Just another Saturday

Bird Droppings July 31, 2010
Just another Saturday

I woke up like most other days and for some reason sat at my computer pondering much longer than normal. I was looking at some comments and reviewing a post I had made the day before and thinking about what direction to go. I started reading Ayers book To Teach yesterday and found it similar to Dewey and other educators that I enjoy reading. As I looked at a blurb from GAE Georgia Association of Educators denouncing the plan to go ahead with submission to Federal Department of Education grants stimulus award program since educators were not involved I was a bit concerned. I agree with that idea of involvement but the key component GAE is upset about is that it would require teachers to be more accountable and that accountability to be more thoroughly evaluated.
Currently in Georgia teachers have either one, two or three twenty minute walk through’s by administrators as their evaluation and that is primarily a state produced checklist of things to be looked for. It impacts your yearly evaluation and whether or not you will be asked back the next year. But it does not impact pay. Teacher pay in Georgia is based on years of experience and degrees. The longer you teach the more you get paid and the higher your degree the more you get paid. Problem is a teacher that is not good can pass their entire walk through and then have good annual evaluations and be one of highest paid in school. Their students may not be succeeding but that is not a reference point.

“Learning to teach takes time, energy, hard work. Learning to teach well requires even more: a serious and sustained engagement with the enterprise, an intense focus on the lives of children, a passionate regard for the future – that is, for the community our students will inherit and reinvent and for the world they are arching for.” Dr. William Ayers

I started an idea the other day which may seem redundant and silly. Instead of No Child Left Behind let’s approach education as One Child at a time. The more I thought about this idea and read does it not make more sense to approach each child as an individual rather than as a group or score or where they lie on the bell shaped curve. Granted it will take a bit more work to get to know each kid to know why and how each student works and understands but in the end I truly believe it will accomplish so much more and provide us with a future of thinkers instead of simply a society of consumers.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto another outspoken educator trying to alter a system that has been struggling within itself for so long. John Dewey had it right a hundred years ago and it is still considered progressive education. Give your main customer a say so in the education of themselves. Have a democratic classroom. Amazing how quickly people and teacher go quiet when that suggestion comes up. A favorite actor of mine during his lifetime came into acting when most folks are retiring. Chief Dan George began his career opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1970 at seventy one years of age. One of my favorite films and his roles was that of outlaw Josey Wales side kick in the Movie of the same name. He had a famous line as he told the story of the civilized tribes going to Washington and being told by the president to endeavor to persevere.

“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.” Chief Dan George

Today in education and in life the struggle of the winners dictating the outcomes in what ever arena we put before us is still true. Which ever party is in control will pass legislation be it for people or against with the people having little say. In education seldom are teachers involved in educational decisions and never are students and it is those imposed choice then that make education so overwhelming. I am writing my dissertation about the loss of soul in education and this is not in reference to religion but to the individuality of the children. We strip away in the early grades inspiration and creativity and soon only the motions of learning are occurring. We are teaching to the test. Cramming the information needed in the space provided.

“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you have only a physical prescience, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” Chief Dan George

It is about an integration of hearts and minds that is needed in education. The walls are getting higher as I write and one day it may be insurmountable. I am hoping enough people choose to look differently at how we educate children and begin to realize we need to address the soul as well. So sitting here pondering away I close as I have for eleven years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Maybe we are in the wrong

Bird Droppings July 30, 2010
Maybe we are in the wrong

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember al the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879 addressing representatives of the President of The United States

Sadly nothing has changed over the hundred plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today there are over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs that are unanswered and in courts throughout the country and the highest suicide rate of teenagers is on reservations. Around the country we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico many of the ancestors of this people were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self centered that we can argue about illegal immigrant’s maybe it is us who are truly the illegal immigrants.

