Try and Care

Bird Droppings May 18, 2010
Try and Care

With school nearly over for the summer it is like years past over the past few weeks numerous former students come by and visit my room. Many times as kids get home from college, former students and non-students who would spend time in my class room over the years holding Stevie the wonder snake or asking questions about various animals in my room stop by to check on favorite animals or ask me to take pictures of their weddings and or babies. Two days ago a little girl now a mom and future pre-med student came by. I recall a few days before a former model in New York City now studying to be a bakery chef emailed and as I sit and think how powerful are we as teachers. Whether a student accepts what we say or not we are a direct influence on students.
Do we impact them positively or negatively is a big question I ask daily as I carry on and get students to think and ponder. I wonder do they learn or simply take up space.

“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

I have used this quote in several presentations in graduate school and recently a similar line was used by a presenter to the entire teaching staff of the county. We do have a very powerful impact on children and many teachers do not realize past the moment of their teaching of that wonderful lesson. I often refer to my own children and impact teachers have made on them as I talk with kids. One teacher in particular who is a good friend who all three of my sons have had and each would say she is one of best teachers they have had and one of the hardest. It could be because thinking was required and thinking was needed often not requested just implied and you would do it because of the teacher and the teacher’s example and attitude. But this teacher also knows that tomorrow this student will be in another classroom and with another teacher and maybe will be a father or mother and teaching their own children. Our jobs do not end with the bells as so many teachers think.

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” Mother Teresa

It is difficult for me to even imagine the ability to do what Mother Teresa did day after day. She would walk the streets of India dealing with poverty and human suffering we of our comfortable world can barely imagine. She asks to light a light in the hearts of people and I try and compare and feel like a match struck barely casting a spark.

“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” Barbara De Angelis

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

As I look at my day and my effort to try and emulate some of humanities great givers I realize I am here now in this moment and that other person was there at that moment and for now even if only a spark a minimum of light, it is light and it is shining and what I can do now within the context of where I am is what is so important. My morning is spent before class in the hall literally talking to students often students who are walking down the hall just simply being there. I interject questions, how you and such are and often more times than not make some smart remark, I wonder if they are still grouchy today. Yesterday my friend who wasn’t speaking too me, I followed down the hall directly behind her with comments like some people just are annoying they stop talking to other people for no apparent reason anyhow after about fifteen feet of annoying remarks she turned around cracking up and said ok I will talk to you. Later in the day I think a well of holding back spilled out. Have you ever tried to listen to a kid with ADHD try and explain why they were mad at you and all that has happened in a week in fifteen seconds or less, hypersonic listening is required.

“It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” James Baldwin

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braunstein

Always as I read Mother Teresa’s comments the “L” word comes up time and time again, love. In teaching so often it is difficult to use that word, even parents find it hard to tell their children. I have heard many times the line “My children know I love them even if I do not tell them”.

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one to others.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

It amazes me how people do not see how love and giving are really selfish. When you love and when you give it is nearly always returned and the circle is complete. I know this is an under statement and Love and giving are not selfish by any means but it is so true that this circular motion occurs, it may be simply the feeling of doing good. It has been a few months since I did a poster for school about the relief fund one of the classes had started, a feeling of good will, of love while these kids will never witness any effect as to what they do here in our town collecting money for a relief fund actually does, there is satisfaction and pride in the effort.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao-Tzu

I have been a visitor in schools where teachers wall them selves up in their rooms opening the door for class and lectures then close the door, open the door, and maintain this assembly line routine throughout the day. They never once have true contact with a student. They take roll and call names. I did that the other day started calling names and said we have been required to call roll and students must raise your hand and say present. After about two or three students actually did it one pipes up, “Mr. Bird but you know we are here” and there in lies the difference. Some teachers are so engrossed in not knowing their students they never know they are there. Many choose not to give for a fear of caring.
I called a home many months ago and spoke to a dad if I can call him that. He was pleasant and polite. I asked about his daughter who is a ninth grader. According to him she was with friends for the weekend and he had told her she was responsible for her ride to and from a town about thirty miles distant. In an average car at say 20 miles per gallon that is about four or five gallons maybe six gallons of gas and if careful we can get gas for $2.85 so it is then maybe $10.00 in gas. It seems she could not get a ride back and he told her he could not afford to come get her. Perhaps my comprehension was a bit off as I spoke with him. If one of my children went out of town for the weekend and was unable to get home, I would have found ten or twenty dollars in gas or found a way to get them home. My reason for calling was due to her attendance. A few weeks later that student quit on her sixteenth birthday and left home.

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

“We must give more in order to get more; it is the generous giving of ourselves that produce the generous harvest.” Orison Swett Marden

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives; and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.” George McDonald

I was looking through old photos from back in the day and found several of some friends from Auburn Alabama. These photos go back nearly twenty five years. The young man in the photos used to work for me when he was in college. I jokingly recalled as I talked to his wife after I spontaneously called after looking at the pictures meeting his wife’s father, seems my friend was hiding in our stock trailer at a livestock show. Her daddy did not want her seeing him and he was looking for the young fellow. Amazing how time is, they are now business partners. A small side note, they lost a baby several years ago and since have had two healthy boys and the third pregnancy was going fine, nearly full term when the little girl was stillborn. No cause could be found in the autopsy and as I talked with my friends wife she offered that in her heart it was meant to be there was a reason and she may never know. It had taken two years but they were having another baby and you know everyday I end with remembering those in harms way. In harms way is a big term. That little baby is doing great and I still keep them in my daily thoughts these are special folks.

“If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.” Mother Teresa

Today make an effort to truly know your students, your children, your friends, your family and those you meet. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

PS: A reminder since I really like this quote – “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

Dropping an eagle feather

Bird Droppings May 17, 2010
Dropping an eagle feather

So often I find that in events and happenings of my life there is a tie to and or connection to not only the past and present but often to the future. It was only a few days ago I received a call from a friend of nearly forty years. We have touched base on occasion, the death of my brother over fifteen years ago and the death of my father three years ago. But even on my many trips to Oklahoma somehow I was always to busy to stop in or find my friend. It has been an interesting journey.
In 1973 I shared a house with two other fellows. One of them was a student from Mercer who was Afro- American, the other a Native American and me a white Anglo Saxon student at Mercer. Other than living together we also worked downstairs in the Macon day care center. It was an interesting time considering we had the kids of The Allman Brothers band and each morning the limos would pull up with these young hippie moms and well it was just interesting at the time.
My black friend went on to pharmacy school and I lost track a few years later. My Native American friend was of the Creek nation and his grandfather had been the medicine man to the nation in Oklahoma. My friend had been raised in his grandfather’s household never speaking English till he started school. I recall one night watching him sitting beading which was his hobby and his stress release. He was beading a feather and sure enough it turned out to be an eagle feather. He handled it with utmost care carefully stitching deer skin around the base so he could add the beadwork. This feather was to be a present for his mother. Only Native Americans are allowed to own or possess eagle feathers by federal law. Many years later he gave my father a similar one which became one of my father’s proudest possessions.
I have enjoyed the country feel of our house and being able to dream again. For nearly two years previous to moving in any dreams were short, broken up by motorcycles and trucks plying our road all hours of the night and sleeping all night was near impossible as our dogs would wake every time someone was walking down the street. So for nearly two years we slept in one or two hour increments and maybe three if we were lucky. Since our move I have actually enjoyed sleeping for six or eight hours – I did not think that was possible for quite some time. So last night as I slept I dreamed.
In my dream I was traveling in Pennsylvania heading towards Hopewell Lake. Years ago I did a paper for a history class on Hopewell Village, a colonial times iron foundry where cannons and such were made in the revolutionary war. It is now a tourist spot and state park. I am not sure why I was heading there but along the way I stopped at an old house that appeared deserted and as I stepped out over my head two eagles were circling and they landed over me in the trees. I stared in amazement. I have seen eagles in the wild but never quite this close. After several minutes they flew off but the larger of the two flipped a wing and a feather dropped towards me. I picked it up and headed on. Dreams according to Jung are meaningful and as I thought about this I wondered of its significance and the fact I have for so long a period I had not dreamed.

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” Anis Nin

Perhaps there is significance to dreams as many scholars and wise men and women say. Dreams have to have basis in our realities as did mine with Hopewell Village.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl G. Jung

Maybe it is our so often rush to go another or differing direction that keeps us from remembering or understanding our dreams. Back in the day in most Native American tribes for boys and girls that first vision was one of significance, one of becoming a man or woman. In many tribes it was in that dream many received their names from that vision and or happening in the dream. Our western society so ungraciously casts dreams aside with the exception of a few consider by many professionals as pseudo-scientists including Jung by Freudian thinkers. I once tried to tell a practitioner of dream analysis of my dreams sadly she had to look in her book. In twenty years she had never had anyone have a cricket crawl from the eye hole of a dried lizard skin.

“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” Carl Sandburg

So often in today’s fast paced world and lives we tend to forget, to stop and dream although I use the word ponder I sort of like that word. It is in accomplishing we need to dream first to see ahead and give ourselves understanding of where we are going.

“Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not?” frequently attributed to Robert F. Kennedy, who used it in a speech which his brother, Edward F. Kennedy quoted at RFK’s funeral. Actually by George Bernard Shaw

I wonder if Bobby Kennedy cited Shaw when he used this quote. I remember the speech and it was a powerful one at that. But can we dream of things that never were? Can we see beyond today and see what could be? If only we could what a world this would be. I wish it were we could know and then perhaps lives could be saved and democracy could be a reality and war would be over. But alas today it is only a dream and so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

My little Grand daddy and me

Bird Droppings May 15-16, 2010
My little Grand Daddy and me

So many people complain about social networks and their negative impacts on children and the world in general. I was sitting at school Friday morning about five thirty listening to a MySpace playlist of Ron Kimble a local musician and song writer. I first heard and saw Ron in 1977 or so at the now defunct Hemmingway’s Bar in Decatur. Back in the day Ron and his band did mainly country with a mix of Southern Rock and Roll. My cousin Bill would many times go with us and every time send a napkin forward with the same song on it. After numerous napkins and a brief introduction Ron Kimble said we keep getting this song as a request so for Bill here goes and Ron’s band ripped into “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and put Iron Butterfly to shame. Hope that holds you for a week or two. Bill was sitting there smiling.
It has been several years now since I found or was friended by Ron Kimble’s MySpace page which by chance includes about ten songs all acoustic solos by Ron in his deep baritone. Most are some traditional country, gospel and folk songs but one has brought a tear to my eye ever time I play it and yesterday I hooked my computer through my stereo speakers at school and listened to this song loud and clear. Ron wrote this song for his grand daddy born in 1895.

“My grand daddy was a little man he stood about five foot four. He was an American hero and they don’t make like him no more. He told me stories of other places and times. I was just a little boy but I hung on every word.” Words and music by Ron Kimble

I am in tears on about the second or third word as I think back to my dad sitting telling stories over the years. Years ago it was my self, my sisters and brother. Up until the day he passed on he was still spinning yarns for his grandkids. My kids grew up with tales of Grandpa Niper, my great granddad and Little Strong Arm, a Sioux chief, much like we did as kids so long ago. Many the days the grandkids gave up technology to sit and listen or better yet go for a golf cart ride with pop-pop as he would make up tales of the hermit in the woods of the family farm. I sat and listened for nearly an hour letting Ron’s songs fill my room Friday morning.
Maybe one day I will be telling the family stories to my own grandkids sitting by the fireplace spinning tales and taking Great Grandpa Niper again for his travels tracking Geronimo and saving folks across the country though he really never left New Jersey and his community. Although he lived to be one hundred and fourteen he was not a big man as our stories tell. He did not fire over his shoulder his faithful rifle while pursued by hostiles. He never was across the Rockies and over the Mississippi but stayed at home with my Great Grandmother, who by chance was Leni Lenape, of the Delaware’s carving farm tools and ax handles which was his trade. As the old newspaper articles tell he was considered one of the best wooden tool makers in New Jersey.
Now my Grandpa Niper was a little man and stood about five foot four. What a contrast to my own father and my kids grandfather who stood six one and played offense and defensive lineman in college and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts back in the day. Dad chose raising a family and the steel mills of Pennsylvania over pro-football. There are many stories of my father I can spin as I tell my grandkids. The night of the great bar fight when my dad after us kids could not get any sleep because the bar across the street from our apartment was still open and the regulars had taken to the street yelling and hollering. Dad picked up a police Billy club he had and there are many stories to go with it and walked across the street and gave one warning and a hush feel over the rowdy crowd. We never heard what was said but I did see him waving the Billy club in the air.
Maybe it is the job of grandfathers to pass on the culture of a family and society. Wilma Mankiller in her book, Every Day is a Good Day, borrows from the reflections of indigenous women from many cultures and each of them pulls from their oral history and traditional stories. An author and scholar I have enjoyed reading now for several years is Dr. Michael Tlanusta Garrett. While a professor in college and chairman of Guidance Counseling specializing in working with Native American youth in college, cross culture counseling he writes often about his heritage, that of the North Carolina Cherokees.

“Everything we do affects all of our relations and the survival of our species. We are all connected in our ancestors in spirit and in our physical being within ourselves. The past present and future are on the same energy continuum.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Meditations with the Cherokee

It has been a number of years since I read some writings and articles from a dear friend on the concept of eldering. Elders would teach and work with young folks in learning the culture and understanding of society. In most primitive cultures children would be left in the care of the elders to learn the ways of that particular group or tribe. I was thinking back to my own life and how many the time my grandmother would take care of us and she would tell stories of her father and the coal mines of Pennsylvania and of how when my grandfather passed on she took over his church to finish out his term as pastor in a small coal mining town in the mountain of Pennsylvania. Stories of Grandpa Savidge who since pastors back then made very little money would drive with his car and trailer down to the New Jersey shore and buy fish to sell and for his family to make a little extra. One of those stories was about a great tuna fish he brought back that hung out the end of the trailer. Grandma could not believe it.
My cousin in Florida wrote and recorded her grand dad’s stories of Collier County Florida back in the day when Naples was a fishing town and not much else. All of these stories now that can be passed down to her grand kids and family are part of who we are and why we are.
I spent a large portion of yesterday digging in the dirt. It was a day of weeding and planting adding to and taking away from my various herb gardens. I walk around smelling and often sometimes talking to various plants. Amazing how often slight differences in smell and taste for example in basils can alter a dish being prepared. I have chosen through my current course of study to read and reflect on various plants used through differing cultures and societies her in Georgia. I am working on my dissertation on the Foxfire Approach to teaching. Foxfire started as a way of teaching to mountain kids in North Georgia to tie them into and give relevance to their learning. Out of that original class in 1966 came the Foxfire magazine and thirteen books.

“The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.” Foxfire Core Practice three

The students of Foxfire went into the community and gleaned stories from the mountains and their relatives. In their study and discussions with grandfathers, grandmothers, great aunts and uncles they did unravel a piece of themselves. The Foxfire museum and property in Mountain City Georgia is directly from the work of these kids. Original cabins were taken apart after donation t the museum and moved to the property preserving a piece of our mountain heritage. Stories were recorded and transcribed and edited and put into the Foxfire magazine. I visited the Foxfire class about a year ago and still they are finding stories and pieces from days long gone. Somehow in out technological diversity there is still a culture and history waiting to be learned and passed on.

“My grand daddy was a little man he stood about five foot four. He was an American hero and they don’t make like him no more. He told me stories of other places and times. I was just a little boy but I hung on every word.” Words and music by Ron Kimble

So as I end today and get ready to go do a bit more gardening may we all cherish our past and history and pass it on to the grand babies so that they can pass it one to theirs. Please perhaps on last thought for today keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

A new store opening

Bird Droppings May 14, 2010
A new store opening

Interesting two thoughts while similar struck me this morning as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to get gas for my wife the other day from a radio announcer recalling an old Bush quote, and the other thought is from Harry Potter. All of this sitting here thinking about my new favorite store it has been over two years since the SUPER Kroger opened near our house. After four days of mandated state testing it is Friday ten days of school left and what a glorious day ahead.

“It is not about the goods we accumulate but about the good we do” George W. Bush

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

I wish it would be possible to believe the first, but with trying to drill for oil in wilderness Alaska and off shore in Florida and other parts of the country and friends in high places reaping huge profits and a war costing trillions of dollars that was bogus claim from many people’s standpoints. It was not too long ago that war efforts accumulation seems more important than doing any sort of good. Of course the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied. That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon.
Sadly once there were billions flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone. The Alaska wilderness, Gulf Coast sadly when they are gone they are gone and can never be replicated as well but if the end justifies it, many people see no problem. Even with millions of gallons of oil spilling out of a deep water rig some are asking for more drilling. However as I sit this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel.
Thinking back to my own high school days which seems like in the dark ages I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English and Ms. Stern and “Moby Dick”, according to her the ship represented the world and Ishmael well he got stuck on that ship. I always questioned even then for example what was Melville really telling us besides a great story and history of New England’s whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis and when I wrote my opinion, it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago choices we made not our abilities was the credo. A friend reminded a week or so back about Kent State and forty years ago the event that stirred the nation four college students were killed in a thirteen second volley of fire from National Guard soldiers during a Viet Nam War protest. Choices we make follow us and can destroy and or build up who we are.

”Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison

It is about being at the right place at the right time or is it the choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window and then plot thickens.

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

Humility is an added aspect of today’s search seeing in others that ability almost an intuitive aspect of humanity.

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

This morning as I was being lazy and getting started later writing than normal well I am enjoying a few hours of sleep after going to a former students high school graduation. I sat down and had forty two new emails so I read several emails. One spoke of realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a few weeks ahead and now they would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones over seas in harms way, as I think, choices we make. I received an email from my youngest son reminding me to not pick him up because he already had a ride due to a car in the garage and lastly a suggestion of a book to read. Three emails of 70 or so yesterday that truly caught my attention.
I started with a Bush quote and maybe that applies to a job search as well. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Family is so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more reading, writing, thinking and reflecting. In the midst of long graduation sermon last night a line or two about character. It is not our talent but our character that counts and the speaker reflected on Tim Tebow. Pro scouts did not really think he had it yet he led a NCAA prime team to national championships. He has been in tight spots and come away a winner. So surprised were many that in the first round he was chosen even the following day writers were joking about the pick. Ask Florida’s coach about Time Tebow and I am sure he will not joke and will probably smile about Denver’s first round pick.

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and in the end some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and a one minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange, it is not a brokered commodity. It is there, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to be involved in finding wisdom only those who actually travel that road will truly become wise.

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

Several nights ago I was bored no American Idol or no new House and I put on a video of Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace. The few residents, all 600 have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live n a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.
Daniel Day Lewis, actor and now cobbler took a five year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about a prefect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time, many astronauts recall that moment. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.
As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a prefect moment she then offered now to learn to make every moment prefect and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or the pollen blown from a flower.

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was always controversial yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poet of his time. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President oft misunderstood

“Wisdom oft times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Clark Hoover

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of a line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your thoughts.

Finding Foxfire in the Kalahari

Bird Droppings May 13, 2010
Finding Foxfire in the Kalahari

“Not only the present, but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness. Both these processes are profoundly and mysteriously interdependent and doomed to failure without a continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation.” Laurens Van der Post,

Witness to the last days of man. It has been several months maybe even a year since I last picked up a Von der post book. Somehow in an email last evening I went looking for this author and prolific author he was. As I researched last night and went to 61 pages of his books and variations and edited versions and translation are available. He died in 1996 at the age of 90 and, he had been everywhere and done everything. He was Prince William of Great Britain’s God father, the only non-royal ever to be so honored. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth many years ago. His writings while many covered his travels worldwide, he is best known for his stories of the African bush. A Far away place, was made into a family movie of children and their trek in the African wilds. But permeating all his writing a fascination with a nearly lost people, the African Bushman, or the Sans as they call themselves.

“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 Von der Post

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us–and those around us — more effectively. Look for the learning.” Eric Allemburgh

Yesterday I was thinking in several directions, on one hand I was discussing education in the US with several friends and pros and cons of public education somehow came into that discussion. I interjected a comment about indigenous peoples of South America and how Amazonian Native peoples will often want to experience civilization. I mentioned a unique program in Brazil as well, of protecting indigenous peoples from civilization where land is kept in tact and rain forest left alone when a new tribe is found, literally keeping civilization out.
In that course of thought I went the direction of the Bushman and Von der Post. Last night I stood in the dark a bit longer than I usually do when I take the dog out. The sky was streaked with clouds and a half moon was peeking through. I was standing on the porch listening to the night, almost silent yet a chorus of grey tree frogs swelled. I went back out another time a bit later into the morning and by now all the clouds were gone and stars permeating the entire sky. My back has been bothering me and I laid back down putting my writing off till a bit later in the morning. So often in my days, a student who has an issue and then a series of events, I often use the term coincidence trying to explain this.

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” Mary Kay Ash

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

Several days ago I received an email from a person to be added to my morning meanderings. I added this person to my list and yesterday received another email here in my rushing to get a Bird Droppings out I had written exactly what this person needed.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Taylor Benson

“Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.” Soren Kierkegaard

As I sit thinking about the drawing together of thoughts the past few days and ideas I come back to my involvement in Foxfire teaching techniques. As I thought while reading several passages this morning, in a Von der Post’s book, The Lost world of the Kalahari. There is a comment about witnessing the last of the Bushmen painters. It seems there was a point in time when the Bushmen stopped there primitive art on the rocks of the Kalahari. The last painter was killed in a genocide attack and no one knew how to take over.
As I looked at students walking the halls today and the discussions we have had over the past months on the internet it really dawned on me I was where I was to be, and doing what I was to do, offering at least a little piece of more than what is normally available. That could be hope, or it could be wisdom, It could be that talking about a bushmen ostrich egg with red neck kids in Georgia and interestingly enough preserving pieces of old Georgia in essays and photos and PowerPoint projects as we go. Von der Post in his book went in search of the last of the Bushman and found himself.

“Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.” Laurens van der Pos reflecting on Carl Jung’s work

For many years now I have read and pondered Jung’s words and ideas. Back ten or so years ago an author James Redfield, wrote about coincidence in a fictional story of a lost manuscript The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield was trying to explain what he saw and felt happening in his own life. Carl Jung in the early 1900’s coined the word synchronicity. I simplify and say I am at the right place at the right moment. What is amazing is when you look at life that way and you begin to see events unfold before you rather than just seeing through hindsight or foresight.

“A continuous search after self-knowledge, since we and our awareness are inevitably the main instruments of the interpretation” Laurens Von der Post

On the internet, to borrow from the Foxfire website the following:

“In the Foxfire Approach, learning environments are characterized by student involvement and action, by thoughtful reflection and rigorous assessment, by imagination and problem solving, by applications beyond the classroom for what is learned, and by meaningful connections to the community. In these classrooms, students build the ability to work collaboratively and assume responsibility for their own learning processes.” Foxfire

Where and how does the Kalahari Desert and Bushmen and Foxfire and coincidence all tie in. An easy explanation can be seen borrowing from a core practice in the Foxfire teaching process

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” Foxfire

We build through reflection and we grow through reflection.

“Not only the present, but the future depends on a constant reinterpretation of history and a re-examination of the state and nature of human consciousness.” Laurens Von der Post

I think reflection could be inserted just as easy into Von der Posts quote, we all need to take time to see where we are and then participate actively as we go in life. Please keep all in harms way on your mind in and in your heart.

Trying to understand war and teaching

Bird Droppings May 12, 2010
Trying to understand war and teaching

Yesterday afternoon I sat in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit holding a tiny baby, four pounds as she has lost a few ounces since she was born. It felt as if all I was holding was a blanket as I watch the tiny face grimace then half way smile then back to sleep and open her mouth and amazingly enough roll her tongue as she stuck it out at me. My first thought was all was simply it was instinctual as I touched her tiny foot and her Babinski reflex curled her tiny toes. On her ankle jokingly her mother and I noticed a Finding Nemo Band-Aid holding her IV line in place. Her mother said her first sticker. It was hard watching this tiny person make faces at me as I sat trying to not move because of various wires, tubes and other support electronics all connected and keeping her trying to smile at me.
It was several years ago I told my sons I did not want grandbabies till I was sixty and surprise here I am sixty and sitting holding my grand daughter. As I sit here writing a tear in my eye as I look at images from photos taken as I sat holding her yesterday. Each day she is changing more smiles more tears and more messy diapers although they are tiny. One day I will be able to tell her the stories my father her great grand father told me when I was only a child so many years ago. I came home exhausted from a lack of sleep me who only ever gets a few hours a night. I sat down and fell asleep as if my day had lasted for weeks. I checked my phone an odd number was on missed calls. It turned out to be a good friend from so many years back just happened to be checking on me. We were room mates nearly forty years ago when I was in college in Macon Georgia.
We talked for nearly half an hour and I made sure to save his number on my phone. It has been nearly a life time since I first met this fellow. His grandfather was the medicine man for the Creek Nation in Oklahoma before he passed away. My dear friend has retired due to health concerns but still keeps up with his passion for horses and dogs. Rattling off blood lines and new babies as we talked. My friend is a full blood Creek and lives now in a small town in Oklahoma. It was so long I watched as he pulled an eagle feather from a carefully wrapped bag and explain how he was beading the feather as a present for his mother. So how would I say my day went it was peaceful as I put my head on my pillow last night a new grand daughter and a dear friend all in one day.

“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. 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 impact on youth, 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 various 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. Only yesterday 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. 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 philosophy discussion on Foucault and how he describes normal only after 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

Somewhere, some how we as teachers and parents must set an example in our daily lives. Teaching with fire, The passionate teacher, The language and thoughts of a child, as I look at the books 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 months and years I have shared Dr. Nolte’s 1970’s idea of “Children Learn what they live”. I tried to use that just recently 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

Gandhi had a difficult time selling nonviolence as did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well have a difficult time selling nonviolence. Both men died for nonviolence.

“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 and now grand parent I am seen by my children each day 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 several students have worn 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.
Two events yesterday 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 WAS SETTING AN EXAMPLE and or not.
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. Almost as if you give away wisdom only needing to replenish as we go.

“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. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Looking for the passion

Bird Droppings May 11, 2010
Looking for the passion
“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play
In a recent bit of pondering I had a thought. Why are we passionate about our jobs, friends, families and perhaps life in general? I started thinking and yes perhaps I think and even obsess too much. I use the word ponder as I call it, often over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can we be passionate about something any other way? Five years ago today I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life. He was and still is obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times. If you would mention Jeff Gordon’s number or name and his eyes would light up and immediately. In a torrent of language almost as fast as most people can understand there would be statistics, information on this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon.
I used Jeff Gordon to pull him back from another subject or thought that had been obsessing on that was less reality focused. Obsessive compulsive Disorder, OCD, can be manifested so many different ways often crippling a person with routines and rituals that have to be fulfilled. As I sit here later than normal could I see passion in that obsession. Perhaps there is there obsession in passion.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples, the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment and place. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought and or pursuing a thought or an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Is passion mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream? Could passion be an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion for that concept?

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion. Wesley was one of the founders of the United Methodist Church. Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking often having communion 30 times in one day. He would be often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands, woven in and about. Was Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling.
Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change of personality, differences and varying capabilities. Emerson thinking as I do and believing that there is a close kinship between obsession and passion. Passion is very much a powerful spring but it is so difficult to regulate.

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous baring attributes of each other and offering similarities within differences. It is easier to offer you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it when discussing with others. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. Within the world of art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his painting today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars. Yet to many in his time he was crazy and his painting barely kept him alive. Some will see passion as he sent his ear to a girl he loved, while the poor girl saw obsession.
Can we turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work? Often in the game of life as I started this morning passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the winning hand.

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard
I have known many who even take medication for OCD and you can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion. Do we manipulate and propagate as needed or do we simply medicate when not needed, or push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. Passion actually is a difficult chore to ponder. Do we possess it or is it simply obsession. Please keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind.

Breathe a sigh of relief

Bird Droppings May 10, 2010
Breathe a sigh of relief

Officially there are fourteen days of school left and another year of teaching will have come to fruition. It has sped by with so many events to try and recall and understand that some morning I am baffled as to how to unravel and make sense of it all. I recall several months back typing my last paragraph and breathing a sigh of relief, whether it was because my paper was done or the fact I actually wrote a fifty page paper I am not sure. But it is a relief. Of course the grade might not be, a professor may not see eye to eye with your view and or you did not touch on points they deem important. Education is about as Piaget whom I quoted in my paper several times says.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done — men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

I find it humorous that one of the great child psychologists and developmentalists of all time developed and wrote about his observations of his own kids. Maybe some day I will be famous too for studying my own kids, yet out of that narrow window of research came some very insightful ideas on children and education. Something that intrigues me however is how much time Piaget spent with his children observing listening and I wonder did he interact or was he simply the scientist observing.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

I Have always found it interesting how John Dewey who died in 1952 was making statements like this in 1914, his contemporary and also great thinker John Garner was making this statement in 1940’s or so. We still are making the same statements today from Educational groups nationwide. John Garner had been speaker of the House, Vice President, and lived to be the oldest living Vice President passing away at ninety seven in his home in Texas.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Several times as I have written I have borrowed from Sidney J. Harris who compared much of education to stuffing a sausage or as he felt it should be culturing a fine pearl, which would we prefer. Many so called teachers liken education to the bucket filler we only have this amount to put in and then it’s full in this confined space, limited space at that. I prefer to think that a child is like a vast field or forest and when applied correctly and in a manner appropriate fire can make that field grow and flourish, a controlled burn, years ago lightening would do it now with society so restrictive it is controlled. Using the illustration of fire it can be so similar to education borrowing from Yeats.

“Education is too important to be left solely to the educators.” Francis Keppel

We are each directly involved in our own education as well as the education of every person we come in contact with. We are teachers to friends, family and even our teachers, professors and even enemies. Education is something that occurs continually not simply in school or college but it is elemental to existence. Sadly in many cases education is left only to the schools. Parents are far too busy to pay attention to their children. Few are like Piaget observing every move and interaction.

“Education, we see, is not merely gaining knowledge or skills helpful toward productive work, though certainly that is a part of it. Rather it is replenishment and an expansion of the natural thirst of the mind and soul. Learning is a gradual process of growth, each step building upon the other. It is a process whereby the learner organizes and integrates not only facts but attitudes and values. We have been told that we must open our minds and our hearts to learn. There is a Chinese proverb: Wisdom is as the moon rises, perceptible not in progress but in result. As our knowledge is converted to wisdom, the door to opportunity is unlocked.” Barbara W. Winder

So education is far more than the confines of school of a class it is a task we are participating in from the day we are born till the day we cease to function as human beings upon the earth. All it takes is watching the eyes of a four year old grow when ideas and questions are forming. I have said numerous times how crucial is that young child’s development that it not be stifled by trying to limit questions. Little kids are like sponges absorbing everything and learning as they do.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

For many years I had upon my wall a banner with this saying, a simple concept, but when you apply it to knowledge and to education it becomes so much more powerful.

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

Dreams and aspirations can be achieved through education, we can and will fulfill our dreams if we continue to learn, to advance in our journey in life. It is those who halt who stagnant and flounder in the stream who never achieves their dreams. A movie title “What dreams may come?” Actually more about a concept of afterlife but as I look back life here now is what we make of it.

“Our dreams, and if we can think of it we can attain it” Frank E. Bird Jr.

My dad once told me that when I was a child and as I think back watching him putter with pieces of plastic, metal and such on the kitchen table, nearly fifty years ago. He was looking at various safety toe shoes as he puttered. I wasn’t sure what was going on but somewhere he had an idea a dream and eventually it became a metatarsal guard for heavy industry and reduced foot injuries and damage significantly with several hundred thousand pairs being used nationwide. Dreams aided by education and we can accomplish anything.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli

It is Monday morning and a new week and to finish off one last quote from nearly 3000 years ago and with that have a great week and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

“Only the educated are free.” Epictetus

A mother is …….a poem

Bird Droppings May 9, 2010
A mother is……… a poem

I do not recall my birth so it is difficult to say anything actually significant other than from my own mothers and fathers perception. Somewhere I have a photo of my father at the doorway looking in while my mother is holding me. It seems back in the day fathers were not allowed in to the delivery and or holding areas. I was slow in coming into the world a procrastinator, still am as far as I know. It would several years later than can recall bits and pieces of my early childhood. Most has been filled in listening to stories from my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Milton Berle

So what is a mother? I think by definition it is that organism that bestows and or continues through replication that given life form. Granted in higher function animals mother has additional significance in that it seems the higher the functioning of the end organism the less able is the offspring to survive without its mother. Some birds and all mammals produce nutrients for their offspring. IN some organisms mother gives birth and or lays eggs and leaves never to see her offspring again. Various invertebrates and even in some vertebrates mother may make a meal of her children if they come too close. But is that really what a mother is?

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” Washington Irving

Giving life too and nurturing the offspring both definitive aspects of a mother. There are days while teaching and ion parent meetings in dealing with some parents that I think that was all it was about in regards to motherhood. “I gave birth to you and fed you and you are on your own now.” Watching the news this morning several killings in metro Atlanta and each had mothers being interviewed by the media. What a horrific way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Yesterday I was at Rockdale County Hospital and a line of County Sheriffs and Police stood outside the emergency room. One of their own had gone to a house to serve a warrant. As he searched the house he noticed a closet door shut and movement. He called to suspect he had an arrest warrant and the suspect opened fire from inside the closet, killing the sheriff. A young man died leaving two children and a wife who are now alone due to someone not wanting to go back to prison. The suspect died as three other sheriffs opened fire. Both the Sheriff and suspect had mothers who are grieving today. What is a mother?

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” Abraham Lincoln

I can recall being called in as darkness set in for diner up in Pennsylvania where I grew up. My mother would call out for us to come home from our favorite place to play “the jungle” a tangle of vines, sassafras and sumac no more than a hundred feet long and fifty wide at its largest. Our family grew up around my mother who cared for us and raised us as she felt was best. My father traveled extensively and when he was home family time was there on Fisherville Road quite an activity. There was always something going on. My mother encouraged us to read, to learn, to think and to try and understand the world around us. My mother set an example in every moment of her life as to how she felt we should try and live.

“Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.” Pearl S. Buck

Now nearly thirty three years ago I married and my wife and I have shared three wonderful sons. Each time she was in the delivery room I was there holding her hand, running to get a diet coke, or hopefully giving moral support. We were fortunate that each of our sons has grown to adulthood, a few bumps and bruises along the way but all have or soon will be through college and in professional life. For me mother’s day was each birthday of my sons. Granted today is a special day set up by legislators to honor all mothers. But I recall each time we went to the hospital and each of my sons as they came into the world. What is a mother?

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” Honoré de Balzac

Not too many years I recall in farming and watching a momma sheep bond with her lambs, or cow, or horse. Each animal has a special way they bond and literally become one. Emperor penguins leave their young on an ice shelf and march to the sea to feed after eggs hatch many miles over ice and rock. When they return thousands of baby penguins and they find their own. Even in reptile the mighty crocodiles listen attentively as the eggs begin to hatch and carry their babies to the water for protection. Momma croc even stays nearby to ward of predators so babies can get a head start on life. What is a mother?

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” Sophia Loren

It has been a year of trials and tribulations. So often on a daily basis a child will call home with often a simple request, please put gas money in my account or how do you cut a angle on a board? I enjoy and I know my wife does when all of our sons are home at the same time. It seems the times get fewer as they grow and have jobs taking them all over. It has been nearly ten years since I jokingly told my sons I did not want to be a grandfather until I was sixty. I watch my wife as we go to our family get together’s smiling at our grand nieces and nephews scurrying around. Grandparents have all the fun of the kids but get to send them home after they get tired. What is a mother?

“Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.” Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987

So for today I give thanks for a special day, one to remember mothers no matter how you define and or perceive that term. I am so very thankful for my mother and for my son’s mother as we journey further in our lives. As always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. A special thought for all the mothers with sons and daughters overseas in harm’s way. This is a hard day for them.

PS. I wish I had written this but I will borrow

My mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
Sharon Doubiago

If you fall down then stand up!

Bird Droppings May 7, 2010
If you fall down then stand up!

It is was nearing spring break just a few weeks ago and many students simply quit trying, saying such things as they walked around school such as I am passing I do not need to try any more. It really got me thinking about what incentives for passing are built into an educational setting or what incentives for attendance are there. Sadly it has become about incentives more than desire and somewhere that little desire to finish crossing the line and try and succeed has diminished.

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” Josh Billings

Some mornings when I get the chance I will get a red link biscuit, a unique breakfast treat in the south. About once a year I will get one if that. Imagine a fat hotdog that is bright red and spicy hot. Probably the ingredient label has unsure as an ingredient and red dye every number that is bad for you along side that. Sadly they are pretty good. I got into a discussion on red links yesterday with several students who were arguing their value as crucial aspect of a southern cuisine. Like so many discussions it was open ended and circular going pretty much no where but in fun.
On another note another teacher and myself have been trying to get a young fellow through this year he has decided three weeks ago what the heck and literally stopped coming to school showing up enough to avoid truancy issues. He has six days of in school suspension to serve with only a few weeks till summer break and now is failing every class instead of just passing. What concerns me is he is not alone, others choose to quit just before the end and many times are not losing but just stop.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” Japanese Proverb

“The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground.” Author Unknown

It is so easy to say keep on going you can do it. I remember back a few years ago the then three year old thoroughbred Afleet Alex during the Preakness race was tripped up by another horse and stumbled to his knees and then got up and won the race. Some could look at that and say a fluke others at the great competitive heart of that horse but it happened and we can argue for many years why. What should have been a disastrous loss was a great victory. My son reminds me continually of the great horse Secretariat whose oversize heart was considered to be why he was such a great race horse with records at many tracks still unbroken.

”If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.” Flavia Weedn, Flavia and the Dream Maker

“He conquers who endures. “ Persist

”Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” Newt Gingrich

“The race is not always to the swift… but to those who keep on running.” Author Unknown

Trying to find that spark that pushes us a bit further can be tough, what motivates a teenager? For several weeks I have been doing challenges regarding motivation and goals. Amazing what teenagers say motivates them and why. How can we find a way to offer a chance to those who may not make it? Often when working on a difficult project I will set it aside and regroup coming back to it with a more fervent attitude and complete it. So many students just quit.

“You can’t go through life quitting everything. If you’re going to achieve anything, you’ve got to stick with something.” From the television show Family Matters

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, 1893

Perhaps we are born with a desire to achieve and perhaps environmental influences can affect our desire to succeed perhaps that is why incentives are needed. But what if all are removed what if there is no desire to achieve and no desire to even be successful, a difficult road is ahead and many children face this and many adults each day. For many of us it is so easy to say you can make it and then disaster strikes. It is far too easy to say anyone can do it and then sit back and watch. Occasionally we need to offer a gesture of support a word or two sometimes even a rescuing hand.
Yesterday I was involved in a conversation that reminded me of my own high school days so many years ago. I recall back a few years to a conversation with a former summer school student. She is twenty plus now and married and her husband had just shipped of to war. I spoke with a good friend who has now done two tours in four years and he named off nearly a dozen former graduates and current up coming graduates who were in Iraq or going soon.
A newspaper article a few months back spoke of disproportionate number of men from Vermont who were in war zones. Perseverance, it is so easy to stop being concerned. I thought back to that summer school student her husband was killed in Iraq only a few weeks after arriving and now a local highway is named after him. Some times it can be rough as we head into a political nightmare of elections this fall and the upheaval of politicians trying to win votes. I was thinking earlier about the bombings in Oklahoma so many years ago. I was mentally contrasting to the Twin Towers and how much and why we have gone to Middle East with such fervor. We spent hardly a few dollars on rationalizing the Oklahoma bombings and now hundreds of billions on wars in the Middle East. Perhaps there was not money to be made tracking down white revolutionaries within our own country and suppressing availability of weapons (gun control). But going over seas to an oil rich area and waging a war that makes more sense and will not offend the home folks. I was asked by a student how many civilians have died in Iraq and another jumps in stating not enough. I responded very quickly too many have died if one has died.
Today please keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts we need to persevere in our support for our men and women in harms way all over the globe, locally several serious crimes have made headlines with teenage boys executing their families. So much going on and it is so overwhelming.