The problem is, we aren't really sure who said this. I once heard a speaker who attributed this great verse to Aristotle. Then I heard that Plato said it. Maybe Socrates? The fact of the matter is, I actually can't find any direct quotes from any of them. No matter. I can say that Maya Angelou, in her infinite wisdom, said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”The words, however you craft or quote them, are worthy of a discussion or two...or six or seven. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I often wonder if we know better, will we do better? Most people are inclined to say "yes", but what about smoking? I think we can be reasonably certain that we know, now, that smoking harms people's health. My mother admitted she didn't know, in the 1950s, that it was harmful, but by the 1980s, we were fairly clear of the dangers. And yet...she continued smoking until 1992, when she was diagnosed with cancer in her voice box. She had to have her larynx removed and died in 2005 from recurring complications.
I'm thinking my mom was not the only one who has fallen prey to that nasty little thing called denial. Or maybe it's self-will. Or maybe it's something entirely different. All I know is, I think we have to pay close attention to the middle part of that quote---love the good----in order to get the part where we do the good.
"Get to the part in which you relate this to education, Shelly", you might be saying. Well, as luck would have it, I have several scenarios in which I believe this applies. The first is in one of my passions---kids with character. As a former guidance counselor who loved so very much to go into classes and teach lessons on character traits, I often found that the students could quickly be taught about character traits like honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, etc. The kicker was moving them from knowing it to doing it. After a lesson on integrity, I could ask any child in the class what they would do if they made a promise, and virtually 100% would likely answer "Keep it". And yet...when they told their teachers they promised they would bring their homework back the next day,...well, you get the idea...not likely 100% would do it.
I have been an absent parent these last three days, which is not good when we have a new puppy. I just talked to Dave (my dear, dedicated husband) who may or may not be ready to throw Kirby the Lab puppy right out the window. It seems that Kirby has reverted back to pre-potty-trained ways this past weekend. If you said, "uh-oh", you have won the prize! To say Daddy Dave is not happy is quite the understatement. "He KNOWS not to pee on the floor!" Dave says. So why isn't he doing it? I wanted to say, in my best counselor voice, "I guess there must be something he is getting from that behavior", but I actually want to stay happily married, so I resisted. What is the missing link? If he knows better, he should do better, right? But what if he doesn't LOVE doing the good? What if (and I may or may not ever say this) Kirby is somehow searching for Daddy attention and he gets it when he potties inside? Or...maybe it is too much trouble to be good and wait at the back door for someone to let him out?
We want to grow teachers, this I know for certain. And I think we all know that helping teachers grow in their practice requires us to talk with teachers about that practice. Then I wonder why there are still people in districts all over the country who still talk TO teachers instead of talking WITH them? If we know the good practice, why don't we all do the good practice? Ask any teacher and they will likely tell you they know they have something they want or need to work on. Whether we want to improve the practice of allowing students to take some ownership of classroom routines or we want to write more meaningful lesson targets, we all have ways in which we can improve to better equip our students with the skills they need to become productive people in the world. Recognizing this knowledge, why don't we simply all improve? If we know it, why don't we or can we do it? Maybe because we need to love it (or, if that strikes you as a bit too gooey, how about embrace it?).
Just for today, perhaps we can take a look at the things we know we should or need to do and figure out what is keeping us from doing them? Maybe the step is to love the thing, or at least embrace it.
For now, I have to run to catch my flight back home to help Dave with Kirby!