The 'Fuzzy' Side of Instruction: The Real Treasure: Too Often in Classrooms We Get So Caught Up in Teaching That We Lose Sight of Learning. Unfortunately, the Experts Say This Is Nothing New

By Manthey, George | Leadership, May-June 2009 | Go to article overview

The 'Fuzzy' Side of Instruction: The Real Treasure: Too Often in Classrooms We Get So Caught Up in Teaching That We Lose Sight of Learning. Unfortunately, the Experts Say This Is Nothing New


Manthey, George, Leadership


Wanting to write a poem for a friend, I took a drive to the beach hoping to be inspired by the sandpipers. I've long been intrigued by the way a flock of them can move as one--matching the ebb and flow of the tide. If you watched a sandpiper work the beach individually, it would look like a hyperactive animal unable to focus, but when you watch them together there is a grace to their scrambling this way then that, in frenetic unison. I knew that in that flow was the poem I wanted to write.

However, at the sparsely visited beach there was not a sandpiper in sight. My avian muse had deserted me. Making my way to another stretch of shoreline, where I was sure the sandpipers would roam, I encountered only a group of willets. Willets are a larger relation of sandpipers. Although they are usually in a group, they work the beach alone.

Except for their long beaks, they are a pretty ordinary looking grey bird. I didn't think my poem could be found in a willet. Even the word "willet" seemed void of any rhythmic essence. The willet's main claim to "interesting" is only seen when it takes off in flight and its tail feathers spread to provide a variegated flash of color.

Then I watched the willets work the beach, mostly hoping they'd fly away so I could glimpse that startling take-off. Time after time they poked their beaks into the sand and emerged, more often than not, with a sand crab--or at least part of one.

Eventually I saw their work in a different light. They were not looking at the sand, but between the grains of sand. From my point of view the sand was the beach, but for the willet the sand was in the way of what was truly important. And somewhere in that realization was the poem I'd come to the beach to write.

There is so much "sand" right in front of educators today. …

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