Living Strategically: 50 Lessons Chess Teaches You About Life

2 02 2015

Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions

6 01 2015

User Generated Education


Having essential questions drive curriculum and learning has become core to many educators’ instructional practices.  Grant Wiggins, in his work on Understanding By Design, describes an essential question as:

A meaning of “essential” involves important questions that recur throughout one’s life. Such questions are broad in scope and timeless by nature. They are perpetually arguable – What is justice?  Is art a matter of taste or principles? How far should we tamper with our own biology and chemistry?  Is science compatible with religion? Is an author’s view privileged in determining the meaning of a text? We may arrive at or be helped to grasp understandings for these questions, but we soon learn that answers to them are invariably provisional. In other words, we are liable to change our minds in response to reflection and experience concerning such questions as we go through life, and that such changes of mind are…

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Wired for Wonder Part 3 By Bob Bishop

4 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nWhen I think of wonder I think of how it is the theme of the master story teller, Steven Spielberg.  In his video essay: Moment of Wonder: The Spielberg Face  Kevin B. Lee says,

” If there is one recurring image that defines the cinema of Steven Spielberg, it is The Spielberg Face. Eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still. But above all, a child-like surrender in the act of watching, both theirs and ours. It’s as if their total submission to what they are seeing mirrors our own. The face tells us that a monumental event is happening; in doing so, it also tells us how we should feel. You can’t think of the most iconic moments in Spielberg’s cinema without The Spielberg Face.”   (footnote)

A teacher magician seeks to do this in their students but not just to produce a face of wonder but a heart that continues to wonder.

Before we continue, let us wander through a cloud of some definitions of wonder.

Wonder is astonishment, awe inspiring, and experiencing something inexplicable.  It is a feeling of surprise of the unexpected.  It provokes fascination and drives you to explore.

Robert E. Neale says in The Sense of Wonder “To wonder is to be affected with surprise or admiration; to be struck with astonishment, to marvel.  I t can also mean to feel doubt and curiosity or to be in a state of uncertainty, expectation concerning something; to query in the mind to be anxious to know or find out.  Wonder expresses an awakened interest.” (footnote)

Both magicians and teachers are thaumaturgics–workers of wonder- who seek to awaken and ignite interest. What an awesome declaration and position of esteem.  Perhaps you have experienced these different aspects of wonder from a teacher.

There is a “wonder at” leaving us confounded

There is a “wonder if”  inviting conjectures.

There is a “wonder why” drawing us to discover causes.

There is a “wonder how” beckoning us toward certainty. 


But little is written about this sense of wonder and it seems to be lacking in the current educational system.  We hear the education machinery running, people applauding, and awards earned but something of the soul of education is missing. But to be clear I am not proposing that we add another requirement to our curriculum. Every year more is added to the complexity of teacher requirements in the quest to turn education around. The answer is not adding wonder to the curriculum but uncovering the wonder that is already there and unleashing it in our students.

Listen to how wonder weaved into my life.  Like many boys I had an fascination with magic tricks. I remember on lucky days my mother took my brother and I to a novelty shop after our accordion lessons.  This was a place of color, magic tricks, puzzles, jokes, costumes ,novelties and a corner of adult items where my mother directed us away from.  Once in a while we would buy a magic trick.  One day my mother bought me a magic trick that would cause a borrowed coin to appear inside layers of metal boxes.  In fourth grade I remember performing this in front of my class.  I remember how ecstatic I became when I heard about visiting magicians in town. I also remembered  borrowing  magic tricks from a magician friend of mine to perform at birthday parties.  Going to the magic stores at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm were something I would wait all year for.

To this day when I visit libraries I target to the section of  793.  The number 793.8 was magic and magicians and nearby were games, puzzles,  and chess.  These topics have played a large influence in my life.  An influential writer in my life was polymath Martin Gardner.   The writer and puzzle master Martin Gardner was once said to have turned dozens of innocent youngsters into math professors – and thousands of math professors into innocent youngsters. (footnote) Because of this wonder itch I have written books on games,  led  championship chess teams, created chess camps and performed thousands of magic shows.  I have performed my  Math Magic shows for 30 years.  Wonder was unleashed in my heart with magic and math.

But to be clear wonder is not in the world, it is unleashed in us.  Paul Harris, a well-known close-up magician and writer makes a case that “Astonishment is not an emotion that’s created. It’s an existing state that’s revealed.”

A while back my wife and I were at an outside shopping mall that exhibits a colorful water fountain with colored lights.  Once a hour music would play and the choreographic dancing water would stop shoppers in their tracks.  The texting stops, the  distractions fade, the arms unfold, the defenses  go down and the emotions are touched.

One evening a little boy climbed upon one of the rocks and commenced to conduct the entire spectacle with swinging arms, facial gestures and enthusiasm. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice he conducted the music.  There is the Magic!  He was in flow.  He immersed himself into the experience with abandonment where he believed he was controlling the dancing waters.  He was uninhibited and filled with joy, magic and wonder!   This was more magic than the fountain because we caught a glimpse of the creation of wonder from this six year old boy. His entry way to wonder was an outside musical fountain. And this tapped into the wonder in him.

       That fountain served  to unveil a state that children are not far away from and adults have traveled far from.

       Doug Henning, the hippy magician of the 70’s said, “Wonder is very necessary in life. When we were little kids, we were filled with wonder for the world — it’s fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded. Magic renews that wonder. When we feel wonder, we are immediately reminded of the purity and innocence of our childhood”

This led me to a question. Are magicians more attuned to their sense of wonder than others?  So I asked a some influential magicians about wonder.

Stay tune for Part 4

2014 in review

29 12 2014

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 77,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class

30 10 2014


30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class by Todd Finley

One day, in front 36 riotous sophomores, I clutched my chest and dropped to my knees like Sergeant Elias at the end of Platoon. Instantly, dead silence and open mouths replaced classroom Armageddon. Standing up like nothing had happened, I said, “Thanks for your attention — let’s talk about love poems.”

I never used that stunt again. After all, should a real emergency occur, it would be better if students call 911 rather than post my motionless body on YouTube. I’ve thought this through.

Most teachers use silencing methods, such as flicking the lights, ringing a call bell (see Teacher Tipster’s charming video on the subject), raising two fingers, saying “Attention, class,” or using Harry Wong’s Give Me 5 — a command for students to:

  1. Focus their eyes on the speaker
  2. Be quiet
  3. Be still
  4. Empty their hands
  5. Listen.

There is also the “three fingers” version, which stands for stop, look, and listen. Fortunately, none of these involve medical hoaxes.

Lesser known techniques are described below and categorized by grade bands:

How to Quiet Kindergarten and Early Elementary School Children

Novelty successfully captures young students’ attention, such as the sound of a wind chime or rain stick. Beth O., in Cornerstone for Teachers, tells her students, “Pop a marshmallow in.” Next she puffs up her cheeks, and the kids follow suit. It’s hard to speak with an imaginary marshmallow filling your mouth.

An equally imaginative approach involves filling an empty Windex bottle with lavender mineral oil, then relabeling the bottle “Quiet Spray.” Or you can blow magic “hush-bubbles” for a similar impact.

Teaching Chick places quiet critters on every desk. If a child becomes noisy, she moves the critter to the edge of his or her desk. “If I see them talking again, I will take their quiet critter.” Kids still possessing their critters at the end of an activity get their name added to a reward chart.

If you want to go electronic, check out Traffic Light by ICT Magic, which is simply a stoplight for talkers. Other digital methods include the Super Sound Box, Class Dojo, or the Too Noisy App — an Apple and Android tool that determines noise level and produces an auditory signal when voices become too loud.

Late Elementary and Middle Grade Attention Getters

Back when I taught middle school students, I would announce, “Silent 20,” as a way to conclude an activity. If students returned to their seats and were completely quiet in 20 seconds, I advanced them one space on a giant facsimile of Game of Life. When they reached the last square (which took approximately one month), we held a popcorn party.

One of the best ways to maintain a quiet classroom is to catch students at the door before they enter. During these encounters, behavior management expert Rob Plevin recommends using “non-confrontational statements” and “informal chit-chat” to socialize kids into productive behaviors, as modeled in Plevin’s video.

Two approaches for securing “100 percent attention” are modeled in a short video narrated by Teach Like a Champion author Doug Lemov — a minimally invasive hand gesture and countdown technique (“I need two people. You know who you are. I need one person . . . “).

Another idea is to use a content “word of the week” to signal that it’s time for silence. Examples: integer, renaissance, or circuit.

Quieting High School Students

Sometimes, rambunctious high school classrooms need a little longer to comply. In An ELT Notebook article, Rob Johnson recommends that teachers write the following instructions in bold letters on the chalkboard:

If you wish to continue talking during my lesson, I will have to take time off you at break. By the time I’ve written the title on the board you need to be sitting in silence. Anyone who is still talking after that will be kept behind for five minutes.

The strategy always, always works, says Johnson, because it gives students adequate warning.

Another technique, playing classical music (Bach, not Mahler) on low volume when learners enter the room, sets a professional tone. I played music with positive subliminal messages to ninth graders until they complained that it gave them headaches.

Call and Response

Below is a collection of catchy sayings that work as cues to be quiet, the first ones appropriate for early and middle grade students, and the later ones field tested to work with high school kids.

Teacher says . . . Students Respond with . . .
Holy . . . . . . macaroni.
1, 2, 3, eyes on me . . . . . . 1, 2, eyes on you.
I’m incredible . . . . . . like the Hulk. Grrrrrr. (Kids flex during the last sound)
Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy . . . . . . macarena.
I get knocked down . . . . . . but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.
Oh Mickey, you’re so fine . . . . . . you’re so fine, you blow my mind — hey Mickey.
The only easy day . . . . . . was yesterday. (A Navy Seals slogan)

Implementation Suggestions

For maximum effect, teach your quiet signal and procedure, as demonstrated in these elementary and high school classroom videos. Next, have kids rehearse being noisy until you give the signal for silence. Don’t accept anything less than 100 percent compliance. Then describe appropriate levels of noise for different contexts, such as when you’re talking (zero noise) or during a writing workshop (quiet voices), etc.

If a rough class intimidates you (we’ve all been there), privately practice stating the following in an authoritative voice: “My words are important. Students will listen to me.” Say it until you believe it. Finally, take comfort in the knowledge that, out of three million U.S. educators who taught today, two or three might have struggled to silence a rowdy class.

How do you get your students’ attention?

Reflections on Turning Sixty by Bob Bishop

18 11 2013

The phrase “turning 60” brings to mind the face of a clock. One reason is that my youngest daughter gave me a notebook with clock faces on it with a quote from the ancient book of Ecclesiastes for my birthday. This quote exploded in my mind with a haunting song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950’s. The lyrics were adapted almost entirely from verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and recorded in 1962 by the Byrds. “To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)…There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)..And a time to every purpose, under Heaven.” It is difficult not to sing it as I write this.

So my mind ventured further. As a math teacher I felt compelled to investigate the significance of 60 in the matter of time. The age old question pierced my thoughts. Why are there 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour and 24 hours in a day? I discovered that there was a rather enigmatic tale of a collaboration of the Egyptian use of sundials to divide a twelve hour day and a twelve hour night, the Babylonian using base 60 in their astronomical calculations and the Greek mathematicians who divided circles into 360 degrees. It has a wonderfully mathematical history interesting to some and accepted by everyone. So we have the invention of the face of a clock circle explained as well as the significance of 60 in the matter of time.
So I have lived 60 years, 219,145 days, 525,960 hours, 31,557,600 minutes or 1,893,456,000 seconds.

That brings us to a story of a couple who had an old grandfather clock in their family for generations. It used to keep perfect time, but lately they had noticed that, instead of going “tick tock tick tock “, it was just went ” tick, tick, tick, tick “,and consequently it had started to lose time. Eventually they decided to take the clock back to the manufacturers in Germany. The clock maker studied the grandfather clock suspiciously, walked up to the face and declared,       ” Ve haf vays of making you tock.”

Clocks have a face but no mouth to talk with. They have hands but do not communicate. We impose personality to Father Time but still time tics away giving no meaning to our lives. Clocks do not give meaning- they only give time. As I return to the circular face of a clock I again see the turning of time. Turn, turn, turn. The hands circle round and round but do not produce significance.

I have an old clock that I wind every week just as my father did years ago. I remember the sounds of the gongs on the hour, the pings on the half hour and the memories of my father. As I look through the scrapbooks of my life that clock appears over and over. Through my childhood, through my middle school years and high school years it was in the background of the photographs. The clock was on the fireplace mantle where Christmas cards were hung. It was also on display at my father’s memorial service. I have significant memories and I give meaning to that clock.
Clocks are tools and like other instruments they have a specific purpose, meaning and significance we give them. But they do not give us purpose, meaning or significance.

Here is a metaphorical example for the use of tools. When you observe a clock you will see that most are round, they have 12 numbers,  they help when you want to be on time, and helps with schedules and appointments. Now take a compass. Notice that it is also round, it has 360 numbers, it helps when you are lost and gives us direction.

A person run by a clock could be seen as one who runs life by patterns, often distracted by the urgent, goes in circles, just turns the crank but winds up nowhere. Consider the idioms about time. We use so many phrases with it. We pass time, waste time, kill time and lose time. We do things in good time and we take our time. We save time and we are right on time. We are out of time. We mind the time. We keep time and we stall for time.

A person led by a compass has a direction in life, runs life by principles, stays focused on the important, and has direction and even sets direction. What comes to mind here is how a compass gave Einstein a sense of wonder. Here is how the story goes. When Einstein was five years old he came down with an illness that forced him to take bed rest. His father gave him a compass – a gift that would change his life. He pondered what made the arrow always point to north no matter where he stood. He shook it up, spun it around and it would still point north. When most people go through their lives with the least thought of the mysteries of the universe, this compass caused him to question. It kindled in him a life-long need to know how nature worked. There is a force in nature, a magic. Nature itself tells us there is much more than what senses cannot explain. This was the first time he experienced wonder. This sense of wonder gave Einstein a sense of direction for the rest of his life. A sense of awe and wonder drives one to ponder as Shakespeare wrote when Hamlet said to Horatio “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Returning to a timepiece we find that there are two words for time in the Greek. They are chronos and kairos. Both are Greek words which mean time, but they imply different things. Chronos refers to minutes and seconds like a clock. It refers to time as a measurable resource. It reminds us that we have only so much time in this world. Mitch Albom says in The Time Keeper , “Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”

Kairos is also a word used for time. Kairos means an appointed time, an opportune moment, or a due season. We tend to think of our time in a chronos mindset. We think of having 24 hours in a day. We define our workweeks by the number of hours that we work. We have a list of things to do and only so much time to get everything done. Being conscious of our minutes and seconds is a good thing. Our time on earth is so brief, and we want to be good stewards of every second that we have. We only have such a brief opportunity to raise our kids when they’re still young children. When a friend is experiencing pain, we have a brief window of time in which to reach out to them. Instead of looking at our time as grains of sand slipping through an hourglass, we view our time as opportunities flying by. Instead of viewing our time as seconds ticking by, we realize that not every second holds the same worth. This presupposes meaning and purpose.

Brian Selznick, in his wonderful children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Isabelle and Hugo discusses this high in a clock tower.

Isabelle: I wonder what my purpose is…

Hugo Cabret: Everything has a purpose, clocks tell you the time, trains take you to           places. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any           extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured           if the entire world was one big machine… I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for           some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.

For Hugo the giant clock reminded him of his purpose but it did not give him purpose. And such it is when we look for purpose and meaning “under the sun.” (a phrase introduced again in the ancient book of Ecclesiastes). Like a sundial and the silent face of a clock, as well as a calendar or how many birthdays I live–they give no meaning, they only measure time and provoke us to see a higher purpose.

Others have set their sights higher for meaning by looking beyond the endless measurement of time to the vastness of the universe. The tools and instruments are not clocks but telescopes.

We hear from scientists that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. Light reaching us from the earliest known galaxies has been travelling, therefore, for more than 13 billion years. So one might assume that the radius of the universe is 13.7 billion light-years and that the whole universe size is double that, or 27.4 billion light-years wide. The standard picture is that our universe descends from a Bang 13.7 billion years ago. According to scientists, we do not even know whether it is finite or infinite.

The satirist Sci-fi writer Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says “The universe is a very big thing that contains a great number of planets and a great number of beings. It is Everything. What we live in. All around us. The lot. Not nothing. It is quite difficult to actually define what the Universe means, but fortunately this Guide doesn’t worry about that and just gives us some useful information to live in it.”

We gather this smallness and meaningless from the recent film Gravity. We see Ryan Stone hanging in the vast void of space and devoid of God seeking enough reason to survive and bravely overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to return to earth. Here I am reminded of a quote by Ravi Zacharias, “Meaninglessness is the plague of our time.”

But in the vastness of space we can be wowed but miss the music of the spheres, the poetry and mystery of wonder. Does science necessarily lead us down a road that ends in the naturalistic explanation of everything we see? In the nineteenth century, modernism lead us that direction. The “God of the gaps” was finding himself in a narrower and narrower niche. However, 20th century and now 21st century science is leading us back down the road of design – not from a lack of scientific explanation, but from scientific explanation that requires an appeal to something that the tools of science do not deal well with. As a result of the recent evidence in support of design, many scientists now believe in God. Here are a few of these voices:

Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design… The universe must have a purpose”.

Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.”

Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” (Note: Tipler since has actually converted to Christianity, hence his latest book, The Physics Of Christianity.)

Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. ……I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.”

It is strange how the infinity of time and vastness of space impresses people but smallness displays infinity in another direction.

When we replace the telescope of astronomy with the microscope of nuclear physics we ask how small is the universe? It can be said that there are possibly more atoms within that single grain of sand than there are grains of sand on this entire beach.

When we replace the microscope back to instruments of time measurement we approach the question how short of time can we measure. We have moved from seconds to, milliseconds (one thousandth of second), to single digit microseconds (one millionth of a second) and now into the nanosecond range”

Here we are reminded of William Blake’s haunting poem….

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

We are awed that we can explore infinity of the macrocosm as well as the infinity of the microcosm with instruments of science. But tools are made to measure and observe things. They are not to give meaning. We need not bow to the papacy of science. The tools of science compel us to keep asking questions but it will never give us the answers to the deeper questions of life.

As we seek answers to life, as we search for that compass to give direction and wonder, as we desire a kairos purpose in our lives, as our hearts echo the childhood wisdom of Hugo Cabret, as we see that science does not necessarily lead us down the road of atheism, we can ask the deeper questions of life and seek answers for the head, heart and hands. We can seek answers that are intellectually satisfying, answers that fill the desires of our heart, and answers that give us something significant to do.

Just as there are scientific facts to the universe there are also facts and deeper questions that science does not have the instruments to discover.

Fact number one: There is something rather than nothing. We live as though we are real people in a real world. Why is there something rather than nothing?

Fact number two: We can know this universe (or at least part of it). We live as though we can trust our senses and reasoning. Why do we have the ability to know and understand?

Fact number three: People have dignity as well as cruelty. We live as though we have a superior standing in the world and are moral creatures, but we have difficulty living up to this standard. Why do we have a sense of morality, love, and justice?

Fact number four: We hunger for something more. We feel a need for purpose, we have longings to satisfy, we desire challenge, victory, and contribution. Why do we seek beyond what is? Why do we feel like the Hallow Men of T.S. Eliot yet feel unfulfilled at the end of it all…”This is the way the world ends….Not with a bang but a whimper.”? Why are we not satisfied with Macbeth’s utterance, “Life….. is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I remember after my brother died of cancer he left us his car. Not able to sell this car it had just enough energy to drive to the junk yard. Arriving there I traded the car for some cash and asked the attendant what I should do with the car keys. He took the keys and threw them into the junkyard with all the rest of the wreckage. And so it will be with all the so-called scientific keys of life that with a hubris bravado claim they have finally arrived at the answer of life. We have a history full of claims. Again Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun.

We seek satisfying and sufficient answers. We desire something greater to live for. We seek not just a life enjoyed but a life with a purpose larger than we are. Deep inside we seek a life non sibi (not for self). Deep inside we desire our finale to have a life well-lived, a life well- played and a life well-told. We will not find these answers or even the correct questions “under the sun” but somewhere else. So at sixty years of age I looked at a clock, face to face, and it served only as a goad for me to seek further.

I close with these words by Frederick Buechner from his book Wishful Thinking,

On her deathbed, Gertrude Stein is said to have asked, “What is the answer?” Then, after a long silence, “What is the question?” Don’t start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives. Start by listening for the questions it asks. We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow—the immediate wheres and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work—but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going. There is perhaps no stronger reason for reading the Bible than that somewhere among all those India-paper pages there awaits each reader, whoever he is, the one question which, though for years he may have been pretending not to hear it, is the central question of his own life.


18 07 2013

Motivational Magic

By Wayne Morris

(reprinted by permission)

“The roots of a creative society are in basic education. The sheer volume of facts to be digested by the students of today leaves little time for a deeper interrogation of their moral worth. The result has been a generation of technicians rather than visionaries, each one taking a career rather than an idea seriously. The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.”

Source: On Arts: Creative New Zealand. Michael D. Higgins, the former Irish Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht

But is it enough to focus on the arts as the source of creativity in education?

Is there a much broader role for…

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Motivation by Daniel Pink (Great TED talk video)

23 02 2013

Funny Statements for Punsters

13 12 2011
  1.  Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married.  The ceremony wasn’t much, but the reception was excellent.

  2.  A jumper cable walks into a bar.  The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything.”

  3.  A dyslexic man walks into a bra…….

  4. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

  5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says: A beer please , and one for the road.”

  6. Two cannibals are eating a clown.  One says to the other: “Does this taste funny to you?’!

  7. “Two cows are standing next to each other in a field.  Daisy says to Dolly, “I was artificially inseminated this morning.”  “I don’t believe you,” says Dolly.  “It’s true, no bull!” exclaims Daisy.

  8.  An invisible man marries an invisible woman.  The kids were nothing to look at either.

  9. Deja Moo: the feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

  10.  I went to buy come camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn’t find any.

  11.  I went to a seafood disco last week…and pulled a mussel.

Metacognition is my Coach by Sophia Wieber 5th grade

5 12 2011

“If you had a friend who talked to you like you talk to yourself, would you continue to hang around with that person?” asked Rob Bremer. Hopefully, you answered yes. Bremer believes that you should think and talk to yourself in a positive way.

Some people insult and discourage themselves like a pessimist insults the day. People who think that way never succeed because they think they cannot. If you would dislike a friend who talked to you like that, why treat yourself that way?

If you encourage and cheer yourself on, you would want a friend like that. The people who encourage themselves succeed because they believe they can.

Be metacognitive and think about how you think. Metacognition is like your coach. He can encourage you or discourage you.

Dr. Lamebrain performing one of his most baffling illusions

31 10 2011

If you following this link you will see me perform one of my favorite magic tricks.

For information for having Bob as a guest speaker or for products you will find him on the web at……..

The True Hero of Valentines Day by Ben Bishop

15 02 2011

As the white, pink and red fill up the stores, as the chocolates get eaten from cardboard hearts, we as a society reflect on what we will give and what we will get.  It’s the curse of consumerism.  Yet in the midst of all the gifts, bribery, advertising; there is a thread of true love.  In the middle of all the pressure there is the inkling of what it truly means to give without receiving, to hope without expecting, to live with the threat of continual and everlasting embarrassment. This hint of what love truly is happens to be embodied in a character.

Let me explain…

Who in the whole world of fiction is the most romantic character?

Who embodies a pure selfless life?

Who fails time and time again… and yet gets up and still lives on?

Who carries the pain of ridicule and yet searches onward?

Which fictional character do most people see themselves as and yet cannot obtain the virtues that this character has?

Who is this mystery person?

This ‘lovable loser’ is the football flying, baseball losing, kite destroying Charlie Brown.

In all the years of his story, as told by Charles Shultz, he never kicked that football, never won a baseball game, never asked the red-headed girl out, only received rocks on Halloween, never received a valentines, and never succeeded in any of the dreams he held dear.  Yet, he kept trying!  He gave in his attempts his all, and never ever gave up.

Charlie Brown stubbornly refused to give in even when all is lost from the outset like every single Valentines day he faced the fear of an empty mailbox or when he stood on the pitcher’s mound alone on the baseball field, not even letting a torrential downpour interrupt his beloved game.

That’s a hero who shows true love, ladies and gentlemen!

That’s the most romantic thing a person could ever do – continually attempt a dream that appears hopeless. It is romance to continually strive after an ideal even if it is never obtained – to never lose hope; to have a dream deferred but never destroyed.

Hopelessness is the Grendel of our generation, and Charlie Brown is today’s Beowulf.

Today, and not only on today either, find a way to appreciate a Charlie Brown.  Say thank you to someone who is bravely and triumphantly fighting the fight against hopelessness, give a Valentines to someone who may have never got one before, let someone ‘kick that football’ that is always being pulled away by life.

If you are single or even if you are married to a ‘Chuck’ (of either gender), don’t think about just what candies, flowers, and affection you want or desire this day; instead choose to be a hero to those truly brave souls. Become a true hero today…

Become a True Hero of Valentines Day.

Motivational Quotations: Playful

13 05 2010
  • Playful: Finding humor, the whimsical, incongruous, and unexpected

If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”
Erma Bombeck”Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
Victor Borge

“The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed.”
Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort

“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate.”
George Burns

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
Mark Twain

“People are at their most mindful when they are at play. If we find ways of enjoying our work—blurring the lines between work and play—the gains will be greater.”
Ellen Langer

“You can increase your brain power three to fivefold simply by laughing and having fun before working on a problem.”
Doug Hall

“Fun is going to enhance interest, because people don’t feel incompetent when they’re having fun.”
Matthew S. Richter

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.”
Ethel Barrymore

“Humor comes from self-confidence. There’s an aggressive element to wit.”
Rita Mae Brown

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
Charlie Chaplin

“Were it not for my little jokes, I could not bear the burdens of this office.”
Abraham Lincoln

“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs—jolted by every pebble in the road.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Kurt Vonnegut

“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”
Frank A. Clark

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”
Milton Berle

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
William James

“The kind of humor I like is the thing that makes me laugh for five seconds and think for ten minutes.”
William Davis

“Warning: Humor may be hazardous to your illness.”
Ellie Katz

“Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.”
Hugh Sidey

“A good laugh is good for both the mental and physical digestion.”
Abraham Lincoln

“A man isn’t poor if he can still laugh.”
Raymond Hitchcock

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.
Yiddish Proverb

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny….'”
Isaac Asimov

How to be a Creative Genius #11

3 01 2010

Life Lessons from the Childhood of Einstein

11.   Make questioning a central activity of your life

   I continued to ask questions. I did not give up when I was told that no one could answer those questions.  My search led to a whole new way of looking at the universe in which we live. 

One common thread that held all these experiences together was asking questions!!

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.   I was born with a question mark in my mind.  I asked questions.

Is there anything farther away than space?

 How does light get all the way from the stars to your eyes? 

What would it be like to ride a beam of light?

    Is there anything bigger than the universe?

If I were about to be killed and had only one hour to figure out how to save my life, I would devote the first 55 minutes of that hour to searching for the right question.  Once I had that question, finding the answer would take only about 5 minutes.

 In 1905 I finally had some answers to some of the most important scientific questions.

 Why does the dust jiggle on the surface of water?  Brownian movement of molecules

      2.  What is light made of?  Waves or particles  Discovery of Photons

      3.   What would it be like to travel at the speed of light?  Theory of relativity

Without strong questioning skills, you are just a passenger on someone else’s tour bus.  You may be on the highway, but someone else is doing the driving. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.

 Never lose a holy curiosity.

Questions and questioning may be the most powerful technologies of all.

 To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.  My only genius talent is inquisitiveness. People like you and me never grow old.  We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery in which we were born.

 Make questioning a central activity of your life

Teaching Concentration Rather than Cheating

11 10 2009
There are many lessons we learn from games. When players cheat we learn about character and the expression of ethics. Perhaps games give us a clue of the true character of an individual. Like the quote from Ovid, “In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”As a teacher I am trying to teach students to learn from games and not just play to win. Perhaps winning is the only time students have been rewarded and praised. And sadly this could lure students into cheating. As a teacher I must think of the big picture- the long view. Winning is a great feeling but learning from mistakes and building mental strength has more transferable aspects. Of course building self-esteem by winning is a fine goal but unique and honorable is the student who can pick up the pieces of a lost game and seek to learn from it.

At early ages focus and concentration are often difficult habits to learn. Rather than trying to teach winning at all costs and allow for the temptation to cheat, I am attempting to praise characteristics of staying at something and concentrating.

Here are some character defintitions to help in this goal:
Character attributes of concentration:

1. Determination: The mental act of deciding, establishing and adherence to an aim.

2. Persistence: Persevering in an effort for a considerable time regardless of seeing results.

3. Tenacity: Holding firmly to a course or direction.

4. Resoluteness: Sticking to the focus of the goal.

5. Toughness: Sustaining one’s spirit following defeats.

6. Endurance: Staying power and the ability to sustain an increased level of activity without getting distracted or discouraged.

These are honorable characteristics for games as well as for life. Perhaps these are greater lessons than playing just to win.

About This Site

12 08 2009

The Magic of Motivation

This site is dedicated to teachers, parents, employers, employees, students and anyone interested in motivating themselves and others.  If your desire is to ignite yourself and others to use their full potential this website will provide ideas, articles, quotes and book suggestions that may help.


If you want to visit a particular category use the category listing or use these links below:

–  For Parents contains resources for parents to encourage their children

For Teachers contains classroom ideas for classroom motivation

Gifted Education contains resources specifically for teachers and parents of gifted children

Self-motivation for Everyone contains ideas for students, employers and employees

Motivational Quotes contains uplifting, encouraging or kick-in-the-pants quotes to motivate

Resources contains books and articles with comments to help in the motivation process

Creativity contains ideas to ignite and inspire creative expression and productivity

Motivational Speaking Engagements contains an update on what Bob is doing

-Student Essays and Ideas contains quotes and writings of students

-View Bob’s website at