Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 16, 2014
Are you a Weginahsa?

“The work of a teacher – exhausting, complex, idiosyncratic, never twice the same – is at its heart, an intellectual and ethical enterprise. Teaching is the vocation of vocations, a calling that shepherds a multitude of other callings. It is an activity that is intensely practical and yet transcendent, brutally matter of fact and yet fundamentally a creative act. Teaching begins in challenge and is never far from mystery.” Dr. William Ayers, To Teach: the journey of a teacher, 2010

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and I miss having my granddaughter waking me up. They had been living with us till they were able to get into their house recently. My son is in nursing school and my daughter in law starting back and study time is minimal with a three old red head and ten month old little boy. Our westie needed to take a run outside to do her morning thing. Lately she has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen in the wee hours she started barking and I went and took her out. it was cold again we had a surprise freeze in the middle of April and yet several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for some warm weather to stay I have been hoping for myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. Although watching my granddaughter growing up I do very much the same watching her interactions with parents, other children and with me. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats
Every day I drink several liter bottles of water after my morning tea. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot of expresso. Although I do brew my own now at school which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

Many years ago there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.

As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about the late great Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away a year ago Friday after five years and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding fathers key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.

The Chinese restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family, both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence. “There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Earlier today I read a post wondering about genetic preference for music and I responded it is deeper than genetics. Spiritual is the energy tying all together.

Several years ago as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row. I am reminded of another politically correct nomenclature Native American. The late Russell Means asked a reporter who was speaking about Native Americans where he was born. He responded in New York and Means said you too are a Native American and then said I prefer to be called Indian.

We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks namaste.

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

As a teacher we should always be near the edge

Bird Droppings April 15, 2014
As a teacher we should always be near the edge

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. Maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then nearly forty years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the Dr. House on TV. He is an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allow make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

I first used this quote nearly thirteen years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a two new schools and is still hanging in his office ten years later now as a RESA Director over ten counties.

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson
It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security knelt beside the still body a tear on his cheek. Greer was one of the great all time linemen, in pro football and was crying holding Kennedy’s head in his hands. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler
Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

It is not always all in a name

Bird Droppings April 15, 2014
It is not always all in a name

On February 3, 2003, I officially started calling daily emailing and journaling Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. Along with my new name in 2003 some other bits and pieces as I was reading, the local paper on that day had a street poll that was asking locals about gas prices. I found another email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to at least thirty people this idea which gets mailed to thirty more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics. I found it interesting that eleven years ago we were still fussing about gas prices. As I turned the pages of my old Bird Droppings from 2003 one caught my attention. It was a quote from my middle son about my former principal. He had interviewed him for the school newspaper. I ended up giving my dear friend and former principal a call last week.

Going back even further it was in 2001 or so roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters under that name and sitting here this morning with an old copy in my hand. I thought at the time back in 2001, Bird Droppings, that is a good title and subject for my daily meanderings. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by a cousin said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.

I can remember the Challenger accident over twenty five years ago before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy in 2003 was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning after “their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further in life. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. I recall reading over the years such headlines such as the services and memorials for the miners who perished in the West Virginia coal mine several years back. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.

A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. More recently with the death of my father in-law and my own father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day back in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes.

Today I found a quote that for some may it not apply and for others who knows as I do each day. Many years ago I read a series of books written by a socio-anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Northern Mexico. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years he had become an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies. Today there are many skeptics about the writings and reality of Castaneda’s work. Many claim it was purely fiction albeit an elaborate fiction.

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made as they are ours and no one else’s to make. So in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives over ten years ago, they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction that they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who have died serving our country and nation and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace and more importantly always give thanks namaste.

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

Is a circle a confined space or infinite undertaking?

Bird Droppings April 13, 2014
Is a circle a confined space or infinite undertaking?

It has been a quick all too quick spring break or so it seems. Mine ended with a dash 350 miles to Southern Pines North Carolina to see our son his wife and our grandbaby. As I walked in the house I was thinking we have just made a circle. My thinking today revolves around that thought. Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? As learning begins often with a question so today a start and a beginning to my writing and thinking with a question. Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. When I taught summer school or resource Biology I use Disney’s Lion King as a base for the circle of life. The movie even has a theme song to that name.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Sioux Holy man

I started a book recently again for the tenth time at least, “The Tao of teaching” based on eastern philosophy of the Tao, a circle essentially. I bought the book nearly ten years ago and have returned to it numerous times for thoughts. As I stood talking with students in the hall ways just before school let out Friday I was watching the circle move. Something that most of the thinking leaves out is that a circle is fluid there is movement. While described within a confined space of a circle as Black Elk speaks of seasons changing in a circular motion, people move in a pattern, a circle in life perhaps confined yet fluid always moving, continuing, changing, yet staying the same.

“It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.” General Adalphos

In learning is it change or simply movement, the fluidness of life as we step from a basic knowledge to a complex thinking beyond instead of within is that a circular motion which then raises up another question. I do think it is funny; recently it is the questions that provide the learning as we ask a question we generate more, in a Socratian method. Just as the great teacher and philosopher used questions, we in our answers produce questions from the original question.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

It is the seeking of answers that is learning and that is the change that occurs in man. That which raises us up and provides what we need to be more than we were yesterday is how we can knowledge. I sat and discussed Ansell Adams with a student and watched as I do responses among other students one or two had a clue what was going on some were not aware a discussion was taking place and one was yawning bored. As I watched and observed even in the context of a discussion the child who was bored was not bored from knowing about what was being said but because they did not even hear or try to hear what was being said. They had set limits themselves on their world boundaries had been put them in place to avoid change or to lessen the chance a question will or could be asked shy of can I go to the bathroom?

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones that are just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” Woody Guthrie

In a recent seminar on teaching the comparison to trying to ride a dead horse was used. Trying to milk a dead cow I like better. You can actually sit on a dead horse at least for a while till it falls over, but no matter how hard you try a dead cow won’t give milk. For those of you who are folk music buffs, Woody Guthrie is considered one of the founding fathers of folk music in the US. He traveled the country hobo style writing songs of the depression and dust bowl looking for answers and asking questions.

“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

Look for questions in your answers as we start a new week and for me a day one of six more weeks before summer. In reading the news this morning it seems little is positive in this crazy world. So as I have for quite a few years now please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

A rock flower and song

Bird Droppings April 11, 2014
A rock flower and song

A journey begins with a step and apathy begins with turning your back and saying I don’t care. Last week I had my last IEP of the year. I recall another afternoon when my laptop was acting weirder than normal and all of my school email jumped to my personal outlook account and then disappeared. My entire address book all of several months of writing went into computer limbo. I came home still the same on my home Windstream account and my email for school was not there and went back to school logged on again and everything came up. Something simple was not working my pass word was wrong according to my computer then I checked and caps lock was on, a simple fix. Then suddenly as if by magic my personal account was gone again which was very frustrating not understanding electronics and computers at times. It seems they were doing server work at school unbeknownst to those of us using it.

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin

Just as I did on that morning it is so easy to get caught up in oneself and our own little troubles. The following are the words to a song sent to me many years back by the mother of a teenage daughter. I remember the song from many years ago. My friend said her mother enjoyed this song which was recorded by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmy Lou Harris among so many others to use the words as I sit here I wonder how many folks will remember them and or the song.

Wildflowers
By Dolly Parton

The hills were alive with wildflowers
And I was as wild as, even wilder than they
For at least I could run, they just died in the sun
And I refused to just wither in place
Just a wild mountain rose, needing freedom to grow
So I ran fearing not where I’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow
And the flowers I knew in the fields where I grew
Were content to be lost in the crowd
They were common and close, I had no room for growth
I wanted so much to branch out
I uprooted myself from home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow
I grew up fast and wild and I never felt right
In a garden so different from me
I just never belonged; I just longed to be gone
So the garden, one day, set me free
Hitched a ride with the wind and since he was my friend
I just let him decide where we’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

So often poetry and songs have meaning hidden in the words, it might be in the way they play out and many times in a song the melody adds to the feeling and attitude portrayed by the words. Watching one of the American Idol contestants a year or so ago sing a song made famous by Garth Brooks and several even commented on his great song writing. Keith Urban a singer songwriter too offered the actual song writer Tony Arata from Nashville. Although Tony went to Georgia Southern by chance and will often show up in small venues in Statesboro. Tony was my brother in laws college roommate. I throw out another song while I am on Tony Arata, The Dance words are powerful as is Garth’s delivery of the song. Back to business as I was reading this morning so many teenagers feel as did this wildflower desiring to be or wanting to be free. Yet as I read the words to the song an image of a wild rose growing in a sidewalk crack in New York popped in my mind and a line from another song made popular in early 1970’s.

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They took paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

In the past months I have addressed apathy and a recently a dear friend in a teachers meeting in Conyers was discussing apathy with teachers and how we can combat it. I was thinking about that all night, first apathy is like a virus it replicates rapidly and soon over whelms. Soon it takes over but what does apathy look like and feel like. There are key words and phrases, such as whatever, because, no reason, I’m passing, I’ll do it tomorrow, everybody else is doing it, it’s not mine, and a good one let me copy your homework. The list goes on and on apathy, procrastination and not caring can be rampant.

I am reading again a book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, written by Kent Nerburn about Native American Spirituality. The Introduction to the book is a few pages long telling of a motorcycle ride into the plains and of a large rock considered sacred to the Sioux. It is called the buffalo rock. A rather simple large boulder situated in the migration path of the buffalo that looked somewhat like a buffalo. Today it has a plague on it telling its historical significance and an iron fence around it to protect it. Nerburn writes of how he was taken to tears looking at this ancient symbol caged as he wrote and as he walked around pondering the thousands of years of people who would touch the rock for luck in the hunt or simply honor and respect as they rode by this rock in the plains of America. As he walked about sitting on top of the rock very carefully placed a crumpled cigarette not snuffed out by a careless tourist carefully crumpled and the tobacco spilled out onto the surface of the rock. Tobacco is sacred to the plains Indians and someone had carefully honored the rock and memories. Someone still cared.

As I look at schools and look at the concept or possibly illness of apathy. I wondered first is someone caring enough to seek a cure. Second could it be possible to weed out teachers who teach and lecture apathetically which then causes apathy in students. It is not just a school thing for many students learn apathy at home. I remember many years ago a professor who would walk in never address the class, go to his podium and start reading the book and when the bell would ring stop, leave the room and that was it. In a semester he never addressed a question a student had, an issue was never brought up, he gave a final and who knows if anyone passed. Was his class or was it his classes that were apathetic. Most assuredly he had some symptoms and from there the degree of apathy can vary, although I would say it was serious with him.

Apathy is much like a vacuum however once the seal is broke once learning is allowed in it fills rapidly. Curing apathy however often requires others to lend a hand. Begin a new day with a new thought reach for the stars as last night with a clear crescent moon and stars. I read if you can see more than eleven stars in the constellation Orion you have a clear night, I saw twenty eight earlier this morning. Seek out something new, wonderful, and interesting. Apathy breeds within itself and upon itself. It is thinking and learning that keep apathy away. Another wonderful day for each of us please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste. I will end with one of my favorite quotes borrowing from the Governor of California, “I’ll be back”.

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

The journey starts here now

Bird Droppings April 10, 2014
The journey starts here now

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. What and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the society’s own good and many top educators believe this. There are times when I believe that watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

Today as I do every day I let out our Westie terrier, Lilgirl the dog who at 15 pounds thinks she is a 150 pounds, generally after Lilgirl is up, I get to my reading of emails and writing. I recall only a few years back when we had two dogs and they could not be out at the same time or in the same room or space, I always thought that was interesting as they were raised together. Then I go to the computer and write trying to catch up on emails. Sometimes the Westie will come and sit by my feet and sleep. Today she wanted back out, an alteration to my morning routine and it bothers me. What is of concern as I think is this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to can and be bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society. The advent and proliferation of charter schools run by profit seeking entities only adds to this problem.

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq over the past few years and previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. In Georgia it is our state legislators passing laws for charter schools while continually cutting finding to public education, increasing class sizes, and in some cases eliminating funding to special needs. We complain and we are faced with a journey with neither provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario. In our own state a state representative was elected and almost beat by a write in vote for Charles Darwin because no one ran against him.

On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site,

http://www.units.muohio.edu/dragonfly/find/find/PAGETH1.shtml

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. I was talking to a young man yesterday and trying to get him to understand it will be difficult to continue as he is and pass the class. His response was simple I am not coming back to school next year so what. So easy to say I quit and why was this kid left behind in a society that has the tools and means to educate and has for so many years. Many times I hear that is just the ways it is. For some time I have been a fan of Dr. Nel Noddings and her relationship philosophy of caring in terms of education.

“Without imposing my values on another, I must realize that my treatment of him may deeply affect the way he behaves in the world. Although no individual can escape responsibility for his own actions, neither can the community that produced him escape its part in making him what he has become.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Stanford University

It is not just the student who is to blame it is also we as an educational system have let him down. We to are to blame, we have supported the concept of No Child Left Behind and continue with the Race to the Top ideologies and in doing so leaving students by the wayside as we go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

How could it be neither wolf nor dog?

Bird Droppings April 9, 2014
How could it be neither wolf nor dog?

I was approached as I walked up the hill at the Atlanta Zoo by an elderly man. I had never met this man previously and hope to never meet again. He saw my camera around my neck and asked if I saw the rare creature ahead. I asked him which one as several endangered animals are housed at the Atlanta Zoo. His next comment took me by surprise. It was a derogatory racially motivated jab at nonwhites. My first reaction was numbness. Why did this racist out of all the random people pick me to talk too. Synchronicity as I say. I watched him walk away down the hill thinking how in this modern world does a man like that even live? How can someone be so jaded and hate so much?

It has been sometime since I first read the book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, which happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. Listening to political gibberish and sitting watching twitter comments through indigenous news casts the issue of the Native Americans has never gone away and is perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation with a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in Republican or Democratic jargon. I saw a poster recently of an Indian woman stating something to the effect anyone not speaking Lakota, and listed numerous more dialects and languages needs to leave as you are trespassing illegally on Indian land.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries and we are the invaders again. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy. Recently on a public broadcast a former rock star that is also an alleged draft dodger from the Viet Nam era and is very pro guns was blasting our current president and came awful close to threatening him. Many considered that tirade as patriotic, at least the NRA convention crowd applauded.
“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

With each word spouted from some conservative’s lips about lowering gas prices and yet never do we ask oil companies to decrease their ever increasing profits. I have not quite figured this out how we as citizens will save if oil companies increase profits. Perhaps it is looking for new lands to subdue which is the credo of so many conservatives and their religious affiliations. Taking away lands from wilderness to own and subdue and to plunder. Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and only were standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing killing Indians.

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Indians nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly five years ago on a Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas. More recently Arizona enacted even stricter laws that are currently in court and today before the US Supreme Court. Back in the day were we not the illegal immigrants and we stole a land and destroyed culture after culture taking and subduing.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of Tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat; I do not think he would be in today’s politics.

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native American was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.

“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I entitled today’s wandering about, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn. It is an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was asked to write the words of an elderly Indian, a member of the Sioux nation, to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today. I am sitting with the lingering aroma of sage and haunting flute music of Carlos Nakai in the background please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always remember to give thanks namaste.

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