Seeking perfection in a world full of mud

Bird Droppings March 28, 2017
Seeking perfection in a world full of mud

“I have found there are those who can write and speak fluently and yet do not have anything to say and then there are those who have something to say who may not be so fluent. The big question is who do, you listen too?” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

On Friday I overheard a conversation about grammar and how poorly students in school are at grammar. The consensus was we need to drill them in grammar, correct sentence structure, syntax, complex compound sentences, covalent bonds, distorted warped lines, rational equations and retroactive participles. Oh brother and the list continue on. The word hablar, translated from Spanish means to work. In Spanish classes we also learned to conjugate that verb in thousands of ways and I can’t remember any of them. So I guess I can’t say to work in Spanish in masculine past tense future. So what is my point maybe an illustration a story of sorts before I go on?

Once there was a young man who went to a great educational institution far away he was a smart child and knew much of life, he too was an athlete and a very fast runner strong and powerful was he, as he came to the school he saw an opportunity to became a member of an elite group of athletes that were participating in a sport he knew well. The throwing of a disc and scoring points which goes by the name in laymen’s terms of ultimate Frisbee. He proceeded to try out but the team was skilled beyond his knowledge in the ways of technique and plays, precision ruled as the players each knew where to be for play 234 and executed exactly time and again. He was not allowed to play with them. He searched for a team and soon found himself with a group who at first did not want him because he was young and unproven, however soon in his strength he prevailed and was the leading scorer, and soon the team he joined was numero uno and the prefect team was not. They had not won a game. All of their plays were prefect and every player was where there were to be but the other teams were elsewhere scoring.

“If a man should happen to reach perfection in this world, he would have to die immediately to enjoy himself.” Josh Billings

I am not against learning how to do something correctly even perfectly but if that consumes you in your endeavor and you fail to move forward then you are lost. When crossing a stream and you finally start and after much preparation your shoes are exactly right and water proof shirt and pants just in case. As you step to the first rock carefully measuring and gauging your steps for the next and so forth soon you attain rock two. Maybe you will cross the stream and maybe being so intent on the destination and your effort to get there you miss the journey and all around you is so much more.

“You can spend a lifetime, and, if you’re honest with yourself, never once was your work perfect.” Charleston Hesston

“The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.” Doug Larson
Perhaps I have gone slightly over board, would I want to be on a surgical table with a surgeon who was not perfect or really in any field would it matter. The issue becomes what is perfect? Was it the poor guys whose plays are flawless but cannot respond to another team’s changes, they will never succeed? Could it be the writer who has errorless form but not a single thought, that person will never write a story. Perhaps it is the surgeon who is perfect and yet can’t talk to a patient to explain what is going on and then what. Life is filled with paradox.

“I have always suspected that correctness is the last refuge of those who have nothing to say.” Friedrich Wasiman

“The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, and if it takes the second must refuse a heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.” William Butler Yeats

As I sit here this morning spinning ideas out, we should truly seek to learn to know to understand, how to try and be perfect in what we do yet always be able to see past and never look down on those who may not know what you know. As I sit reading back over my sentences interspersed with thoughts ideas and ramblings, punctuated with dashes and words and many time no capitals I wonder. Recently I questioned a friend about her emails where she leaves the word I always I, a small i and what is funny it spell checks it large so I assumed it was a deliberate effort on her part to do, an artsy sort of poetic thing turns out she just was lazy and didn’t push cap key.

“It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.” Joseph Addison

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Angelique Arnauld

“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” Lord Chesterfield

I guess my issue my point is we can be perfect and still make sense and you can make perfect sense and still not be perfect but it is how you go at it if you have done your best and continue to try and improve your direction is good, or as Lord Chesterfield said many give up because perfection is so unattainable they think. I recall one of my favorite lines, “CHOOSE WISELY” said the old knight in Indiana Jones and the search for the Holy Grail, and now I will continue my day here on an Easter Sunday seeking perfection in the mud of an imperfect world, I shall go onward and forward. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and please have a glorious week as we march into April tomorrow and spring has sprung and always give thanks namaste.

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

 

Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

Bird Droppings March 27, 2017
Inability of surmounting learning difficulties

 

It has been a few days since my last post. I have been extremely occupied. Last week several doctor appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and more doctors made it a crazy week. It seems my gall bladder has got the best of me. One day this week we will part ways. Hopefully I will get a bit more back on track in my writings.  In what theoretically could be my last IEP meeting the student was reaffirmed yes you do have a deficit in math. However choosing to not do the work and or even try is choice. AS a Junior wanting to graduate next year you have to choose do you want to get out of school or not. There is nothing I can pull out of my bag of magic tricks.

 

Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

 

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

 

An interesting start to a morning thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from John Dewey and the other a British novelist with over thirty four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

 

I was watching a student working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.

 

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several who are world class procrastinators but watching this student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

 

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

 

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

 

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

 

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that trick, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, Author Unknown

 

I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

 

Can we really find answers?

