Listening to a philosopher

Bird Droppings November 30, 2009
Listening to a philosopher

A beautiful sky this morning as I walked out and actually rather warm which is surprising as the sky while filled with clouds was clear. A moon reflecting across from the west is lighting up the sky and white billowing clouds presented a surreal picture for me as I walked the dogs this morning. I was reading in National Geographic an article on possible life somewhere out in the universe and all of the possibilities that continue to pop up. It has not been long since I fancied myself a philosopher of sorts. Perhaps it was my graduate work that got me truly entrenched in philosophical meandering that led to this conclusion or trying a million times to formulate a philosophy of teaching while it evolved before me. Actually I think it is because I enjoy pondering to much. Wondering and thinking about all that is around me as I journey through life.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked for a starting place for my daily journal I was interrupted to take dogs out again so I could get back to my writing. As I went up and down the stairs and walked out into a sky as wonderful as it is this morning I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues with a very good friend of mine. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back and truly most things considered that I consider “bad habits” I had given up in the days past however they do provide tools for pondering ideas further and pushing thoughts beyond where they were. I have found however many people simply get mired in that bad habit or two and it becomes part of there life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch and support. Perhaps even a cast of sorts locking them into that point in time.

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

Most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop former Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and walk dogs twice outside so my wife and son would not have to get up as the holiday is officially over and we all are back at work today. I started writing a bit later today then I thought I would. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Somewhere I started writing about Dr. Koop.
Dr. C. Everett Koop was instrumental in the anti-cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws. On a personal note he was the surgeon for my younger brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father used to tell a story of Dr. Koop, his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s who approaching surgery. Dad would say having been in the Navy medical corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different, he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my fathers day.
But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen, “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who was an atheist”. As I think back and remember bits and pieces, Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to faith. Faith also parallels trust and it was in that trust in Dr. Koop and or trust in the hospital that parents would have faith and hope. Dr. Koop was a man of hope, of future, and of faith.

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

“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

I am ending with a simple idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. Tomorrow a new month ahead my friends have a glorious day today, build for tomorrow and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your thoughts.
namaste
bird

Trying to understand giving thanks, war, and teaching

Bird Droppings November 26, 2009
Trying to understand giving thanks, war and teaching

I had a difficult time sleeping due to a head cold and some sinus issues. When I got up and started to walk around and downed a large mug of mate and black tea my head started to clear a bit and I began to wonder about this day we declare thank you for all about us. So many times as in days before I open news articles and look through emails before writing or even thinking about what I will be writing that given day. I made a few comments on several thoughts and proceeded to ponder today’s thought and ideas. As I looked through several posts and listened to family members argue the cons of the current administration at lunch yesterday this email with this thought struck me this morning.

“Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones. American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share. Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve. I’ll be giving thanks for my family for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

Today is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love; the soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids, the sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling, the folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach. So when we gather, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.” President Barack Obama, 11/24/09

Words are simply those words and how we hear and or read them again is then perception which is a learned and acquired factor. Somewhere along the way we developed and took into an account varying stimuli that led us to how we see the world. As I read this short note of thanks from our current president good or bad, democrat or republican, black or white they struck a chord. There is so much we have in this world to give thanks for. Myself thankful I can at least breathe a breath of air through clogged passages for some today I am sure there is pain and sorrow. Dr. Michael T. Garrett in his writings discusses the theory of opposites. We need to have a balance in life which provides then definitive points for the other. Perhaps my growing up in Pennsylvania influenced my own thinking of pacifism and philosophical view of believing we do not need war. Yet around us world wide strife is ongoing Thanksgiving day or not. It is inside of us we need to seek answers for our own understandings and acceptances of what we perceive within this world. Perceptions do change albeit not easily. But they can they are not engrained at birth but a learned and acquired commodity.

“Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Within the passage is perhaps a key to humanities survival on this planet. It will never be done simply by who is most powerful, or who has the biggest guns and missiles. We must at some point accept others and understand others. As I read each morning and bits and pieces hit me my slant tends to be towards education and learning and I do see that there is a tremendous responsibility lying in the laps of teachers. Throughout the world teachers have daily more input into students lives than any other human being. As I finished a paper on technologies nearly a year or so ago I saw how impact on youth, actual human contact is dwindling daily.

“Preserve the fires in our hearts… Our world needs teachers whose fire can resist those forces that would render us less just, less humane, and less alive.” Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors Teaching with Fire

I found this book several years ago on a Borders trip. The two editors have taken poetry that means something to teachers and with explanations from those teachers as to why this poem means so much created a book, Teaching with Fire. Over the years I have had similar questions asked. It has been only a few days since another a teacher asked me, had I ever hit my own children, and I said no. I was looked at funny, “you have never hit your children?” I in all honesty could not remember ever hitting my own children. Perhaps I have blocked out the dark side of my personality. Several weeks ago I was asked similar, your kids never hit you or your wife or did this or that, and again “no” was my answer then as well. “Well I guess you just are not normal” was the answer both times.

“Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from.” Jodie Foster

As I wonder at how others see the world like Jodie Fosters thought. Several weeks ago when first asked about my children hitting me I asked my son on the way home what he thought about it and his response was “normal is what you are used too”. I thought back to a graduate school discussion of philosophy about Foucault and how he defines normal after he finishes defining abnormal.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

It is up to us somewhere, some how we as teachers and parents must set an example to the children. Looking at various books such as, Teaching with fire, The Passionate Teacher, The language and thoughts of a child, and I see that surround me as I write, maybe answers are here. The answers are right among us, we are the answer. It is not some big secret. Several times over the past few years I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea of “Children Learn what they live”. I tried to use that with the discussion trying to explain to the teacher asking me about hitting my kids, and that teacher had a difficult time seeing the point.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Looking back historically, Gandhi had a difficult time selling nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a difficult time selling nonviolence and both were killed for it.

“Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.” John Dewey

As a teacher, the position I am in each day is one of being on a pedestal being watched seen by hundreds of students each day. As a parent seen by my children each day or when they are home from college or work. Each of us is seen and understood in context of perceptions and understandings of that moment. Over the past week while out and about I have seen several students wearing t-shirts that are banned in dress code rules, because of racial over tones. When you ask students why they wear t-shirts that are illegal, answers are always vague and noncommittal never because of race. One of my favorite is always “only shirt I had” so you will get kicked out of school for your shirt because it is the only one you had is my general response.
Two events several days ago made my day. The first a simple one, I made the comment I was pissed off at a student for something, another student said “Mr. Bird I never heard you cuss before”. Actually I do not swear and did not consider pissed off as swearing either, however in that person’s context it was. But the remark they never heard me swear is what caught my attention, I had been setting an example and did not even know it. The other comment came as an email. A remark as to my wisdom, I wrote back that wisdom is fleeting and only momentary, as you teach wisdom is transferred and soon you must learn more to be wiser.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Mahatma Gandhi

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We are the pathway and the direction and the example for others to see. Never should anyone question hitting another person and try to justify it. Never should a person even in a small way feel doing harm to another in any way is justifiable. As a teacher, parent, or friend go out and show in your life what is, normal. Running parallel through religions world wide is a rule, a guide, a talisman for some just a thought, treat others as you wish to be treated. It is about Teaching with Fire, teaching with example. Learning what we live and trying to live it and see what impact can be made. Today as we all sit down please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts. Harm is a large word and covers so many be it the passing or illness of a loved one, a friend overseas fighting a war for freedom, a relationship that is abusive, a child too hungry to raise their head, let us be thankful today and try and ease the harm in the world if only one kind act at a time.
namaste
bird

Families and friends

Bird Droppings November 24, 2009
Families and Friends

The holidays are getting here soon and this semester is drawing to an end or perhaps a beginning as we get closer to the start of a semester at school. We were one of a few schools that had a week off for Thanksgiving and we will be out a few days. This is a time when celebrations abound, a time to enjoy family and friends. It is a time traditionally to be thankful. It is a time for families and friends.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” Anthony Brandt

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.” William Durant

We read and hear so much about how families are having problems in our world today. Yet within it all there are families that are together and that are strong and will persevere. As a teacher I know I need to set an example and provide a haven for some of these kids who are struggling because of family issues and time at home.

“My family begins with me; your family ends with you.” Iphicrates

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” Thomas Jefferson

As I am getting ready to spent the better part of the next three or four days with family it is energizing for me to sit and pondering here this morning. A vast array of happenings coming up, my wife and I along with our sons travel to Warner Robins to celebrate Thanksgiving and Saturday is the big game of the year Georgia Tech and The University of Georgia one off the greatest rivalries in the southeast. So along with it all the family gatherings, lots of good food, watching football games, playing video games, driving to and from all the activities and just being with my family makes the next few days exciting.

“In every dispute between parent and child, both cannot be right, but they may be, and usually are, both wrong. It is this situation which gives family life its peculiar hysterical charm.” Isaac Rosenfeld

I personally grew up in a tightly knit family and have cousins as friend’s not just relatives that are situated some where on a map. Growing up we all had a special time as we gathered for reunions and holidays. I am still in close contact with my high school friends of now over forty years ago, still emailing friends around the country keeping tabs on their families.

“If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.” Charlotte Bronte

“Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed.” Marcus T. Cicero

As I looked for quotes today and read, so many are bias and self centered both in references to family and friends. What do we have to gain rather than a sharing or a caring attitude, actually it was difficult as I read. So often I have found we have as people become so hardened as to others. There is a series of little books by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal entitled Small Miracles that is a reminder not everyone is hardened.
I read a story from one of their books a number of years ago. The story was of a young Jewish man who was frustrated with life and his current condition. He left his family to seek enlightenment in India and for years studied under various holy men and such in India. One day a friend from New York City came through the town he lived in and informed him his father had died. In all of his travels he actually thought one day he would make amends with his father. He gave up his spiritual journey in India and went to Israel to try and reconcile his feelings and felt his ancestral home would be a good start.
He asked a stranger as he walked into Jerusalem, where is a good place to start? He was directed to the Wailing Wall. In all the cracks of the wall were tiny slips of paper with prayers and dreams written, stuffed in by the thousands, possibly hundred of thousands and some perhaps thousands of years old as the tradition went back many years going back to the temple built by Herod the Great which the wall is part of. He tearfully wrote a note, a prayer to his father asking forgiveness for all he had done to him leaving and denouncing his faith and family. He went to the wall and as he went to place his tiny scrap of paper in a crack one fell out.
He went to replace and it fell again and then a third time till he was compelled to read the note that continually was falling out. He carefully unfolded the tiny piece of paper and it was a prayer, it was from his father. Written nearly a year ago asking forgiveness from his son for him not believing in him and wanting to apologize for all the bad words. Needless to say he fell to his knees and sobbed for many hours. This is such a powerful message and a true story as written down by the authors of Small Miracles.
Why even bring this up? For many years I have felt we are all here with purpose and reason. So often we forget and side step our journeys and travels. Actually if you get a chance look up this series of stories in Small Miracles, all are true. But as you journey and travel along the road try and mend fences not tear them down, try and lift up rather than knock down, try and enlighten rather then darken lives and as a elementary teacher from many years ago told me always smile. Today as we head into a holiday and holiday weekend for many people keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind. Peace be with you all.
namaste
bird

Finding Ourselves

Bird Droppings November 20, 2009
Finding ourselves

“Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So often the morning goes one direction and then shifts I was reading John Dewey and pondering the concepts of constructivism when I was thinking about how so many times the real starting point is within ourselves. Actually it was in Dewey’s comments and thoughts I came back to this. Many of the students I am involved with have a difficult time defining themselves often because they have never had anything really to define about themselves that could be construed as even acceptable to most.

“A person’s worth is contingent upon who he is, not upon what he does, or how much he has. The worth of a person, or a thing, or an idea, is in being, not in doing, not in having.” Alice Mary Hilton

“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.” John Locke

Asking students to describe themselves or define themselves can be quite a task. Have you ever sit down and tried to describe who you are. Generally we tend to hit on physical aspects first, hair color, eyes, size all very easy to come to for most people. But these are simply the package, it is what is inside, and here we begin to vary in detail and in depth. Many who feel sure about themselves often have difficulty without using definitiona others have imposed.

“I’ll always be number 1 to myself.” Moses Malone

“Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” Doris Mortman

I was so many years ago I asked a child to draw his house, a standard question in evaluating children. In minute detail he drew a simple box house with the numerous and creative parameters of a five year old. The doors had hinges and panels, windows had frames and latches, which amazed me in the detail for so young a child. As I watched in amazement the house took form. There was one point however that kept getting more attention, the keyhole in the front door. He worked and worked at details within the keyhole. This child had been diagnosed as autistic. This young man drew the inside of his house looking through the keyhole. In his reality he was locked out he only saw through the keyhole. I saved the picture and still have it now nearly forty years later.

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

“Whatever good things we build end up building us” Jim Rohn

Thinking back to my Dewey reading earlier, it is about now, not some futuristic lofty goal. We need to start with what we have to work with be that a child and build upon that child’s understandings not our own. We need to facilitate more than dictate. I have used so often my Twelfth grade Moby Dick paper that was to be about my opinion of Moby Dick. I wrote my opinion and had a great big F emblazoned across the page with in large red letters, “Your opinion is wrong”. Many of the issues the negative aspects of education are teacher imposed. We restrict and limit and then want simply tape recordings of what we taught. I was working with a student on a biology review and was questioning not answering trying to build on what she could recall and knew. After five minutes of this and she was getting it she asked me whay did I not teach biology. It is amazing when you start with what they know.

“No one can disgrace us but ourselves.” Henry Wheeler Shaw

“All the extraordinary men I have known were extraordinary in their own estimation.” Woodrow Wilson

We need to encourage and embrace individualism. We need to encourage self esteem. We can make a difference each second of each day simply being at the right place at the right time. Many the time I will state this I am often in the right place exactly where I susupose to be at the exact minute. I was reading a statement from a student a few minutes ago about a past teacher they had and it was to the effect all they could remember from that class was the teachers cat stories. As I am thinking back and ahead often wonder what is remembered about anything I might have taight? As we cross through this week and into a weekend please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Filling cracks in leaky pots

Bird Droppings November 19, 2009
Filling cracks in leaky pots

Far too often in the course of existence we tend to miss so much in our wandering about hurrying here and there and never taking time to understand or to even try and understand what is going on. Yesterday was a blur of discussions, meetings and individual people flowing through almost in a liquid sort of manner in my life? It was as if one conversation sort of spilled over into the next and that into the next until late in the afternoon I found myself standing in the hallway of our front office talking about how in looking at the deaths of my own father and a dear friends mother our families were so similar and how children of today are missing so much. I grew up in a very close knit family and even today though we have had our issues over the years are still very close. As we talked and considered the state of high school students today we kept seeing how much was lost. Every once in a while a key element in my own studies and in my readings currently in Native American thought is that of our elders. So many children of today are missing out on that aspect of life.
Kent Nerburn and Dr. Michael Garrett both writing on Native American philosophy and thought bring out consistently how the wisdom of the elders is so often being lost. The youth of today seem to miss the bits and pieces that are there to glean and gather in and that would assist them in continuing their life’s journeys. In my own studies and writing about The Foxfire Teaching approach preserving the heritage of the old and elders is a key to building a solid community. Many educators Palmer, Fried, Kohn and even John Dewey reflect often on community and maintaining connections. But in our fats paced world of gadgets and cell phones we tend to want everything instantly and so very often leave bits and pieces of the puzzle by the wayside. A child grows up with missing pieces borrowing a line from Shel Silverstein. As I look today at my own thinking and writing and discussions with youth I try and get them to think about and wonder about where they come from and why. Our history is not dead it is very much alive.
Many thousands of years ago Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. Borrowing these words today as I am thinking to a day lost over the weekend in my normal routine of writing and doing things. A lost day but a full day, time with family and in gardening through most of the day. Today I looked at my calendar and was concerned as I had missed a meeting on November 18 at 11:00. I looked at the time of my computer and email my fiend to tell them I was sorry I had missed the meeting. Only as I emailed apologizing did I realize it was tomorrow I was ahead in my thinking.

“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 what ever 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

When I started back to graduate school after nearly thirty years away I was sort of worried then I realized how much I enjoyed the 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 I find 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 which is many of the children I deal with each day. 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 5-10% 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 near eighty years old. 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 portion of the brain not used and not damaged for example in a brain injured child. It is a very interesting and controversial concept.
Borrowing from other great thinkers and such this idea is being actively used on children and adults. Has it been scientifically proven, maybe not in the purest sense of the word? However one thing that I did learn from Dr. Doman was to never, ever, lower expectations of any child, always reach for the stars. I see children daily who have had teachers set 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.
I have found that many teachers live in boxes of there own making limiting, constricting, defining and often in smaller boxes than they place 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 wives 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 the great guru of quality and author. We talked a few minutes and I left him with a noble statement on 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 all ready 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 harms way on your mind and in your heart and always seek the wisdom of those who have traveled the road before you.
namaste
bird

Feeding Wolves

Bird Droppings November 18, 2009
Feeding wolves

So many thoughts going through my mind today as I sit listening to rain outside and pondering several days of events that have made there mark on me. There are times when it is hard to put into words whether it is because of confidentiality or emotions maybe even words truly do not describe well enough and yet pictures are not suited to define or describe as well either. I went to Kroger after school yesterday to pick up a few things to make spaghetti, the universally excepted meal in our house. The parking lot was packed from one end to the other so I parked about twenty miles from the door. I read that is a good thing to do for exercise adding a few more steps to your day. After finding all I needed and visiting with at least half a dozen friends I bumped into I started up the book aisle which is sort of habit. It was packed and everyone was in line. A rather assorted bunch of folks were standing in what appeared to be a line.
I carefully went back and went down another aisle to head for checkout and as I reached the front of the store there were several men in black suits standing almost at attention beside a table stacked with books. My initial thought was Sarah Palin’s book signing but I knew she was in a more strategic location that Loganville Kroger and while she is popular there were a lot of people here. Then I see this old man who is still pretty spry for an old codger sitting shaking hands and signing his latest book. I had forgotten today was Vince Dooley day at Kroger. Dooley is somewhat of an icon in this area. Vince Dooley was the former head coach and athletic director of The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Where else but in Loganville would thousands of people swarm a grocery store to get an autograph from Mr. Bulldog himself. Being an avid Georgia Tech fan I walked by nose in the air and paid for my groceries. But the events of the week so far had me think back to an old email I received nearly six years ago.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a debate that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” From Jodie and Richard Schmidt

Many years ago in my travels and in reading emails I received this story sent by some friends. As I read over and by chance I was thinking about how children respond to various situations and we adults then commend or condemn them. Those two words are so closely spelled yet so far apart in meaning and understanding. Yesterday morning a young lady came in and was visibly upset but more of a moping kind of upset. Seems her boyfriend and she were sort of at odds. I shared the Thomas Merton quote I have hanging on my wall and have used here so many times.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we see in them.” Thomas Merton

I asked the young lady to look up Merton and see some of his other writings and who he was which she did before school and then she left with a copy and a Kent Nerburn book, Calm Surrender. As we talked I thought of this quote about the wolves inside of us and how we all are fighting as she told me of conflicts in her life and in her boyfriend’s life as well.
Several days back my wife and I were discussing kids as we tend too and the topic of learned behavior came up. We teach kids through our actions and inactions and yet we then punish them for the same exact thing. An attorney was on TV saying parents who knew kids were drinking at a party at their house should not be held responsible for any actions of drunken teenagers. The discussion was on a point, counter point discussion and then the other side mentioned that the person who was involved in the accident had been arrested previously for DUI and the parents knew that so there was a history established. So I sat listening to this back and forth, an underage drinking party led to a teenage driver killing a child. The underage drinker who was driving had left the party at those particular parents home with their knowledge he was drunk and had been drunk previously, both parties were found guilty. On the one hand the defense attorney was saying kids will be kids and on the other a dead child.
So often in life we are faced with what ifs. We have knowledge of behavior that is construed as dangerous or potential dangerous and yet we tend to shrug it off. A headline yesterday caught my eye where industry is turning its nose on incidents that do not cause major damage or injury. Coming from an industrial safety background it was these incidents that lead to major break through in safety and loss control. A headline down was about women not getting mammograms anymore till fifty and on the news many women were up in arms who had lost and whose family members were saved by early detection. I recall a young man I worked with back in the 1970’s and how on many occasions I had requested an evaluation and was told keep out of it the young man was Learning Disabled only. After I married and moved to Loganville I actually let him spend the summer with me and work on our farm. Sadly a few years’ later things changed and he was arrested and sentenced to three life sentences. He had killed a woman and her two kids wanting to return to Central State Hospital. Commend and condemn so similar yet differing in the meaning.
I look back at the story which wolf is being fed. We are responsible as parents, teachers and we and others need to be more actively involved in keeping such situations from happening. Whether it be teenage love or teenage drinking there is harm being done around the corner and often under our noses. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Finding where cpmmunity exists

Bird Droppings November 17, 2009
Finding where community exists

As I got near the end of my doctorial course work I was involved in a class on educational ethics which featured nine texts all of which have an under lying current of caring and relationships as keys to education or I should say successful teaching. One of the books entitled Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings, focuses on the notion of that a teacher is giving back to the community. Over the past few years I have heard numerous teachers discuss not wanting to be seen by students outside of school and literally not being a part of the school community. Yesterday we got into a debate of sorts at school on this concept. Can a teacher be a successful teacher and not be a part of the school community?
On my last trip to Barnes and Noble bookstore this past weekend I was looking for a book by J. Garrison, Dewey and Eros: Wisdom and desire in the art of teaching, which focuses on ideas from John Dewey, considered being by many one of the great minds in educational philosophy. As I went to the bookstore I ran into a student from my high school that had transferred to Georgia Southern University.

In every integral experience there is form because there is dynamic organization. I call the organization dynamic ….. Because it has growth….William James aptly compared the course of a conscious experience to the alternate flights and perchings of a bird…. Each resting place in experience is an undergoing in which is absorbed and taken home the consequences of prior doing… If we move to rapidly, we get away from the base of supplies – of accrued meanings – the experience is flustered, thin and confused. If we dawdle too long after having extracted a net value, experience perishes of inanition.” John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

I thought back a few years and many conversations on synchronicity and a trip home from a class actually after a midterm in Advanced Behavioral Techniques; I was hungry since I had not really stopped since early in the morning. I knew one of my former swimmers from the high school team worked at Taco Bell and sure enough she was working and I said hi, coincidently the same student who I ran into at the bookstore this past weekend. As I pulled out of Taco Bell my sweet tooth struck and I ended up at Brewster’s, as close to homemade ice cream as you can get at fast food, sounded good and there two of my former advisees were also getting ice cream. We talked for a while about up tight teachers and who was not, an interesting subject. Why do teachers get so up tight or anybody for that matter?
As I talked several more students and former students pulled in I met girlfriends and boyfriends of each and such, coincidence perhaps but an average day for me it seems. So often I mention the word coincidence and try to explain it. Recently in a letter to a friend I used the term of we are where we need to be right now at this moment and when we realize that all of a sudden so much more becomes clear. James Redfield an author refers to coincidence frequently and the idea that when you begin noticing coincidence it happens more often as you become attuned to it. Essentially as you become aware of your place in the puzzle the pieces all seem to fit better and more clearly.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Jung was of the nature there was purpose in all that happened and he and his former partner Sigmund Freud disagreed to an extent on the whys of this. Jung coined a word synchronicity to explain his thoughts in the early 1900’s. Events and things happening at a specific time, specific people seemingly appear by chance but obviously not.

“His (Jung) notion of synchronicity is that there is a causal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.” http:// skepdic.com/jung.html

“Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry, and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real; at deeper levels, everything — atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people — participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other. “A Wink from the Cosmos, by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)

How does synchronicity tie into community? Somewhere in and among ideas and thoughts are answers. Some people seek answers through religion some seek answers through pure science others assume there are no answers and sit on a rock. Going back to my first thought I see teaching as a community and that in that community we are integral pieces and do interconnect many times and as for me today and yesterday in many differing places. I find throwing myself into that community as significant as walking into my class room on a school day. Each time I bump into a student it adds to their appreciation of my time and effort and gives me a piece of their puzzle too help deal with any issues that may come up when I have them in class.
Each of us can choose our direction and flow as humans, as friends, and as teachers if that is our chosen lot in life. The actual point I was making was when we are aware of our interactions with others that each moment we spend with a person affects not only that person but the next person they see or talk too as we too are affected. It is in this way community is built. I came away that night and yesterday, happy having talked with some folks that I had not seen in several weeks even several years and hopefully they too went away a bit happier. This is how life works and if we are aware of this imagine the effect and impact. If I know I will be affecting people beyond my contact with someone I will be more aware of how I affect them and so forth. I recall many years ago from I believe Dr. Glenn Doman, the old credence of leaving the person you are talking with smiling will affect ten others is true. If you involve the idea of coincidence, fact or fancy who knows but it sure happens a lot. So as I wander today through differing ideas please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste