Educational Stories


Below are five true education-related stories

(about High School - Cliffs Notes - Welding - Skiing)

plus The Joys of Science (it's fun to solve mysteries),

and Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education,

and Learning by Exploring & from Others, Actively.


Also – I.O.U. – I'm beginning to write other stories, about...

exploring your own city (inspired by returning from Europe),

taking time to watch snow [and "see wind"] in March 2012

and earlier snows in my first city (and home of my first UW),

psychology of teaching children (or dogs) instead of adults,

my respect for defensive halfbacks (inspired by my playing),

and more, with (as usual) "educational" broadly defined.




Understanding and Respect

Students in my high school learned valuable lessons about accurate understanding and respectful attitudes from one my favorite teacher.  Although he was a skillful lecturer, his civics class also included debates.  On Monday he convinced us that "his side of the issue" was correct, but on Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  After awhile we learned that, in order to get accurate understanding, we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  After we did this and we understood more accurately & thoroughly, we usually recognized that even when we have valid reasons for preferring one position, people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do, so we learned respectful attitudes.{thinking with empathy and kindness}

But respect does not require agreement.  You can respect someone and their views, yet criticize their views, which you have evaluated based on evidence, logic, and values.  The intention of our teacher, and the conclusion of his students, was not a postmodern relativism.  The goal was a rational exploration and evaluation of ideas in a search for truth.{more about his teaching and respectful non-pomo evaluation}




A Cliffs Notes Approach

This section explains how — in three decisions and a library — I recognized the similarity between Cliffs Notes and the introductory levels of my websites.

The first two decisions were easy.  Yes, I would watch the movies.  No, I would not read the books.  In either form, in movies or books, Lord of the Rings is a classic.  Although I would enjoy reading the trilogy by Tolkien, "time is the stuff life is made of" (said Ben Franklin) and I decided that reading three large books would not be a good use of my time.  But reading one small booklet would be quick and useful, so I decided to read the summary/analysis written by Gene Hardy for Cliffs Notes.  And having an introductory overview of “the big picture” — provided by Hardy's summary of the three books — helped me understand and enjoy the three movies.

In the two weeks between seeing the first movie (on DVD) and second movie (in theater) I attended a conference that had a book table filled with high-quality books.  While reading the back covers, table of contents, and occasional pages, I thought about the many fascinating ideas I would miss because I wouldn't be able to invest the time needed to read these books.  I also was thinking about Lord of the Rings and the practical educational value of reading one small book instead of three large books, and I made the connection between booktable and website.  It would be useful for me to have a condensation containing the distilled essence of important ideas from books on the table, and giving you "a condensation containing the distilled essence of important ideas" is the goal of the introductory summary-pages in this website.     { two examples:  for Whole-Person Education & Problem-Solving Education }




Learning from Experience  (how to excel at welding or...)

One of the most powerful master skills is knowing how to learn.  The ability to learn can itself be learned, as illustrated by a friend who, in his younger days, had an interesting strategy for work and play.  He worked for awhile at a high-paying job and saved money, then took a vacation.  He was free to wake when he wanted, read a book, hang out at a coffee shop, go for a walk, or travel to faraway places by hopping on a plane or driving away in his car.

Usually, employers want workers committed to long-term stability, so why did they tolerate his unusual behavior?  He was reliable, always showed up on time, and gave them a week's notice before departing.  But the main reason for their acceptance was the quality of his work.  He was one of the best welders in the city, performing a valuable service that was in high demand and doing it well.  He could audition for a job, saying "give me a really tough welding challenge and I'll show you how good I am."  They did, he did, and they hired him.


How did he become such a good welder?  He had "learned how to learn" by following the wise advice of his teacher:  Every time you do a welding job, do it better than the time before (by learning from the past and concentrating in the present) and always be alertly aware of what you're doing now (and how this is affecting the quality of welding) so you can do it better the next time (intentionally learn from the present to prepare for the future).  This is a good way to improve the quality of whatever you do.  Always ask, "What have I learned in the past that will help me now, and what can I learn now that will help me in the future?", while concentrating on quality of thinking-and-action in the present.

an update:  After I originally wrote this, much later I thought more carefully about how we should try to effectively regulate our metacognition (thinking about our thinking), and the "always ask" became "sometimes ask", as explained in Learning From Experience to improve your Learning and/or Performing (and/or Enjoying) which includes a revised-and-expanded version of this true story.



How I Didn't Learn to Ski  (by Learning from Mistakes)

My first day of skiing!  I'm excited, but the rental skis worry me.  They look much too long, maybe uncontrollable?  On the slope, fears come true quickly and I've lost control, roaring down the slope yelling "Get out of my way!  I can't stop!"  But soon I do stop — flying through the air sideways, a floundering spin, a mighty bellyflop in icy snow.  My boot bindings grip like claws that won't release their captive, and the impact twists my body into a painful pretzel.  Several zoom-and-crash cycles later I'm dazed, in a motionless heap at the foot of the mountain, wondering what I'm doing, why, and if I dare to try again.


Even the ropetow brings disaster.  I fall down and wallow in the snow, pinned in place by my huge skis, and the embarrassing dogpile begins, as skiers coming up the ropetow are, like dominoes in a line, toppled by my sprawling carcass.  Gosh, it sure is fun to ski.

With time, some things improve.  After the first humorous (for onlookers) and terrifying (for me) trip down the mountain, my bindings are adjusted so I can bellyflop safely.  And I develop a strategy of "leap and hit the ground rolling" to minimize ropetow humiliation.  But my skiing doesn't get much better so — wet and cold, tired and discouraged — I retreat to the safety of the lodge.


How I Did Learn to Ski  (Insight plus Practice, with Perseverance and Flexibility)

The lodge break is wonderful, just what I need for recovery.  An hour later, after a nutritious lunch topped off with delicious hot chocolate, I'm sitting near the fireplace in warm dry clothes, feeling happy and adventurous again.  A friend tells me about another slope, one that can be reached by chairlift, and I decide to "go for it."

This time the ride up the mountain is exhilarating.  Instead of causing a ropetow domino dogpile, the lift carries me high above the earth like a great soaring bird.  Soon, racing down the hill, I dare to experiment — and the new experience inspires an insight!  If I press my ski edges against the snow a certain way, they "dig in."  This, combined with unweighting (a jump-a-little and swing-the-skis-around foot movement) produces a crude parallel turn that lets me zig-zag down the slope in control, without runaway speed, and suddenly I can ski!

Continuing practice now brings rapidly improving skill, and by day's end I'm feeling great.  I still fall down occasionally, but not often, and I'm learning from everything that happens, both good and bad.  And I have the confident hope that even better downhill runs await me in the future.  Skiing has become fun!


a summary:  During my morning failures, I did not learn by MAKING MISTAKES.  In the afternoon, I discovered an INSIGHT that let me gain experience with QUALITY PRACTICE, and I learned.   /   also:  Instead of giving up after my unpleasant morning disasters, with PERSEVERANCE I tried again, and with FLEXIBILITY I did it "different and better" in the afternoon.


more:  In a "deeper examination" page, these experiences are used to illustrate two principles for learning — Insight & Quality Practice, plus Perseverance & Flexibility — and to examine these principles in more depth.{ the cartoon is by Frank Clark }



Learning Respect for Defensive Backs

I have lots of spectator experience with football.  My limited playing experience began on the playgrounds of small-town Iowa, and ended with flag football at UC Irvine where during my senior year I played for the Chem Grads who included a future Nobel Laureate.  They were a good team, and I played a small part in helping us win the campus championship.  They let me play defensive back, and I did it reasonably well (catching about as many passes as the offensive players I was guarding) but only due to the fairly low quality of the opponents' receivers and quarterbacks.  If they had been better, were more able to exploit my vulnerabilities, my results would have been worse;  and that's why I learned to respect defensive backs (in high school thru NFL) when they can successfully cope with the tough challenges of defending against receivers & quarterbacks who are highly skilled and well prepared.

Our team had three main Defensive Backs.  One was more experienced and football-smart, so he was responsible for making real-time decisions about "who he would cover" in complex situations that changed for every play, like a receiver emerging from the other team's offensive backfield.  I was given the simple job (doing the same thing every play) of guarding the opponent's top receiver, and the third DB took the other receiver.

During our pre-season practices I was educated and humbled.  I was taught some defensive strategies, including the concept of “playing center field” when the football is thrown to another receiver (not the one I'm defending) by running to where the ball will come down, like a center fielder in baseball.  But mainly I was challenged – and humbled – by playing against the Chem Grad Offense, trying to guard the league's best receiver, catching passes thrown accurately by the best quarterback.  I didn't do well against this combination, but I learned and improved.  Compared with these practices, our games were much easier because the opposing receiver and (especially) the quarterback were less skillful, were not the best.

But they were reasonably skillful, so I kept imagining the worst possible outcomes, thinking about “what they could do” (e.g. if they did "this fake" followed by "that move") — to escape from me, maybe even get my legs twisted up so I fell down — by using clever plays and tricky fakes.  For example, he could be running in one direction, then suddenly change to running in another direction;  the offensive player knows what planning and where they'll go, but the defensive player doesn't, and this is a big advantage.  This didn't happen — the escapes were rare, and I never fell — but it was mainly because they didn't plan well (with clever plays & fakes) and the quarterbacks were not skillful enough to take advantage of my failures in covering my receiver.   /   One example is a game where in the first play I realized “uh-oh, this guy is faster than me,” significantly faster.  But somehow they never took advantage of the difference in our speeds, e.g. by doing button-hooks if I “give him space with loose coverage” but if I “cover him closely” he runs away from me, getting enough separation to catch a long pass;  of course, this strategy assumes the QB has enough accuracy to take advantage of the separation allowed by his speed.  But they didn't do these things, and I survived the afternoon without humiliation.  In fact, during their second offensive series I jumped high into the air to intercept a pass, and I could feel my knee hit his face. {from this I got an enjoyable psychological feeling that was more fun than his physical feeling of a knee hitting his face}   During this game, his superior speed didn't give his team the big advantage they could have gained from it.

These experiences gave me a high level of respect for defensive backs (cornerback, safety, linebacker) at all levels (high school, college, professional) who play against teams with clever strategies (planned by coaches, quarterbacks, receivers) and quarterbacks who are accurate throwers, who coordinate well with their skillful receivers.  Now when I watch football on TV, I closely watch the replays when they show offense-vs-defense in passing patterns, instead of the camera focusing on the QB as in their typical real-time showing of a play.  And in addition to not being victimized by clever plays & fakes in man-to-man defense (like I was playing), every defensive back must be football-smart by knowing how to effectively play their part when their team uses a zone defense.

Our closest game was against a team with rugby players.*  After their first play — a kickoff return using a line with multiple laterals (video) like a Quadruple Option Play — I thought "uh-oh, we're in trouble."  But their unusual-and-skillful offense didn't overwhelm our defense, and we won 13-6.  I was responsible for 2 of the 3 touchdowns, one for them and one for us.  First, instead of "staying with the receiver" I "played the ball" and mis-judged it, letting it fly over my head, where the receiver caught it and scored.  Later I intercepted a pass, and my flag would have been taken by their QB (Stu Bonner, one of the best athletes at UCI) when I heard our football-smart DB say "wait Craig, let me block him" so I paused, he blocked, and I scored.  We scored one other touchown, and they didn't, so we won!    /    * After winning our division in this 13-6 game, we won the two-division campus championship 52-0.

One member of our team, the Chem Grads, was Professor Sherwood Rowland who later was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere;  in football he was a lineman, and I thought “for an old man with a nickname ‘Sherry’ he sure is tough dude.” (he was 42, which seemed old when I was 21, but of course seems young now)   Our team had many highly skilled players, including Steve (quarterback - smart, elusive, accurate) and Pat Carrol (a star receiver in high school) and... [[iou - later I'll complete this sentence or will delete it.]]


The Most Intelligent Sport

I confidently claim that football is the most intelligence-requiring sport, in its planning of strategies (at the levels of a team & its individuals) in the battles of offense versus defense that occur every play, and for an overall 4-quarter game.  Every position has its own mental challenges, requiring unique kinds of experience-based knowledge and fast real-time responding, but being football-smart is especially important for coaches and quarterbacks.  The coaches & players who want to "be their best" decide to invest many hours watching films of opponents (and themselves), analyzing what has happened and imagining what might happen, planning their strategies for what they will do, and how they will respond to the counter-strategies of their opponents.


[[-- re: my experiences in UCI Intramurals, thinking the receiver could elude me (or maybe I would trip myself and fall) and score" but they weren't smart enough and the quarterbacks weren't skilled enough -- the best QB was on our team! -- so I caught as many passes as those I was guarding -- but... with a good QB and clever receivers, like in college & NFL (or even many high schools), it would have been reversed, so I realized how tough the job is for defensive backs (cornerbacks, safeties, linebackers) who must cope with passing (+ running) in teams with skillful receivers & quarterbacks & coaches, with clever strategies for fooling and eluding defenders.]]


Watching a Linebacker -- one of my favorite "live games" was at Humboldt State University, where I watched a linebacker who was running all over the field -- forward & backward, left & right -- making tackles on many plays, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time.  Just listening to the announcer -- often saying "tackle by Smith" -- would have alerted me to his activity, but I was even more aware of the linebacker because the previous day I had met him at the beach where he (along with other players) was fishing (and he was from Huntington Beach, close to where I've lived in Orange County, CA) so I was "watching him" during the game, in one of my favorite football-watching experiences.

IOU -- for each of these above, and also those below, there will be "more later".



Overcoming Obstacles in World-Class Barefoot Skiing

Here is an email written for the students in a course (Chemistry in Society) taught at UW-Madison by a friend, Teresa Larson Jones:


Teri Larson Jones during Ski CompetitionYou've seen Dr Larson “in action” during lectures.  She also is impressive as a world-class competitor in a sport whose mere existence is surprising.  Is it really possible that people can ski without skis?  Yes, and on her bare feet she even does tricks, slalom, and jumps.  While being pulled across the water at over 40 miles/hour!  Hanging on using a shoulder with a troubling and painful history.

You can read about this in a bio-page and series of 6 articles (that soon will become 8) with her inspirational reflections on a challenging medical-and-athletic journey during the past year.  It's a fascinating “comeback story” about setting goals (like wanting to compete successfully in this summer's World Championships), adjusting goals and strategies, pursuing goals by investing intelligent hard work, maintaining an attitude of patience and perseverance when coping with unexpected setbacks, enjoying the process and the payoffs.  In your own pursuit of personal goals, you also are motivated by wanting to “be all you can be” and achieve success.*  I think you'll find that Dr Larson's attitudes and actions, in rehabilitation & athletics, can be applied in these areas of your life or (more likely) in other areas, including academics, in Chem 108 and your other courses.

* In the words of John Wooden, an all-time great coach who is one of my favorites, "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

You can read her bio and a series of 8 articles (written while she was a --- for Athleta) where she tells a fascinating story of "Starting from Scratch" and ending with the encouragement to "Choose Your Own Destiny."    /    updates:  Since 2012, Teri Larson Jones has continued performing well in high-level competitions, winning the Senior Barefoot World Championships in August 2016.  Three years later (8-22-2019) she was continuing to earn high scores at age 50, with a Personal Record in Jump, and near-PR's in Slalom & Tricks.

or, with an expansion -- she tells a fascinating story of "Starting from Scratch" and "Building Momentum, and Then..." but "Bouncing Back (Again)" in her battles with physical obstacles, so she could "Return to Competition" and "Shatter Glass Ceilings," but then have to face the emotional obstacle of "Post-Achievement Blues," and ending her year-long series with an encouragement to "Choose Your Own Destiny."




batting cage with baseball-pitching machine:  In the summer of 1975, speeds of 60-70-80 mph were easy to hit, 90 was a challenge, and 100 was "wow" due to the short reaction time, even without curves or beanballs -- also, discuss claim of Ted Williams that most difficult athletic skill is major league hitter (against major league pitching with curves, sinkers, sliders, changeups, fast balls, beanballs) has some merit, but each sport requires different kinds of skills, with wide range & variety;  my vote for most difficult is NFL QB because... [describe]

ultimate frisbee -- in Madison Summer League, Team Discount started in C League, won all games so they were moved up to B League, officially forfeited all games they would have played in-B before moving to B from C, thus were seeded low with the higher seed wearing white and lower seed wearing dark;  this is typical (as in NCAA's March Madness where the higher seed always wears white) but... for other teams, every player was white, while players on Team Discount wore many different colors -- green (Mike), black (Dave), marroon (Ashley), pink (Emily), orange (Shelby), and so on -- and this made it easy for TD players to quickly (with fast reaction time) know who was in each part of the field, capable of being passed-to, so it was easier for TD players to make the quick decisions required by high-level players;  mainly for other reasons (but also helped by their colors) they beat the top seeds (3, 2, 1) and won the championship!

basketball game (UI vs UW, red vs almost-red) with U of Illinois (in orange-red, home team) versus U of Wisconsin (red-red) in uniforms that looked very similar, especially when UW was required to make split-second decisions due to the full-court pressing defense of UI.  How did this happen?  Evidently UI sent UW an email saying “we'll wear our red-orange road uniforms” but the UW staff didn't respond (maybe didn't even see it) so they packed only their usual “road red” instead of white, then on game-day UI refused to change into their usual “home white” and the referees allowed the uniforms to be red vs almost-red, despite the disadvantage to UW. 



A person should say “I feel humbled” only when they actually have been.  Instead, sometimes when a person receives an award (or wins a victory) they say “I am humbled by this honor.”  Uh, no you weren't.  Being truly humbled happens when you lose a game you should have won, or stumble and fall flat on your face (as in this race against The Freeze) or pee your pants on national tv, when you fail in some humiliating way.  In these sad situations – but not when you've been honored or have won a victory – you have justifiable reasons to feel humbled.  But not when you're being honored for doing something well.     { In this page, two examples of being humbled are (major) Dave in Olympic Trials and (minor) me in football practices. }



I.O.U. - Eventually I'll summarize (more thoroughly) the sad story of Dan O'Brien in USA's 1992 Olympic Trials.  His event was Decathlon, and he was #1 in the world.  At the USA Trials, he was leading the field after 7 of the 10 events.  But in the pole vault he “passed” at several lower heights, and then missed three times at the height he chose to begin, that he had “never missed” in the past.  Because he didn't succeed in clearing any height, he got zero points for pole vault, and fell far down in the standings.  He didn't make the team.  {comment:  I think the US Olympic Committee was being rigidly stupid when they didn't “give him a break” because he was best-in-the-world, despite his mistake in the Trials.  In fact, Dave showed this by breaking the world record a couple of weeks after the Olympics he was not allowed to compete in, but he never got a chance for the Olympic Gold.}  The story is written up in many places, including a fascinating documentary in a 30-for-30 by ESPN about the "Dave and Dan" ad campaign and what happened to it.

Something similar happened to me but at a much lower level, and with a happy ending.  In high school, each year the track season began with a "team day" in which scores from each event were added together to determine the winning team.  {this was a little like adding the 10 scores of one athlete in a decathlon, where one failure could doom the entire score}   Our team was expected to win, and I was our high jumper.  But for awhile it looked like I might fail, helping our team lose.  Why?  After passing two lower heights, I missed twice at a starting height that (like Dave 26 years later) I "never missed."  But this day I did miss.  Twice.  Before my third (and possibly final) attempt, a teammate gave me wise advice – do a short sprint - it will get your muscles used to explosive effort (so you can jump higher) and will relax you (so your body will "do what it knows how to do" and you'll have better technique) – so I did this and (very fortunately) then cleared the bar on my third attempt, thus escaping failure and helping our team win the overall event that day.  His advice helped me jump better on that day, and throughout that year, and in future years.   {also: i'll describe my strategy of laying down and "looking up at the bar from the ground" so it seemed less-impossible when I was standing up and looking at the bar that was above the top of my head.  /  once unexpectedly landing flat onto the ground, but not being injured because I was relaxed (expecting to land on soft foam) instead of tense (waiting for the impact on the hard cement)}


Earlier I describe other stories I am writing, about exploring your own city & my respect for defensive halfbacks & teaching children (or dogs) and more.  Below you'll see outlines with rough-draft ideas for some (but not all) of the content that will be here later.  These ideas will continue being developed during February 2019.



Differences in Educational Empathy:  Teaching Kids and Teaching Dogs


Teaching Kids  (instead of Adults)

In the 1980s when — after learning how to juggle in 12 years and 45 minutes — I taught juggling classes (beginning & intermediate) in Seattle for UW's Experimental College, almost all of my students were adults, so I developed teaching methods that worked well for them. [==]

But one time I taught for Seattle YMCA, in a class that included some students who were young (8-11 years old), and I discovered that some of my teaching methods did not transfer well from adults to children.

In a beginning class with adults, in a progression-of-learning I asked them to "do things" with an increasing number of beanbags, with 0 and 1, then 2 (the key step) before juggling with 3.  After we quickly moved thru 0 (with just hand motions) and 1 (using these hand motions to toss a bag from one hand to the other), I showed them the movements they'll do for 2 bags, then put their action "on pause" for a minute so I could explain why a familiar habit should not be used for juggling.  In sports, when you catch a ball you can improve your eye-hand coordination if you "watch the ball" until you catch it.  This works well if there is one ball.  But when juggling 3 balls it's impossible.  To show why, I juggle 3 bean-bags while whipping my head back & forth trying to watch every bag all the way, and it's obvious why this cannot be done, so it should not be attempted.  Then I explain what to do instead, by letting your eyes-and-brain naturally "make mental movies" of what a bag is doing, of where it is and where it's going.  I show this by throwing a bag, closing my eyes thru most of the throw, and catching it, which is possible because my brain-and-hand "know" where the bag will be (and my hand moves to that location so I can catch it) because eye/brain/hand coordination is based on mental movies.  The eye/brain/hand of every person (not just an experienced juggler) can do this, and your skill in doing it will improve with practice.

All of this (about mental movies) takes about a minute, and in previous classes the adults waited patiently until I said "now you do it."  But the kids wouldn't wait, instead they started "doing it" without waiting for me to explain the ideas that, in the long run, would help them improve more quickly than they could without these ideas.  I didn't anticipate this reaction from the kids, and I didn't plan "what to do" to avoid it.  I had empathy for adults — based on my intuitions as a fellow adult, plus experience from previous classes where the "mental movies interlude" worked well — but had less empathy for children, so I didn't expect their response, and didn't plan for it.  Later, between the first class and second class, I thought about what happened, tried to understand (with empathy) the childrens' point of view, and adjusted my lesson plan.


Teaching Dogs  (instead of People)

In early 2019, now I'm trying to improve my empathy for dogs, especially for our Zoe, whose name means "life" in Greek.  She is full of life, mostly in good ways, but... she is over-exuberant when meeting new people (and other dogs), and this hinders her from "getting what she wants" because her behavior makes it more difficult for people (or dogs) to interact with her in a loving way.  If I had better dog-empathy I would know Zoe better, would understand why she behaves this way, and what I can do (as a teacher) to help her change her behavior so her quality-of-life will improve with better relationships, so she can get more of the good things (affection from people, playing with dogs,...) she wants.  In an effort to improve my empathy-for-dogs, I'm taking a class taught by Khara Knight, whose philosophy of teaching is built on a foundation of


Thrill and Agony -- ABC Wide World of Sports, thrill of victory, agony of defeat (@ youtube ski jump)

examples: WI-Duke (imo) 2013?, Gonzaga Virginia 2019, my watermelon photo finish, women's tennis 2018, cheer for team/person most joy or sorrow if win or lose / Jennifer Capriati comeback



Tennis versus Juggling — my Teaching and my Performing


Teaching:  In my personal history, there were big differences between my teaching of tennis and juggling:  my self-evaluation (and I'm sure my students would agree) is that as a tennis teacher I was unskilled and ineffective.  I was not very effective at making it fun for students, or providing a class structure (mixing "drills" and playing), or analysis-and-correction with "tips for improving", or avoiding these with a non-directive "inner game" approach (i.e. without external directing, instead by directing student's attention to their own observing and sub-conscious internal self-correcting) that I later learned to appreciate.  But when I taught juggling, all aspects of my teaching improved.  Why?

    • I taught juggling when I was older, had more experience, knowledge, confidence.  Tennis was my first teaching at 17-18 & 22.  Then after more experiences with teaching-and-life, I taught juggling at 31 to 41.    /    But this wasn't the only difference, and even now I would not feel comfortable teaching tennis, but with juggling I'm comfy/confident, and part of the reason is because...
    • The skills are different:  tennis is more “holistic” with the whole body working together in doing a stroke,  but with juggling there are many more things to analyze-and-change mentally & physically, especially when learning a new trick.  And "inner game" techniques (with self-observation and “letting your senses/brain/body figure it out”) work especially well for juggling, so these are emphasized in my booklet for Do-It-Yourself Juggling.

Performing:  Ironically, my public performing was better with tennis.  In both tennis & juggling, I was fairly skilled (but not elite level)* in private performing (with each I learned quickly, improved rapidly), but in “tennis games” I consistently performed up to my level of skill during competitions, but my “juggling shows” (on street or stage) were not very entertaining or impressive.

{also:  How my high school coach forced me to change my backhand so I could improve and help our team win a championship;  and learning more from experience in welding and in other areas of life, by a shifting of metacognitive regulation for achieving goals of learning and/or performing and/or enjoying. }

* Typically I was a medium-big fish in medium-small ponds.



IOU update:  in late 2021, maybe I'll begin to write other stories, about...


exploring my own city (inspired by returning from Europe, where I thoroughly explored other cities, and seeing a beautiful sunset over Lake Mendota at Memorial Union, in August 2007);   also,

attending the second "Europe through the Back Door" class of Rick Steves in the UW Experimental College;  most students attended because they would go, but I was there because I wouldn't;  and I didn't until the gift of my of my sister

* I admire Rick Steves because he figured out a way to combine his joy of traveling with making a living and helping other people enjoy traveling.  He would travel to Europe in the summer (where he would take photos & videos, have experiences & form ideas), then teach classes in the winter to make enough money so he could travel again the next summer, then teach in winter, in a supportive cycle of learning and earning.  He began teaching at the UW Experimental College (in Seattle) where I also taught, in classes about Strategies for Problem Solving, and Strategies from Inner Game of Tennis, and Do-It-Yourself Juggling.   {iou - maybe here I'll summarize my "learning how to juggle in 12 years and 45 minutes" ?}


watching sunsets

over Lake Mendota in Summer 1996, sitting on a dock with a 210-degree view down to the horizon, with sky colors (blue, pink, orange) reflecting off the rippling surface of the water;

earlier -- friendly neighbors watched sunsets from west/southwest-facing [check map] balconies of apartments at UC Irvine during Fall Quarter 1969

later -- winning a new dog (our fluffy-and-joyful "life" dog) in mid-November 2018, and taking her for walks at the time of beautiful sunsets -- right kind of clouds,... some for light to reflect from, but not enough to smother -- sometimes 360° surround with beautifully colored clouds in every direction

returning to Madison (after 7 years away) in 2020, with a different perspective, living in a different location.

above, my respect for defensive halfbacks (based on my own playing), and Watching a Linebacker

Second Place – is it OK?   This section is inspired by my own first-hand experiences (especially in athletics, where some of my best moments were a "second place" result [anaheim tennis 1965, uci tennis 1968, uci handball 1968] although at other times it was very disappointing to finish second or lower, plus a few experiences of first place) and my second-hand experience in watching the 1996 Olympics when (in my opinion) Carl Lewis made a fool of himself by making unwise decisions (with motivations and "logic" that were totally foreign to me then, and I still cannot understand) before the competitive events began, followed by more mistakes between the events, long jump and 400m relay.   {actually, 1996 was about a "tie for first place among non-competitive fellow athletes" instead of second place, by wanting to "take their names out of the record book" instead of "putting his name into the record book", which makes the actions by Lewis even more-silly, less-understandble, but maybe in some ways the psychology-and-logic seems similar? and in some ways different?  the psychology of world-class athletes, capable of being best in world, experience of being best in world, #1 overall}   /   other examples: chemistry 1965 (if 2nd no effect on my life), san marino 1965 (sad much worse than 1st), bands in IA-CA, Chem Grads, winning tennis & losing track (plus Hemet),

Colored Uniforms and Response Times:  illinois (orange-red) vs wisconsin (red) in IL with IL pressing so UW players must make fast decisions, usually contrast (if red pass to them, if white keep away) but when all are red(ish) a split second delay in recognition for press-breaking UW gave IL advantage / football (home chooses dark) vs basketball (home chooses white, but only if college, is changing in NBA?) —— Ultimate Frisbee, Team Discount with multiple colors, mike black, mike green, shelby orange, emily pink, ashley maroon - i asked mike if beneficial and he said yes, split second recognition of who it is, zb if ashley he can predict that she will respond (like receiver "running route" in football) and he will lead her because he knows she will keep running fast, but others maybe not -- if all players same color uniforms, must recognize "who it is" by facial/body characteristices, slower and less effective / moved up a division (to 2nd highest) so were seeded lower than was deserved by their level of skill, so always lower seed during playoffs tournament at end of season [typical structure, use regular to get seeding for playoff that determined champion] and beat 2 3 1 seeds, all higher seeds so all wearing white (no color cues) / i'm suprised there were no complaints from other teams, forcing them to all wear same color (all blue, all green, all red,...)


Here are a variety of unfinished "possible stories" that I may write later:

The Beauty of Basketball:  cooperatively coordinated, goal-oriented movements, quick-passing offenses, teams and subteams (as in pick & roll duet, with other options.  {maybe with links to videos}

Ted Williams Syndrome -- TW was one of best baseball hitters of all time -- but he wanted more, not just best bb hitter but best athlete because he claimed bb hitter is most difficult skill in all sports -- maybe, but i would vote for nfl quarterback! [also point guard in nba, linebacker with many options and must react [but qb also must react and is more essential for winning]

Vin Scully -- plan/prepare, but then improvise [time gaps to fill due to pace of baseball], planning a script but with plan to improvise during it.

dam operator (in home group of Vineyard Anaheim) had to make quick important decisions, months of boredom [summer, but maybe must conserve? long term planning but not emergency immediate] but sometimes hours/minutes of high stress with demand for quick decisions and actions [or non-actions] to let water out or keep, to avoid flooding upstream * reservoir & downstream //

lockers trashed in 1970's at UW-Farwest, filled lockers, gone in september, never missed, don't even remember what was in them, they made throw-away triage easy, just [in retrospect] "if put into locker it will be gone" // later, "if put books into box for usps, will be gone" in 2020 -- john mcphee, lansing endurance, ambrose lewis & clark, irvine mountain everest, magenta frog, antiques [pilot, lee baird, // should have taken photos of each box, should have taped well, listened to clerk, ask "can i buy here?" or take home and do a second trip, take 2 more boxes [but then would have lost all] -- panic, overly optimistic about time required, wanted to leave tuesday but didn't even make it until very late wednesday afternoon

REGRETS -- dogs & birds in early morning Anaheim -- Mom (use esther-email, -- ignoring Madison during 2013-2021, esp Larry Dahl (a favorite) but also others [qut my apology-email, hope for opport in afterlife

Choosing the Wrong Route:  driving the Northern Route (thru Utah & Colorado) was tough on my car, with the road — going up & down, over & over, for long distances — overworking the engine of my underpowered-and-overloaded Corolla (causing down-shifting and therefore up-reving) on the uphills, plus wearing its brake linings during fast downhills (causing speeds of 90 mph with no gas) on curvy roads;  there also was a temporary "minor engine failure" while going over Vail Pass at 10,000 feet, before (due to wise advice from Utopia Tires in Frisco) avoiding an even tougher challenge for my car thru Eisenhower Tunnel (higher at 11k, on a steeper road) by going over Loveland Pass (12,000 feet) where I got extremely cold because of wind chill with the strongest wind I've ever felt, in an area with snow on the ground in early September.   {and a question: why does GoogleMaps encourage drivers to use the northern route, in its suggested route-options, instead of the easier-on-cars southern route(s) between Anaheim and Columbia MO, where I met with a cousin & his wife before continuing onward to Madison?}

Watching Snow and Seeing Wind -- in March 2012, thinking "I might not see snow again for awhile" I invested 45 minutes to walk around the neighborhood (between my apartment and Union South, a block away) and just watch the snow;  at one special location, the currents of invisible wind "became visible" due to a street light illuminating the snow swirling in the wind -- up and down, sideways, even traveling in different ways at different distances from me. (later I'll find better ways of describing this)   /   also, in 1989 watching snow-and-wind in the courtyard of White Hall, and earlier as one part of...

playing in the snow:  In the 1970s/1980s in Seattle (my first city, and first uw-city), every time it snowed we thought "it might be the last time this winter" so people (especially in the student area where I lived, near fraternities & sororities) would go out and play in the snow (with snowball fights, building snowmen, making snow angels, sliding down a short-yet-steep hill,...) and I would watch the snow [and wind] in the streetlights.

CLIMATE SHOCKS -- Iowa until 14 (paper route, frozen feet --> frostbite then & later) / my first semester in Madison, final night (-20° real temp, 15 mph wind + 10 mph bike --> -50° wind chill, most of me covered except nose (if touch, will shatter?) for paper-print/deliver, then next night (after delay) 70 at JohnWayne/SNA at 7 pm (nice!) -- return Reverse Climate Shock, felt ok, looking forward to the cold ending with springtime:

temperature expectations -- in Madison, 65 in August feels cold, 65 in March feels warm, 40 in February warm

temperature + wet/dry -- 40 & wet (typical seattle) feels colder than 0 and dry (in madison, if dress well) -- learned (obvious, duh) bring dry socks after bike ride in rain,

seattle hills (I built 1-speed bike, would cannibalize bikes to make hybrid-combos, e.g. with brakes that were front caliper & back hub, or combining 3-speed plus gears (big front wheel, small rear wheel) to make a HIGH gear of 119, so I would stand up, like on a hill, and let gravity help me push it) (summer of 1993, when I used a topographical map to plan my routes around Seattle, to get from one place to another with minimal hill-climbing) (used pedal-straps, but oops didn't practice escaping, so had a slow motion fall-over & ankle-twist, my co-worst along with volleyball when an opponent illegally crossed over to my side of the net so I landed on top of his foot for a bad ankle-twist [also, former housemate Dick Zeller broke his ankle on the initial jump ball of a basketball game]) (i could jump high on wood but not in sand - never adjusted to it - socal/irvine/beach) (vb skills vs brute jumping) (oops for summer-69 when i could have done all-comers meets for personal max in hj/100/200/lj)

and I'll have a section about moving to, and discovering, my first real city, Seattle, that was a contrast with the sprawling megalopolis (un-city) of Orange County and metropolitan Los Angeles.   {seeing LA during plane descents at night, huge area of lights;  seeing Rose Bowl on outgoing flights from LAX}

also:  how I accidentally stumbled onto Venice Beach, discovering it unintentionally in a happy surprise during a failed hitchhiking adventure when doing this was still relatively safe in the early-1970's.

and more with (as usual) "education" defined very broadly.


re: our championship game in 1969 -- I preserved our 52-0 shutout on the final play when I was on the goal line with their QB running toward me;  I had to decide whether to move forward (to stop the QB) or backward (to protect against a pass to the receiver I was guarding) but if I did nothing it became obvious that the QB would score, so I went forward.  But instead of trying to get around me, the QB decided to go over me, and during the collision my thumb got injured (the ligament was unbroken but it was connected to a bone and it ripped off a small piece of this bone}  /  update: while writing this I thought "it's more complex than interesting" and I've temporarily abandoned it -- but I may write it later, with a connection to a team that almost beat Chem Grads the previous year in 1968, but they lost on a controversial "tackling" call when Pat Carroll (receiver who moved to Chem Grads in 1969) stopped a Chem Grad from scoring on a play when the runner went "over him" instead of around him, as in the play that injured my thumb;  this 1968 team included Pat Carroll plus Bill Carroll (his older brother, one of the smartest people I've known, or at least one of the most intelligence-using people) and John Blocker;  in the 1968-69 school year I was housemates with Bill and John in a small house a block from the ocean in Newport Beach, 127 42nd Street;  they asked me to be on their team, but for some reason (time? being un-confident?) I said no, before saying yes in 1969.  So... does all of this make the story more interesting, or just more complex yet still un-interesting for people "who weren't there."  ?


1984 Olympic Trials for Decathlon -- housemate Steve Erickson was 8th with 7767, fairly close to the 3rd-place score of 8072 that would have gotten him into the Summer Olympics;  during that summer, rats would "climb a pipe" into the bathroom next to his bedroom, so he bought a rat-trap (a big mouse-trap) that was strong enough to break his hand if he ever "made a mistake" while using it, and this would have ended his olympic hopes;  but he always did the rat-trap ok, thus avoiding this embarrassing way to fail.}



The Joys of Science - It's fun!

Personal goals for learning can include improving skills (like welding or thinking) and exploring ideas.  One powerful motivating force is a curiosity about "how things work."  We like to solve mysteries.

The joyful appreciation of a challenging mystery and a clever solution is expressed in the following excerpts from letters between two scientists who were intimately involved in the development of quantum mechanics: Max Planck (who in 1900 opened the quantum era with his mathematical description of blackbody radiation) and Erwin Schrödinger (who in 1926 wrote and solved a "wave equation" to explain quantum phenomena).  Planck, writing to Schrödinger, says "I am reading your paper in the way a curious child eagerly listens to the solution of a riddle with which he has struggled for a long time, and I rejoice over the beauties that my eye discovers."  Schrödinger replies by agreeing that "Everything resolves itself with unbelievable simplicity and unbelievable beauty, everything turns out exactly as one would wish, in a perfectly straightforward manner, all by itself and without forcing."  They struggled with a problem, solved it, and were thrilled.  It's fun to think and learn!   { You can learn more about the joy of science and "waves that are particles and particles that are waves" and how Planck and Schrödinger (and Einstein and others) solved the mystery.  Also, The Joys of Design-Thinking and transfers-of-learning from design & science into everyday life. }




Aesop's Activities for Goal-Directed Education

Aesop's Fables are designed to achieve an educational goal, to teach lessons about life.  By analogy, goal-directed Aesop's Activities can help students learn ideas and skills that will be useful in life.   In a goal-directed approach to improving education, the basic themes are simple:  a teacher should provide opportunities for educationally useful experience, and help students learn more from their experience.{Goal-Directed Education for Ideas-and-Skills}



Learning by Exploring

One way to learn about nature is to explore it yourself.  You can do this in many ways, using all of your senses.  You can explore near and far, by studying plants in your yard, birds in the park, and clouds in the sky, by looking out your car window and letting what you see inspire questions about the geology and biology, about the land and what's growing on it.  Exploring is fun at any age.  It is interesting and motivating for children, and also for adults who (as amateur scientists or professional scientists) are continuing their explorations of nature.


Learning from Others

When you explore, you learn from your own experience.  But you also can learn from the experience of others, by letting them help you learn.  This happens when you read, listen, or watch what they have written, spoken, or filmed.  Learning from others is an easy way to learn a lot in a little time.


Learning is an Active Process

Learning is an active process that requires thinking.  When you learn by reading, for example, your thinking converts symbols on the page into ideas in your mind.  Every time you learn a new idea, you are actively constructing your own mental representations of the idea in a personally meaningful form.  And your new idea interacts with your old ideas, as you try to combine the new and old into a coherent system of ideas.

The process of active reading is the theme when Virginia Voeks, in her book On Becoming an Educated Person, explains how to learn more and enjoy more while reading: "Start with an intent to make the very most you can from whatever you read.  Treat the author as you do your friends.  When talking with a friend, you listen attentively and eagerly.  You watch for contributions of value and are sensitive to them.  You actively respond to his ideas with ones of your own.  Together you build new syntheses."  When you're an active reader, eagerly searching for new ideas, you will find them, and reading becomes a stimulating adventure.

You can read passively or you can make it an active adventure.  Some of the most effective teaching methods are designed to stimulate thinking, to replace boring passivity with exciting activity.  For example, members of a class can have a pro-and-con debate about the ideas in a book they are reading.  This activity encourages the mentally active reading that is recommended by Voeks.  But if you "internalize the action" you can always read with an active mind, whether or not your reading will be followed by a debate.  You control the quality of your learning.



Immediate Motivation — Make it Fun

One of the most important things a teacher can do is to motivate students so they want to learn, so they think learning is fun and useful.  Usually, it's best to begin with fun.

For children, a good way to have fun while learning about nature is to explore.  And it's easy.  You can find things to explore by just looking around your house and yard, on walks in your neighborhood, or in local parks.  Be aware of what's happening in nature — blooming plants, interesting clouds, beautiful sunset, awesome thunderstorm, mysterious fog, moon eclipse, meteor shower,... — and take advantage of natural opportunities.  Wake up early, watch the world turn from dark to light, and visit a place where birds are singing.  Take time to notice trees budding in spring, thriving in summer, turning colors in autumn, gleaming with snow in winter.  During a trip, you can watch the constantly changing land shapes and plant life, you can look for places to stop and explore, and maybe you can escape the glow of city lights and see the Milky Way plus millions of other stars.  Find ways to use all your senses, to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

When two or more explore together, part of the fun is relational.  To help a child develop a love for learning, you don't have to be an expert who is providing technical information.  Just be there to share the experience and encourage, and occasionally call attention to interesting details.  Rachel Carson, in The Sense of Wonder, explains that the main goal is motivation, not information: "A sharing of adventures in the world of nature... is based on having fun together rather than teaching,... just going through the woods in the spirit of two friends on an expedition of exciting discovery."  The beneficial results of enthusiastically sharing adventure and conversation can last a lifetime.  "A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. ... If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder... he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." (quotes are from The Sense of Wonder (1956) by Rachel Carson, pages 10, 18, 42, 45)


We can also explore using second-hand experience, by letting others help us learn from what they have learned.  Children of all ages can do this alone or with you.  Share an adventure in the world of ideas.  Read a book together, listen to a tape, or watch an educational film, and then talk about it.

If explorations have stimulated interest in a topic, a curious child will want to learn more about it.  If watching clouds and thunderstorms leads to questions, learn more about weather in a book, film, or website.  Maybe reading a small book about nutrition, about what we eat and how it helps our bodies work, will inspire a desire to learn more by reading more.  Getting a Roadside Geology book for a state you'll be driving through will make your exploring of "the land and its history" more educational and enjoyable.  If a child is fascinated by gadgets and asks "How does it work?", find out in or in a book.

How can you pick a topic?  Usually, just be aware of what a child finds interesting, and go with the flow.  Occasionally, provide guidance by encouraging exploration of a topic that you think will be interesting or will be useful in life.

How can you find books and decide which ones to read?  Visit a library and explore it by yourself, then ask for help.  Librarians love books and learning.  They want to help you and will eagerly share what they know, along with their enthusiasm.  A wide variety of resources for all ages, including books and much more, is available in libraries, bookstores (new or used), and on the internet.


Exploring ideas is especially interesting when, in an effort to get accurate understanding, you get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  A conflict of ideas is inherently dramatic, and the evaluative thinking it stimulates is an opportunity to learn valuable skills for life.  { a personal example – a high school teacher who changed the way I think }

Many exciting "adventures in thinking" are possible in design thinking.  You can help a child find problems to solve and projects to pursue in all areas of life – in all school subjects and in everyday living.  Daily decisions become a "designing of strategies for living" when you ask "what are your goals" and "based on your observations and predictions, which strategy-options will produce a closer match with your goals?"  By practicing and reviewing the principles of design, you can stimulate creative, disciplined thinking in design and also in science.  How?  Logical "reality checks" are used in both science and design, so you can build an educational bridge from design to science and then, by using this bridge, learning design method will help a child learn scientific method.

In all activities of learning and thinking, while exploring the fascinating world of nature and ideas, you can help a child develop motivation, and maintain it for the long term, by enthusiastically sharing, consistently encouraging, and occasionally guiding.



Long-Term Motivation — Make it Useful

Why should you, or those you are teaching, want to learn?  Early in the process of education, it's best to focus on the intrinsic motivation of having fun now.  Later, after a child has experienced the joys of learning-and-thinking in a variety of contexts, you can look for opportunities to explain how — in addition to being fun — learning can also be useful.  The ideal motivational situation is when a student thinks educational activities are fun and useful, immediately enjoyable and eventually practical.

We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And utility is in the mind of the beholder, so the personal goals of an individual student should be the focus of long-term motivation.  Will your education be personally useful in the future?  If you can say "yes" and you have a forward-looking expectation that what you're learning now will improve your life, you have a reason to learn.  When you view learning as an opportunity for self-improvement — so you can develop your full human potential and become the person best you can be — you'll want to learn.  In this goal-directed intentional learning, you want to achieve personal goals by transforming your current state of knowledge (which includes all you know and all you can do) into a future state of knowledge that is improved.  For long-term motivation, a good question to ask is, "What can I learn now that will help me in the future?"

As a teacher, your question is "What can I help them learn now that will be useful for them in the future?"  With your adult perspective, you see further down the road of life, and this lets you provide valuable guidance.  Your guidance can be personalized, because you have seen the many ways in which abilities and personal goals vary from one student to another.  This understanding can help you motivate a wider range of students with whole-person education for multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal.