Wishing and wondering and waitiing

Bird Droppings August 31, 2010
Wishing and wondering and waiting

“Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves.” William Davenant

It has been nearly four years since we moved last and found ourselves in this house.
I wasn’t sure from where to start several ideas have been running through my thinking the past few hours. It has been almost four years since I read and heard the news on Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s death. As I do my best pondering when alone I went outside thinking and wondering about the shortness of life. I looked about my back yard that I know so well in the dark spending more time here in the early hours than during day light it seems at times. We do become attached to routines and people and things and thinking about working in a new school granted only one period is difficult as I have in ten years never co-taught a class.
My wife and I have been discussing ideas of where and when we can get started on our grandbaby’s room. Our boys all are in college and or in careers and both our mothers are still with us so it is interesting to be thinking of going to Toys R Us again. I have never planned an endeavor previously in detail and actually thought out why and how but in this grandbaby event a big change for us we find new sustenance. I know as the days and hours get closer my sons will all chip in and we will make new accommodations for a grandbaby to be. My wife and I are will sort through the preponderance of materials we have collected over the years memories from raising three sons, I am a pack rat no doubt about it, that we might can use. Many times it is hard looking back at those pieces of our lives together good, bad, calamity, tragedy; up lifting experiences somehow it seems there has always been light.
Nearly five years ago I recall my first email of the day was from a dear friend, Dr. James Sutton who wrote a beautiful forward for my first book of Bird Droppings, A teacher’s journey. I was opening emails not too long ago and another note from Dr. Sutton.

“It’s great to be affirmed. A chuckle: I mentioned in a training session one time that we need to always be aware that the boy in our class who can’t keep his hands to himself may well hold a scalpel some day and save our life. One lady in the audience gasped: ‘Oh my God! I just pictured Johnny with a KNIFE!’” Dr. James Sutton

In a Saturday BD a few weeks back I was talking about being reaffirmed as a teacher from a previous student. But for Today I go back to words from two songs that have been running through my head for some time now. Both are older songs but to me significant. Country Stars Big and Rich claim to fame is the song; Save a horse ride a cowboy, not one of my favorites though it helped promote them to national fame. It is another song on that same album which to me is a far more powerful message entitled, Holy water. I heard this song a nearly six years ago and was impressed with the harmonies and words. But as songs go I heard them wrong as we so often do.

Holy Water
By Big and Rich

Somewhere there’s a stolen halo
I use to watch her wear it well
Everything would shine wherever she would go
But looking at her now you’d never tell

Someone ran away with her innocence
A memory she can’t get out of her head
I can only imagine what she’s feeling
When she’s praying
Kneeling at the edge of her bed

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She wants someone to call her angel
Someone to put the light back in her eyes
She’s looking through the faces
The unfamiliar places
She needs someone to hear her when she cries

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water

She just needs a little help
To wash away the pain she’s felt
She wants to feel the healing hands
Of someone who understands

And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me
And she says take me away
And take me farther
Surround me now
And hold, hold, hold me like holy water
Holy water
The first time I heard this song tears welled up I was listening to the words of holy water as if the woman in the song was being washed or cleansed by holy water. I used the words in class many months ago. I took the CD in to listen and play for students and asked what is this song about and one of my red necked skate boarders piped up and set me straight. “Mr. Bird she wants to be held like holy water – special sacred.” The old saying could not be truer, from the mouths of babes. How many of us want to be held at some point in our lives like Holy Water.
Months back for lunch my oldest son and I were eating at a barbeque place and on the TV a Martina McBride music video was showing, God’s Will. It hit me again this time I was in tears and a powerful image as I thought back to what took me into teaching exceptional children so many years ago.

God’s Will
By Martina McBride

I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves
It hid the braces on his legs at first

His smile was as bright as the August sun
When he looked at me
As he struggled down the driveway, it almost
Made me hurt

Will don’t walk too good
Will don’t talk too good
He won’t do the things that the other kids do,
In our neighborhood

[Chorus:]
I’ve been searchin’, wonderin’, thinkin’
Lost and lookin’ all my life
I’ve been wounded, jaded, loved and hated
I’ve wrestled wrong and right
He was a boy without a father
And his mother’s miracle
I’ve been readin’, writin’, prayin’, fightin’
I guess I would be still
Yeah, that was until
I knew God’s Will

Will’s mom had to work two jobs
We’d watch him when she had to work late
And we’d all laugh like I hadn’t laughed
Since I don’t know when

Hey Jude was his favorite song
At dinner he’d ask to pray
And then he’d pray for everybody in the world but him

[Chorus]

Before they moved to California
His mother said, they didn’t think he’d live
And she said each day that I have him, well it’s just
another gift
And I never got to tell her, that the boy
Showed me the truth
In crayon red, on notebook paper, he’d written
Me and God love you

I’ve been searchin’, prayin’, wounded, jaded
I guess I would be still
Yeah that was until…
I met God’s Will on a Halloween night
He was dressed as a bag of leaves

My son asked, “Dad are you crying again” as I watched a powerful music video and song for some of us who are where we are to be. Over forty years ago my brother John was born. My mother was in labor nearly two days and John was born with cerebral palsy, severe brain damage. When he was two while in Florida he contracted encephalitis and suffered more brain injury. John lived till a few years ago with his family sharing in all gatherings all the time he never spoke a word. He was never toilet trained yet he left his mark.
In 1971 or so the city of Macon was segregated in its education of exceptional children till John came along. Many the teachers of exceptional children who after babysitting or being around John chose this field to teach in this field including myself and sister. My own family ended in Georgia because of John. He is buried on a hill out by my mothers house in Walton County and not a day goes by that I do not look back and wonder what if this had not happened to our family.
My mother has answered in a series of poems and thoughts she has put together over the years. Each of my brothers and sisters has responded in their own fashion and me I respond in Bird Droppings. Sitting here thinking of the passing of a good soul in Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and my brother John and thinking of these two songs maybe we can begin to set aside differences and challenges and calamities and start seeking out each other. Peace my dear friends and thank you all for the support and emails over the years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Please think about tomorrow

Bird Droppings August 30, 2010
Please think about tomorrow

I was sitting in my class room when one of my students asked would I sell an ear phone for a cell phone for twenty dollars. I responded probably not but I told them and directed them to the local Wal-Mart where they could buy one for four dollars. The immediate reaction among my students was over whelming why I wouldn’t sell it for twenty dollars. I was being stupid. I thought back a few days to a pickup in front of me and living in a semi rural county there are quite a few and as it goes many are adorned with a bumper sticker or two. This one concerned me. It read “Nuke their ass and take their gas”.
It has been several years since in a graduate school class we are reading about the cruelties of history in Ronald Takaki’s, A different Mirror: a multicultural view of history. It is not just about history it is about a malignant aspect of who we are. It is the schizophrenic side of humanity that power and greed perpetrated and nurtured in how we live our lives. I left printing in 1998 and just before I left a woman who had worked for me for several years told me why she took off a certain day every month. For nearly twenty seven years she had been doing the monthly mailing for the KKK news paper. Printed in Monroe Ga. and delivered to a Decatur Chiropractor for mailing. Takaki mentions in detail the massacre at Wounded Knee so many years ago. I first saw the photo of Chief Big Foot at Wounded Knee frozen in the snow in a western book series put out by Time Life. That was thirty years ago or so. Many of the accounts were well documented and movies made about events and happenings.
The movie, Thunder heart, staring Val Kilmer addresses the massacre at Wounded Knee and the psychological dilemma as a young FBI agents attempts to block out his Native American heritage. More recently when September 11, 2001 came about and a good friend whose sons are half Arab she hurried to school to pick them up because she feared repercussions from others. Her ex husband had been a Lebanese liberation fighter in his teens and now was a Ga. Tech graduate and electrical engineer. But there were repercussions and fights in our school whites and Arabs. I have listened to white construction workers who were unemployed because according to them Mexicans work too hard this is what they say. How it is anyone can work too hard and it is a bad thing.
Reading Takaki isn’t about history it is about who we are and why we choose to do what we do. It isn’t about misplaced morality or politics although so many times it is politicians who make the final decision. I have not been to Stillwater Oklahoma in several years. When I go I drive out to the Native American burial grounds along a quiet stretch of stream totally enclosed with cottonwoods and a meadow going up a hill to the north. Among the many markers most of which are only numbers is a pyramid of river rocks. THE GREAT apache leader Geronimo is buried here. A cement eagle adorns the rocks. The gold covered eagle placed by the tribe has been stolen many years ago. Beside Geronimo are markers, each bearing names of relatives such as son of Geronimo, great niece of Geronimo and so forth all drawing reference to the most feared name in the southwest for many years. As an old man Geronimo asked President Teddy Roosevelt if he could go to the White Mountains to die, the request was refused and he died at Fort Sill Oklahoma.
It is about us now and how we respond so that one hundred years from now we are not the subject matter of another Ronald Takaki Jr. writing about how the people of the United States did this or that. Down through time solutions have been presented. Within various religions numerous times alternatives to the greed and power seeking are within the basis of that religion. Always mankind will bastardize and turn away if not execute the messenger. Native Americans through the ghost dance and Wavoca’s visions claimed the messiah was coming to redeem the Indians but the army saw an uprising. Today end-times authors have made a killing in money and sales pushing the end of al times. How do we pay homage to our ancestors misdeeds and such and how do we go forward in a manner to not replicate what has happened before.

“Seek the unseen in life. Celebrate the ordinary. Serve the weak rather than currying the favor of the powerful. Find a way to direct your life towards God. And live for the seventh generation rather than for yourself. Most of all follow the invitation of the Lakota chief, Sitting Bull, ‘Come, let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.’ It would be nice if the people walking the halls of power in your fair city would keep this simple injunction uppermost in their minds.” Kent Nerburn

It has been several years since I first heard or read the name of Kent Nerburn. Many days ago this was his monthly message from his website. This passage was the last statement of an interview posted this month and reflects much of Nerburn’s thinking. My son told me he heard a news item that struck him as interesting, the most stolen down loaded movie of all time is, “The passion of Christ” by Mel Gibson, an interesting paradox. As I sat thinking about this earlier, this is the paradox of our society; we promote morality in rhetoric yet in reality, literally walk away from it. Our politics follow suit. We profess this deep faith and belief and yet do everything in contrary to that faith we profess. Truly what we do today is about our children and their children we present an idea and show another.

“Create your future from your future not your past.” Werner Erhard

“The future lies before you, like paths of pure white snow. Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.” Source unknown

As I was thinking, so often we are forced to think about now, our processes and living necessitate thoughts and actions to this plan of existence – we spend so much of our time dealing with the pressures of the current realm of thought – bills, politics, entertainment, news, advertising, education, all the trappings of our lives –

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.” Ancient Indian Proverb

It seems often I return to this quote from a bygone time. We borrow from our children. It has been many days since I was involved in two meetings dealing with students/children trying to decide their fate in life. Both children have severe issues that have not miraculously appeared but have been noticed from early childhood. For many years both these students had been served and in the course of their education learned to really not care.
In working with behavior there is a simple concept ABC which I have alluded to before. That refers to Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. In any given behavior each aspect is there. In order to change a desired behavior you change the consequence and or the antecedent. Only as I worked to write a token economy for one fellow to help him function, did I see how we manipulate life. So many aspects of our daily existence are altered and manipulated through media and advertising. Politics is much like Skinner, you want a desired effect and using behavior we throw out the right information or wrong information, which ever is needed. It could be raise gas prices and we need to destroy a wilderness. Argue taxes is always a good one, or how about talk about sexuality with each word we get the desired effect and never once think about your children’s grand children. It is all about today. As I sit thinking, watching billionaires get more billionaired I wonder are we going to start building tombs like the pharaohs did and store our wealth with us for later consumption. Maybe we should have learned from the ancients all the bread and cheese set aside for the afterlife, back then, didn’t get eaten, it molded. You know too much now and trying to store for the future, is it about raising mold. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A spiritual side to teaching

Bird Droppings August 29, 2010
A spiritual side to teaching

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from one’s self. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, to me and I have given away several copies now over the years.

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I have been back in teaching now ten years and have watched teachers burn out and fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting there all into what they do and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students you open your heart as palmer indicates and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revalations of education as a social event and necessity.

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

In my own journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural discussing my journeys in life since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude which for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot to me is sacred and some will scuff how you can say that it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

For several years as I have come back to teaching it has been about respect and trust. It is about building a relationship with students as a critical aspect of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand. It was nearly ten years since I wrote a trust scale for a human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept I had read about in Dr. James Fowlers book The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to a total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead and all the positive and negative that will come my way I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

A final look at essential Bird Pedagogy

Bird Droppings August 27, 2010
A final look at essential Bird Pedagogy

“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with post-season play” Arne Duncan

Over the past few days I have been looking at how I see teaching and instruction and I have wandered about a bit in my efforts. My own style is somewhat radical to say the least. However in ten years my craziness has worked with kids who are not supposed to graduate or succeed according to most. I happen to see this line from Arne Duncan our Secretary of Education and it is amazing how we provide a sense of falsehood through athletics. I am not saying all athletes are poor students by any means. I know many who are honor graduates and scholars in their own right. The greed and competition however at a college level becomes significant. A local college at home games can bring millions to the economy. Many staunch fans never went to college anywhere yet have season tickets and trucks colored in that schools colors and even have the same animal as a pet as the local mascot. A good college football or basketball program is a business not a learning program.

“I think we are lying to children and families when we tell children that they are meeting standards and, in fact, they are woefully unprepared to be successful in high school and have almost no chance of going to a good university and being successful.’ Arne Duncan

We constantly hear on the news how we are behind in education other international programs and countries. Let me start with one of the measures which is the PISA, The Program for International Student Assessment. In 2006 we the USA were ranked fifteenth. I have never heard of or seen this test administered in Georgia. It is a two hour test, multiple choice and essay. It is given every three years to rank countries internationally. Australia is ranked fourth. There are differences between us and them and significant differences. It was 1992 till Australia started inclusion into public schools for disabled students versus 1974 in the US. However there is still a distinct difference between US and literally most of the world in terms of education. Our test scores for example as per NCLB include Students With Disabilities SWD as a subgroup and they are included in final tally of population. A 2% allowance is made for Mentally Impaired students in the total population. Australia in scoring on High School tests etc. does not include SWD in totals as European and Asian Schools do not include either. Most international school systems have in pace a mandatory age cut off 15-17 depending on the territory for example in in Australia. At that point choices are made and or mandated as to higher education technical and or college and or go to work. Throughout Asia this is common practice as it is in many European educational systems.

“If you have great assessments and real-time data for teachers and parents that say these are [the student’s] strengths and weaknesses, that’s a real healthy thing,” Arne Duncan

“The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.” Foxfire Core Practice Nine

‎”We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

I agree with several of my friends that on some concepts Carl Rogers can be a bit off the deep end to a degree. But on this aspect I agree with him that competition as far as learning goes be that grades, test scores, can be inconsequential as to is learning occurring. This would lead to another line from David Purpel yesterday that truly hit me hard.

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

We have stripped away that aspect of community from schools in order to have a clear cut and definite number to score and equate whatever it is we are wanting to measure in theory. One of the first things I learned in statistics is that they are at the mercy of the statistician. We can make numbers do whatever we want. Politicians like numbers and test scores and simply things so they can make policy and award lobbyists with nice contracts. Interesting how most educational research that is cited by the National Clearing house for research based materials is primarily 100% publishing and testing company’s research. Much of this is very limited demographically and in a true research situation would not be valid. Significant dollars are involved however but that might be for another discussion, which sort of ties in with my idea of, is there ethical capitalism? Sadly industrial mentalities and capitalism drive education in US. Mass production testing and text book companies rule along with various support industries.

“I know there are schools that are beating the odds where students are getting better every year, and they are labeled failures, and that can be discouraging and demoralizing,” Arne Duncan

As for US schools being behind are they really? All US schools in all states are mandated through NCLB to have an exit exam that is within certain parameters for graduation and if not passed student does not receive a high school degree. This consists of Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science portions in the state of Georgia. Many subjects have End of Course Tests again here in Georgia. Even with this series of tests at our high school we have managed to raise graduation rate at our school from 71% to 92% over a five year period. Sadly this comes at the expense of real learning and the idea of teaching to the test is more than a catch word. Teacher’s jobs administrator’s jobs are tied to test scores and funding and state and federal intervention as well. I am not happy with the USA educational system as I am a supporter of students and learning which are totally being left behind in this numerical accountability competitive system.

“We are proceeding on with the intent of the Landmark – Leave No Child Behind Reform Act without political persuasion. The focus is effective delivery of services in education by review, restructure, implementation for maximum student learning.” Arne Duncan

I have taught in different parts of Georgia and in Pa. briefly and while many will say education is not as difficult as in previous generations all I can say is pull a high school or college biology book off the shelf dust it off and compare to a biology book today. The cellular material is years beyond my freshmen college and even zoology and botany books of 1968 and 1969. Not just the research gains but vocabulary and demands of material are voluminous compared to what we had in high school. Our system is flawed and it will take radical thinking I tend to believe more toward Foxfire core practices and John Dewey’s ideas and Carl Rogers because some of his thoughts are good.

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.” Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Carl Rogers

As I close looking back on where and when and how I am still my self searching for what is my own pedagogy. It is a continual fluid moving process as I teach and learn each day. I can say I am inclined to think this way but only till a better way comes along. With a morning nearing end and new week ahead please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 3

Bird Droppings August 26, 2010
Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 3

Essential Education Pedagogy
The pedagogy developed by Tara Redwood School and Essential Education includes the following:
• Knowledge of the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions is as important as knowledge of the outer world
• An integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning is preferable to one that fragments and divides knowledge
• Individuals often have dramatically different learning styles; all learning styles are valid and must be both acknowledged and nurtured.
• Learning rooted in direct experience far surpasses in depth and endurance learning by indirect methods
• Generally accepted subject matter can be enhanced by integrating a Essential Education approach and accompanying methods and techniques
• The intuitive wisdom of the individual can be developed by dialectical discussion and debate exploring philosophical, spiritual and moral themes.
Tara Redwood School. 5810 Prescott Road. Soquel, CA

Over the past few days I have been exploring my own idea of pedagogy how do I see my teaching and instructional methods. I have borrowed extensively from Carl Rogers who was controversial in 1968 and his ideas still are considered perhaps utopian to borrow a few words from a friend. It is difficult to piece together I have found as so many aspects of how I view teaching are themselves controversial as well. I have borrowed over the last two days from John Dewey, Elliot Wiggington, Foxfire and today the Tara Redwood School. So much of our world view also reflects through our ideas and interactions each day and is directly influencing upon our pedagogical conceptualizations. Having for most of my life being involved directly or indirectly with in working with and teaching exceptional children and adults I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas. I tend to stick with things that work well and always am tuning those that I do use.
I mentioned my use of the Foxfire Core Practices and tools such as a trust scale I developed back in 2003. Numerous times I have brought up my use of animals in my classroom and addressed the impact that being involved with snakes for example has on attitudes and especially on developing trust with students. I do believe relationships are a key to teaching building and maintaining positive relationships with students can open doors to learning.

“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

In our world of accountability in education test scores rule. With the factory oriented mentality leading the way in teaching many do not allow time for relationships and or care to have that as an aspect of who they are as a teacher. John Dewey over and over again emphasizes community as a key in building an effective learning situation.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core
Practice two

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

Foxfire is based on working together and involving the community of the school it is about building and establishing relationships and I have found in my research long lasting relationships between students and teachers. Part of my own approach has been using Facebook as an extension of my class room. Many photos from school events are posted as well as my own daily journaling. Occasionally a former student will send a note thank you for the thoughts or just what I needed today. Recently one of those notes was from a student from ten years ago when I first came back to teaching.

“Critical pedagogy considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. “ 21st Century Schools

As I was reading various articles and papers this morning John Dewey again is continually through the pages of critical pedagogy, experiential learning and Foxfire. Much like in so many other theorists and practitioners works Dewey seems to crop up. When I read this short note from 21st Century Schools about Critical Pedagogy several key elements caught my attention. Education strengthening democracy and social change almost directly parallels John Dewey.

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

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” John Dewey

As I wonder about how should we really be teaching children I keep coming back to providing context for the content. With accelerated lesson plans and curriculum maps and everybody trying to attain a one hundred percent pass rate on the various tests that we are mandated to give to students in Georgia and c=across the nation little time is left for context. We are leaving the most valuable learning by the wayside in order to get the quick score on a test. I end each day with please lets us keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts. As I am pondering maybe we should include children subjected to a battery of standardized tests that do little more than provide the numbers David Purpel writes about.
namaste
bird

Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 2

Bird Droppings August 25, 2010
Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 2

‎ “We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or a conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Carl Rogers

Sitting at home earlier reading several essays by Carl Rogers made for an interesting start to my morning. In our world of No child Left Behind and being in Special Education where we do see the ones that tend to get left behind I enjoyed the thought of no tests and no grades. Over the years in one graduate class after another the idea of a portfolio following the student through their school career has always intrigued me. As I thought this morning would not some sort of portfolio or culminating, or I should say ongoing project indicate mastery or development of mastery better than a multiple choice test done with a number two pencil on a scantron answer sheet. Of course in chemistry we might have a few explosions if learners were not listening along the way. In my Foxfire understanding what is now Core Practice eight developed into the Foxfire magazine for Elliot Wiggington’s students at Rabun Nantahochee School in 1967 or so. I find it fascinating how often great teachers follow parallel routes different wording and yet seem to find the same ideas. Going back to John Dewey and his premise that experience is the best teacher.

“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.” Foxfire Core Practice eight

“Learning doesn’t stop at 3:15. You can help the teacher do a better job by encouraging your child to show you something he’s working on at school, suggests Ron Martucci, who teaches fourth grade in Pelham, New York. It doesn’t have to be a big deal: ‘Ask him to demonstrate how he does long division or to read his book report out loud,’ says Martucci. ‘Every time your child gets a chance to show off what he knows, it builds confidence.’” Good Housekeeping, Hearst Publications

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

Pulling together my first thoughts this morning as I unravel the essential Bird Pedagogy, experience of the learners is a key starting point as I discussed yesterday to a degree. Building on that as the learner progresses trying to find ways that truly show how the learner is developing rather than static limited tests and grades. I like the idea of Rogers about how grades and tests are end points and should be simply points along the line rephrasing a bit as I go. Education is more of a continuum than a finished product. It is sad that so many want to have education be a period at some point. Even as I accumulate degrees I find I am learning constantly not focusing on that end point but where do I go from there.

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” John Dewey

As I was driving to school this morning a full moon was sitting over me or more so to the left of me as I drove down the highway. I started thinking about what I was going to write today as a continuation of my effort yesterday. My thoughts took me back to a question on my Doctorate Comprehensive exams offered to me by one of my professors and then how I responded. Out of John Dewey came two streams of thought although intertwined. Experiential constructivist thinking and Art or aesthetic based learning. I answered or should say started to answer using Aldus Huxley who had published a book in 1932, Content and Pretexts.

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley, Content and Pretexts

As I read this simple line by Huxley I could not help but go back to my readings on John Dewey and his direct influence on educators and education past, present and future. Dewey saw education as the basis for society.

“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 continuing shaping the individuals powers saturating his consciousness forming his habits training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” John Dewey Pedagogic Creed

In my classroom I try and tie to contextual aspects of which we are the content oriented material that students are being taught. An example would be the word taxonomy that came up a few days ago with a young man in his biology class. He had no clue what this word meant and by some prompting he made a comparison of sheep and goats, his family raises goats he learned about taxonomy. He could show differences and similarities which is how we classify living organisms, or do taxonomy in terms of biology. Going back many years to listening to my father explain tying a square knot you learn best when you actually do it rather than simply hear it explained.
As I explore my own pedagogy I am drawn back to my earliest college and work in psychology. Dr. Abram Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs that I have used over the years many times showing an idea of how people relate and understand in this world of ours. Maslow started with five needs and over the years added some additional clarification.

“Maslow’s five needs
Physiological needs are to do with the maintenance of the human body. If we are unwell, then little else matters until we recover. Safety needs are about putting a roof over our heads and keeping us from harm. If we are rich, strong and powerful, or have good friends, we can make ourselves safe. Belonging needs introduce our tribal nature. If we are helpful and kind to others they will want us as friends. Esteem needs are for a higher position within a group. If people respect us, we have greater power. Self-actualization needs are to ‘become what we are capable of becoming’, which would our greatest achievement. Maslow added over the years three more needs. These are the needs that are most commonly discussed and used. In fact Maslow later added three more needs by splitting two of the above five needs. Between esteem and self-actualization two needs were added. Need to know and understand, which explains the cognitive need of the academic. Also added was the need for aesthetic beauty, which is the emotional need of the artist. Self-actualization was divided into, self-actualization, which is realizing one’s own potential, as above and transcendence, which is helping others to achieve their potential.” Maslow and Lowery, 1998

As I move towards a defining point in my essential Bird Pedagogy bits and pieces of Rogers and Dewey along with Foxfire are intertwined with Maslow’s ideas. We need and seek socialization we are a social animal. We seek recognition and want to be secure in our lives. Maslow in adding cognitive which Rogers uses and aesthetic which Rogers alludes to and Dewey as well as Elliot Eisner builds on. Each day as I sit pondering reflecting on what is my pedagogy my ideas seem to flow a little more freely. I do believe pedagogy is an individual entity and has fluidity to it. There is not an end point or limit or rather there should not be since we need to be ongoing learners and thinkers. Perhaps I will as the week progresses resolve my own ideas and be a bit more definitive in what my personal pedagogy truly is but for today please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Essential Bird Pedagogy

Bird Droppings August 23-24, 2010
Essential Bird Pedagogy Part 1

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Dr. Carl Rogers, considered the father of humanistic psychology

Carl Rogers in 1969 published a book, Freedom to Learn. You would think that in a country with mandatory public education including in 1974 education for all children with the passing of IDEA that we were free to learn. As I progress in my understanding of experiential learning and John Dewey’s concepts which are tied to the Foxfire Core Practices and my dissertation I am finding learning is a misunderstood word. Rogers in his writing describes two types of learning. Cognitive learning which he calls meaningless corresponds to such learning as many academic functions where memorization is involved vocabulary or multiplication tables. The other type of learning is experiential learning and Rogers calls this significant learning. The key is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner.

“Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student.” Carl Rogers

I titled today’s writing as essential Bird pedagogy and granted this has been a long time in the making. Seldom do I even use the word pedagogy which is a favorite of graduate education schools around the country. Vocabulary word number one as you start a masters or specialist degree. As I think back I still have never used the word other than in papers being turned in where sufficient language and vocabulary of the topic were crucial to the structure and format of the paper. As to why it is essential and why use my own name pedagogy is so often described as a blanketing sort of word. As an example a teacher might say my method of teaching falls within the such and such pedagogy from so forth and so on. Pedagogy is how we teach to paraphrase most definitions. How we teach is a unique aspect of who we are and borrowing from Carl Rogers, I have often thought you can not teach another person how to teach.

“My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run futile. It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior. I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered self-appropriated learning.” Carl Rogers

As I am reading Carl Rogers words my current research and undertakings in Foxfire lead me back to Core Practice three of the Foxfire Core Practices.

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

Can I define how I teach, my method in my madness perhaps? I started looking at my own history going back in time and for me now that becomes a foggy glimpse nearly fifty years back when I was in school and when I actually started teaching. All of my early life our family was involved in teaching swimming and Red Cross lifesaving courses. My father was the instructor trainer for the county and as we grew up we went from being students almost sort of evolved into teachers of swimming. Once you attained a certain level of capability my father would have you work one on one with another less adept student.

“Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.” Foxfire Core Practice seven

“I find it very rewarding to learn, in groups, in relationships with one person as in therapy, or by myself.” Carl Rogers

“Cooperative/collaborative learning is interactive; as a team member, you: 1. Develop and share a common goal 2. Contribute your understanding of the problem: questions; insights and solutions 3. Respond to, and work to understand, others’ questions, insights and solutions. 4. Each member empowers the other to speak and contribute, and to consider their contributions 5. Are accountable to others, and they are accountable to you 6. Are dependent on others, and they depend on you” Joseph Landsberger, Study Guides and Strategies
As I came up through high school I became a Red Cross instructor and taught swimming and Lifesaving through Boy Scouts, Red Cross and the YMCA. Many of the little tricks of the trade I still use recalling the idioms and anachronisms of my fathers lessons. Sitting on my front counter are little reminder cards FIDO, frequency, intensity, duration and over again. A small card and a simple reminder for students to study although I would add relevance to the learning process as well. My process of becoming a teacher while somewhat planned as I participated in training sessions was very hands on and something I wanted to do.
I started teaching in 1970 or so working in Paoli Pennsylvania with severely disabled children in a private program as in that day and age IDEA was still just a dream. In 1970 many children were not served in public schools. I found it essential to understand the children I was working with and in those days research was still very archaic and for the most part even doctors were recommending residential placement for many of the kids I was working with, as they felt they would never amount to anything anyway. Getting to know a nonverbal child is somewhat of an undertaking and often is an emotional roller coaster. Trying to understand where that child was coming from in their interpretation of the world and how they perceived reality was difficult to say the least. As I look back this aspect of concern and caring was critical to my own development as a teacher and my own essential Bird Pedagogy.

“The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.” John Dewey

My teaching and pedagogical journey took me through several colleges and several more teaching jobs which eventually took me to Georgia. In 1975 I began teaching in a small program in Warner Robins Georgia where I was teaching thirteen Learning Disabled teenagers. I was upset as I was handed first and second grade reading books for this group of kids as several were reading on that level. It was just prior to this I found my first Foxfire book in a bookstore in Macon Georgia. Reading the various stories in the Foxfire book and having through my additional reading and own experiences found when something is relevant to a student they tend to learn it far better I needed new reading material for my students.
It was a Monday when I started with magazines of interest to the kids in my class and amazingly enough they went for it. I bought some wrestling, car, hunting and a girl’s magazine or two for my one female student although she was a wrestling fan as well and it changed attitudes and attention spans. By the end of the year reading levels were up and my principal was all ready to order more of her reading books when I broke the news to her. I was not fired and actually was offered a raise and would not have to drive the school bus anymore.

“Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his own purpose.” Carl Rogers

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice two

I actually started this topic yesterday but was in and out of meetings, did not get any sleep the night before and then last night I had saved my first paragraphs and notes on my off-line drive and left it at school so here I am finishing in the later hours of the morning what may be a several day effort to describe and define my essential Bird pedagogy. We are in so many ways hoping for a day when fewer people will be in harms way but today it is still a dream. Please join me in keeping all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird