Dreams and teaching

For a few years now, I have been trying to combine the two worlds of dreaming and teaching. Each are great teachers of who I am and how the world works. These topics are what my psychology degree is about. However, I never really imagined them coming together there way they did while I slept the other night.

About fifteen years ago, my wife was really concerned about my explosive and destructive anger. Through a series of events, I taught myself meditation and it was a game-changer; my anger and its episodes were greatly reduced and my wife could tell immediately on days that I did not meditate. But there was another bonus to meditation; when I meditated, I made the greatest discoveries and had the greatest ideas when I was meditating. Over the years since then, I turned to many other versions that gave me more awareness about what goes inside my psyche. In 2009, Jungian dream work found me. It has been the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me. It has led down roads I would have never gone down. It has made me learn things about me that I would have never otherwise learned. And, guess what? It has given me the greatest ideas about how to lead my life as a human and to become the best teacher I can be. I had one of those ideas on Saturday morning.

Allow me to back up a bit. I am a high school mathematics teacher with about a dozen years of experience. I am always looking for ways to become a better teacher. When I first became a teacher in 2000, I was instructed by an administrator that my classes should be designed with a four-part plan in mind. During my teaching career, I have been resistant to many educational ideas. This is not one of those times; the part lesson plan is a great template for designing a daily class. What are the four parts? The first 15% is a warm up exercise, the next 35% is teaching, the following 35% is practice and the last 15% of the time is closing exercise that gives everyone feedback about how much they learned. I have used this template for 12 years of teaching. However, I use this varies from other teachers. In my research and teaching, I have changed the opening, tested its effectiveness in a research project. I am convinced it is an improvement. I am now writing a proposal to correct the flaws with a closing exercise. my experience with this idea tells me that my idea is an improvement but it is also a work in progress. I believe it has great potential.

But what about the middle parts? Are they fine they way they are? Well, yes and no. The teaching portion of classes has plenty of research and support. In my experience, education journals and classrooms are full of great ideas on how to present any mathematical concepts. Therefore, it is my belief that these ideas can work for people that want to learn these concepts. What I am saying is that these do not need to change this portion of teaching.

However, the practice part, and its transition from the teaching, is ineffective. In my opinion, that is the reason that many schools educate the upper echelon of students are well-educated in mathematics and the rest are not. Not only that but bright students believe that they are poor students and “cannot do math.” In this part of a math lesson, the is when teachers give classwork/homework. It makes me think of Finland education. They eliminated homework and they went from having mediocre achievement to having the highest achievement in the world. There are studies that say homework is ineffective in high school. Teachers see it as practice at refining skills and students see it as busy work. Who is right in this debate?

Back to my dream. Maybe it presented me with a possible answer. Here is description of what I reported in my dream journal; “As I wake up, I have thoughts about the pattern of Sunday School and Church; Sunday School is about gaining knowledge and Church is about gaining inspiration. Why can’t this be a pattern for teaching and learning? Deliver the information and then feel the knowledge!” As I thought about this idea, I thought about where teaching was effective and why was it such a surprise. For example, the idea of the “dumb jock.” These are guys who are absolutely the worst example of a student. A bad example because they are uncomfortable in the classroom but geniuses in their playing venue. Math is logic and they suck in class. However, they play basketball or football or soccer and they can read a complex defense in a flash. How can this be? In my view, because they feel every success and every failure. When they succeed, they are Superman. When they are wrong, these athletes are embarrassed and beaten.

So how can we translate this to the classroom? Or the board room? Or the workplace? We can translate this by discovering that we need to find the student a way to FEEL what we are teaching them. We need to find ways to replace classwork and homework with something we can feel. What does this look like? I don’t know yet. I need to investigate ways that inspire and helps the student to feel what I am teaching. I need to know that we all have different feelings. I need to know that it is hard for some people to feel anything at all. The learning has to become emotional, for me and them. Can we sing the concept? Can we dance the concept? Can we rhyme the concept? Can we emotionally express the concept? Can we see they concept as someone who will not talk to us? How do we get them to speak or communicate? When we can answer these questions, we then know a way to feel the concepts we are teaching. That is now my goal. It won’t be easy but at least I have an idea of where I need to go.

Dreams and teaching

Does American Education Have a Soul?

