Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Bird Droppings August 31, 2016
Can we find learning in the Kalahari Desert?

Yesterday afternoon I was walking about the yard and along the side of our nearby dirt road taking pictures of wildflowers and grasshoppers among other things that I find as ponder. I spent several minutes trying to photograph a seed from a broom sage plant floating along in the afternoon breeze. A bit of down just going where the breeze would take it. It is very hard to focus on a moving piece of down and as I pondered it is much like walking into a class room and trying to teach kids who really do not want to be there. Sadly their thoughts and ideas floating about wandering where ever the breeze of the day is blowing. I was listening as I drew near the back field and the sound of crickets and frogs was nearly deafening. An author I found in my later years Laurens Von der Post came to mind as I imagined the sounds and images before me. Most of Von der Post’s early learning years were spent on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa being raised by a Bushmen nanny.

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post

 

It was in the remembering of a very poignant childhood event Laurens Von der Post was witness to that he recalls the last days of man, at least to the Bushmen or Sans. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific writer. As I researched last night and went to Amazon.com 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translations are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William’s of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while covering his adventures and travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far Away Place, was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But as I read permeating all of his writing is a fascination and deep understanding of a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or Sans as they call themselves.

 

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

 

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

 

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with several friends and pros and cons of public education somehow came into that discussion. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out. Often armed guards patrol to prevent missionaries and civilizers from coming in contact with these primitive peoples. I started thinking in terms of learning environment and for the indigenous peoples of the jungle it is the jungle where the optimal learning environment is for them to survive. Far too often we interject our modern societal values and say they should learn this or that. This led me to a statement by John Holt from the other day and one that has been in my pondering now several days.

 

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

 

In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do even with graduate studies and writing as well as my own college and high school lessons to prepare for when I took the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a covered moon was trying to peek through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were nearly gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My shoulder has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the day. So often in my days a student who has an issue or a friend or teacher will find a Bird Dropping and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence and it will have been just what they needed that day. For whatever reason I am compelled to build on a thought passing by as I am thinking never quite sure why.

 

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

 

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennet

 

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed. When talking with my son yesterday he mentioned his former boss admitted she never read my meanderings and one day she had been searching and by chance opened my daily thought and again it was what she needed. I am wandering a bit from my learning idea but it is the contextual framework that we seem to build that provides us with those learning activities and experiences.

 

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

 

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

 

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques which is the basis for my one day to be finished dissertation. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari. There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped their primitive art which was painted on the rocks in caves of the Kalahari. The last painter had been killed in an attack literally of genocide and no one knew how to take over the art. Laurens Von der Post writes how he heard those gunshots as a child.
As I looked at students walking the halls at my school and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

 

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Post reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

 

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back fourteen or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight. I was reading a friends note earlier about how ever thing happens for a reason. I responded jokingly that it only gains reason if we learn from it. As I sit hear pondering this morning it is in looking that we truly see and in listening that we truly hear.

 

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

 

I went in the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire Fund

Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Learning and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

 

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

 

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

 

“Not only the present but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

 

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote; we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind in 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

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

Bird Droppings August 30, 2016

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

 

            “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for           the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to      future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

 

In all of my years of searching, pondering and wandering about it seems the pathway always continues ahead of me. Many times I am stepping from one stone to another to get across the stream placing one foot ahead of the next trying to stay out of the water. I think I have always tried to leave that life as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out but I do believe I try. When I am walking down the hall ways at school I always trying to smile, joke with students, get others smiling and joking, and enjoying that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds and that is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

 

            “None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity,             is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is             no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow, and that it is not     ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

 

Just before school was out last year I had to report an incident that was told to me by a student. It is difficult to when told in confidence yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my same conversation with this student I was asked if my children ever got in trouble and I said no although tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or …..” and again I said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The response was hesitant but came, “no I live with my mom”, “but I don’t misbehave for my dad” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a onetime deal it is a regular occurrence and as I talk with parents and students I find my life is not “NORMAL”. It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents etc. It seems it is parents who are hitting their kids drinking with and such that is what society seems to deem as normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at abnormal first to determine normal.

 

            “On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light            by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life,     nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

 

I woke up from a vivid dream while I was getting my hair cut and I never fall asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was being brushed away from my neck and I looked up at a clock on the wall it was 2:30 and I had to get going. But as I am thinking back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven in and throughout. As I thought back nearly twelve years to my starting back to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor was continually using the word “weave”. Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. I actually at one point of my thinking was going to produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professors thought. Life is a weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student not so much as to change the pattern of weaving but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

 

            “Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is            peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for           me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that     there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick        Buechner

 

Nearly twelve years back I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome for the first time and how as a teacher I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work and logically it doesn’t work and some parents do not want it to work, they have chosen the direction for their children and that is that.  Many times it seems futile as a teacher to even try and make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said to me they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said what? They looked over at lab counter and six black kids were working on lab. I responded as I do often sarcastically first it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you really are. Neither responded and they know where I stand on the subject.

 

            “If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so     that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

 

            “The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.”          Thomas Carlyle

 

Just before school let Friday last week out a particular student asked me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend and so forth a dialogue and the context was a positive one as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok, it was discussed. Sadly that child went home thinking this is how life really is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids do yell at each other and hit each other and throw things at each other, it is ok.

 

            “We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away   all at once.” Robert A. Cook

 

            “Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by      immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

 

B.F. Skinner the man behind the concept of behavior modification once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows maybe he is right, maybe if we continue picking away and smiling and joking and living life as un-normal as it may be to some others will catch on. Who knows maybe just maybe when tomorrow comes that child who was asking about have my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead or what books they have read or what college are they going to.

 

            “Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive; a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.”    Jacques Cousteau

 

I have a friend at school a breast cancer survivor who said something very similar to me. For her “each day is a blessing to make the most of”. How profound and almost understated is amazingly her students love her. She honestly cares about them and they know it. A simple bit of attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

 

            “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the   wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the         sunset.” Crowfoot

 

Many years ago I raised buffalo and as I would walk out each morning into the dark I would hear an occasionally snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning though different sounds living in a subdivision but still I can hear if I listen hard that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make it and how we weave or how we step into the day it is our choice. In teaching I emphasize setting the example and I have hanging on my one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days 1971 or so. Of course it is a black light poster. The posters title is “Children learn, what they Live” and it goes on from there. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow 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

What does it take for the light bulb to go off?

Bird Droppings August 29, 2016

What does it take for the light bulb to go off?

 

It has been nearly nine years since my doctoral cohort at Georgia Southern ended and we began the journey on our own. For a couple semesters I was a member of a new cohort at Piedmont College and wandering down the path of learning again. I recall many months back we met for an advanced seminar and one of the readings was an Aldus Huxley book, Doors of our perception, which while not that many pages was a major part of the discussion. I am always intrigued when pieces of my time in existence seem just for me as several ideas within the book were significant as I look back. However our professor ended the session pointing inward and mentioned how he has pursued intellectualism. Reading and expanding his own knowledge has been his pursuit and he mentioned several times how great it is to be a professor you get paid to read. I was thinking to high school students who we try and get to read and many college students as well. So often when you ask, what is your favorite book a response will be I do not read? Instilling that passion for knowledge should be our task rather than just testing for specific pieces of information.

 

            “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where   your thoughts take you.” James Allen

 

I have been thinking on this passage many days. I firmly believe even as we plan and set goals and agendas we are where we need to be at this moment. Is it as simple as we travel the pathways presented to us each day thinking we have choice and actually could be setting the direction? It has been a few years since I first looked at life as a journey. Since that first day however it has become a truly memorable one for me. Now I make an effort to view each moment as I pass try and keep up with all the surroundings and trying to understand each piece of the puzzle as it falls in place. “Life is about the journey”, I have used many times in my writings.

 

“Thinking more than others about our own thoughts is not self-centeredness. It           means             that if asked what’s on our mind, we are less likely to mention being aware of the         world around us, and more likely to mention our inner reflections. But we are less             likely to mention thinking about other people.” Elaine N. Aron, Clinical Psychologist

 

I just took Dr. Aron’s quiz to see if I am a HSP highly sensitive person or not rather interesting. I tend to argue several issues within her test. I thrive on the interactions and emotions while the tests seem have this as a negative response.

