Taking small steps

Bird Droppings October 16, 2009

Taking small steps


“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I work with has had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.

Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not present where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.


“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses


A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the untrustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.


“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb


“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci


“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of  you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt


A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.


“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine


“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales


So often a monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.


“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo


“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare


Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the industrial training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.

It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.



We each can make a difference

Bird Droppings October 15, 2009
We each can make a difference

“The purpose of Living Values: Educational Program is to provide guiding principles and tools for the development of the whole person, recognizing that the individual is comprised of physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.” livingvalues.net

When I first read the lead line to this website it is too good to be true it was someone after my own heart, it’s not just about content but context as well although in public school spiritual needs to be a carefully handled word. I have been borrowing from John Dewey’s pedagogy and this is a similar line, looking at the whole person. I am always amazed at how life presents itself as well as today’s advisement topic is on giving back to the community. This is a bit of a twist from taking tests or vocabulary during most advisements.

“In confronting the many challenges that the future holds in store, humankind sees in education an indispensable asset in its attempt to attain the ideals of peace, freedom and social justice. The Commission does not see education as a miracle cure or a magic formula opening the door to a world in which all ideals will be attained, but as one of the principal means available to foster a deeper and more harmonious form of human development and thereby to reduce poverty, exclusion, ignorance, oppression and war.” Jacques Delors, Learning: The Treasure Within, UNESCO

ALIVE, the association for Living values Education International was founded by the Untied Nations about four years ago. As I read through the literature the concept of teaching values intrigued me. Is this maybe where we go wrong in public school focusing on content, on the curriculum, on page 1-500 only? Maybe this is where students lose the desire to learn being force fed piles of facts or does it happen elsewhere.

“The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son. The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe. The Doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration. He is supposed to be in communion with spirits… He cures the sick by the laying of hands, and payers and incantations and heavenly songs. He infuses new life into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practice…. He clothes himself in the skins of young innocent animals, such as the fawn, and decorated himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird …” Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute

We learn much of who we are good or bad at home, several years ago I wrote a paper about “The Sixteen Hour Syndrome”. As a parent and teacher I saw students leave school and go home where any semblance of value and order was disavowed. Students were unlearning literally anything that had been taught. Teachers have eight hours of which transportation and breaks and lunch come out of so maybe six hours to try and instill values and information. Some could argue is school the place for values to be taught. It is a place and teaching is occurring so do what you can has been my own philosophy.

“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.” Fredric Nietzsche

“You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.” Denis Waitley

Students should bring some tattering of values to school but going back to September 11, 2001 which coincidentally was my first day back to teaching after a twenty three year break, a student informed me he was the first in four generations not to run moonshine. I recall many months ago on the history channel a show memorialized moonshiners as an integral part of our history and that we had to have them. This was while the host sampled various brews from around the country. If you are raised that moonshining, racism, bigotry, anti government and a good one today belittling women is appropriate and correct imagine the impact of those eight hours in school with a female teacher or a nonwhite teacher.
After battling with that type of student, teachers are weary and they are not just in the south but across the nation. So the issue becomes how we alter values.

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

“Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes it obstructs your vision.” Hsi-Tang

We all need to work together be it in parenting and in teaching and in working towards a world where we can eliminate the sixteen hour syndrome and children can learn to appreciate life and all that could be there for them. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Walking a path to the top

Bird Droppings October 14, 2009

Walking a path to the top


            I recall thinking back a month or so when while visiting Macon Georgia to see my son who goes to Mercer University that I went out to the Indian Mounds. I am drawn to this place and its antiquity. On my visits I walk the stairways climbing to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look out in each direction. It was not too long ago I was talking about the Indian mounds on line and felt I needed to go there and my youngest son provided the timing as his college was over at 1:00 and he needed a ride home from Macon. I took several pictures and sprinkled a bit of sage and sweet grass to each corner of the world.

As I walked to the mound a sign addressed the sacredness of this spot of earth. It read simply to please understand many peoples consider this place sacred. There was a list of things not to do at this point. No smoking, ball throwing, Frisbee throwing, kite flying and several others including no picnicking. I wondered as I walked down if finding peace within was ok here on this special place. It is a place of solitude when no one is around in the middle of Macon Georgia. From atop the mound you can see the main streets of Macon. I often have wondered as to all the energy and thoughts that have mingled here for many thousands of years. It is still a very special and sacred place for The Muskogee Creek nation.


“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux 


It has been eight years since I did a research paper on the causes of issues with children. When I first started back to teaching in 2001, it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had issues in school and in life in general. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students all my information was on their public record.

As I looked deeper students, children with problems I found were made in most cases they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested its self with in these kids. In an old Divorce Magazine.com article entitled Help for Generation X they listed statistics in 1970 that 72% of the adult population was married and in 1999 only 59% and dropping. It was interesting that in statistics the number of divorces granted is down per 1000 people, but up per number of new marriages. As I researched nearly eight years ago in the group of students I was looking at I found that two out of twenty eight lived with their natural parents.


“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values


“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich


I have found myself at one time prior to NCIS hooked on the TV show Law and Order, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society. Although I really like the adage from Leo Yankwich of illegitimate parents.


“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine


As I researched deeper in reasons children have issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. Be it drugs, alcohol, and literally any number of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. Children learn what they live both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte writes extensively about and is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the early seventies. Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble. I remember back to a news flash nearly six years ago, in Minnesota a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree. Elsewhere here in Atlanta area drug arrests and gangs permeate the news.

Several years ago I was walking outside my room when student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened was her comment. It was that this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I had pulled them apart.  It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight, by one that was involved. I can now say she is in college and doing well however. Interesting thing just two years ago her younger sister was in a similar situation except I only walked up after the fact and again an apology.

Back several years ago I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over their kids, in front of the audience to a point a resource officer was involved. It really is no different than thirty years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. Parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parental yelling to be heard.


“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop


I never met the man but my father would often speak highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia when John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States. I seem to be always looking for answers midst all the questions.


“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw


Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graphic on the development of trust, showing stages in how trust develops with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant, you instinctually trust. As you grow you learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to universally trust again.


“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. Then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust


It has been a few years since I read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation.  Dr. Grantin’s unique view is that she is autistic as she looks at animals in a different light than we do, since she operates actually on that instinctual level as well. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains for her all is learned trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving, could display trust in a child let alone destroy that trust.  When they come to school we as teachers assume and then want them to lead normal lives and have “normal” trust.


“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s, Eight Stages of Life


Sitting writing here with my three sons all going to be home this weekend from school and work it is so easy to say no problem.  Then I think back to when I clicked to Yahoo News and the Red Lake shootings were the headlines of the day and how and why a 15 year old would kill nine people and himself.


“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man


In 1972 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia, a Muskogee Creek whose grandfather was the medicine man to the Creek nation up until his death. At that time my friend was a year older than me and still is from last I heard. In his tribal name he was called Red Clay; he was and is an artist, a brilliant painter. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce after his wife lost a baby. Every day that I have known him he has been drinking. He was once the most requested teacher in Bibb County now an itinerant carpenter and Professional feather dancer, although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles in the Southeast.

There was a comment that stuck with me and an image. He painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the front of the picture is for a chief or man of importance, the second for his wife and the third for a small infant each a burial platform. The infant platform was for his unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly twenty years five ago he would not live past forty. Now over sixty he has but just barely. As I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I think to my effort a few weeks back to walk up the mound in Macon. My back was bothering me from driving so much and it was a difficult pathway to follow to the top. It was something I was to do. I am still not sure why. I am writing about how youth have lost touch with the sacred in life in a paper for graduate school. How we seem in our technological world to find answers in Google or Ask Jeeves, never do they even consider an unanswerable question. So much of our lives is immediate and now, communication being a key component of that immediacy.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at the same Red Lake High School in Minnesota of the massacre and I have referenced many times the editorial he penned after the event.


“This Red Lake story is hidden beneath two layers of mythology and misunderstanding that pervade contemporary American culture: “rural” and “Indian reservation.” In each lies a series of expectations and misconceptions that obscures the truth of events and makes what takes place there something “other” than the workaday affairs of our urban and suburban lives. Watch, now, and see if that mythology and misunderstanding obscures the truth.  I know Red Lake. I know those kids. They are just like my students asleep in their beds here in Oxford, just like your children brushing their teeth and packing up their books down the hall from where you are reading this paper. It was Sitting Bull, the great Lakota chief, who said it best: “Come, let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children. “Those children in Red Lake are your children. Hear their cries and the cries of their parents as if they were your own.” Kent Nerburn


I wonder as I sit thinking back a day or five years and wonder could I have done something a bit different. I had a phone call from a friend and tried to return that call and did not get through. I always wonder what if? Each time I drive by the Diagnostic Center in Jackson Georgia I think back to 1977 and a former student who maybe I could have done something more for. He is serving three life sentences now in a psychiatric unit. So today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.  



