Waiting for a miracle

Bird Droppings December 7, 2016

Waiting for a miracle

 

Miracle is used often by people of faith. It is an explanation for things that happen with no apparent cause and or rationale. It seems we all sit waiting for miracles perhaps waiting for that solution to pop up, to show its self and poof all will be better. So many times through history events have happened that provide for the concept of miracles and again so many provide based on a lack of proof. Perhaps it is simply a matter of semantics or within a language of need. Each of us has found the bottom of the well on occasion and for each many times a ladder has come. It has been for some a hand built one from within the well piece by piece. For some others they simply climbed out under their own strength. Watching the daily news unfold I am hoping for a miracle.

 

I recall a story of a farmer and his donkey I have seen somewhere in my readings. It seems the farmer was so tired of the stubborn donkey he threw it in the well and invited neighbors over to bury this mean stubborn donkey. As the neighbors shoveled, shovel by shovel the well was filled in. Amazingly there towards the final few shovels a dirty donkey that had simply climbed a bit higher with each shovel of dirt jumped out and ran off. The farmer was left with a filled in well and no donkey. Was that a miracle for the donkey? Perhaps, yet we can also rationalize quick thinking and patience with the donkey and who knows maybe stubborn was the wrong word.

 

I recall a few months back when I spoke with several mothers some by chance or synchronicity as Jung calls it. Our washing machine died and the repairman could not come till after the holiday so I loaded a pile of teenagers dirty laundry into my car and proceeded to wash or attempt to wash clothes at a launder mat. Since this was my second sojourn the first thing was finding my book from the other day and I asked the woman in charge and she immediately went to her office and pulled my book out with a note attached. “Someone left this book and I am sure will come back for it”. The book was “Teaching from the heart” by Sarah Day Hatton. Perhaps it was a small miracle that my book was still there may be so or was it more a Jungian sort of thing leading to another step another conversation.

 

It seems the woman who runs the Laundromat has an autistic son and when she found the book felt this was a book most people would not be reading and it must be special to someone. We talked for nearly an hour as my clothes washed and dried discussing how her seventeen year old son was progressing. As I sat another mother came in this time a former student’s mother her washer had died as well. We talked about how her daughter was doing and progressing. Then I received phone call on my cell phone from another mother who lost a son many years ago and is still looking and finding the pieces to her puzzle daily.

As she talked about a story of a rope, scripture, devotion and finding peace within her and in others for nearly thirty minutes we talked. I use James Redfield’s term coincidence quite often and was corrected, not coincidences I was told. I offered then synchronicity perhaps as Jung says and that word was more acceptable.

 

Timely meaningful happenings seemingly by chance all in a short span of hours amazing how my family does not like to take me any where I always end up meeting people and talking. I went looking this morning for one author and stumbled on another. It has been several years since I first read, Care of the soul, by Thomas Moore. Moore was a monk for thirteen years. He is an avid student and learner gaining a PhD in religion, and in psychology along with a master in music and philosophy. Moore is a teacher, psychotherapist and writer he has a unique introspection on faith and life.

 

What amazes me each morning as I start is so often I really am not sure where it is ending.

Not necessarily a good lesson for teaching creative writing but since I don’t do that I am okay. I started looking for a course in miracles and several lecturers who feature miracles in their writing. As I looked on a favorite site Thomas Moore is now a featured columnist and I looked at his site. Thinking over the past day and events another idea emerged and within miracles there is a sense of belonging of community for lack of better wording and pondering. I was caught in a paragraph from Moore’s site. I highly recommend a look at his website when time allows. Within the context of miracles and the world in general, so often teenagers get confused by all the horror and death. Moore was addressing this in previous paragraphs and lead into this thought.

 

“We could ask the same question about the thousands of children being killed and horribly wounded in wars across the globe. This horror exists because we have not matured enough to create a world community that genuinely serves the welfare of our children. Again, it’s a theological matter. We operate under an infantile illusion that the religions are in competition with each other, and we battle our anxious beliefs with literal weapons. We profess religions that are ninety percent ideology, full of ego, and, in the face of this pseudo religion, create a secularist society, which by definition is incapable of genuine community.” Thomas Moore

 

I was looking at Yahoo news today and three of ten articles or so were religious related granted it is a holiday season in several different religions. One that catches my attention is a court over turning intelligent design which some school systems and politicians are pushing. The Iranian President declares a ban on western music, clothing, ideas, morals, and who knows what else. In Bethlehem this time of year always conflict between various denominations and religions.

 

As I sit thinking the term genuine community is an interesting one. Could we even consider this, that might truly be construed a miracle considering wars have been fought over religion for thousands of years. When you get down and dirty however it is never ideology but actually more over money but religion was easier to accept. Can we become a community each step in its place. As I talked with my friend who had lost a son and for her the story unraveled over years not instantaneously there was not a blinding flash of  light but pieces falling in place one by one leading to that day in the launder mat and our talk. It may be a long term miracle perhaps? My miracle would be to no longer have to ask my friends to keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts that would be the miracle I seek and perhaps if we can chip away piece by piece at building community at building relationships at climbing up each shovel full of dirt up one at a time what seemingly is getting hit in the face with a shovel full of dirt could in effect be freedom and maybe even peace someday and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

What do we really know?

Bird Droppings December 6, 2016

What do we really know?

 

“Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.” Henry Giroux, The War against teachers as public intellectuals in dark times, 12-17-12, Truthout

 

Over the past years I have read so many articles and blogs glorifying concealed weapons and toting how a single armed teacher could have saved the day in Newton Ct. I find it so very interesting that the largest lobby for guns and gun ownership seldom offers a solution other than more guns. Occasionally they will offer to sit down and help come up with a solution, but it never happens. I read an article or post where someone compared making a bomb at home, that was done on a huge scale with easily purchased fertilizer and diesel fuel not enough years ago in Oklahoma City or have we forgotten the children who died there. A concealed weapon would not have mattered in that situation. As a psychology oriented teacher and having spent many years working with severely disturbed students I continue to look towards more support to mental health where funding has been stripped to the bone dating back to Ronald Reagan. Many facilities and mental health situations are in private corporations hands that while taking care of their sic human needs for those who need help they do very little actual caring for. Sadly there are so many issues and so many answers flying about and seldom help offered.

 

. “The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

 

Yesterday I received an email containing a letter from a well-known professor of education at the University of Georgia. The letter was about the emphasis on testing “what we know”, and how this is not a reflection of education, simply teaching students to take a test or borrowing from Sydney J. Harris “stuffing sausages.” The issue then becomes how we measure what a person does learn. One of the best methods of measuring learning is a portfolio system. Most elected officials want data in terms of their stay in office not a portfolio twenty years in the making which makes this method a hard sell.

 

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.” John Dewey

 

I just went back and reread UGA professor Dr. Glickman’s letter and have formatted it and saved it on my computer. John Dewey knew cramming knowledge was not the answer. Modern educators argue as I mentioned several days ago we cannot simply fill a bottle with knowledge. In life not just in education we want to be able to determine our successes and failures. Over my years many of which have been in industry, indirectly in developing materials for training. Specifically in industry we developed and used a term, an acronym, ISMEC.

 

In industry there is a goal a rather simple one and that is profit. In order to increase profit you have to decrease losses. ISMEC was a tool to do this. There were underlying humanitarian issues in heavy industry, where loss also means loss of life as well.  But loss time is amount of time without a loss and in some industries this is measured between deaths or injuries. For example in deep rock mining which is one of those industries where how many man hours between deaths is calculated. The equation becomes how many deaths per million man hours of work. ISMEC came to industry in the early 1960’s and revolutionized industry. A simple acronym, Identify, Set standards, Measure, Evaluate, Correct and or Commend.

 

In industry to find and identify you look at the maintenance department and find where issues are and build from there. In a community currently we use test scores what if we looked at the maintenance department, the jails, rehab facilities, counseling services, doctors and such to see where we needed support and modifications rather than standardized tests scores. It might cost too much or confidentiality could be an issue and we would have a difficult time accomplishing within elected officials time in office is a crucial one. What if we went a step closer to home and checked on in school and out of school suspensions and detentions as a marker for problems.

 

“Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning” Alfie Kohn

 

Today and the past few days we are involved in end of course tests in our high school. As I think about this four teachers had four distinctly differing percentages of pass rates. County, State, and Federal officials look at pass rates only. My first question is, are these classes the same in makeup? How many included special educations students since new state laws allow up to ten and more if approved. How many at risk students and remedial students that have not tested well in previous grades. After looking at specifics say in the biology test. The highest pass rate was in an advanced class of biology with a one hundred percent pass rate. As we went through the scoring the numbers of special education students and at risk increased to a teacher whose class had a seventy seven percent pass rate had sixty three percent either special ed and or at risk. What was also amazing was looking at top scores a higher percentage of non-special ed and non at risk students exceeded ninety percent than in advanced class.

So what do we do as parents, teachers, friends and families do? How do we change the directions and aspirations of those who set the precedent? We live in a democracy and we hold that power in voting. Many Presidents of our United States have argued the merits of removing or not removing various taxes, wars, health care reform, and our economy and yet I have heard little about education. I went into my room at school to write today thinking people are buying this dribble, yet whoever is elected seems to do whatever is needed to stay elected and not about what should or could truly turn our country and the world around. We have stabilized gas prices recently and panic from the general population is sedated versus running around just a few short months ago trying to save twenty cents a gallon at a cheaper store. We seem to forget that our children are the future and how they view the world will impact that future. How they understand their world will impact their future.

 

As I close this morning we gain knowledge and we learn and we try and through our voting during elections we can hopefully change society, borrowing from a recent election, yes we can. So many years ago a movie ended with an elderly man offering a bit of wisdom, “use it wisely” as the old knight in the Indiana Jones movie says. Today use it wisely and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart 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 about telling our grand children

Bird Droppings December 5, 2016
It is about telling our grand children

Yesterday my wife and I took our local grandbabies for a movie and lunch. We went to a movie about oral traditions Disney’s new kid’s movie Moana. Being a fan of oral tradition I took notice to how each symbol and decoration on walls and hangings had significance and meaning. Some were ones learned by elders others made by current artists in the village.  I thought to our Christmas tree and various decorations we have collected over the years. One is an interesting contraption my oldest son picked out when he was two or so, and always a conversation piece. I shared with my wife how our tree was a family history of sorts. In the spirit of tradition every year she gives our grandchildren an ornament for their tree. Thinking back to Moana oral family traditions we need more of them.

After a busy weekend of visiting, shopping, decorating and family time I was trying to recover and more things needed to be done, garlands and lights up and more shopping.  I had a few moments to enjoy the company of three of my grandchildren. Last year this time my grandson and I learned to crawl upstairs of course that is where the play room is and he soon learned the intricacies of stair climbing. My mother had a blanket for him and he settled in wrapped in his new blanket and was occupied for thirty minutes sitting in my lap. We talked not of the specifics of philosophy or spirituality but of which Mickey Mouse character is the best. There will be time as he gets older to share stories and wisdom.

“I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be life-long. In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed– the link to creation. In my eyes sparkled love and the song floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree. When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf’s reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out. All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.” Chief Dan George, Salish

I look forward to the day I can tell all my grandchildren tales told to me by my father and his father. Recently my oldest son and I were standing in the dark listening to a chorus of coyotes call only hundreds of yards away through the dense pines of the nearby forest. Perhaps they had caught a deer or found a carcass left from some wayward hunter and were celebrating their find. The echoes and calls bounced off the trees and literally filled the air unlike anything I have heard this side of the Mississippi river. I am sure when I retell this story it will be embellished a bit but it was awesome just the same to hear personally. As I am sitting here this morning reading again this short passage from Chief Dan George I am saddened by the ending. We are on the verge as we continue to focus on the now of losing our past. We dominant society who have ravaged the landscape, stripped away what we need, technologically impaired our children, and left little possibility that our grandchildren will be able to hear and see what we have even in our life-times.
Many will scoff at my feeble words. However as a teacher I see the children of today struggle with imagination and creativity. I see today’s children so entangled in gadgetry that they have little need any more for a stick horse or sock stuffed animal. Few children are building forts and tree houses when they can have virtual worlds to play with. Some of us will recall what it is like to play Robin Hood in a patch of forest. Some will remember days prior to TV and video. Some of us can remember having to ask an operator to connect you to your phone call party. Some will remember dialing with a rotary dial phone other than comedians in skits. I am as much a victim using my smart phone to communicate instantly photos and images and getting directions or weather reports instantly. However it caught me by surprise when a clerk at one of my favorite stores asked me what I did with my herb garden during the winter. It set me back from the fast pace world into one of growing plants and herbs. One of digging in the dirt and growing what we need instead of asking just the price. Several times I had brought bags of mint and stevia by their store and this clerk remembered me. So what will I tell my granddaughter one day when she is sitting on my knee. I might start with a passage I used at her parents wedding ceremony.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. 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, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

It is easy to wonder sitting in my kitchen typing away on my laptop of days ahead and what lessons and what stories I will share. I will walk through the fields and forest and point out leaves and twigs, I will pick up a insect and tell of what it is and why, I will teach her how a great horned owl calls in the evening and the difference between a spring peeper and a grey tree frog, I will show her to avoid poison oak and ivy and look for wild straw berries, but I will also show her how to create images on a computer and how to use words wisely and powerfully and to share with others.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

So in the midst of a holiday season I am wondering what lesson should I first impart. There is a lesson that sadly many forget as they go into the world. It has been many years since I first saw these words. It is that lesson of example. Dr. Nolte, nearly fifty years ago gave us a poem of sorts “Children learn what they live”, that critical lesson is one of example providing a life that is a lesson rather than a disaster. So this morning as we start a new week please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

 

 

 

Can you give it one more try?

Bird Droppings December 2, 2016
Can you give it one more try?

 

“You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out, but you gotta suit up for them all.” Satchel Paige often attributed to J. Askenberg

 

Teachers at my school judge seasons by testing season not weather. I am sitting here this morning trying to sort through what test practicing should we do today. Then after test practicing we will simulate test questions and responses. Test vocabulary is next and maybe a review game. Alright lesson plan nearly done leaves five minutes to cover photosynthesis. However on the weather side my herb garden is nearly gone as all of the salvias took a beating yesterday with cold. My angel trumpet plants have finally gone by the wayside although after literally hundreds of blooms they had a good run. I am ready for summer and officially it is not winter yet. As I thought sitting here I liked this quote to start my day today. Often when I stumble on a quote I try and find who this person is. J. Askenberg proved a bit difficult, I found this quote 160 times in sermons and lectures and various quote engines but not who this person was other than a writer. Then in my looking one more time I actually found this morning it was Satchel Paige who first said it and Askenberg is often attributed.

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas A. Edison

 

It has been some time since I had the chance to ride into Atlanta with my middle son; we were comparing football games from the previous weekend. Now he and several other Georgia Tech fans and graduates have a running blog site of course featuring Tech’s various athletic teams although he seldom in involved anymore. My son is a graduate and a very big Georgia Tech fan having been a past driver of the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech and a former avid member of the Swarm, and Ramblin Wreck clubs. Many months ago we got talking about a young man who went to The University of Georgia from the Air Force Academy, I recall our conversation. This young man walked on in football and became the starting Fullback. This young man perseveres and many the stories at our high school. One my son brought up was how in Calculus it would take him 45 minutes to get problems others got in 10 minutes or less. The interesting thing was he was Salutatorian of his graduating class, he never quit.

 

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliot

 

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.” B. C. Forbes

 

“Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal; while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.” Herodotus

 

Each step we take in life can be difficult; each new pathway we face as we plod along can have more bumps than the last. It is through effort we reach that place we are going. What if life were so simple and there were never difficulties? What if the road was straight and clear and only forward momentum was needed? I remember many road trips out west and roads that were perfectly smooth no pot holes and straight as an arrow for many miles, it was all I could do to stay awake. Life would be so boring without a bump or a curve in the road, or perhaps a fork to choose from as we go.

 

“We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.” Helen Keller

 

Most folks will not remember Helen Keller and may have seen the many different versions of “the Miracle Worker”. Annie Sylvan was a teacher who wouldn’t give up on her student Helen. Helen was blind and deaf and Annie found a spark and hope, and with Annie’s help Helen would go on to address leaders of the world in her public life.

 

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” H. Ross Perot

 

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” John Wooden

 

If you ask who was the greatest coach in college basketball of all time at my house John Wooden will be a unanimous pick. As I read this Woodenism, it is so true, so many students and teachers start out but at the first difficulty quit. It could be a difficult student that does not conform to a set pattern and way of doing things or a new teacher who comes to a class of students who are all ready to quit. There are answers; there are solutions if we choose to look. Edison had a barrel of failed light bulbs as a reminder as he proceeded to find a workable light bulb. It is about not quitting, the answers are there when you give it one more try. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What is the Holy Grail in education?

Bird Droppings December 1, 2016

What is the Holy Grail in education?

 

Teachers in Georgia High Schools on block schedule are scrambling this time of year getting ready for the semester End of Course milestones. Basically teachers have been told by administrators to prepare for the tests. Teachers are encouraged to be proactive and practice test taking, do practice questions as openers, test and more tests. Of the past sixteen years never before have I felt the pressure to teach to the test. Sounds so simple but teachers do not know what is on the test. On one hand we are told it covers standards, so teach to the standards. But the tests are notorious for emphasizing certain standards and not covering others. So teachers are scrambling we just got last year’s scores and found out the proficiency rating changed from seventy percent to eighty percent. Some argue well that’s raising the bar. When is raising the bar absurd. If our student body is a cross section of America and a normal standard bell shaped curve is used eighty percent is top twenty percent. We can adjust curve of test and make a fifty to a eighty but with 10,000

Students and you are told to have all students in proficient range something has to give.

 

“Obsessive search for the holy grail through only that which can be measured and documented effectively diminishes the sacred and leaves us standing empty without souls.” Dr. Grant Bennett

 

A day or two ago I got a bit carried away and wandered into about two thousand words on what is it about great teachers and why can’t we teach that. Well in my discourse I did not really solve the dilemma but a response from a dear friend, a former professor in my graduate studies and who is a middle school gifted teacher got me thinking. I recalled a scene from an Indiana Jones movie where the old knight who has guarded the Holy Grail for thousands of years has an evil Nazi officer trying to pick the Grail from hundreds of cups. Would it be political to say he reminds me of Arne Duncan or should I throw out the proposed secretary of education’s name?

 

He chooses a gaudy and elaborate chalice and soon feels the pain of his error and he disintegrates before our eyes. (Movie special effects of course) Shortly thereafter Indiana Jones has the same situation and chooses a simple plain cup to dip from the water of life in order to save his father. For hundreds of years we held an idea of a fancy embellished chalice as the epitome of the Grail and yet it was a simple cup that so often was not even seen. Looking back at Dr. Bennett’s thought in education we have sought the Holy Grail in testing, in curriculum, in various new-fangled gimmickry full of trappings and programs and maybe we truly missed the secret of good or great teaching and education.

 

I had to sit back ponder and think about my response a bit to Dr. Bennett’s follow up to my note of the other day. Seldom do I skip a day in my meanderings as I think about a past weekend and driving over seven hundred miles and my wife and I, old folks are always worn out. Holidays are coming and travel is instore. We will be going all different directions, Warner Robins Ga. With in-laws, North Carolina to for a visit with two grand babies and then home to spend time with our Winder grand babies. Two birthdays coming up as well. It was nearly six years ago on a drive to Florida for our first granddaughter’s birth my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher, I borrow from it often.

 

“It’s a humbling experience but I think that it is a good one too, for someone who writes books on education to come back into the classroom and stand up there as the teacher does day after day and be reminded in this way be reminded what it is like in the real world. I sometimes think every education writer, every would be education expert and every politician who pontificates as many do so condescendingly, about the failings of the teachers in the front lines of our nation’s public schools ought to be obliged to come in a classroom at least once a year and find out what it is like. It might at least impart some moderation to the disrespectful tone which so many politicians speak of teachers.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

 

As I started this book by Kozol one of the first letters discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. I over the years have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my first teaching job to a program I stated in Macon Georgia and then to a school in Warner Robins. But the day I recall most vividly and actually forgot about was when I started back after nearly twenty three years away from teaching. I started on a Tuesday in September of 2001. Just by chance it was September 11th. For most of the year had you asked me what day I started teaching I would have responded the weekend after Labor Day. However my principal one day came in and said what day did you start and I pulled out a calendar and sure enough my first day was spent in lock down. I was replacing a teacher who had a nervous breakdown dealing with the EBD kids that I was thrust into.

 

So here I was I had not taught a day in twenty plus years and stuck in a room I should say locked in a room with ten kids who all had been in jail or were on probation still. What do you do? Curriculum was out the door and over a few minutes we had our windows covered and all outside contact severed. Here I was with ten kids who were actually some of the worst in discipline referrals in the school in a tiny room for about five hours. I winged it and we got to know each other. It wasn’t long till those kids were coming to my class and not going to others which of course did not sit well with some of the other teachers whose classes they were missing. I thought about this and still at times wonder why was I being successful with them and another teacher had a nervous breakdown. I come back to perhaps it is not something we can actually put a label on but an easy word to use is relationships.

 

Teaching is about relationships it is about building and maintaining them. I went out of my way to know these kids beyond the fact they were all jailbirds or into things most kids in high school would have never thought of. After my long dropping of the other day another note from a high school friend who taught Literature in high school in Pennsylvania for thirty six years loving every minute of it. I was asked the other day who was my favorite high school teacher and I could at the time only recall one. A former class mate from high school sent this email.

 

“Anyway…your point is well-taken.  What makes a great teacher?  I can honestly say that many teachers at Scott influenced me:  Joey Inners, John Kerrigan, Dave DeFroscia, Joan Tuckloff, and, of course, Miss Cristoforo.  They made classes come alive; they went the extra mile; they touched my spirit and made me realize what I could do if I worked hard and applied the talents I had.  I think Mark Twain said: Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater.  I think he was right.  If the students like a teacher, they will walk through fire for them. One of my favorite activities asked students to write a quick note to a teacher who made an impression on them, thanking them for what they did.  It was the best assignment ever.  Here’s a salute to all of the teachers who have influenced me.” Beckie Backstetter Chiodo, retired teacher Pa.

 

My father once told me that teaching was entertainment as well as imparting knowledge I am sure he had read Twains comment as much like me he had a vast quote library saved up which is sitting on my book shelf and I do borrow from occasionally. My father taught about industrial Safety and Loss Control and was in his day considered the leading authority in the field. He lectured in most parts of the world and often spent months teaching for example in South Africa to mine safety folks or in the Philippines or Australia. I went into a lecture many years back when we had an affiliation with Georgia State University and held many of his courses on campus or nearby. This course was in I think the Down Town Ramada Inn and I stepped in to watch the master at work.

He was lecturing about a topic and to make a point he got down in a football three point stance and said hike and charged up the next yard or so of carpet. My father was a lineman in college and even in his sixties was pretty imposing. He lowered and raised his booming voice. He used many learning tricks we teachers still use to help his classes remember ideas. A famous one in safety is ISMEC. Identify, set standards, measure, evaluate and correct or commend a simple acronym and it became a mainstay of Loss Control management.

 

I recall another idea from my father when he visited a plant the first place he went was the maintenance shop. He would talk to the supervisor and ask where they saw issues. I was always amused at how many safety guys would question my father about this tactic. His response was this was ground zero for knowing where potential major loss will occur. In the maintenance shop doing repairs for example repeatedly for a specific shift or piece of equipment will indicate a potential problem waiting to hit.

 

I started thinking that this could apply in a school. Several possibilities what teacher writes most referrals for seemingly inconsequential reasons? You cannot teach by referral. Look at remedial classes are there similarities with kids who are there? Did they have the same teacher? Did they come from the same school? What is their life at home? Far too often in education we start at the top and go down. I have found the gifted kids even without a teacher will do great. I am being somewhat sarcastic.

 

As I am reading Kozol’s book and now interested in looking at others of his I am sure I will be borrowing ideas but I would like to leave today with this idea should we start at the bottom or the top in trying to solve educational problems? I am no closer to finding the solution to how do we tell a great teacher but maybe some food for thought. 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

Trying to tie a knot with only one end

Bird Droppings November 30, 2016

Trying to tie a knot with only one end

 

It is a Tuesday morning and no one else up but me and I am about to go out and wander in the darkness for a bit running to all night pharmacy for birthday cards. I have over the years enjoyed greeting the morning.  I have found my solace in the wee hours of the day being able to think more clearly uninfluenced by an encumbrance of the day. Over the years I have watched many sunrises and none have been equal to the last and no one had been more brilliant than the others each has been an uplifting moment for me. I try and share through images captured with my camera but truly they do not do justice to the moment.

 

I went to my favorite spot to take photos of sunrises several times last week and it was still relatively dark on one of the days so I played with aperture settings and exposures and ended up with some interesting effects. I proceeded to the reservoir nearby and took a few more two ducks popped in but before I could get a shot flew off and in the dark I missed them. I returned to my spot again for a few more and a Great Horned Owl flew from the fence to a nearby tree. In front of me a few feet two deer walked across my path. So in my morning of meditation and sunrise pictures a good start to the day.

 

“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” Charles Swindoll

 

It is the responses that the world sees this is how we are judged and how we are thought of. Each day I see hundreds of people coming through my room at the high school and their attitude about their life is perhaps the one thing that can make or break them in any given day. How we respond to what people see is what drives all things around us. If we bring an attitude for example a poor attitude to a given place and respond to seemingly inconsequential stimulus in an overt way because of that inherent bad attitude we will be perceived as being that which we possible really are not nor do we choose to be. Unfortunately our attitude at the moment drives the reality of others in their perceiving of us.

 

“The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

I think intelligence provides color and shades of gray to a black and white world. However it can be manipulated both positively and negatively. Look at a color blind test for example, a swirl of colors and yet some can see and others not. My students think I am joking when I say I cannot see numbers on color blind charts but can tell colors as well as any of them. Intelligence has nothing to do with it other than creating the test that is being seen. Conversely, perception, how we see that image is then how we interpret that image and or do not interpret it.

 

“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

Several issues at hand, first it is how we respond to a given event. Secondly how we perceive a given event and then determine that in fact that the event is happening. I have always enjoyed reading Shelly’s work and yet very seldom have I used a piece in my daily wanderings. Today was a day that had minor delays and changes in routine offering an imbalance to a morning. I am a creature of habit and change is difficult for me taking a week off from teaching due to a fall break last week and my mother being in the hospital alter the flow of the day. As we read Shelly’s line we know change is inevitable. If we plan and think and strategize change can be less significant and in effect can become more evolution than really a change. Is it a development of sorts, a gradually shifting from point A to point B and on to point C.

 

I was observing several students a few days back and change is what affects them more so than any other aspect of school. Offering choice can totally bewilder them. I have worked with several autistic teenagers and often choice is a difficult venue. Should I go to the rest room and or the bus since the bell rang. An either or situation and it is seemingly a difficult one for this one fellow as he stood in my door asking me what he should do. While afterwards it was humorous at the time it was a life altering event until he remembered he was on third load and had plenty of time. Still for each of us we live in a society of choice. Years ago I had a student who could not choose. He literally needed to be told what to wear by his mother and what to do during the day by his teachers. On his own he would always get into trouble by responding inappropriately to stimuli. Eventually he ended in jail serving three life sentences when all external restrictions were gone after his mother passed away.

 

I watch students who have similar tendencies and wonder what happens when we take away answering questions and offering help. What happens when a world designed by people who enjoy control and power chose to make you the scape goat. I once read a headline about enormous profits of oil companies and I look at price of gas. Any fool can see if you charge twice as much for an item profits will go up. Costs go up as fuel prices rise and I recall in a speech one of our previous national leaders stated it is ok for oil companies to reap record profits on high gas costs, because it is market driven. Interesting as I sit and think about those comments and whose side was he on. I now understand why we are having such difficult times with educational policies and other issues on a national level. If you can make a profit it is ok, it is market driven. Much of our educational policy is profit driven and market oriented in items like standardized tests and textbooks. Literally there are hundreds of billions of dollars in sales of educational materials.

 

Certain industries are at record levels while former main stays of our economy have been driven overseas. I seriously wonder how we did it, pushing jobs to China or where ever. I wonder, if I was an oilman or drug company president or oil construction company owner I think would be a happy camper right now. I got into a discussion with two former military now teachers earlier in the week. We were discussing World War II and current warfare. Literally thousands died in battles in World War II and today with our highly mechanized military handfuls die. But what was interesting was that in days gone by industry boomed during war time. We are in wars where for the first time during a major war we are hurting in jobs and in financial areas. We have no industry left it is all in other countries. We have to buy hardware and military equipment from heavy industries in other countries. Even in a one of last presidential campaign speech’s a politician bragged about saving billions on a fuel tanker airplane in a contract bid. The part left out was that instead of manufacturing in the US it would be built in France and 6000 jobs would be in another country. How much was that worth?

 

“All is focused on a bell shaped curve. Approximately twelve point five percent know something is fishy, twelve point five percent are being left behind and seventy five percent do not care because the response they see is feasible at the time and that is all that matters.” High School teacher, Frank Bird in regards to standardized testing

 

Looking back on the Iraq war sort of ok there are no weapons of mass destruction, but when we made the choice we were sure there were. It is ok to pay twice what we should for gas because others are and therefore it is market driven. What if we as consumers could determine the price of gas and profitability of those companies? What if medications were within reach of people instead of pricing to a point where lifesaving and threatening medications were unattainable for some? The new drug plans are so cumbersome most cannot use or holes in plans leave some stranded. What if we could have a utopia and everything was perfect and a bell shaped curve was now a flat line? Funny thing is you would be called a socialist. Most of the recent political jargon would say that is socialism. Ever wonder why when you are dead monitors show a flat line, it seems there are some who want people to flat line and eliminate the curve. Some who want to get everyone on the same wave length equal and no complaints at all?  In education it is a big one. It is the legislation of No Child Left Behind, NCLB, where all children are the same by law at least they will be in 2014 and now modifications since all children are still different. When I see that I nearly laugh having worked always in special education.

 

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

As I sat and thought about all of this it is sort of like trying to tie a knot with only one end. Does it really do any good to have a knot if the other end is somewhere else? Well as I keep wondering I could use that knot in the end of a rope to knock some of the politicians in the head. It has been a chilly, windy, and supposedly snowy fall morning and I am still trying to gather up plants needing to come in for the warmth. It will be a good day and one filled with conversation and communication. I look forward to more. Please my dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin cldren are still different

(We are all related)

bird

Venting a bit on a Tuesday Morning

Bird Droppings November 29, 2016

Venting a bit on a Tuesday Morning

 

I was slack with my daily journaling over the holiday. I have written for two days straight this week. Last night and this morning I read several alarming posts on friend’s pages on Facebook and on internet news sites. I followed links and they led to para military groups discussing declaring a civil war. Another link was supposedly about President Obama declaring Marshall Law in December with no information just a title and graphic. This same link led to another about how the white race would be gone in twenty five years. I read all the comments about our President being a communist and socialist and my response is neither socio-economic system is even closely being approached in this country.

We are in over drive capitalism here in the US, especially this time of year and with our current president elect. Greed rules above all else. We have highest stock market and biggest difference between wealthy and the rest of us ever in the history of our country.  Granted the great income difference is what Marx saw and wrote about as he pondered communism. However our government and that is both parties continues the process that maintains that elite few. Oil companies, defense contractors, pharmaceuticals, insurance and banking are booming in profits. That’s not communism and or socialism.

The recent election is a good example much of the budget suggested by the party that will be taking over impacts the very people who voted them in cutting social security, tax credits, child care deductions etc. are all in suggested budget of House leader Paul Ryan. Better yet privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and let insurance companies run them. Kind of like health insurance where top five health insurance carriers CEO’s are all paid in excess of 20 million a year, none of which benefits my health care.

Taking away from any group of people is not socialism and or communism. I was told recently we are losing our freedoms and I asked which ones. Our freedom to not buy health insurance for an example was the reply. I offered than when you are sick cure yourself or pay your own bills. They asked you mean you would let me die and I said no you let yourself die. The worst post of the day was 79 million people voted and even with a boycott black Friday 140 million went shopping that speaks to me more than then the idiotic posts and blogs about communism and socialism and civil war. As long as we get what we want we don’t care about anybody else. So I will borrow from scripture.

Matthew 19:16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 19:17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 19:18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19:19 honor your father and mother,’c and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 19:20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 19:22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” NIV

I am not one to use scripture often but so often those spouting all the innuendoes mentioned above are using scripture. We could debate what is meant by this passage since it is framed by an ancient Hebrew commonly used expression for something difficult a camel through the eye of a needle, but I look more at the excess in our world and specifically in pour country. No one cares about the environment, starving children, or few other things other than making a buck. The XL pipeline and now Dakota pipeline are great examples. There are a huge group of Koch industries employees 35000 promoting it through phone calls and conversation. Koch Industries owns 1.5 million acres of tar sands in Alberta. The pipeline is not carrying oil to benefit us here in US it is already in plans to go to Asia predominantly China. That has been in news off and on. Gas prices in US will not be impacted and why should they in a world of supply and demand price is based on who will pay the most we are bidding when we pay 2.00 a gallon with Chinese willing to pay more. The US is exporting more oil and refined oil products than any time in the history of our oil. The revolution that needs to occur is not one of military/militia/vigilante/gangs but one of people who care about others.

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Mahatma Gandhi

My friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird