Why do we do what we do?

Bird Droppings June 23, 2010
Why we do what we do?

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Over the years I have been faced with dealing with students who have continually found their way into trouble. Often in education we use the term manifestation as in is it a manifestation of their disability or are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing. It has generally been a hit or miss in some cases. How do we know for sure with any kid was this a manifestation of a given disability.

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened since combative adolescents, was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset they simply went to solitary confinement and were administered large doses of drugs and straight jackets were often employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer. Schoenberg is a scholar of music, a prolific writer about great musicians and music. Trapp is a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit. These great writers who themselves were very self disciplined.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with example, to learn, and or to follow, just semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards to operate by and so rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent which is that stimulus that causes the behavior. You then have the behavior that which is the event or action that we see feel or hear about. Following we have the consequence which can be what we do in response or what the student or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing perception. Perception being the how we see and understand events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. Many times it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

A football quarterback’s quote and one from the father of behaviorism, two men from distinctly different arenas yet very obviously similar in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters, we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change to behaviors we can except. A Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I thought back to preparing for two IEP’s coming up related to behavior, “by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” SJH. So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them, it is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please as we venture out today keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

Translating and communicating

Bird droppings June 22, 2010
Translating and communicating

“Scientific management is always on guard against people who don’t fit securely into boxes, whether because of too much competency, too much creativity, too much popularity or what have you. Although often hired, it is with the understanding they must be kept on a short leash and regarded warily. The ideal hireling is reflexively obedient, cheerfully enthusiastic about following orders, ever eager to please. Training for this position begins in the first grade with the word, don’t.” John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2010

I went looking for a copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education yesterday and as I traveled the book stores the only one that was available was a tiny version that old folks like me have a hard time reading and is the one I already have. The new printing is a slightly larger font and much easier to read. While looking for Dewey’s book I found Gatto’s latest endeavor. The subtitle of the book is; A schoolteacher’s journey through the dark world of Compulsory schooling. While a teacher of thirty years Gatto does see the issues that are rampant in education today. Teaching to the test is not just a catch phrase but a method of teaching that literally is being taught to teachers. Here is what is on the test now teach just this.
In about two months I will have students in my class room again. I will be walking down hall ways and talking with students and teachers and I wonder will anything be different than when I left. I wonder if teachers have studied how to be more effective and if students read and became more scholarly over the weeks of summer. Some teachers have attended graduate school and many will have attended leadership training programs teaching them how to better manage teachers and students and move them through the processes of education so that required tests get passed. A few may have opted for philosophy, literature, psychology, social studies or numerous other more liberal arts sort of courses.

“An effective teacher is one who is able to convince not half or three quarters but essentially all of his or her students to do quality work in school.” Dr. William Glasser MD.

Dr. Glasser goes on in his book The Quality School to explain his ideas. I found it interesting one of his first references is to Dr. W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized industry in Japan. A US quality expert who US industry barely recognized was contracted with by the Japanese to improve quality and in a few short years they over took and surpassed US industry in production as well as in quality. I can recall only a few years ago when a certain US car company used the slogan of “Quality is job 1”. A good view of quality is resale value of cars and trucks. Amazing how nearly all of top ten best resale vehicles are Japanese.

“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” Dale Carnegie

Carnegie provides a quick guide to life for teachers, parents, students, and children. I have always felt example is the key, in almost any aspect of life. I wish it were not so but how we look and or are perceived is often how we are judged first in life. What we say can affect those around us and how they determine whether or not to believe us or not and always how we say it. What do we mean, looking at Carnegie’s words I wonder if some where there is more to communication?

“A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals.” Robert M. Hutchins

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Anthony Robbins

Nearly opposite yet both hold elements needed but in order for people to communicate around the world even in another town a common language a common set of words and ideas is needed to initiate thoughts. It is also knowing that each person may see the world different and be able to work around that and through that.

“The higher you go, the wider spreads the network of communication that will make or break you. It extends not only to more people below, but to new levels above. And it extends all around, to endless other departments and interests interacting with yours.” Donald Walton

I went by Wal-Mart yesterday looking for a very specific item a movie my son and I wanted to watch, no luck, but as we were walking out he and I had both been thinking the same thought. This store was a mini mall for this community, people were just shopping, walking about looking, every where. Wal-Mart had become a focal point for this town. I had been to a Wal-Mart Sam’s club recently talking with a manager and other staff. There is a network of communication.
As I sit here going back through my morning writing I have used many icons of industry as featured quotes. I started using a quote from an educator who implicates industry as a culprit in this methodical process of education we now have. Creating workers yet each of the industrial leader’s quotes does not imply that. Yesterday as I emailed back and forth with several friends we discussed building a network of teachers and working that network, wouldn’t that build a powerful teaching tool. What a bout a parent network where issues could be in the open immediately and clarified and discussed rather than become a sore and fester. Communications such a crucial item in today’s fast paced world and so over looked. Today is a day where a week is nearly over please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

A new journey revisited

Bird Droppings June 21, 2010
A new journey revisited

Nearly three years ago and a week my father passed away. It was in May of that same year my wife’s father passed away and that entire summer was much of a blur. I spent the better part of this year’s father’s day driving to and from Colombia South Carolina going to a reptile show with my oldest son. Seem I have been driving much of the past week putting many miles on the car as I go up and down the interstates. Yesterday I read on the trip over a dissertation which all in all was not a bad read. I made it nearly half way on the journey to Colombia and along the way several times I thought back those three years to my father.
I had dropped off some medicine that afternoon at my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving as my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension I seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey.
I drove down to Oxford Georgia as I left my parents home to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I used to only drink Evian. Fortunately that is about my only idiosyncrasies although I have changed allegiances and now drink Smart water.
As I headed from the county just before dusk a tall stark dead tree was standing to my left as I drove by. It was completely free from bark and nearly white in the waning hours of the day. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks, watching me as I drove by. I thought of all times not having my camera, what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in that the speed of the car driving took me past rather quickly and time was getting late I had to reach my destination.
I arrived just before they started and for many years now I have always enjoyed the Emory at Oxford campus of Emory University. Being a plant fancier the grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. This was the choir camp talent show night which has always been fun. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his rendition of Axel Rose and Bob Dylan singing a duet on the famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. My son does a duet by himself with a back up guitar player. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago with it then featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. They tend to stay up longer than me most nights. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey in to night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because he was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.
I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son has work this morning I will awake when he walks by. I had several vivid dreams over the next two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my sons and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.
I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought pondered for a few minutes. I enjoy the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rise in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some stones I had previously placed on the ground.
I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and was fine.
It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnect and meet people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my fathers puzzle.
“Knocking on heavens door” keeps resounding as I recall my sons singing last night and so many years ago as another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I thought back three years to those few weeks with my father in law passing and a student who spent a lot of time in my room and then my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish my father well on his journey. Peace my father and friend and a happy late fathers day.
namaste
bird

Emapthy; do we have it?

Bird Droppings June 18, 2010
Empathy; do we all have it?

It is still dark in Statesboro Georgia as I sit here pondering do I go down and get breakfast or finish this dropping. It has been some what cooler here in South Georgia that what I have been living in at home with one hundred plus heat index nearly every day. I Have two more classes and will be heading north around lunch time. The local weathermen are predicting rain today and tomorrow in their forecasts but I am hoping to dodge a few rain drops as I drive out it can be rough in the flat lands when the summer storms whip through. But I do enjoy that few moments as the fronts are mixing and moving about the smile of the moon intermixed with the fluffy interspersed clouds in the starry sky.
I do miss walking about the tree lined view of my back yard on a beautiful morning. I often wondered how it can be chilly in the summer evenings and yet so hot during the day. Even when the air conditioners are silenced and many of the human noises gone I think the slight coolness helps numb the noise as on some mornings it silences the tree frogs and crickets. Maybe everyone is huddled deeper in their beds and covers enjoying that last few minutes of coolness before venturing out into the heat of the daytime.

“The capacity for consciousness of ourselves gives us the ability to see ourselves as others see us and to have empathy with others. It underlies our remarkable capacity to transport ourselves into someone else’s parlor where we will be in reality next week, and then in imagination to think and plan how we will act. And it enables us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place, and to ask how we would feel and what we would do if we were this other person. No matter how poorly we use or fail to use or even abuse these capacities, they are the rudiments of our ability to begin to love our neighbor, to have ethical sensitivity, to see truth, to create beauty, to devote ourselves to ideals, and to die for them if need be. To fulfill these potentialities is to be a person.” Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself, pp. 74-76 –

Empathy is a difficult word to discuss for many it does not exist and others live each moment by this simple word. As I look at May’s idea of empathy “a capacity for consciousness” we are all conscious I would think but it is being able to see and feel in someone else’s shoes that is the key to this consciousness. Another word love perhaps as well is an integral aspect of empathy. I feel empathy is crucial to any field dealing with people be that nurses, teachers, pastors literally anyone who daily has contact with others. For these folks empathy is a must it is that gift that allows us to be closer to be able to touch the soul of another.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession” Sophocles

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Theresa

Some key aspects of empathy might be such words as kindness, love, and caring these are all positive attributes of empathy. Adams says there is a ripple effect. I have used the pebble in the pond story many times but when you toss a pebble into still water and the ripples emanate out from the point of contact going till they hit the edge of the pond and in effect they return only colliding with the ripples still in coming. That small act does continue many times over. Several years ago a movie was made of small acts of kindness and the impact on a community and I sit here thinking what if. I recall Dr. Norman Vincent Peale nearly forty years ago discussing how when you do something either good or bad for someone ten others will know and spread the information and hopefully it will always be good.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahil Gibran

“…successful learners also have insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding–in a word, empathy.” B. F Jones, The New Definition of Learning: The First Step to School Reform

The word empathy is defined as: “understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

A simple word that could be so powerful and it can be a tool for teachers, nurses, pastors. Empathy can be that key to the heart and souls of others. Recently in defining my own philosophy of teaching I used the word empathy as a key aspect. Simply put having empathy makes for a more meaningful and believable teacher. I was talking with a good friend the other day and discussing consequences both he and I seldom if ever have referrals. I have never given detention in ten years. Sitting there talking I said is detention a meaningful consequence for example talking in class. One teacher told me what else do I do? My answer was have class so intrigued they are not talking mesmerize them to a point of attention. Most consequences are due to not teaching, not empathizing with students, not trusting, not understanding and most significantly not caring. I have been asked about referrals, in school suspension and out of school suspension over the years. I have found nine times out of ten writing a referral and waiting a few days for a consequence effectively negates the consequence so why not deal with the issue in class unless it is such that needs serious attention and immediate action and then go directly to administration. Then again back to empathy why is this issue even happening could it be for attention or a plea for help?

“In addition to the shared feeling and accurate understanding dimensions of empathy, some writers also focus on the empathetic person’s communication of understanding to the person whose “internal frame of reference” he or she has grasped.” Kathleen Cotton, SIR, Developing empathy in children and adults

“Regardless of conflicting views about the appropriate place, if any, of “values education” in the schools, people are generally able to agree that developing this capacity to understand, appreciate, and communicate meaningfully with others is an important and desirable goal. This enables us to move away from our differences of opinion about the specific CONTENT of “good character,” focusing instead on the PROCESS whereby people come to care about one another and communicate that caring through their behavior. “ Kathleen Cotton

One of those times I wished I could say I wish I had said that. So often we forget that this interaction with others is so critical to success in life not only in school but when you walk out the door to your home and to the store. Each moment we are alive we interact with others unless we sit on a mountain top somewhere contemplating about the passing of a cloud as I sat here in the motel in Statesboro Georgia looking out my window watching the clouds move against what is left of a smile of a moon. Not a bad thought, I wonder if there is a decent pay scale for that position sitting on a mountain. We interact and if those interactions are in an understanding way in effect that is empathy. There is so much more to be gained by both people. Kathleen Cotton writes further about developing empathy in students and adults and perhaps this is something we should be pursuing. I wonder if empathy 101 could be a required class in teacher’s education and training. I was discussing this a few days back with my sister who also teaches as I argued that empathy is hard to teach as a book learned aspect of life. Her thought as she explained is that it can be taught daily by example. We learn empathy by example it takes an empathetic person to teach another person empathy. Maybe we all should try and empathize a bit more and set the example for others so they too can become empathetic. Maybe then I would not be offering daily please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Looking at life in an airport

Bird Droppings June 17, 2010
Looking at life in an airport

“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725

Some where in 1725 a Mohican Chief uttered these words addressing what to Native Americans was a piece of their life story. Unlike the Europeans who came to ravage the land and feared death and built their religion around that very philosophy the indigenous peoples lived with death daily in their fight for survival. As I look anthropologically across history it is in civilization that death becomes the villain taking us away from our things. In Egypt when you died burial involved taking along of things for the after life. As religions began their evolution the afterlife became more of the same or better. Many times this would equate to an ultimate paradise with streets of gold. All comes to naught simply by not fearing death, when death is simply an end perhaps as Chief Aupumont says so eloquently like a hero going home.
I drove down to South Georgia last night for a conference at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. It is a rather easy drive although nearly four hours a nice drive, very little traffic and a nearly straight road on Interstate sixteen. As I started thinking and wondering what direction I wanted to go I was recalling many events of five years ago. During a practice test for makeup Georgia High School Gradation tests one of the students who was finished started a MySpace page for me and I added Bird Droppings as my first official blog site. Five years ago my wife and I were looking for houses hoping to find something we could afford and that would meet our needs. It was five years ago my wife was at her annual nursing conference and I would be heading to the airport to pick her up. As I think to our current weather five years ago she had called and said there was a delay evidently the summer storms we had in the area were slowing down her plane leaving Fort Lauderdale. I had left for the airport already and had arrived after she called and she said was boarding the plane.
Atlanta is a busy airport as many of you who travel know and no longer can you go wait at the gate as in the old days. A million security guards bar the entrance and metal detectors and various other security measures glean over each person and package. When I went I was forced to stay in the terminal waiting and as I sat waiting I observed as I do. It is amazing what people come through airports and what can be found.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” Henry David Thoreau

Finding a place to sit at the airport is a chore midst the numerous others in the same fix. It seemed that day so long ago that my wives airline had numerous flights late and in doing so as I walked about many people were too looking for seats or places to remove themselves from the masses of humanity. I eventually went to another level less traveled and sat reading for an hour or so trying to use up some time.

“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.” Henry David Thoreau

But as I sat I had an epiphany as I do, I had been struggling with a research paper based on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of my teaching and in looking at various data and relooking pieces were there but it was not something I could easily grasp onto. I recalled a paper I wrote on trust and it had developed into essentially the development of trust. The paper was about how we grow in trust we evolve and change as we develop that there are stages to trust. I sat down and looked at my data I Had handy in a folder (seems I am always ready to write or read anymore) and removed the first semester from various graphs and I rearranged by semesters in class rather than chronologically and the data that baffled me now was showing me in my own thinking I had said trust takes time. As I looked each semester students did better in grades and in discipline if you take away that first semester getting through the barriers.

“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe” Henry David Thoreau

As I pondered so often in life we go by that first semester or first impression since we are in to big of a hurry to get things down even in regards to such a critical area as trust. So how do we take time other than doing as Thoreau did and leave teaching to become a learner an interesting thought? Matter of fact I just brought that up in a conversation yesterday morning with a friend who was visiting. I might could paraphrase and rather should we not try and instill in all we do that teaching is learning as well not simply an extension of a piece of content but within the content is context and there is where we learn as we teach. Each child, each event, and each piece of content will vary with any given situation and we must learn as we go as parents, friends, teachers and members of the human race.
Thinking back again as I waited for my wife to call about her flight to come get her I watched a movie of the Mississippi bombings. One man sat in prison on death row for sixteen years holding back details. Many others were involved but as he sat his grandson became a lawyer and then tried to get his execution stayed. In the outcome as the old man finally admitted to his grandson and the world as he looked inward at himself and it was his own fears of death and hatred of himself that drove his life. He could find no good in his life till sitting eating his last meal he realized his grandson was perhaps his best work ever. I reread emails from one my former youth members who is now in Africa I reconnected with five years ago this month. I forgot to tell her about the pin attached to my name tag ID lanyard at school that she gave me on my twenty third birthday it was a round metal message pin. Now of days you might call it a hippy sort of thing, flowers and such with the saying “Bloom where you are planted” on it. As teachers we have to plant seeds and nurture them so they can bloom.
“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” Henry David Thoreau

I distinctly recall five years back that one of the first things my wife checked as she came to the house was our nest of purple finches in the Boston fern hanging on our porch. It seemed the birds like the safety of the porch and hanging plants. We need each seek our own sparrow and bloom where we are planted so from Statesboro Georgia today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Sharpen the machete or bring a shovel

Bird Droppings June 16, 2010
Sharpen the machete or bring a shovel

“When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

Always in movies with a jungle setting the leader has a machete and hacks away at the undergrowth making the way clear for the group following. D’Angelo is an author of sorts, an author who as a senior at West Chester State University in Pennsylvania wrote a paper “Wellness Works”, which would became the basis for his ideas. While writing primarily about college life he was also offering bits and pieces of wit to help folks make it through the day. He is Author of The College Blue Book and the inspirational series; We are creating a new kind of “school” for a new kind of world.

“After all, the world as we know it is less then 15 years old. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and in 1995 the World Wide Web went up. It is a completely new world for us all. With this new world, come new challenges. With these new challenges, come new ways of educating people for the future and it is our every intention to be at the fore front of this educational revolution. The 20th Century was about Content, but the 21st Century is about Context.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

As I read through the website dealing with empowerment many interesting ideas and thoughts.

“Most College Students Get a Degree, But Not an Education.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

The basis and rationale of his thoughts centered on the fact nearly one third of college students drop out. His writings and training (coaching) are meant to change that. Nearly 100 years ago another educational revolutionary had similar thoughts. John Dewey offered a very similar constraint to content versus context with his take on constructivism.

“Learners who can adapt quickly by learning in a complex world are more likely to adapt to changing conditions and survive as an individual.” Martin Dougiamas, A journey into Constructivism

I walked last evening to show some friends from the South Georgia coast the back herb garden. I was pulling a few leaves here and there comparing different types of thyme and mints but all the same it was a matter of trying to dodge raindrops and our dog running between my legs trying to get back in the house. My friends had gone to the amusement park all day and were worn out but hamburgers and hotdogs off the bird grill and a few minutes catching up and we were into old stories and some how reptiles seems my oldest and my good friend who had come by are both amateur herpetologists and snake talk can go on for hours. As I stood thinking juts before going to bed last night it was so quiet other than the dripping of the rain on the house and from trees and shrubs. It was an ethereal undertaking walking out in the rain of evening.

“Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.” On Purpose Associates

Looking at the surroundings earlier today as I Walked through the house checking to see if the dog needed to go out for her morning constitutional I saw the light or I should say my senses saw light. I can accept that or pursue why and how perhaps the batteries are new. Last year I started a daily log on each of my students writing down as events transpired within my class room, while focusing on education I would also jot down any events or happening with that student that may be important. As I thought daily life is little different as I read D’Angelo’s thoughts while focused on college students the application to a lesser degree very easily could be my own students who are at high risk for graduation from high school. By pushing that envelope further we have people who are at risk with life itself.

“The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the “right” answers and regurgitate someone else’s meaning. Since education is inherently interdisciplinary, the only valuable way to measure learning is to make the assessment part of the learning process, ensuring it provides students with information on the quality of their learning.” On Purpose Associates

As a teacher so often I find myself saying this is my class room and you will do as I say. I even have gone so far as to declare back in the day when I had a trailer, my room as an independent kingdom and issued money, Mr. Bird bucks. I still have the crown although it currently resides on a rather large stuffed antelope head (an eland) on my classroom wall. While I said my class room in effect the room has become the student’s class room.

“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is continually shaping the individual’s powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions. Through this unconscious education the individual gradually comes to share in the intellectual and moral resources which humanity has succeeded in getting together. He becomes an inheritor of the funded capital of civilization. The most formal and technical education in the world cannot safely depart from this general process. It can only organize it or differentiate it in some particular direction.” John Dewey

Do I simply want to except the light from the night or pursue finding out more. I recall just before school was out that I spent the better part of my planning period on the phone with a parent. This particular student has been a problem for all of his teachers, numerous physiological reasons can quickly be brought to our attention and various assundery medications have been prescribed. In high school with four different teachers and different outlooks of perception we have a student being daily assessed by four people and four world views. On a particular bad day I jotted down behaviors that were issues. At some point his medications came into the discussion and the student made a comment how he felt that was the issue not his behavior. You might say, “The medicine made him do it”. He so often finds excuses for his behavior as we all do.

“When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

Upon referring to the handy PDR eight of behavior issues were side effects of his particular medications and all of the medications were recommended for adults. Indicated in bold lettering were warnings this medication may cause drowsiness and to not operate equipment while taking this medication. We gave this student ISS for sleeping and for making comments about how he can’t think straight. All day long we hack at leaves, I tell friends in the north about kudzu. It is so hard to describe a plant that hacking at the leaves only infuriates it, it seems to grow faster. Add to it four hurricanes worth of water dumped on it helps as well. But whether it be education or family we need to look beyond traditional means. It is about content versus context borrowing from D’Angelo and of course John Dewey.
I was speaking with my son many months ago about teenager issues as we rode home from a band practice. It is so easy to say one thing, hack off leaves and never really get to the roots. He asked me why our county has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates. So we walk out today looking for how come it is so bright outside even in the rain we also need to look at context. We also need to review why we keep sharpening the machete and not look for a shovel and as I finish today harm is an elusive word. A child raised in an environment where tomorrow is questionable is that harm. Students who say whatever and quit school is that harm. Young men and women fighting in various wars around the world is that harm. Refugees in Sudan tying shelter together with sticks thread and leaves is that harm. So today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

So many thoughts today

Bird Droppings June 15, 2010
So many thoughts for one morning

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.” Kent Nerburn

Perhaps one of my favorite authors I started reading many years ago when a parent of one of my swimmers on the swim team mentioned I might enjoy nearly nine years ago and numerous books and essays later I still think a lot of his thoughts and writings many of which deal with Native American spirituality. I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Americans. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American had not officially become politically correct and we were raised with Indians. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days.
From a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. Counting coup was touching your enemy with a coup stick and riding away not engaging in battle. Only the bravest warriors would attempt this. Obviously it held little significance for battles with the whites who more than likely exploited this tradition. W. Ben Hunt explained the significance of the word.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and my father was the chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a corpsman in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific.
Through all of those years he would say he was part Native American but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, another term for the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Native Americans were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with the Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in Native American philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Native American paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native American culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, to Native Americans.
The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in grad school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Dr. Ronald Takaki.
As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Americans and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Native Americans. My own journeys very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Native Americans were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.”

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Native Americans in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native American Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Joel Spring

My own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, the Gulf oil spill and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird