Writing About ‘Changing the Paradigm’

Think about what patterns of behavior, choices, thinking, likes or dislikes have changed in your life since before Kindergarten.

First, make a list.

Your list may have some of these in it:

how I spent my time in a day

what I choose to play





Your list could also be more specific:



girls (as friends)

boys (as friends)

making friends

books I like to read

Algebra (or math in general)

a physical activity, like tumbling or jogging or exercise

Second, choose one item in your list as the one you will focus on and write about.

I will choose “girls as friends” to work on.

Now I have to identify what my paradigm was before Kindergarten, or what it used to be before it changed in some noticeable way. Write a brief phrase or statement of the before paradigm.

Then I have to identify what my paradigm is after the change. Write a brief phrase or statement of the after paradigm.

Do the rest of the pre-writing to get your ideas visible. This is a very important step. Ideas usually don’t come into your thinking in organized ways. Write them as you think of them. Again, use phrases, not sentences in this step.

Then, organize your ideas for the paragraphs you will write.


When I was very young, I didn’t pay any attention to the gender of my playmates. I had a sister, so I just treated all girls the way I treated my sister. As long as the games did not involve dolls or playing house, girls were the same as boys. This paradigm worked quite well, because I always had someone to play with, even if it was just my sister.

When I reached the third grade, however, I noticed that girls were not the same as boys. They didn’t want to play baseball or throw-the-rock-as hard-as-you-can-to-see-who-is-better, or most of the other physical challenge things we boys played. Also, there was something about them that made me feel different. I discovered that being able to throw a rock farther than any of the other boys didn’t give me the same feeling as being close to a girl while taking a sled ride down the hill, or wading in the creek while holding hands. Almost overnight, my paradigm shifted. It did matter who I was playing with, and it didn’t matter whether or not I was the best rock-thrower. My third grade year I had three girlfiends, but I don’t remember having any boy buddies at all. In gender matters, gender matters.

Now, get busy on your writing.



Change the Paradigm

The most successful students communicate well in writing. Few students develop excellent writing skills on their own, however.

The usual pattern used in teaching to develop writing skills involves a textbook that presents the standards for written expression. This paradigm has the teacher assigning lesson from the textbook. The students read the information and study the examples, then complete a practice exercise. The pattern repeats until the class has completed the chapter or unit. As a result, according to this paradigm, students begin applying the skills and patterns in their own written assignments from then on. In addition, the students only spend one period per day on writing practice. Assignments in all other subjects continue on schedule.

During the past year I have repeatedly applied the usual paradigm as explained above. I have used old textbooks, exercise workbooks, web sites devoted to the writing process, and lots of writing assignments. The student writing has been read, discussed, re-done and re-done. Only a little change from a few students has resulted. Yet, I believe that all students can learn and adopt new skills – even in writing. Since I haven’t achieved the desired results using the usual paradigm, I have had to develop a new one.

Writing is one of the foundational skills for achievement in school – all the way through graduate school. The importance of skillful writing requires that my students must achieve new and improved results before they move on to high school. Focus we must on writing, even to the exclusion of some content in other disciplines, certainly to the point of reduced class time in other subjects.

I would normally present a new Bell Journal topic each day. But now we will stay on the same topic and redo the redo until improvement is rampant, or, at a minimum, scattered obviously on each student result. Who knows; we may move from a paradigm to a pair o’ quarters. I’d call that rampant!

Service Week, Part 2

I have discovered that what I thought was quite clearly explained needs additional explanation in order to have it work in a school setting.

An internet search using the key words “serve others” results in a top hit of 100 ways to serve others. But, the wording of the list items is too general: Help someone get where they are going. What help will be given? Who is the someone? ‘Where’ could be unreachable with my resources.

The ideas for service acts need to be explained specifically enough that the plan can be executed.

Students must consider several things before choosing an item to place on their lists.

  • During the school year, students spend most of their waking hours at school. So it would be reasonable to expect that the listed services would be doable at school.
  • Also, the students must consider the available resources and needs likely to present themselves during a normal school day.

In my original plan for Service Week, each student would select a service act on Monday and do that service each day of the week (five times) with five different people. Some very worthwhile service acts are not easily repeatable five times in one week.

  • So, students need to be instructed to choose service events that can be done with many different people in their society – the school.

The student list needs to be more specific; it needs to be specific enough that the student will recognize an opportunity to serve when it presents itself. For instance, the “Help someone get where they are going” can be made more specific to the school: Help a new student find her way to the correct classroom. However, unless you are in a very large school in which new students or visitors are a daily event, this service idea couldn’t be completed each day for the week as this project requires.

Instead of “Help someone with chores,” a more specific statement that can be planned for and the opportunity recognized might say, “Help my mother clean up after supper.” The opportunity to act on this event will present itself every evening during the week. So, it is specific, it is available, it is repeatable, and the student should recognize the opportunity at supper time.

Do some more work on your list of five service-to-others events. Make sure that each item on the list meets the characteristics explained in the first blog post about the Service Week and this blog post.

When you think you have a doable list, send an email to me with the list in the message.

A Week of Service

Wouldn’t you like to live in a society in which people do nice things for each other without expecting payment? In a way, isn’t that the definition of the Golden Rule?

It often seems that the only serving going on is self-serving. We get overwhelmed with the idea of serving others. Maybe that’s in part due to the few examples of service that we regularly see. We know about Mother Teresa, but how many of us could do that? We know about Martin Luther King, Jr., but, again, how many of us could do that?

What we need are some real-life examples of ordinary people integrating service into their ordinary lives. Let’s start by creating a list of service ideas that you can do.

Investigate the meaning of “serving others”. Choose at least five ways that you can serve. Write these using PJA Docs. Create a Document “YourFirstName’s Service Journal”.

On Monday, you will use one of the ways from your list of five ways to serve.

  • Write about your experience in your Service Journal.
  • You may need only a couple of sentences to tell what your service was, who you provided the service to, and the response from the one you served.
  • Then tell your response to serving: if it was difficult or easy, how it made you feel, any changes to serving that you will attempt tomorrow.

On Tuesday, you will repeat the Monday service with a new receiver.

  • Write about your experience in your Service Journal.
  • Tell what your service was, who you provided the service to, and the response from the one you served.
  • Then tell your response to serving: if it was difficult or easy, how it made you feel, any changes to serving that you will attempt tomorrow.

On Wednesday, you will continue the Monday service (with a new receiver) and add a second service.

  • Write about your experience in your Service Journal.
  • Tell what your services were, who you provided the services to, and the responses from the ones you served.
  • Then tell your response to serving: if it was difficult or easy, how it made you feel, any changes to serving that you will attempt tomorrow.

On Thursday, you will continue the Wednesday services (with new receivers).

  • Write about your experience in your Service Journal.
  • Tell what your services were, who you provided the services to, and the responses from the ones you served.
  • Then tell your response to serving: if it was difficult or easy, how it made you feel, any changes to serving that you will attempt tomorrow.

On Friday, you will continue the Thursday services (with new receivers). If you are able, add a third service.

  • Write about your experience in your Service Journal.
  • Tell what your services were, who you provided the services to, and the responses from the ones you served.
  • Then tell your response to serving: if it was difficult or easy, how it made you feel, any changes to serving that you will attempt tomorrow.

Finally, write a conclusion to this Service Week experience. What did you learn about service? About people? About yourself? Are you willing to make service a part of your life beyond this last week? Do you think that your example could inspire others to do service also? What would that feel like?

You might start a blog about your experiences of service.

A Summer Plan

This school year is almost over. Next week you will take tests to show how much you have learned, the juniors will accompany the seniors as they graduate, and summer vacation will begin.

Did you reach the goals that you set for yourself last summer? Did you do your best to learn as much as possible? Did you use your time and talents well so that all of your work was completed and on time?

What will you do with the ten weeks of summer? When the summer ends, will you be a better person? Will you have knowledge, skills and attitudes that that are better than the ones you have today?