 

“You live with your thoughts — so be careful what they are.” Eva Arrington

 

            “If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George           Barzan

 

Each day I spend a large portion of time trying to assist students in thinking. A simple thought yet rather difficult. Trying to encourage thought processes can be interesting as one student told me. “Mr. Bird why do we have to think it hurts my brain.” Sadly I hear that several times a day.

 

“There are lots of people who cannot think seriously without injuring their minds.”      John Jay Chapman

 

I keep a box of Band-Aids handy and have pulled them out occasionally for serious brain injury and surprise students with the offer when their brains hurt.

 

            “No matter how hard you work for success if your thought is saturated with the fear of         failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success            impossible.” Baudjuin

 

            “A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which   does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

 

Thought processes are often bewildering. I was sitting here typing and thinking and went to type, Ge, and was thinking and spelling and got to Geo and couldn’t hit the “o” key I wanted to hit “r” but thought process and fingers got caught. I was looking at “o” and wanted to type “r”, actually paused for a second to rationalize.

 

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by            selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow   that never leaves them.” Buddha

 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

 

Interesting as I look at these two remarks from several thousand years ago. Today psychologists will say the same thing. I say the same thing without quoting Buddha every day. But so many people do not really think about where there are.

 

“Man is what he believes.” Anton Chekhov

 

It is so difficult to explain this to students really to anyone. Yet great coaches around the country have been proving this for years. My youngest son is an avid sport trivia fan while still not on par with the great trivia authority and good friend Jimmy Hughes, my son is pretty good. He will ask many times who do I think is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches. Although usually the question is “dad don’t you think Spurrier is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches”. I like it when he leaves me an out, he didn’t mention a sport and I can throw out John Wooden or Dan Gable or even more recent Paul Hewitt and really get him going. “Well what about Coach K then”, thinking though is the goal and that he does.

 

            “The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes   rather than their minds.” Walter Duranty

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains       definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

 

I recall my middle son’s senior year. He was near the top in his class and always an excellent student. Due to scheduling he was unable to take the honors English course he wanted to and had to take regular senior English with the rest of humanity. He has a slug sitting next to him who every day would ask to copy his homework. My son got to where his responses were classic, one that stuck with me went something like this “We all make mistakes and in all honesty I truly believe this is all correct. But what if I am wrong and I allow you to copy and then you receive a failing grade and your life is ruined I will not be able to live with that. So no, I cannot allow you to copy. If you fail I want it to be you who fail not me helping you too”.

 

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through     our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We             can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think             about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

 

Each moment is unique and each uniquely different. As we are wandering the pathways of life they can tire you. You might stop to sip a cup of water midst the turmoil of the day and to move on past the strife. Each day we have choices to make we have opportunity and we have disaster waiting. It is that light bulb going off like in the old cartons over our heads that makes the difference. Sitting in my sanctuary of my class room at school in the darkness of morning thinking and pondering as I say that makes the difference. As my moments draw down and it becomes time for stage two of today 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

 

How capable do we need to be?

Bird Droppings August 28, 2016

How capable do we need to be?

 

What a contrast to only a few weeks ago as the sun was shining and the moon was full as I went out in the wee hours with a crystal clear sky. There was a gentle wind blowing, wind chimes ringing peacefully and a beautiful smile of a moon gazing at me between the clouds, pines and oak trees. I had to stand in the chill and just look at the stars and moon and listen to our chimes from the back yard for a moment as I took our dog out. Life is a wonderful thing and what we make of it is literally up to us. Today I will try and get some sunrise photos a bit later in the morning. It is still a few weeks till day light savings kicks in and the sun does not come up till I am on bus duty at school.

I stopped at my favorite spot for getting sunrise photos Sunday and nothing I was a bit too late so I headed into the school to write and take care of a few errands. As I was looking out of my rear view mirror a sunrise was exploding across the sky. I did a quick U-turn heading to my spot a gray sky again. So I began to think and ponder from my wonderful start to that day. As I thought back to Sunday and missing a Sunrise or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time had I not been in such a hurry I would have caught another beautiful sunrise. I addressed moments yesterday and here I am not listening to my own words two more minutes sitting and I would have witnessed a beautiful sunrise. I chose to go for the bigger picture and ignore the moment. So I am one for three this week on sunrises. This does not make me a very capable sunrise chaser.

As always random ideas get me pondering. When applying for a job and that could be any job, does not capability come into play. When discussing this I am assuming that capability is the ability to do that particular job. Several events have taken place over the past few days and one from several months back. It has been some time since I received a sheet of paper with six questions, a voluntary questionnaire on diversification. I answered honestly and do feel diversification does not get the best person for the job. Are we effectively teaching about cultures when we mandate diversification?

It is interesting in that my own lineage of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and welsh miners diversity has never come up. Nor has it with my great grandmothers tribe the Leni Lenape, part of the Delaware Nation. Perhaps they are not significant enough although very unique cultures though they may be. So I am with mixed emotions on one hand listening to a student teacher who feels social studies is the place to combat racism in high school and then my own conviction that I still consider rednecks an ethnic group provides for great discussion . How do we challenge racism? My wife came home and said she had a patient who said she would only go to American, (meaning white) doctors. So this morning before I ran over to the school as I sat on my porch the breeze was cool blowing through the trees, I thought wondering what is it that drives us. I read a Facebook blog recently indicating racism is genetic. I would argue that point strongly it is learned period.

 

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” Franklin Thomas

 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I answered my questionnaire and even wrote on the back until we begin hiring the best person, go to the best health care provider, and stop thinking, as this statement so clearly states stop looking, at the amount of melanin in our skin or not. Are we not all homo sapiens? We are not different species.

 

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

 

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches and Public Letters

 

Over the years I have read numerous books and articles on Native American culture and one in particular has hit deep, the book Neither wolf nor dog, by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn edits the words of an old Lakota Sioux who feels compelled to express the differences between the Native Americans and whites, hence the title neither wolf nor dog.

 

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown

 

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” Author Unknown

 

How do we entangled out realities to a point where we become so embroiled in differences and how is it we forget to treat each man as a brother. Where do we get this hatred? Many consider racism a learned behavior and to date I have not read anything in research that ascribe racism to a genetic code and or DNA. Therefore it is learned and if so can be unlearned and modified.

 

“I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government.” Cissy Farenthold

 

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.”  Desmond Tutu

 

Arch Bishop Tutu meeting with The Dalai Lama happened several years ago and that is something I really would enjoy to hear and see. These two great human beings at one place and one time speaking and discussing. I missed an opportunity to hear Desmond Tutu when he was in Atlanta as a quest lecturer at Emory University several years back. Having had ties business wise to South Africa for nearly forty years we often had inside information on the happenings there. I recall my father coming home and relating happenings at a check point between Zimbabwe and South Africa and how he was coached as to what to say when rebels stuck automatic weapons in the car windows. I recall reading an article recently about the rise of aids in South Africa and a comment my brother made after a recent trip. He said he was told that left as it currently is the aids epidemic will wipe out blacks in South Africa in ten years. Sort of makes you wonder about conspiracy theories however in the days since foundations from around the world have turned the tide on Aids and while still a serious threat slowly getting some control.

 

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

In 1968 I was in Texas going to college and at that time in that place racial hatred was not against blacks but Native Americans. I saw it rampant as comments were made and people responded. It was a carryover from the old west and the Indian wars. Even as recently as 1992 when traveling in Oklahoma I witnessed firsthand the racism against those who were here first.

 

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  Merry Browne – “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  Ralph W. Sockman

 

Listening to comments from a student teacher recently about how we need to do this and that and show this and that and then thinking to my reading of this questionnaire on diversity. You learn racism if that is a given then you also learn tolerance. You also learn to accept others, I recall from years gone by a story of a man injured on his journey.

 

“A certain man went down from Lawrenceville to Atlanta, and fell among car jackers, which stripped him of his clothes, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain preacher that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Lawyer, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain man of another color, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on peroxide and gave him some drink, and set him in his own car, and brought him to an emergency room, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two hundred dollars, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said the teacher unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Borrowing from my seminary days a slight paraphrase, Frank Bird III Ed.S. D.D.

