Life is making a quilt

Bird Droppings May 23, 2017
Life is making a quilt

 

It was nearly ten years ago my wife walked in and told me that my mother said this day was to be a happy time a joyous occasion as we celebrated my father’s life after he had passed. She said I think we are even having a snow cone machine. I thought to myself it gets hot in Georgia on an afternoon in June. About this same time another event was transpiring in our families lives. I helped my son with a project of repairing the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech. John was the driver of the Ramblin Wreck and while on the way to a wedding he had an accident. Eight years ago my son and an acquaintance, a 1968 Ga. Tech graduate of Tech and I were talking about a body shop and getting the Wreck ready for the first football game of the year. Somehow or other the idea of how things fall in place came up and after they headed out I started on my idea of a quilt.
I had started thinking about my father again talking with my son’s friend and how he had been all over the world lectured and taught in countries most people will never know. Another email I recall mentioned how dad was always giving something; it could be a necklace with a rock from South Africa or a bola with some African trinket or South American artifact as the clasp. Sometimes it was a story or just wisdom from his years working with people. It hit me his life was like a quilt.

 

“People come out to see you perform and you’ve got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Jesse Owens, 1913-1980, American Olympian

 

I use the comparison to a puzzle often nearly each day as I write. But when I read this idea of a quilt of our lives it hit me. A patchwork quilt, with each piece a significant event in life yet alone not enough to make the whole. Each piece of the quilt is still independent of each other piece. My wife has a quilt from her grandmother whose grandmother made it; each little piece of fabric is sown to the next each little section connects to the next and in the end a quilt. We have several quilts made for our sons by a friend’s mother many years ago. A good friend in Holland is a quilter and she posts pictures of each intricate masterpiece as she sews.
For nearly thirteen years during my summers I go up to the mountains of North Georgia and have been involved with the Foxfire program for teaching. The instructors have used an exercise where each participant makes a piece and together a quilt is created each session. The quilt is hanging on the wall with pieces added as the week progresses. Traditionally in the mountains there are sixteen stitches per inch which is the measure of a quilt I learned that while up at Foxfire talking with one of the women at the museum center. Often when I am talking with kids I will use timelines to piece together but I think I will try this idea of a quilt each piece adding to the whole yet alone just a scrap of fabric. As I look back at so many memories and you know it seems to all be flowing piecing together, I like the idea of a quilt. This may be a great way to start next year’s classes. 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

We exist

Bird Droppings May 19, 2017
We exist

 

Yesterday was an ordinary day other than being one extra day of testing. I went from school to helping my wife with grand munchkins. After my son got home there they came over for a swim and when they headed home I was too tired last night to even sit down. Coming up in a week or so is the day we celebrate our veterans and military friends and family members that have fallen in service to our country. Over the years thinking back to high school, I did not know very many who had died in the military other than listening to my father and his stories of World War II and to us children they were stories only. As we got closer to graduation from high school several brothers of friends had been killed in Viet Nam and this special day had significantly more meaning.
As I graduated and went to college on a student deferment from the draft I was very aware of the military and draft, in that I did not want to get drafted and go to Viet Nam. The news kept us up to date well almost, as often Viet Nam breaking news would be several days or even weeks old when we heard it. After my freshmen year and being asked not to return to college since my grades were not that great, I was drafted in the first draft lottery along with many of my fellow class mates who did not go to class perhaps enough times to satisfy professors and somehow in college passing and attendance is important. It was at this point in my life Memorial Day hit me.
I failed my draft physical which allowed me to continue searching for a school that would let me in. I moved to Texas for school, a small college in Plano Texas the University of Plano which was at that time the only school that would take me. Across several states and colleges I eventually landed in Macon Georgia. I finally finished my undergraduate education and graduated from Mercer University. Along the way I lost touch on the most part of my former classmates in high school and without the internet and cell phones I infrequently had word from my hometown on events and people. Over the year’s piece by piece word got to me of the death of this friend or that friend in Viet Nam and when all of the numbers were tallied nearly ten fellows from our graduating class or classes around us died in Viet Nam. Memorial Day was very significant now.
It was at this point in my life that Memorial Day hit home. It was several years till I was able to visit Washington DC and go to the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down so unsure of why and where I was at the time. Yes I was in Washington DC on a High School Band trip with my son but here I was looking at a wall that seemed to stretch endlessly along the pathway. I went to the registry book and found the names I recalled and the locations on the panels and wrote these on my hand with a marker. After several minutes I composed myself and walked along finding names amidst the tens of thousands on the wall.
I watched sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers touching names, dropping flowers, and standing with tears streaming down their cheeks staring at the cold black stone slab winding along a pathway. I often speak of sacred being a spot where many come to honor, pray, ponder or worship and here in Washington DC this was a sacred place. It was nearly a half an hour later my son was calling to me and I found myself sitting on a bench looking down on the wall. Our bus was ready to leave and they could not find me. So does Memorial Day hold meaning as I think back? I do not believe in war and have not for most of my life, this is a personal belief that for me is not about fearing death or dying for a cause but that it is not what is to be.
However I honor those who in their efforts and belief and have given their lives for me so I can believe in what I do and for those who have provided the opportunity for others worldwide. Memorial Day is not about political or religious ideology but about people who believed in what they were doing and in that effort died for that belief. As we honor now young men and women who have died in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is bringing home this idea of Memorial Day to recent graduates of high schools across the nation. I wish one day the concept of war would be out dated but until that time please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

Bird Droppings May 18, 2017

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal: Is your child a hippy?

 

“Your son or daughter may be flashing warning signals that he or she will soon drop out of society and join the “hippie” movement. If you know what to look for, you may be able to prevent it.” Jacqueline Himelstein, How To Tell If Your Child Is a Potential Hippie and What You Can Do About It, 1970 P.T.A. Parent Education Pamphlet

 

I noticed a post on Facebook to a rather interesting website, Word of Mouth Critical Pedagogy that I am a member of and post to.  It caught my attention being a post for parents to catch warning signs of their children becoming hippies which I have been called over the years many times. Matter of fact yesterday was decade day for homecoming week and I pulled out a tie dyed shirt. As I read through I found it most interesting and actually having been involved to a degree in that era of change seeing the reminders from back in the day struck a chord. The first sign is “a sudden interest in a cult, rather than an accepted religion”. I found this intriguing as so many of our large churches literally are cult followings sort of thing and now considered main stream. The second followed the first with “the inability to sustain a personal love relationship drawn more to group experiences. In so many instances I see being part of a group now more significant than individuality for so many people. One of my favorite musical artists in Neil Young and falling right into that period of time seems about right.

 

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought of it has been about two years since the shooting in Arizona of a congresswomen. But while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. It has been a long short week. Holiday Monday and catch up all week. We are all still trying to get back in a routine at school thinking back to last year where we had a three week scheduled break and a week for snow and ice we had were out over a month over Christmas break. It is literally trying to find my way back to normal and it is taking a few days or more to do it.  As lunch time at school rolls around I keep thinking I might have to escape at lunch to run home and hold my grandbabies and then I remember they are not there. Adding to my new routine I am amazed at how quickly we change our life style and focus as grandparents. Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from the Arizona shooting was at Kent State nearly forty plus years ago and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:

 

“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

 

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me and back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county an extended break with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and then an extra week due to ice and snow. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

 

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

 

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. I had more to do since my classes changed almost daily this past week students  in and out so my personal writing time was affected in the morning and now not having all day to run errands it is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and rest for another day.

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

 

I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long break it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

For all my relations

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Acceptance is often getting over fears

Bird Droppings May 17, 2017

Acceptance is often getting over fears

 

As I stepped outside into a beautiful clear chilled morning, we were hoping for rain but the humidity still hung in the air. The grass was like walking on a sponge soggy and wet but then again it could be from my wife watering flowers and shrubs. I was thinking of one of my recent classes actually what should be the easiest class was the hardest to teach. Kids that could do but do not are much harder to work with than kids who have real physiological or psychological problems. These kids choose to not learn and a group of them feeds each other and then you have acceptance of that do nothing norm. My premise is that this do nothing is based indirectly on fear. In education it could have started as a fear of failure or lack of self-esteem but relegates itself to doing nothing rather than risk ridicule.

 

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers

 

As my days go often in opening a book or researching a thought quote or statement I am curious about, I fine ideas and inspiration that leads me further in my own endeavors. It was last year about this time I was thinking as I was getting ready to go back to teaching after a long spring break since I always miss the clamor of the hallways and interactions with students I got to thinking, I actually find I draw energy from the communications and feedback. I found a statement that for many reasons drew me to it. I found more as usual. I am working on an idea that deals with a student’s depression and so often getting that student to open up and to talk about their issues aids in overcoming the withdrawal and educational barriers of depression.

 

Rogers’s statement is not a paradox as much as a truth. In 1967 Carl Rogers wrote The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning, in which he emphasized three factors. The first factor is, realness in the facilitator of learning, secondly prizing which is acceptance and trust and third empathetic understanding. As I went through graduate school and came back to teaching I had been looking for explanations on how and why my teaching style worked. Amazingly I see this in Rodgers three points. Yesterday I was discussing why some teachers are so much better than others and it was these three issues.

 

“When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.” Carl Rogers

 

Looking back nearly fifty years, pronouns for teachers were consistently she and her and I recall a dear professor at Eastern College telling me there should not be men in elementary or special education. As I look at Rogers words teaching and education could be set aside and life reinserted. We should enter into all relationships without facades and utilize ourselves as human beings not trying to be someone we think we should be instead. Our best visual aid is ourselves and we are the example for life and others.

 

“There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, many potentialities. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.” Carl Rogers

 

I have written about trust so many times, it is in accepting people and trusting people inherently that we find difficulty. Almost ten years back for my professor in Human Development, Dr. Udhe at Piedmont College I did a paper on the development of Trust. I had researched the concept of faith and found faith and trust literally synonymous in definition and in development. Dr. James Fowler a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology wrote a book on the development of faith borrowing from educational developmentalists including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowlers work and looked at others I found parallels in the development of trust and evolved over several months a chart.

 

Watching my grandkids as they grow up I am seeing this now as they are acquiring the ability to choose through their little responses to life. Only a few years ago they would cry when hungry or wet. Last weekend as I played with them I had been noticing how they will use words to describe and words to clarify what they wanted but still occasionally here and there and then little whimpers that escalate if they do not get their way. It may be they  want to sit different, or want their momma, or a specific toy. They have learned this ability rather quickly. Last weekend on one occasion as one of them whimpered and turned towards her momma from my lap she pouted her lower lip and whimpered her mother said come to momma and picked her up and she looked over her shoulder right at me and smiled her impish little smile. That is acquired learned behavior at its best.

 

The Bird development stages of trust

Stage 1 – Unconditional Trust – a baby’s view of trust totally unconditional

Stage 2 – supportive Trust – a child begins to feel trust in the support of family and parents

Stage 3 – Learned Trust – venturing out the learn and acquire trust

Stage 4 – Experienced Trust – trying and experimenting they experience trust

Stage 5 – Questioned Trust – first love and friendship and questions arise

Stage 6 – Answered Trust – slowly we work through events and answer questions

Stage 7 – Universal Trust – As we mature we find trust is there

Stage 8 – Unconditional Trust – very few come back to unconditional trust

 

The graphic that I did is very colorful and I have put into comparison other devlopmentalists in various fields including Kohlberg and Gillian. We do move through these stages as we go in life, some fixate at one point and never move past. But in Rogers statement acceptance is paramount to trust. The third component of Rogers’s thoughts is empathy.

 

“A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, and simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers

 

Nearly a year ago I ended a paper that in my philosophy of teaching with the idea that empathy was a key element. There is an aspect to life that some people have and many do not. I have watched my wife with patients as a nurse practitioner understand where her patient is coming from and then able to better deal with that persons illness. Years back reading a sales book by Harvey McKay I recall a secret of his. When walking into an office of a customer take notice to what is there build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Build a relationship was McKay’s secret and then he made notes for the next meeting. As I am sitting here remembering from way back when, I still keep notes on people. Today when I meet a new student and or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try and not to prejudge and push aside but try and find where we are similar.  Sometimes in life this is hard but understanding goes far and empathy is also powerful tool in life. As usual looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing his daily moral or quote so for today coincidently.

 

“Teachers strive not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” Harvey McKay

 

Far too often we get caught in the trying to make a living and lose the three elements of Rogers thoughts and that applies across the board not just to teachers but parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and as the great Sioux Chief and Medicine man Sitting Bull offered to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Try and see through eyes wide open

Bird Droppings May 16, 2017
Try and see through eyes wide open

 

As I walked out into the morning sounds today a whippoorwill greeted me. It was the first I have heard this year. The air is warming and summer sounds are creeping in. I like the sounds of the night. Crickets, tree frogs, owls and of course whippoorwills. I have always enjoyed the darkness and night. My wife would worry when I would wander off into the night to ponder as I say. In years gone by we would talk of night eyes, letting your eyes adjust to the dark. I always seemed able to see more than others. I think it is about how hard we really want to see.

 

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

 

It has been nearly eleven years since we last moved and seems we might stay here a while. I recall twelve or so years back when we made several quick moves and one time as we 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

 

 

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings May 15, 2017

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. Biologically speaking we do not have ninety percent of our brain sitting idle, as much as we have more potential if tapped into.

 

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

 

Teaching can be successful

Bird Droppings May 12, 2017

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