Quote of the moment: Ali, ‘said I was the greatest even before I was’

February 3, 2017

Muhammad Ali, mural on business building on west Commerce Street, Dallas, Texas. Photo, Creative Commons copyright by Ed Darrell.

Muhammad Ali, mural on business building on west Commerce Street, Dallas, Texas. Photo, Creative Commons copyright by Ed Darrell.

It’s a tribute to self-confidence, a motivational-poster caption with a hundred different photos just featuring Muhammad Ali.

On the mural, Ali is quoted, I said I was even before I knew I was.” Here’s the more commonly-accepted version:

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

Can you guess? It’s difficult to pin down a solid attribution for the quote. I have little doubt he said it — but can someone say where?

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Maybe Texas can learn from this: What about when life sends you blizzards?

May 28, 2015

What do you do when life gives you blizzards? Image from film by FableVision

What do you do when life gives you blizzards? Image from film by FableVision

Another piece from Peter H. Reynolds and Fablevision, perhaps appropriate to Texas waking up near the end of Memorial Day week, with acute floods history and being cleaned up, but flood waters working their way down the major Texas rivers, ready to ravage even more communities.

Is the drought gone, yet?

When Life Gives You Blizzards, from FableVision:

Uploaded on Dec 23, 2010

A short animation by Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision about a boy who makes the best of a stormy situation. Directed by John Lechner, sound design by Tony Lechner.


Again: Motivation 101 – How NOT to

October 18, 2013

This is an encore post, mostly.

“A Swift Kick in the Butt $1.00,” A daily strip of the cartoon series “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson. Watterson appears to have an instinctual understanding of what motivation is not. It’s a topic he returned to with some frequency.

Educators don’t know beans about motivation I think. I still see courses offered on “how to motivate” students to do X, or Y, or Z — or how to motivate faculty members to motivate students to do X.

This view of motivation is all wrong, the industrial psychologists and experience say. A student must motivate herself.

A teacher can remove barriers to motivation, or help a student find motivation. But motivation cannot be external to the person acting.

Frederick Herzberg wrote a classic article for The Harvard Business Review several years back: “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Herzberg would get a group of managers together and ask them, “If I have six week-old puppy, and I want it to move, how do I get it to move?” Inevitably, one of the wizened managers of people would say, “Kick him in the ass!” Is that motivation? Herzberg would ask? Managers would nod “yes.”

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Frederick Herzberg, 1923-2000

Then, Herzberg would ask what about dealing with the pup six months later. To get the older pup to move, he’d offer a doggie yum, and the dog would come. “Is that motivation?” Herzberg would ask. Again, the managers would agree that it was motivation. (At AMR’s Committing to Leadership sessions, we tried this exercise several hundred times, with roughly the same results. PETA has changed sensitivities a bit, and managers are fearful of saying they want to kick puppies, but they’ll say it in different words.)

Herzberg called this “Kick In The Ass” theory, or KITA, to avoid profanity and shorten the phrase.

Herzberg would then chastise the managers. Neither case was motivation, he’d say. One was violence, a mugging; the other was a bribe. In neither case did the dog want to move, in neither case was the dog motivated. In both cases, it was the manager who was motivated to make the dog move.

Motivation is the desire to do something, the desire and drive to get something done.

Motivating employees is getting them to share the urgency a manager feels to do a task, to go out and do it on their own without being told how to do each and every step along the way.

Motivation is not simply coercing someone else to do what you want, on threat of pain, virtual or real.

Herzberg verified his theories with research involving several thousands of employees over a couple of decades. His pamphlet for HBR sold over a million copies.

Education is wholly ignorant of Herzberg’s work, so far as I can tell. How do I know?

See this, at TexasEd Spectator:

Death threat as a motivation technique

May 23rd, 2008
Education | MySanAntonio.com

The sad part about this is that I bet if a mere, ordinary teacher were to have made some similar statement, he or she would be treated more like the student rather than the principle.

Now imagine if some student at the school had said something along the same lines in a writing assignment. We would be hearing about zero tolerance all over the place. The student would be out of the regular classroom so fast it would make your head spin.

No charges will be brought against New Braunfels Middle School Principal John Burks for allegedly threatening to kill a group of science teachers if their students’ standardized test scores failed to improve, although all four teachers at the meeting told police investigators Burks made the statement.

Kick in the ass, knife in the back, knife in the heart — that ain’t motivation.

As God is my witness, you can’t make this stuff up.

I’m not sure who deserves more disgust, the principal who made the threat and probably didn’t know anything else to do, or the teachers who didn’t see it as a joke, or treat it that way to save the principal’s dignity — or a system where such things are regarded as normal.

Bill Watterson returned to the

Bill Watterson returned to the “Swift Kick in the Butt, $1.00” strip, but this time with the more lively Hobbes Calvin interacted with most often. What would motivate a cartoonist to do that? Watterson is said to have observed, “People will pay for what they want, but not what they need.” Can school administrators even figure out what teachers and students need?  Which version do you prefer? Which one motivates you?

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September 12 — Anniversary of the 1962 day JFK challenged all of America to go to the Moon, “because it is hard”

September 12, 2013

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962.  Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot.  NASA photo.

President John F. Kennedy speaking to an audience in the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, September 12, 1962. Kennedy made the public case for why the U.S. should try a Moon shot. NASA photo.

Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” was delivered in the football stadium (not nearly full), on September 12, 1962.

Obviously, that was back before global warming held such a tight death grip on Texas (it’s so bad here, even Rick Perry is trying to move north, out of the state).

Day in and day out, Kennedy’s speech, the text, the audio, and sources of commentary on it, are among the most popular of the nearly 5,000 posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Go see why:

September 12, 1962, was also the ninth anniversary of JFK’s marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier.  She let him go out of town to talk rockets?

Anything for the nation, I suppose.

More:

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA.  (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)

Moonwalking astronaut salutes the U.S. flag on the Moon. Twelve people went to the Moon, all of them in the U.S. space program run by NASA. (My photo source does not identify this astronaut.)


Parkland Hosptial weathered the crises – November 27, 1963

November 27, 2012

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins* wrote a piece for the Dallas Morning News, published November 25, 2012, describing the qualities he hopes the search committee will find in a new leader for Dallas County’s massive medical care institution, Parkland Hospital“Parkland needs an inspiring servant leader.”

Parkland Hospital, Dallas - Dallas Business Journal image

Parkland Hospital, Dallas – Dallas Business Journal image

For more than a decade the hospital has been hammered by a massive load of charity cases, including tens of thousands of people forced to used the emergency room for primary care because they cannot get into the health care system in other ways.  Such crowds, such budget pressures, such pressures on staff, force mistakes.  Parkland has not been immune.

Parkland emergency room wait times for non-critical care are legendary.  I’ve had students miss most of a week waiting for care there.  At the same time, I’ve had students return to class in what I considered record time after being patched up from problematic baby deliveries, auto accidents, and gunshot wounds.

Problems in billing and record keeping for Medicaid and Medicare forced the resignation of a long-time hospital director.  Much of the past two years have been crisis mode for the hospital, laboring frantically not to lose its federal funding (Dallas County underfunds the hospital as a matter of tax-restraint policy).

Friends tell me morale is not great.

I stumbled into this letter at a great site for historical items, Letter of Note.  In times of crisis, those appointed or anointed to lead may do several things to rally workers to do their best, to carry an institution through the tough times.

I wager this letter, in 1963, did more to build Parkland Hospital as a quality institution than all the audits, investigations, and exhortations to abide by federal policy and stop losing money, in the past decade.  What do you think?

November 27, 1963, was less than a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died in a Parkland operating room, the wounding of Texas Gov. John Connally, who was operated on in another operating room, and the shooting of presumed assassin Lee H. Oswald, who also got care at Parkland at his death.

We were not found wanting, thank you letter to employees of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Nov. 27, 1963

We were not found wanting, thank you letter to employees of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Nov. 27, 1963; (Source: Dallas Observer; Image via Wired.) (Click for larger image)

Transcript, from the Dallas Observer, via Wired, via Letters of Note:

Transcript [links added here]

DALLAS COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT
Office Memorandum
November 27, 1963

To: All Employees

At 12:38 p.m., Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Texas’ Governor John Connally were brought to the Emergency Room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being struck down by the bullets of an assassin.

At 1:07 p.m., Sunday, November 24, 1963, Lee. H. Oswald, accused assassin of the late president, died in an operating room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being shot by a bystander in the basement of Dallas’ City Hall. In the intervening 48 hours and 31 minutes Parkland Memorial Hospital had:

1. Become the temporary seat of the government of the United States.

2. Become the temporary seat of the government of the State of Texas.

3. Become the site of the death of the 35th President.

4. Become the site of the ascendency of the 36th President.

5. Become site of the death of President Kennedy’s accused assassin.

6. Twice become the center of the attention of the world.

7. Continued to function at close to normal pace as a large charity hospital.

What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgement is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.

(Signed)

C. J. Price
Administrator

The people of Parkland Hospital in 2012 will bring it through the current, slower series of jolting events, I predict.

When that happens, will the administrator think to thank them?

More:

_____________

* In Texas, the lead commissioner in the county commissions is called “judge.”  To distinguish between this executive branch judge and court judges, judges of courts are usually identified by the court in which they preside.  Clay Jenkins is the leader of the Dallas County Commission.


Duncanville district brags on its teachers

February 13, 2012

Take a look at this:

Oh, there are complaints, but most of the teachers I know in Duncanville Independent School District (ISD) like the district and are happy to be there. I know a lot of them, since our two boys both attended Duncanville schools kindergarten to graduation, and we live in the district.

Teachers, does your district put you or your colleagues front and center, like Duncanville did with Angela Banks?  Would it improve morale if they did?

Administrators, does your district put teachers front and center like Duncanville ISD did with Angela Banks?  Do you wonder why you have morale issues?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Caressa Harvey Roberts, another great teacher in Duncanville.


Missing the point: Finland’s education success built on no tests, no teacher floggings, no school choice

January 6, 2012

Our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, climbed on the Finland-does-it-right bandwagon a couple of years ago, with several long dispatches from reporter Jim Landers on the education system in Finland, and how well it works (sadly, all those articles are behind paywalls with terrible search engines now).

In meetings and discussions with educators around Dallas, I have found almost no one who remember seeing the series, and none who can remember any lessons from it.

Government officials flock to Finland today.  OECD ratings put Finland near the top of education achievement, on a near-equal footing with Singapore and Shanghai.  That this is done with public schools causes brief flurries of hope.

But I gather the policymakers look at Finland, conclude that the lessons cannot be repeated in the U.S., and then move on to find new and better cats-o-nine tails to flog teachers with.  Nothing ever seems to come from looking at Finland.

In the current Atlantic Monthly, an article looks at this phenomenon, “What Americans keep ignoring about Finland’s school success,” by Anu Partanen:

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

We even have the book, now!  How can we miss the lessons?

Sadly, we do.

From his [Sahlberg’s] point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg’s comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don’t exist in Finland.

“Here in America,” Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, “parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.”

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

School reform?  We’re not even asking the right questions, let alone getting the right answers. “How can we learn to flog teachers better from Finland, when they don’t flog teachers at all?”  the policy makers may ask.

Read the story in The Atlantic.

Do you agree?  Why or why not?

Maybe we should change to daily flogging of state legislators and administrators, from the daily flogging of teachers.  Maybe the morale problem is up, not down.

Tip of the old scrub brush to inkbluesky.

More: 

Another clip from “The Finland Phenomenon”:


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