 

A bit of paraphrase a bit of whimsy but not really how many times have headlines shown people standing by as someone is mugged or even murdered. We are all neighbors, we are all brothers, we are all equal in this life and as the sign as you leave the Ocmulgee National Park in Macon Georgia states that we are all connected. 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

Checking the toes for mittens

Bird Droppings August 27, 2016

Bird Droppings August 27, 2016

Checking the toes for mittens

 

It has been some time since one of my granddaughters was showing off her new hat and mittens. It was quite a sight clad in a t-shirt, diaper, mittens and ski cap that looked like a penguin she was showing off for us. Finally she realized crawling was a bit harder in mittens and did her best to get them off. Last weekend we spent a little time cleaning the garage and my eldest son found an old CD, Harry Chapin’s greatest hits. Jokingly he said it would end up in my CD changer in the car and sure enough it wasn’t twenty minutes till I had an excuse to listen to it. Harry Chapin has been gone for many years now but the lyrics of his songs live on.

 

“You can travel ten thousand miles and never leave where you are.” Harry Chapin

 

I was pondering this as I came upstairs to work on my computer today. I went out to sit and think late in the day yesterday and several Facebook posts later recalled another incident. About six years ago a tenth grader at the high school had been killed in a four wheeler accident. Within minutes Facebook was popping with notes of condolence and thoughts for the little girl and family as well as for another tenth grader severely injured in the accident. In my office at school is a photo from several years ago of a teenager who died in a car crash right after graduation. She and I had been good friends with her coming to my room to talk about her problems on many occasions. The night of graduation she led me around taking pictures with various friends. Each one specific and after fifty or so we parted ways for the festivities. I hugged her after the ceremony and did not see her again till a text while in graduate school in South Georgia caught me by surprise. She had died in a car accident and the funeral was two days away. Death seems to never take time off.

 

After last period yesterday a student whom I have never really had, walked in and I asked what was going on. He was complaining about a substitute teacher and how she did not get along with the class. She wanted them in assigned seats and took roll and wanted quiet. It got me thinking to perception and how in a recent observation by an Assistant Principal was so different than several we have had over the years. I do change how I do things quite often always looking for the best way. As I read through my evaluation from the AP’s observation I was very happy and what amused was how he saw so differently than did last year’s AP who was observing the same situations. One saw twenty six kids each working on differing assignments as great and one saw nonconformity.

 

I had several visits from teachers and staff that had never been in my room each was amazed and almost in wonderment sort of wide eyed as they walked around even had one person said they were coming back for an official tour. Some how many former students and often former student’s buddies’ end up coming by my sanctuary to talk often about nothing in particular. That was the case here a former student from four years ago and this fellow stopped by later in the day yesterday as well. It was a busy day. Currently my room was set up for a biology lab and is closer to my room of several years ago

 

“The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Gaylord Nelson

 

As the day ended yesterday students cleared the halls I headed over to chat with some friends. I stopped at several points that I normally do and a substitute teacher finds me and asks about a particular student that was very disrespectful to her and by chance the room where we met is coincidental as it is that teacher has this student as well and similar thoughts. He is a very negative student, belligerent and very disrespectful to authority. I think back to how different my observations were from two different people and how different these two saw this student I see so different.

 

“To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakable perfect miracle.” Walt Whitman

 

Perhaps a seemingly random thought as I look at this morning so far. I was cleaning up my email inbox and as I went various quotes and stories sent from friends and associates I was copying and pasting to a word document. So this is a random quote simply pulled from the thin air, or for whatever reason not deleted many days ago, or is it coincidence that each quote and story today really is applicable. As I look back at the teacher and substitute teacher and student, are they looking at life as Whitman suggests? Why is this student reacting the way that he is? My good friend Dr. James Sutton a psychologist in Texas addresses many of these types of teacher-student issues in his books. I just had a great idea for Dr. Sutton he could have for teachers a 900 number to call for help with difficult students.

 

But in reality there is a Mindset with the teacher and student often from day one. Something is there with that student that is blocking or keeping him at a distance. The result is turmoil between teacher and student. Every day I have other teachers come by can you do this for me?  I emailed a friend, I need to put a sign out by my room you need testing, advice, short essays, whatever stop in. Then it dawned on me, many of these students will not do anything for some teachers. In order to fairly evaluate, try and get that essay written in an unbiased place with someone who is not fighting with or in a tension with that student. Actually that’s not a bad idea for today. I wish I thought of it I need to email that teacher or two or three and commend them.

 

“Never think that I believe I should set out a “system of teaching” to help people understand the way. Never cherish such a thought. What I proclaim is the truth as I have discovered it and “a system of teaching” has no meaning because the truth can’t be cut up into pieces and arranged in a system.” Diamond Sutra

 

Not a good rationale for curriculum, but I do think in terms of life and relationships this very definitely applies. Far too often we tend to look at life as it is this way period. If I go over here it is the same. If I go over here it is still the same. I remember a teaching job in Macon I took on substituting. I was expecting little nice 12 year olds and when I got there the average age was 15 and in those days EBD wasn’t sorted out they were just all in that class. I survived day one to plan for day two and all went well. It is so difficult to try and treat everything in education as neat and clean. Trying to understand a student that is different in terms of the “nice” perfect kids is not going to work. So what truths do we set down what principles can guide us in dealing with a kid who is disrespectful.

 

“If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” William Penn

 

Sitting on my desk is a four inch by four inch board, one of those art projects decoupage on a board and with cute burnt edges is this quote from William Penn. It was given to me over thirty five years ago in Macon Georgia by a student from that first class of hooligans. We have all heard the saying about do not complain till you have walked a mile in my shoes. Howard Eubanks a teacher in North Georgia emailed me this story almost eight years ago.

 

“Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost cried when the little boy said, ‘Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.’ She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet. He then announced, ‘These aren’t my boots.’ She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to, and once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner than they got the boots off he said, ‘They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ’em.’ Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry, but she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again. Helping him into his coat, she asked, ‘Now, where are your mittens?’ He said, ‘I stuffed ’em in the toes of my boots’”

 

How many times each day with students do we forget to check the toes for mittens? We want everything just so perfect little darlings all in rows and little cute name tags and all in cute little outfits and quiet and neat handwriting and so forth. We really are trying to pull boots on every day and every class with mittens in the toes.

 

In a high school class it is hard to walk in and poof all is well. It is hard for many teachers to check all the cowboy boots for mittens. When you think there is a problem try and build fail safes, have a core group of teachers you can check with. Maybe there is an issue with that kid maybe his mittens are really stuck in there deep. So many teachers would much more rather write a referral and teach by referral. If all my students are in, In School Suspension I will have a really great day. I will have to admit there are students when I see they are out I cheer but I do it under my breath and to myself. But I am finding many teachers just do not want that chance, they do not want to look for mittens they may soil their hands. School custodians will always provide paper towels I have found and for the squeamish use the gloves in your first aid kit. I am being literal in a symbolic thought. Thank goodness it is Friday, although when I woke up I thought it was Thursday, wait it is still Thursday. Many years ago a friend sent this email note.

 

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Ride! ” not sure where or who said this but a slight alteration – “Teaching should NOT be a journey to the end of the day with the intention of arriving safely with perfect attendance and all A students all in order and lesson plans in an attractive and well preserved lesson plan book, but rather to skid in sideways, Ideas in one hand – Creativity in the other, energy thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Day! “

 

I bumped into another teacher after school yesterday and they asked how was my day and I said “I had a blast” I really should have said I think I found about a dozen pairs of mittens. So I sit pondering a day after another almost over great week of remembering so many pieces along the way. Please my friends 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

 

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

Bird Droppings August 26, 2016

Our perceptions vary greatly about life

 

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

 

It was sixteen years ago I was waiting to go teach again after having spent nearly twenty three years in the publishing business. I was anxious to say the least. I had gone by the high school and signed a few forms and talked with the principal for an hour or so. Then the next day came and within hours I was immersed in a day I will not forget. It was my first day back teaching. While I spent most of the day locked in a room in a school lock down because of the 9-11 bombing I still introduced myself to my charges and we did get to know each other.

 

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Each moment, is for each of us different and as I use the word over and over our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson so eloquently states “the same world is a hell and a heaven” depending on how you take it. How we live life and our reactions can be construed much the same way.

 

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

 

We live in a world of contrast black, white and a swirling of gray then somewhere there is a dividing line to separate the differences. Our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the variations is our dealing with life.

 

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

 

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

 

Many years ago I recall a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who each morning would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water. One was new and held every drop all the way from the river to the house. The other jug had a crack in it and a steady stream of water leaked out all the way from the river to the house. Often when arriving at the house the cracked jug would be literally empty. One day the new jug most boastful said to the cracked jug how can you be so happy you never complete your task each day all your water leaks out and you come home empty. The cracked jug said smiling and never once upset, “have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day.

 

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

 

I find this so true in high school among students; some who are so capable simple choose to just pass. “I have a seventy I am passing that’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work each aspect of their endeavor. Every difficult sentence a chore but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Graduation test five times each time she would be closer gaining points as she went, finally she passed by two points. I have read how the school board has again passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy. Sadly within that are the girls and guys who do try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but because of ability. Yet they are in jeopardy of not walking at graduation.

 

I have read numerous times how we need to uphold that standard but it is a faulty one there are exceptions and another young lady is one and her mother and she were ones that fought last year to walk. She received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off. She took testing classes studied hard and had been a good student all twelve years, she was an honor student. She wasn’t a person, who did not deserve to walk she tried more than many that did walk, but our view is of a failure and we punished her at graduation time. She quit school the last week and went on to get a GED.

 

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge 

 

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down and perception is radically different.

 

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

 

So often we limit ourselves we set up the road blocks and stop dead in our tracks all possibility of success.

 

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

 

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale  

 

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make; there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson  

 

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. Last week as I was helping someone do a paper a question was asked “when did racism start was it during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man, some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal man at signs of racism with Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with more information more knowledge more data to compile and their response is what had been looked at one way has become different.

 

“There are times when you just get down, you feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

 

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone who was famous as a model and actually then made it bigger as an actress. She at one point as her modeling career started to dwindle thought all was over but interestingly enough now she models perhaps more now that she is famous as an actress.

 

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

 

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in life Col. Sanders literally changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame and it was their attitude that did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work.

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden 

 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

 

Every day I hear a student blame a teacher for being a sorry teacher I have never yet heard a student say they were a sorry student. But I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy “its passing” and so where does the blame lie if in effect blame is appropriate. We choose and we choose to fail or succeed. We are the culprits not a teacher, not the book and not the class we choose. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

A community requires contributions of self

Bird Droppings August 25, 2016

A community requires contributions of self

 

We have become a world of self-centered egotists which I know is a generalization of perhaps a bit too much. However in education building an educational school community has consistently been shown to improve schools effectiveness yet we always seem to turn in other directions. Forced from above usually a new test or new curriculum for example is required versus the building of community. A bit down the lines I use a quote from Roy L. Smith, author and biblical scholar that gives emphasis to my first point.

 

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

 

Each of us lives in a society, possibly a community and as much as we choose, so often it is to be individuals. We are members of and interact within that group that we chose to be within. It is the vitality of that group and the development and growth within that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally, and spiritually of the members, the society exists because of the interactions.

 

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

 

We have to be working together moving forward and as humans do so often much time is wasted fighting, arguing, and bickering among ourselves and motion or growth is limited and stifled.

 

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

 

Watching high school students form clicks, groups, and other circles of friends and adults join clubs, social groups, and again other circles they chose to join, we tend to be a selfish animals. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us even in limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. even sharing a simple task can be so often a distant one. Old TV humor even plays on this subject. In several episodes of old Seinfeld and Will and Grace sit coms, the represent giving as a chore, or a burden. The characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I looked for quotes and thoughts the following idea was found and intrigued me.

 

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

 

Wright was speaking literally. Yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still devour, psychologically, spiritually, culturally and inadvertently often destroy them.

 

As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

 

“The most difficult we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

 

Just before school was out last year, in a project assignment several students simply, “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question, they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad, was not the issue it was over.

 

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

 

I read this quote and saw an answer, if you truly do not appreciate yourself; your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply is taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over still you wait just as the rest do so is there any benefit. A favorite catch word “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself”. As we enter the middle of a week, our worlds is troubled and sore please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

Maybe change is around the corner sooner than we think?

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird