Category Archives: Teaching

the power of listening

Simply put, there is nothing, nothing in the world, that can take the place of one person intentionally listening or speaking to another. —Jacob Needleman

Opening our Hearts to One Another

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Visual Expressions of Meaning

Last post, I shared a bit about the important difference between explanation and expression and some of my experiences with these differences. I also promised to share what happened when I invited students in my college classes to visually communicate the meaning of their learning experiences.   Here are a few amazing expressions of knowledge and insight.

Pam’s visual expression….. in her own words (condensed)

It’s name is the USS Contemplation.  Each mast contains a genre and the sails equate the outline of what I have learned during this quarter. 

The mirrors placed throughout the ship represent  ”reflections” of what we have learned.  A couple of the mirrors are placed so that individuals can see themselves.  This is to show that we have not only learned about giving speeches but have also learned things about ourselves.  I find myself  thinking and contemplating  that if the attitude of support, encouragement and kindness were displayed by the majority of people in our communities, in spite of our differences, just how much could be accomplished.  People finding common ground and working together, building each other up, helping each other, growing together for the good and betterment of everyone’s future.

Want to see more?>>>>> keep going….


Filed under Art and Learning, Community, Misc, Teaching

Making sense of our experiences

Sometimes, you run across an idea that jumps out and grabs your soul, not once, but again and again, resonating in thought and practice. The result is a rattling, a seismic shake-up, a new possibility that dares you to experiment with your own interpretation of the idea.  That’s what happened to me when I read Peter Reason’s and Peter Hawkins’  ‘Storytelling as Inquiry.” Reason and Hawkins take apart and reveal differences (and opportunities) between explanation and expression.

Explanation, wrote Reason and Hawkins,  is the mode of classifying, conceptualizing, and building theories from experience. Here the inquirer stands back, analyzes, discovers and invents concepts, and relates these to a theoretical model….orthodox science is an exercise in explanation – endeavoring to answer the question of what and why.

Expression is the mode of allowing the meaning of an experience to become manifest. It requires us to partake deeply of an experience, rather than stand back to analyze. Meaning is part and parcel of all experience – although it may be so interwoven with experience that it is hidden. It needs to be discovered, created, or made manifest and communicated. We work with meaning when we tell stories, write and act in plays, write poems, meditate, create pictures…..

Soon after I read this back in 2002, I started experimenting with a fresh understanding of expression and meaning by inquiring into my own experiences in pictures, in my case visual art. I ‘tried’ to enter the experience,  sense its shape, color, patterns and make it visible. Below is one example of my inquiry.

Later,  I experimented more with ‘expression’ when I invited participants in my college classes to communicate the meaning of their learning experiences.

More about this in my next post.

Reason, Peter & Hawkins, Peter 1988, “Storytelling as Inquiry” in Peter Reason (ed), Human Inquiry in Action: New Developments in New Paradigm Research, London: Sage.


Filed under Art and Learning, Misc, Teaching

THE Right Way to Read –

Love this story by John McKnight about the right way to read.

More good stuff at “Abundant Community.”

Have you every felt your ideas, experiments, dreams sabotaged or undermined by the right way? Or by best practices? Or by we don’t do that here?


Filed under Community, Reading, Teaching

Be Good to Yourself – Be Your Own Best Friend

Patty Foote, a student in my public speaking course wrote the following essay in preparation for her ‘Persuasive’ Speech delivered to the member of her class (115 so1) at Southern State Community College in June 2011. Originally posted on the class blog. With Patty’s permission and my GREAT JOY, I’m re-posting it here.


I knew from the beginning of the quarter what I would want my persuasive speech to be, and now that I have gotten to know everyone somewhat and got a glimpse into your lives, I know this is the perfect choice for this audience – YOU!


As I have listened to all of you the past two months, I have no other message that I think is more important.  I have done a good deal of reflection since going back to school.  When I listened to your own stories and reflections, I can identify and connect with many of you.  Trust me, I have many more years of life experience than all of you and I have spent years of what you might call just surviving because I did not know my value, or I let someone else define it.  I am far from that road I was on and still traveling away from it.

I will discuss these points; I like to call them valuable thought lessons.

Thought lesson 1 – You are Important

Thought lesson 2 – You Deserve the Best in your Life

Thought lesson 3 – Learn from your Past

Thought lesson 4 – Be Good to Yourself, Be Your Own Best Friend

You are Important

There is only one you on this planet, Earth.  You have talents, gifts and ideas that no one else has or can offer to this world.  You are unique and no one can take your place.  Don’t let anyone in your present, your past or your future dictate who you are and where you are going.  The people that surround you will be better off because you are in their life.  You are Important. Remember that!

You Deserve the Best in your Life

The Best contains all your goals, your dreams and any star that you dare to reach out and grasp.  Don’t settle for less than what you wish for.  Write your goals and your dreams down and go after them.  If you don’t know what your goals are right now and are finding your way, that’s okay.  Just wait on it – it will come.  It’s okay to be uncertain.  Live everyday being confident in who you are.  Just live everyday the best you can.

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Where do we go, when we allow art to move us?

The following post was authored by Heather, an artist, writer, thinker and part-time fairy-wing-wearer who, I’m happy to say,  is a student in my Art History Class. On her blog, Art Moves Us, she chronicles her inquiry into art.

Before I started this inquiry question of “How does art move us?” or “What causes art to move us?” I already knew that art did in fact move us. I had learned that from many moments of awestruck physical reactions to art. I also feel like art can move us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It can stretch us, shape us, color us, mold us, and reflect upon us (isn’t it funny that art can do to us the very same things that we do to art?).

Now I seem to have journeyed into the realm of “Where do we go?” or “Where can art take us?” and I love it! I feel like using quotes from “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, but that is just what pops into my head when I think of those two questions. The possibilities are endless. Physically art can take artists around the globe and back again, as they explore new inspirations to paint. It can take viewers around the globe too, as they follow exciting exhibits or museum trails. Emotionally art can take us to places of healing, places of struggle, places of beauty or peace. Mentally art can teach us things that we may not have known before. Spiritually art can open us.

Art can move me from a solid stance of black and white, this is right/wrong/left/right/mine/yours/weird/normal and smack into a place of gray or color where anything is possible. A place where those words no longer exist. A place where we find ourselves asking, “What is right? What is wrong? What is left? What is right? What is mine? What is yours? What is weird? What is normal?” A place where we cannot seem to answer those questions. A place where we don’t seem to care that we can’t answer those questions.

Art can move us apart, and it can move us together.

Continue reading the rest of Heather’s post.…..


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Embrace Our Vulnerabilties and Imperfections

Love this article by Brene Brown. She suggests we need new ways of thinking about vulnerability and imperfections.  I agree.

The Cruelty Crisis: Bullying Isn’t a School Problem, It’s a National Pastime


“If we want to reclaim courage and compassion in our families, schools, organizations, and communities, we must open our hearts and minds to a new way of thinking about vulnerability and imperfection. Our imperfections are not flaws; they are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Vulnerability may be at the core of fear and uncertainty, but it is also the birthplace of courage and compassion – exactly what we need to help us stop lashing out and start engaging with the world from a place of worthiness; a place where empathy and kindness matter.” Brené Brown


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Creative Arts and Recovery

Just completed a week long creative arts residency with teen girls in recovery. Here’s a sampling of their work.


Filed under Art and Learning, Teaching

Inviting Creativity and Insight into the College Classroom

Art as a method of inquiry and reflection became a passion of mine during my graduate studies in Adult Education and Leadership. That’s when I experienced a shift, one that felt like I had learned an entirely new language, one that freed me up to “speak beyond words.” Since then, I continue to experiment and expand arts-based learning in my life and in my  work. For example, in the speech classes I teach at the community college, I invite students to create a ‘visual reflection’ of their experiences and learning. What happens? Creativity and insight flows……


See More Visual Reflections from Speech Class…..





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Public Private Schools

February 18, 2010. Thomas B. Fordham Institute

We identify public schools whose doors are effectively closed to poor children. These institutions—generally found in wealthy urban enclaves or well-heeled suburbs—educate many of the children of America’s elite while proudly waving the “public school” flag. But they hardly embody the “common school” ideal. In fact, by exclusively serving well-off children, they are arguably more private—certainly more exclusive—than many elite private schools, which, after all, generally offer at least some scholarships to low-income students.  Read more…..


Filed under Art and Learning, Misc, My Art, Teaching