What is necassary in life?

Bird Droppings October 13, 2009
What is necessary in life?

Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence? Sai Baba

Waiting for a drop of rain was to be my title for today’s offering but it has been raining most of yesterday and through the night and as I read this quote earlier today the idea of what is necessary came to mind. We so often do not think before we speak. I am a bad one for that many times over and still forget to ask these words.

“There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.” Black Elk, Holy man of Lakota Sioux

I wonder, what is the temperature that tree frogs and crickets require to come out at night, I think I like that temperature. There was a stillness this morning yet enhanced by the steady beat of rain drops. The cloud cover seemed to muffle civilization and quiet the surrounding peripheral noise. I noticed how wet the ground was as I walked out which I tend to do bare footed many mornings. As I sat pondering watching an ember on a piece of white sage leave dwindle to nothing the other day, a drop of rain hit my face. I recall it was not too long ago that I had gone out in the morning for nearly a year and never had rain. This summer it has not been quite that dry and many morning have kept me inside.

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I put in a question and answered once, the person I would most like to meet was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Working with children with issues I have this sort of startled effect nearly every day. But I would use the word intrigued me rather than startled.

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Piecing this together today randomly grasping bits of Emerson’s thoughts one must savor words, look for what meaning RWE was implying as he wrote so many years ago. True friendship is mentioned so frequently and often very flippantly. I see students in the hallways in their clicks dressed alike, acting alike, but is that friendship or simply a peer group, a herd of like minded humans.

“A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friendship and courage totally different yet similar, there is a repetitiveness, a doing over as Emerson speaks of “doing the thing before”. A friend does not do something simply once, but will repeat the act and idea again and again because you are friends.

“A man finds room in the few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being an active observer of people, I am always watching people as they move in life and this statement of Emerson’s is so true. I have come to know when certain people are upset just by seeing the look in their eyes, or the wrinkles on their face. When a student ponders a thought all day you can tell it may be a broken relationship or a new relationship. A little girl yesterday came in so excited, she had made a ninety on her math test and she did not cheat, whine, moan, or groan, she had done it on her own, a first. What was so amazing was she now all of sudden knew other aspects of math she the day before could not remember or at least said she could not. Her teacher deliberately took away all possibilities for her to use others she had to do her own work and in success which she could have had any time she won and her day and attitude towards class changed.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If only we could have patience daily. I start my day asking for patience and thinking that today I will be patient. With one student I can remember I would find myself asking other students am I yelling at him, to check myself and to have a witness. But it is the hard time and bad times that need to be guides for us to teach us and help us attain what we truly can be.

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

I often wonder if I were building houses would I put in all windows or doors. Most doors open both ways allowing entrance and exit. Windows tend to be one sided. I would if I could and keep structural integrity and build an all door house. We have to be ready for new ideas thoughts from others to come in. We have to be ready to forge a new pathway and leave a trail for others to see and set an example.

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have watched fear defeat the strongest person and humble men. Holding on to a fear can be debilitating. It is approaching life as each day as another challenge a new stage, leave the old behind, be unencumbered going out today.

“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So true my dear friend Ralph Waldo, when we continue to hold a grudge we lose minutes of happiness of joy of peace of mind. When we offer our hand, do we offer a hand or us, a simply thought yet so significant?

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my days of seminary and in ministry I have been in sanctuaries all over the country. There were many beautiful works of art, windows, paintings and sculptures. Several days ago I mentioned the Atlanta Greek Orthodox cathedral and one that impressed me even more was a small Episcopal church in Decatur area where an aged monk did his last stained glass windows. He used only reds and blues and shades between and he created the sacraments in abstract stained glass. Sitting alone in that church bathed in reds and blues from the sunlight filtering through the sacraments of that church was an awe inspiring event, till someone spoke and the mood changed. Sadly it went from inner thoughts to someone else’s thoughts.

“If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to end with this idea of Emerson’s, a truly powerful statement. So often we tend to not want help yet when a hand is extended as Emerson says more than likely they are on higher ground, spiritually, emotionally, physically and combinations of the three. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Understanding the word faith

Bird Droppings October 12, 2009

Understanding the word faith


“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”  Kahlil Gibran


Maybe a bit of rewording and Gibran has a very powerful statement, not that it is not already. Your daily life is your window to your faith. I was thinking back to a student whose mother had passed away. I had observed numerous times the faith of this student. I can be quite a pain when questioning and asking deep focusing questions to make students think. She never flinched as so many lesser mortals do. She knew where of and what of she spoke. As I spoke with a teacher who has worked with her that teacher commented, that she had never met anyone with a faith that strong.


“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” John Wooden


John Wooden is the NCAA’s all-time winningest basketball coach with more national championships than any other coach ever. When he is talked about by his former players it is his faith and his way of life they remember not how he taught basketball skills. Though his faith is interwoven through all that he did it is what his players saw that they remembered. An interesting note in all of his years at UCLA and National championships he never asked for a raise.

Yesterday as I do I was talking with a good friend up at our corner store, he is the assistant manager, and is from India and a devout Muslim. He was showing me a track from a Jehovah’s Witness that had been there only a few minutes before I arrived. My friend at the store is a very well educated and knowledgeable person. Always questioning why people do this or that. He and I got into discussion over the many “redneck” teenagers who seeing the Time magazine cover of Barrack Obama, our president elect would spout out “someone should kill him”. We talked about ignorance and we went into the issue of faith.

As we talked it came up that many of those same teenagers who spouted on about Obama would on Sundays be at local Christian churches sitting in pews singing songs about a faith that is the exact opposite of their daily actions. My friend was amazed at the paradox. We eventually slipped into faith and he went back to his visitor earlier and the track and how he stumped the man not deliberately but by being so knowledgeable about Christianity as well as his own faith. I always enjoy a good discussion before I start the day.

Many semesters back I finished up a program of study with a presentation and one of my comments was on how we have become more visually oriented in our learning. It is becoming about what we see.


“If faith produces no works, I see that faith is not a living tree. Thus faith and works together grow, No separate life they never can know.” Hannah Moore


“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” Soren Kierkegard


Several days ago I made a comment and the student said they had never heard of Kierkegaard. So I had to dig up a few quotes. Faith separates us from lower life forms as Kierkegaard states.


“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light…” James Joyce


“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


As I sit here in my upstairs writing room preparing for a long day of teaching, researching, catching up on paperwork, reading and more writing I think back on days and times when faith was significant as I journeyed. I tried to pinpoint days and found separating out moments was difficult. Faith has been more of a constant, not a moment here or there.


“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty… this knowledge; this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” Albert Einstein


So often thought of as a man of little faith or no faith when you look in his writings faith is a centerpiece for much of what he wrote on and thought about. Interspersed through his physics are constant inquiries and questions and thoughts on faith. Einstein had a deep faith and while what he saw and thought were different than many his thoughts are as profound on faith as his theories are to physics.


“I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” St. Bernard


Recently as I walked through the school while on my planning period, a student was writing favorite bible verses on note cards for a friend who was going on a mission trip. I interrupted curious to see what verses were used. I asked about her little exercise and was told it was just to have a contact daily with friends, more than anything a reminder for her friend. How many of us need daily reminders note cards from friends, thoughts, ideas to keep us going in difficult times?


“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr  


I remember in one of my favorite all time a movie of all time and of all movies to ever be made this quote was used. Most of you have probably have never seen the movie Billy Jack by Tom Laughlin. A young Native American man pulls a slip of paper from his pocket and reads this quote to a girl he is interested in. He attributes the quote to St. Francis and for many years I searched looking for the entire text.

Dr. Niebuhr was a theologian and writer back in the day and in looking up various quotes and writings I found he used this as a prayer in a sermon in the late 1950’s.  It was part of a longer prayer used in his sermon. My point is whether from Niebuhr, St. Francis or Billy Jack it is a powerful statement of faith and of life. We cannot control all, no matter what we do or try faith is the binding force that allows us to be who we are and why we are. A Humanist writer and author I have enjoyed over the past years, William Edelen calls it the great mystery and writes about it in his book, In the search for the mystery.

Today as you journey out keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and remember those who have had other ways difficulties sent their way. I chatted online with a dear friend for some time last night seems it has been years since we last talked or chatted. Years ago we would walk in the mornings discussing philosophy religion and most anything that would come to mind. That period of time solidified many ideas I hold today. I closed our few moments of online chatting with the words peace be with you and he responded and also with you. As I close this morning be at peace and seek peace as you journey. While we may not see peace on a world wide basis in our lifetimes we can try and find peace within our own hearts with ourselves and with our environment.



What we see in a word or two

Bird Droppings October 9, 2009

What we see in a word or two


“There are people who, when they see the word passion in a book’s title, may not open its cover because that word conjures up imagery of excessive feeling that shortcuts clear and dispassionate thinking. Though the relationship between the word and the imagery is understandable, it would be a grievous mistake to pass this book by.” Dr. Seymour Sarason


So starts Robert L. Fried’s book, The Passionate Learner, in the Forward. I would have liked to say this was about my book but I am still editing and have a great Forward by Dr. James Sutton. I started reading again last night this book after I finished up my going through IEP data and reviewing material on motivation. Dr. Sarason is a professor emeritus at Yale University and a leading figure in questioning our educational system, he starts Fried’s book. It is interesting how Dr. Sarason in his writing


“Education has been based upon an axiom that wholly or in large part is invalid.  That axiom is that education (schooling) best takes place in encapsulated classrooms in encapsulated schools.” Dr. Seymour Sarason


As I started reading again Fried’s book The Passionate Learner an idea struck me, as amusing as I researched this morning. I found a quote in Sarason’s essays that actually illiterates my idea stated above.


“Every child is a passionate learner. Children come into the world with a desire to learn that is natural as the desire to eat and move and be loved, their hunger for knowledge, for skills, for the feeling of mastery as strong as any other appetite. They learn an amazing variety of things in the years before they enter school, including, miraculously how to talk in their native language. …. Something happens to a child when learning is replaced by schooling.” Robert Fried


Reading further and I have only just started back again on the book but an idea hit me. Several times I have used the illustration of a child as compared to a sponge, absorbing, and learning, literally soaking up information from birth. Fried alludes to what educators and psychologists call a language acquisition factor in children occurring between one and four years of age. Dr. Glenn Doman at the Philadelphia Institute for Achievement of Human Potential in the early 1960’s found children could learn multiple languages if exposed at this early age and had children learning four five or six languages fluently, like a sponge absorbing every bit of liquid presented.  I was reminded as a teacher brought her new baby by the school yesterday evening. She speaks Portuguese and Spanish fluently being from Brazil. I asked her if her baby boy was trilingual yet.

In young children this idea is a key issue. Small children are not mobile and there fore have a difficult time acquiring knowledge without having it available, which leads to socio-economic issues in the disparity of education and learning. Seems money is always at the root of things in life. A sponge can only soak up what is there to soak, assuming equally sized sponges to start. But then school starts and an interesting process, Sarason uses the term encapsulated. As I read Fried last night I envisioned the little capsules that can be purchased where you drop them in water and they grow into dinosaurs or other figures. I was seeing as I thought many times how school can be the reverse process.


“Nobody conspires to deny these children their birthright as passionate learners. Students, teachers, parents fall victim, too often, to a system of education that readily substitutes a kind of hum-drum, low energy, task oriented compliance for the intensity, enthusiasm, and joyfulness we see in the infant learner grasping at the world.” Robert Fried


School slowly and inevitably begins the process of instilling parameters, encapsulating, taking that sopping wet sponge of a passionate learner and implementing walls, encasing and encapsulating as Sarason states in a smaller and smaller capsule. Very soon that learner is so contained only bits and pieces make it through. Sarason adds to his idea of encapsulating with the following.


“Schools generally are and have been uninteresting places for students and others.  They are intellectually boring places. … Developments in the mass media, and their ever-growing influence, have created for young people a wide, unbridgeable, experienced gulf between two worlds: that of the classroom and school and the “real” world.  In terms of interest and challenge, the former cannot hold a candle to the latter. By virtue of their encapsulation, physical and otherwise, schools have two virtually impossible and related tasks: to simulate the conditions that engender interest, challenge, and curiosity, and to make the acquisition of knowledge and cognitive skills personally important and meaningful. As long as we uncritically accept the axiom and think of reform only in terms of altering classrooms and schools—what goes on in them—educational reform is doomed. There are alternative ways of conceiving and structuring formal education.  They would require two things: recognizing the invalidity of the axiom, and the use of non-school sites for learning.  I recognize how difficult it will be for people to consider these alternatives.  It took me decades to get to the point where I could consider alternatives, and that was only possible when I confronted the intractability of schools to change.” Dr. Seymour Sarason


Advocating learning somewhere besides school was unheard of, unthinkable, scandalous, incredible, despicable and even terrible by many standards. What would teachers do? What would administrators do? What would we do with all these schools, school bonds and school taxes? These are extremely serious questions and perhaps exactly why little has changed in education in 100 years. Last week I had several students come into my room and make the comment, “I could learn in here”. Even yesterday after a long day of meetings and conferences a little girl came by who had never been in my room before. She stared about almost like a three year old and not sixteen and said this is fantastic I have always wanted to come in here but did not know I could. In my Hodge-podge of stuff and critters, quiet music playing students become fascinated, interested and learn indirectly sort of almost through osmosis and my favorite the teachable moment.

One of my students made the comment that I should take something’s home and I asked what and as she started naming items as she went she rationalized herself not to. It was interesting to watch how she rationalized each animal or thing. We need to add water to the capsules. How do we instill passion back in kids? How do we provide avenues for learning, not simply providing content but providing context and make learning meaningful? Sadly as I listened to a teacher explain a new math program it was about learning a concept simply to pass a test. Not to learn how that concept came to be or why just know this so you can answer this. It saddens me to watch encapsulating teaching going on. Makes my job of trying to encourage those encapsulated students will harder but one day I will soon fill the room with passionate learners. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.




Who is at the center of your universe?

Bird Droppings October 8, 2009

Who is at the center of your universe?


“Tung-shan was asked, ‘The normal mind is the way; what is the normal mind?’ He replied, ’Not picking things up along the road.’” From Teachings of Zen, edited by Thomas Cleary, © 1998


One aspect of the Zen teachings is a process of thinking that often is involved in sorting out the statement to begin with. Many times a day I am faced with defining what is normal. It may be working with children and or adults who in some situations who often skirt most “normal” folks parameters of normalcy. Sometimes I sit back and wonder who is really there that can truly define “normal”. When I read this approach earlier I was thinking about High School students and towards teachers. How easy to define simply those persons who you will not pick up along side the road. Obviously if you throw out along side the road you are definitely not normal.

Funny as I think to how so many just treat their surroundings as disposable maybe that is the point of this statement treating the earth well. It is not just dumping but picking up after others is what should be normal, concern for others.


“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Confucius


“Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself.” Julie Cortazar


Several friends are teachers, who also coach cheerleading, which more often than not is predominately girls. Recently I placed on my door to my room a sign stating “Have only boys”. I had been joking with the coaches at how girls can be so difficult at times. There seemed to be a civil war over a boy going on within the ranks of the cheerleaders, accusations back and forth, parents involved to a point of a retraining order. Yesterday in Yahoo news an article about Lovesickness is physiological as well to add to the fray.


“If we were not all so excessively interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer


“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Carl Jung


I often wonder working with kids with disabilities if at times ego is not a factorI have found over the years so often depressed children have a poor self image and for example many ADHD and more overt children have inflated views of themselves. One in particular as I think while writing is totally absorbed in herself . Many high school students tend to be this way even those with out recognized disabilities it seems at times. I would say a vast majority sadly are self focused, self involved, literally selfish.  Alas the majority would not pick up along side the road conversely then normal is in retrospect not the majority as so often thought.


“Egotism is the art of seeing in yourself what others cannot see.” George V. Higgins


“The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.” Lucille S. Harper


“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” Frank Leahy


We all tend to become self absorbed. The past few weeks I have been fighting with a cold, when you are ill you tend to become more self involved, it is so much easier to ask for a drink or blanket when you can not breathe or have a running nose. But even with a cold I would still pick up from the side of the road and do my best to avoid saying something bad about my neighbor.


“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.” Roger M’Ckuen


“The one who overcomes egotism rids themselves of the most stubborn obstacle that blocks the way to all true greatness and all true happiness.” Coltvos


Often I will search the internet when I find a quote or saying to use to see who this person was and why they said what they said. Both of these authors have wonderful words in their quote yet neither is to be found outside their statement. As I sit here this morning wondering at this phenomenon of self centeredness of egotism, I wonder could we train students to be more aware of others to be less self centered, to pick up along side the road.

Years ago I remember a family moving across country and we were driving south to Naples Florida to visit relatives. This was long before interstates and all roads to Florida were two lane and periodically crossed rail road tracks. This family evidently had been pulling a trailer and it was hit by the train and scattered everything along the road for what seemed like miles. I am sitting in the car my dad was concerned about anyone being hurt he was the first aid guy back home. I just remember seeing all the debris the road was a litterer’s paradise and out of the wood work came people walking up picking up a piece here and there and as we watched the road was being picked up, sadly for today’s quote most were gathering for their own use; literally stealing away this families belongings as they sorted the pieces.

Perhaps I recall the scene as this was about the time of Lady Bird Johnson’s plea for cleaning up the roads. It used to be you had a coke bottle and were done you threw it out the window no thinking involved. As I think to the first statement of the morning perhaps that is the tie in, normal is picking up no thinking involved, no Lady Bird Johnson to plea and no reminders just it is what we should be doing. So a new morning a new day and which direction will we take. Please keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind.



Where do we find happiness?

Bird Droppings October 7, 2009

Where do we find happiness?


“The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” the Dalai Lama


Several years ago in my journey through life, I wandered through the Mall of Athens of course this was prior to me finding the tea shop at the Buford mall.  I happened into a store where Native American art is sold, since that time they have moved to a shop in Hawkinsville Ga. A very pungent smell filled the store; it is a smell you do not forget easily, rawhide. I recall that smell from another journey n my life to a saddle tree maker in North Georgia in Demorest where the vats of raw hide provided a sensual stimulus you do not forget. However in this case in the Athens Mall it was a traditional drum maker and he was building drums in the old way. He was stretching rawhide over hand carved and tooled shells of native cedar and spruce. This drum maker had left a construction job to make drums full time, traveling around the country making drums for sale and doing workshops while he worked just as he was here.


 “Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle


“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F.A.P. Aveling


As I left that store I felt at ease, at peace with myself. Sitting here this morning thinking back perhaps it was how this artist as he worked exuded peace and happiness. He was doing what he wanted to do, and that is a key to happiness. It is about being where we should be and doing what it is we were meant to do. For people that journey may take you through many jobs and many travels. My own personal journey took me nearly twenty five years in graphic arts as well as in various teaching situations along the way to where I am now.


“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthel


“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Fredric Benson


I was thinking to some of my students, who are not happy, it could be perhaps a chemical disturbance or imbalance within them causing this. Clinical depression is actually a chemical imbalance, and can be treated chemically. However so many may choose not to be treated and then my question is can we each search for and attain happiness is this a choice behavior to seek happiness.


“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock


“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black


So in effect happiness finds us, this is what I am thinking as I read. If you look under happiness on the internet you can find happiness scales to show you how happy you are and if you are truly happy. I looked up happiness in the dictionary always a good start and according to Dictionary.com, happiness is “Characterized by good luck; fortunate. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.”


“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton


Who is Smiley Blanton, actually a famed psychiatrist and author of numerous books and co partner since 1937 in the Peale Blanton Institute with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale? I thought he was a clown by his name. Dr. Peale’s name took me back a good bit it has been many years since I shook the hand of Dr. Peale in Macon Georgia. I was involved as a teacher in a program for severely disabled children and adults in Macon Georgia at that time and working with a group called the Church of the Exceptional. This little church was named Church of the Year nation wide by Dr. Peale’s group.


“Happiness and virtue rest upon each other; the best are not only the happiest, but the happiest are usually the best.” Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton


“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus


I always write about the journey we are on, each one of us is traveling as we go each day. I do believe we seek happiness, as the Dalai Lama states in the first quote I used today “The very purpose of our life is happiness; the very motion of our lives is toward happiness.” I do think we venture towards happiness in our daily walk inherently. Somewhere we get lost or off track and many then find it hard to get back to the trail. This is for so many people happens as they stumble through life and along their journeys and I wish we could each offer a hand as we go. Though it is early in the morning please any one you meet offer a hand and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.



Bird Droppings October 1, 2009



I am sitting here writing and listening to Neil Young from the songs recorded in  1971 the CD, Live at Massey Hall. I have been a Neil Young fan for many years and more recently a bigger fan as I read and follow his contributions to special needs children and adults. He and his wife have a child now a man who is wheel chair bound from cerebral palsy. They started a school The Bridge in California that is sponsored in part by Neil Young and friends concerts each year. I told my wife that is one concert I would like to go to. Not this year however. I need some patience. “Old man, take a look at your life” Neil Young sings and I wonder as I look each day at where I have walked and where I am going. Have I done all I could today or was there something more I could have done.


“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” William Faulkner


When I first read this earlier it hit me hard. So often in life we want to accomplish that great task all in one quick easy movement, at one time. Recently I was reading a favorite authors email blog where he mentioned he has been working on an idea and book for years covering an artist. In the Dakotas nearly fifty years ago sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, had promised to honor the memory of Crazy horse by carving out a mountain in his likeness. Literally rock by rock he and his family since his death in 1974 have kept that promise and the face was dedicated n 1998. 


“Our patience will achieve more than our force.” Edmund Burke


Often as I teach each day it is not a great lesson that succeeds but simply patience. Being able to deal with difficulties of the day and move into the next without dwelling to long on a single issue, moving small stones one at a time all in our effort to move or carve a mountain


“The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.” Epictetus


“Patience means self-suffering.” Mahatma Gandhi


“That virtue of the mind which is called Patience is so great a gift…” St. Augustine of Hippo


I walked out earlier taking the dog for his morning constitutional before me a clear sky filled with stars. Our home sits slightly off the road with a large field or pasture behind us and a dirt road to one side and several empty lots on the other. It is actually very private. But it was stars that caught my eye in the chill. Each morning they are there when the clouds allow. I was discussing with another teacher yesterday the idea of patience.

A former student’s mother had been killed several years back in a car wreck and we were talking how students will come to certain teachers. This former student I had seven years ago yet everyday she would stop by when she was in school before graduation. Consistency came out in our discussion; students will flock to consistency since many times they have little in there lives outside of school.


“Let this be understood, then, at starting; that the patient conquest of difficulties which rise in the regular and legitimate channels of business and enterprise is not only essential in securing the success which you seek but it is essential to that preparation of your mind, requisite for the enjoyment of your successes, and for retaining them when gained. So, day by day, and week by week; so month after month, and year after year, work on, and in that process gain strength and symmetry, and nerve and knowledge, that when success, patiently and bravely worked for, shall come, it may find you prepared to receive it and keep it,” Josiah Gilbert Holland


“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Barbara Johnson


I typed in Patience’s as a search and the first few were all lyrics for the Guns and Roses song, the words are not really applicable or I would use them but the song. There is a whistling start to the song, I find myself sitting here writing about patience and humming the start to the song. 


“(whistling) …little patience, mm yeah, mm yeah – need a little patience, yeah – just a little patience, yeah – some more patience, – yeah – need some patience, yeah – could use some patience, yeah – gotta have some patience, yeah – all it takes is patience, – just a little patience – is all you need” Guns and Roses 1989


In all honesty the words really don’t quite do it with out the whistling and the tune and Axl Rose’s whining voice singing, about patience “is all you need”.


“Consider the hour-glass; there is nothing to be accomplished by rattling or shaking; you have to wait patiently until the sand, grain by grain, has run from one funnel into the other.” John Christian Morgensten


Whether this was made by the 16th century artist or more recently whimsical poet of the 20 century this is a powerful statement. If you have never watched an hour glass at work it truly is the best example of patience. Bit by bit one grain at a time falls through no more no less till the entire mass of sand drops into the lower chamber.


“If I have made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.” Sir Issac Newton


“Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.” Johann Friedrich Von Schiller


It does take patience when trying to accomplish any task. It takes patience when trying to deal with humans especially students in high school. I have talked of world peace more than once and am committed to that but it will take patience. I wonder if as a society we will ever practice patience. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.