Sunday, December 22, 2013

Education in Belize: End of Year Notes

As we approach the end of 2013 I would like to thank readers of and my Guidance Counselor column for their loyalty and participation/comments, or sharing my articles.  I am thrilled to note that, this year, readers from Belize as well as 32 other countries in six continents read my blog and Guidance Counselor articles; many readers, including Belizeans, expressed their concerns (via blog, email, and various media outlets) regarding Education in Belize as well as in other countries.  Despite the fact that the Belize Education System classifies me as a “retired” educator, I still look forward to tackling and discussing many more challenging topics on Education, including some that many powerful people would prefer not to discuss publicly.

This year, I grew another year older and wiser as a parent and “retired” educator; however, I remain very concerned about the direction(s) in which youth throughout the world today seem headed.  Interestingly enough, my parents before me and their parents before them probably thought likewise.  However, this year and several times since 1999 (Columbine) in the USA there have been violent mass shootings and suicidal massacres in Elementary and Secondary schools by students of all ages.  Moreover, each year now, in an effort to create bully-free schools throughout the world, the entire month of October is devoted to trying to counter and diminish bullying in schools, and foster a greater awareness of this violent and hostile problem. Considering these psychologically and physically damaging and all too familiar occurrences in schools today, as we end this year I directly pose more pressing questions to all readers, especially parents and educators throughout the world,
1.      Do young people today know what it is (or how) to empathize with others?
2.      Have we taught our young people, past or present, the great value of experiencing empathy?
3.      Is it really their fault if they (youth) choose to stay on a very indifferent or self-centered road, as so many of them now seem fully entrenched on?
4.      Unlike robots, can students “learn” values without experiencing empathy?
5.      In this highly-advanced and rapidly-advancing Technological Age, are we adequately preparing our youth to live in a world of tomorrow, where many of us adults today will not exist?
A “no” answer to any one of the above questions signifies that already our young people are in big trouble, and are fully headed for even worse!

Many hostile and dehumanizing criminal events often disrupt daily life in Belize today.  They not only keep increasing an already high level of poverty and crime in our society, but very negatively affect our once world-renown peaceful way of living.  Worse even, they are causing our youth to feel less and less human, and become more and more violent and indifferent toward each other.  Yet, political leaders, Education policymakers, and the overall public in Belize seem to stubbornly and adamantly prefer to think that the problems caused by and/or among our youth today will probably or eventually “blow over like a lee sea breeze”.  Well, no matter how often that very convenient Belizean phrase may be used by those who are “in charge”, current problems, especially in schools, will not just blow over. 

Today, many people in our global society feel no empathy (not sympathy) whatsoever for others.  As a result, the rich keep getting richer and the poor even poorer, and this vast polarization keeps getting wider.  The new Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, considers this concern a top priority and constantly reminds everyone of the urgent need to address this situation.  Unfortunately, many rich and/or poor parents today do not have the time to teach or show (by example) our children how to cope with conflicts -- internal or external. It also seems that both the busy professional/career parents and the extremely poor ones who are always away from the home now expect schools alone to teach values, including empathy!  But, should schools bear that responsibility?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines em-pa-thy as, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feeling”.  The full definition provided includes, “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”.  In simpler terms, we empathize with others when we try to identify with them and make an effort to understand their circumstances and behavior(s), especially if they are different from ours.  Teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, social workers, politicians, and all those who work directly with the public (all ages) must make an effort to have/experience empathy for the people with whom they deal everyday.  Those who administer Human Resources in corporations, unions, or any institution are required to be professionally trained and qualified to empathize with employers and employees.  English teachers explain to students who must study great works of literature (plays, novels, short stories, poems, etc.) that the way to appreciate them is by trying to empathize or live through the characters that each author portrays, whether they be rich or poor, good or evil.  The opposite of empathy is indifference, or “I could care less about you”.

Before our modern and global Age of Technology, “parenting seminars” or “motivational speakers and coaches” were rare, yet today they are needed more and more.  Society used to hold Elementary schools responsible only for teaching students the 3 R’s or basic Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be the only responsibility of schools today.  More and more, social and emotional learning, SEL curricula, are being introduced in schools in developed countries like the USA.  Just as we learned to use (and copy, i.e. CXC) the British system of Ordinary and Advanced (O and A) Level examinations, I am sure that we could learn to work more positively and productively with young students in Belize today by studying how schools in other countries implement SEL curricula.  One such school in the USA (Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility) stresses the 4 R’s with students:  Reading, Writing, Respect, and Resolution.  Without a doubt, these type schools advertise new job descriptions and preparation/qualification requirements for teachers.  In the peaceful and compassionate spirit of Christmas, I encourage policymakers of our Belize Education System to adapt similar SEL curricula to help provide young students with much-needed coping, communication, and resilience skills that so many of them just are not getting at home anymore.  In another article I will provide detailed examples of SEL curricula.

Once more, thank you readers for your loyalty this year and for your participation and comments, going back to when I first loudly urged everyone in Belize to, Wake Up And Smell the Coffee.

Author’s Note:
On the article that received the highest readership and got the most comments this year was, Belize: A Nation at Risk

These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete.  They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community.  If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success.  Way to go, fellow educators!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Education in Belize: Taking the Risk

As we approach the end of 2013, I publicly ask the Education policymakers (government and church), principals, school administrators, teachers, and parents in Belize:
1.      Are we satisfied with our Educational Systems in Belize today?
2.      Have we improved any Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary school in Belize this year?
3.      What have we learned this year that could help us to improve our schools in Belize, so that we can more adequately educate and prepare students for life in Belize in 2020?

It is widely accepted now, especially by our country’s 21st Century youth, that Belize is not one of the quaint “ends of the world”, as it was previously described by Aldous Huxley and once considered to be by the rest of the world.  On the contrary, Belize (not British Honduras) has today boldly taken its place as its own Independent and Sovereign nation in a new century and global age of instant communication.  Our children and grandchildren have been born into, and live in, a modern Age of Technology, and so they also see themselves as being on the same stage as everyone else around the world today.  Consequently, now more than ever, young Belizeans need our help and guidance to help them adequately prepare to face the challenges of a rapidly changing and advancing world of technology and global economics. 

As we close out this year and approach a New Year, I remind all those powerful Belizeans who seem hell-bent on living in the past, and anyone who stubbornly refuse to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee:  Gone are the Colonial days of yore, of rote learning and memorizing to pass imported tests, of having to wait for outsiders to recognize and reward our young and intelligent citizens.  Today, Belize boasts its very own institutions of higher learning; and young Belizeans no longer have to travel outside of Belize to seek and obtain professional academic preparation.  Moreover, many forms of higher education are available online through the internet. 

Today, not everyone who leaves school only looks for employment.  We live in an era where we encourage entrepreneurship, in an era where we can be on the same level as everyone else in the world, in an era of literally having the entire world at our fingertips through the use of computers and the internet.  Fairly soon (already) we won’t use or need paper anymore, whether at school or in the commercial workplace.   Many teachers in secondary and tertiary schools in Belize now request that students complete homework on the computer and email it to them.  Some popular local newspapers are no longer printed and sold “on paper” anymore, but instead are accessed on a screen at the touch of a button, including newspapers sold on paper.  These newspapers are accessible by anyone from anywhere in the world.  (Our magnificent trees thank you!)

Who, in Belize’s education systems, predicted that all this would happen?  Who can predict what will follow in the next ten or twenty years?  What skills will our Belizean youth need for success in the new global labor market and economy?   Can or do PSE proficiency exam results today for primary school students in Belize predict their life outcomes?  Can or do CXC (or whatever name is used today for Caribbean O and A level examinations which mimic original British GCE similar examinations) outcomes predict a high school graduate’s success or failure in the next five years?   Are our primary, secondary, and tertiary schools in Belize offering curricula to students today that invest in their future, and in the future of a strong and self-sustaining Belize?  Are we bothering to even try to integrate the various learning styles and multiple intelligences of our young Belizean students today?  There are so many questions to ask about Belize’s failing educations systems today; however, no answers whatsoever have been provided to questions previously asked. 

Why is no one in Belize bothering to ask and seek responses to the very pertinent and imminent questions about how our schools in Belize are run?  Does no one have a vision for where we would like Belize to be in the future?  Does no one care what kind of schools our children and grandchildren attend today?  Despite many (expensive) professional development workshops advertised and conducted for teachers and educators in Belize each year, do any good ideas that are introduced through them ever get put into practice?   Or, do those ideas simply remain ignored because they conflict with existing procedures already established by political and church Education policymakers in Belize? 

This week’s article and Blog asks many questions but answers none.  The reason for this is because education policymakers (government and church), principals, school administrators, teachers, and parents in Belize are the ones who have the power to improve our school systems.  They, and only they, (no one from outside the country) can make a difference and “put into practice” educational reform to improve our schools in Belize.

I clearly and vividly remember the early morning program, “Wake up and Work!” broadcast loudly over the only radio station in the country, each workday of the week during the mid to late nineteen sixties (1965 – 1969).  Marching bands trumpeted their music over our only radio station starting at 6:00 a.m. each morning for about a half hour.  Before and after each marching song, the announcer and broadcaster would exhort and incite Belizean workers to wake up and work everyday!  Whether the program was political or not, it succeeded in “waking” people up!  Likewise, now I loudly urge all Belizeans, especially those mentioned in the opening sentence of this article, to wake up and do something to improve our education systems to prepare our youth to lead Belize in the next decade!

Finally, I remind everyone that no top revenue-producing industry is guaranteed to last forever.  Tourism may be great and expansive one year, yet stagnant the next.  Sugar, citrus, oil or oil products, may be in great demand one year, yet once replacements or substitutes are found or created for them, they will be quickly forgotten.  Lumber (products) may be needed and in great demand one year, yet its use outlawed the next.  What I’m saying is that we can never rest on our laurels and assume that if we have it good today in one area today, it will always be that way.  This, most of all, applies to political parties (democratically elected or not) who may be placed in as well as taken out of power by the very same people.  Consequently, I urge all Belizean adults to “take the risk” and invest physically, financially, and emotionally today in providing our youth with a worthwhile and valuable education for which tomorrow they will thank you. 

Author’s Note:

These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete.  They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion among educators, students, and the community.  If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success.  Way to go, fellow educators!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Education in Belize: Strengthening the Balance, Part II (Leaders)

Last year November, I wrote an article to remind students and teachers alike of the importance of always maintaining and Strengthening the Balance between each other in the classroom and while at school.  Teachers and students will work productively and smoothly when they treat Education in the classroom as a two-way, not one-way, process.  In other words, despite what many people (especially parents who had limited schooling) may have believed in the past, or may still do, students are not sponges who merely go to school to soak up knowledge from a teacher in the classroom; neither are they clay for teachers to mold.  Instead of absorbing an Education, like a sponge, a student learns under a teacher’s guidance and instruction when the student participates in the two-way process, and makes the effort to contribute his/her portion of a 50/50 endeavor. 

A teacher’s 50% of the two-way process (Education) includes providing students with academic expertise and guidance in the subject(s) that he/she teaches, and motivation to encourage each student in the class to want to learn about the subject introduced to the class.  However, in order for learning to firmly take root, each student must provide the other all-important 50%, and act on the motivation that the teacher provides and on his/her own intrinsic motivation. Each student’s all-important 50% of the two-way process includes, paying attention and participating in class, reviewing and studying the material presented in class, and completing assignments and class projects.

In addition to the academic expertise that a teacher presents in the classroom, and the oral and written academic work that each student completes, inside or outside the classroom, it is crucial that both student and teacher maintain a mutual respect for each other at all times. Should that fine balance of mutual respect become lopsided and off balance, chaos in the classroom will ensue.  Words like discipline, obedience, power, desperation, mistrust, and fear will take on new meanings, and even become confusingly synonymous to teacher and student.  Power struggles between teacher and student slowly creep into the class and replace teaching and learning.

A student who loses respect for a teacher will easily become frustrated and fall into an unending struggle of trying to win power struggles.  In turn, a frustrated teacher can be pulled into the same struggle.  Student: You can’t make me do anything!  Teacher: I’ll show you who’s in charge here!  Consequently, when neither a student’s or teacher's energy is focused on Education the learning process (for everyone in the class) turns bumpy or comes to a halt.  Who is to blame?  Who is not providing his/her 50% responsibility?  Who is not respecting whom?  Whenever a student loses respect for a teacher, or vice versa, the scale tips.  It’s crucial, therefore, that both sides (student and teacher) of the two-way learning process work everyday to keep and strengthen that fine but necessary balance of respect for each other.

I firmly believe, and will always stress, that students should look to teachers as leaders, and always respect and follow them as leaders.  Leaders, on the other hand, know when and how to take action and intervene; they know how to implement consequences.  A teacher is a leader in the classroom, and carefully studies and plans each move, and does not count on making lucky moves.  In addition, as a leader who wants to solidify and strengthen his/her following (classroom) of students, a teacher strives to build and develop trusting relationships with students, presents well-prepared lessons, and provides stimulating motivation to students.  Having been a high school teacher since 1978, experience has shown me that what helps to maintain that delicate scale firmly balanced, not easily tipped, is taking/making the time to “listen” to students, especially those who seem lost and most in need of a leader. 

A teacher who is a strong leader will constantly challenge students to “work hard” and put forth their very best efforts, and not be satisfied with mediocre, careless, or below-average work.  A strong leader/teacher provides an excellent role model for a student’s moral and academic development. On the other hand, a teacher whose focus is on power and authority rather than learning will often threaten, not challenge, students with lots of home/school work.  (It’s no secret that parents sometimes help with very heavy loads of homework that students have.)  But, do strong and effective leaders need to flaunt their power?  I feel that it’s a matter of attitude.  No strong leader/teacher should accept repeated excuses for poor work (or lack of) from a student; however, “no excuse” should not also close the door to seeking out solutions to help a student improve his/her participation and 50%.   A teacher who threatens, more than challenges, students will quickly lose their respect, and vice versa.  This, in turn, could create a class full of difficult, unmotivated, and under-performing students.  Both student and teacher, therefore, must provide his/her complete 50% effort in order to prevent that scale and delicate balance of mutual respect from tipping.

Finally, and without any doubt, a student who does not provide his/her 50% of the two-way process (requirements and responsibilities in the classroom) loses the most: the ability to learn, and the ability to reach his/her potential.  This student also causes the entire class to lose because constant power struggles between student and teacher can crush any incentives a teacher may have to put forth his/her best efforts to lead students in the classroom everyday.  With no incentive, only a salary, a teacher may be inclined to put forth mediocre efforts to teach everyday.  This leads to tension and mistrust between teacher and student, and destroys the delicate balance and appreciative relationship that keep teaching and learning smooth and successful for students and teachers.  By accepting and respecting a teacher, everyday, a student strengthens the delicate balance.  Students usually respect well-prepared, calm and consistent teachers over power-driven teachers who are hyper and tension-filled all the time.  In turn, teachers respect students who are well-behaved and usually prepared for class, and who make an effort to participate in class and take cues from the teacher – not those who are the opposite.

Author’s Note:

These articles are not intended to be comprehensive or complete.  They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community.  If we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, then we can learn from our mistakes as well as success.  Way to go, fellow educators!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Education in Belize: Difficult Students (From Challenges to Solutions)

In previous articles I reviewed both positive and negative ways to deal with “Difficult Students” who constantly misbehave at school.  Dealing with Difficult Students   Effective Ways to Deal with Difficult Students  Dealing with Loud and Playful Difficult Students  I encouraged teachers to have unbending and effective classroom management, and I suggested positive ways for them to deal with repeated and distractive behavior of students.  However, several parents recently contacted me to complain about several difficult students whose constant power struggles with teachers at a high school in Belize City hamper the learning process of other students. 

While re-reading my previously published articles, I noticed a reader’s comment to suggest that today’s difficult students need “a good paddling” as they used to get in the past.  Once more, I remind readers that we cannot live in the past!  This is 2013 and we need to adapt classroom management methods that are in line with 21st Century ways of living and learning.  Previous civilizations constructed huge temples and pyramids (Maya ruins in Belize) by using slave labor forced out of thousands of its citizens; however, no matter how magnificent those temples and pyramids turned out, we do not build monuments that way today.  Likewise, many teachers used the paddle regularly 50 years ago to “straighten out students”; but teachers do not use paddles today for many reasons.  Many research studies, conducted by well-respected professionals and many books that followed, show long-term negative effects of corporal punishment. 

According to current law, corporal punishment is not allowed in schools in Belize.  In other words, even if paddling was used (or worked) in the past, it is not a viable solution today to stop unwanted student misbehavior.  So, do we simply throw up our hands and let misbehaving students do as they wish at school?  The answer is a loud and resounding NO.  Loud, distracting, and unwanted student behavior at any school is as totally unacceptable today as it was in the past.  It impacts others negatively, and it totally disrupts the learning process of the entire class, including the perpetrator(s).  Not only does it show total disregard and disrespect for teachers and for the other students, but it goes against school rules and regulations.  Rules and regulations, after all, help to keep us civilized as opposed to barbarian!

We educators know that managing student behavior is a complex task, one not as simple as “follow steps 1, 2, 3”.  Actually, the lack of simple formulas for enforcing effective classroom management explains why many difficult students often surface (even thrive) in schools.  Some educators today ignore the misbehavior of difficult students because they don’t know an easy way to end it.  Demerits, detentions, and suspensions are temporary interventions to temporarily slow or halt misbehavior; however, they don’t address the root causes of why students break rules, or chronically and aggressively misbehave.  Other than ultimate expulsion, there is no guaranteed solution to permanently end student misbehavior.  Nonetheless, we should always make every effort to halt student misbehavior at school as soon as it starts.  Immediate and/or temporary interventions work for a while, but they are not enough.  As educators, parents, and as a community we also need to address “head on” the actual roots that create difficult students.  After all, no one is born a difficult student, but rather is created out of, shaped by, and continuously nurtured by his/her home and surrounding environment. 

Many schools claim to have outright “Zero Tolerance” for any type of misbehavior from a student.  However, life is not black and white.  For this very reason, teachers and administrators (who are the ones who usually know students best) should be allowed flexibility to deal with difficult students.  Who better to work effectively with them?  Many graduates (and their parents) of the last school where I worked have high praise for their former principal.  He was quite creative in doling out punishments for difficult students; however, his hands were not tied as to how he could deal with them. His many forms of creative discipline “worked” because he was free to discipline students in many ways, and still be able to respect their dignity. 

So, yes, let us immediately address any unwanted behavior in students, and nip it in the bud; but let’s not stop there!  By looking deeper we’ll realize that loud and misbehaving students are screaming out for attention, and from a total lack of dignity – they have none or have never been shown any.  These are students who, deep inside, believe themselves to be inferior, inadequate, and unworthy. They’ll hide and mask these confusing and unhealthy feelings from themselves by trying to always “be in control” -- hence their constant, loud and destructive behavior at school.  (Are there any difficult students who are high achievers?)

I suggest that we firmly discipline difficult students by enforcing strategic and effective interventions, not packaged methods, to show them that each action, good or bad, bears a consequence.  Let’s show them how to rise above their negative behavior at school by acknowledging, not condoning, their individual needs and out-of-school triggers of constant misbehavior.  Yes, firmly discipline them; but also model for them how to deal with conflict -- they don’t know how.  Modeling, however, will not be successful if it’s full of implied threats, is militaristic or mindlessly robotic.  Chronically misbehaving students usually live fully rooted in confusion and want to know that someone cares about them in life.  (More intense or aggressive behavior may indicate a desperate need to know!)  We show care by teaching them how to develop responsibility, i.e. for actions and consequences.  (Does paddling do that?) 

“In School Suspension” provides several forms of effective and much-needed discipline for difficult students; it also affords the dignity that these students crave and desperately need.  San Pedro High Introduces New Suspension Program  In Belize, rehabilitative discipline is widely misunderstood.  Most administrators, teachers, parents and students protest that not enough punishment is involved.  So, by not intervening and helping difficult students while we can, do we “cut off our nose to spite our face”?  Countless research studies in developed nations show that rehabilitation (for criminals or students) benefits society in the long run, whereas punishment alone does not.  Does hard labor punishment, repeated detentions, or ultimate expulsions help difficult students rise above their misbehavior?  Harsh punishments may appease administrators, the community, or school by giving them a feeling that justice and restitution is served.  However, after difficult students serve out punishments, no matter how harsh, or are ultimately expelled, they’ll go right back to being their old selves – or perhaps worse.  If no one cares (enough to rehabilitate them) why should they care?  Unfortunately, society pays the ultimate price.

Already, I see the many comments, “Ah, the good old days when I went to school!  We knew what to do then; we did not have all the problems that schools have today.”  Effective and strategic interventions, not memories, will help difficult students -- and ultimately society.  Already, I can hear that all-too-familiar question posed to me so many times by educators in Belize, “Whose side are you on?”  Learning neither chooses sides nor good guys over bad guys. We may have the most qualified teachers in the world, but if no learning takes place in their classes, we have no Education.  Wherever difficult students seem to be winning their power struggles with teachers, it’s time once more for us to Wake up and smell the coffee.

Monday, October 21, 2013


In many of my articles I focus on suggesting urgent changes that should/could be made to Belize’s Education system.  I also encourage Education policymakers and educators to stop living in the past, and start adapting teaching methods that are more in line with 21st Century ways of working, learning, and living.  However, I realize that being human we tend to be very sensitive, and my repeated promptings, i.e. “we should or should not” and “let us or let us not”, may eventually end up annoying the very people who the promptings are meant to inspire and/or stir to action.  Therefore, this week’s article focuses on highlighting positive actions that are/can be taken by many parents and educators in Belize who work everyday with young people.  Stressing the positive to our Youth, through our actions, is most effective, and provides them with memorable consequences and lessons that can help them grow and mature.  Parents and educators who make concerted efforts everyday to provide positive examples, at home and at school, for young people to follow are Belize’s greatest heroes.

October is recognized as “Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month”.  Parents, educators, and students who bravely address this very real and extremely harmful issue, that surfaces almost everyday in homes and schools across the country, strengthen the very foundations of our society.  Positive actions against this unwanted, violent, and self-deprecating occurrence that surfaces everyday throughout society, including in politics, can be as simple as recognizing and reporting those who display bullying behavior.  On the other hand, standing up to one or more bullies for one’s and/or someone else’s safety and dignity is never easy; we may actually be physically hurt each time we choose to “stand up” and refuse to be a mere bystander to bullying behavior.  Reporting or standing up to bullies, nevertheless, helps immensely to create emotionally safe schools and communities.  Without physical and emotional safety, learning is almost impossible.

It’s almost impossible to conceive of any one person being born a bully.  Bullies, just like difficult students, (not synonymous) can be found in almost every school today, starting with very young students all the way up to adults.  However, they are not born that way; as they slowly grow, they learn to mimic the negative, abusive, and violent behaviors around them, starting from in their home environments.  Unfortunately, each time we label them, we conveniently place them in unwanted categories, and without realizing it perhaps, enable them to keep digging themselves deeper and deeper into very lonely holes everyday – at home, at school, and throughout the community.  Conclusions of many well-documented research studies carried out by educational psychologists show that the more we refuse to be truthful, direct, and positive with bullies and difficult students, especially at school everyday, the more they seem to lose any sense of dignity they may have and desperately want, and the more they keep reaching out in all the wrong ways to try to get our attention.   Being positive, therefore, means trying to help both sides: bullies and victims.

Bullying is not just shoving another student in the hallway at school, or physically abusing and hurting another student as a way to get attention.  Bullying includes writing nasty notes, gossiping,  hiding books from students, and taking their lunches; it goes all the way up to cyber bulling on the internet (now accessible on cell phones and I pads) and outright gang intimidation.  Bullying by educators includes aiming unkind and harsh comments to students to humiliate them in front of their peers.  It is totally unacceptable that today young students all over the world today are being bullied mercilessly to the point of committing suicide when they can take it no longer.  Being positive means choosing to address, not ignore, this behavior!  It means not readily stereotyping bullies or victims.  It means addressing an actual person and his/her behavior, everyday, not just addressing a label.  Most importantly, it means not remaining silent, but being willing to intervene and accept the challenge of working with both bullies and victims to help them (re)gain the dignity they so desperately need and want.  It means finding ways to discipline our young people, starting from birth, no matter how challenging that may be, but with dignity.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Education in Belize: From Vulnerability to Growth!

Since I started publishing short articles to describe, not define, past and current Education systems in Belize, some educators claim that I seem unfair and ungrateful to them, and that I should criticize/blame no one other than students themselves for their failures at school and during the learning process.  I have stated before, and now loudly repeat: I highly admire and respect all teachers who devote their professional lives to helping educate others, especially young people.  Anyone who chooses to pursue the teaching profession as a career deserves the maximum respect and appreciation from every member of every community throughout the world!  Teachers in Belize and throughout the world: you have my utmost respect and admiration!

Now, having said that, where I see an impenetrable wall of confusion being perpetuated by many Education policymakers and educators, especially in Belize, is through the adamant refusal to change and/or adapt to 21st Century times.  That wall will continue to grow, as long as educators refuse to be seen by others, especially by students, as vulnerable.  No one is perfect, and that applies to each educator, parent, student, or community member.  Yes, it is vital and necessary for each teacher to be well-prepared and qualified in whatever subject(s) he/she teaches, and in all areas of classroom management.  However, it is human and acceptable for professionals to also be vulnerable.  We educators, therefore, should be willing to accept that we may not know everything (i.e. technology) or be able to handle every single situation that arises, inside or outside the classroom.  After all, there is no law (written or unwritten) that says educators must “know it all”.  It takes great courage for us, as professionals, to accept being vulnerable.  However, in the same way that students can/should learn from their vulnerability, we too can learn from ours.  What a great example we set for students when we show them that we too are vulnerable, but we can and will learn and grow as a result of it.

I recall how vulnerable I felt (and was) while working at a new job, on a small island, at a school that was located thousands of miles away from my wife and teenage sons.  Nonetheless, the more I reached out to students and staff, and showed them my vulnerability, i.e. working with a computer that never could do what I wanted it to do, or simply in learning how to send/receive texts on a cell phone, the more at ease I noticed they seemed while working with me, the school guidance counselor.  I realized that even if I had a vast amount of Education experience and knowledge to share with the school's teenage students, and the staff, they at the same time also had so very much to teach me, another human being, in my role as counselor and administrator.

Guidance Counseling is a fairly new area to many schools in Belize.  Few Primary schools, if any, have school counselors.  Thus, when students reach high school, they may view counselors rather suspiciously; why, even some teachers do likewise.  So, when I worked as a counselor at a high school there, I realized that my first hurdle was to gain overall acceptance from students and staff.  How else could I offer them any emotional support, or helpful lessons in coping/dealing with stress, or understanding the changing role of a school today, if I did not feel accepted, or that I was an integral part of the school? 

Vulnerability can be described as “openness to being wounded” or “acceptance of imperfection”.  I feel strongly that one of the main reasons why many educators and school policymakers in Belize are hesitant to consider change, and/or adapt the Education process to meet the needs of students in today’s 21st Century world, is perhaps because they do not want (may be afraid) to accept or show their vulnerability.   However, adapting to change in various areas or fields does not indicate nor suggest that we change because we are/were weak or wrong.  Rather, a willingness to change merely signifies that there may be a better way to accomplish what we want, and we are willing to investigate or try it.  The entire “successful” Industrial Revolution of the previous century, and current continuous Technology advancements, blossomed from a simple premise: let’s try a new way, and if the change is advantageous and leads to increased productivity, then let us pursue it, and not stop there.

It is only natural that young people are drawn to investigate and explore all things new.  (Young babies when they first learn to craw will go any/everywhere if not controlled.)  Perhaps, that is why most young people today are always “ahead of” older folks (like me) in areas of using technology.  But, that’s only normal -- so what?   Although many young students may be ahead of older educators like me in the realm of exploring and accepting technology, students will always look to us, especially while they are in school, for acceptance as well as academic and emotional support.  They need us to teach them “how” to think, not “what” to think.  So, no matter how vulnerable we educators and teachers may be and/or seem to our students, they will always need us to show them how to build on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.  Let us, therefore, not be afraid to accept our vulnerability, and show the world, especially students, how to learn and grow from our openness or acceptance of imperfection.

I am most grateful that, vulnerable as I was/seemed as guidance counselor at my last job, my school’s staff and student body allowed me to address, and help them explore, their emotional safety; and, in so doing, they allowed me to contribute to the positive emotional climate of the school.  Our mutual acceptance of each other encouraged us to explore and grow in many areas, including, conflict resolution, coping with stress, drugs, bullying, violence and abuse, and in many other areas.  Notwithstanding the many discipline issues that surfaced (“Brownies Time”) our school was able to keep its strong sense of community and explore many other instructional strategies to help the educational institution grow, change, adapt, and continue to learn.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


This past week I saw electronic media postings by educators who complained that, and seemed to know why, students today are failures.   As is usually the case, whenever anyone (parent or teacher) complains about students, whether today or a hundred years ago, the overwhelming reason always is: “they no longer (are allowed to) teach the way they used to”, in other words, “the best way to learn will always be the way that I learned”.  How very egocentric.  The postings also triggered many memories in me!  That very old school line of thinking had originally inspired me to write my first article (Education in Belize) back in October 2011: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.  I wrote it in response to the community’s extremely negative response to my previous announcement, as Guidance Counselor, that San Pedro High School was replacing 2 weeks out-of-school suspension (vacation) with 2 weeks in-school suspension or ISS.  My articles on Education are now regularly posted online by other media sources, and in my personal Blog.  It’s time now for a 2 year anniversary follow-up.

I admit, though, how gratifying it is for me to see teachers/educators and parents now actively participating in and reacting to the Education process as practiced today in Belize.  No matter where we may fit on the broad spectrum of ways to teach/learn, whether old school, new school, or anywhere in between, it is ultimately most productive that we each regularly provide our input, express our opinions, and “act” on them!  The other alternative is to sit back and do nothing but continuously complain about students and/or schools. I wholeheartedly congratulate each parent and teacher/educator who voices his/her concerns and suggestions, and actively follows them up in an effort to try to improve the Education process in Belize.

First and foremost, I fully agree with old school teachers and parents: YES, discipline is an extremely necessary factor to keep the wheels of learning greased so they keep turning smoothly and successfully every day.  However, I disagree fully with the many punitive ways by which many old school people choose to define discipline.  Corporal punishment (whipping and lashing), screaming at, insulting, and belittling students in front of others may have been used as “discipline” in the past – perhaps may have even encouraged some students to study – but they are NOT going to work in the 21st Century to motivate any student to want to learn.  Actually, I prefer to use the term “structure” instead of “discipline” to describe the process that we can use to motivate students to want to learn.  Structure has nothing whatsoever to do with punishment.  On the other hand, most students think of discipline as forms of punishment.  To keep structure in the learning method requires/places responsibility on teacher/educator as well as on student.  Note: Certain youth from previous generations chose to take several years to travel the world as hippies “to find themselves”; others chose to follow a structured path of studies and/or work.  I do not pass judgment on anyone, but merely use this example to show the difference between structured learning, and non-structured learning.  There is also structured classroom learning and non-structured classroom learning.  Teachers, of course, always make the difference!

Today’s 21st Century world is TOTALLY different from the world of previous generations, and from the world in which I, and most of today’s teachers/educators, grew up.  Why, then, can’t we learn to “break free” from the past and change or adapt old patterns/behaviors to match students' needs today, and enhance teaching and learning in today's world?

Many teachers, especially in Belize, openly disagree with my preferred methods of teaching and learning (for students), and often accuse me of unfairly siding with students instead of with teachers – as they claim I should.  For the record, I feel strongly that learning has nothing whatsoever to do with whose side you’re on, but rather, could be seen as a constant struggle to overcome and conquer the unknown (what we want/need to learn).  However, the environment around us, both physical and emotional, will always greatly influence, positively and negatively, our process of struggling to overcome and learn.  Here, also, I disagree greatly with many old school lines of thinking that claim that teachers and students should “make” their environment.

The 21st Century world today is unlike any that ever existed before. So, why do we need to change/adapt our previously set habits and behaviors?  Take a look at the world around us today:  a large amount (majority?) of adults and young people are constantly stressed out
  • We do not get enough sleep at night.  There’s so very much to see and do in this Age of Advanced Technology that sleep is considered by many as a “waste of valuable time”.
  • We lack proper nutrition and exercise.  Who has time to prepare home-cooked meals, eat them slowly, and exercise regularly when there’s so much else around us to see, hear, and do?
  • A large amount of us are overweight today.  In our haste to eat any/everything, especially if it can be ready (fast food) in an instant, we have forgotten when to stop.
  • We are today one of the most competitive societies ever on earth.  In our haste to always “be first” we rarely ever stop to “breathe”, and celebrate our smallest achievements.
  • Advanced technology has made life so interesting for everyone now, that anything moving slower than “fast technology” is considered totally boring.  Might this be why youngsters today spend such an exaggerated time “sitting down” in front of screens instead of moving, exploring, and actively learning?
  • Today's family structure and mechanics have totally changed from what they used to be.  Both parents usually work today, and many times youngsters are "on their own".

And the list can go on; but I feel that I have made my point.

In order to fully embrace and use discipline (structure) in today’s classroom, why not use the very things that are distracting students to more fully engage them in learning?  I recall how from January 1992 to June 1994 I used to take my high school classes outside the building on hot afternoons, and we would go under a shady tree to read, and have active discussions about the literature that we were reading and from which we were trying to learn (Literature).  My students accomplished so very much during those classes, and they always looked forward to having them.  They never seemed bored during those classes. Sadly, many teachers today insist that only good old-fashioned whipping, and/or drilling hours on end, along with some good “putting them in their place” is what will make students learn today.  My response: we cannot make anyone learn; but, we could find various ways to engage students, and keep motivating them to want to learn more and more.  Just because certain methods worked on/for you does not automatically mean they will work on all students today.  As I have mentioned in previous articles, we should all make every effort to keep our attitudes “flexible” if we are ever to adapt, change, and be able to grow and keep learning in today’s world.  (Only God need not ever change attitude -- there is but one!) 

One final reminder for teachers/educators: we easily break free of set habits, attitudes, behaviors, classroom management techniques, and set methods of teaching after we determine why we want to change – never because others may force us to change.  If, however, we insist on “doing the same thing over and over again”, don’t expect different results. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Education in Belize: Breaking Free (Part II)

This past week I received very many emails and Facebook messages with readers’ comments regarding my thoughts on Belize’s September celebrations of Independence, and on its “Breaking Free”.  Since this topic resonated with many readers, especially Belizeans who shared their many thoughts on the subject with me, this week I offer more ideas along these lines.

To break oneself free of a habit or custom, whether it’s positive or negative, is by far much easier said than done.  Adapting to change is never easy for anyone, especially when he/she is set in his/her ways.  (To both my young adult sons, I humbly and publicly offer my “mea culpa”.)  Painful examples of peoples and countries throughout history that chose to break free of domineering rulers show that they went to great lengths, including fighting (civil) wars that incurred many deaths and great suffering, before being able to freely choose their very own path(s).  Moreover, people throughout the world who were once enslaved also had to fight and suffer greatly for long periods of time, both physically and emotionally, before finally gaining their emancipation and freedom. 

Breaking free of habits that have made us set in our ways requires the same powerful determination and inner strength to even start to change and move on with our lives.   Examples that come to mind are the continuous determination and hard work required daily of cigarette smokers, drug users, or alcoholics who want to “control” (end) their addictions or uncontrollable habits.  The original decision is usually made for health reasons.  Nevertheless, an addict’s long and difficult journey to change must begin with one very first step: wanting to be free of the addicted habit(s).  Without that powerful inner desire to want to change, no addict ever changes or controls (ends) the habit.  And, if someone else forces an addict to end the addiction, it’s almost guaranteed that the addict will eventually slide back into the addiction. 

Albert Einstein’s widely used description of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”.  This description is posted throughout various social media networks on an almost daily basis.  So, what does all this have to do with Education in Belize?  First of all, we are currently living in the 21st Century, no longer in the 20th.  It is only logical, then, that we should have Education systems today that can produce students who are capable of living and working productively in the 21st Century.  If we do not have such systems, then it’s imperative that we create them!  Prime example: In today’s Belizean workplace, computers are NOT a luxury, but a necessity.  Do schools in Belize accept this?  Are they willing to prepare all students, starting from in Primary school, to work in a computer-dominated world?  One or two classes a week, only in high school, can never possibly be enough!  Moreover, we do not wait for several years after a student starts school to teach him/her to read and write.  We start from day one!

Specialists who teach computers must also “constantly” keep learning how to use new applications in order to be able to teach students how to use them.  New computer programs are introduced almost every year, if not more often, throughout the world.  However, based on Belize’s current economy (in the red), and on an overall dismal sense of public satisfaction throughout the country, are our schools preparing students/graduates to work, and succeed, in Belize’s computerized workplace today?  If they are not, what are they waiting for?  Also, how do our students and graduates today compare “in the realm of technology” with other students and graduates from throughout the developed and developing world?  Is the comparison positive or negative?

Above all else, in order to accept and adapt to current global change, school policymakers and educators in Belize cannot be forced to change; rather, they must first want to adapt to changes -- for the good and improvement of the country, if for no other reason.  Admittedly, that will never be easily achieved.  However, those of us (especially parents) who see the need for and want change must also be willing to keep presenting our expectations or demands with “great effort”.  As I do in all my articles, we must live that battle cry of “never giving up”.  Also, interested parents, employers, and each stakeholder in Belize’s successful future must keep abreast of, and participate in government, church, school, and Board meetings, and keep giving positive input to educators and policymakers to show them that even though genuine change cannot be forced on anyone, it is achievable and attainable.  Too many parents mistakenly believe that just because they demand change in school systems it must and will be granted.  In other words, whoever wants to see positive changes in Belize’s Education system, must be willing to work for it, and not give up when/if no changes are adapted. 

The key to be able to adapt to any positive change is to have a flexible “attitude”.  Therefore, before any 21st Century change is made or welcomed into Belize’s Education system, previous and current attitudes need to be flexible or willing to be changed.  Example: Other than just investing more money each year in schools, policymakers (private, government, church, and Boards of Directors) should also be designing some form of flexible school improvement standards and accountability standards.  In keeping up with the times they must be willing to listen to others, have open minds, and when necessary, be willing to “try other ways to see which is better.”  School standards today in Belize are almost the same as they were in the 1960’s.  Those standards may have worked back then, but they certainly won’t today.  Who, though, will be brave and flexible enough to first “want” to adapt changes in school standards to meet Belize’s workforce needs today?

I vividly remember starting high school in 1965.  The older generation in those days constantly kept criticizing our younger generation for trying (and enjoying) the new fads such as dancing the twist, rock and roll, girls wearing mini skirts, boys having long hair etc.  Now that I am older I look back on those days and quietly smile!  However, I doubt that young Belizeans can possibly survive 50 years into the future to look back fondly, and say, “Oh the digital age; we remember when no one wanted to accept it 50 years ago.”  In other words, when we fall off a boat and into deep and rough seas, we don’t have the luxury of choosing whether to swim or not.  We must swim for dear life! So, when I insist that Belize break free from complacently adhering to former Colonial (Commonwealth) systems of Education, it’s not because I don’t like Colonials; rather, it’s because our Education systems today are not adequately providing our Youth with survival skills to live in this new digital and global world.  We must accept that Belize, our jewel, is no longer one of Huxley’s “ends of the earth”, and will only survive/succeed as a country by being a part of all things global.  Scouts motto:  Be Prepared!

Finally, as a proud Belizean parent, I remind all readers that no matter how very much we love our children, we raise them  “to eventually let them go”, not to hang on to them all the days of our lives.  Believe it or not, they too (like we did) will find and make a life of their own!  Belize, you are now an Independent country: let go of your parent’s ways and start finding your own way in life -- starting with how you choose to educate our Youth!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Education in Belize: Breaking Free!

September in Belize is a month for celebrations!  Many festivities lead up to Sept 10th to commemorate the “Battle of St. George’s Caye”, a day that has been celebrated each year, and long before the country achieved self-governing status in the mid 1960’s and Independence in 1981.  Each September includes many talent competitions throughout Belize, then a festive Carnaval, then the nationwide celebrated Independence Day on Sept. 21st  to top a full month of festivities.  In our many September celebrations throughout the country, we celebrate many forms of “breaking free”, whether from Colonial masters or from whatever may have once held us back -- as a country and as a people.  We even broke free from our former name, British Honduras, and have proudly made ourselves known throughout the entire world as: Belize.  Certainly, we have every right to celebrate all the changes and advancements in Belize today. 

It is unfortunate, though, that Belize insists on remaining very disadvantaged as a young developing country, because since gaining Independence we adamantly refuse to break free from adhering to former/existing Colonial (Commonwealth) systems of Education throughout the country.  Yet, our Education policymakers (government and church) seem unable to understand why a majority of young Primary school students in Belize score so very lowly on annual Proficiency examinations, i.e. PSE, each year.  Until we break free of antiquated Colonial systems of Education we cannot adequately provide our Youth with survival skills to live in today’s new global and digital world!  What, pray tell, are we waiting for to WANT to break free of old systems of Education, and set our very own Belizean 21st Century standards?  Money is certainly not an excuse because in Belize hundreds of millions of dollars are made and change hands each year.  Yet, Education still is not top priority among the many new government, church, and business projects each year.  (Am I the only educator who questions this?)  Moreover, there are many talented and professional (young) people living and working in Belize today!  The country now boasts more than one university, and each one produces highly proficient and professional graduates in ever-increasing numbers each year.  Yet, the majority of our Primary/Elementary school children are not reaching where they should be, literary wise, compared with the rest of the world.  Why?  It simply cannot be that all our young students are lazy!  Who, then, is?  (Learned Helplessness)

As an Independent nation today, Belize offers its young people more occupational, career, and educational options than at any other time before.  However, along with all the new opportunities available today, there exist far more problems in our society than we have ever seen before: ever-increasing daily crime, violence, drug abuse and peddling to all ages, poverty and unemployment, and an overall sense of hopelessness from thousands of people throughout the country.  Many of us struggle, day in and day out, to survive ever-increasing “hard times”.  Yet, during these very difficult times, the rich get richer, a middle class borders extinction, and life keeps getting harder and harder for the growing number of poor people with each new day.  As we press on through these seemingly insurmountable and Dickensian times, how are we helping our young people to truly “prepare” for life in the next 10 years?  Trying to educate them by using someone else’s standards simply is not good enough!  Neither can it show them how to lead meaningful and satisfying lives while they try to learn each day in school.

As of today, what public actions are being taken to try to lower Belize’s extremely high unemployment rate (especially among Secondary and Tertiary educated citizens) and widespread poverty?  How are we trying to stop gangs from openly and violently taking anything and everything they choose from hard-working Belizeans, many violent murders, and increasing closures of what once were successful business establishments?  We could address it all by first positively reforming our Education systems throughout the entire country!  It seems though, that we have all inexplicably chosen to accept our current pitiful and miserable, at times even violent, situations as being our uncontrollable destiny.  So, as of this September, what better and more improved Education is now available to our children that we can celebrate?

Old and new schools, whether in Belize or not, are not just buildings and institutions that provide many teachers and professional educators with jobs.  Schools provide and promote efficient Education for students, and prepare them to live and work in today’s world!  Better-prepared graduates and a better Belizean workforce also translate into a more robust Belizean economy.  Yet, an improved 21st Century Education just is not top-priority in Belize today, nor has it become fully non-negotiable for everyone.  It certainly is not surprising, then, that several private (and expensive) and successful schools have emerged in Belize during the last 5 or 10 years.  Basically, private schools will always be accountable to parents who can afford to pay expensive monthly tuition, to no one else.  To whom, then, are public schools accountable today in Belize?

As a Belizean, I am quite serious when I say/write that our number one goal should be to provide a better Education to our children; it must be better than what we have provided since before we became Independent as a country.  However, any reform whatsoever in our present Education systems requires input from ALL stakeholders: parents, teachers, business community, government, church, and the entire nation.  Most importantly, we must all be serious about wanting to improve our students’ performance and educational outcomes.  I look forward to having so much more to celebrate next September.  Congratulations Belize!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Education in Belize: Enthusiasm! How long can/will it last?

A family member of mine recently commented to me how very enthusiastic his youngest son is to be returning to Primary (Elementary) school this week, after a long summer vacation away from school.  My first thought about that comment: How wonderful to see a young student enthusiastic about returning to school to continue disciplined learning!  My second thought: I wonder how long that enthusiasm will last…  My concluding thought:  What should we educators and parents keep doing to instill and maintain that enthusiasm for learning in all students, everyday all year long?

It is very sad that today Education and learning do not always conjure thoughts or feelings of enthusiasm in many students and/or parents.  However, we are living in a difficult and complicated age now in the 21st Century, not in Utopia – whether we live in Belize, a Third World (underdeveloped) country, or in a developed country.  When the majority of working parents must think of Education (especially Secondary) for their children in terms of, “How will I be able to afford tuition, books, fees and all the many expenses just to register my child for a new school year?” there is not much room left for enthusiasm about learning.    How then, do we adults, parents or educators, feed our children with enthusiasm for school and learning, no matter at what level they may be studying, and keep it alive and robust all year long?

Politicians and policy makers of Education generally concentrate on budgets and costs per student; educators concentrate on using successful methods of teaching and on setting a proper and detailed curriculum to help students advance each school year; parents concentrate on making sure students attend school daily, and on finding ways to pay for their children’s education; students are encouraged to concentrate on disciplined learning.  However, the one goal that we all (politicians, educators, parents) share is to keep doing whatever it takes to make sure students enjoy something about being at school, especially in the classroom.  Parents, just as much as teachers who work with students daily in the classrooms, equally share this sacred responsibility!  Parents who show no interest whatsoever in their children’s “life at school” will instantly kill whatever enthusiasm a student may have for learning, and for being in a classroom to learn something new everyday. So, p l e a s e, I strongly encourage all parents, starting this very first week of school, to set the tone for your children and share in their enthusiasm for whatever they may learn in school everyday!  Keep in touch regularly with your children’s teachers, and stay abreast of their achievements (and their most difficult times) at school, and you will help much more than you may realize to keep that enthusiasm for learning alive and robust all year long in students!

There are always excuses; however, excuses will always be excuses -- nothing else!  Having been an educator since 1978, I have heard them all.  Parents:  I don’t have the time.  I must concentrate on making the money, and work my … off everyday to pay for his/her education.  I never went to school, so why am I expected to know what he/she is doing in school?  What more do you expect from me?  I am not God!  Teachers’ excuses may run along these lines:  It’s not my problem if he/she does not want to learn.  Let his parents worry about him/her; I am not the parent.  My job is to teach; that’s what I am being paid for – nothing else.  If his parents can’t handle him/her, how am I supposed to handle him/her? There’s only so much I can do, especially in such a large class.  Politicians:  We spend so much money on Education – more than any other Cabinet Ministry or Department!  What else are we supposed to do?  We cannot learn for them!  Stop blaming us, and thank us for all the money we spend on your children.  So then, if we all have so many other pressing responsibilities, who should be responsible for, or will ever have the time to instill a love of learning in our children?  Really though, after everything is said and done, whose problem is it?

There are entire volumes of books written today about the “difficult” student, and how he/she should be treated at school to best help him/her learn.  However, I believe strongly that long before any student ever reaches the stage of being “difficult”, or ever gets placed into that category for whatever reason, a genuine love and enthusiasm for learning from an early age would keep him/her inspired enough (fired enough) to like something/anything, no matter how small, about being in school.  Many students love sports, or participating in other extra curricular activities at school.  It would be great if we could somehow manage to spread whatever enthusiasm they may have in one area throughout all areas of their entire school career. Perhaps that's why students in vocational or trade schools often do well:  they enjoy what they do!   Hence, my loud and continued cries for ongoing reform in schools today so that students will be able to embrace and remain enthusiastic, no matter to what degree, about whatever they may be learning, or may be required to learn. 

Finally, I want to make it quite clear (once more) that we cannot ever pressure anyone to be enthusiastic about learning.  That’s simply not possible.  However, whatever reform(s) in Education that we all work toward achieving, starting today and especially in Belize, must ensure that students always are encouraged to have/maintain some form of overall enthusiasm for learning – in disciplined and undisciplined ways, inside and outside of school.  We are now living in a digital and highly technological age.  Our challenges in learning today are NOT the same as those from yesteryear.  For those who insist on living in the past:  Wake up and smell the Sanka!  For those who are not afraid to face the present:  Wake up and smell the coffee!