Let me suggest two summer activities that can change your world.

1. Read. Books. Get a library card and read as many books as you can. Keep a list of the books you read. Maybe keep a journal and write notes as you read the books. Write about ideas that you agree with, ideas you disagree with, ideas that make you notice your own thanking and behavior. The summer I was 13 I read over 100 books.

Read one of the books written by Norman Vincent Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking or You Can if You Think You Can. Either of these books can change your thinking, which will change your future. I would appreciate it if you would email me to let me know what books you read: [email protected]

2. Admit the subject in school that you don’t like and in which don’t do well. Take a textbook home for that subject or go on the Internet and search for a tutorial site that teaches about the subject. Develop a schedule for yourself so that every day for at least 30 minutes you read and work on that subject.

Use the main ideas from the Norman Vincent Peale book that you are reading. Change the way you talk to yourself about the subject, using the ideas from The Power of Positive Thinking or You Can if You Think You Can.

Better still, find a student in a grade lower than yours and arrange to tutor that student in the subject that you don’t like.

Two important characteristics of the people who will be recognized in the future as successful: 1) they read to learn; 2) they help others with what they know. You can be one of those successful people, not just in the future, but right now.

Pushing a Rope

Most teachers at one time or another have said or thought, “I work so hard at trying to get my students motivated. Some respond, but so many don’t. They just seem to want to get by—if that much. I try to encourage them. I’m their biggest cheerleader! But I get so tired. I feel like I’m pushing a rope with many of my students. Why can’t my students want to achieve instead of having to be pushed into doing the work?”

Before learning can happen, the student must make the decision to intend to learn. “This is important! I will learn this!” Unless the student makes the decision to learn, the teacher’s work is a lot like trying to push a rope. Ropes don’t push very well. It’s difficult – almost impossible! – to push a rope. It doesn’t go where you want it to go, if it goes at all.

When students reach the fifth or sixth grade, they often begin asking, “Why do I need to learn this?” And for many students, since the answer is quite abstract, they don’t understand the answer, and decide, “It’s not important enough for me to put in the effort to learn. Besides, it’s easier and more fun to do nothing.”

Unfortunately, by the time the students spend a couple of years with this approach to school, they have not created the foundation for learning and doing the work that is required in the seventh and eighth grades, so they really can’t do the work unless they make up the work they missed – and that’s hard work. Besides, the habits they formed for two years are really difficult to change.

If you’re still reading, and if you recognize yourself in this story, there’s hope. You can make up for the missed work. You can change yourself. It’s no longer the teachers’ responsibility, though. It is your responsibility. You have to change yourself.

Things to change: the music you listen to; the TV you watch; the games you play; the friends you hang out with. Use music and TV and games and friends to create a new you. Read. Get a library card, check out a book or two, and read. Turn off the music and the TV, and read.

If you will do these things, in one month you will be a new person. In one month you can read at least four books. Talk with a teacher, a parent, or the librarian. Tell him what your plan is and ask for book titles to read. Ask about music to listen to. The first two weeks will be the hardest, but you can do it. You have the potential, but effort is required for the potential to become who you really are.


I could-a (could have) scored more points if… We could-a won if… I could-a gotten an A if… I could-a done better (than I did) if only (something out of my control) hadn’t interfered.
Hope. Oh, how we hope for the future! No matter what may happen today, tomorrow we will win the lottery, even if we didn’t buy a ticket.
Hope springs eternal. The sun will come out tomorrow. Tomorrow’s another day. Just wait until next time. We have lots of euphemisms that help us face the disappointments of today and point us to the future, which, we tend to believe, will be better. Optimism is an important ingredient in life.
Because of sin life is sprinkled with sorrow that is out of our control. Yet, there are many things about the future that is in our control. Especially for students, it is important to recognize that in many ways the future is not out of your control. The future is bright, full of promise, to those who spend today in preparation for the opportunities that will come to you in your tomorrows.
Success is the result of opportunity meeting preparation.
Three things I can guarantee will prepare you now, for today’s opportunities, and will also prepare you for future opportunities: Commitment to God, Time-management skills, and Learning skills.
Today is the time for you to prepare. Everything that you are asked to learn and do in your classes, from Kindergarten through College, is preparation for opportunities. You don’t know what opportunities will be placed in front of you.
It’s true that your teachers don’t know exactly what opportunities you will encounter, either. But, your teachers have been through the experiences you are currently working through. And, equally important, they have experience beyond college. Your teachers are prepared to guide you in your learning because they have experienced opportunity and preparation meeting; they have also experienced opportunity meeting lack of preparation. By listening and learning from them you can avoid some of the disappointments and problems they have had, and you can have successes even greater than they have had.
Some people spend their lives saying “Could-a”. But it’s only an excuse intended to make the speaker feel better about his or her performance that didn’t match potential. Don’t be that person.

