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

Just do it!

Bird Dropping June 14, 2010
Just do it!

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Moshe Dayan

With all the happenings in schools and in the world maybe this thought from the Great Israeli soldier and statesman is worthy of a look. I was writing to a friend this morning and started the note with the following. Often I use the idea of an art form to describe teaching. I am talking about real teaching as opposed to teachers who simply occupy space and time. You can not be taught to teach. You can acquire certain strategies from education classes and books and get ideas, but in the end it will be your inherent empathy and intuition that provides the true material for you to be successful. These capacities grow as you evolve in the classroom. The email I was responding to was in response to a Droppings from a day or two ago.
My friend wrote to me; “You really touched me with this passage. How did this happen Bird? How did I get to like these children so much? I used to be indifferent, but now when I see a kid on the street staring at me in his wide-eyed way of telling me I’m very different. I think that I like him, just for being a kid.” I tried to explain, you are becoming a real teacher. You are gaining empathy or letting what was there along out. The art form is evolving. As for me I can’t wait to get the day going, passion is a good word well and compassion is good also. Trust is a powerful word for describing teachers along with concern; caring and another idea for answers ask kids what makes a good teacher. Often you will be surprised it is not about subject matter to kids but do you care about them. You are doing great my friend.
Some where in a recent TV ad a woman walks up to a trash can with a paper cup lying beside it and she immediately starts chastising the person who threw the cup on the ground even though no one is around. A man steps up and in agreement makes a comment how terrible it is someone would throw a piece of trash on the ground like that. As each additional person gathering round all appear to be well dressed intelligent and articulate. Soon a group of eight or so is gathered about arguing with great lines about how, perhaps I should even bend over and pick it up myself. Along come a young man looks like a student or so and no discussion just picks up the cup tosses it in the trash and walks on. The ad it turns out to be for get out to vote. A powerful message over a paper cup lying on the ground.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

“The way to avoid responsibility is to say, ‘I’ve got responsibilities.’“ Richard Bach

So often we are to busy scurrying about and as Richard Bach states one way to avoid responsibility is to say you have responsibility. I am sitting here thinking about how I used watch our Yorkshire terrier fight with his dog crate literally opening and closing the door only to jump in side and out. If I would go near that crate he would leap inside and not move. It is his do not touch. We are so selfish it seems with our own be it something as simply as picking up a cup beside a trash can or a dog crate. We exert more energy rationalizing why it is there than disposing of it.

“Each of us has the right and the responsibility to asses the roads which lie ahead and those over which we have traveled, and if the feature road looms ominous or unpromising, and the road back uninviting-inviting, then we need to gather our resolve and carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that one as well.” Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

Several months ago I was watching a random channel which happened to be CMT the country music station. The theme on Easter Sunday was the top twenty songs of faith in country music and Dr. Maya Angelou was hosting. In 1981 Dr. Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She has authored countless poems and books but watching her describe the songs and offer bits and pieces I knew soon I would be borrowing her words. Looking at the first statement we have choice and responsibility. We have a choice which way to go in life but with that the responsibility to assess what lies ahead not simply plunge in. If our choice is wrong then look anew. I keep thinking back to the whiners around the trash can spending time complaining whining about who left the paper cup lying there rather than simply picking it up.

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow bring… You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk… it’s amazing a with a blink of an eye you finally see the light – Oh… it’s amazing when the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright” Aerosmth, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry

So many times I have borrowed that line from the song Amazing by Aerosmith “Life’s about the journey not the destination”. I have it on my wall and on a yellow sticky note from way back when the day I first saw the quote given to me by my oldest son. We need to take each step follow that trail you believe in make your choices and pick up the paper cup. As I watched Dr. Angelou narrate the top twenty songs I was impressed by the songs many were not religious in nature but about mans faith in man. The number one song of faith however, has been sung in churches and on the Grand Old Opera stage many hundreds and thousands of times, a reminder perhaps. That song is, I saw the light, by Hank Williams.
I am sitting listening to the storm outside my window seems each day as the heat and humidity builds we have storms. Thunder periodically breaks the thought process. We have so much available to us if we only look and see or listen and hear. Looking at where I started today a NIKE slogan “Just do it” perhaps in our world of not picking up a cup but forming a committee to look into why it was there in the first place and offer suggestion as to not have it happen again I fall back to Dr. Angelou and a thought for today.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Dr. Maya Angelou

We each have our song to sing be it about our chickens and their exploits in escaping from the coyote perhaps a theme for a children’s book or about our students and their exploits in accepting society and or society’s acceptance of them and in our acceptance and understanding of them as well. Another hot and humid day in Georgia please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Just do it!

Bird Dropping June 14, 2010
Just do it!

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Moshe Dayan

With all the happenings in schools and in the world maybe this thought from the Great Israeli soldier and statesman is worthy of a look. I was writing to a friend this morning and started the note with the following. Often I use the idea of an art form to describe teaching. I am talking about real teaching as opposed to teachers who simply occupy space and time. You can not be taught to teach. You can acquire certain strategies from education classes and books and get ideas, but in the end it will be your inherent empathy and intuition that provides the true material for you to be successful. These capacities grow as you evolve in the classroom. The email I was responding to was in response to a Droppings from a day or two ago.
My friend wrote to me; “You really touched me with this passage. How did this happen Bird? How did I get to like these children so much? I used to be indifferent, but now when I see a kid on the street staring at me in his wide-eyed way of telling me I’m very different. I think that I like him, just for being a kid.” I tried to explain, you are becoming a real teacher. You are gaining empathy or letting what was there along out. The art form is evolving. As for me I can’t wait to get the day going, passion is a good word well and compassion is good also. Trust is a powerful word for describing teachers along with concern; caring and another idea for answers ask kids what makes a good teacher. Often you will be surprised it is not about subject matter to kids but do you care about them. You are doing great my friend.
Some where in a recent TV ad a woman walks up to a trash can with a paper cup lying beside it and she immediately starts chastising the person who threw the cup on the ground even though no one is around. A man steps up and in agreement makes a comment how terrible it is someone would throw a piece of trash on the ground like that. As each additional person gathering round all appear to be well dressed intelligent and articulate. Soon a group of eight or so is gathered about arguing with great lines about how, perhaps I should even bend over and pick it up myself. Along come a young man looks like a student or so and no discussion just picks up the cup tosses it in the trash and walks on. The ad it turns out to be for get out to vote. A powerful message over a paper cup lying on the ground.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

“The way to avoid responsibility is to say, ‘I’ve got responsibilities.’“ Richard Bach

So often we are to busy scurrying about and as Richard Bach states one way to avoid responsibility is to say you have responsibility. I am sitting here thinking about how I used watch our Yorkshire terrier fight with his dog crate literally opening and closing the door only to jump in side and out. If I would go near that crate he would leap inside and not move. It is his do not touch. We are so selfish it seems with our own be it something as simply as picking up a cup beside a trash can or a dog crate. We exert more energy rationalizing why it is there than disposing of it.

“Each of us has the right and the responsibility to asses the roads which lie ahead and those over which we have traveled, and if the feature road looms ominous or unpromising, and the road back uninviting-inviting, then we need to gather our resolve and carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that one as well.” Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou

Several months ago I was watching a random channel which happened to be CMT the country music station. The theme on Easter Sunday was the top twenty songs of faith in country music and Dr. Maya Angelou was hosting. In 1981 Dr. Angelou was appointed to a lifetime position as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She has authored countless poems and books but watching her describe the songs and offer bits and pieces I knew soon I would be borrowing her words. Looking at the first statement we have choice and responsibility. We have a choice which way to go in life but with that the responsibility to assess what lies ahead not simply plunge in. If our choice is wrong then look anew. I keep thinking back to the whiners around the trash can spending time complaining whining about who left the paper cup lying there rather than simply picking it up.

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow bring… You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk… it’s amazing a with a blink of an eye you finally see the light – Oh… it’s amazing when the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright” Aerosmth, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry

So many times I have borrowed that line from the song Amazing by Aerosmith “Life’s about the journey not the destination”. I have it on my wall and on a yellow sticky note from way back when the day I first saw the quote given to me by my oldest son. We need to take each step follow that trail you believe in make your choices and pick up the paper cup. As I watched Dr. Angelou narrate the top twenty songs I was impressed by the songs many were not religious in nature but about mans faith in man. The number one song of faith however, has been sung in churches and on the Grand Old Opera stage many hundreds and thousands of times, a reminder perhaps. That song is, I saw the light, by Hank Williams.
I am sitting listening to the storm outside my window seems each day as the heat and humidity builds we have storms. Thunder periodically breaks the thought process. We have so much available to us if we only look and see or listen and hear. Looking at where I started today a NIKE slogan “Just do it” perhaps in our world of not picking up a cup but forming a committee to look into why it was there in the first place and offer suggestion as to not have it happen again I fall back to Dr. Angelou and a thought for today.

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Dr. Maya Angelou

We each have our song to sing be it about our chickens and their exploits in escaping from the coyote perhaps a theme for a children’s book or about our students and their exploits in accepting society and or society’s acceptance of them and in our acceptance and understanding of them as well. Another hot and humid day in Georgia please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Trying to understand why

Bird Droppings June 13, 2010
Trying to understand why

It has been an interesting summer with everyone sort of going in differing directions almost all the time. I will spend a good deal of time at school. It gives me time to think and ponder when the hallways are quiet. Today we will be moving our tortoises out doors at least for the day time. Coincidence is a word I use daily and as I went to pick up my pizza a day or so ago one of the girls working knew my youngest and asked about him which lead to a discussion on tattoos and his arm which is a depiction of the cover image on Eric Clapton’s Layla album. My son a fan of Clapton considers that song to be the greatest song ever recorded. As I mention what the image was my son had on his arm, on the radio at the pizza shop is Clapton playing Layla.
Several months back I went with my oldest son to pick up a few shell dwelling African lake cichlids from someone he had found online who was get of his fish hobby and dispersing his tank. Coincidences as I thought back to picking up the fish we made our way to a house in very nice neighborhood. Parked in the driveway a company pickup truck with signage indicating Controlled Blasting Incorporated, a demolition company it would seem. We knocked on the door and introduced ourselves and immediately my son and the fellow he had talked with got into scientific jargon and African cichlids with a touch of tarantulas the fellows other hobby. As we were leaving I noticed his wife had on a Georgia Tech shirt and several pieces of Tech memorabilia were around the room. We actually got talking about working with disturbed kids and then I found out both she and her husband graduated from Tech as did my middle son. Then she mentions how at their wedding they got driven from the church in the Ramblin Wreck. Well my son was the driver last year and what are the odds my oldest son finds a fish hobbyist who just by chance had been involved with the Ramblin Wreck. Considering only about twenty or so weddings are done each year by the Wreck Club. It was an interesting day to say the least and as always I try and understand why.

“Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Every one might act different from what was considered right did he choose to do so, but such acts would bring upon him the censure of the Nation…. This fear of the Nation’s censure acted as a mighty band, binding all in one social, honorable compact.” George Copway, (Kah-ge-ga-bowh) Ojibwa Chief 1818-1863

In the news during the previous presidential we had the issue of signing statements come up numerous times. This is where if the President does not like a law he issues a signing statement to counter what has been passed as law. If you contest a law then there are appeals and such and the Supreme Court rulings and we have more laws. The previous president had signed more than literally all the previous presidents combined. Looking back at my quote to a time and people where written law was insignificant. George Copway was one of the first Native American writers. He became a Methodist Missionary and worked in Minnesota for a number of years with his wife. He later moved to New York where he wrote and published numerous historical and narrative works.

“Man is the one from whom this world is made.” George Copway

Copway was an advocate for a separate Native American nation and wrote often about that, his words fell on deaf ears for the most part and while enjoying a brief period of glory around the publishing of his first book an autobiography he died only a few years later in obscurity.

“In truth, the ultimate point of rest and happiness for them is to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” Thomas Jefferson

The assimilation of cultures and peoples was Jefferson’s view borrowing a quote from Copway’s book. His Ojibwa name means standing firm and through his life he attempted to draw from his past and build with the modern in mind. Frustrated in later life he returned to his traditional beliefs and to salvage the culture of the Ojibwa, the first nation according to their beliefs.

“What was once impossible–or rather thought to be–is made possible through my experience. I have made many close observations of men, and things around me; but, I regret to say, that I do not think I have made as good use of my opportunities as I might have done. It will be seen that I know but little–yet O how precious that little!–I would rather lose my right hand than be deprived of it.” George Copway

Even within what some could conceive as defeat he stood firm and resolute in his beliefs and desires to better the situation of the Native Americans primarily his own Ojibwa tribe.

“I view my life like the mariner on the wide ocean, without a compass, in the dark night, as he watches the heavens for the north star, which his eye having discovered, he makes his way amidst surging seas, and tossed by angry billows into the very jaws of death, till he arrives safely anchored at port. I have been tossed with hope and fear in this life; no star-light shone on my way, until the men of God pointed me to a Star in the East, as it rose with all its splendor and glory. It was the Star of Bethlehem. I could now say in the language of the poet–
Once on the raging seas I rode,
The storm was loud, the night was dark;
The ocean yawned, and rudely blowed
The wind that tossed my foundering bark.”
Yes, I hope to sing some day in the realms of bliss–
It was my guide, my light my all!
It bade my dark foreboding cease;
And through the storm and danger’s thrall,
It led me to the port of peace.”
George Copway

I started this morning trying to find where my youngest son was after waking up to take the dog out. I had forgotten he had gone t Macon to visit friend’s old age strikes again. I was listening as I do every morning to the crickets and tree frogs of my back yard I sat a bit longer than I do many days just wondering trying to understand why. Why is it our world as it is and does? Sitting there I realized a car was missing and proceeded to call my son. Fortunately he was awake and I then recalled he was staying in Macon last night. But as a parent you get worried.
As I opened my document this morning and began to think a favorite website came to mind and I looked for a starting point for my morning wanderings. It was in the writings of George Copway, Standing Firm I found some solace. I wonder as I sit here thinking and writing how many of us could stand firm? A friend once wrote all of her people she admired in history were killed off. They were all great thinkers and believers all were killed for what they believed in. As I look at the tribes across America they too died for beliefs, few Native Americans even today want the assimilation of Jefferson’s thoughts.
I recall a book by Kent Nerburn as he writes the words of a Sioux elder in “Neither Wolf nor Dog”, explaining how we white folk could never understand the Native American since we choose not to. We want everything in black and white, our laws included. Borrowing from my biology text I am using in class a law is a scientific theory that has been repeatedly tested. Our national and state laws are little more constantly tested and questioned eventually excepted, as law.
If you try and explain infinity to most they try to define and categorize and box and provide understandable and testable parameters. I recall watching an interview with Dr. John Nash, 1994 Nobel Prize winner in economics and former math professor at MIT and Princeton. Ron Howard, director of the film “A beautiful Mind”, a film about Dr. Nash’s battle with schizophrenia, starring Russell Crowe in the out takes on the DVD interviews or more specifically lets Dr. Nash explain what he was working on. Nash was currently doing research on the theory of relativity and showed Ron literally boxes of pages of notes and formulations. Nash made a comment he was inventing characters since he ran out of traditional math characters. So few of will ever be able to or can ever intellectualize in the capacity of Dr. Nash.

“Thus further time passed. Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.” Dr. John Nash, autobiography, Nobelprize.org

Few of us can understand why, we get absorbed in politically charged and fueled endeavors and we write laws to protect and direct those contrived ideas.

“Man is the one from whom this world is made.” George Copway

Looking back at Copway’s thought man drives and directs and manipulates this world. The Ojibwa sought to live within and understand their world we modern folk on the other hand do not want to understand we simply want to use hence we have politics. Nash rejected politics as a waste of time yet it is politics that is the driving force of our society and until we understand that we may not be able to escape it. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

A first day

Bird Droppings June 11, 2010
A first day

“I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica)Teton Sioux

So often in life we think we are the one. We can do it all on our own with absolutely no help from others. A few weeks back I was working in my room when a former student came by to see me. What amuses me is this student could not wait to get out of school to go to work with his dad. I asked how things were going and he had quit already. He didn’t like it but he had enough gas for four hundred miles of driving a full tank and that was all that mattered. He came by with a fellow I had not seen before and he was a pretty rough fellow. Both guys were not all that clean sort of like they had slept in the car for several days. I was amused at how while in school he did everything he could to get out and here he was visiting. His last bit of our school was physically getting kicked out and finished in Alternative school.
I recall how he told me he did not need to know how to read and yet he was telling me how he failed the online exam at Wal-Mart while trying to get a job. He was joking about how he Christmas treed Wal-Mart test just like he would at school. I asked if he got hired yet and he said no but they were letting him take test again his mother works at Wal-Mart. I had this quote from many years back finding this website of Native American quotes and one I use frequently. We can not be monastic in our lives we are in effect herding animals and need the support of a group.

“Man is never alone. Acknowledged or unacknowledged, that which dreams through him is always there to support him from within.” Laurence Van der Post

Laurence Van der Post lived some might say in another time. Growing up at the edge of the wilderness along the Kalahari Desert he was raised by a Bushmen nanny and later named as the first non-royal Godfather, in history to Prince William of England. Von der Post often wrote of the bush and life among the Bushmen as well as numerous articles and books of his travels around the world. While a very solitary and reclusive people in part due to encroachment and government pressures the Bushmen were still devoted to their tribe and people and to them community was important. I started thinking back to my conference yesterday and the Foxfire Core Practices. Foxfire Core Practice eight: The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.

“Having someone wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night is a very old human need.” Margaret Mead

I was standing out side listening earlier to a world around me I was alone yet knew at any moment I could step back in doors. I searched the sky looking for familiar constellations and stars. The black edge of the tree tops surrounded my view. I enjoy this time of the day especially here in my back yard a world away from civilization yet only a foot or to step back in as well. Encircling my dreams in black lace the tree tops form a circle around my view. Listening to my friends seemingly all in chorus, crickets tree frogs chirping and barking and an occasional whippoorwill and the off in the distance a drone of the main highway waking up. But I know my family is there in the house if I need. I started thinking back to the young man who came to visit me a few weeks back. I wondered how he thought about his family and I know his comment of having enough gas was self centered and strictly an extrinsic motivation of the moment.
I doubt he had supplies stashed about as the Bushmen tribes would in case of drought and need. We tend to be more self serving thinking only of the moment and immediate. Perhaps our society has done this too us and in so limited us. As I look back primitive man was interdependent on each other for survival and success. In today’s world we stress independence and self sufficiency.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung

I find myself wandering a bit today thinking of Bushmen, Foxfire and a former student. I wonder what if I had known this student years ago and not just for the few years I was involved with him. I wonder what if I had read Von der Post years ago and not just find this great author and human recently. I wonder often what if I had done something differently would a former student be in prison now serving three life sentences in the Jackson Georgia Psychiatric Prison Facility. I recall as the day gets near each tiny shred of influence we have is noticed and perceived and each idea carried away by those around us many times we do not even know. As a teacher often we never see how we influence a student and often as with my former student we can not be there every moment and assist with every choice made. We can only provide pieces to the puzzle and offer directions and strategies for solving each puzzle as it is presented.
Recently when a friend began a new direction and her daily wandering and philosophizing were ceased a piece of me was left wondering. Perhaps it is the teacher in me that finds changes while a necessity still difficult. I commented to my wife over the weekend while very independent I am still a creature of routine. I have a hard time with change. In less than two months new students will enter my room for the first time exposed to a different type of teacher and I wonder how it will be taken. It will be fun and hopefully enlightening so peace my friends for today and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Being who you are

Bird Droppings June 10, 2010
Being who we are

As we sit waiting out what may happen with the massive oil well leak in the gulf, with so many issues almost daily in the Middle East and news reports of increasing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza I try to think of more positive ventures here at home as the school year ends and summer break draws near. We live in a world of constant harm to others I saw a bumper sticker “Nuke em and take their gas” we are such a humane society. This is not what democracy is about forcing others to think like us it is individuals choosing there own direction not ours and it seems we have lost that in our military industrial power flexing and narrow mindedness.

“Realness is in the facilitator of learning. When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective.” Carl Rodgers

It does not take a great educator and or thinker to know that if we are real people we tend to be more likely believed. After a series of primary elections questions still abound and believability seems to be a key. Yet so often we chose to keep up our façade I look at this paragraph by Dr. Carl Rodgers and can interchange for facilitator the word parent and or friend very easily. While Rodgers is applying to learning it can also be applied to many aspects of life as well.

“Prizing, acceptance, trust. There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy…” Carl Rodgers

Acceptance is a key word as we walk through life. We have to accept others often without being accepted ourselves. I have found this to be a powerful tool in dealing with people not only in teaching but in walking into a grocery store or corner market. Parents need to see their children and I like the word prize their feelings and opinions or at least listen.

“Empathetic understanding is a further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased….” Carl Rodgers

Many the time, I have offered empathy as a key to success in any field of endeavor. In teaching it is crucial, in parenting equally as well and in friendship paramount to building and maintaining continued friendships. So there you have it realness, trust and empathy the three simple key aspects of life and building blocks for relationships that last a week and or a lifetime. In my research I also found Dr. Carl Rodgers was considered the father of humanistic psychology.

“It may include an exchange of ideas, skills, attitudes or values, or even the exchange of things – money, tools or food. Relationships ‘happen’ at all times, in all places, in all parts of society, and in all phases of the development of individuals. We are involved in relationships all the time.” George Goetschius and Joan Tash

We are social animals by nature and seem to do best in social settings. We tend to want to be in groups or with others and in having these relationships as Goetschius and Tash state. If we approach our interactions in a positive light they tend to go farther and be more meaningful and then also act as building blocks to continue and or establish additional relationships.

“Humans have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with predispositions to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labor…” Matt Ridley, The Origins of virtue

It has been several years since I set up a theory on the development of trust. In this idea of trust I stated humans come into the world with a certain capacity to trust instinctually and that we learn and acquire distrust. So in effect we lose our trust only to regain as we develop. All of this comes in stages as we go through life.

“The fundamental purpose of the relationship lies in the fostering of learning in the group or the individual…” Felix P. Biestek, The Casework Relationship

We move beyond where we are at the moment. As a teacher the students learn, as a parent our children learn and in our friends learning occurs. So often we perceive learning as book related, as school related but learning is an ongoing perpetual project. We learn to walk due to relationships. We are as small children constantly watching others, having others hold on to us as we scoot on our feet and as we are being fed as a baby. Each aspect of life is a learning process.

“The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings.” Eduard Lindeman, The meaning of Adult Education

From the moment we are born till the moment of our leaving this earthly plain we are about learning. I am always drawn to the idea of Henry David Thoreau giving up teaching to be a learner and I wish more parents, teachers and friends should do this in our lives. Become an active learner in order to teach others and in being honest with ourselves we can move on in life. So many news stories from damage along the coast to continued bombing and destruction in the middles east so as always keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Finding ourselves

Bird Droppings June 9, 2010
Finding ourselves

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start, I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote. As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experience the hour glass does clear however if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lesson that determine and how we have responded that provide the fodder for our endeavor. I am sitting here in the wee hours after responding for nearly an hour to various posts on blogs and a copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education to my left. In a few minutes after posting I will be heading to North Georgia a few miles from North Carolina line to sit in a class on Foxfire Teaching, a method based on experience and John Dewey.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

“No bird soars too high If he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

It is often about choosing to look, to see, to listen, and to hear those are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others to be what another wants us to be but only in hearing and seeing for ourselves can we as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn and we must be awake. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the reason so many of your songs are about love?’” Kent Nerburn

As I thought is that the problem in our society to be so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of The United States, could it be a lack of love that is why our society stumbles.

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes along.” Winston Churchill

We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to the current politics, popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing that media and mentality of the masses seem to operate on.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

The more I read of Albert’s ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. It is funny how what we remember him for his more science oriented views than his philosophy and that he loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction. At one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown mean and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to 19th century thought and all of this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks in our world today.

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation and continue to use this approach while in a more appealing packaging NCLB legislation. Many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do and who would they elect? The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress that thinking. One of my sons in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it right. Yet in his second semester of calculus his methodology is absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and in college calculus at Georgia Tech and now as an environmental engineer. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children, we need to be learners as well as teachers, learn from the children and before I go to far a last quote to end this morning meanderings from ancient Israel.

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

Well I got a bit carried away but several good ideas to mold over ponder on and reflect about as I drive to North Georgia. So for today be safe this remainder if this glorious week ahead and keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind.
namaste
bird