Seeking perfection midst the mud

Bird Droppings March 31, 2010
Seeking Perfection midst the mud

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

Yesterday I over heard a conversation about grammar and how poorly students in school are at grammar and we need to drill them in grammar, correct sentence structure, syntax, complex compound sentences, covalent bonds, distorted warped lines, rational equations and retroactive participles. Oh brother and the list goes on. Hablar, translated means to work in Spanish and yet we also learned to conjugate that verb in thousands of ways and I can’t remember any of them. So I guess I can’t say to work in Spanish in masculine past tense future. So what is my point maybe an illustration a story of sorts before I go on?
Once there was a young man who went to a great educational institution far away he was a smart child and knew much of life, he too was an athlete and a very fast runner strong and powerful was he, as he came to the school he saw an opportunity to became a member of an elite group of athletes that were participating in a sport he knew well. The throwing of a disc and scoring points which goes by the name in laymen’s terms of ultimate Frisbee. He proceeded to try out but the team was skilled beyond his knowledge in the ways of technique and plays, precision ruled as the players each knew where to be for play 234 and executed exactly time and again. He was not allowed to play with them. He searched for a team and soon found himself with a group who at first did not want him because he was young and unproven, however soon in his strength he prevailed and was the leading scorer, and soon the team he joined was numero uno and the prefect team was not. They had not won a game. All of their plays were prefect and every player was where there were to be but the other teams were else where scoring.

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

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

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

“The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.” Doug Larson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings March 30, 2010
An eclectic morning

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

It has been quite a few years since I watched an the episode of Star Trek actually it nay have been one of the movies where Spock has interfered with Star Fleets objectives in the relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that life times are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, and all forms of art work. They spent time simply improving since time was not a factor in their endeavor of life. As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier this morning that particular movie popped in my mind as learning becomes literally eternal.

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind, the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from their sun seemed to be the key to longevity I was reflecting back on several incidents at school only a few months back. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left in the day before a holiday to do an observation or so was said sticking their head in the door. On that day I had two extra students who have been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes, sort of a holding pattern for a day or two. I was also in the middle of trying to alleviate a year book emergency by rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted their daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play. It was a picture I had taken for the drama department back at Christmas. I had several extra students assisting in helping down load hard drives from refurbished computers. All in all there were at least ten things happening in the last thirty minutes of the last day before a holiday. Actually this is not unusual in my room.
I never mind observations and probably have had more in four years than most have in a life time, but my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But we think what we portray in our minds within seconds I was shifted from disaster to plotting a new reprisal.

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Batchelor, Meditation for Life

Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. They were willing to destroy a people for profit which does not sound that unfamiliar even in our times. That is just human nature many would say, as I think back. I thought back to my episode a few months back as I observed my two extra students. One of the students I had for one period every day the other I did not know at all. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class, acting out, attention seeking all choice behaviors.
I have used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a show on television. On one particular show a young boy who had been abused was talking with the prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life. The very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. He was concerned he was sick, because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show this young man tried to kill himself.

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” The Dalai Lama

Perhaps I am trying to cram too many thoughts into one sitting. It was a busy day yesterday having GHSGT are day was topsy turvy and I tried to get out in my yard working with my herb garden and to start planting some cuttings a friend of my wife’s had given her. We all need to be looking at our lives, are we trying to over simplify, are we being honest with our selves, do we use the word love as merely an attachment or can we be more than we are in our given time. Many issues as we head into the new week. I am taking my wife’s car to the service station one day this week for an oil change and lube on a day off for her while she does graduate work. We are so dependant on cars and gas as I read a headline she reminded me. One of Saturday’s headlines was about in Zimbabwe where the ruling party was banning all care groups from entering the country and using food to maintain their power in the upcoming election. My wife made a comment and here in the US they use gas, and I thought how true. Living in the Atlanta area and work for so many of us can be 30-40 miles one way which in our community requires driving and or car pooling at best, there is not the infrastructure of the northeast and many metropolitan areas of public transportation.
Yesterday one of my students finally came in with a few minutes left in the period; they are working on recovering credits for various classes through an online program with the State Department of Education. However they have to take tests with a certified teacher. Actually a very good concept I wish more students would take advantage of it. As I finish up today a reminder from Will Rodgers. Rushing after waking up late I forgot to take my meds yesterday and took them when I got home so slept pretty soundly all night and missed my normal awakening.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

A morning meandering

Bird Droppings March 29, 2010
A morning meandering

As I read through several emails several of my doctorate graduate school class mates are defending their dissertations in the coming weeks. In another set of emails from an article review group several commented on how these particular readings provided insight into successful educational programs. I actually had enjoyed the readings and it made me recall a teaching principle I learned in from my father who used it in the steel industry many years ago and I actually was taught this concept in a Red Cross course for instructors in 1968. It is called the FIDO principle, hence Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again. If you repeat something, often enough maybe it will sink in. Granted in today’s educational system of teaching to the test it might be happening a bit too much.
I look at John Dewey’s ideas from 1900 and how we still call those ideas progressive education. With all of the educational materials out now, many are only a few years old in effect yet are called traditional when comparing to Dewey, I find that amusing. One of our topics was looking at performance versus social support. I am of course leaning in the Social support direction as this is an integral part of my day when I am teaching even with general education students. This is how I see kids and deal with kids. I go back to my idea in one of the postings today of getting away from a swing of the pendulum and going in the direction of a pulse, no swing either way but a steady beat or energy.
We should try and steer away from that concept of right or left swing and go towards what is best for the kid not always for the society. I have worked with a large number of kids from a certain trailer park nearby. Many are very bright and all are very poor. The sixteen hour syndrome as I call it is alive and well in that trailer park. As I go by often several times a day between my mother’s house and my own, I see kids I have had and often new ones but always similarities. As I look back at the last nine years of teaching EBD students I have had more kids from that one spot in the county than any other specific spot. Sadly in actuality many are marrying within that group. There are more kids being born, coming from that environment. Many are on the fringe of society. Many of the kids are anarchists, punkers, suffering from divergent behaviors, drug addicts, alcoholics, and few if any have jobs. I wondered why as I drove by thinking of past kids from this enclave. Several are serving hard time; several will be back next year. I wonder if anyone in that community was approached about their participation in the greater good.
Interesting as I am having a difficult time getting started this morning wandering off a bit as I had just driven by that trailer park. I am always trying to stay up with our youngest thinking I recall back to a day he decided to do a Godzilla marathon six of the old Godzilla movies. I did not make it through the first one. When I got up the next morning the video was still on and he crashed somewhere after five this morning watching the twenty eighth movie featuring the man in a monster suit. He just found the latest installment which features every major other monster and a walk on by the computer generated Godzilla. I often wonder if there is a hidden meaning to Godzilla the all powerful beast who always eventually has a weakness. Sort of the David and Goliath of nature and humanity, and my youngest of course came to the rescue offering that the original concept of the monster was an antinuclear effort.

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Van der Post

For many years I have been intrigued by this man whom I had not heard of prior to finding a quote and yet he has written literally hundreds of books and articles on Africa and numerous other countries. He was raised by an African Bushman woman and taught their ways and his philosophy of life and his writings are permeated with nature and the thoughts and aspirations of this primitive people. Van der Post was knighted by the Queen many years ago and actually is the Godfather to Prince William. He is the only non-royal to have ever been given that honor.

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennett

“What is to give light must endure the burning.” Victor E, Frankl

As I sit this morning so often it is conversations and happenings of yesterday that drive the thought that inspires me as I write. Yesterday I was talking with some friends of where they had been and where they were going, adversity is a good word as we spoke. It is about looking the lion in the mouth and walking away knowing you have survived. A new graduate of a well respected associates program was daunted by her rejection at a four year school. She had gone to the two year program on a full athletic scholarship and suffered grade wise in order to play on a nationally ranked junior college team. As time to graduate came close she had to quit and actually lost her scholarship in order to raise her grades and put more time into studying. She had conquered her adversary and now was trying to move on.

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.

“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” Laurens Van der Post

“The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depends on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.” Colin Powell

Overcoming adversity begins with action, with a step forward, with realizing shadows are cast by light with knowing that growth comes from effort. It is difficult to cross a stream if you never take the first step. In borrowing from the Zen teachings “You can never cross a stream the same way twice”. I was sitting here remembering old stories and thoughts in the past we would hike up a stream in north Georgia the Toccoa Creek and in that hike transverse about 500 feet up hill over rocks and boulders and such climbing up the creek. In the process of course water is continually flowing against you and depending on the rainfall it could be a good bit. Cracks and crevices abound and more than several times you actually swim in rock channels ten feet deep and eighteen inches wide all up hill but at the top is a water fall.

“The view at the top is always worth the climb” Sir Edmond Hillary

Keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Ignorance versus the journey

Bird Droppings March 26, 2010
Ignorance versus the journey

“If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity well, teaching ought to quell that obsession and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to ……The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” Joseph Campbell

It has been so many years ago that I first thought my goal was to do something for mankind and in that effect actually to do or participate in some great event. However as I sit and wonder this morning I find in Campbell’s thought so often it is in the searching for and bettering yourself that we truly help mankind. Earlier I wrote today to a friend about trying to understand and reduce ignorance. It is funny how during political campaigns and issues ignorance is rampant.

“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” Ernest Bevin

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Working with children it becomes interesting as each day you see pieces of ignorance fall away only to be there again in the morning as parents can rebuild during the night, I have called it the sixteen hour syndrome. Yesterday with a half day many children of teachers were around the building and somehow Mr. Bird’s room is a must on kids list of places to visit. Questions are nonstop about snakes, lizards and turtles. I save all of the sheds from my boas and pythons and label date and snake and then by chance have some good give aways for days like yesterday. Kids always want to feed something and I pulled out my turtle food a pelleted product that works great along with live food and green for most aquatic turtles. However it has a down side it really smells bad and I thought one little girl was going to puke as she fed my turtles. It turns out she was trying to get the boys to smell it.

“Ignorance is never out of style. It was in fashion yesterday, it is the rage today and it will set the pace tomorrow.” Frank Dane

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

I live in a place which borders on ignorance almost on a daily basis and wants so terribly to cross over to the light. It seems those in power always want to keep those ignorant folks in the dark hence for example the Dark Ages back in the day. Most could not even read or write and those that could were in power. In today’s world it is money that dominates and holds dominion over others.

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

“Naiveté in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity.” Eric Hoffer

Looking at politics Hoffer may be very right, every election we watch politicians play with words against rhetoric that sounds good to that group that is being addressed. I recall when the legislation to prevent the sale of assault weapons was up for renewal how ironic if in the midst of anti terrorism it would fall by the wayside and assault weapons can again be sold.

“The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is ignorance.” Brian Hwang

“When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

In a search for knowledge for understanding so many roads can be walked. We can search in books, in schools, in our families, in life in general, but it must entail a search. For to assume you are there is to cease the journey, to cease is to assume you have reached the destination. We are born with a starting point, point A and when we die we have reached point B. It is that which connects A and B that is crucial.

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

I started with that quote yesterday or so and have used it so many times over the years; I need to put Aerosmith back in my CD changer for a few weeks. Funny thing in yesterday as I worked with some students as I just finished writing my daily sojourn I was emailing back and forth with our department head and Aerosmith’s greatest hits was playing in the background, maybe a coincidence. Of course I put it in the CD but you know occasionally a coincidence is just that. Who knows but the journey continues.

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation…” Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?”
Albert Einstein

Seeking a destination

Bird Droppings March 25, 2010
Seeking a destination

“Life is about the journey not the destination; we don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

Every once in awhile I get amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B not too many days ago a song was playing in my son’s car and it happened to be the CD with that line in it. I meant to write down which song and forgot later he told me it is from the song Awesome.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous just as always in the wee hours today my house is quiet. One son is off in Florence having graduated from Georgia Tech, another just finished at Piedmont College and while living at home is considering graduate school and my youngest son was up till the wee hours of the morning on the computer studying working on getting into nursing school down at Mercer University in Macon Georgia. I recall a few summers back my youngest was at music camp for a week when my father past away. My youngest son’s passion has been the blues harmonica his cousin and my oldest have started up playing together, old southern rock and blues. Who knows maybe they will turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the pop music so many teenagers listen to now a days.
I went by my mother’s house last evening as I do many times a week sometimes to drop off digital photos for my mother’s hobby she is creating greeting cards from photos and artwork, except that I had forgotten them. Her cards use an image on the front and then she will write a poem or phrase to go inside. I went driving around months ago looking for a picture of a spider web one day for her and in the process took 60 other photos. One I had used as a screen saver for many weeks for my laptop of my oldest son’s salt water tank. It has been nearly a year since he has had a reef tank, basically a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens are primarily colonial polyps and other invertebrates which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank. However when you get up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current they are very much alive. One of the pictures I took was of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. A tiny mantis shrimp that hatched in the tank was swimming about and got his or her picture taken, each of them less than a sixteenth of an inch long. What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space so small.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them. It is our outlook and perception that are crucial to truly seeing and hearing in this reality. Daily I here people complain about teaching how they do not like teaching or do not like working with children. I keep wanting to say well do something else then.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

It is the entire journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see, not missing that minute detail, or word and with conviction achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest 29,000 feet plus above sea level no one else had ever done that, now Nepal is a tourist trap with thousands coming through not all to climb but many to say they were there.
I heard from several friends lately through Facebook from so many years ago and one used the word new when describing those days from so long ago. I wrote to another friend this morning about how that was such a good word for back then so many things were brand new almost like opening presents. But today I just don’t rip off the paper and see the new toy I look at each minute detail. I try and listen far more carefully granted I am old and hearing is slightly going still better than most peoples. When I was younger I was rushing through life and things were new and so much to see like running through the park to simply say I have been there. I now stop and ponder and wonder about the details the pieces to the puzzle. No longer is it about getting done it is truly about the journey.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. Keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Should we question the questions

Bird Droppings March 24, 2010
Should we question our questions?

Yesterday as I was sitting in my class room after finding in my files an article from a few years back about the innuendos about who and why Georgia students in middles schools across the state did so poorly on CRCT’s, Georgia’s version of grade end tests in subject matter. Sadly the state knew ahead that the failure rate would be high and still administered the tests. I am always amazed by teachers who teach to fail students. I just finished a discussion with a colleague about passing a fellow who had a 79 on his end of course test in geometry and was failing class due to homework not being turned in. He had an 86 disregarding homework on test scores and quizzes. For me that was a no brainer he mastered the material and do you cause trouble for next years teacher failing a kid who knows the material and also happens to be SEBD, severely emotionally and behaviorally disturbed.

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“Ask the large questions, but seek small answers, a flower, or the space between a branch and a rock these are enough” Kent Nerburn

I wrote an email to a friend only a few moments ago sitting here gloating at issues I should have addressed and could have before they were issues. Some day’s I am bad about letting the flow go and spill over as it may be. I read this line from a book I am reading and wonder now as to answers I was seeking, maybe too often we seek large answers from small questions or ask the wrong questions thinking we know the answer.

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins

Somewhere on my shelves in my room at school maybe in a drawer are a series of tapes from this guru of self help, he occasionally has a good thought or two. Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame uses the term an Essential Question. We need to ask an essential question and build from there as we develop our course or train of thought. Several weeks ago I used some thoughts from Zen teachings from over a thousand years ago and from Socrates who also taught by asking questions.

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Anthony Jay

If a wrong question, can that even be? Could a wrong question be asked? When I am talking with future teachers in our Early Childhood class I tell them as four years olds will ask questions incessantly to let them and yet here I am asking if a wrong question can be asked. I look at these two thoughts and perhaps it is not wrong questions but poor questions. I have a student who will often ask questions and many times I sit looking at others and wondering where did that question come from sort of like if I am discussing blue birds and asked is that bird blue.

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett

Over the years I have acquired many books dealing with the care of animals and have even participated in publishing several in days gone by when I was in that line of work. Years back we found a book for diagnosis of aquarium fish problems. It was questions with various answers, such as if answer A go to page 3, or if B go to page 6, then on page 3, if A go to page 34, and on 34 if C this is the disease. In looking at questions and answering you literally could follow your way to a diagnosis. Essentially it was a taxonomy of animal specifically fish disease. A good friend in Virginia literally borrowed the idea and wrote a sheep manual in a similar fashion that has become the Ovine diagnosis book of choice across the country. Actually have my name in there some where as a resource and editor.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Decouvertes

I had to think as I read this if you know the answer why question. Is the paper white? I know it is but I am questioning and in questioning will show it to be white so in effect proving its whiteness or not. I learned it was white even knowing it was.

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.” Voltaire

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

“For example, when you sail in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as you can see at that time. All things are like this.” Eihei Dogen, 1200-1253

Maybe we who ask the questions need to listen more carefully to the answers and in listening learn as well, a symbiosis of sorts. It is about another day beginning and another sunrise to see. In talking with a friend who used to be just across the hall, that is all she looks for and as she rises each morning is thankful for another day having survived breast cancer and you know what as simple as that sounds for some and her in particular each moment is a miracle and after seeing her each morning smiling and thankful for another day my day goes so easy and I too am thankful. I ask with a sincere heart please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart. For a special friend who greets each sunrise and who has greeted everyday for nearly nine years now, Buenos Dias.

Setting priorities

Bird Droppings March 23, 2010
Setting priorities

“Keep in mind that you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best; keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.” Steven J. Covey

My youngest son when he is home will dig up old Guiness books of world records or old Sports Illistrated magazines to attend to issues he might have in the bathroom. Just by chance or coincidence for what ever reason I picked up an old Sports Illustrated magazine just before writing this morning, Rick Reilly’s “Life of Reilly”, the editorial on the last page and it is about one of the losingest NCAA basketball programs in history, Caltech.

“There is a T-Shirt you can buy in the university bookstore that reads CALTECH FOOTBALL: UNDEFEATED SINCE 1993. Possibly because Caltech hasn’t had a football team since 1993” Rick Reilly

As I read through Rick Reilly’s article it was interesting there are two players on the basketball team with prefect SAT scores, five faculty members have won Nobel prizes, one professor has discovered the tenth planet in our solar system just recently, but in NCAA basketball 21 years without a win. How is that for priorities?

“It is very nearly impossible… to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” James Baldwin

This statement hit me hard, we talk and use test scores as measuring sticks yet some how between it all football and basketball scores are still more significant more meaningful than SAT scores or academic awareness. The academic bowl team fights to get a bus and the football team rides on a charter bus in many schools. The last line of Reilly’s article struck me. As I look even at my own high school I doubt anyone could tell you when we last won a state championship in an academic bowl. Most can tell you who is current state wrestling champ or which team was in elite eight.

“As an opposing player – whose team had just slaughtered the Beavers (Caltech) – said as he shook each Caltech player’s hand, ‘Now go out there and cure cancer for us.’” Rick Reilly

Amazingly in so many schools athletes will find ways to pass or systems will find ways to pass athletes, tutors, special programs, and I heard somewhere TV money paid for the expansion of Georgia’s football stadium. Perhaps it is myself who has priorities wrong. Many of my students will never find a cure for cancer and or be on a winning football or basketball team, some may not ever hold much of a job. Many the day as I look back over students from the past that I can use jail time as an indicator. But what about a student who currently has the best writing for a senior in the county. What about former students who are in college and or have graduated and are rasing families and many said they would never graduate high school. Somewhere along the way maybe a kind word or thought gave the push in the right direction.

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

As I periodically do find answers in John Dewey, perhaps the priority is teaching that life is about learning daily. We tend to lose focus occasionally with whose team is winning and who is losing and of course who has the biggest TV contract for next year. Money becomes the crucial element. It is difficult trying to teach around money. We have jaded our society so much with materialism. Kids are more concerned with things than how they are going to earn the income to purchase that thing, I call it Hedonism 101.

“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.” Albert Einstein

I went out earlier into a chilly damp morning for March but a beautiful sky. I will go shortly to a school filled with students, some will want to learn, some are here walking the halls socializing, some are here due to parental concern, some are not sure why they are here and many seek the thinnest portion of the board to drill their holes. Some may be like the Caltech students who play basketball knowing they will lose yet in the lab tomorrow may uncover the cure for cancer. I have found we are each unique in life and each have a significant part to play.
Finding that piece to our puzzle is the hard part. But having the desire to look is step one. Sitting in a file folder next to me a folder labeled goals, my students goals for the year. In meetings we establish goals, teachers, parents and the student come up with annual goals and objectives. What if every student had a folder labeled goals and one of those goals is, as a student of life, I will master two of the following objectives. Eighty percent of the time I will live life to the fullest. Eighty percent of the time I will endeavor to treat every person I meet as an equal. Eighty percent of the time I will be the best that I can. I am allowing for variance and error with only requiring eighty percent, what if only we could live that way.

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

Yesterday I was watching a shooting star no such luck today, but will that stop me from looking tomorrow? Probably not I am always searching and looking. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

In search of faith

Bird Droppings March 22, 2010
In search of faith

It is amusing to me as I read through various blogs and emails from the night before how many people were asking for miracles both for passage of a house bill and against it. I watched nearly three hours of debate over a political situation that should have been resolved nearly twenty years ago and yet we seem to prefer to pay the highest price for the amount of health care, granted supposedly the best in the world and yet are not the healthiest country. I was argued with when I made a comment how the CEO of my health insurance company made over one hundred and fifty million dollars in compensation two years ago. I was told how I could question capitalism all I was saying was that money spent did not impact my health care one bit and since I actually seldom get sick was a major contributor to that companies profits and still my premiums go up. Maybe just maybe we have lost faith.

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

“In faith and hope the world will disagree, but all mankind’s concern is charity.” Alexander the Great

Within man there is a driving force, a desire to understand, a need to know and perhaps be known. Often we hope, we believe, so that we can share. Early writers chose a word to define this idea of sharing. In Greek several words were used to define what mankind considered love, Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is that sexual passionate love, Philos that love that can be deemed brotherly love, and Agape. Agape in 1613 was defined as the word charity by translators for King James. Alexander the Great used charity, perhaps in a similar fashion.

“Faith is a continuation of reason.” William Adams

“Faith is a higher faculty than reason.” Henry Christopher Bailey

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

A simple word faith, much of the world’s history has evolved around our understanding of this word and our acceptance or rejection of various aspects of that word.

“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.” Pearl S. Buck

“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” Thomas Carlyle

Several years ago I researched the word faith in an education class, and found that Dr. James Fowler of Emory University wrote a book on the development of faith. In his book he was comparing faith in stages much as Erickson and Piaget looked at children’s development.

“Do you know how to digest your food? Do you know how to fill your lungs with air? Do you know how to establish, regulate and direct the metabolism of your body — the assimilation of foodstuff so that it builds muscles, bones and flesh? No, you don’t know how consciously, but there is a wisdom within you that does know.” Donald Curtis

“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

As I researched the word and its applications to people and especially to children I found an interesting correlation and parallel. The word trust and faith are synonymous.

“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

“A faith to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.” Bob Harrington

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” James Joyce

Could it be that faith is an evolutionary thing, it grows, alters, changes and develops much as visual acuity changes and mental cognitive aspects of our nature change. As I looked deeper and saw correlations to the word trust, I could see trust in children evolve and grow and simultaneously faith.

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

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary” Major Kira Nerys

There is a dark side as I watch children who have little trust in their lives for what ever reason. It is here we see that vacuum, a hollow void a space where faith is vacant. If faith and trust is void then as so many great thinkers have said hope is lost and charity is non existent.

“Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“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

Two great men in their respective fields Niebuhr a theologian and Wooden one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time with a similar idea. Going at life and in my own case in teaching it is finding a way to build trust in children who have none. Many times more often than not when trust can be developed then so can faith. Hope soon follows, and charity sort of finds it way along. Many years ago I watched a film one of my favorites, Billy Jack. In one scene a young Native American offers a slip of paper to a young lady in the film containing a passage he attributes to St. Francis of Assisi.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Niebuhr used this statement in a much longer prayer often referred to as the serenity prayer during a sermon in the late 1950’s. As I worked through literature and my own thoughts piecing together bits and shards, I found there was a need within people for faith, and for trust. In reality it is not much different than so many other areas of human development. The capacity and direction of that faith and trust may vary greatly in traditions and in perceptions but it is there. Walking out into the mornings often reminds me, as I look upon a clear sky a moon tilted slightly smiling, stars and a few clouds creating an image of calm. We each piece together our own life’s puzzle one piece at a time often never seeing the completed version only having faith that it is there, somewhere. Please as the week draws to an end, keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Zero is only a reference point

Bird Droppings March 18, 2010
Zero is only a reference point

My niece is a senior at the high school here and also on the girl’s soccer team, who happens to be one of the top in our region and in the state. She is the goalie for the team. I try and get out to the games I recall a game a few years back that I attended before my graduate school class online staying to watch her play in the first forty minute period. When I left the score was 0-0. I later found out they won 2-1 and moved on the next week to another game in the payoffs. Most people looking at a 0-0 score could assume not much going on but when you count saves and shots over or past the goal by both teams it was an exciting game.

“If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world.” Robert Kaplan

What is in a name? Generally when I find a quote I research the author a bit so I can determine where and when and how these words have significance. For today a puzzle of sorts presented itself. Which of the many Robert Kaplan’s said these words, was it the Robert Kaplan, business guru and creator of “The balanced score card” a tool for businesses and professor at the Harvard Business school. Could it have been the Robert Kaplan who is a columnist for The Atlantic online and world renowned author and or Robert Kaplan the researcher in preventive medicine at the University of California and author of books and articles in that field.
Three world renowned Robert Kaplan’s and really at this point in the morning no sure way of finding who said this line. Many years ago 1970 or so I recall jotting a line in a journal that upon reading went something to the effect, “one little circle alone unopened”. It was a time for me of transition of pain of growth of learning and of seeing anew. I was in a critical moment in my life and one of significant transition. It was a change in perception for me. I saw this statement from the numerous Dr.’s Kaplan and recalled that moment. I have my old journals of poetry and letters sitting to my left here in my writing area along with hundreds of books I have gathered about me.
The past few days in class I have been asking what would you do to change education, to change schools to make learning better, to make it more fun and meaningful for you? In graduate classes we have over the years been discussing very similar thoughts. Sadly for so many students they see zero and in that nothing. They are so unable to peer past that point. It is if they hit the X and Y axis and stop neither plus nor minus just zero. It is a difficult task opening eyes to see past zero to see the entire world on the other side, front or back. So hard for many to see past immediacy and now to another time and place, for there is another entire world out there. It is so hard to open eyes and change perceptions that have been engrained since birth.

“When you pass through, no one can pin you down; no one can call you back.” Ying-An

When you learn to learn, when you have crossed the X,Y axis, when you see past zero, colors and forms become so much more so vivid and meaningful versus simply a point of reference. Each piece of the puzzle now adds to the whole to the gathering, to the intricate details, to the culmination of the equation and to new theories and ideas. So I add again to the conversation.

“If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world.” Robert Kaplan

A simple day and a simple thought but as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

All is possible

Bird Droppings March 17, 2010
All is possible

“We live by our imagination, our admirations, and our sentiments.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think back to childhood and games before the dawn of current video games and virtual reality. Many times we would create fantasies of Robin Hood and such in a small patch of shrubs not far from the house. Sherwood Forest was there midst the sassafras and sumac. I was reminded today as I looked out my own window here in Georgia seven hundred miles from that childhood patch of trees.

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” Muhammad Ali

“I noticed an almost universal trait among Super Achievers, and it was what I call Sensory Goal Vision. These people knew what they wanted out of life, and they could sense it multi-dimensionally before they ever had it. They could not only see it, but also taste it, smell it, and imagine the sounds and emotions associated with it. They pre-lived it before they had it. And the sharp, sensory vision became a powerful driving force in their lives.” Stephen Devore

At what point is the imagination stifled? When is it in society we tend to stop allowing imagination as a rule. Is it as parents when we decide that an imaginary friend has to move on? Is it as teachers when we decide we only want nonfiction? I was walking about the school many months back and happened upon a group of students with a sort of running imagination. It is an ongoing epic of sorts where each day one of the group adds to the novel in process.
Then there is a comeback of sorts, some of the games of imagination that many youth play and from what I have seen and heard there are reenactments of not only the Civil War but medieval and numerous other eras in time. Several of the games also have life action meetings or festivals. You might be able to say imagination run wild.

“Peak performers develop powerful mental images of the behavior that will lead to the desired results. They see in their mind’s eye the result they want, and the actions leading to it.” Charles A. Garfield

Many years ago I had a friend who would doodle on paper imaginary inventions for example an egg cannon, designed for firing eggs across distances without breaking. I happened to remember that one idea and one day he built the cannon, it could shoot eggs about 100 yards. As he grew up first solving a problem at the place he worked then soon building a company that solved problems for others, imagination at work.
It has been years since I watched my dad make the first pusher pole, just a few days ago I was talking with a student about inventions and how he had made this simple pole. This student’s father an inventor as well had developed an ergonomic mop. As a child in the early sixties I remember my dad drawing then playing with several metal pieces and poles working on a simple idea to save crane workers hands in the steel mill. It seems steel workers would guide heavy loads being lifted with cranes with their hands to the truck often losing fingers and hands and an occasional life in the process. A simple pole with a metal head solved the problem. That idea also sold many thousands of pusher poles.

“Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them.” Ralph Gerard

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” Napoleon Hill

Some of the great thinkers in education found their ideas in how children play and think, by observing children of all ways. However several people can see the same situation and walk away one with an idea and a hundred with nothing. The late Leonard Ring was a thinker and leading authority on Ergonomics internationally. Len Ring lectured around the world on such simple topics as “Bend your knees” a concept so simple it is literally funny but millions of dollars in workman’s compensation have been saved with that catch phrase and training programs. I met Leonard Ring in Macon Georgia in 1973 or so when he was attending a training session with my fathers company.
The teacher is a learner as well; Len was a student and a character, feisty and loud. He had been a fighter pilot in World War II for New Zealand and in a crash did massive damage to his legs and spine. It was in rehab he developed an interest in lifting and eventually physical therapy which was his chosen field and later his graduate studies in Ergonomics. After teaching the teacher in that class in 1973 or so which happened to be my father how to lift together they developed a program on back injury prevention.
On one trip to the US on a back injury prevention, “Bend your Knees” program tour, Len was staying with me. He told me the story of a recent consulting session at a steel fabricator in New Zealand. I was always amazed at his view of the world. Len was called into a plant where welder’s continuality burned their right hand across the back with their torches. Len saw the benches where they worked, welding torches hung on the right side of the bench. These were very sturdy steel benches. All the welders wore pigskin welding gloves the best made. All of the gear was excellent welding equipment. At first all looked great.
Len asked to watch a shift of work. The supervisor asked why, shouldn’t he be able to find issues with the design of the benches. Len again said all looked good but ergonomics also involves the people/human aspect. Len watched about four minutes of work and laughingly wrote his report. Out of ten welders on that shift eight were left handed. They would use their right hand to hold the piece being welded and get the torch from the right hand rack and cross their hand and then cross going back often with still a flame burning and a resulting burn on the right hand. Stations were restructured and workers were asked which handed they were and worked at correctly adjusted sites and no more burned hands. It was simply imagination.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw

“It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart; it being much more sensitive.” Henry David Thoreau

I often wonder about how we can teach teachers to encourage imagination. Do you need imagination to teach imagination? Recently I saw a note from a high school principal, “take down the walls”. He was not referring to the physical walls of the building structure but those walls so often built that confine and limit student’s imagination.

“Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” Jules Verne

In his time a fantasy writer. I wonder where we would class him today in literature. We now have great submarines and space ships all of which Jules Verne wrote about long before they came into existence.

“Understand that you, yourself, are no more than the composite picture of all your thoughts and actions. In your relationships with others, remember the basic and critically important rule: If you want to be loved, be lovable. If you want respect, set a respectable example!” Denis Waitley

As I close out this morning, spring break coming up and being what it is and I am getting lazier. I can imagine peace even world peace. Perhaps as the generals discuss and Senate and Congress ask questions maybe we can find solutions that do not involve greed. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.