Going back to school again for the first time

Bird Droppings November 15, 2019
Going back to school again for the first time

 

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our local community and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines very specific pots, pans and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook.

 

As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking. It turns out she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. A small world or is it synchronicity, I think I know what Dr. Carl G. Jung would say. My major in graduate school always causes confusion as most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions and mine was in Emotional Behavior Disorders.

 

It has been nearly thirteen years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University. My major for some may be a bit obscure that being in curriculum theory with an emphasis on Teaching and instruction, it is a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention in my early readings was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book What is Curriculum Theory. As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, along with various cuts of meats and where my livestock background came out.

 

I have been listening as I read, write and study for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute from Arizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who thirty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

 

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

 

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey

Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

 

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms granted it was interesting especially to one such as I who is constantly observing human nature. When she offered she is in counseling and on meds for psychosis things made better sense.

 

As I watched my class watch her as she came in who being mostly relatively conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting but as I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online I thought as I listened to her lecture being a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.

I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that as maybe we all should try and be who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Teaching is more than just wanting to

Bird Droppings November 14, 2019
Teaching is more than just wanting to

 

“I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, ‘Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.’ The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

When I saw this quote earlier today it reminded me that wanting to in any endeavor is a powerful force. A few days back in an email a friend asked about the idea of wanting to teach and maybe I should write about that. I am working on a paper while not on that subject it is about the art of storytelling and learning and how we take away from kids that drive, that wanting to. Every day I offer a piece and find kids for a second are drawn in then focus back to phone. Imagination is being whittled away. I have taught in public schools now almost twenty years and as a parent was indirectly involved for nearly thirty years or more. I have seen many teachers who do not want to be teaching. For whatever reason they are there and how they impact kids is directly related to their lack of motivation for being a teacher far too many times.

 

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

 

I was covering during my planning period a few years back and ran into a paradox. On the wall a sign stating you earn respect and yet the teacher I was subbing for demanded respect from students. Several students had mentioned to me that fact about this teacher. Granted third party conversation, especially from students is not always the best. However, I know many teachers who walk in a room and demand respect. They think in being a teacher student should bow down and worship the ground they stand on. Granted in some culture’s teachers are revered and automatically held in high esteem. However, a teacher in that particular culture also has a different view of their teaching. When respect is demanded many students take offense and immediately back away. Some students as in the situation with one of the students becoming antagonistic, fighting back and arguing against demand. So how do we then inspire daily and weekly and monthly and for a lifetime as Ward states.

 

“Teacher’s Prayer: I want to teach my students how to live this life on Earth, to face its struggles and its strife and to improve their worth. Not just the lesson in a book   or how the rivers flow, but how to choose the proper path wherever they may go. To understand eternal truth and know the right from wrong, and gather all the beauty     of a flower and a song. For if I help the world to grow in wisdom and in grace, and then I shall feel that I have won and I have filled my place. . That I may do my part. For character and confidence and happiness of heart.” James J. Metcalf

 

I want to teach, a simple statement but a basis for all that then transpires in a classroom. Over the years I have read many books on education, learning and on teaching. One that has always been a good read and reread is The Passionate teacher by Robert Fried. There is a need for passion in teaching.

 

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung

 

“Compassionate teachers fill a void left by working parents who aren’t able to devote enough attention to their children. Teachers don’t just teach; they can be vital personalities who help young people to mature, to understand the world and to understand themselves. A good education consists of much more than useful facts     and marketable skills.” Charles Platt

 

Many disagree with my philosophy of teaching and walk by on the other side of the hallway so as to not be infected. I recall many years ago one teacher who would go an extra hall over to avoid coming by my room. Granted there have been snakes and spiders and loud kids, maybe they are afraid of snakes. I often wonder why some people become teachers. Obviously, it is a paying job, with relatively good benefits. Some teachers will say they were called it is almost a sacred mission for them. But those few who simple could not find anything else or thought they wanted to teach maybe should wander away to another field. I know of several teachers simply waiting to retire and collect their teacher retirement. I wonder is it a sacred mission?

 

“The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad… Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.” Ivan Welton Fitzwater

 

“There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.” Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides

 

“If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.” Kuan Chung

 

Such a powerful tool is teaching for the betterment and or the fall of mankind. As I look at how we decide who teaches and who does not, and how we train teachers I wonder. Are we training for a hundred years or next year? Looking at government’s involvement it is short term. I find it interesting how in eastern thought so often it is beyond the now. Nearby in local community is the Church of the Now sort of paradoxical. We focus so much on short term goals and efforts. Reach this score now and or suffer the consequences. When independent data is finally compiled I think we will find NCLB, No Child Left Behind, has left significant numbers behind. A great teacher here and there might change some of this. We need to change legislation, views about education, and views about learning.

 

“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.” John F. Kennedy

 

Right now, education is falling behind as we spend trillions fighting several wars all over. I often find it interesting that John Kennedy wanted to pull out of Viet Nam, and Lyndon Johnson wanted to stay and continue. After Kennedy’s assassination Johnson did continue the war for many years and many deaths of Americans. Several of whom would have made great teachers I knew them personally. In wanting to be a teacher, wanting to end a war, wanting to be a good parent, or wanting to be a friend, each requires of us to put in an effort. It takes an effort to be a great teacher, end a war, be a good parent, and be a good friend. It is how much beyond is where the wanting to fits in. You will know when you get there. It is a new day and I have many more pages to write and a much to do, although going shopping on Black Friday is not one of them. I hope each of you as you prepare for the holidays coming has a joyous and glorious day. Please 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

(We are all related)

bird

A tapestry is made by interconnecting of threads

A tapestry is made by interconnecting of threads

Bird Droppings November 17, 2018

 

All through history weaving has been a critical aspect of civilization. Weaving cloth for clothes and blankets in order to survive and soon after, weaving began for art sake.

 

“For certain fortunate people there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.” Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964

 

The title intrigued me as I was sitting here 4:00 AM wondering on this chilly Tuesday morning with which direction to go in this day writing. I was thinking about students, parents and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produces the fabric of the day. I recall in a graduate class a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go.

 

“Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his own designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others.“  Dr. Eric Berne

 

For many years I was directly involved in the sheep industry with raising, breeding, and of course shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nationwide photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving literally pieces of art work. Back in the day we had a ewe a Hampshire cross ewe that was “black” and when she was shorn, her fleece was chinchilla gray. For a number of years, a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six with that fleece with my friend showing and helping him.

 

Life as Dr. Andrews, professor and former chairperson of Special education department at Piedmont College commented in class is a weaving it is an intertwining of events and people.

 

“A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. “ Mahatma Gandhi

 

One of Gandhi’s methodologies of protest was to spin and weave his own cloth rather than rely on industrial produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is for many a form of meditation. The process of weaving, creating and designing a piece is literally a painting of a picture with thread and yarn.

 

“A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

So, as we weave our cloth in life we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece of cloth.

 

“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. “ John F. Kennedy

 

With each progress report we call students’ parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades. I spoke with several over the phone back a week or so ago. I walked through my room after school that day reading a poster that has been hanging around now on my wall where ever I take up for 30 years, Children Learn what they live. While one weaves silk while another weaves burlap. Silk has many great attributes as does burlap and the applications and uses vary. To spin hemp into twine and weave the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue but it is that weaving that is occurring. For it is that effort that is being made to produce a life that is so important.

 

“Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.” Dogen Kenji, Zen master

 

Recently I used the word direction and drew criticism from a teacher trying to explain that choosing a direction in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some just going is the norm. I always speak of the journey being more important versus the destination but there is a point to head towards. When building a house first you build walls you determine where doors and windows are needed and add them as you go. A really good builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows and designed properly a house can have huge windows and great doors and movement in and out occurs continually.

 

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

Many years ago, I was sitting alongside a fence in a field far away from houses and people and I watched a spider spin a web. We see webs all around I was told there are thousands of spiders per acre in any field. Many of the spiders are minute and nearly microscopic. Anyhow the spider climbed to a point and dropped leaving a strand of silk climbed and dropped and so forth building a base for her web. Next came the cross lines and soon a web was built over an hour or so in the process. We see webs and easily sweep them away but the design and care in making is engrained in the spider. Life is a weaving a spinning a web of sorts and yes so often is simply swept away. Occasionally someone will stand back in awe of the artistry if only we would take note every time. Please as we have already partaken of a day of thanksgiving continue giving thanks and 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

Finding solace along the way

Bird Droppings November 11, 2019

Finding solace along the way

 

A few days ago, a good friend and former student from another time it seems said I could read every word in Bird Droppings today. I did not think I used too many fancy words in my writing. Although I have a bad habit of inventing words. He said there were “no fancy high fangled words that I never saw before.” This got me thinking, I wondered, what about a simple word and yet powerful, so today a new vocabulary word, SOLACE.

 

“Comfort in sorrow, misfortune, or distress; consolation.” Dictionary.com

 

I was thinking as I got up this morning just after 4:00 to review some writing I did yesterday, it was a quiet morning perhaps peaceful even. I glanced outside and it was a starry sky and there were no frogs or crickets to be heard since it is our first freeze of the fall. The crickets and tree frogs provided a faint chorus normally when I go out in the wee hours of the night and morning but the chill in the air and cold front have put a damper on that. It is interesting for me as I begin to consider a new direction in my own life. I want to continue in education but need a change from current situation. I need to get finished with my dissertation perhaps get into college teaching again.

 

I should say as I look further into the word solace I do seek solace in my daily writings. The word solace is that calming as the final pieces fall in place. I tend to seek solace within myself, looking within, searching within and finding a spot where I am at peace and can rejuvenate.

 

For many people solace is in other ways, a massage or a book, perhaps a quiet walk. Several years ago, when my brother journeyed on in my mother’s grieving she sought solace in writing, in assisting others in the grieving process. Not too long after my brother John passed away a young man who we all knew was killed in a car accident. At my brother’s funeral my mother pressed flowers and made book markers with poems for friends and family, the pressed flowers were laminated into the bookmarkers. She gathered a few blossoms from this young man’s funeral and did likewise for his grandmother. I carry my mothers pacemaker in my pocket perhaps helping me to seek solace after her journeying on.

 

The thanks from his family were shared as two mothers embraced and smiled a few weeks later. I wonder as I sit and think, ponder, why do so many not seek solace. I watch daily many folks smolder and contain their sorrow, grief and discomfort letting it build into depression and illness for some. Yet for some solace is that weekly sojourn to church and those daily intercessory sessions in prayer. Solace can be a simple process but as I think it is an active one as well. We need to seek solace not just wait. Far too many people want to be solaced by others and never really get there. There is an interaction but you must be a willing participant and be seeking that state of mind. I am wandering this morning. It has been several years since I was reintroduced to James Kavanaugh a poet and author from my early college days.

 

KNOW THIS, MY FRIEND

by James Kavanaugh

 

Know this, my friend,

I will never desert you.

I will be there when all have gone away,

When finally, you have nothing more to say,

And there is no apparent reason ever for me to stay.

When all the fears of a lifetime have crowded in on you

And every particle of your past has lost all meaning,

When you cannot lift your head

or hold back the tears,

And you can no longer bear

the terror of your own ruminations,

When all your triumphs are as dust

that cannot hold you aloft,

 

And even the family you raised and loved

have no time for you,

I will be there

To bring you what joy and courage I can,

To remind you of all the beauty and wonder

you are,

To heal you with all the love I have,

To carry you, if need be, wherever you must go,

Only because you are my friend

And I will never desert you.

 

I never realized how much I missed a poet, as I did when I was reunited with James Kavanaugh at Piedmont College in a graduate class. I had read his work back in the day, the early 1970’s when I drove a VW van and had long hair and was arguing against wars and for peace. As I thought looking at this poem, the word solace can be reading a poem or understanding someone’s thoughts. Yesterday I throughout contemplative reading and this is a piece that would take well with that. Contemplate the words and meaning Kavanaugh is trying to convey to the reader. As I sit here and as time goes so often for me it is sitting each morning and or afternoon writing Bird Droppings that is solace for me personally. So my friends as you seek solace in your own way may seek also peace this wonderful day and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need?

Bird Droppings November 10, 2019
Perhaps, within ourselves is the change we need?

 

I have been away from my computer for a few minutes hopefully by tomorrow I will be emailing a ninety nine percent complete pre-prospectus to my committee chair. I have a feeling of accomplishment and ending my procrastination. I am not complaining but I enjoy the morning pondering and thinking and of course writing about random educational, philosophical, spiritual and or other eclectic things. For me specific writing topics can have a way of blurring the brain. So today perhaps I am overthinking making up for some lost time. I did write some comments for a friends teachers evaluation.

 

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

 

I am very much a creature of routine of habit and when my daily path is altered I have occasion to be amiss. My days that go off in another direction or start late seem a bit out of kilter. Over the years I heard my father speak numerous times in his lectures and training sessions of W. Edwards Deming the man who changed Japan’s industry around after WWII. US industry knew of Deming but sort of turned a deaf ear. On the opposite end of the world Japan embraced Deming’s ideas.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

 

Coming back to my starting point of habit and routine we would rather than take another form of transportation and or for other reasons perhaps time and speed we as humans seem to put up with simply being bruised on the other cheek at least back in the day.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasini (we are all related)

Bird

Mitakuye Oyasin(We are all related)

bird

Should children be left behind?

Bird Droppings November 8, 2019

Should children be left behind?

 

I am co-teaching ninth grade biology. My co-teacher was at a conference and due to a lack of substitutes I am teaching the class this week. I do not teach like most folks. I rearranged the room so I could get to every student. I try and get students to seek answers with guidance. So, in a week of no planning periods teaching the class alone I get observed and evaluated. Interesting event and what amused me is how different I saw what went on then administrator. She saw chaos and I saw active learning. While she fretted over my interactions with kids a word wall was being created on the back wall she never saw. A word wall created by the students. I told a story related to what was going on she saw a distraction. A student told me I was annoying, I said he was most annoying student in the world and she wrote something down totality alien to what transpired. She wants teachers to build relationships which you do not see in twenty minutes. Two negative comments about students and my comments are student I had taken to office the beginning f the year and now those same two consider me their best teacher. Perception.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1 • From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.

2 • The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifest the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.

3 • The work teachers and students do together enable learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.

4 • The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.

5 • Active learning characterizes classroom activities.

6 • The learning process entails imagination and creativity.

7 • Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.

8 • The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

9 • The work teachers and learners do together include rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.

10 • Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

Foxfire fund Inc.

 

What intrigued me from my first involvement with Foxfire was how even the approach to learning our school system is using which is called Learning Focused Schools is within these eleven principles. This past summer in my research I found most good and great educational ideas actually incorporate or parallel these simple practices. Literally hundreds of good teachers in actual practice helped develop this concept over a long period of time. Emerson and Dewey were thinking along the same lines long before most of us were born. This is not a new fad it is simply good teaching. It is interesting, I recall long before I read Dewey or Emerson and or anything about Foxfire which was little more than a mountain word for a glowing fungus on a hillside. I have been in graduate education classes learning from teachers who taught in this manner, and have watched students learning as they were involved in this approach to education. So why is it so hard to get across to teachers of today? Could it be because it takes more work from the teachers to implement? You will see the word rigorous in Foxfire quite a bit and it is. But good teaching is rigorous. It is dynamic not static.

 

As I am working on my dissertation and researching about The Foxfire Approach to teaching I find teachers telling me they prefer to teach in this manner but often are criticized by peers and administration for not following curriculum maps and guides. An article in NEA’s weekly newsletter pointed to how so many new teachers are coming into the ranks with little or no true training in education and often a point and click mentality is all they have. They are bodies filling a space and pushing kids through. I have met several great teachers who have come through alternative approaches to teacher training, myself sort of although I did have a minor and major in education along the way I just never student taught. I switched my major to psychology along the way at the last minute to avoid taking a foreign language which was required for education majors at Mercer University in 1974.

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

I am always finding where community exists

Bird Droppings November 7, 2019
I am always finding where community exists

 

I am sitting listening to Allman Brother’s Fillmore East on a cold Thursday morning. After a few days of sunshine and warm fall weather rain is coming in and cold. As I drove to the corner store yesterday I had several thoughts streaming through my head. How do two people see the same thing or read the same thing and still walk away with totally differing views? Is has crossed my mind many times in the past few weeks. Reading the political news and various takes from happenings in national events one person sees one thing and another a totally different view.

 

As I got near the end of my doctorial course work way back in the day and before I restarted I was involved in a class on educational ethics which featured nine texts all of which have an under lying philosophical view of caring and relationships as keys to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books entitled Dreamkeepers, by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher is giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. More than once I got into a debate of sorts while at school on this concept. Is it possible for a teacher to be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?

 

On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore, I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching, which focuses on some philosophical ideas from John Dewey, considered by many one of the great minds in educational thought. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University.

 

“In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic …. Because it has growth…. William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perching’s of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

 

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore that past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there two of my former advisees were also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about uptight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so uptight or anybody for that matter? Brings to mind an interesting thought why so many teachers are on psych drugs for varying conditions?

 

As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.

 

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.

 

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” Skeptic.com

 

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

 

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class.

 

Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact.

 

If I know I will be affecting people beyond direct contact with someone would you be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So, as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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