Bird Droppings March 20, 2017
Can we really find answers?

 

Several years ago I would have said there were answers to almost any question that could be asked. Today sitting here I wonder granted first you have to ask what is the question or questions but I have a different attitude now sort of one that is allowing for an unanswerable question. When I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his solutions which was a rather simple solution to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first and as I ponder education is it too pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions no need to check (assess) at the end of the line. Is it too high and mighty to offer that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test if the quality is built in?
When other than the day a holiday would I be sitting pondering, eating a ham and cheese omelet and sipping a real strong black tea with agave nectar over ice and waiting on a sunrise to pose such a question. A bit disappointed no sunrise with the cloud cover. But Deming’s ideas keeping coming back to me and I will diverse a bit in my thoughts as I wander to a discussion that came up yesterday with a regular education teacher a good friend who has concerns as well on education.
I was working on an idea on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric which in and of its self is a way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note what is even available? I had a brainstorm which was in part due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur and parents do not even know. For nearly fifteen years I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure. This concept ties also into the current discussion of educational issues being decided by non-educational people with our state and federal legislators.
I met several years back at a conference a care giver who provides daily living assistance for several Asperger’s syndrome and autistic young men in a group home sort of setting. One of the young men who lived in this facility was also involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives essentially on his own and not only has Asperger’s syndrome which is a high function form of autism but is legally blind as well. Sadly for years the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). The care giver who works for an organization that is involved with disabled adults who need some assistance referred to knowing the person well, many times. He and this young man have a language many would not understand actually part of this young man’s disorder idiosyncrasies that the care giver has learned to understand.
So often in schools and workplaces we want all the ducks in a row and someone who is a bit different doesn’t fit in so push them aside. Charter schools the big reform answer in and of its nature limits what students can come to that particular school with its charter. I could not help but think of IEP’s and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement, a rubric and Deming. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class but I can’t count the times education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked two teachers walking the hallways of knowledge we discussed opening the box. So often we limit as I think Deming’s pointed out when we have “the inspection” we only really get what we ask for. This has actually been researched in industry numerous times if you want to find twenty percent defective parts you will get twenty percent defective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing and we get seventy percent from many.
I have watched meetings in which the group set IEP goals of eighty percent compliance on a behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that myself back in several of my high school and college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is literally exactly what Deming’s is saying, you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits and or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully the last one perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from we measure friendship hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box ready format but we measure friendship in love and in emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart and we are off to educate.

 

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

This can apply in so many different fields including education but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests if given to ninth graders they would come close to passing in effect if they are capable of passing the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is in developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

 

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

 

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect as from past experiences which are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production even in our own view of things. I am always reminded of first impressions and first impressions are based on past experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment and we need as those parents offered over and over to get to know the real person not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open ended rubric some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits and that is an interesting venture for the day ahead and week ahead planting, gardening, mowing and reading. 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

Can we teach again a love of learning

Bird Droppings March 17, 2017
Can we teach again a love of learning

 

This has been a perplexing time of my life. A few weeks back a car wreck young man was killed and his passenger who was a good friend of my youngest son was severely injured. My thoughts rambled back to when I drove to my son’s accident site and watched as medics pulled him out of his car and life flight took him to Grady Memorial Hospital. We were called to a staff meeting first thing and told of one of our teachers who had been in an accident and there were fatalities. She was ok but in the other car two died. Lives were changed radically in a brief few minutes as I read posts in Social Media. I co-teach with this teacher and went ito class unsure of what to say and do. I shared my heart yesterday and most walked away as they do so often with blank stares, ear phones plugged in and or giggles about a friends texting. I saw the apathy we as adults have taught so well.

 

It has been a few years back when a young lady who happens to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt same colors and sequence of colors but no confederate flags. The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning or colors. I watch the politics play out and the colors are there for sure.

 

“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela

 

I recall a year or so ago and a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why do we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweat shirt and my students reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever as an answer. Whatever is a quitter’s statement. Had that student answered with arguable statements from the rightwing Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.

 

“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sense, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha

 

I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and somewhere between the two quotes is an answer. I have never being satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.
How do we re-instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black elected in a general election, and to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison nearly twenty seven years.

 

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. “ Nelson Mandela

 

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom

 

Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helped South Africa in their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.

 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. “ Albert Einstein

 

Why children stop questioning and stop desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough.

 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another.

 

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.

 

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall which ever comes first. As a child I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barn yard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.

 

“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day a thousand times over. “Kent Nerburn, On Education and Learning

 

I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before too and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one. It has been nearly fifty years since it was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret what gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and answer. Please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird
 

As a teacher we should always be near the edge

Bird Droppings March 15, 2017
As a teacher we should always be near the edge

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

The sacredness of finding Foxfire in the Kalahari Desert

Bird Droppings March 14, 2017
The sacredness of finding Foxfire in the Kalahari Desert

 

I have known about Foxfire for nearly fifty years since I bought my first copy of a Foxfire book in 1972 or so. Since that time coincidence as it may be I have taken courses in the Foxfire approach to teaching and attended several as a learning facilitator. I was excited as my oldest son participated as a part of his graduate studies getting his first taste of Foxfire six summers ago. Hopefully come soon I will again journey up into the mountains of North Georgia again to sit in and rekindled many fond memories among my Foxfire friends
I got a bit earlier start than I normally do and with the weather changing again cold weather and a chance of rain supposedly coming in it was easy to be moving fast. Traffic is not bad for me going to work early as I do and allows me time if I have errands to run or extra paperwork to do at school. I recall just a few weeks ago driving up to the mountains what I thought would be a two hour drive eventually came near to a three hour journey. I avoided some traffic by taking a different route than normal and went sort of cross country which led to an integral part of the day.

 

As I came up an exit ramp a red tailed hawk swooped directly in front of me banking and sailing right back across the road exposing its red tail fully spread. So many people would simply pass that off but such a wonderful sight for me I wonder about what are the odds for me to take a drive and be at that place at that moment. Last Saturday while standing in line at my corner store an elderly man came in frustrated, “by God that hawk just missed me” he half way stammered out. He went on to describe a red tailed hawk and how it swooped in front of his truck crossing the road. Always it seems coincidence.
To get back on track, I often think back to me first visit to the Foxfire property as we sat down after a tour of the museum and property which I still enjoy even after listening fifty times or more. It was the late and great Robert Murray, the resident expert who would tell of folklore and wisdom as he guided the group through the numerous cabins and mountain buildings. A plant here and there and a bit of lichen all had symbolic and often medicinal applications to the people of Appalachia. We started our meeting with a first for that group an exercise entitled connections. This was an opportunity for members in the group to bond and become more of a community which is a crucial part of the Foxfire principles. Most were silent a word or two here and there and then I offered how I considered this place sacred. So many families and traditions, love, faith, prayers, hopes and lives had drifted through the various buildings all collected on the property. I interpret sacred in this manner.

 

“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, Witness to the last days of man

It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der Post book. Somehow in an email or comment along the way I went looking for this author and a prolific author he was. As I researched over the years and of course I went to Amazon.com where I was greeted with sixty three pages of his books and variations and edited versions and even translations were available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and had been everywhere and done everything it seems. One good trivia point is that he was Prince William of Great Britain’s God father. He was the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He also had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago.
Von der Post’s writings while some covered his travels worldwide that which he is best known for are also and especially for me some of the best stories are of the African bush. One of these books, “A Far Away Place” was made into a family movie it is of children and their trek in the African wilds. But permeating all his writing a fascination with a nearly lost people they call themselves “The Sans” but are know more commonly as the African Bushman. Biologically the Bushmen are the oldest distinct group of humans on earth.

 

“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 teacher friends and somehow I can always get to Foxfire. We dabbled with the pros and cons of public education, and of course applications of Foxfire teaching methods. In one discussion it somehow went the direction with introjections of indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I sited a unique program in Brazil which as well of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization the land is kept intact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out.
It was in that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Yesterday as well I sat longer than I usually do standing outside listening to the night. When I finally got home and went to write my time was limited and I hurriedly jotted down a thought from the day and an email to a student who had an issue. It was the series of events; I often use the term coincidences happening yesterday that led me to my thinking today.

 

“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 in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed that day. It seems their child was acting out and my rambling about a student had produced several ideas for them.

 

“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 was sitting and thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas, I came back to that class way back when I had driven up to learn about Foxfire teaching techniques. As I thought while reading several passages this morning in Von der Post’s book “The Lost world of the Kalahari” 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 paintings on the rocks of the Kalahari. Evidently the last painter was killed in a genocide attack by South African soldiers and no one within the tribe knew how to take over.
As I thought about students walking the halls and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet in graduate classes it really dawned on me I was where I was to be and doing what I was to do. I felt I was offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. I never thought forty years ago I would be that hope, be that wisdom, or be that talking about a bushmen 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, Jung and the Story of Our Time, p.47

 

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back almost fifteen or so years ago an author James Redfield wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript “The Celestine Prophecy”. He was trying to explain what he saw happening in his own life. Carl G. Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity, which I simplify and say simply I am at the right place at the right moment.
What is amazing is when you look at life that way you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight I like the very first quote, “a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post . To borrow from the Foxfire website:

“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.” http://www.foxfire.org/teachi.html

 

Where and how do the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Foxfire and coincidence all tie in perhaps by 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 which then can lead to further 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. Each day I ask for everyone to 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

Going to school again for the first time

Bird Droppings March 13, 2017
Going 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 town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines 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 eleven 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.

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