Using this Blog in the Classroom

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Good evening everyone,

Having thought a bit more about the direction of this blog, I am starting to wonder about the implications of sharing this website with my students and their parents. I know that the words I write here are inscribed with truth in my mind and love in my heart, but…

  • Would there be a backlash?
  • Would students be more or less motivated to learn by seeing this?
  • Can I broaden the targeted audience from just “Teachers” to “Teachers, Students, Parents, and Administrators” without lessening my impact on each?

In the end, my thoughts all come back to the fact that this blog could go well with some schools and terribly with others. So let’s see if I can predict some details about the school I might be teaching in.

Setting and Objective

I will be teaching 10th Grade Biology students in a public high school, somewhere in Michigan’s Southeastern lower peninsula. My goal is to introduce students to my style and use of technology in the classroom by challenging them to navigate to a variety of websites and applications, this blog being one of the many, while recording a series of screenshots on the way. If my school is a 1-to-1 computing school, all of the students will be able to use a laptop at the same time. Otherwise, a portable laptop station would have to be used for this activity.

Learner Characteristics

Fixed Characteristics

  • Gender
    • Male ~48%
    • Female ~49%
    • Other ~2%
  • Ethnicity Estimates (Source):
    • White: 68.1%
    • Black or African American: 12.6%
    • Asian: 10.9%
    • Population of 2 or more races: 6.6%
    • Hispanic / Latino: 4%
    • One other race alone: 1.5%
    • Native American or Alaska Native: 0.3%
    • Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 0.04%

Variable Characteristics

  • Age: 14 – 16
  • English Language Learning (ELL) Students: ~4%
  • Students with IEPs: ~11%
  • Possible Interests
    • Video Games
      • League of Legends
      • Call of Duty
      • Destiny
      • World of Warcraft
      • The Sims
    • Social Media
      • Facebook
      • Twitter
      • Pinterest
    • Smart Phone Apps
      • Instagram
      • Snapchat
      • Flappy Bird
      • Draw Something
      • Angry Birds
    • Binge-watching Web-based TV
      • Breaking Bad
      • Sherlock
      • Doctor Who
      • The Walking Dead
    • Taking photos of themselves in various ways

The list of possible interests goes on an on… These are just some prevalent behaviors that I have seen and heard 10th grade students particularly enjoying.

Prerequisite Skills

For a learner to complete an activity in which they navigate through a list of websites and apps and taking snapshots, they must be at least moderately proficient in the following skills before entering class:

  • Reading
  • Using a touch-based track pad or mouse
  • Navigating in our laptops’ particular OS, arranged by likelihood of use from top to bottom
    • Chrome
    • Windows
    • Mac
    • Linux

This exercise will inherently test whether or not students are capable of doing these things, so long as I successfully create the opportunity for students to raise their hands and ask for help. By working with students one-on-one, I should be able to make notes about the particular challenges that students called me over for.

Learning Traits

Students at this age and in this area might have certain commonalities with respect to the way they process information. For example, young children before age 2 have difficulty with the idea of object permanence. Students in my classroom might:

  • Have difficulty constructing mental images of abstract objects
  • Have difficulty verbalizing an abstract concept
  • Have difficulty assembling meaning from non-linear exposition
  • Have difficulty performing a task without receiving explicit instructions for it
  • Answer extended-response questions with limited or incomplete responses
  • Respond with “I don’t know” when a difficult question is asked
  • Have difficulty paying attention after sitting still for longer than 10 minutes
  • Not see value in learning math or science

Implementation

If my blog were to be a component of this “Getting to Know Technology and Mr. So-and-so” activity, I am supposing that it could be either beneficial, neutral, or harmful to the learning process. If, for example, I presented material here that specifically mentioned students that irritated me, or griped about parents that were troublesome… that could be terribly harmful, since students might think I’m talking about them or their parents behind their backs too! I would never do such a thing though. Further, if I teach in an area that is intolerant of Buddhism, Non-Christian, or, conversely, religious expression, there might be issue taken with the fact that I use Eastern philosophical thought often here on my blog. This would fall somewhere between neutral and harmful. If, by some grace in the universe, the students had already received some degree of understanding regarding Eastern philosophy, it could be the start of a very interesting discussion regarding science in the context of culture, as well as a discussion about questions regarding the differences supernatural and natural phenomena. That, I think, would be beneficial.

Or, perhaps, a parent might see this as a way to force Buddhism or Eastern thought upon their impressionable child’s minds… Which it is not, by the way. That could quite quickly lead to conflict, which is the least of my intentions. However… I have no idea how I would either prevent or handle that situation.

I wish to share my ideas regarding teaching and unattached loving… But the inherent nature of both of those things is that their implementation is vastly different from person to person, and that some people may be offended by another’s way of carrying either out. Ultimately, I am unsure of whether or not to make my blog explicitly available to students at the beginning of the year. My hope is that knowing me better will put students at ease enough to improve their ability to learn from me… However, I fear that parents may react negatively to the idea of me being open or foreign in that regard.

So, it comes down to this.

What do you think I should do?

Please leave a comment below to let me know if you think I should make this blog available to my students in the future. I would appreciate any thoughts on the matter quite a bit, so be brief or be lengthy: Either way helps loads.

Whatever you choose, I hope the day finds you well.

Thank you all, and may you have a great night.

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Loving-Kindness

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metta yin yang

Good afternoon everyone,
On my second post, I thought it would be appropriate to describe the fundamental nature of the “Loving” half of my blog’s namesake, as I conceived of it. If you were to ask one person on the street what they think the word “love” means and then proceeded to ask the same question from another person within the same hour, almost certainly you would receive different answers. In my experience I have found love to be a very widely used, very broadly defined term.


In fact, I would invite you to stop reading now if you are able to do something spontaneous. Do what I just suggested a moment ago: Ask two different strangers nearby to you, one at a time, what they think the word “love” means.

There are a variety of ways that you can ask the question, so here is a brief article by Harpaz & Lefstein on formulating genuine, evocative questions. 


So, in the case of my blog’s title, I mean to spread ideas which facilitate the creation and growth of “Loving-Kindness” in the minds of students, fellow teachers, and listeners of all other sorts. Loving-Kindness (I usually hate capitalizing things that are not proper nouns, but in this case I find it suitable) is subject to a variety of definitions as well, however I will choose to narrow it down to my favorite and most clear form. Loving-Kindness is the chosen English translation of several historical terms from, but not limited to, the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Greek philosophy. Here is a short list of links in case you would like to begin investigating the variety of definitions therein:

I particularly prefer Mettā. The Buddhist notion of Loving-Kindness according to the Kagyu lineage seems to me that of a mental state, more than an action per se. Specifically, I would define it as the attitude that one consciously cultivates in an effort to free yourself from the impulsive reactions of fear and aggression by redirection the thought pattern from a wandering state to an intentional positivity, gentleness, compassion, understanding, concern, and non-attached connection to the various consciousness’s encountered from day to day. As complicated, difficult, and contradictory as some of that may seem, I can say from experience that it becomes easier with practice. Further, the notion of Loving-Kindness itself explains why you shouldn’t worry if you don’t succeed at it right away: no matter what stage of discovery along this path an individual consciousness occupies, they all deserve the same dignities and love. 

Whether you’re a downright criminal adult or a mistake-prone middle-schooler, each entity deserves the chance to experience the feeling of being truly and genuinely loved in a way that is so rarely felt. If practicing Loving-Kindness on the street and I happen to pass a beggar in the street, there’s no romance, there’s no feeling that he needs me to help, there’s no feeling of being closer to nibbāna than them… Preciesly what my mind experiences is the feeling of loving-kindness. This feeling may lead to the complex act of alms-giving or a discussion regarding the Dharma, but neither of those actions is explicitly the purpose of loving-kindness in the situation. The very act of genuinely compassionate engagement with the beggar is good alone. Attachment to the beggar’s reaction to your state of loving-kindness, however, is not. 

Ultimately, practicing this as a constant attitude toward other people, animals, and whatever else, ought to allow you the opportunities to formulate and enact any plans and actions that otherwise might be compromised by your unequal bias toward your favorite conscious entities (and that’s okay to experience for a lifetime, in fact, but clarity of thought and action seem to be virtuous goals to strive for in the meantime). 

So. 

If you feel like practicing all of this in a way that’s aligned with actual Buddhist tradition, rather than my own personal thoughts, here are a few good links to explanations and guides for exploring the state of Loving-Kindness:

Now, if you would like to join me, I wish to part with you in a way aligned with the content of this post. I am in a coffee-shop surrounded by hustle and hubbub, but the quality of the consciousnesses around me seems well-spirited. In just a moment after writing this sentence, I will take at least 5 minutes to meditate on an attitude of Loving-Kindness first toward all of the present consciousnesses of the people in the room, then to all of their future states, then to you and the global collection of consciousnesses, then to the global collection of all consciousnesses through all non-beginning time, then to all universal entities, conscious or not, then to all spatial and non-spatial forms along with all temporal and non-temporal forms encompassing reality…




Let me know how your experiences go.

Namaste.

Welcome,

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This is my first blog post here on WordPress, but I hope to make it a regular habit. Whether you’re seeing this in late July or some time far from that, I welcome you and appreciate your exploratory nature, as well as your willingness to read my thoughts from the beginning… truly.

Thank you for stopping by my page today, and I hope you read me again some time in the near future.

With an open heart,