I am a high school mathematics teacher in the state of Georgia. I have taught in Virginia, California and, now, Georgia. I have taught since 2000 and have a total of 13 years teaching in the classroom. During this time, and during my student teaching, I sometimes wonder if administrators and licensing agencies really know what they are doing or, at least, know the implications of there policies and actions. Some of my experiences of the past few weeks have settled that question for me. However, I feel it is better to give you the facts, and let you decide for yourself, rather than preach my views.

It all started in early September. This is when I defended my essays for my dissertation. If you don’t know, this is when I defend what I have learned as a graduate student and my committee decides whether I am ready to do research for my PhD. The results of this were very good for me. All the professors agreed that I had passed this portion of my education. Not only that but they strongly suggest that I write a book on teaching when I was done with the dissertation. This experience made very excited about what I had accomplished. When it was over, I realized that the time had come to upgrade my teaching license.

In Georgia, teaching licenses are at seven levels, according to the teacher’s level of education. I am currently at level 5 for earning a masters’ degree. As a result of the essay defense, I was termed ABD (All But Dissertation). ABD is a level 6 certification. At my school district, this meant the teacher’s annual salary increases by $6000. So I applied to the state of Georgia for this certification. When they received electronically, their website said that I would have to wait awhile because they were backed up with applications. I thought, “That’s cool; they apply the certification to the raise retroactively so I’ll be patient and wait.”

So I waited, checking my status every few days. Finally, after about five weeks, I received a letter from their office. I thought it was a letter telling me that my license was upgraded. How wrong I was!! (Silly me!!) It was a letter stating that I was ineligible for a raise because my university was rated as “Carnegie High or Very High Research University.” I was very upset. I wanted to…well, I am not sure what I wanted to do with them but I knew my thoughts were not pretty. I ended up writing an email to their representatives that basically told them that their decision was not good for education and was very short-sighted. I then told them it was no wonder good teachers leave the profession every year.

I was upset so I decided to move forward. So I asked this representative whether this applied to earning a PhD. He said that it did. (A PhD is worth another $6000 of annual salary.)  I was at a loss about what to do. Graduate school is very expensive and what’s the point if I don’t get my raises? How can I justify attending and earning PhD? Then my Jungian mind kicked in; What if this meant that my life’s purpose was not to teach high school mathematics? Maybe I should be doing research. Maybe I should work on getting my papers published. Maybe I should work on teaching college psychology. But how do I make that decision?

With some prodding from a mentor, I decided to ask professors at my university. My university is Saybrook University in California. I chose this school because it has the reputation as one of the best universities in the world to study Jungian psychology. During my time at this university, I have interacted with the best professors I have ever met. Several of them have told me that I am doing “important work” and that I need to take it to its end. So, in this situation, I felt that these people were the best place to get advice for my dilemma. So I emailed them.

The consensus of these professors was that I should transfer to a Georgia university that would be recognized by the state licensing board. They suggested another humanistic university, West Georgia University. The y even gave me a couple contact persons in their psychology department. With this information in hand, I responded with the state licensing board and asked them, “If I get a degree from West Georgia University, will my license be upgraded to a level 7?” They responded by saying that yes, on the condition I pass the state test to teach “Behavioral Science.” Therefore, this is what they said to me, if you read between the lines,; “Your psychology is only valuable to teaching if and only if you are teaching psychology.” To me, that proves to me that they really don’t understand what happens in a high school classroom. They believe the one or two psychology courses that student teacher takes is enough to handle what happens in a high school classroom. (Have they ever heard of teen suicide? Or how about the number of fistfights in a high school?  I could go on but I’ll save my breath.)

So what to do? I considered the transfer. I contacted the head of psychology at West Georgia. I asked if it could happen. Meanwhile, I talked with my mentor of seven years. He told me how this could delay my graduation by about a year and a half. He also asked me the most important question; “Are you doing this for the money?” I answered with an immediate “No!” At this point, my decision was clear; I would finish my degree at Saybrook and just see where it takes me. If it was all about the money, I would go to a more lucrative job that pays me for my math degree from a major university. It’s not about the money; it’s about having a job I love very much, teaching kids that I love very much.

So then I turned back to my professors. I emailed them, directing them back to my original question; “Am I in the right position to lead my crusade to better American education?” Their answer was beautiful and perfect; “I am praying and meditating on your issue. “My thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this process.  I encourage you to do as you describe: consider all the ways you can do your work and do your own inner work and wait for the answer to emerge.    I am sure that the universe’s life force has a way for you to make the contribution you so desire.  The important thing is to be patient and open so that you see and follow your path.  In this changing world there are many ways to make a difference!” How can you argue with that! Therefore, on with Saybrook, whether Georgia recognizes or not!


Thanks for all support and guidance; Peter Burmeister, Bob Schmitt, Ruth Richards and Stanley Krippner….and my wife, Donna Hayes. You all have my life so much better through guidance.

Does American Education Have a Soul?

I’m Back!!

Yes, it has been several months since my last post. Just when I was started gaining some momentum, I stopped writing. That is just part of my self-destructive tendencies. It is something that I need to be always aware of. Anyway, enough of these excuses.It is time to move on.

In the past couple of weeks I had a “wake up call.” In early September, I passed my essays defense in pursuit of my PhD in psychology. As a public high school mathematics teacher, I am entitled to raise due to higher license level earned. However, I learned recently that, in order to get these increased credentials, I had to earn my degree from a list of universities and pass a test to qualify to teach “Behavioral Sciences.” (I could rant on about messed up this is but I’ll save that passion for a blog in the near future.) Anyway…This forced me to go deeper into my dream work, reconsider my choice of universities and reconnect with the professors who have been my biggest cheerleaders in my quest to improving the way we teach American public high school students. It is time to move forward with this and spread the educational gospel as I see it.

When I was doing my oral defense of my essays, it was suggested that I write a book about my views and ideas about teaching. One professor said, “This is not a dissertation that you just put on your shelf when you are done. You need to follow up with a book on how to teach.” The other professors then gave me words of encouragement towards this end. Since I have never written a book, this scared and excited me all at once. Therefore, I did some brainstorming last night and came up with the following topics for blogs and/or book chapters;

* State licensing
* Self paced modules
* Tardies
* Promoting my ideas
* Openings
* Closings
* Psychology class ideas
* Discipline vs. understanding
* Too many zeros from 9th graders
* Teen depression from academics
* SAT anxiety
* Opening videos
* Story day
* Dream groups in schools, kids and adults
* Ideas from John Wooden
* History of teaching
* Dealing with English learners
* Building relationships with students and parents
* What is really our goal?
* Testing ideas
* Application of psychology

I would love any feedback from anyone on which ones to cover and/or any advice. In any case, talk to you soon.

I’m Back!!


I know. It’s been a long time. But everyone who teaches knows how busy we get in the last days before the end of the year. Added to that is the fact that I am trying to finish my qualifying essays for my PhD…Alright! I am done with the excuses. It’s over and I am free to write about my experiences.

What kind of year has it been? Probably the best I have had as a teacher. This is thanks to having great kids (I always feel like I have great kids), supportive parents (I occasionally get those) and a great administration (I never feel as if we have that). Could it be better? Of course. That is what makes teaching so interesting; It can always be better.

Some people judge their success on the state test scores. I am a little guilty of that but I know that the scores do not tell the whole story. For me, my pass rate of the state test was 69%. Not bad for my first year at a new school. However, my personal standard is about 75%. I have taught at places that 69% was friggin’ fantastic! One place I taught I achieved a pass rate of 77.3% and the school average was 23.5%. In that case, 75% would be cause for celebration.

All my students passed except for three 9th grade girls that who decided to push the envelope of what I would let them get away with during the exam. We were in a computer lab to take a standardized test that the district required. Their exam was in three parts; the standardized test (finish test=full credit), teaching critique (see below, 300 words=100%) and a 13 question multiple choice exam. The 13 questions were on some various topics on 10th grade math which I taught them in the last two weeks of class. One girl raised her hand and asked, “How do you do this?” I replied, “I can’t tell you on exam day.” She argued her point (whined) but I replied that she should have asked the questions long before now. After her whining ceased, she asked, “What is this stuff called?” I replied, “Are you looking this up on the internet? You are really working on a zero!” More whining. And excessive talking from the three girls the entire exam. This resulted in three zeros that resulted in a failing grade.

For me, the real test of my success (or lack of it) is a yearly exercise I do with my classes. Part of each classes last day exercises is to answer the following; “In at least 300 words, critique Mr. Guynn’s teaching. What did he do that was good? What did he do that was bad? What can he do to improve his teaching? What should he never do again?” The responses are pretty consistent. Many think I teach too fast. I believe that they are probably right. I love what I do and sometimes get carried away with it. I am always looking for ways to accomplish this. I guess I will eventually figure this one out. Other than that, the comments are pretty positive; “I like your unusual style.” Keep doing those different warm ups. They really make me think about my life, as well as my math.”

Student’s choice…With about three left in the school year, my students took the state-mandated test. Since that they were tested on what I had taught them all year, more testing on the same material seemed pointless to me. So I let them decide. I gave then four choices for the last two weeks of instruction; 1) psychology of dreams. 2) psychology of learning, 3) next year’s math topics or 4) a topic of their choosing (that I could teach.) Once they chose their topic, they each expressed their decision by playing a game of four corners. I then allowed each group to try to convince the others to join them. Then we did a secret ballot. I then took these results, in a pro rated fashion, to determine what I would teach. In most cases, I taught one week of dream work and a few days of next year’s math. In this way, the last two weeks were very interesting for me, and them. It was my first experience of teaching classes what they wanted, instead of the school telling me what to teach them. There was some inattentiveness but a lot less than usual. (I occasionally had to remind them that I was teaching them what they wanted.) In the end, I learned that dream work instruction should become part of my teaching at the beginning, not the end. (More on that in a later blog.)

In the end, it was a very good year. On the other hand, I feel as if I have planted a seed for future teaching. The summer will give me an opportunity to expand these ideas.





When opportunity (or duty) knocks (or calls)!!

When I first got my first teaching job in California in 1999, I was not really sure what I was getting myself into. I was 40 years old and a fresh teacher graduate from a good education college. I was a shy guy who did not really like talking in front of a group of people. However, I had a love of mathematics and wanted to spread my knowledge to listening ears. On the other hand, my high school experience was not ideal; I was unmotivated. I only put an effort into the things I liked. I was in band and I liked it. (I rarely practiced. I loved the sound and feeling of the music. I had only pursued this route because I would be able to go to every football game for free.) As a result, I was a pretty good math student, an okay social studies and science student, and a terrible English (Language Arts) student. I did just enough to get by and it resulted in a 2.3 GPA. Needless to say, I did little for my school and it did little for me. Now I was going ask from a lot from my students, despite never giving much to any of my teachers. Kinda ironic, ain’t it?

When I started this career, I was not really sure what was going to be different to keep my students from being just like me; unmotivated and uninterested. Although I only knew it unconsciously, it was obvious that I was going to do something very different from what I received. I was going to give them something that I rarely received; personal attention and care. How I was going to do this was not clear. The first thing I did was to preach that I “am not like them.” What I was trying to say was that was going to treat administrations the same way I did as a student; I would give them just enough of hat they wanted and I would do the rest my way. I would do whatever worked to keep me happy, administration happy and the kids happy but slightly uncomfortable.

However, that line between “me and them” was rather fuzzy and vague in the beginning. I knew that I didn’t want to be like them but I wasn’t really sure what “them” was. One reason it was unclear was that I was new to teaching. My experience was limited to my own experience, movies and what I saw while I was at the university. And, oh yeah, when I helped my dad get his GED when I was around 15 years old. The other reason was that my first two schools ran things pretty efficiently, thereby denying me a view of how bad education can be. (Yeah, I bitched and moaned about one petty principal at the beginning. But since it was so well-run at the time, the bad parts quickly were healed. Thank you, Mr. Frye; you were awesome!)

After a few years of this, I got tired of being poor all the time. I decided to back to California and work a good-paying union trade (not teaching). After five years at this, I really missed teenagers and teaching them and returned. I moved back to Georgia and experienced some of the worst school administrations I have ever seen. I would no longer be denied the opportunity to see bad education. I had not reached the worse it can be but I certainly got a glimpse of the lower half of education. In that time, I experienced 5 different principals in 5 years. One of those years, the school had no principal; it was run by a district supervisor. It seemed every time we met, we talked about something that raised my ire. I was often seen, outside of meetings, giving passionate speeches about how we should change things for the better. I almost always ended my speeches with, “But, then again, they never asked me.”

Today, I work for one of the best high schools I have seen, despite my occasional complaints. It is well-run, with great students and great supportive parents. Recently, we found out that are department head was retiring. The principal sent out an email to math teachers, asking if they would like to take the vacant math reins. My first reaction was “hell no!” and “I don’t want to become one of them!” As I thought about it deeper, I realized that I am not one of them and I never will be. Also, I realized that this is the perfect opportunity to change things in the right way. It is a way to preach about changing things and actually get the changes done. After a week, I threw my hat into the ring. I am given the opportunity to end my speeches with, “Hey! Wait a minute! They did ask me!” And, hopefully, they are listening!

When opportunity (or duty) knocks (or calls)!!

Vertical Teaching and Meetings

“Why are blaming the kids for their failure? Why are we projecting our standards on them? How can we give them what they need rather than what we need? Enough about the frigging math competition? Do they really understand concepts or are just regurgitating facts and procedures? How can we help the culture of teachers, parents and students? After having a meeting on the connection between suicide and stress, our math teachers are proposing more testing!!! Why can’t we just be responsible for our kids and try to fix what is broken for our kids (middle school review)?!! Also, where are everybody’s manners; I hear several conversations at the same time. Very few are really listening and others are interrupting.” 


This is what it looks like when I keep notes at a meeting at school. Do I always keep notes? No. Do I ever keep notes at school meetings? Rarely. So when do I take notes? When I am getting bored and the meeting is going very wrong. This was one of those times. I believe my notes show how wrong it was going.

When I entered the meeting, I was in a pretty good mood. I had just finished my first demonstration of Jungian Psychology as it can be applied to teaching. Despite finishing early and kinda bumbling through the points, it will well and it ended in some great discussions. It ended in applause and many people thanked me. Before that, we had a general staff meeting about student stresses and its connection to teen suicide. (Why this was important to mention will come later.)

So what was this meeting about? Our math department was concerned about the lack of preparation of our students after they came from the middle school. In response to this, our school proposed that we do some “vertical teaching.” That is, working with the middle school to create a culture that would make the middle school students better prepared for the rigor of our high school mathematics classes. When I first heard this, I thought, “Isn’t that called curriculum?!” I soon let that thought go and vowed to be open-minded about this. From the conversations I heard, our staff really wanted to put the blame on the middle school. Of course, this is not unfounded. Every place I have taught (California, Virginia and Georgia), the teaching in middle school seemed rather weak, from my perspective. My first year teaching I seriously thought about switching to becoming a middle school math teacher. Added to that, I had heard several students and a couple parents state that the teaching at the middle school “frankly sucked.”

So there was the backdrop of our meeting. After each teacher introduced themselves in a roundtable manner, the middle school proposed that we look at the standards and look at what the high school desired that the middle school emphasize. Even though I cringe when I am forced to look at standards, I thought that this meeting was on the right track; no big changes, just define what is important and needed. That is when the process got hijacked.

In the next moment, the high school department head rejected this idea and proposed (maybe demanded) that we create a test to put the students “in the right place.” She proposed that we add another test to the test we already were going to give to the accelerated students. Th difference is that the first two were optional and now the third one would be mandatory. I was disgusted. We had just left a meeting earlier in the day where we discussed students having suicidal thoughts because how overwhelmed they were. So now we are proposing that we add more tests to a group that hadn’t even arrived in high school yet. All I could think was, “Are you kidding me?!”

But, what did I say? I said nothing. I looked around and saw a few people silent and the majority of the others talking a lot. Talking over other voices. Getting offended. (The one that was offended seem to have no business being in the meeting. She was not the department head and I don’t think that she teaches any freshmen. I could be wrong.)

Why didn’t I say anything? I felt like I was all alone in my views. After interviewing a few fellow math teachers later, I learned that others were as shocked and disagreeing as I was. We all basically believed that we should take care of the gaps when the kids arrive. If they have gaps in their math knowledge when they arrive, we need to step back and teach what they don’t know. That was my experience earlier in the year; I realized at one point that my freshmen were lacking some middle school skills. What did I do? I stopped our high school curriculum where it was and had a week of middle school math teaching. When it was over, we went right back to the high school curriculum. Guess what? It was a completely different class after that point. Why was it different? It was different because a) I gave them skills they needed and desired and b) I showed them that I care about them.


Just like our shadow parts that we don’t like, we need to find a way to love the parts of ourselves that are inconvenient. This also applies to the personalities that arrive in my classroom every day’ looking for my guidance. We need to love the unwanted parts of our classroom (our psychic space.)


Vertical Teaching and Meetings

Educational Cultures

Recently the faculty at the school where I teach has had a couple of meetings about teen suicide. Within the past year, our school had lost a couple of its teen members due to suicide. This prompted me to ask a neighboring teacher if he remembered a prominence of teen suicides at this particular school. He told me that there were a long string of years in the past when there was at least one suicide at the school each year. To follow this up, our principal decided to look deeper in to the problem. He initiated a plan to survey our current students. From the findings that the guidance department shared, it was concluded that over 50% of the students at our school had at least had suicidal thoughts. When they were surveyed as to why, many of issues presented were academic in nature like homework load and testing and standardized testing. Of course, in both meetings the staff was instructed to keep an eye out for changes in students and the number to suicide prevention. In one of the meetings, the presenting psychologist, specialized in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, suggested a few behavior management suggestions. In the second meeting, it was suggested that we as educators reduce homework and apply a schedule where students minimize the number of tests in a day.I applaud the efforts but I don’t believe these will result in much change in the situation.

So what else can we do as a staff? On the small scale, I believe some Jungian and Humanistic approaches could help. On the Humanistic side, I feel that our biggest job as high school educators are to produce better people and citizens of the communities in which they will live. That is, we need to produce better personal growth as human beings. On the Jungian side, we need to respect the Inner Self of each student, as well as the Inner Self of each employee of the school system. Also, it seems as if other approaches of psychology seem to focus on repairing things after they are broken. My experience of Jungian psychology is that repair is part of the equation but so is directing ourselves to a place where we can recognize when things are slipping into old patterns. That is, being more conscious of what we are doing, whether good or bad. For me, the best tool for this transformation is Active Imagination. It is a powerful tool but not really my emphasis for this particular blog.

This particular blog is about the harmful cultures at any high school. Not only that but the lack of a bridge between these cultures. At this point, you mind may be searching for the cultures I am speaking of. Well, let me get to it; There are three dominant cultures at every high school I have worked and attended; The parents, the students and the teachers. All three are sure they have the correct perspective. All three believe they have the background that make them qualified to make the right decision. The parents believe that they know best for their kids. They believe that they need to push their kids to work hard, get good grades and do all the things that will get their kids into the best school possible. The teachers believe that their class is the key to that quality education that will get those kids into the best schools and will help the student to be prepared to excel at that good school. If the students and parents would just listen to the teacher, then the student will get that great school that it deserves. Then there is the students. On the outside, they just don’t want to be there. They are tired of being told what to do. They are tired of the boring classes that they see will never be used in the Life after school. However, on the inside, they just want everyone to be happy with them so they will leave them alone and they get on with their lives of being young and free.

In the end, all of these groups have their rights to feel this way and they are right. However, all three groups, in my opinion, are a little too rigid. A good college is optimum. Yes, educators usually know the path to that great test score and skills that will be needed at the next level. And, yes, kids should be allowed to be kids. So how do we do this? I think the first thing we need to do is relax and be flexible. The kids are not lazy if they don’t do things that we did. The kids are just not getting what they need. It is our job to know the kids to the level that we understand what their wants and needs are. When we learn this, we can adjust our programs to help the kids find what they want to do. I believe that parents and educators may project too much. We know the way we learned and got our education so we think it is the best way. And when the student doesn’t act the way we did, we think that they are lazy and/or rebelling. They are just growing in their own way. When I was in high school, I loved math and band but hated going to all those other classes. I was proud that I gave little effort and still was able to mange a 2.3 GPA. Fast forward to 40 years later. I am on the verge of earning a PhD in psychology and I never took a SAT or a GRE. I have been successful despite not having done those things. I was called lazy and unmotivated. When my parents offered me cash for Honor Roll, I achieved it. When they didn’t, I didn’t care. Do I want my students to follow my path? Absolutely not! Do I understand when they do? I really think I do. When I see that, I usually look at what I am doing to destroy their love of learning. In the end, I want them to find their destiny and their love of learning. When we do that, I believe the threat of suicide is greatly decreased.

Educational Cultures