Always try and see through eyes wide open

Bird Droppings May 25, 2016
Always try and see through eyes wide open

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

It has been nearly ten years since we last moved and seems we might stay here a while. I recall ten or eleven years back when we made several quick moves and one time as I removed the last bits and pieces from our then house and bagged up the trash putting it on the pile sort of like saying goodbye. As I drove over to our new house I was wondering about where and when and why. I remember several emails had been about our move, they were sorry we had to move or sorry since moving is so hard.

Moving is hard, always hard I am finding as I get older. We had raised our kids in a house for nearly 23 years that I built in the middle of several hundred acres. Since that time we have moved four times, but in our moves there was a temporary sense hard to explain and then we moved here there is something a bit different as I plant my herb garden a sense of permanency. I was thinking of expanding my garden this spring, maybe planting tomatoes, squash, and a few beans, actually have some Anazai bean seeds from heritage heirloom seeds. First time in some years I had even considered that. I am still stiff in my old age from the little yard work I currently do but the thought of a garden somehow made the day brighter. Granted I have a kid from my advisement working part time to do heavy lifting which does cause me trouble.

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” R. I. Fitzhenry

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

So often during the day I will check the weather just pull up the weather on the internet and check radar pictures from the southeast and see what projections are to be had. Will it be rain or be cold or combinations of both I check the predictions about tomorrow’s weather just so I can plan my gardening. Yesterday on channel 2 a weather person made a comment about the cold front pushing from the Midwest and how this mass of artic air high pressure was the highest at 30.99 inches he had ever seen. As I came home yesterday a small bird flew into the open screen door of the back porch and puzzled by the space that she was confined within flitting about clinging to a wire back to a closed door thud, back to the wire.

I carefully walked to where the bird continually went to an opened the door. I talked for several minutes to the little bird calmly reassuring it all was fine several times during our conversation as it looked constantly for an out reminded me of my students eyeing the door to escape and freedom. The bird flew to the window sill and out the door. I apologized to the bird for leaving the door open and said comeback any time. I will need bird seed today to fill feeders just in case my new friend understands English.

But as I wander aimlessly we have forgotten an aspect of our world that we once knew. In a disaster in Asia several years ago the stories tell of a tribe of fisherman who listened to their elders and safely moved to the mountains. The elders had read the sea and knew what was coming. Today we count on radar and air pressure but in days gone by a small birds antics may have been enough. Does a squirrel gathering more food mean a hard winter? Why in Asia did so many animals move away from the impending disaster?
“Man shapes himself through decisions that shape his environment.” Rene Dubes
“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success — or are they holding you back?” W. Clement Stone
Within certain parameters we alter and manipulate that around us yet we find ourselves at the mercy of our environment as well. Snow storms paralyze cities and rainfall creates devastation in other areas. Yet we think we control our environment. I keep thinking back to the first quote today and the simplicity so often of Dolly Pardons words. It has been several years since Matthew my youngest son and I were driving back to the college when the sky lit up after a rain the entire landscape was gold from the brilliant rainbow and soon a second joined it and the road and countryside were bathed in light literally I understood the search for gold at the ends of rainbows it was so brilliant. But we drove through rain to get there.

I have wandered through so much today it is how we look at what we see that is so important and seeing what we see. We have lost so much in our ability to see and to understand. Many years ago my wife and I attended several concerts presented by Harry Chapin, a very active and avid environmentalist and out spoken in that regards. But he was a songwriter extraordinaire. A song came to mind today as I wandered about in my thinking and finishing of my graduate papers. It is a song of rainbows, of seeing the world with different eyes, and of understanding. The song is entitled “Flowers are red” the words and music are by Harry Chapin. Please if you get a chance pull up the utube version and listen to this song. It is a powerful song in its simplicity.

Flowers are red
By Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one
And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen
But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one
Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..
And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen
But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one
The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said
Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have bee
Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one
But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said
Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

What a powerful voice we have as teachers. It has been teachers that taught children not to listen to the elders, and instead to listen to the news and weather stations because science knows all. It has been teachers who stopped watching squirrels gather nuts and it has been teachers who altered our environment with new ideas and changed all the flowers to red and leaves to green. The sad part is some will say that is what we are to do as teachers. That is what the Common Core or QCC’s or whatever curriculum we are doing is about, uniformity. So I write each morning for the teachers who like rain because rainbows follow and watch for leaves changing colors and who see flowers in many colors and can share that enthusiasm with students and inspire and change our world. 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

Always on my mind and in my heart

Bird Droppings May 24, 2016
Always on my mind and in my heart

I was standing outside on this moonlit night gazing at the stars and clouds sliding by quietly in the night. A chorus of tree frogs and crickets kept me company in the dark. It is coming on summer the ambient temperature is high enough for plenty of chirping this morning. I recall one day my mother mentioned seeing my father and she woke up during the night. She asked me about my father does he come to you. I calmly said yes.

Thinking back, the summer of 2007 holds many moments of sadness and still flitting around in the sadness many moments of joy. It was in May I received a call to front office and was told to call my wife, I knew immediately something was wrong as she never calls the school for me other than emergency. My father in law had drowned while fishing at his favorite lake in middle Georgia. In June one evening I was driving down to hear my son present his rendition of “Knocking on Heavens door” at a talent show after spending a few moments with my mother and father. Early the next morning my mother called to tell me my father had passed in the night. Both of these fathers were veterans. My wife’s father served in the Air Force for twenty five years retired and went back into Civil Service it seems he was a pretty good mechanic on C-130’s. My father left college to enlist and served during World War II in the South Pacific in the Navy on an LSM delivering Marines and equipment to beach fronts throughout the area. I wrote on both days a dropping of sorts and would like to share them again today as a memorial to my two fathers.

May 3, 2007
I remember his hands

It has been nearly thirty years since I first saw his hands. I recall the day as those ugly big hands reached for mine to shake my hand as his daughter introduced me to him. Those Big ugly hands were creviced and creased from nearly fifty years of working on C-130 airplanes. Nearly fifty years of work etched into those hands with the black of oil and grease clinging to his finger nails so hard to clean off after tearing down and over-hauling engines so pilots could fly safely. Big ugly hands that I remember so clearly became beautiful reaching to hold his first grand son nearly thirty years ago.

For nearly thirty years I watched those hands fold in prayer at meals and in church services. I watched as he placed his big hand on his daughters shoulder as we were wed. I watched so many times as he would hold his big hands down for a grandchild to cling to steady them as they learned to walk. I remember his hands.

I remember hands that looked so clumsy from being so worn and frayed skillfully cut fine curves on jig saw as he made model cars and planes for his grandchildren. I remember wondering how could those big hands carve such a small propeller for such a tiny plane that would come to sit on my sons shelve now nearly twenty years. I would laugh as his hands cut out flowers and reindeers in mass for friends and family and as his big hands painted away in bright colors each one of those potential gifts. How I remember those hands.

I remember hands that could cook fish so good you had to eat a ton. I remember hands that could fix a car or repair a bike. I remember hands reaching for the food bowls at Thanksgiving dinner, filling his plate and then reaching for another roll. I remember those hands holding a bird house up as he nailed it to a post and filled his bird feeders in the back yard. I remember watching those big hands put another log on the fire and poke at the coals. I remember those hands.

I remember the day those hands last held a cigarette so many years ago. I remember those big hands putting up pictures of grandchildren in the living room. I remember those hands filling his thermos and getting an extra jacket to head for the races in Cordele Georgia and taking ear muffs for his grandson. I remember those hands holding an ear of corn as we listened to country music down at Mossy Creek so many times. I remember those hands.

I often joked of how funny it would seem as those big hands held such a small fishing pole and reel. I remember those hands and the passion for fishing and being on the lake. I remember my son catching his first fish and being hugged by those big hands. I remember those hands videotaping every single event in his grandkids lives. I remember watching as the boat was loaded and truck hooked up. I remember those hands.

As long as I have all of these memories he will be here or there and I can sit and tell my children about those big hands. I remember those hands. It is hard to ponder as I do that all I now have is those memories and will not see those big hands reaching, hugging, holding, fishing, praying and shaking my hand again. It was a long drive home as I thought about what to write and say as I remember this man. I do know I remember his hands. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

June 28, 2007
A new journey

I had dropped off some medicine yesterday afternoon at my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey.

I drove down to Oxford Georgia last evening to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I only drink Evian. Fortunately that is about my only idiosyncrasy.

As I headed from the county just before dusk a tall dead tree was standing to my left as I drove by. Stark and free from bark nearly white in the waning hour. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks. Watching me as I drove by, I thought having my camera what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in the speed of the car driving along and time I had to reach my destination.

I arrived just before they started and have always enjoyed the Emory at Oxford campus of Emory University. The grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his rendition of Axel Rose and Bob Dylan singing a duet on the famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. They tend to stay up longer than me most nights. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey in to night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because he was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.

I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son has work this morning I will awake when he walks by. I had several vivid dreams over the next two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my sons and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.

I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought pondered for a few minutes. I enjoy the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rise in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some stones I had previously placed on the ground.

I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and was fine.

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnect and meet people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my father’s puzzle.

“Knocking on heaven’s door” keeps coming back as I recall my sons singing last night and so many years ago as another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I think to the past few weeks with my father in law passing and a student just last week and today my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish my father well on his journey. Peace my father and friend.

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

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings May 23, 2016
Filling cracks in leaky pots

Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to several days lost traveling to see a new grand baby, from my normal routine of writing and doing things. A couple of lost days but time with my family and actually I got a little gardening thrown in. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on May 24th at eight o’clock. I looked at the time of my computer and called my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I called apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking. Moving on I have been a fan of eastern thought for many years finding as I research and read often significant words and understanding.

“One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears and it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in and it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water–views and opinions. One can’t pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.” Ayya Khema,

“Be an Island So often as we go about people seemingly are learning but for whatever reason the words taught ideas shown messages left go unheeded unanswered and unheard – Comparing us to a clay pot is an interesting analogy – we need to approach life less full less sure of ourselves and opinions and views more open minded there is so much to learn even for an old guy like me – “It is always in season for old men to learn.” Aeschylus

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” Confucius

Yesterday I responded to a question on an educational blog about motivating students. I would be the first to argue this is a critical part of each day. Others were arguing why should we teachers have to motivate that is up to parents. When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried but it then I realized how much I enjoyed learning and as I sit in a high school each day it is not teaching a subject that is so crucial it is teaching that joy of learning. When students want to learn being a teacher is the easiest job in the world, it is filling and helping to fill that clay pot.

Teaching or trying to teach a person whose sole goal is getting to their sixteenth birthday and then quitting school is a lot more difficult. Now the challenge is which is more rewarding knowing you have filled a clay jar to the brim which most anyone could do easily or repairing the cracks fixing the holes and removing the stale water. I have this problem with enjoying fixing the broken vessels.

“It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true “gift” in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby

As I sit many days after school and often in the morning before school discussing world views and ideas with students who are more like the empty pots, something occurs, a two way street we are both teacher and student and several times I have referred to this as my philosophy of teaching. Real teaching in real life is about osmosis. Each organism receiving and giving in the relationship neither truly benefiting more than the other a give and take as it is. But during class when I am filling cracks mending holes that is the time when true satisfaction happens when you see someone’s eyes open and an idea slip in, past ten or eleven years of built up defeat or walling up, then the work is worth it.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

I once had a professor who in class would explain how each person used only a small portion of their brain perhaps less than ten percent even the great intellect Albert Einstein was limited to that degree. So if that was true we could all be so much better than we are. Many years ago I had the great privilege of listening to Glenn Doman who is now in his eighties. Doman still teaches that philosophy in Philadelphia at The Institute for Achievement for Human Potential, working with severely brain injured children and adults in rehabilitation. Dr. Doman believes we can work with other portions of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. I have always found this to be a most interesting concept.

Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers sat the educational limit for them, “this child tested such and such and so will only do such and such”, a limit, a restriction, a parameter, a box and often sticking with the child through their educational career. The data should not be used to define a child but to offer suggestions as to how and reach that child.

I have found that many teachers live in boxes of their own making, limiting, constricting, and defining and often in smaller boxes than they place their students. It would be great if we were all more like amoebas, flexible, able to work around any corner into ever crack crevice and hole, see and do all and then osmosis simply absorb it in. There would be no parameters and no limits. Sadly the only down side no one will ever accuse an amoeba of being constipated usually it is the other extreme. (sorry for the gross comparison) but when a fixed container keeps packing stuff in it eventually gets stuck or so jammed tight nothing comes out.

“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival.” W. E. Deming

Only a few hours ago I gassed my car up and was talking with the cashier, a young man who is in college and trying to decide on his future. He asked me about the statement “quality is all”. As I thought Deming came to mind and Phillip J. Crosby great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement but far too often we chose unwisely and in ignorance go the wrong direction.

When all is said and done, learning is daily it is about expectations, keep the sky and beyond as a limit have no limit, absorb not stuff and be osmotic not parasitic, rise above and not fall below. I have said so many times if when stepping to the next rock crossing the stream you fall in climb back up you are already wet and it is in the stepping stones we learn to not wallow in the stream. Today have a safe journey in life and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

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

Bird Droppings May 21, 2016
Teaching can be successful

So as I do on many mornings when I get the time I walked out to a quiet corner of my back yard. Nestled in a patch of weeds and brush I laid claim to my quiet spot and look toward the east in the morning. It is still too dark when I head to school to glimpse the sunrise or the threads of life as I call them glisten in the early morning light. These are strands of spider webbing that are still hanging connecting everything. The scientist part of me knows that they are simply webs from wandering spiders the previous night out hunting but the mystic in me sees the connections. I do see the interconnections but many do not. I have not been lazy these past few days but visiting my newest grandbaby in North Carolina. We are so happy to welcome Harrison Bird to the family.
As I see my grandchildren and interact I become concerned deeply with their education. I am concerned about learning even more so than education. That is a strange statement to make coming from a teacher by trade. We have institutions established called schools where learning is to occur. Sadly various interfering elements within state and federal polity contradict and totally destroy the ability to provide learning experiences for children. Yesterday several editorial cartoons were sent through the internet showing a group of students all connected with wires from their heads staring ahead and one trying to climb out a window to the outside and nature. The just of the image was education reform wants us all to be education zombies all learning the same thing at the same time. If we cannot reverse the decline in learning our children will be simply pawns of whoever is or whatever is in power at the time.

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.” Ted Sizer

I received an email yesterday or I should say a response to a Facebook post I shared from a friend. The video clip I shared many months back was directed at the Teach to the Test mentality that is sweeping education due to high stakes testing being mandated by states and federal law. A young man a recent college graduate stated he could not get a job because his method of teaching was more hands on than what administrators were looking for. Daily I see the frustration of my son who was trained to teach in experiential manner and is now limited by what is on the curriculum map today. I have co-taught with a teacher in physics who likes to provide context to the learning. In order to study the concepts of velocity and acceleration we did a slip and slide lab to take data in order to calculate acceleration and velocity. It was interesting to see physics come alive for those kids and still comply with the curriculum requirements. If I was wagering I would definitely say we did.

“A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk

“Too much emphasis has been placed on reforming school from the outside through policies and mandates. Too little has been paid to how schools can be shaped from within.” Roland Barth

Just a few days ago I addressed the fact we are educating more diversified students in the United States than anywhere in the world. I borrowed from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux Holy Man who passed away nearly sixty years ago. Black Elk believed in the power of visions. Roland Barth was a professor at Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. His book Improving Schools from Within, was a best seller in 1991. His latest book Learning by heart, addresses the need for school reform and changes and that they need to come from changing the culture of schools. As I read both pieces and thought a Sioux holy man talking about making a vision real and a renowned educator saying we need to look within in order to elicit change maybe we should be listening to them and not politicians.

“Rarely do outside of school remedies work their way into the fabric of the schools or into the teacher’s lives, and more rarely into the classrooms. Therefore they only offer a modest hope of influencing the basic culture of the school.” Roland Barth

“Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.” Thomas Sergiovanni

“The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” Theodore Sizer

As I ponder my various authors I am reviewing and borrowing from today Barth, Sergiovanni and Sizer in the quotes above I find continuity. These men are all innovators and have made significant and powerful suggestions about education across the nation. Many school systems use the concept of learning communities that Sergiovanni promotes in his writing. I know that Roland Barth’s ideas are taught and re-taught in graduate schools nationwide and teachers seldom leave college without hearing the name of Ted Sizer. What concerns me is why is it with the potential to change education we seem to be in a rut and really going nowhere different. Why do we continue to know what to do to better educate kids and then do not do it. I wish an answer were simple to place in writing but I see blame as being in the leadership of schools. I see blame in school boards and in state education boards and eventually at a federal level. As the ideology leaves the classroom it goes from being real and meaningful to being business and is it cost effective? Can we afford this? Should we spend dollars on this? Somewhere children get left out and learning gets sat by the roadside.

“To cope with a changing world, ant entity must develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning.” A. DeGues, The Living Company

“The challenge of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

“You cannot have a learning organization without a shared vision…A shared vision provides a compass to keep learning on course when stress develops. The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.” Peter Senge

Dr. Peter Senge is a professor at MIT and renowned scholar in the field of learning. His books and theories are used in management schools and education studies. The idea of a collaborative effort in learning falls back into many ideas that have been mentioned in previous droppings dealing with Foxfire and John Dewey and the democratic class room. Students learn more when it is relevant to them and they have some buy in. Proust provides that we need a new perception to see rather than using the same old mythology to view education and learning. We have to develop new skills not just use what is available. Although John Dewey’s ideas are still considered progressive at over a hundred years old always strikes me as interesting.

“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shred visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from non-conformity, the ability to turn your back on old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesteryear for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We mist dare to invent the future.” Thomas Sankara African leader

“Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.” Judith Aitken

“No other organization institution faces challenges as radical as those that will transform the school.” Peter Drucker

“Today’s Schools are not Tomorrows Schools. That’s a fundamental misconception.”
David Lange

Author, speakers, management consultants, professors, educational leaders and each of them a great teacher in their own right have been outspoken for years about our schools and learning. Why do we let politicians decide what our students should be learning or how we should be evaluating these students? Why do we put arbitrary numbers on children with disabilities as to who can and who cannot exempt or not exempt state mandated tests. One IQ point separates two students one who because they cannot pass the High School graduation tests is and receives a special education certificate of attendance and is counted as a drop out because they did not graduate and the other by submitting a portfolio of what learning occurred in high school graduates with a legitimate high school diploma and is a graduate. One IQ point separates the two and how they are assessed.

“The overwhelming number of teachers …are unable to name or describe a theory of learning that underlies what they do.” Alfie Kohn

“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather… I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

“In teaching students to think the emphasis is not on how many answers they know. Rather, the focus is on how well they behave when they don’t know.” Art Costa

I recall reading Alfie Kohn for the first time in 2001 at the suggestion of my principal who had formed a book club. The title of the book is The Schools our Children Deserve. As I read through these authors and quotes last night as I researched for my morning wanderings I wonder can we ever really change the industrial complex that drives education? Can we unseat lobbyists and politicians who seek profits at the cost of our children’s learning? I wonder as I finish up today if we can overcome.

“In the absence of a great dream pettiness prevails. Shared visions foster risk taking, courage and innovation. Keeping the end in mind creates the confidence to make decisions even in moments of crisis.” Peter Senge

I started and end with a vision. “A vision without a task is a dream – a task without a vision is drudgery- but a task with vision can change the world.” Black Elk The great spiritual leader Black Elk spoke of his visions and Peter Senge offers a shared vision. I was once told it took leaders who had vision to truly lead and I wonder if we can find those people within education who care enough about children and about learning to pave the way to a new understanding and realization of our educational system. 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

Culture is far more than just a word

Bird Droppings May 17, 2016
Culture is far more than just a word

“Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that thought comes before speech. In the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Culture is those pieces of which we are that others see when we are in their presence. It is how we eat and what we eat. It is how we honor and respect others and or not respect others. Culture is a combination of learned and practiced behaviors all that come together and make us an individual, family, community and nation. In a world as diverse as we live in now it becomes cultures rather rapidly as the melting pot of humanity that is the United States perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world has attracted peoples from around the world.

My father as we grew up told many stories of the various Indian tribes around the country some of which he heard from Code Talkers that his LSM shuttled back and forth on landings in the South Pacific during World War II. The Code Talkers were Navaho who would use their native tongue send encrypted messages across the Japanese lines and in the years they served in the Pacific the code was never broken. My father became good friends and his stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle have been passed now to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

It has been nearly fifty years since I was first exposed to a hatred I had never seen before. I headed to Texas after flunking out of college my freshmen year. I was trying to not get drafted more so than staying in college, since a student deferment was one of the few ways to avoid getting drafted and I was not interested in getting married. Back in the day Plano Texas was in the sticks about twenty miles from Dallas and really a hole in the wall. We had a pizza place and a Dairy Queen and that was it. So we students who hailed from all over the country would frequent one of the two options on a regular basis. On one particular day I went in and several for real cowboys were sitting there with wads of tobacco in their cheeks and discussing the hated Indians and what they would do if one came in the Dairy Queen. About that time one spit right at my flip flop shod feet. Seems long haired college students were only one step up from Indians in this narrow minded world of Plano Texas in 1968.

“His strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling. As a matter of truth, he was the most sympathetic of men, but his emotions of depth and sincerity were tempered with control. Silence meant to the Lakota what it meant to Disraeli, when he said “Silence is the mother of truth, for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Over the past weeks I have written about illegal immigrants and racists and the entire for me issue of how is it we cannot see others as human beings. Standing Bear makes a statement that hits hard it is the silent man who speaks the truth and the man who was always speaking who needs to be not taken seriously. In a school watching students interact there are those who sit quiet and those who never sit still I was joking yesterday about a student who is more like ADHD on Steroids bouncing off the roof and never still. It is the pondering and reflection of the silence that allows us to draw wisdom to the surface and can provide more meaningful interaction. Far better than the noise makers on talk shows who spout off just to hear themselves speak. Sitting in my car driving around yesterday with R. Carlos Nakai flute music on my stereo and the sounds of running water as the rain came down I am in my sanctuary and comfortable as I sit and reflect about my days thoughts. Perhaps when I clear my head from this cold I can get on a better track in terms of getting my droppings out earlier in the day. I wish we each could remember to keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

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

To die a happy death: listening to a whippoorwill call

Bird Droppings May 16, 2016
To die a happy death: listening to a whippoorwill call

I have been teaching high school now for nearly sixteen years and after summer break another year ahead. I am starting my writing day a bit later than normal since we had the grandbabies over yesterday and I was plum tuckered out last night. Over the past few years I have been searching for my older thoughts editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping in harmony with my thoughts of that day or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly eight years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost both my father in law and father and many around us have as well. So digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

I was a bit taken back, sitting here only a few days ago not truly giving death much of a thought having the attitude when it happens it happens and for some number of years now I have lost any fear of death. It has been some time since I realized we need to live each day it isn’t about death and what is next it is about what is now and where are we on our own journey. It is not about anyone else’s, though we constantly interact and intertwine in my own cosmic sort of jig saw puzzle of explaining life. I had several answers to share and from a mixed bag of intellectuals across the country when I responded to my friends note. I used to sit in Geometry in tenth grade with the first responder and her thought was this.

“A contented life. One that has (at least partially) fulfilled personal dreams. “ 5/28/06 – A child psychologist From California

As I thought about it dreams and aspirations are at the center of many of our hearts and souls. I have always wanted to go to Tahiti however I probably never will for one reason or another. It all goes back to my first reading of a Michener book “Hawaii” and how the original settlers sailed from Tahiti. In my romanticism I know it is not the tropical paradise I dream of and I will probably settle for South Florida and Sanibel Island which today would be fine. My next responder is a mom and teacher from Texas that I have met and known for eight or ten years from correspondence.

“I, personally, have always told myself that there is a difference between three powerful things: 1) mistakes learned from, 2) regret, and 3) a higher God that leaves certain things out of my control (thank goodness)…but anyway, ideally, I want to die having learned from my mistakes, having passed control over in areas of my life in which I have no control, and to die without regret. These are the three potentially negative “things” that will, even during my life, make me lose sleep. All in all…if we could live surrounded by love, and die surrounded by love (which will happen, of course, if we give just as much)…that would be a happy death.” 5/28/06 – A teacher in Texas

I have read and reread this one several times and always her comments are deep and heart felt, “Having learned from my mistakes” this is a life lesson many should heed. Often even within the past few days I have addressed this with several students take and learn from your mistakes and move forward and or backward as a good friend would say direction is not the key but movement and in our world of multiple dimensions it could be anywhere. My mother responded next to the question and this was a year before my father passed away. It is sort of interesting when your mom is an avid reader of your essays and thoughts as I am of her poetry and writing.

“Living a life that is fruitful and true makes for a happy death. Like your father has said many times, there is nothing in this world that he still wants to do. He has been there, done it and seen it and he always did it with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as his companions.” 5/28/06, My mom Esther S. Bird, author, poet and great grandmother from Loganville, Georgia

My father at his passing was eighty four and had been all over the world teaching about Loss Control and Safety Management. In South Africa a headline once proclaimed he had saved millions of lives in the South African mines. Great Britain proclaimed him the Billy Graham of Safety in news headlines. My dad started out to be a medical missionary and I was the culprit that sent him to the steel mills for work. As a baby I was very ill and hospitalized numerous times with seizures and a stoppage of breathing. My dad had to go to work instead of school. By chance he found good paying work in the open hearth of Lukens Steel Mill and until they needed a Safety guy with a college diploma he was a brick layer in the open hearth. He was offered a job as a Safety man which being nonunion was less pay but it was better hours he thought and an office no more twenty eight hundred degree furnaces to contend with.

Shortly thereafter his first book changed modern Safety Management, in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he coined and then registered the trademark statement of “Total Loss Control” and the rest is history. So instead of saving souls in Africa in a mission hospital he was saving lives worldwide through his programs and insights. I began reading the next responders poems several months ago and now several hundred later find them exhilarating.

“For me, the idea of a happy death is one where I’ve given my best effort, stayed current with conflict resolution and being in the right place in my God’s eyes.” 5/29/06 Poet from Puget Sound, Washington

I have come to read daily numerous blogs and poems posted by this wonderful person she herself has many life hindering illnesses and still features a giant smiley face as her calling card. She is such a powerful human spirit. I will end today with another responder on a regular basis one who thinks far deeper than most teenagers and surprises me with responses that go far beyond her few years of experience. Today she is a karate instructor in Georgia and I would never have guessed that five years ago.

“I also enjoyed your droppings earlier about a happy death. I like to think of it this way, ‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized either way.’ Eleanor Roosevelt” 5/29/06, A former student at Loganville High School, Loganville, Georgia

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life? I recall a death some twelve years ago where a young man came to me the last time I saw him unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs.

At my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler Aerosmith

I have thought about that note daily every day since, I have listened to the Aerosmith CD version of Awesome many hundreds of times for that line. Somewhere in a box I still have that yellow sticky note over sixteen years old now folded away as a reminder about how precious each second is. We honor our veterans who died to provide us with ideas and thoughts about freedom and liberty over the years. I would like to end with, what if we could have world peace? What if, always a what if it seems. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste. This morning as I walked to my car a whippoorwill calling in the pines, it will be a good day.

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

Why should I do more?

Bird Droppings May 13, 2016
Why should I do more?

“Choices are sacred to life’s journey. They lie along the path that all of us must follow for ourselves. An important Cherokee lesson is that if you involve yourself in any decision, you also experience the consequences of that decision.” Dr. J.T. Garrett, Meditations with the Cherokee

It has been quite a while since I was able to walk out first thing in the morning and experience the newness of the day and not be in a rush to get to school. Granted being not in the structured routine of school I tend to get lazy from not having to get up. I decided this summer to get up early and continue my ritual starting with my cup of green tea and write and read. It has been a very strange spring in Georgia with rain predicted one week and then heat and dry ahead for some time. Afternoons we have a chance of scattered thunder showers and yard work gets curtailed while plants and grass dry a bit. Over the weekend and several times in previous weeks I had to stop till rain drops subsided enough that I would not get soaked coming from my car. It has been nearly nine summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my graduate work based on viewing history in more than one color, more than one culture or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

“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

As I sit here this early morning responding to emails from previous days I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived. It was many nights back even several years ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing) and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue that too adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. In speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner, again fuels the flames of perception, being a person who has ceased to utilize their own self-control and the result, being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.

It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about and there are times now with two little ones in the house I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. Back to my story for example, the first offense at a basketball game and there after you can come but must wear a dog training collar to reenter gym. In the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control box the increase switch, raising the voltage. I think there are some spouses that may automatically go to max even for first jolt.

There is a chance of course that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, and that might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. In the stands half the people sitting and twitching from shocks and the other half is sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line of the first quote today none of this would be necessary.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology I use a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and act only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily) one is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity and how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks of. We only want the status quo the peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them and many do not even do that and simply shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care. So many people in our world today simply follow and media and the corporate advertising feed on this. When I read a statement from a person who says this is what I believe and you cannot change that about any subject matter or idea I sort of wonder.

We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error on a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class, and the same slide, same response. He again pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching exactly the same, still in error and had never changed that slide. By chance three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, a poor learner. It was difficult for a “teacher” to except a “students” understanding of a topic albeit that students brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years so it was not simply a student spouting off, there was experiential contextual knowledge involved.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing school work. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not, homework for example, do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment, if not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue. It is no wonder so many students soon learn who is doing homework and copy that person’s work simply to get credit for homework.

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

When you can apply a piece of knowledge it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, thought something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable, at least this is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius
“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the operation of the school, a truly democratic school. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example as I mentioned recently. Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

This is a good place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering and wondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks for all namaste.

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