headed to my truck, I started unlacing my white bucks and coat.  Then changed clothes, as I drove, to combat boots and a work coat.  A very patient and proud mother, who always stressed free enterprise, was eager to daily wash those coal-dirty clothes for her businessman son to use the next day.  Food never tasted so good as we sat at mom’s table after a rail yard coal pickup.  Dad often helped on weekends when the work was most labor intensive. 

Tell me more about the business.  What services did the hauling business do for your community?

***My first job was to pick up a load of wood scraps for grandma’s two wood stoves at a sawmill 15 miles away.  That round trip was full of doubts, fears, and apprehension. I had become a businessman.  From this first load forward, I was able to make truck payments and satisfy my personal needs for high school.  

***My hauling included loads of trash, cinders, scrap wood products, coal, and pickup /delivery services.  The only mechanical loading into my truck was from coal mine chutes. This meant I had to unload the coal by shovel.  Hauling many loads of wood meant piece by piece throwing wood in and out of the truck. It was time consuming and exercise intensive, indeed.  

***The coal hauling for our household and my grandparents was a much different exercise.  That coal, free for pickup, had fallen off the railcars. I loaded up in pieces by hand and placed into 5-gallon buckets. Then carried to the truck out along the road.  The rougher the engineer treated the cars, the more I cheered him on as my payload increased….more coal fell off the train and was free if I was willing to put in the work to gather it up.  It was like finding black gold. 

In what ways did the business grow or expand through the years?

While still in high school, business was successful in a big way with the F1.  So much so I bought a second truck.  A 1953 Dodge pickup (Heavy Duty) and with a fluid drive transmission.  The Dodge had been “run hard and put away we” in southern Illinois terms.  A cattle dealer hauled huge animals and bent the bed of the truck, the rear fenders were loose, but the paint was shiny and the “job rated” emblem on the grill was pristine.  From a distance this truck looked too modern for a kid whose household had never had a family auto and few modern conveniences.  

I will never forget a fellow student telling me I could never pay for that thing and go to school.  

To the surprise of my classmate and others, business got even better.  To everyone’s surprise my competitor, with a big, black, shiny Ford dump truck, even turned his truck over to me for big loads and busy schedules.  

Why did the business close and what were some of the outcomes?

During the years of my hauling company I kept my school grades up and both trucks going.  I even filled in at the local service station on weekends.  Much to my surprise in July 1956 I received a 4-year full scholarship to college.  It was most unexpected.  Mom was disappointed when I phased out the business.  She had dreamed of the day of many more trucks and endless opportunities for my business.  Sometimes I wish I had followed mom’s advice.  I loved that business too.

How did this work and having your own business make you feel?  What are your thoughts about how this first business helped you with your future career path?

Any businessman could not have been prouder than I was during those days. It was amazing what determination and obligation did for me.  I always said, “We are all made up of potentials which get to be actuals under the stress of circumstance.”  I have never believed in luck – through faith we meet opportunities and combine them with work and realize results that some may call “luck”.

This country affords many opportunities for those with faith, willingness to labor, and some management abilities.  There are endless opportunities.  

I learned from this story that success does not happen overnight. If you work hard, it would eventually pay off. I am not dreaming big enough if I can achieve my goal overnight. Each day is an opportunity to do better, be better, be useful, and enjoy life…each day is an opportunity to “learn as you go”.  This learning is not just intellectual improvement.  This learning is social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and motivational. At the end of the day you are stronger, wiser, and happier.

Stories can translate to a sense of identity and well-being…do you have a story to share OR a partial story you might want to explore?  

Student Development & Learning: It Takes a Village

A few days ago, I came across an article from the Leadership Exchange by Tull (2018) titled Revisiting the Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV).  The American Council on Education Committee on Student Personnel Work (1937) report The Student Personnel Point of View was one of the first documents supporting development of the total student.  SPPV provided higher education with the guiding principles focusing on the collaborative responsibility of educating young adults.

“…the full maturing of each student cannot be attained
without interest in and integrated efforts toward
the development of each and every facet
of his/her personality and potentials.”

Tull’s article points out that the SPPV initiated the call for cooperation between and across disciplines. 

“We must remind ourselves of the value
of shared partnerships to create conditions
that matter for those that we currently serve and
for future students.”

Reading Tull’s article reminded me of my work in higher education.  You can read more about my background and see that I am a supporter of those who believe it is the role of the entire institution to ensure student development and learning.

It has been 80+ years since the American College Personnel Association published the SPPV and 30 years since I completed my doctoral research addressing the impact of the out-of-class experience on student development.  The guiding principles that framed my philosophy and pointed the direction of my research and career path resulted from works expanding on the tenets of the Student Personnel Point of View.  Below I want to share a historical perspective on the academic/co-curricular connection and make some associations to today.  As you read the comments below think about your own educational experience. Consider how each segment of your development and learning intertwines.

Havighurst (1953) wrote about human development and education He stated in the opening remarks of his book that “living is learning and growing is learning.  To understand human development, one must understand learning.  The human individual learns his way through life.” 

Even today I aspire to put action to these words through my blog as I write about how we can integrate wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.  Human development (our personal development) cannot be categorized by a chronological age, it is a lifelong process of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, ideas, and experiences. It is the process of learning.

Today educational philosophy emphasizes how learning takes place under varied circumstances outside of the traditional teacher-centered classroom experience.  We hear increasingly more about student-centered learning, action learning, leisure learning. There is a need for engaging activities that continue to connect the academic and co-curricular aspects of learning.

B.B. Crookston (1972) defines student development as the “application of the philosophy and principles of human development in the education setting” (p.12).  Specifically related to higher education, student development describes the impact of the institutional environment and experiences on students.  Loy and Kenyon, 1969 and Moore 1966 describe the sport environment as a mini-society or a participatory model of life.  If we agree that this is a valid description, it should follow that the development in the larger world and those in the sport environment are similar. I have discussed in prior blogs my thoughts on the impact of sports participation on development.  Harding (1971) grounds my connection of the academic/co-curricular experiences as an education goal by stating that “participation in sport as strictly recreational is passe.” (p. 39).  These ideas apply to any out-of-class experience.  Again, consider how each segment of your development and learning intertwines.

The vast potential for development during early adulthood is one of the major challenges in higher education today.  We generally agree that attending college has a significant effect of both the continuous and cumulative development of young adults.  Early adulthood described by Havighurst (1950), is not only the most individualistic period of life but also the fullest of teachable moments.  The phrase total student development (body, mind, spirit) often included in college mission statements as a descriptor of the college experience. I wrote about aligning departmental mission and goals with institutional priorities in my blog Recreational Sports Contributes to Student Development. Creating a collaborative teaching and learning community striving to meet this mission is the key to enhancing student development. 

Student development philosophy became the foundation of higher education. With this increased awareness of total student development, it places more responsibility on the individual student to be an active participant in his or her own development. 

Miller (1982) and Widick, Knefelkamp, and Parker (1980) outline the aims of higher education.  The purpose of higher education is not developed in a vacuum.  Society is a result of the educational system as much as the system is a result of society. American higher education focuses on self-realization, human relationship, and civic responsibility.  Ever since the SPPV administrators adopted a developmental orientation emphasizing and responding to the whole person, attending to individual differences, and working with students at their level of development.  

Developmental and learning contributions in and out of the classroom setting continue to be widely accepted.   The purpose of the out-of-class programs took on a more integrated approach. The focus was to provide students with opportunities that will aid them in achieving a better state of being.  We should direct all these experiences toward the individual’s total development: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual. These experiences incorporate attitudes and behaviors such a promoting independence, critical thinking, citizenship, helping individuals to understand self and other, and managing emotions.

American higher education charges the professional community with three broad functions.  These functions are teaching, research, and service.  Higher education personnel strive to transform intent and apply theory to practice.  Student development theory serves as a core construct around which we had set goals, developed and organized programs, and evaluated outcomes.  

Doyle (2004) wrote:

In the mid-1980s, the Study Group on the Conditions for Excellence in Higher Education and several other groups (AAC, 1985; Boyer, 1987) were advocating the importance of student learning in higher education. A group of student affairs leaders recognized this move toward learning and were intrigued by the role of students’ active involvement in learning. These leaders, who included George Kuh, John Schuh, and Elizabeth Whitt, acknowledged the critical role of student affairs in stimulating student involvement in learning and strategically positioned student affairs at the crux of student learning outside the classroom. In their 1991 book Involving Colleges: Successful Approaches to Fostering Student Learning and Development Outside the Classroom (Kuh et al.), the authors compiled a summary of the research documenting the positive impact of the out-of-class environment on student involvement in learning. The book was based on a one year investigate on of how 14 four-year colleges and universities created intellectually stimulating environments outside of class. This book was closely followed by The Role and Contribution of Student Affairs in Involving Colleges (Kuh & Schuh, 1991) which used case studies to identify the steps that student affairs divisions could take in creating an involving college.

The understanding of the relationship of personal development and learning began to evolve. Student involvement in learning was the key to successful development and learning. I make the argument that a by-product of involvement is learning.

Additional publications from higher education organizations have been recognized for promoting student learning and encouraging collaboration across campus include:

The Student Learning Imperative (1996)  Discusses how out-of-class experiences can enhance student learning and personal development.

Principles of Good Practice (1997)  Outlines guidelines to achieve the educational missions by focusing on student learning.

Powerful Partnerships (1998)  All those who take part in the educational mission of institutions of higher education — students, faculty, and staff — share responsibility for pursuing learning improvements. 

Learning Reconsidered (2004)  Argues for integrating higher education’s resources in the education and preparation of the whole student. 

Learning Reconsidered 2 (2006)  Provide guidelines on how to put into practice the recommendations in Learning Reconsidered.

Today these publications guide the work in higher education.

**Preston & Peck (2016) cite Learning Reconsidered when discussing leadership development influenced by out-of-class experiences.

**Henning (2016) cite Learning Reconsidered when discussing assessment of the out-of-class experience.

**One of the most recent applications of the above works is Dunlap (2019).  She writes, in the NASPA Blog, an article on Online Learning Reconsidered.

The goal of higher education IS to enhance personal development and student learning.  Over the past 80+ years the path to achieve this goal has changed and evolved.  However, I think, and I believe that through all this time we as educators have two fundamental principles.

**First…higher education program depends heavily on the characteristics of the students attending  

**Second…higher education must recognize that there is more to learn than what is in books.

Student Learning, It Takes a Village

Practitioners and educators can operationalize these ideas by:

1. Don’t tell students, ask them to discover. The more we tell them, the less they learn.

2. We are here to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate, to make suggestions, point out problems, and above all, ask questions.

3. We are here to help them become their own explorers, inquirers, questioners, discoverers, experimenters.

4. We are here to help students learn how to learn and to learn to teach themselves.

5. We are here to raise questions, not provide answers; they are here to learn to question answers, not answer questions.