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

So often my thoughts come random after a few hours sleep and rising to take the dog out a point or idea will stick. Last night about four in the morning our westie woke me up to go out and in heading out something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass produce. In the world of the late 1800’s as far as Native Americans go it was coming up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture of language just this was it including education using the Carlisle School as an example. Basically the white way was the best. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies banned in late 1800’s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or any attempt to truly fund and or implement that plan. Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to coincidently tie this government outlook to education of today.
In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. All children that includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the last presidential election of being too friendly with our now president is a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. Authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It’s an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teachers question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states efforts to get assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and of course subsequent testing. On the front page of today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in Amy passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people are saying they will get it just will take time for students to get use to new curriculum. In special education we have been told to start telling parent’s in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. I question who is setting the bar up and why?
In reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution it is due to mandated standards set in No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly six years of testing. Another sad point is it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes most definitely. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance I went by Barnes and Nobles to get some back up material.
Great educators have known the answer for many years. John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts and all seem to come to one conclusion the solution is not in one test fits all, one curriculum fits all, it is not about leaving children behind which is happening at an alarming rate currently. So here was walking my dog last night and a thought came to me. It’s about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore the world and lives of their students, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher moves toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, To teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say where do we start, we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back I am seeing that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic this has come up numerous times. It was nota measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manor. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.
“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice One

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. This idea of One Child at a Time may sound a bit far fetched but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what ahs been drilled in the past semester. So often you will hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test life long learning? Is 52% of students taking test failing life long learning? What if we could take a bit more time learn who the student is allow that students weakness and strengths to be incorporated into the learning process and developed. I would say wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy. Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so pleas keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namasate
bird

Doing what you love is not really work

Bird Droppings July 29, 2010
Doing what you love is not really work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past ten years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty three years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started out by hand. I had been talking with our new graphics teacher at school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste ups.
One are of interest is as I find quotes and today the starting quote is from my fathers book of quotes he had saved over the years a three ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I Love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husbands death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as red further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to is there material even in our high speed world that needs to be with held. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better managed the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Can we determine worth at face value?

Bird Droppings July 28, 2010
Can we determine worth at face value?

I try not to miss too many days writing although my timing has been off sort of whenever I get a chance to sit down and write kind of thing. I am going to be working at school all day and then run home feed and water the dog run back to school and take a few pictures of some of the wild flowers around school go to Kroger and then make dinner. It will be a busy day. I have been writing the night before on some occasions and even staying up till one or two in the morning thinking and reading on occasion. Later this week I am hoping to interview a few former students and teachers from the Foxfire program. I need to get some yard work done as well our yard is knee deep after remnants of the tropical storm brought in five or six inches of rain over the past week. Several emails this morning and last night got me thinking. Self esteem is a big issue with teenagers many times; it is about trying to understand that they have value. How do you explain self value to a child?

“A bar of iron costs $5, made into horseshoes its worth is $12, made into needles its worth is $3500, made into balance springs for watches, its worth is $300, 000. Your own value is determined also by what you are able to make of yourself.” Source unknown

So often it is hard to tell children that they have worth, we can look at this quote as our worth being a value in dollars and cents as an option and I have had a few youngins I could only see value in that manner over the years. We are raised to see value as a commodity which gives us this sense of how does it equate in dollars. How much is it worth? While symbolic in nature this statement of value really is how so often people in general look at there own value, purely extrinsic.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffett

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

Each morning I wonder as I write thinking about sending out an email that has value rather than be it successful, to borrow from Albert. That one email that someone states it was just what they needed that moment at that time is worth all the adulations of the crowd. During school days I print out a copy to hang on my door and watch students read the notes each day and perhaps walk away with a smile instead of a frown then there is worth, and value to my effort.

“All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Value is the most invincible and impalpable of ghosts, and comes and goes unthought of while the visible and dense matter remains as it was.” W. Stanley Jevons

What is a person worth do they have value? As I was thinking, back in the day, as my youngest son will say when referring to most anything past yesterday to other ideas and thoughts on this subject. In a book read many years ago, human life was equated simply as fodder for the pile, fertilizer or organic material to feed the masses, humans were of little or no value in reality, each person was worth only what perpetuated the continuum. Brave New World was a futuristic book and controversial in its time. Watching today’s politics sometimes it seems we are not much more than numbers in the electorate college to be gathered in at that right moment and then set aside till needed in four years. As humans we tend to try and rationalize our existence, our being as we live and breath.
So often we are dissatisfied with what we see and hear and we seek solutions, at least hopefully. As I was thinking and reading this morning this piece came up, so often many people seek solutions religiously.

“My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.” The Dalai Lama

Perhaps in our searching for value within self is in and of itself is the error. Perhaps we should be looking within the puzzle rather than at simply pieces. We should be seeing life as a vast jig saw puzzle and each of us as pieces granted they are intricate delicate pieces but that we interconnect to a vast array of other pieces. Each of those connections more involved than the last. Our value and worth than becomes that point where we recognize each of the facets of our connections. It becomes that each of those in and of themselves have value to us at that point and to the entirety of the whole.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Einstein stated “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” As I think and borrow from Emerson we are also victim to our own perceptions and semantics. Value and or success is it in dollars and cents or is it in the pieces of reality fitting together. As I do so often borrowing again from Emerson, “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived”. I think as I ponder the various ideas today value and self worth is truly there if one has provided that opportunity for as Emerson states “one life to breath easier”. It is not about solving world issues but that one life or one piece at a time. For in the end with each piece affecting another, the entire picture can and will change.

Late at night, lights dancing in the northern sky
Like the Indian spirits trying to show me how to fly
You can see into the future but it may be a mirage
Like a new car sitting there in your old garage
There’s a place on the prairie where evil and goodness play
Daddy told me all about it but I don’t remember what he said
It might be afternoon and it might be the dead of night
But you’ll know when you see it ’cause it sure is a hell of a sight
Neil Young, Prairie Wind, 2005

I have been a Neil Young fan since 1968 or maybe before that although my musical memory has a hard time prior to that era. Neil Young was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in 2005 and was advised to have immediate surgery which may or may not save his life. However without surgery he would most assuredly die. Against family wishes and doctors he took a couple weeks and wrote produced and performed his CD Prairie Wind. He then went in for surgery. He wanted to get one last CD out just in case. On his way to dinner with his family in New York after leaving the hospital the incision on his leg from the catheter ruptured and he nearly bled to death collapsing on the sidewalk. Prairie Wind went on to be a great seller. A recent review of his latest release was very negative. As I was reading and I have not heard this CD so cannot offer an opinion but after nearly forty plus years of adding value to my life in his music and words one not great CD is fine. IN is about the interconnections and how we perceive those that provide value to us. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Is the moon setting while the sun is rising?

Bird Droppings July 27, 2010
Is the moon setting while the sun is rising?

I left the house relatively early for my summer normal schedule. But had places to go and things to see just didn’t know what for sure. As I left the house several rabbits and birds either ran or flew across my path as I drove down the dirt road beside our house. A bit further down the road I noticed the nearly full moon going down in the west. No sooner do I notice the moon and the sun is coming up. How can this be both events all at once? This was even better than an eclipse. As I took a turn on a back country road a mother opossum began peering at the roadway looking about ready to jump in front of a car. I noticed she was carrying some babies on her back and hopefully she avoided traffic although it was early and I did not see any cars.
Yesterday I stopped by my mothers house to pick up chapter one of my book Bird Droppings a teachers journal which she had been proofing. As we talked she started pulling out books she wanted to know if I wanted. As she pulled a few books I realized I do not turn down books ever well almost never and started piling them up. One in particular caught my attention. Touch the Earth by T.C. McLuhan. As I read and recalled from earlier in the day yesterday several postings about changes in our world it started to make sense more so than it had is some time.

‎ “All living creatures and all plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow – the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great they would die, but there are clouds that bring rain, and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.” Okute, Teton Sioux, 1911

As it turns out the book was given to my father in 1983 by a friend of his who signed the book as well. T. C. McLuhan edited the stories and gathered them from various Native American warriors, chiefs, holy men and orators. The photos are all from Edward S. Curtis famous black and white photographer and chronicler of the Wild West. T. C. McLuhan is a New York filmographer and author with numerous projects to her credit. The Shadow Catcher is a 1975 film based on Edward S. Curtis and his travels from 1893 through 1930 recording on film and tapes the sights and sounds of Native American peoples across the country. His concern was the old ways would soon be gone and his effort has recorded many events and happenings found no where else in media. T.C. McLuhan’s father is a bit more well know in literary circles, Marshall McLuhan was named Patron Saint of Wired magazine in 1991. T. C. McLuhan produced and directed the documentary “The Frontier Gandhi” in 2008. Looking at a book on Native American culture I have found an author and now several films I want to pursue.

“I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said? I wonder if the ground would come alive and what is on it? Though I hear what the ground says. The ground says the Great Spirit place me here.” Young Chief, Cayuse, 1855 at an Indian Council in the Valley of the Walla Wall
Yesterday I responded to a blog about how rapidly things were changing and how food stuffs with the dying off of honey bees will be impacted. Over the last few years I can honestly say I have seen fewer and fewer honey bees. I Plant numerous flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. But each year there are fewer honey bees. This year I have seen one and I wander my gardens every day during summer looking for photo opportunities and this year no pictures of honey bees. As I read through this manuscript and thought about the title touch the earth I thought to the writings of many great Native American leaders both on the battle field and spiritually. All reflect the contact with the earth as a key to their existence. Whether it be sitting on the ground instead of on a chair or standing in moccasins close to the ground instead of thick soled boots or shoes the Native American way is to be one with the earth. I tagged a t-shirt photo I took a year or so ago with the world and some feathers and surrounding the image the words, “This we know all things are connected.”

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, and the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk residing in France who was ejected from his country of Viet Nam for being against the war in the late sixties and early seventies. “All is a miracle” is such a simple statement yet it is what this life is about if we so choose. The miracle is in our own seeing and believing. What a glorious day while cloudy it will still be a great day. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Everyday is a good day

Bird Droppings July 26, 2010
Every day is a good day

Recently I had the great privilege of spending some time with three friends. People I have known for many years. Just a few weekends back I drove nearly 800 miles on various assundery excursions. There was a trip to Georgia Southern University for graduate classes, a trip to Macon Georgia and back to stop at the Indian Mounds and go by Towiligia Plants, a native plant nursery just outside Macon. Much of this time I was alone driving and most of that time listening to an old new Neil Young CD, Live at Massey Hall, recorded in 1971.
In my travels many things pass through my mind, ideas for my dissertation and my graduate studies, thoughts back to my meetings with my dear friends. But in the midst of this all was a passing thought my wife mentioned as I was sitting reading an email from one of my friends. She told me we all have kind hearts. I thought back to conversations we were having as friends a few days back that would have provided her with this insight.

‎”I tell my students that teaching is a lifelong moral quest. You never have it exactly right, and you keep trying to get better at it. You keep learning from your students and what you they’re going through, how you can do things better.” Dr. Nel Noddings, interview with Sara Day Hatton, Teaching By Heart: The Foxfire Interviews

An idea crossed my mind as I was driving. The medicine circle composed of four points of the compass. The points are as on most manmade compasses yet far more in terms of meaning in the medicine circle. The North, symbolizing earth and wisdom, The South, symbolized by fire and passion, The West, symbolized by water and emotions, and the East, symbolized by air and flight are what make the medicine circle meanings. I thought of four friends drawn together yet apart. Each knows of the other and by chance I had words with each recently. Each of my friends had passion in their lives. There was a passion I could see and feel for their work, family and those around them. I even at one point was sitting jotting notes to myself as to who fit each of the points. Who was the north or south, east or west of this medicine wheel?
So often my train of thought then wanders off and I find myself postulating over other ideas and pondering this or that. I found my way to Borders yesterday. Somehow I can do that probably in my sleep. Someday I might like to have my ashes sprinkled through a Borders or Barnes and Noble even though they will get swept up by the nightly cleaning crew or maybe haunt a Borders in the afterlife. I went looking as I do to favorite sections only to find they were all shifted about. I finally found the Education rows of books and a bit later the Native American shelves.
As I looked always seemingly drawn to known authors I found a title that intrigued me. The book was Every day is a good day, by Wilma Mankiller. I had not seen this book in all of my travels and searching’s at Borders, Barnes and Noble and many other stores. It consists of dialogue between nineteen indigenous women on various topics. The book has many powerful words from these women. I borrowed today from the foreword written by Native American author Vine Deloria.

“The old Indian war cry, it’s a good day to die, bespoke of the courage and fearlessness of men in battle and indicated that life was not worth living if one approached it with too much caution. Freedom demanded the willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure personal integrity. But what of the long periods between wars and crises? What about the daily lives we seek to fill with substance?” Vine Deloria

The late Wilma Mankiller nationally known as former chief of the Cherokee Nation and author, teacher, lecturer and advocate for Native American affairs in her book proceeds to explore this through the thoughts and understandings of nineteen indigenous women from all walks of life. In a recent class we discussed the concept of multitasking and how women have been multitasking for thousands of years while men focus on generally one thing at a time. I look at women running for vice president, state governors, congress, Senate and our current Secretary of state in our own country. Wilma Mankiller was chief of the Cherokee nation for ten years until her health took the best of her.

“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or strong its weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

My thinking has wandered today from four friends and an observation by my wife to the multitasking ability of women. Yet intertwined is a common thread a piece of the tapestry of our lives. My wife saw a common element in each of us as we talked and joked and retold old tales of childhood. Perhaps we are each part of the medicine wheel of life. A thought crossed my mind as each of my friends in different places we are each leading separate yet connected lives. I thought back to Wilma’s book title and how I was drawn to that Every day is a good day. I thought to multitasking and how so often we take for granted those who truly do keep the world in line and in order. I thought of my wife who so often is the guiding force in our family and always ready to hug one needing hugging.
Every day is a good day when we accept the premise that we are integral to that day and we each are only a portion of the day and so many more too are there interconnected and interwoven. I do think it is when we get focused to into our own that we loose sight of the good day. I do wish we each could hold all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.
namaste
bird

Sunrise

July 25, 2010

Sunrise

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.” Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief

For many years I have read this passage by the great chief Tecumseh. I know many who have a difficult time finding anything to give thanks for. In this crazy world of wars, wonders, and technology some people are so self absorbed, that all around them is a blur. I watched a high school football game several years ago and we lost 31-7 finishing our season 4-6. We started the season full of hope and excited that we had a new head coach. This was his first season in a new school and as we walked to the car my middle son said, “Dad you know my senior year we were only 2-8”. These seniors have doubled our senior year wins. Even within a loss, even within tribulation, there is room for thanks and for growth. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

namaste

bird

Thinking about copperhead eggs

July 24, 2010
Thinking about copperhead eggs

I am sitting waiting here in my writing area finishing up a daily journal entry. Shortly I will run by the school to clean and feed animals in my room. In a few weeks I will be waiting on the bell to ring to start back a new semester, a few new students but many that I have seen and known some for four years. As always I am sitting listening to Native American cedar flute music as I do so often. Late in the week I will rearrange my room at school a bit but not enough to upset my normal routine and those kids who have been with me before. I am excited about heading back to school and teaching it does not take long and a few former students will pop in to say hello and a few will be missed, who will not be back due to some poor choices in their lives. As I sat thinking a quote I found many years ago came up.

“To admit you were wrong is to declare you are wiser now than before.” Unknown author

When I saw this I had many flashbacks to arguments over the years. One of my favorite was copperhead eggs. That was many years ago, (copperheads do not lay eggs they give live birth) when a UGA vet student who also at the time was my brother in law could not be persuaded otherwise. I knew that herpetological fact from about second grade. Admitting in life you were wrong is probably one of the hardest and most difficult tasks we could ever have. Even when it is only a silly argument or discussion on copperhead eggs or who was best baseball or basketball player. It is that letting go of ego is difficult. This man never has gotten over that one argument and in being stubborn and ego filled he seemed to be the champion at least in his own mind.

“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Karl G. Jung

I do think Jung may have over did it a bit in his idea but ego is such a hard task master and so often in life we all sooner or later fall victim to ego.

“If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?” H. Ross Perot

Looking back on my own life and I was never really a Perot fan but I happen to like the thought of a third party and candidate. In life who but ourselves is there to clean out the barn so to say. I found a sign with the word EGOS in bold lettering on it and then the red circle for NO across it. I placed several up around the school a few years ago and the only one that survived a few hours and it was on my door, others were down very quickly. People in general do not want to be wrong or questioned.

“If you think about yourself then you’ve lost sight of the ball.” Mike Willesee

Ever wonder how a pro basketball team either succeeds or collapses? It would seem all in all most pro teams are very close in ability. It is dealing with egos that makes or breaks a team being able to de-egoize a team is a true sign of a great coach.

“A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team. “ Pat Riley “

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” “Nothing will work unless you do. “John Wooden

Many of you may never have heard of John Wooden, who passed away recently at 98 years of age and he was perhaps the greatest College basketball coach of all time. I believe he won more NCAA championships, ten than any other coach and more in a row something like eighty eight. He lived a simple philosophy of life.

“You cannot attain and maintain physical condition unless you are morally and mentally conditioned. And it is impossible to be in moral condition unless you are spiritually conditioned. I always told my players that our team condition depended on two factors — how hard they worked on the floor during practice and how well they behaved between practices.” John Wooden

Recently a few months ago I found an article on the sports page by a former Wooden player who did not get to play much. He was interviewing Bill Walton a now sports broadcaster and former great of UCLA’s glory days under John Wooden and now in the NBA hall of fame. The player who did not play much had the same respect and love for Wooden as did Walton, both carried “Woodenisms” in their wallets still twenty plus years after college. Setting the example was the key to Coach Wooden’s philosophy of life.

“Live the life as well as play hard” John Wooden

EGO had no place on a Wooden team and if an ego cropped up you probably will be sitting on the bench or playing at another university. Wooden was successful because he did not skirt the edges so many in the newspaper schools have done. He won through practice (players were glad to get off his team as his practices were so hard) and behavior between practices. Imagine a world where the aura was gone from Pro sports and players played because they wanted too not for millions of dollars. Imagine where newspapers would have to print about the team getting all A’s instead of how many team members were arrested for shop lifting and sexual harassment. EGOS can destroy not only an individual but a team and a society.

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” John Wooden

I will close with that last statement from John Wooden in life not just sports but character will keep you there, a good thought to remember. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

LIstening to a cricket

July 23, 2010
Listening to a cricket

Perhaps it is a sign of good luck to hear the first cricket of the evening. I heard this lone cricket earlier as I went out taking my West Highland Terrier for a minute or two of exterior roaming about. A lone cricket was chirping, within a few minutes a tree frog and owl joined in. It was only a matter of seconds and choruses of crickets and tree frogs were all chirping and whistling away. Might have been that first one just needed to get everyone going. It was an interesting musical trio for an evening in July. The air temperature was in the mid seventies after a blistering hot day and it was warm this evening for this time of year.

“In early days we were close to nature. We judged time, weather conditions, and many things by the elements–the good earth, the blue sky, the flying of geese, and the changing winds. We looked to these for guidance and answers. Our prayers and thanksgiving were said to the four winds–to the East, from whence the new day was born; to the South, which sent the warm breeze which gave a feeling of comfort; to the West, which ended the day and brought rest; and to the North, the Mother of winter whose sharp air awakened a time of preparation for the long days ahead. We lived by God’s hand through nature and evaluated the changing winds to tell us or warn us of what was ahead. Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our Fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely. May Wah-Kon-Tah, the Great Spirit, look down upon us, guide us, inspire us, and give us courage and wisdom. Above all, may He look down upon us and be pleased.” Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960’s

When I was outside there was a feeling of peace. The sky was starting to darken and the glow from the nearly full moon sliding across the sky was evident. A breeze was blowing just enough to rustle the leaves and needles of the pines and oak trees. When I came in I checked my emails and such, generally a few thoughts of the day and other bits of wisdom stashed about on the internet. Nothing struck me as a good start for the next morning. Then I recalled after much reading a passage I had seen a few years back. I have a Farmers almanac on my desk at school; rural folks have used this book for many years as the guide for planting and farming.
When I first moved to Georgia in the early seventies I remember a fellow who worked for us for a quite a few years. He was born and raised within ten miles of his house. Nature was an integral part of his learning and awareness. He had farmed on this piece of property all his life. Growing up working mules across terraces and poisoning boll weevils in cotton fields with arsenic. He had watched for the cycles of the moon and listened for the first cricket chirp or call of a dove or owl. Corn should not be planted he once told me till after the last frost after the full moon.
As I scanned my emails and various blog sites one caught my attention and as I do I sorted the data. It was a list of questions, many were teenager sort of questions. First question was do you ever give the peace sign? For me an easy answer, everyday, many times. Then as I looked through the questions over half were materialistic. Most of the rest were can you do this or that? Do you have a MP3 player etc?
I noticed not one question about hearing a tree frog or listening to a cricket. Have you ever heard a loon on a lake n Minnesota or seen the leaves in New Hampshire in the fall? Or have you walked along the trails of North Carolina when the rhododendrons are blooming? It has been a few years since I heard gators bellow. A sound you will never forget. All of my life I have been drawn to nature, listening seeing and trying to understand.
We have become so caught up in what and who we are we lose sight of where we are. When talking with teenagers at school it is more of do you have how many of this popular stores shirts or pants? Who am I to speak, I was wearing looking at alpaca socks yesterday at the feed store of all places. Actually they are really practical in that in winter they are warmer than wool and softer as well so very comfortable. The last pair I had was free however which is a whole other story. I only drink Smart water, perhaps an advertising glitch on my part, but I like its taste however I do get it on sale at Kroger which should count for something. I read on a website of a person who was asking for friends. I read today of another seeking companionship.
I sat longer in the warmth of the morning today listening to the silence and the owl, frog and cricket. It was hard to leave almost relaxing hypnotic as I sat in my chair in the back yard. I thought back to days in my youth where being outside was paramount to a good day. A bad day was one where weather kept us in. Today youth tend to huddle around TV’s and video games, computers and such. I walked through the house yesterday turning off TV’s where no one was sitting. What if is a big lead in to a sentence?
Then the answer to question one on the list hit me. The person answering said no, they never use the peace sign, and that made me think. It was not so much about that person but us as a society in general. We live in a society who accepts the violence we live with. We accept the harm being done to people world wide. Could we do more? Could we stop harm from being done to others? In many cultures the first cricket is a good sign, I would like to hope so. After watching the news this morning however I will still end with please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Soul is the engine

Bird Droppings July 22, 2010
The soul is the engine

It has been nearly fifty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (Jenson, 1975). I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past, perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946. I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me. Pinar (2004) states, “’One returns to the past, to capture it as it was, and as it hovers over the present’ (1976, 55)” (p.36). The past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. “Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” (Hillman, , 1996, p. 4).
My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree. It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years. When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children. Memory is an aspect of who we are Morris (2001) quotes Legroff, 1992, “Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” (p. 90). I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me. When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot. Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my father’s shelf at his home is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.
A few years back a movie was made about the late Robert Johnson, one of the great blues guitarists, staring Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca, entitled Crossroads. The film was about a classically trained guitar player who wanted to find Robert Johnson’s lost song. Willie Brown, Joe Seneca’s character said “you cannot really play the blues till you can play the train song”, that thought stuck with me. Blues players would use sounds from the trains in their music. There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being. Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B, or maybe for bluesman it was the life and blood of their travels around the country, a freedom of sorts linked to the railroad.
My implecation of the engine as the soul and as a driving force in who we are has credo in perhaps even our dreams. Our soul or who we are is often uncovered in dreams. Hall (1983) in looking at a dream interpretation states “Trains in contrast to automobiles and buses are set on a fixed track, without the option of moving somewhat at will; they therefore tend to be associated with compulsive or habitual activities” (p. 83). This interpretation of a dream about trains was based on the analyzing and deciphering by the therapist as a part of Carl Jung’s therapy process. Jung classically saw “the dream as a ‘message’ to the ego and as a self representation of the psyche” (Hall, , 1983, p. 24) . Dream interpretation is ongoing, “for dream interpretation involves a constant dialogue between the ego and the unconscious” (Hall, , 1983, p. 25) and the interpretation allows some conscious attention to be paid in the direction of where individuation is going . There is a connection to who we are and our dreams. Zukav (1979) addresses Quantum Physics and Jung’s ideas in acausal events using a statement from the Noble prize winning physicist and friend of Jung, Wolfgang Pauli, “From the inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of extraversion in to the physical realm” (p. 56). Essentially our unconscious inner self is trying to make itself known. This inner unconscious part of us is who we really are.
My own journey of searching for who I am did not involve a dream of trains as I began this paper, but it did reflect back to pieces of my childhood and how the train for me was significant. The idea of an analogy to a train developed as readings and lecture ideas seemed coincidentally related, to borrow a term from Jung, synchronicity. Jung, (1960) provides an insight with: “Links to the unconscious can also be attributed to these acausal coincidences and events” (p.95). R. Hull translator of Carl Jung’s work, Jung (1960) states, “Jung first used the term ‘Synchronicity’ only in 1930 in his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm (p. vii)”. The word was in response to observations of patients where chance, meaningful, and timely coincidences occurred. As my idea developed pieces seemed to fall in place. Jung defined synchronicity “as any apparent coincidence that inspires a sense of wonder and personal meaning or particular significance to the observer” (Joseph, , 1999, p. xi). Was it coincidence that I took a copy of James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code: In search of character and calling, with me for extra reading on a recent trip to Statesboro for graduate studies? The concept of synchronicity indicates a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved (Jung, 1960). The ideas fell in place and began to make sense. As I thought of what direction to go with curriculum theory, coming from my psychological and theological background and life long fascination with trains, the idea of using the analogy of a train and approaching three areas of man’s endeavor, to understand and rationalize the existence of each of us, our soul, our character and our curriculum became clear.
Smith(1999) writes that, “Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” (p. 4). Smith(1999) points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why . The illusions “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction” (p. 5). In order to dig deeper into curriculum we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend curriculum and ourselves and how people see us. Pinar (1994) explains that “Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” (p. 17). Smith (1999) implores us to look in side ourselves:

Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us (p. 5).

In order to deal with what is before us, that which enslaves us (Smith, 1999), we need to over come our inner self.
This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are. Jung (1995) continues the idea with “We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” (p. 2). Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Fowler, (1981):

Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life. (p.5)

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.
What is the soul and its effect on our life? Frattaroli, (2001) defines soul as, I think of the soul as the experiencing self, the ‘I,’ an ineffable whole that integrates processes happening at four levels of experience – body, brain, mind, and spirit” (p.6). Macdonald, (1995) offers, “The process of human development is considered here to be a process of becoming.” (p.16) Morris (2001) addresses the idea of spirit using an idea from Hegel “The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” (p. 104). Spirit is then who we are subjectively? Britzman (2003) offers, “Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” (p. 57). We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, student of James Hillman, a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul, Moore, (1992) states:

Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean. (p.5)

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul”(Moore, 1992, p.9). Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning (Doll, 2000). Kesson (2000), reflects with Jack Miller who states: “To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” (p.99). It is that inner being of who are that is our soul.
Looking over various authors and thinkers and gathering pieces from them. It is Hegel’s thought of the subjective side of spirit (Morris, 2001), soul is where nature and life intertwine. Soul is a process of becoming (Macdonald, 1995). Soul is the material a subject spins into a life (Britzman, 2003). Soul is the experiencing self (Frattaroli, 2001). Soul is digging and searching and uncovering the roots (William F. Pinar, 1994). Soul is that which makes us human (Moore, 1992). Soul is also only through coming to terms with inner understandings (Doll, 2000). There is much that makes soul, soul is who we are, it is not a perception or necessarily an understanding it is us. If we can access that piece and utilize it is the engine of ourselves. In postulating this idea of soul as Hillman calls this piece of us, it is the driving force of who we are (Hillman, 1996). Soul is the engine of the train in our lives it is often unknowingly what pulls the train of our lives around the track. Sorry for a change of pace in my writing starting to get APA in gear and get serious about my dissertation writing. As we each search for who we are and why may we still keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.
References
Britzman, D. P. (2003). After-Education Albany State University of New York.
Doll, M. A. (2000). Like Letters in Running Water. Mahweh: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of Faith: The psychology of Human Development and the quest for who we are. New York: Harper Collins.
Frattaroli, E. (2001). Healing the Soul in the age of the brain. New York: Penquin Putnam Inc.
Hall, J. A. (1983). Jungian Dream Interpretation Toronto: Inner City Books.
Hillman, J. (1996). The Soul’s Code. New York: Warner Books Inc.
Jenson, O. O. (1975). The American heritage history of railroads in America; Avenel N.J. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.: distribution by McGraw Hill.
Joseph, F. (1999). Synchronicity and you. Boston: Element Books.
Jung, C. G. (1960). Synchronicity: An Acausal connecting principle (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1995). Jung on Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kesson, K. (2000). Spirituality and the curiculum: A hermeneutic Discussion. JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 16(Spring 2000), 93-104.
Macdonald, J. B. (1995). Theory as a prayful act: the collected essays of James B. Macdonald (Vol. 22). New York: Peter Lang.
Moore, T. (1992). The Care of the Soul. New York: Harper Collins.
Morris, M. (2001). Curriculum and the Holocaust. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Pinar, W. F. (1994). Autobiography, politics and sexuality: essays in curriculum theory 1972-1992. New York: Peter Lang.
Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is Curriculum Theory. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Pinar, W. F. a. G., Madeleine R. (1976). Towards a poor curriculum. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
Smith, D. G. (1999). Pedagon: Interdisciplinary essays in the Human Sciences, Pedagogy and Culture (Vol. 15). New York: Peter Lang.
Zuchav, G. (1979). The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An overview of the new physics. New York: William Morrow and Company