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

The sixteen hour syndrome and why we should embrace it

Bird Droppings August 22, 2010
The Sixteen hour syndrome and
why we should embrace it

It has been nearly ten years since I wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome in relationship to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students. The idea developed from my own observations of a group of twenty eight students in a Georgia high school. At that time I was seeing the negative aspects that came to school in the form of students too tired to stay awake or too upset to even attend to any lesson presented. While unknowingly in my observing and understanding I was able to be successful with these students. As I read Dr. Alexander Sidorkin’s introduction to his book, Learning Relations I understood all too well what was going on in my first few weeks back in teaching in 2001. Much as he was referring to in own his teaching it could have been my own.

“I finally learned how to be a decent teacher, which involves a lot of improvising, paying attention to my own intuition, listening to kids, and trying to take it easy. Having learned to do something is not the same as understanding how it works.” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

Ten years ago for me it was coming back to teaching after a twenty three year hiatus and finding very quickly that as a teacher I was in a paradox. We as teachers have the students for eight hours approximately a day during school sessions and are often expected to teach them everything they need according to some parents. However those same parents and society have those students for sixteen hours to undo and or add to the educational possibilities of the individual student. As I read various books for my graduate courses I seemed to find an under lying theme in each book, many teachers seemingly never consider this issue of what students bring with them to school.

“There is incumbent upon the teacher who links education and actual experience together a more serious and a harder business. He must be aware of the potentialities for leading students into new fields which belong to experiences already had, and must use this knowledge as his criterion for selection and arrangement of the conditions that influence their present experience.” John Dewey, 1938

The sixteen hour syndrome is that accumulated experiences of that student each day out of school and if acknowledged and used by teachers could be an asset and boon to a child’s learning and future. The sixteen hour syndrome is the family, community, culture, friends, society, and all other variants and possibilities that are actively involved in the student’s hours away from school. I believe and will address the need and importance of teachers attending to and understanding this concept and aspect of a student’s life, the sixteen hour syndrome.
On many mornings I begin the day walking into the local Quick-Trip and getting my customary bottle of Smart water and a Five hour energy shot, a shot of caffeine to keep me going through the day. Over the many times I have walked into QT I have found that of all the stores and retail facilities in the area that perhaps this one place is the most homogonous of all. Eastern Europe represented behind the counter by an assistant manager, Hispanics both in line earlier on as they head to work and a cashier, Afro-Americans in line and working at the store, local born and raised kids and it is almost a rainbow of humanity. As I watch interactions all seem to flow and work. There are foods stuffs and drinks to cover the range of cultures and personalities purchasing in that store, obviously a good marketing plan. Why then is it so hard in education to see and delineate that we have multiple cultures and peoples within our schools. When we look at AYP and discuss this group or that and test scores we seem to leave the realities on the table in the conference room.
Using as an analogy, the classroom is much like a jigsaw puzzle with numerous intricate pieces, that when placed on the table and worked with they all interconnect often in minute detail. I will often place a jig saw puzzle out and deliberately turn the pieces over so only the grey back is visible making all the pieces essentially neutral. While looking at the pieces in this color blind manor it is difficult to truly see where each piece can find its place. Teachers as they scan the room on day one often try and look at grey pieces and miss the fine detail that in reality is there. In many ways it is a racial starting point, but culture and socio-economics as well provide intricacies we so often overlook as teachers.

“While it is recognized that Afro- Americans make up a distinct racial group, the acknowledgement that this racial group has a distinct culture is still not recognized. It is presumed that Afro-American children are just like white children but they need a little extra help.” Gloria Ladson- Billings, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children

Referring back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy it is when we look at the pieces and investigate that we solve the puzzle. It is often when solving the puzzle like pieces are sorted to one pile often by color. I have watched children look for shapes and corners as they solve the puzzle. It is far too often that teachers in their classrooms feel constrained and or limited and often never get past sorting color or shapes. Dr. Delores Liston in Joy a Metaphor of Convergence offers a rational explanation of this societal impact on teachers and limitation that many feel is imposed.

“The Cartesian worldview presents us with the false security of objective truth, but if we accept this view, we also accept our powerlessness to enact change. …. This perspective leads us to say, ‘What can I do? That’s just the way it is.’” Dr. Delores Liston

Sadly many teachers succumb and for thirty years wait till retirement to rid themselves of their pieces to the puzzle without ever once seeing the real picture presented by those pieces.
While many parents and even society look to teachers to provide during school all the needs of a child which for some includes teaching morality and ethics. These same parents and society overlook the impact and consequences of that period of time a student is at home and out in society which is approximately sixteen hours during a school day. John Dewey is very well represented with our readings and is touted by some of the authors as one of the premier educators of all time.

“The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. The environment consists of the sum total of conditions which are concerned in the execution of the activity characteristic of a living being” John Dewey

It is the sum total of our experiences that makes us who we are and these are not bits and pieces we learn and acquire totally within school and the educative process. These are pieces and bits we bring to school from outside.
Somewhere along the line many of the pieces formerly learned and understood at home were transferred or assumed to be transferred to the school as the supplier of and provider of implementation of various human attributes. Jane Roland Martin views the industrial revolution as an integral part in altering the delineation of various aspects of humanity in her book Cultural Miseducation: In search of a Democratic Solution, (John Dewey lecture 8). Martin views the home and school as separate entities and that students in school “cast off the attitudes and values” from home. I would offer perhaps teachers unknowingly disenfranchise those attitudes and values in light of education and even neutrality going back to my grey backed puzzle pieces and political correctness. There is in effect a lack of understanding in general within education as a whole, and far too often what students could be bringing to the classroom is ignored and or overlooked.

“No one asks if the wealth that is not in the schools keep is elsewhere being transmitted to our young. No one dares talk about cultural liabilities are being passed down to the next generation, let alone calculate the intergenerational injustice the older generation is doing by passing them along.” Jane Roland Martin

How much is being lost by not seeing the wealth of experiences that students bring to the classroom? So many teachers argue there is not enough time to even consider anything beyond the curriculum. Dr. Delores Liston reviews the commonly held view of curriculum as that of an assembly line in industry and follows with; “This the belief persists that if we can just find the right formula, and clear away all the unnecessary steps in the education process, we will educate more as well as more efficiently. So many teachers view the curriculum, and the teacher’s package of books, manuals, and transparencies as the key to their success in the classroom. Sadly we are no better off than we were years ago.
How do we attempt to see beyond the façade presented in education? Can we even attempt to do anything different and would that even help at this time? Dr. William Glasser looks to a more recent event that of World War II.

“What is true in our schools, and has been true since the end of World War II when we first began to make a real effort to pursue universal education through high school graduation, is that many students (my conservative estimate is at least fifty percent by the eighth grade) who are intelligent enough to do well, many even brilliantly, do poorly.” Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser of course sees this as a choice in his writings. However in the pursuit of universal education, in 1974 the inclusion of students with disabilities of all natures placed into the public schools literally all children. As this universal education developed could we have overlooked and perhaps passed by crucial elements of whom and what we are as human beings in terms of those students. Have we attempted to provide for and truly recognize the differences in students? I think back to the assembly line mentioned by Dr. Delores Liston in Joy is a Metaphor of Convergence, which is so often echoed through other authors, as how so many administrators and even teachers see education. It has been a few years since I was introduced to the author and educator, Ivan Illich. He was a radical thinker in terms of education and in religion and offers a rather grim view of schooling in his book Deschooling Society.

“A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.” Ivan Illich
.
Illich may be a bit extreme but within schools are we missing those experiences that students bring to the classroom that could be integral pieces to the puzzle, the sixteen hour syndrome as I call it. In Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia’s book Reclaiming Identity; Hames-Garcia addresses the idea of restriction in terms of various groups within society. Hames-Garcia states: “I call the process by which such individuals come to be misrepresented and misunderstood ‘restriction.’” Is it that we as teachers restrict students by seeing only grey instead of what is actually there? I look back to John Dewey and possible solutions.

“It is the function of formal schooling to extend, broaden, and improve cultural construction of emerging minds begun at home and in the community.” John Dewey

Dewey continues suggesting that humankind reproduces itself in two ways: first biological and the second cultural. In our efforts should we not be addressing what children bring with them in their experiences, which includes culture, race, and socio economics? Can we adequately address the need for understanding and trying to develop in students that knowledge of their own life experiences? Can teachers learn to look beyond the curriculum and reach for a student centered understanding caring classroom? In her book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings addresses issues concerning African-American students and the teachers who have been successful with predominantly African-American classrooms. She writes “this book is about teaching practice not curriculum”. How does this author view a successful teacher?

“Teachers who practice culturally relevant methods can be identified by the way they see themselves and others. They see their teaching as an art rather than a technical skill. They believe all their students can succeed rather than failure is inevitable for some. They see themselves as part of the community and they see teaching as giving back to the community. They help students make connections between their local, national, racial, cultural, and global identities.” Gloria Ladson-Billings

Making lessons culturally relevant to the students as a key for successful teaching is not only restricted to those teachers working with African-American students, but logically the more we involve the culture of our students the more interested they will be and perhaps Dr. Glasser’s observation will be a thing of the past and students will want to learn.
Looking to at a critical aspect of teaching and getting more actively involved with students is that of caring. In the mid 1980’s two developmental oriented psychologists came at the development of morality in differing ways. Lawrence Kohlberg viewed morality as an ethic of justice, impartiality and fairness and in developing his theory used only white males as models. Carol Gilligan’s approach was one from a point of view of caring and viewed through a female perspective.

“A care orientation, according to developmental and educational psychologist Carol Gilligan (1982), reflects the presence of benevolence and compassion. A caring person treats another person with sensitive discernment of, response to, his or her contextually embedded nee. Care means liberating others from their state of need and actively promoting their welfare; care additionally means being oriented towards ethics grounded in empathy rather than in dispassionate abstract ethical principles.”

Should we be approaching teaching in a caring compassionate manner? Most teachers would answer yes but few actually attempt it. Perhaps it is difficult for some but as I read and researched is not much of what we see as compassion and caring a learned by example part of who we are?
I first read of Gilligan and Kohlberg in a book by Dr. James Fowler, Head of the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and professor at Emory Universities Candler School of Theology. Dr. Fowler wrote about the development of faith in his book Stages of Faith. In my own studies and in using Dr. Fowler’s thoughts I viewed the concept of trust as a synonym of faith. Trust has significant application and understanding within the classroom. Fowler in developing his ideas uses some thoughts from Richard Niebuhr a 1950’s theologian.

“He sees faith taking form in our earliest relationships with those who provide care for us in infancy. He sees faith growing through our experience of trust and fidelity – of mistrust and betrayal – with those closest to us. He sees faith in the shared visions and values that held human groups together. And he sees faith at all those levels, in the search for an overreaching, integrating and grounding trust in a center of value and power sufficiently worthy to give our lives unity and meaning.” Dr. James Fowler, The Development of Faith

We can superimpose trust in place of faith and soon as I look at students coming to my class I see that they either learned trust in the process of growing up and or they perhaps learned betrayal. Just how significant is that piece of information as a child walks in a classroom? In order to be successful in teaching students need to trust their teachers and in return be trusted for a community to develop and hold together.
What should education be about? Should it be as John Dewey discusses a basis for our democratic society and community? Should education be about caring and compassion? An aspect that Dewey is well written on and numerous others have addressed is community.

“For Dewey, the quality of life mirrors its aesthetic depth, understood as the extent to which embodies grace, artfulness, and appreciation, whether in maintaining a home, a classroom, a business, or a government. The quality of life reflects its emotional maturity and attentiveness, which Dewey contrasts with sentimentality and superficiality. Moreover, the quality of life displays its moral depth, which encompasses considerations of freedom, justice, compassion, humility and personal as well as social responsibility.” David Hansen, Ethical Visions of Education: Philosophies in Practice

It is about community, belonging and relationships that could be a driving force in education.

“My hope is that students will be attracted to schools because of the quality of human relationship, the quality of communal experiences there. In other words, students will want to go to school not because of what they will do but because of whom they will meet” Dr. Alexander Sidorkin

As I looked at how we can piece together all of the information that could come into a room with students my first thought was teachers need to ask questions of students. There needs to be a learning period where teacher becomes learner and tries to understand all the bits and pieces that their students bring with them.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. The methods used by these weavers vary widely: lectures, Socratic dialogues, laboratory experiments, collaborative problem solving, and creative chaos. The connections held by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect, and emotion, and spirit, and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer

Perhaps if we try and learn about our students, and try and understand the experiences that they bring if only a few moments is taken from the day, be it in reflections, journals, discussion and a learning community is developed education could be changed. We should be looking to embrace what I once considered a negative, the sixteen hour syndrome, and weave it within our classroom tapestry. Again as I have for over ten years now ended please keep those in harms way in your heart and on your minds.
namaste
bird

An Emerson day

Bird Droppings August 21, 2010
An Emerson day

Last night I was extremely tired after the first week of school and our first official football game. While just a scrimmage I went and took a few photos. I left earlier just exhausted and started watching a movie and then proceeded to walk around outside. It was dark save for star light which was in patches among the clouds and over cast. I had gone from dawn to dusk and beyond yesterday and somehow felt like I really did not get much done. I had been at school all day ran some errands moved some plants watered and reestablished a few plants. I clipped a few dead pitcher plants from our bog garden. We have pitcher plant or plants I should say and it is interesting to show novices the vast amount of insects they actually trap.
On a different topic it has been quite a few years since I began gathering Emerson quotes and writings. As I looked back on a day I felt I did not get much done I started adding up after reading this quote. Actually I had talked to a graphic arts class during my planning period, started working on sports posters, taught my classes, done a good deal of paper work, went to the bank, post office and gas station, loaded my camera and such and went to a football game all the while talking to maybe a thousand people along the way.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a difficult proposition many times to simply put aside today at that point where you stop. But far too often we get encumbered with the now and focus to a point where we carry that focus over to the morrow and often stress and anxiety follow. This is sort of what I was doing and not realizing what all I had really gotten done.

“There is a tendency for things to right themselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man, who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some where along the line a professor called me an existentialist so many years ago and it took a moment and as I thought, ponder as I do, perhaps I was to some extent. I have read more Emerson the past few years than probably in my life time finding bits and pieces that truly seem to make sense. So often in life as Emerson states it will work out, but as he also says simply trying will not do it, having principles is the key.

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth steps in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have used this line from Emerson so many times before, so often we initiate yet do not continue after that first step. The great one in life is that person who takes the second and third step as they proceed in life.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find this quote interesting as the fake beard falls away. So often I have met people whose facade is imitation, unreal, purely make believe and even fake. They strive so hard to be something they are not; high school students call them affectionately POSERS. They go through life posing as someone else. Thinking back a few months as I am walking around the halls, kids will point to some one and say they are a poser. It is all about trying to fit in a different group or in a different style. As I watch and observe so many times the school bully is that, simply to hide other flaws. It could be poor reading skills and or poor self esteem. As I sit here this morning this last statement is most significant, it is most difficult so often to make that initial decision. Yet as time will be, once the decision is made things seem to happen and the pressure is gone and events fall in place. Today is a new day an Independence Day and with that please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.
namaste
bird

A new morning

Bird Droppings August 20, 2010
A new morning

It was a strange evening being home alone for a few moments yesterday my sons left for Daytona Beach for a National Reptile Show. They called of course confirming their arrival and as I walked our dog out remembered we had our first softball game coming up and I headed back to school. I am still recovering from my summer vacation and trying to get my mind and body back in sync. Last night I started thinking about a year or two ago when I drove my son down to Macon Georgia to his dorm room and even carried about three thousand pounds of freshly cleaned laundry to the door. When I returned home just before dark the sounds of the evening were humming, whistling, hooting, chirping and barking louder than any other time I can recall at our house this year. Last night as I came home from the softball game I was reminded as the owls, coyotes, tree frogs, crickets and every other creature imaginable was out still going strong into the early morning. Just a few minutes ago through it all the additional sounds of rain dripping on the trees a lone owl hooted.
We received out list late yesterday afternoon for this year’s testing dates. In a month or so we will be doing the Georgia High School Graduation testing for all juniors in order to graduate with a regular education diploma. I wonder about the usefulness of such endeavors, but it is a requirement mandated by federal law. I have a little book “Teachers Little book of Wisdom” that I found on one of excursions into the vastness of Borders or Barnes and Noble which ever it may have been. Seldom do I come out without reading material or at least an idea. Bob Alogozzine is the author/editor of this little tome. Bob is someone who ended up in teaching. With an economics degree and a need for Special Education teachers he ended up by chance in teaching. This little book is 365 statements about teaching sort of a thought for each day.

“Teach them the difference between things that need doing better than they have been done before, things that just need doing, and things that don’t need to be done at all.” Bob Alogozzine

It is not just about math or science, there is an aspect of life in each day we walk into a room or see another person. Teaching is not simply a job done by a teacher it is a piece of everyone’s existence. Obviously, parents teach from day one. Friends teach or they are truly not friends and some of us who choose to be in a class room teach there as well. But as I read this little thought how wonderful an idea, not about learning calculus for the big test, but doing better than has been done before.
Each of us needs to look at life that way. Do today better than any other day before. I recall a day when I was picking blue berries and it was hot out, we nearly stopped several times but we kept on and you know when I finish writing today I will throw some big blueberries on my cereal and milk. It seems blueberries freeze well and always good to break open a few before the new crop is in. We planted several blueberry bushes over the last years and all had a few berries this year. We did not have enough off our small bushes for much more than a few handfuls but we still can go to the picking patch and fill some gallon jugs when they come in season.
Life is moving in so many directions as I read the news today, we here in the south just were hit with several tornadoes and storms through the night. On that trip a few years back coming back from Macon Ga., I drove through a stretch just hit by three inches of hail it looked as if it had snowed. The temperature dropped from 73 to 53 in only a few hundred feet. On the news Tibet, Iraq, Iran, and many other areas that are in the throws of or in a state of war. I wish somehow borrowing from an Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale song I listened to over driving my sons truck last night, We could live in peace. Maybe then one day soon I can stop ending my emails with this line, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird