Trying to understand

Bird Droppings March 19, 2011
Trying to understand

It has been interesting this spring weather wise. I have been battling allergies and sinus issues daily between freezes and rain and then not enough rain and the pollen. When I headed to school today I had been thinking about the many years of daily writing and journaling of my ideas and thoughts. Many times as I have written over the past years the word perception has come up. I was thinking back one night as we were finishing up a semester I was sitting and posting on our discussion post on the internet as friends and fellow graduate students we were discussing critical race feminism which ties in sex, race, culture, and ethics and to some extent then education. The idea of perception was brought up numerous times as in this course of study for many it has been an opening of eyes that had been closed.
I am an observer by nature and many the times as I walk into someone else’s office or study I immediately peruse the books and items on shelves and desks. I see the papers, the order of items, or lack of order and the amazingly you can quickly make assumptions about that individual. In my own case if someone walked into my writing hovel they would see animal books and magazines as my oldest son also stacks various reading material among my own. There are many years of theology and spiritual matters along with numerous translations of religious texts, and bibles. In stacks many informational texts, child craft, notes from graduate school, and psychology texts scattered among the piles and shelves.
An individual’s personality exists within the piles and various items or at least a perception of who they are. In my case in a quick look you would see several books, Spirit Dance by William Edelen, Red Pedagogy by Sandy Grande, The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a book on Great quotes, The purpose for your life by Carol Adrienne, The Handicapped child in the classroom, Ten Stupid things men do to mess up their life’s by Dr. Laura, A passion for excellence by Tom Peters, Control of Human Behavior, Safety and the Bottom line by Frank E. Bird Jr. It is these books that are on top of piles on my table and desk. Always wondered could a psychological analysis be made of me from those texts sitting out perhaps recent readings or reference sources? Something could be said; perhaps a perception, an opinion, or an assumption could be made about the person.

“Except for the still point there would be no dance ……. And there is only the dance.” William Edelen starts his book Spirit Dance with that line from T.S. Elliot

I sit thinking about that line do we have a still point? Last night as I was reading comments as fellow teachers and future teachers discussed their views and realities in a discussion board on line and as we are trying to finish out the year working with students who are waiting for the last few minutes of the last day before summer break. We are using the word senioritis as we address the seniors here in high schools that seem lost in oblivion as their last year winds down. It can be a teenager in the last thirty seconds of school or a graduate student in the last thirty seconds posting before break. “And there is only the dance”
I looked through my book of quotes a little collection of quotes from my first year back teaching containing poems from myself and others and photos of students school etc. sort of a mini yearbook, always coincidences. I found a Garth Brooks song lyric. The song is The Dance written by Tony Arata, my brother in laws room mate in college at Georgia Southern many years ago.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Tony Arata

Thinking about the dance in reference to Elliot’s line and Arata’s line it is about who we are inside and how we see the world. So often in life we want to avoid problems. I am finding as I grow older it is the problems and tribulations that give us the pieces of who we are. It is all of this history that gives us our out look on life, our perception as we view the world. Wandering to back to my graduate school posting discussion as we learned over the semester everyone has a history and it is within that history we can only get a true understanding of who they are. Not really knowing a person history can alter your perception of them.
As I paged through my little book I had copied nearly ten years ago I found a note I had written evidently this book was one of my students. The student had wanted me to write a personal note so I kept the book and then school was over and she never picked up her book and I wrote a second note. As I look back it brings a tear. It seems she quit school with graduation test difficulty found a new boyfriend fiancée and got married and pregnant, sort of all in one fell swoop. Was this a success or failure from a teaching standpoint, did we reach that child. I am sure some would say no.
It has been nearly forty years since I first started teaching. A few years back I had a professor who was ten years old in public school in Macon Georgia when I moved to that town in 1971 or so. Back in the day special needs kids were not all being served in public school IDEA legislation went into effect in 1974. One of my first jobs in education in Macon was a child find. Thirty eight years ago there were not IEP’s or mandatory education for all children. Many disabled students often just stayed home since there really was no place for them in the schools at that time. We found 278 children and adults in less than 90 days who were not being served and we were looking for 50 to start our program.
In those days 1970 – 1973 it wasn’t about curriculum or text books or even lesson plans it was simply students who had never been served. In and among those students was a young black Down’s syndrome fellow, Sammy Jones age 24. He was friendly clean cut and always fixing his hair, checking his shirt to be sure it was tucked and adjusting his belt always making sure every thing was just right. He would be a poster child for correct dress code, always immaculate. Sammy would always somehow bring up “big momma”, seems he called his mother “big momma”.
I remember one day after we started up our daily program and Sammy was in “school” his excuse to not do work would be “big momma said I don’t have to do that” when he didn’t want to do something. I recall Sammy’s favorite class was nap time. As I think back to my first days teaching in Georgia it has been some time since I really thought about Ms. Rawl’s and Lucky Duck nursery where my late brother John attended school when we first moved to Macon. A matter of perception perhaps it seems the promised school to get my father to move his business to Macon never materialized and my brother became the token white boy in an all black school. My brother John was “bussed” in.
The funny thing was Ms. Rawls, my mother and I ended up writing federal grant that got initial funding in Macon for disabled children. There was a significant clause, the schools had to integrate. A coincidence perhaps, but as I think back and remember driving across town to that old school to pick up John at Lucky Duck he wasn’t a token child he was a child at a school and for him every day he would be smiling not one time did John get upset about his school I never remember my mother complaining about where he was going to school I do remember Ms. Rawls and how much concern she had for John. Maybe our perception was different back then. As I think back my mothers and my own I do not think changed significantly but many others did.

“No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off in the storm” Charles Kettering

It takes getting across the sea to arrive at the other side when the storms get rough quitting is not an option. So many people when times are rough choose getting off in the storm but far too often the waves and turmoil do them in. It is about in life how we perceive and how we see the world around us. A few minutes ago several of us were talking in the hall and a student mentioned she paid eighty dollars for a pair of jeans that was a mass of holes. Our discussion went to how people are paid to make holes in jeans which are then sold. Perception, I have jeans with significant holes in them each earned and remembered. A wonderful day a quiet day but in the turmoil and strife please keep all in harms way on my mind and in your hearts today as the bombings and such continue in the middle east let us strive for peace

HAve we sold our souls?

Bird Droppings March 18, 2011
Have we sold our souls?

Morning is a special time for me a beginning is an easy way to say it. Today I went out a bit early from the house to gas up my wives car. As I drove back to the house an owl was sitting on the road and flew away as I drove up giving me an interesting start today. But for me several aspects of that start to the day almost are routine like taking our dog out, then sitting down for writing and reading each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness of perhaps hopefully the end of our winter as we close in on spring. Across the sky stars literally alive and constellations everywhere, the stars were crystal clear in the morning darkness and the moon nearing fullness and the super moon of the next few days.

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a day or two ago dealing with sacredness. In the course of the discussion I began to realize how much we have in our hedonism given away. I wrote a paper on the stripping of soul from students as we demand and seek higher test scores as a means of showing learning. I listened last night to update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech and history of a young man and his anguish and angst that lead to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society he in his questioning and counseling was mentioning over and over in his rants. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets?

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night just touching base opening discussion about this idea of sacredness. But as I thought the interactions and intertwining of life that occur daily those we seemingly miss and ignore. I was talking with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked one piece to the next and we tend too often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections. Watching the news and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out in Japan and in Libya. I recall many years back when I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a mother and nearly killing two children he baby sat for. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen.

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

As I moved through the day yesterday sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride I am sure in Japan there were tears from family, friends and those that know the victims of the earth quake and tsunami. But as I tried to explain even in tragedy there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people who live in a materialistic universe.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not the shirt, shoes or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and the many people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters always there is hope.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

We each approach the morning in a different way I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while I am always wondering where I am to be next it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about taking and experiencing the journey.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

Several years ago I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident and as the night proceeded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change, they did not. When I arrived home on my computer was a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, the Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents on page 596.

“To everything there is season, and a time, To every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Many years ago Pete Seeger a folk singer and environmentalist wrote music and borrowed the words, a song was born “Turn Turn Turn” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s”. “To every season turn turn turn there is a reason turn turn turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

So often a poets words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has lead to this point has not changed and is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia all ready sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen Saying

We all can cross in our own time and there times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand.

Listening to Southern Rock and Roll

Bird Droppings March 17, 2011
Listening to southern rock and roll

Today as I am sitting quietly typing and listening to The Allman Brothers Band playing. Yesterday I received an email from a friend who had just moved it seems there were few jobs in her immediate area and application after application had turned up zero prospects. On a whim she went looking in next county and three openings and three interviews and in what she consider her ideal school, the principal after her interview came into parking lot before she could leave and offered her a job. Sometimes there are reasons for things to be as they are and why we end up where we do and meet who we meet and the journey continues.
Years ago I worked in Macon while in seminary, at the Macon Day Care center. Everyday limos would pull up with attractive jean clad young mothers and their children. An attorney like figure would pay in cash each week for the five or so children and The Allman Brothers Band’s children would be like every other child at school after the limos left. I always wondered why with their money they chose that center where nearly all were welfare children. I never thought to ask way back when. All the band’s school age children went to public school as well which was interesting in a time when most white children were scurrying off to private schools back in the early 1970’s.
Another little tidbit way back when I started a program called Beehive project a Saturday recreation program and temporary care facility for severely disabled children and adults and guess where first check came from? A call one day came to come down to the Macon Boys Club and surprise, The Allman Brothers Band was a big supporter of Macon Boys Club donating that same day a quarter of million dollars for a new center but also a ten thousand dollar check for Beehive Project which were the only two programs receiving checks. Sadly I did not get a photo as I received the check from Dicky Betts and Dwayne Allaman and or copy the check.
Today as I am listening to The Allman Brothers Band and I am reminded of a funny thing many years back in a graduate school law class, the professor raised a point about the four things you have to do if you live in Georgia.
1. Go to the Masters to at least see the course
2. Go to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day
3. Go to a University of Florida versus University of Georgia football game
4. See an Allman’s Brother Band concert
So as I thought about his ideas I looked over how well I have done in over thirty years living in Georgia. On number one, I don’t golf but have seen originals oils of all masters’ holes at a studio in Callaway Gardens and seen the course live. A leading golf course painter has his studio and art gallery there and by chance or coincidence I was looking at another artists work at his gallery. On item number two I have been to Savannah enough times. The paper mill smell keeps me away although living in Macon Georgia for several years that was a common smell in the evenings as well. Number three is difficult for me and is a critical one since my middle son i\graduated from Georgia Tech the arch rival of University of Georgia in every sport. I have to cheer for Tech now. So I am left with number four and have seen the band only eight or ten times maybe that will make up for other three. I have also rocked the band member’s kids to sleep and spoon fed their kids at lunch and shook hands with the band members at the Macon Boys Club.
Also for all the true Allman Brothers fans I have been to dinner with Sandy Blue Sky along with some other friends. “Blue Sky” by Dickey Betts is dedicated to his then wife and for southern rock fans, a really good song. Well everyone will now run out and grab the Live Fillmore East album actually CD since albums are long gone. I started wondering if southern rock is environmental or genetic as each of my kids has compiled their top 100 songs of all time on their computers and it amazes me they each have several from the Allman Brothers Band, midst popular and more contemporary bands as well as such little known songs and groups as Lowden Rainwright III and the Dead Skunk song.
Coincidence as I sit wandering today back to meeting The Allman Brothers band and my professors statement and to a friends search for a job, the journey continues and the pieces will fall in place.

“Walk along the river, sweet lullaby, it just keeps on flowing, It don’t worry bout where it’s going, no, no. Don’t fly, mister blue bird, I’m just walking down the road, Early morning sunshine tell me all I need to know.” Dicky Betts, The Allman Brothers Band

Reading the words to Dicky Betts song and thinking about my own life, and the people I have met along the way. I can not help but think back to the music and words and a philosophy of life that perhaps inspired this song. Years back living in Macon with the Ocmulgee river running through town and spending many days myself walking along the river I wonder how many times I saw that bluebird or sunshine and I wonder how did it affect my own direction in life. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Finding the gem?

Bird Droppings March 16, 2011
Finding the gem?

“Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The following was one of the winners. As I was driving home from work one day, I stopped to watch a local Little League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he answered with a smile. “Really,” I said. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.” “Discouraged?” the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. ‘Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.’” Author Unknown

Over the years I have found myself often discussing various topics with children. Listening and hearing what children have to say shows an innocence that has been perhaps established at birth as silly as that sounds. It is contained within and it so often shows up in the optimism of children. We hold this till somewhere as adults it can be stripped away because we let our guard down or we become discouraged and we learn otherwise so to say. As teachers and parents it should be our job to try and maintain that youthful zeal that outlook that lets us see opportunity in the midst of seeming defeat.

“I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.” William Faulkner

Sitting here today thinking over events of the past few days I can understand Faulkner’s quote we are a resilient lot and no matter what is thrown at us we can prevail. I started my morning as I do so often stopping by the front desk. Our school office manager in days gone by worked for my father and she always asks how is he doing? Many the days we talk about occasionally a serious topic, today funny we were talking about how kids see things so different. A student had come by the office to check on a parking permit, obviously by the way she was holding her drivers license a new driver. I said when she asked if the assistant principal was here, that school was closed. Our office manager scolded me and told her don’t listen to Mr. Bird he is getting old and cranky. But she had believed me and did not realize I was joking.

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Berkus

Too often we find the opportunity of defeat but when expectations are high when we are expected to succeed more often than not we do. Many years ago I learned to expect the most out of students and that is what you will get, however expect the least and you will get that as well. This can be said for teachers so students expect the most from a teacher and you may be surprised.

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.” Sir Thomas Browne

The star of Africa is the largest diamond ever found may have been looked over as a large (the size of a baseball) piece of quartz if the miner did not know what he was looking for those many years ago. Now cut and polished and in the crown jewels of England it is priceless.

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.” Ben Herbster

“What you can become you are already.” Hebbel Friedrich

So often we limit ourselves. Yesterday at lunch we began discussing at what stage in teaching do teachers become stunted I use the word anally retentive and found a teacher asking what I meant. Someone quickly next to me said when you become a little box with no room for more ideas or thoughts when your vision is so narrow minded and limited you see as if looking through a toilet tissue tube. I thought maybe there was a class like limitations 101 or boxing up of ideas 102. But you know what it isn’t just teachers as students too limit themselves. Goals and parameters become fixed so tightly and confined that new creative opportunity becomes overshadowed by those limits and in an instant we are simply copying and cloning not creating. The potential for greatness is there it is the amount we need to see.

“It’s not what you’ve got; it’s what you use that makes a difference.” Zig Ziglar

With a name like that you had better be good. I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Zig speak and to read several of his books over the years. It was nearly twenty years ago I heard him speak for the first time. His entire talk was about unleashing potential about seeing beyond limitations rising up over the mountains. He was dynamic and up lifting as he spoke of selling your self as well as your product in his motivation program. The greatest idea in the world is only an idea till it is used.

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

I am reminded of an ad for Comcast cable of a man in a hospital room with a broken leg who is being wheeled out and realizes he will lose his cable and escapes from the nurse rolling in his wheel chair in front of a truck in which he in the next scene is lying in bed again watching cable with the doctor stating sir you have broken every bone in your body, except for one finger, which is his remote finger as he channel surfs. So many of us, teachers and students alike become restricted through habit and limit our creativity because we do not want change. Recently I received an email from a high school senior about questions I had asked, it was the first time she was challenged to think since another teacher in ninth grade. Thinking is what this life is all about not merely waking up punching a clock and returning home.
I had a conversation with a student yesterday and that student did not want to be in school. Where would you prefer to be I asked? At home sleeping was the response. What would you accomplish by sleeping I responded? I would be getting rested to get more sleep was the answer. Do we tend to limit and box up losing vital sight of tomorrow of something more than the air around us? Do we get in a habit of simply channel surfing using one finger one button and blipping through life? When I was a child we had one maybe two stations channel surfing was more simply put just the on and off switch. We now have more opportunity and less effort you had to get off the sofa in the old days to press the on and off button at least. Think for a minute open your eyes to what is around you try and see the gem inside the rough stone. Try not to be boxed and labeled and blinded by limitations and lessened expectations as you should not limit those around you. Please keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind.

Do we fail ourselves?

Bird Droppings March 15, 2011
Do we fail ourselves?

I left the house just before the rain, sort of sounds like a song starting off. An old Neil Young song Last Trip to Tulsa starts something like that. Anyhow I drove on down the road went by QT since I forgot my water bottle at the house. I have got to have that Smartwater. It seems by the time I got to the school it was really raining hard and as buses started coming this morning traffic was running behind. It was a news story that caught my attention and a comment I made to another teacher as I walked in. The concept of loss control is not a new one. The news in Japan is not getting better as the nuclear reactor is slowly disintegrating and fears of a melt down are accelerating. Many loss controls measures were in place but it seems not enough for a nearly nine point earthquake and tsunami. So often it is if we do not want to learn living on a fault line can have its issues.

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

I began the morning looking through articles written by several authors. One was a favorite, William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot who writes about numerous topics. Two others that caught my eye this morning were by Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology both were extensive writers. As my reading went further some how I ended up back on John Gardner.
I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning for some time. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. Another of the students said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. As I looked another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart and I thought back in each of their lives that I had was aware of. All failed in part or all of graduation tests in high school. One of the students failed a portion three times by a total of eight points. This student did not graduate and she opted to get a GED she was tired of failing or risking failing again.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I’m going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat failure in stride and move on, but for some students failure is a daily event.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing as I think back on life to when I was in fourth grade and a teacher was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I wouldn’t notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A and I had two wrong and a C. My mother asked what was going on during a parent conference and the teacher stated I wasn’t working up to my ability so she was grading harder. I quit trying in school for some time actually until about two years into my undergraduate studies in college.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you’ll be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. As I am watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn I have found example is the best teacher and they watch parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed?

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one exhibit is a barrel of light bulbs that were all failures and the sign reads it took over 10,00 failures to succeed. But it did work, as I went further and read Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students that I have currently. Many students have given up because the school and society has given up. In graduate school you take statistics and you gather data, sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to there graphs and charts

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards” – “Learning by doing, common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name — so let’s call it “teaching by doing.” Alfie Kohn

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing about issues in public school for the past few years he is a proponent of public schools and it is how we teach he is trying to address. He promotes instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that desire and promoting success rather than failure. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success as well as their futures. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

An owl calling

Bird Droppings March 14, 2011
An owl calling

I wrote this a little over five years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts. Combining that with a posting of a James Redfield quote and a friends comment on coincidence and it just seemed right to go back and edit a bit.
I sat listening as I do every morning today the leaves have filled the spaces between the twigs and my neighbors houses have disappeared. The sky is cloudy and over cast so light is limited this morning. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me but off in the distance a great horned owl was calling. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.
Several times a student has reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up. Her mother coordinates the local Native American get togethers. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. While for some tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across the Mississippi the various tribes attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power of wisdom of a fine line between here and the spirit world.
Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person, darkness and a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As weather warms I hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in the North Georgia Mountains with my middle son on an environmental education field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Church Arch Diocese of Atlanta.
The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an on going program with a group that provides for schools educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the soccer playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.
One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.
As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at that environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call. I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.

“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology

I was listening the other day to several students for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two afro-Americans and the comment offended them.
My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in rural Georgia may have been accepted and applauded. It could be the same words and yet significantly different reactions in two different settings. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper. How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations. A college student from South Georgia was writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.
Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of our lifetimes we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Can we change things?

Bird Droppings March 13, 2011
Can we change things?

It has been a rather long day with a drive to Colombia South Carolina to look at snakes and lizards and such at a reptile show with two of my sons. Eight hours in the car and taking pictures of King Cobras and Eye lash vipers made for an exciting day. My youngest son nonstop nearly six hundred miles cracking jokes or at least getting the joke started and reminiscing over old times was fantastic. I would not have changed anything today.

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist

Change is something we are faced with daily and often it is change we do not want to bear. Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis. I have been torn on the idea of change, what part we can play in this great cosmic drama, can we alter our minute part. What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream.

“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius

There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a large puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.

“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defect of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition may be, it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman

A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. To me this far supersedes any success that might have been met in their other possible pathways. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real and significant that matters.

“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers everyday. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has limitations that change with each person taking that test.
Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian unique to an artist who saw differently than we other mortals.
Even in writing as I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed to being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy of the acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality. While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard hundred of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.

“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung

Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentlemen came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said.
He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.

“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feel weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth. I have been using bits and pieces of this idea as I develop my dissertation.
Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way, they never sought energy but received in the giving an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up on her blankets as soon as she was back in her room. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well. A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. Today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Actions speak so much louder than words

Bird Droppings March 12, 2011
Actions speak so much louder than words

“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Leo Aikman

With an election being decided literally for 2012 on a daily basis with all of the political hoopla for each little comment made by or not made by this person or that nearly every event in the US is being measured in terms of that up coming election. I was thinking back to one of the most vocal and for me controversial contests in history when hanging chads and ancient punch cards were being blamed for votes and lack of votes for various officials only a few years back. We heard more about the other person than issues, for many weeks before and after and now here we go already controversy on minute details.

“Thou wilt find rest from vain fancies if thou doest every act in life as though it were thy last.” Marcus Aurelius

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

In 1945 rev. Dietrich Bonheoffer was hanged in a Nazi prison camp for being a member of the resistance. He was a rare Christian clergy in Germany that not only was openly vocally opposed to the National Socialists he as well as physically opposed with his involvement in assisting Jewish families out of Europe. Bonheoffer was eventually arrested, tried and executed by the Nazi’s.

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

“It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

Sitting here this wet, cold, cloudy, nearly spring morning waiting for a couple of students that were to come by to study I was getting absorbed in reading Bonheoffer’s articles. Actually a bit deep for a Friday morning I am also reading a friend’s old theology paper, which is again a bit deep for a Friday. Theology reads easier on Thursday or Saturday I have come to find out. Dietrich Bonheoffer was very controversial in his time, and even now for his thinking, which was not traditional and straight laced.

“It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

Being blunt was not a difficult task for Bonheoffer in his writing or speaking, In a time in history when what you said could elicit a jail sentence and or death penalty h he wrote and spoke prolifically, even the last two years of his life in a German Nazi prison writing extensively on theology and ethics and finally being executed for being involved in a plot to kill Hitler which he had no involvement.

“If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

This great theologian believed in living what you believed. These following words were from prison many years ago and published after his death perhaps they provide a window into his thinking and efforts and all that which other men tell of only.
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

I find it interesting to be sitting here reading words from a man who died nearly sixty years ago because of what he believed in and lived for. In today’s crazy world it is sometimes difficult to comprehend with profitability of corporations and budget austerity for everyone else as nearly daily news it is almost paradoxical that capitalism ties itself with this same religion as Bonheoffer. Daily I review test scores of reading comprehension I wonder if we also could evaluate life comprehension or ethical comprehension. Do we truly comprehend e life that is about us and in us? Do we even consider the effects on us and around us for our efforts and impacts? So today I am sharing a few words from a man who lived as he spoke and believed and died a martyr to his words. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

We need to do more than belong

Bird Droppings March 10, 2011
We need to do more than just belong

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind, do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

As I sit here this morning responding to emails from yesterday I started thinking about how it is through our actions that we are perceived by so many. I recall several years ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make much sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing). Then you add hand gestures and increase the volume, and you are being perceived as out of control very quickly.
When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue, that too adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. Speaking to a sheriff in a derogatory manner again that fuels the flames of perception of being a person who has ceased to utilize their own self control. The corresponding result is being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view.
It is behavior modification time. Myself having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification I can perhaps offer a few tidbits. In today’s world of politically correctness and less critical verbiage we use less harsh terms, such as functional behavior analysis and task analyze. But in the end BM is what it is about. So what would I do if I could write the parameters for parental behavior at a basketball game? We would start with on first offense at a basketball game at the next game you can come but must wear a dog training collar.
Out in the stands or high up in the control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this holding a button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control the increase switch, to raise the voltage. Some spouses may automatically go to max even for first jolt. Then of course you may have a child or spouse who has read B. F. Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button.
This could become the norm and sporting events would never be the same again. One half of the audience will be sitting twitching from shocks and the other half sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line today none of this would be necessary.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

Is that something we should teach? Many weeks back I used a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and acted only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily). One is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. I have done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year. Those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity? How often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions. We do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks about. We only want the status quo, peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them. We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. My middle son had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error in a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very Biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in another Biology class, the same slide, same response from the teacher. He pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching in error and had never changed that slide. Again by chance three years later, assisting in a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone. While a good teacher, she was a poor learner.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We got into a discussion of sorts yesterday about doing school work in my first period class. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not. Homework is a good example. “You need to do these twenty problems” the teacher will state. However if the skill is known, why do the assignment is the response from the student. If the skill is not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, maybe does not help either. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens. Students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue from the students.

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball –

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon –

When you can apply a piece of knowledge give it context it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing thought and something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable to give them context. This is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and soon curiosity is gone. I recall a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was talking with another teacher yesterday about learning and how recent research shows practicing taking the standardized tests has a direct impact on your test scores. DUHHHHH! But my brain storm goes a step further if test scores are only measure and practicing improves scores why not simply only do practice tests and skip all the class work. Of course then we got into real learning which for me requires real teachers. To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious. A teacher must also be a learner as well.
Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions in the operation of the school. These are truly democratic schools. The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts is an example of such a program. It is not politicians or school board members choosing curriculum or a social studies based state leader picking a math program it is students and teachers and parents working together to make learning work.
Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers as we tend to do so much of now. I like how so often we have study guides that are the test and we fill in answers day before and still some don’t get it. Back in the day Socrates would teach through asking more questions to have the students look deeper. Sadly however he must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

This is a good place to wind down today. As I sit here thinking pondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought from Twain. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Searching for knowledge

Bird Droppings March 9, 2011
Searching for knowledge

How do we as teachers and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material as indicated. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn at all. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow?

“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman

I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend and mentor for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the parents, teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.

“Rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison

I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over 2700 questions correctly. It has been a few years now since the final episode of his wining streak aired and more recently Jennings went up against a super computer on the show.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. If students do not know something, provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon

“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings

Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. Make learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school who teaches in Pennsylvania “make learning fun”.

“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey

When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really becomes more important than knowing every fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others context. However for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context.

“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing

“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield

We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, to knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Neibuhr

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie, most will not remember, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Neibuhr thought in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why. Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did. May your day be filled with knowledge and peace and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.