Focus and Attitude

For forty days Goliath mocked the Israelite soldiers. He wore a suit of armor that weighed more than the average man could pick up. He didn’t have to know how to fight, he could just step on you, or fall on top of you, and squash you like a bug. But he did know how to fight; he was a trained warrior.

His voice was as big as he was tall. He stood across the valley and shouted for hours on end, ridiculing and mocking and taunting and making the men feel like helpless little boys. There was no escape from his voice. In the camp in their tents, during the night when they tried to sleep, while they ate, no matter where they went or what they did, Goliath’s voice reminded them of their hopeless situation. Consider it: you against Maximus Prime.

Along came an untrained brother who had been sent by his father to “see how the battle goes.” Soon after David found his brothers in their tents, Goliath came out of his to begin his show. After one sentence, in which Goliath ridiculed God, David was ready to fight. He turned to his brothers and the group of soldiers near him and said, “That’s not right. That philistine is making fun of God. What are you going to do about it?”

David’s focus was not on himself or even the Israelite army. David could not bear the thought that someone was saying bad things about God. David’s focus was on God – on defending God against the accusations being made and the insults being shouted for all to hear.

You know the story. Saul, the king, had informed the soldiers that he was to be notified as soon as anyone was ready to do battle with Goliath. David, in his youthful innocence and naiveté boldly stated that he would fight this giant in order to show the world the truth about God. Soldier’s armor was placed on him; soldier’s weapons were provided him; soldier’s battle plans were drawn out in the sand for him.

But, David picked up his sling and ran forward to the streambed that lay between the two armies. Many stones of the right size and shape, smoothed by the rushing waters as in a stone polisher, lay in the stream. David selected five stones for his mission. Four of them he placed in his leather bag that hung from his belt. The fifth one went into his sling. Then he bounded across the stream toward Goliath.

Goliath was shocked. “You send a puppy out for me to play with?” he roared. David watched his enemy carefully. He saw the giant throw down his shield and push his protective helmet back so that he could better see this teenager who was coming toward him. It was then that David prayed out loud as a warning to the enemy and as a reminder to the Israelite soldiers, watching and listening as they cowered in their tents behind him.

“My God, the One you have been blaspheming, the One you have been lying about, will today deliver you into my hands so that all may know God is the One who saves.”
One stone, carefully guided to the right place brought honor to God. He had four more ready, in case other giants ran to Goliath’s rescue. But one did the job.

The stones had been there all the time. The stones were in the reach of the rest of the Israelite soldiers all the time. They had complained “these dumb stones are difficult to walk on in sandals” “it takes too long to fill my water bottle with these stone in the way”; they had thrown the stones at nothing, at birds, at rocks. But the attitude and focus of the soldiers was – the stones were a nuisance. The stones made their lives more difficult. The stones had no value in their lives right then.

But David had a different focus and a different attitude from the soldiers who were too afraid to do anything. David’s focus was on God and Honoring Him; his attitude was “I will use the skills that I have to stand up and stand out for God.”

We all have skills. You don’t need my skills in order to stand up for God, just as David didn’t need the tools that the king offered him for the fight. The shield and sword and armor were Saul’s, not David’s. David needed to use his own skills, focus on honoring God, and show by his actions his confidence that God will save.

Five stones. It’s good to have more than one. When your teachers and parents are offering you the opportunities to learn, to develop skills, don’t short-change yourself. Don’t be content with one stone. You may not be naturally good in math or history or science, but pick up those stones and place them in your tool bag. God never asks you to acquire a skill for which He doesn’t have a task that it will enable you to complete for Him.

You can choose not to take on learning the skill, but in doing so, you will be less useful to God than you have the potential to be. Someone else will be called on to complete the mission, it just won’t be you. Just like the Israelite soldiers who were trained to fight for God’s honor. They chose not to accept the mission. God provided someone else After David killed Goliath, I can imagine that there were numerous soldiers who said to each other, “That was easy. I could have done that.”

The difference was in the focus and the attitude “All of my skills and talents are to be used to honor God.” The other soldiers did not know God well enough to have confidence in His ability and willingness to deliver – they weren’t really sure that God Saves. They were worried about losing the battle with the giant. They were worried about the possibility of shame and defeat. They were focused on themselves. Can any normal soldier compete against such an enemy? My dagger against that giant’s sword? My spear against the tree-spear that Goliath carries? Their focus was on self; their attitude was “I can ignore the insults to God . If He isn’t going to send lightning to strike that giant, why should I risk my life?

We all face giants every day. Sometimes I think it would be easier if the giants were flesh and blood like Goliath. But often the giants can’t be seen. They are real, but we have gotten pretty good at hiding in our tents and pretending they will go away if we ignore them.

What giants are you facing today? Finances? Addiction? A life-style? A schedule that is too busy so you don’t think you have time to get to know God? Rebellion? Maybe you think your parents are too strict. Maybe you think the church has too many rules that just don’t make sense to you. Maybe you think God is too strict. Doubt – does God really care? You just want to be left alone so you can do what you want to do.

Where do I begin the battle? What weapons do I have to fight with? We begin with Trust that He cares. We begin with faith that He saves. That’s all He asks of us: begin with a small stone. Like that small stone in the riverbed was waiting, He is waiting for you to pick Him up and be delivered.

It was just a small stone that David used to honor God. To everyone is given a measure of faith. If you are looking for a small stone that you can pick up, here’s the most powerful one I know: Jesus loves you. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more; there is nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.

Jesus loves me. Say it with me, Jesus loves me. Do you mean it? Do you know it to be true? It is the truest statement that can be made.

Years after defeating Goliath David wrote, “The LORD is my Rock, my fortress and my Deliverer. My God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18) The small stone had grown into a Rock.

Jesus loves me is your defense against the Goliaths that you and I face in our lives right now and into every tomorrow. It is our fortress, which Satan cannot enter.

My grandson is 2 years old. When I put him up on the second step on our stairs and hold out my arms to him and encourage him to jump, he doesn’t look down to see how far it is to the floor. He looks right in my eyes. He doesn’t say, “No. Papa, I’ll get hurt if you drop me.” He laughs, he giggles, then he jumps. He knows, he has experienced, that Papa cares, Papa is safe, and Papa will catch him.

Focus and attitude: Stand up and stand out for God’s honor.

God holds out His arms to you today. Don’t look down; don’t worry that you might fall, that you might get hurt, that your friends might make fun of you. Look into His eyes, look at the scars in His hands. Know this: God cares; God is safe; God is the One who saves from all giants, even the ones that you face today.

Stand up and stand out for God’s honor.

Gardening, conclusion

At the supper table that evening Bob’s dad said, “Thanks, Bob, for getting the broccoli planted. It looks good.”

Bob forced a smile and said, “You’re welcome.” Then he quickly filled his mouth with spaghetti so no one would expect him to talk any more.

Two weeks went by. Bob was busy with school, Pathfinders, and friends. He had completely forgotten about the garden work that he had done. The days were beautiful and warm. Bob was with his friends as much as possible.

One evening when Bob came in for supper, he noticed that Mom was in the kitchen still working on food, but Dad wasn’t in the kitchen with her. The car was in the driveway, so he must be home. “What’s for supper, Mom?” Bob called out as he grabbed his backpack to get out his books.

“Rice, gravy, choplets, and broccoli,” Mom answered.

Bob’s hand stopped moving. Hearing the word ‘broccoli’ made his mind connect to the planting chore of two weeks ago. He felt his face get warm, and knew his face was red. He was glad to be alone. But he knew he wasn’t alone. The history book in his hand did not have any information about the history he was thinking about. Quickly science became the focus of his thinking as he tried to remember how long it takes for seeds to germinate and begin to grow. Two weeks sounded about right. Dad should be noticing that the broccoli seeds had not germinated, that there were no small sprouts pushing up through the dirt. Bob rehearsed the speech he had practiced. “None of the seeds sprouted? That’s too bad. I’ll be glad to help you by re-planting as soon as you get some new seeds.” He listened to himself inside his mind as the words were rehearsed. “Boy! I’m good. I even believe myself.”

Bob heard Mom call “Supper!” out the back door. He put down his book, went to the bathroom, and washed his hands. “None of the seeds sprouted?” raced through his mind over and over.

At the table, after saying grace, after serving each plate, Dad said, “The broccoli seeds are all up.”

“None of the seeds…” Bob began. “Wait! What?” he blurted out as he looked at Dad.

“The broccoli seeds have sprouted and the shoots are above ground,” Dad repeated as he looked earnestly at Bob. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

Science class became very important to Bob all of a sudden. Of course the seeds would germinate and sprout! What had he been thinking? Bob knew exactly where they were growing, too.

Slowly Bob related the experience. His food wasn’t appetizing to him now, so it sat there on his plate. The broccoli florets seemed to look up at him accusingly.

“You will harvest the crop that you plant. You will reap what you sow.” Bob had planted two crops. Now he was reaping the harvest. It wasn’t a fun harvest.

Every time broccoli was served on Bob’s plate, he was reminded of the gardening principle that he had learned very well during the spring of 2010. There are always consequences for every choice, for every action. The consequence may be delayed, but it will come.

Gardening, Part 2

Bob got back on his knees, picked up the stick, placed it to the left of the second seed, then leaned back and picked up the packet. He looked at the picture on the front of the packet. He did like broccoli, and getting it fresh out of the garden made it even better. Then he looked toward the far end of the row, back at the broccoli picture, back at the end of the row. His hand felt for his phone, and with it resting there, he stopped and thought.

“I wonder if I can be through before Dad gets back from the store? Then I could be gone to Tony’s and wouldn’t have to answer any questions.”

Again he looked at the row. Every time it seemed that the row grew longer. And every time he got more frustrated with the task. He had heard the laughter and shouting in the background as he had talked with Tony moments before.

Slowly he reached into the packet, took out one more seed, then stopped his hand in mid-air and looked at that seed. It was so small. There must be a million of them in the packet, he thought. An idea was being created in his mind. He could be through in just a few minutes. He had it all figured out! He reached down, picked up the stick, got up off his knees and walked toward the end of the row.

Past the end a little ways Bob dug a hole. He dug it twice as deep as the furrow that Dad had prepared for the seeds. When he was satisfied with the depth, he picked up the packet, turned it upside down and dumped the seeds into this new hole. Quickly he covered it over, grabbed a branch off a bush close by and swept the ground with it to hide the evidence that a hole had ever been there.

Then he ran back to the other end, grabbed the hoe and quickly smoothed the dirt over the furrow so that it looked like the row was planted. “No one will ever know,” he thought. “When no plants come up in the row, Dad will think he got a bad batch of seeds, so he’ll go back to the farm store and get some more. Then I’ll volunteer to help re-plant the seeds, and he’ll be so happy he’ll probably give me a reward.”

Bob ran off toward Tony’s house. Soon his thoughts were completely occupied with Major League Baseball. Shouts, laughter and groans filled the room as the boys enjoyed the game.