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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 3 H's

As I mentioned in a recent Blog entry, Darrell Scott's presentation on the Rachel's Challenge program at the superintendents conference was very inspiring. He spoke of his late daughter's desire to make a difference by reaching a million people through acts of kindness and compassion. Rachel was the first fatality during the terrible tragedy at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Rachel's Challenge is tribute to her message and goal. The program seeks to inform people, particularly young people, of the power of respecting differences, looking for the good in others, and extending good will to others.

Darrell Scott was thought provoking. Among the points he communicated in his presentation was one that reflected a significant change in teacher training. Scott stated that he had researched old manuals used to train people to become teachers. He claimed that although the instructional manuals developed in America since the late 1800's directed attention at the 3 R's of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic; the common strand and focus of the manuals published from the years 1750 - 1880 were primarily concerned with the 3 H's of heart, head, and hand.

The distinction is critical. The earlier texts for prospective teachers emphasized the necessity of reaching children through their heart first, which would then lead to reaching their head, and finally their hands. That is, showing genuine care and compassion is a prerequisite for connecting with the learner. Only then could the teacher expect to engage the mind of the learner. And then, once the brain is stimulated, the child can apply what they have learned.

This progression from heart to head to hands is in stark contrast to the strong focus today directed at performance on state mandated tests. He discussed the comparison of test data of our nation's learners with those of learners from other countries on similar tests. He stressed the potential consequences of a culture of intense pressure to succeed on objective tests - including references to the relationship between the pressure of test performance and suicide in several of the countries which achieve higher marks on these international tests. He also noted the disproportionately high number of Americans who have earned international distinction as measured in Nobel prizes, innovations and inventions, patents and copyrights...

One of the quotes Scott used in his speech resonated with me. It's a quote from Martin Luther King that was one of Rachel Scott's favorites: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can." Certainly, this quote is a clarion for the chain reaction of compassion that was the essence of Rachel's Challenge to us all.

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