At least trying to think this beautiful day

Bird Droppings November 26, 2014
At least trying to think this beautiful day

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell

I wonder if it is for attention that so many teenagers seek the route of drama in their lives. Over reacting to seemingly inconsequential stimulus seems to be a matter of fact in the teenage world. Is it hormones and assorted emotional lapses that drive the various levels of human kind? I often wonder at why we do what we do. I observe and listen and find myself all too often swept into turbulence that is difficult to raise one’s head above. I was called to talk to a student before the holiday break. Her head was in her hands sobbing and she had asked for me. The story from a few days before had grown and found its way to school. I had heard bits and pieces floating around school in the days before. On another topic a young man in my own classes asked me if he had been good and would I write a letter for his probation officer. A week ago I separated him from another fellow just before a fight.

“Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case.” Henry David Thoreau

I wonder at times do our worlds of reality intertwine, or is this some great Venn diagram and only occasionally do the edges overlap. Is part of reality A and part of B touching here and reality C and D barely touch over there? I wonder if it is for attention. I watched a girl walk down the hall staring straight ahead obviously depressed. How do you get depressed at 16? What in our water drives a teenager to depression? Earlier I went out briefly my head today feels like a sponge. It was hard getting up I forgot to take my allergy medicine last night and the gas heat really tears up my sinuses. But as I walked and stood looking as my dog ran around the yard searching for prey and also trying to find a dry spot in the wet grass to do her duty I could not help but think. I wonder about dogs they look for a dry spot to make wet. It actually might be logical perhaps in dog thinking. But as I looked about the air seemed to resonate my own mood foggy and the weather channel had issued fog warnings for our county.

I could see stars yet the trees only a few feet away were clouded over. One in particular was literally in a mist as I looked. At 2:30 in the morning much is a mist but this tree was unclear as the others about it were fine. My own perception was a bit foggy today and actually I did go lay down again after getting up a with a severe sinus headache. But as I lay back down I thought of seeing pieces clear and others shrouded in mist. Some were unclear and indistinct while others were plain as day. I will come back to students and kids at school perhaps there is a difference. On one hand there are students, those who learn and kids, those ones who are taking up air and space and or baby goats, sarcastically.

But as I thought perhaps it is knowing that clears one’s self, one’s own self-image is more clear when you know yourself. In so many of the Eastern religions and philosophies there is a focus on “know thy self”. Here is a thought from one cloudy mind today to numerous cloudy minds at 4:00 in the morning. Maybe it is like my tree so many people are unclear because they do not know who they are. In their searching and journeying in life they never have a clear pathway always seems to be rubble blocking the way, be it relationships, family, “friends” and for some perhaps a disability or imperfection that in their eyes holds them back or cause them to stumble. Very easily it could create an unclear vision of who they are.

I went back out and as my head cleared the tree that had been blurry cleared up and I was able to see it fine. When we meet people even ones with drama and unclear at the time views if we focus, if we give ourselves a moment to recompose often we can see through the fog and see the real person even if that person is unsure and then we can offer a hand to help them come back. It could be sort of a tug into the Venn diagram perhaps. It might be M&M’s or a paper towel, or just a word or thought and it amazes me at times to see some things so simple can change a life. Sometimes it is just coming when called or needed. I wish we had “clear life”, something bottled you could spray out and all would be fine sort of like the commercials with the red eyes and one drop and they are clear. Peace my friends and please when opportunity is there offer a hand for far too many people are stuck in the fog of their own lives. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as we go into this holiday in a day or two and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

My friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings November 25, 2013
Listening to a philosopher

There was a beautiful sky this morning as I walked out and actually rather weird with fog and a slight chill which is surprising as the sky while filled with clouds and the fog still had a strange glow, almost a rainbow of color as the sun came up. I think most of my students were hoping for snow over the holidays although it is still showing up on weather maps further west and north of us. A moon reflecting would have added so much to the sky with the clouds as they were against the few stars visible. Even so the stars and white billowing clouds presented a surreal picture for me as I walked the dog this morning and ran to Quick Trip earlier than normal to fill up my wife’s car. Before I left the house I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all of the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me truly entrenched in philosophical meandering that led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. Actually I think it is because I enjoy pondering too much. Wondering and thinking about all that is around me as I journey through life.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Frank Bird when I was walking daily five or six miles each morning back in the day in the darkness of morning

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked for a starting place for my daily journal I was interrupted to take our dog out again before I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues with a very good friend of mine. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back most things I considered “bad habits” I had given up in the days past however they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found however many people simply get mired in that bad habit or two and it becomes part of their life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

Most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today then I thought I would. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self-focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.

Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell a story of Dr. Koop, his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s who approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different, he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my father’s day.

But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who did not pray or allow prayer over their child”. As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or trust in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, of future, and of faith.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am ending with a simple idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. In another few days a new month will be here. So my friends have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why are we deliberately trying to be wrong?

Bird Droppings November 21, 2014
Why are we deliberately trying to be wrong?

I will admit that on Saturday night with a Powerball jackpot of only fifty million dollars I am pondering retiring if I win. I think I would be if I won retiring to devote time to education in a more positive way than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications and whatever other way of impeding education our school, local, state and federal government has imposed it is honestly hard to teach. Generally over the years each semester there is a teacher with a hard class and they talk of changing careers or retiring. This year it is epidemic. Teachers I consider some of the best are dwindling and others tired of the constant imposing of near impossible attainments for students with no changes in the curriculum and or courses we are told to teach. As with so many issues education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers are on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of these people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is we who are truly the illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours”.

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked nearly three hours and in heading to bed something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Peoples go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family; of language and of history just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example.

Basically the white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies which were banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our now president has and is a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance should you take more than four years to graduate you are considered a drop out up, until just recently when the graduation rules were again changed. Today tests required a few years ago to graduate are no longer and there were many students who did not graduate because of a test here and there its time for a class action lawsuit.

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.

Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say where do we start? Step one we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit farfetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings November 21, 2013
Should children be left behind?

“I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude. But I hear the outcry which replies to this suggestion: – Would you verily throw up the reins of public and private discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a respect for the child’s nature? I answer, – Respect the child, and respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and the imperturbable slighter of his trifling.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke about his idea of education and fortunately for me he wrote it down. Over the last ten years I have been directly involved in an educational program, Foxfire, which is based around John Dewey’s ideas on education. I was talking last Friday just before lunch with a fellow teacher and a local representative from PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators, about education of all things. We discussed the idea of teaching top down as we in Georgia are being directed to do with new national common core standards. Here is where we are going and now how do we get there? That is more of real questions than why did you not get where you are supposed to be? Interestingly enough this first statement is what Emerson and Dewey were talking about. As we talked I mentioned Foxfire and how it was in effect how good teachers teach without even knowing. Really it is not something new and outlandish it is just putting a name on good teaching habits and providing a frame work of ten core practices to work with.

Coincidently my friend who was involved in the discussion had retrieved from the discard book cart some old Foxfire books. Periodically our media center discards old and or tattered books for teachers to get first crack at before throwing out. It seems that I have built a library on discarded books. My friend had salvaged four old Foxfire books from the cart earlier in the day.

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden. I believe that the school, as an institution, should simplify existing social life; should reduce it, as it were, to an embryonic form. Existing life is so complex that the child cannot be brought into contact with it without either confusion or distraction; he is either overwhelmed by the multiplicity of activities which are going on, so that he loses his own power of orderly reaction, or he is so stimulated by these various activities that his powers are prematurely called into play and he becomes either unduly specialized or else disintegrated.” John Dewey

Learning is not a time limited, space limited, and or school building limited activity as many teachers think. It is not tied to a specific curriculum and text. Real learning is alive, ongoing, continuous, actively participatory and an integral part of societal involvement. As I looked at the Foxfire core practices it becomes apparent these are good teacher practices, these are good life practices, and this is where learning can truly occur.

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.
2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.
3 • The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.
4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.
5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.
6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.
7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.
8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.
9 • The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.
10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.
Foxfire fund Inc.

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning our school system is using which is called Learning Focused Schools is within these eleven principles. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.
As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

I would suggest we need to instead of more new curriculums instill more adrenaline in teachers. Perhaps we could install a super energy drink machine outside of each teacher’s classroom and just prior to starting class require every teacher to get a caffeine jolt. Energy can be a very powerful thing in so many ways especially when it involves the passion for teaching. I have wandered and pondered enough for one day and will get off of my soap box for today but please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Can we find enough data through observing to decide on our own?

Bird Droppings November 19, 2014
Can we find enough data through
observing to decide on our own?

As I was driving to baby sit two of my grandkids last night by chance a beep on my Iphone and I looked at a conversation dealing with special needs children. I have been involved in special needs work since 1970 prior to IDEA. I was a good boy and did not respond in depth driving seventy miles an hour on Highway 316. So today I will in a few minutes go from my daily droppings to an essay on Special Needs. But for now Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks and a little writing reading and pondering.

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings are the expanse of several days of traveling and thinking and observing mankind. Last night our dog and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was thinking back this morning to a Sunday morning and being away from my quiet spot near my home in Between Georgia. I was on a foreign beach several years back alone in the panhandle of Florida and the quiet was over powering along with the lulling movement of wind and water as I walk on the beach. Around me birds dove occasionally into the shallows after fish most of the time without a sound. I was alone walking with the sand making its way into my open sandals. It was a wonderful experience being there as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. As I drove yesterday home from a quick trip into Florida to see my son and his wife and our soon to be born grandbaby due any day I noticed nearly fifty red tailed hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

“Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

We have been through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter election campaigns I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads were the vast majority of all from either side. Issues were simply something that would be dealt with after the election and even then that was questionable. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a new book in the mail from a friend in New York. I have known the title for months but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today.

Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all experts liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past years lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. A few days ago a news article or the appearance of a news article was circulating of a hand with a microchip inserted and how hundreds of thousands in Utah had been chipped. I should have responded more than likely not based on federal government but their church in Utah.

Having grown up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions and having a son in graduate school who is over twenty five without health insurance coverage I was reading fine print of health care and asking questions of my insurer. I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai’s who is a seven note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage before me was one of fog and shrouds of mist surrounding the trees. The visibility was less than a hundred feet. I had to stop listen to the music and see this silvery image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire which brought me back to reality and the moment. To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Perhaps within ourselves is the change

Bird Droppings November 18, 2014
Perhaps within ourselves is the change

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

I wandered out into one of the coldest mornings of the year with our new huskie puppy Timber. I made it about half way done the normal journey and decided my toes were too cold and we headed back. I am very much a creature of routine of habit and when my daily path is altered I have occasion to be amiss. My days that go off in another direction or start late seem a bit out of kilter. Over the years I heard my father speak numerous times in his lectures and training sessions of W. Edwards Deming the man who changed Japan’s industry around. US industry knew of Deming but sort of turned a deaf ear. On the opposite end of the world Japan embraced Deming’s ideas.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

Blunt and to the point Deming revolutionized industrial thinking and began the quality movement and in rebuilding Japanese industry as well as increasing production in the United States during World War II. It was the significant altering of industry in Japan that made the world pay heed to Deming and the quality movement.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Victor Frankl

Philosophers and thinkers keep coming back to we may not be able to change the conditions but we can change ourselves. Often the indigenous medicine person would wander off into the wilderness to find him or herself through a vision. They would often forgo food and water for a period of time even submitting to a sweat lodge to assist in bringing about the vision. In today’s modern world such primitive endeavors are not always looked upon as acceptable and we seek other ways of finding one’s self. Some search within learning and understanding trying to delve deeper into the inner makings of mankind. Rationalizing, intellectualizing and forming theories and philosophical standards that stand the test of time.

“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.” Henry Miller

In my observing and participating in the educational system I see this attitude daily. Functioning and attitudes are very much in line with Millers man who would literally cut off his own limbs for artificial ones to avoid the pain.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving
Coming back to my starting point of habit and routine we would rather than take another form of transportation and or for other reasons perhaps time and speed we as humans seem to put up with simply being bruised on the other cheek at least back in the day.

“When you are through changing, you are through.” Bruce Barton

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Galbraith

I am as guilty as anyone on this point yet often I can prove my point. Many the times, I am often more so the one initiating the change or creating the dissidence that pushes for altering how a student does something. It is quite often a behavior that is deemed inappropriate for society and through modification or change might be made acceptable to others. Sometimes it is about conforming to what in a school setting falls into the rules and parameters that the majority aloe for and desire. In some areas I am not quite the advocate of change and I try in general to keep any such endeavor limited to those that provide a means for a student to live within and get through graduation. I use my own credo of doing no harm to others as a basis for behaviors that might need some tweaking and or changing

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” Ellen Glasgow

I have been a student and or teacher at eight possibly ten colleges and or universities and on several occasions I have worked with two professors in a course now several times. I have found that each time it is new alive and viable and different. I can see the wrapping is the same and the course number and name but it changes with the group of students. Each course has pieces that will be exactly like the last yet each too is subtly different. I have found no two groups in teaching are the same so how can we teach the same material the same way every time. Sadly this is what text book manufactures want and school systems and school boards and parent groups push for and get. In Georgia we now have CCP’s Common Core Practices getting under way. Every little nuance is accounted for and every moment a student is in the class room.

“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them at one’s eternal peril.” Laurens Van der Post

I have over the years written about this several times. Van der Post writes about the last Bushmen painter, as he remembers the day that the last painter died. There was a series of caves and rocks on the edge of the Kalahari that each time he visited during his childhood new paintings of animals, birds and other aspects of nature would be appearing on the rock face. It was also during this time the South African Government much like our own had chosen the path of genocide for a people, the Bushmen. Van der post writes about hearing as a child the gun shots and upon a visit to the rocks and caves on a later day seeing the paintings that were now a series of red slashes and warriors dying and then no more paintings. The last painter had recorded the beginning of the end and there was not another to take his place.

“Growth is the only evidence of life.” John Henry Newman

“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” William Blake

As I look at the statements perhaps growth would have been looking at the Bushmen and seeing their views rather than destroying them. So many pathways in history have been of destruction rather than change, rather than seeing a different view.

“Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.” Marcel Proust

“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” Lynn Hall

I seriously wondered as I read and thought about this quote. Maybe we do not change but come to grips with and accept who we are rather than trying to be the image of what we think others want us to be. Watching students in high school so many simply trying to be what others want them to be.

“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” Mignon McLaughlin

As I sit and ponder how true this is, each event in our life has led us here to this moment and place.

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Ellen Glasgow

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Woodrow Wilson

I have a dear friend who constantly reminds me of this all movement is not forward and to that effect I once made an open ended rubric there were literally no parameters in any direction more of a shading as one event evolved into the next.

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” Pauline R. Kezer

I really do like this illustration we find our grounding, our roots in the continuity of life but it is that new look that change that grows us and lifts us up.

“If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, and keep advancing.” Saint Augustine

This is a profound statement and not to belittle who and what you are but to always be trying to be more than the point at which you are. Far too many people are content and stagnate repeating William Blake’s quote. “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” Author Unknown

I generally like to attribute to someone a quote but this wording caught my attention a spin on Rhinehold Niebuhr’s words on his famous Serenity Prayer.

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

A general and a philosopher offer similar ideas but it is truly up to us to provide the catalyst and effort.

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” Francis Bacon

Inevitable that change will occur through evolution, migration, alteration, dissemination, ramification, ossification, delineation, degradation and even in our own country segregation. Change is evident always and certain how we adapt and survive this is the crucial point.

“Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Describing Schopenhauer many writers see his works as unlike many of his time he is easier to read often making sense on the first read. He was one of the first European philosophers to look at and utilize eastern thought. As I read this line life is much like a loan shark we borrow pieces only to have to eventually pay back with interest often at a higher rate. Sitting here this morning I wonder when our interest will be due for our current situations. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Determining what it is we need to learn

Bird Droppings November 17, 2014
Determining what it is we need to learn

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.” Isaac Asimov

It amazes me to listen to students say I am passing I have a seventy percent and that’s good enough. I sometimes wonder if students really learn anything from day one till day seven hundred twenty one or do they simply regurgitate data and information to pass tests. My son commenting as he took SAT’s several times the more he took math classes the better his scores and conversely one semester he did not have an English class and on his SAT score dropped a few points. So even for a good student is school simply a memorizing forum.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

I found when I began looking for answers learning became easier. When answers were being given to me in a mandatory sort of way such as in going to high school I learned less. Even in college for many years learning was considered mandatory and it seemed a dulling experience. I have observed many students and what they learn if they want to learn a topic the read about it the look up information about it the desire to learn.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

For some time I had tacked this quote on the end of my morning Droppings and have it posted on my room wall. How can we make our teaching so potent? How do we get information we teach to be what students want to learn?

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of face within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity” Calvin Coolidge

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I think back a few days to the concept of a democratic school where students pick and choose topics for discussion and learning each week I have been amazed as I talk with teachers around the country who use this method and are having success. It would be difficult to plan for a standardized test perhaps in that style of democratic class room. In Ashville North Carolina there is an elementary school using The Foxfire Approach to Teaching and they are scoring twenty to thirty points higher on State mandated tests than other schools in their district and even significantly higher compared to state averages.
In Georgia did I mention for example (we had the Quality Core Curriculum which has evolved to Georgia Performance Standards and now evolves to Common Core) where very specific determined material is taught in specific determined ways. For example item number 123 might be the classification of segmented worms and item 123.1 may be differentiation of segmented worms. Somewhere someone determined in Biology that that item was crucial.

It may be a history item about George Washington’s false teeth made from wood or which landing craft was first on Iwo Jima but someone determined it was critical to know in high school and must be taught. Talk about teaching to the test. Combine this with testing companies are textbook publishing companies and the drama and sage is never ending.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness.” Sophocles

How would we know what it is we need to know and how would teachers know what it is we need to know in order to teach us?

Using standardized tests provides a vehicle to measure but then we teach to that particular test or do not teach to it. If I know what students need to know before I start the class then I will gear the class to learning what they need to know and even possibly understanding before the test. So in effect we teach to the test. We teach what someone somewhere has deemed necessary for a student in that grade and time and that may or may not be what that teacher or student wants to learn. This is where the issue is. Which then brings back to students tend to learn best when it is something that they want to know and realistically teachers teach far better something they want to teach.

It would be a sad world if parents were told they had to teach their kids so and so today and tomorrow it would be this and that. Now that I think about it maybe that is not so bad. Except that then someone somewhere will be saying what children will be taught and when and how. That system just closed down in Russia a few years back so if our goal is to train social animatrons to fill the factories as Karl Marx once indicated the goal of education was well guess what we are doing that again. Somehow we need to bring back creativity and critical thought and get away from this mass effort of everyone needs to know the same thing.

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.”Zenrim

Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird