Why be a teacher?

Bird Droppings March 8, 2011
Why be a teacher

I was talking with students yesterday about going into teaching and one of the students actually wanted to be a teacher. Along that line the Georgia Legislator is considering various ways to cut funding for teachers and with many counties cutting back on budgets and jobs the teaching field is a difficult one to be going into. I tried to explain how while not bad pay for the hours and days there is more to it. I made the comment to this student that in 1996 I was making three times what I do now, out in industry. So think a bit before choosing teaching.
There are pros and cons, as I look back on it there are differing personal reasons as to what pros and cons there might be. I have been a fan of Parker Palmer since I first read one of his books suggested by an educational philosophy professor. The quotes this morning are from his book, “The Courage to Teach”.

“I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the joy. When my students and I discover uncharted territory to explore, when the pathway out of a thicket opens up before us, when our experience is illumined by the lightning-life of the mind–then teaching is the finest work I know.” Parker Palmer

There are times when an idea hits me and I wake up in the middle of the night to write it down or ponder further and develop it. Lately I have been working on a simple idea. In Special Education we work with deficits in various areas of learning. The students have disabilities that cause the deficits but we work with the deficits in most cases. As I thought about current trends in testing and evaluating students, for example using an end of course test and a graduation test for the measuring of learning. In Georgia now and in many states and across the nation in order to meet standards of (NCLB), No child left behind these type tests are common place. I wonder about the name of the law as thousands of students nation wide are being left behind by imposed standards.
I had a student tearfully tell me yesterday as soon as he says he has a special ed diploma he is turned down for work. I jokingly made a comment to a fellow teacher about what if, I lived in a land where everyone but me was seven foot tall and could dunk a basketball and that was a prerequisite for graduation from high school. I would never graduate; I have a deficit in dunking. The issue of being 5 foot eleven and a sixty one year old never came up.
A young man made a comment yesterday he knows he has an issue with reading and writing, a learning disability; he struggles daily and has been tutored many times in graduation test material. He has failed the GHSGT five times. What if there is somewhere in his neurological make up that prohibits processing of abstract terms that guide reading.
In South America the Zingu Indian tribe lives, and they can never learn to read. However they can hunt in the jungles and survive where even the best of the Survivor series would be goners in a day or two. This tribe is the Zingu Indians of the Brazilian jungles. The Zingu keep their children off the ground and in total darkness for three years. This is to keep them from evil spirits and other denizens of the jungles. However their imposed exile from light does cause their focal point to be about three feet away making reading nearly impossible. However distant vision is enhanced for shooting monkeys with blow guns and arrows from the canopy. This is a deficit in our world but essential in theirs.

“When you love your work that much–and many teachers do–the only way to get out of trouble is to go deeper in. We must enter, not evade the tangles of teaching so we can understand them better and negotiate them with more grace, not only to guard our own spirits but also to serve our students well.” Parker Palmer

So I raised the question of teaching to disabilities versus deficits. Seems we are not situated for that sort of effort. Logical as it may seem. Figuring out what is causing the deficit beyond simple academic terms can and could be difficult. It would be time consuming. In a re-evaluation meeting the other day I was made aware that a student’s father never learned to read, he tried but he could never learn. He had gone to reading tutoring and lessons and still could not learn. I look at this student who we try and teach reading and for twelve years it has been an uphill battle. Have we really looked at why at eighteen he doesn’t read? Could there be an issue physiologically and or neurologically?

“As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart–and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living, require.” Parker Palmer

I purchased several of the Harry Potter books on CD several years ago. I use the CD’s with students in conjunction with large print Harry Potter books and films. Interesting how a student who can not visually read can listen and answer any question you ask

“…when my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach.” Parker Palmer

One of the sad issues is how Curriculum is established. Teachers have to use imposed curriculum, often established in and by administration and government officials and not by teachers or educators. So often simply to provide a frame work for passing the End of Course tests and Graduation tests. Teachers have to teach this bank of material in and on these specific days. This does not allow for really teaching or for imagination and creativity. Could this be why it is so easy to adapt to web lessons and internet learning for students. Over the weekend as I thought how silly is it we read about how students who practice standardized tests do better on those tests and I thought why not simply take the tests all school year and do great on tests and meet AYP. Learning has become a mote point it seems.
The process of eliminating the human factor is already in and on line. For years I have advocated for teacher testing, the performance evaluation testing of teachers and not using test scores of students in their classes at the end of a course. How about before and after tests to measure what was learned by students?

“A truly educational community that embodies both rigor and involvement will elude us until we establish a plumb line that measures teacher and students alike–as great things can do.” Parker Palmer

So many teachers are opposed to performance based evaluation. Teacher performance testing is used only in a few states. Teachers are paid on certifications, degrees, and years of experience. Recently a series of tests were given and results publicly announced. Several teachers had good ratings on the high side and a minimal percent failure rate. What was sad was that on that same test some very good teachers had a one hundred percent failure rate. That looks bad if that is the only statistic you have. However off those good teachers several were in Special Education and all the students had pre and post tests and degree of change was not equated which was significant, and or the ability levels of students to begin with was never considered. What about classes where students were constant repeaters and or honors classes?

“By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am.” Parker Palmer

What about in the land of seven footers where a class of five footers all failed the dunk test

“… I remind myself that to teach is to create a space in which the community of truth is practiced–that I need to spend less time filling the space with data and my own thoughts and more time opening a space where students can have a conversation with the subject and with each other.” Parker Palmer

Maybe we need more good teachers and less structured managed and mapped curriculum. Maybe we need to find out how to really teach and have less of the cookie cutter teacher templates and guidelines. Maybe we can influence kids?

“…we might revisit the metaphor of covering the field, which unconsciously portrays teaching as the act of drawing a tarp over a field of grass until no one can see what is under it and the grass dies and nothing new can grow.” Parker Palmer

I want to teach where I am in a green house and growing learning and students is about what we do. So many teachers fear, and in fearing keep that tarp pulled tight protecting what they have. For this type of teacher so little can grow educationally as they protect and try to attempt and only process the bits and pieces. I wonder as I sit pondering this morning. Rambling on about teaching and ideas that many will ignore; is there even a point? I was drawn to a fact yesterday at how we as a society have drawn the parameters. We find it distasteful that a teenage star in Hollywood gets hair extensions for her dog at a cost of twenty five hundred dollars a month, but we provide the means through our watching and listening to this people. We envelop the hedonism and embrace and ask how many pairs of such and such jeans do you have and what kind of cell phone and what kind of car and on and on.

“I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again. Sure he is that he read it there, but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book and ransack every page.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So here I am an old scholar trying to find that spot in my book. Many times I have felt like that in frustration over how we educate students. But then each day I tread back in and try and find a way to reach and succeed. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Caught in a moment of quiet

Bird Droppings March 7, 2011
Caught up in a moment of quiet

An occasionally coo or whisper on the baby monitor here near where I am sitting is my only sound as I start my morning along with I walked out with my dog this morning and it was silent no residual sounds of neighborhood air conditioning or traffic, no breeze to rustle pine needles and leaves over my head, it was utter silence. Then as I was absorbed in listening to the stillness the breeze started up moving circularly around my head the leaves rustled adding just a hint of sound to a blissful morning. I picked up a copy of Foxfire 2 from a box as I left the house and opened up to a section on raising sheep and spinning fleece. Featured in this edition was Fred Darnell whom I had met so many years ago as one of the oldest purebred sheep producers in Georgia. The book was written in early 1970’s and Fred was a resident of the North Georgia Mountains. I had the privilege several years later in 1985 to interview Fred and walk about his picturesque farm nestled in the mountains all around his farm was development, it was literally a tourist spot.
On his farm a beautiful stream flowed through pastures and the mountains went up both sides of Fred’s valley. He had been born there and his family had lived on this piece of land for four generations. Fred raised purebred Hampshire sheep and had for nearly fifty years on that farm. He had been through ups and downs in sheep business and was content to work his farm perhaps the notion that daily he had offers in the millions of dollars for his farm sort of kept him going. It seems real estate folks wanted his valley for summer homes and such. He enjoyed looking about and as you looked at the mountains surrounding his farm were huge homes atop nearly every mountain. He mentioned this was his retirement fund but he didn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. I always wanted to go back and somehow never found the time although I would like to think that valley is still there with a quiet stream running through it and green lush pastures running up the sides of the mountains to the timber line.

“The supreme act of forgiveness is when you can forgive yourself for all the wounds you’ve created in your own life. Forgiveness is an act of self-love. When you forgive yourself, self-acceptance begins and self-love grows.” Don Miguel Ruiz

I was cleaning out boxes from years gone by moving from one storage building to another the other day and found some notes from May 8th 1998 which is the spring before I closed my publishing business. Nearly thirteen years ago I was President of a publishing company and living in the middle of a pasture and reading my thoughts of impending defeat was difficult. I knew my business was failing and I was failing my family or so I thought. Thirteen years have past and I came back to teaching which had been something I desperately missed for nearly twenty five years. Reading my thoughts from so long ago brought back so many memories many journeys have taken place since then and many trials traveled.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Adams

I was thinking back today talking with a student on how I got to where I am so many doors and pathways, colleges attended, people met and discussions held.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather

Where were these teachers along the way? As I think back to second grade and sixth and seventh and eighth maybe ninth grade and a few through high school all prodding and poking or encouraging me along the way. As A teacher so seldom do we ever see results of our work. We get to see an End of Course test or Graduation test which really tells little about what and where a student will go or even came from.

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

I had another student not in my class ask me what I was doing with my class one day while we were having a Lego challenge. In thirty minutes what can you create from a pile of Lego? We set up a simple rubric and the kids went at it. Then we explained our masterpieces and imaginations went off the wall. As I explained to the student asking what we were doing first we were interacting as human beings then using imagination and finally just having fun. I did not go into how both of my students that period had been self contained and in resource rooms and or psycho ed classes all their lives and that just getting to be regular was an experience on its own. Sometimes appropriate humor and creativity was what I wanted and did get that was the real lesson today perhaps one day being accepted by others.

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.” Donald D. Quinn

So often teachers get a bum rap and there are a few who deserve it most however are dedicated to what they do and take pride in it.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

I have for some time said in order for students to learn they have to want to be in the class and then provide an atmosphere that demands questioning and questions and learning will occur.

“Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the “naturals,” the ones who somehow know how to teach.” Peter Drucker

Seldom is this discussed or mentioned when working on a degree which is required by most states for certification and for more money. Most states you have more degrees and get more money. But some where in there that inherent portion of DNA that makes a teacher anyhow enough for one day peace and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Having a heart

Bird Droppings March 6, 2011
Having a heart

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

Yesterday I worked with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people observing the various learning styles and how we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways, visual, auditorially, and or kinesthetically. Simply put we see, hear or touch to learn. Yesterday I through in the idea of perception and how we hear see and touch then is a factor as well.
The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out of a current newspaper or internet story. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings from a few years ago. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us. Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide. Several students went the route of middles eastern turmoil and one develops their idea based on a local story. One how ever focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self motivated as so many of us tend to be. But he derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself doing things like passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know it was him. Very often it is speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher to say disrespect is an understatement, in the end it all is self focused an attempt at saying here I am.

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

How the internet dictionary defines sympathy which is an interaction between two people or things that is affecting both. As I thought back to my self centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on him self does he have that capability for sympathy. In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects; charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and world wide.

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.” George Eliot

As I searched this day deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution and perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason or for some personal gain. Is it human nature to be so wary or so distrustful of others?

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, and pity are not enough.” Simone Weil

A day or two ago I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs it was a reflection on teaching in a way. But really it was a reflection on life we should be all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested.
All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years. But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are not kissing these kids but we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place to be who they are.
For many years I have wondered where teachers quit. I see Dewey and Foxfire and all this great idealistic thoughts and then they disappear into education lala land. What were to be great teachers are now animation’s doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher this is a hard row to follow.

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.” Buddha

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In the Greek there are three words for love eros, philos and agape. With agape being a supreme unlimited love, some will say God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity an active love an ongoing love. Kind speech is an action that requires a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something again requiring action. Perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again is definitely actively involved.
When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. As I think about my title for today, having a heart, as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is activity engaging. For nearly twelve years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind. Perhaps it started originally with September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart which for me is an action. It involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall a few years back the state of Vermont which operates on a town meeting form of government had several towns that were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont over seas. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action is the key and still others are sending to our soldier’s small reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as our GI’s return this is an active involvement. It is kissing frogs having a heart it is voting. So sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Today is a fellow from my home town in Pennsylvania’s birthday. It would not be significant to mention but this man stands on a street corner when time allows from work and family holding signs and proclaiming for peace in the world, a active effort to try and end war one person at a time. So today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Changing behavior

Bird Droppings March 4, 2011
Changing Behavior

“In order to change behavior of a person, the ultimate factor is motivation, and more attention needs to be paid to the mental state.” The Dalai Lama

In dealing with students and people in general changing behavior is perhaps one element that crosses so many different aspects of life. It could be in parenting, teaching, the work place, and or life in the world in general for that manner. To better provide simplification we can narrow down to an individual and then we come back to basics. Essentially all behavior functions around a simple formula. There is an Antecedent or A, there is the actual Behavior B and a consequence C or ABC. In order to modify or change behavior we have to change either A or C or make adjustments to those so we achieve our desired end in the behavior.

“Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything.” Dr. Burrhus Fredrick Skinner

I recall the days gone by in the early seventies when in my undergraduate days at Mercer University I was running rats in Skinner boxes to see if I could control the various behaviors of the rats by using a tasty morsel which would be provided when the rat pressed on the foot pad. Ring a bell so to say and press the pad and a piece of food dropped into the feed cup.

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” Dr. Burrhus Fredrick Skinner

Each day we are manipulated by the numerous different medias as advertising has been a powerful motivator every since the concept came into being. Each day ads splash across TV screens, newspapers, internet, websites and radio to say the least promising us youth and vigor if we use this product or a super duper price on an overpriced item. One recent endeavor which amazes me is how gasoline prices keep going up and our gas companies blame rebellions in the Middle East or OPEC or combinations of each. Somehow in all of this oil companies reap higher and higher profits. I was standing in line behind a woman paying for her gas at a convenience store and she was complaining ending the conversation with we need to drill more in US. Maybe one day the truth will unfold when oil runs out it is not production that is the issue but speculators and oil companies reaping profit and using media and hype to drive prices up. So we need more oil to help cut gas prices a great sales job somewhere and yet in the US five major oil companies control over eighty percent US gas retailing. It wasn’t that many years ago the Federal Government broke up John D. Rockefeller’s monopoly on oil. Interesting how he was the wealthiest man in the world at the time and in today’s dollars he would be worth more than top twenty wealthiest on Forbes list.

“When new turns of behavior cease to appear in the life of the individual, its behavior ceases to be intelligent.” C. E. Coghill

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

So how do we avoid the traps of media and of the lobbyists influenced politicians who sway the populous and stir up the mob? How do we on a smaller basis influence men and women and change behavior.

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

“Perfect behavior is born of complete indifference.” Cesare Pavese

One aspect of trying to change behavior is that we need to truly observe that which we want to change first. So often the behavior may really not be in need of changing it may be us who needs changing in our perspective perhaps. Yesterday I had an assignment on the board select a poem and explain the poem, actually one of my students made the assignment up which in and of itself was sort of interesting. One fellow finished up pretty quick he had found a Shel Silverstein poem from “Where the Side Walk Ends”, a book of Shel’s poetry. A good website for teachers and parents for fun at home or class room is the poetry kit.

Click to access PoetryClassroomBooklet.pdf

The poem the young man chose was called, The Early Bird. It is a simple four line wonder about the early bird catching the worm but if I were a worm I would sleep late. It is about perspective. As I look at the behavior of the bird and worm one is trying to eat to survive and one is trying to survive to eat. So in effect it depends on whose point of view we take and so often in viewing behaviors perspective is a key issue. For teachers and parents of young children a neat site poems and stories performed by Shel Silverstein.


A bit of a side track from politics and behavior yet is it really what drives us motivates us to do what we do.

“When man learns to understand and control his own behavior as well as he is learning to understand and control the behavior of crop plants and domestic animals, he may be justified in believing that he has become civilized.”E. G. Stakman

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

Changing behavior becomes more than just a quick word or two or as in my case those many years ago a few pellets of food for a food satiated rat. With Human Beings changing behavior and maintaining those changes often entails changing attitudes as well.

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.” Tom Blandi

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

I watch daily people seeing the world through different eyes. In one case a superior sees a person missing several days of work or school and talks about responsibility and being to work or school in a timely manner. On the other hand that persons view perhaps is totally different and perhaps being there is not as important to them, perhaps it is hell as Emerson states.

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

In life perhaps some of the greatest behaviorists are coaches as I watch each day they take a team and literally psych those players up. Basketball is a very psychological sport and literally a team wins and loses based on attitude and or behavior. What motivates this team to win yet demotivates this team enough to lose. I come back to my first quote from his holiness the Dalai Lama.

“In order to change behavior of a person, the ultimate factor is motivation”

What drives that person is it peer relationships, money, M&M’s, what makes that person tick and when we know what makes us tick we change behavior, we change attitudes, and we change the way things happen. Sadly and unfortunately advertising companies and politicians know these things as well. I recall a cartoon used by many of a cart and a donkey. The driver of the cart has a stick with a carrot on it and of course the donkey moves forward towards the carrot. Sometimes behavior is this simple but in a heart beat that donkey can kick and destroy the cart as well, which is part two of the Dalai Lamas statement.

“and more attention needs to be paid to the mental state.”

Perspective and attitude are the keys. If we more carefully look at our own wants and needs we can more better appreciate what it is that drives and motivates those around us and in effect better learn what it that motivates them and can allow for behavior change through understanding. Would it not be great if we could ABC the world so for today as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Setting the example

Bird Droppings March 3, 2011
Setting the example

I received an email many nights ago from a friend several months back in Pennslyvania referring to comments I had made in a Bird Droppings, she borrowed from scripture and discussed how a house should be built upon a solid base. She was talking about how we get children to learn to want to learn.

“Education commences at the mother’s knee, and every word spoken within hearsay of little children tends toward the formation of character.” Hosea Ballou

As I think back to when I was a child which was not that many years ago my wife says. We were read to and we were encouraged to read. When I started school I was essentially reading. I wonder as I work with high school students who struggle with reading if their parents ever even opened a book up with them. My grand daughter is read too almost daily and was read to inutero as her mother read Winnie the Pooh.

“Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and approximate to the characters we most admire.” Christian Nevell Bovee

“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other” Edmund Burke

“Children learn what they live”, across the room on my wall from my desk is the poster from Dr. Dorothy Laura Nolte and what amazes me is every once in a while a student is drawn to it and reads through. Several students have situated themselves under my poster during class since I do not have assigned seats yet they sit in the same spot every day and periodically will ask what is this word or that word.

“You have to set the tone and the pace, defines objectives and strategies, and demonstrate through personal example what you expect from others.” Stanley C. Gault

“It is easier to exemplify values than teach them.” Theodore M. Hesburgh

I recall a situation several years back, where a family, dad and both sons were jailed at the same time. Seems this same family was where the oldest son at eleven would drive dad to the liquor store because he was not able to drive. Examples works both ways, today that oldest son is in prison for twenty years. When I think back to that same child as a student nearly eight years ago sitting in my class wanting me to read Dylan Thomas again and then borrowing my book, could I have done a bit more as a teacher.

“Example is a bright looking-glass, universal and for all shapes to look into.” Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

“The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example.” Thomas Morell

I was fortunate growing up being in the family that I did. Examples were strong and powerful motivators and even today my children are motivated by their grandparents and all that they did in their lives.

“I’ve always led by example and I’m not that vocal.” Scottie Pippen

Pippen is a quiet and essential player that played on six NBA championship teams with the Chicago Bulls. My youngest son and I often talk about that team and the unbelievable stats that they accumulated during their reign.

“Example is leadership.” Albert Schweitzer

“Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read.” William J. Toms

I think back to memorable teachers and each set an example in their lives and how they interacted with students. Looking at my son’s teachers, the great ones example was a key teaching tool. Parents who have inadvertently succeeded in raising children often it is not a special formula but their example that lead their children along the pathway.

“A leader is a model whether he wants to be or not. He doesn’t have to tell the group to follow his example. In fact, he can even tell them not to follow his example, but they will.” Lewis Orens, The Pine Tree Web

As I was researching this morning I found a site Home School World and so often as a public school teacher, home schooling will come up, as parents makes choices as to how to educate there children. The following is in reference to public schools.

“Do responsible parents want their children to emulate the behavior of the teachers and children there? Disorder, ignorance, misbehavior, disrespect for parents and family, and worse are the norms in such schools, so they obviously do not provide the examples we want for our children.” Dr. Arthur Robinson, Children learn by example, 1998

Dr. Robinson is the founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine where he and associates work on several areas of medical research and home schooling curriculum and civil defense (militia) issues. Is example a powerful tool? It is in both directions. I myself do not agree with Dr. Robinsons ideas on public school for there are equally as many and many more good examples that many children would not have at home. One aspect of learning and schooling, if done at home is that the only example is their parents, and who judges them. I watch daily home schooled children who are taught that race is a dividing line in society and only Christians will attain some sort of spiritual awareness. On a good day most of my kids are together and interacting in appropriate manners. Maybe that means learning is working and or I am setting a decent example. That might be asking a lot. I almost forgot, Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Who is responsible

Bird Droppings March 2, 2011
Who is responsible?

Several weeks ago I was involved in a debate of sorts on the issue of public versus private education. Yesterday I picked up one of the local papers and a letter to the editor caught my attention and it was a blast at public education locally and in Georgia. How we were not growing and how we did not need a school bond for new schools and how thirty to forty year old buildings were good enough in their day and were still good enough now. There was no growth in academic achievement so why should we not be putting money into operating costs and not buildings.
Then the writer extolled the home schoolers who sought better education and also private schools where students received better educations. No Child Left Behind even was mentioned and how students from our county could go to another county from schools who did not meet the standards. This was all over not wanting a school bond issue passed. I find it interesting as you drive around the state and our county and see literally hundreds of homes really thousands that went up during building boom all which eventually will have families in them with children who go to school if trends of movement to the south continue. Trying to answer the question of why not use forty year old schools with where do you put all the new kids.
In so many parts of the country people take attitudes similar to this person who wrote in and school systems have problems. Currently in Wisconsin the governor is cutting education funding to a point classes will be enlarged and fewer teachers needed and of course less of the support materials that keep classes going. But as the individual pointed out it is up to the public up to the voters who elect school board members and pass bond issues the responsibility is in the hands of the people. Another comment was made about curriculum and how school boards made decisions without community support. School board meetings in general are open to the public and for community involvement and our current superintendent periodically has public forums for parents to give their views and to hear directly from parents and the community. As I think responsibility is a very big word.

“A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.” John Dewey, Democracy in Education

We as individuals are responsible if we choose to be and to the extent we chose to be through voting and through communication with elected officials in all levels of government and society.

“The social force that binds you to your obligations and the courses of action demanded by that force;” Dictionary.com

Responsibility is a social entity a “force that binds” and being a part of a social group of society then implies responsibility to an extent. Rules and parameters that exist to protect us from each other often are the guidelines and structures to give direction to a society. Perhaps in a way we are guided too much some might say.

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” Walter Anderson

Often as I research an idea early in the morning through books and the internet I find coincidences and several years ago as I found a quote by Walter Anderson it was one of those. Walter Anderson is a writer and editor of Parade magazine and has interviewed and discussed with leading figures around the world. His book Courage is a three letter word has been an inspiration to many dealing with anxiety and fear. But as I searched I also found another Walter Anderson in the bayous of Mississippi a painter and artist that is worth throwing out who also in his art dealt with anxieties and fear of his own making – periodically institutionalized for schizophrenia and other mental issues Walter Inglis Anderson painted with a passion not unlike Van Gogh. So teachers if you need a good reference source when looking at American artists.


In the end as I read the sentence on responsibility it could have been from either the author or the painter “I am responsible” and it is us who need to face up to that.

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession, a duty.” John D. Rockefeller

One of my former students was an advocate of anarchy always wearing the popular rock logo on his wrist bands and all over his books notebooks and even his skateboard. When talking with him about the concept he would always go in a circle. What if we did have anarchy and you were only responsible for yourself sort of doing what ever you wanted. As I thought I could see where youthful idealism could manifest itself in such a philosophy. But what if where do you stop in a society where there are no boundaries and soon it is who ever is strongest and most powerful is in control and you have a dictatorship. Usually he would back out when it left himself so he wanted freedom and no one else really mattered really in effect he did not want responsibility.

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will — his personal responsibility.” Albert Schweitzer

“The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

As I read and think this morning it is not so much going back to that starting letter to the editor about excepting responsibility it is that too many people do not want to be involved. They do not want the responsibility of choosing, of interacting of involvement, of communicating with others and of course not sticking their neck out. That letter mentioned the growth of home schooling and private schools. I found when I moved to Georgia in 1972 public schools were in peril in some communities students were leaving in droves. This was not because of quality of education but because of desegregation. The white students did not want to go to school with other colors. Today while that is still an issue so often it is hidden within the pretext of religion as so many private schools are “Christian” schools and many home schoolers are home schooling because of religious reasons – public schools are to secular and far too too public for this select group of people.

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

For me and my seeking a monastic life in the midst of society I come back to it is up to us in the end we are who responsibility falls too. Be it about education and or the zoning of a piece of property. But it requires involvement and it requires thought. This week is almost gone and there is so much happening on the world front and locally. So today please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Thinking for a minute of what to write

Bird Droppings February 28 – March 1, 2011
Thinking for a minute of what to write

Over the past few weeks I have read several blogs and emails about counting sheep and last night as I lay down to get some sleep after a long day of working on graphics and writing, working in my herb gardens and driving to pick up dinner I was a whooped puppy. Long about nine o’clock last night which for me usually is time for me to just zone out I lay there thinking for a bit. Of course just as I fell asleep it hit me my youngest son would be getting in from Florida soon with his wife and our grand baby. Just as I thought of it his lights sort of shown through the window and he was pulling in. No need to go back to sleep since I get up at three in the morning during the week anyhow.
When I got to my computer and started in I sat there thinking for a second about how each of us builds our routine around who and what we are at the moment. Thinking back to my son coming home from college it would be his three hour nap and then play some games on his computer and chill, but it has changed married and a baby makes a big shift in our lives. After I got up I went to let the dog out everyone was content and happy which is probably due to her having just been out already since my son took her out when they arrived.
I went back out side and took advantage of a clear morning sky stars scattered about. I thought back to my earlier trying to go back to sleep and when my son woke me up I lay there making up blog lines each more whimsical then the last. Unfortunately thinking doesn’t put you to sleep and it dawned on me why counting sheep would. For most people a sheep is a sheep they all look the same sound the same and act the same. If I was counting sheep depending on my mood and if I were looking for show lambs or breeding sheep or sheep to work herding dogs they would be different. The muscle mass or breed characteristics and then what breed am I counting and the history would come up of that breed.
My oldest son and I had Southdown sheep for some years including an Oklahoma Black and White show champion ram. Southdown’s go back a few hundred years in England famous for their meaty carcasses and for their small size. Why I do not count sheep because I might start on Jacob four horns which do not act like other breeds they scatter when a predator arrives each ewe taking their lambs and running in different direction. This is a little different twist on herding instinct. Perhaps I think too much, pondering each particular aspect and then going deeper and never getting bored enough to fall asleep and usually becoming more awake. So many years ago I found if I think of a relaxing spot calm and peaceful within seconds I am asleep – not from boredom but from relaxing –

“Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may grow.” Louise Driscoll

So often we lose sight of dreams of quiet times and get caught up in the issues of the day. As I came into my room earlier today several students were complaining about panic attacks, anxiety attacks and stress issues. How can it be that fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year olds are having stress related issues? It boggles my mind to see such young people caught in adult situations simply things like leaving home, being pregnant and trying to make adult related choices as a child and not being allowed to play with Lego, which is exactly what we are doing in class today. Lego maniacs rule, it is an excellent eye hand and imagination builder.

“Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” Charles M. Schultz

How do we tap into those extra gears and show kids there is more to life and so much more than what is at home or around the next corner. Over the past few days I have wondered about why and how we do to kids what we do.

“Have compassion for your parents’ childhoods. Know that you chose them because they were perfect for what you had to learn. Forgive them and set them free.” Louise L. Hay

As children complain about parents it is only what your parents have learned and had to work with as to how they deal with their children. Some have had powerful mentors and successful family experiences others have had trials and tribulations and for some no families or no parental support. We as teachers often become surrogate parents filling voids left by absentee parents and guardians.

“We have contributed; each in the time allotted us, our endeavors to render… a permanent blessing to our country.” Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, Third American President

I wonder how as days go by we will be perceived as a nation. Will it be as savior or war monger, freedom provider or imperialist so many questions? I was reading a note earlier from another teacher who is currently caught up in immigration issues as our many people. People come to work to have a chance at life and here we are most powerful nation in the world trying to decide what to do with them. I hear “they” are getting benefits and not paying I can understand this. Yet businesses all over the nation are utilizing “their” labor and not paying taxes on it or workman’s compensation on that labor yet we target the people who want to work and not the people who are employing them. Why not tax and take out workmen comp and or why not provide some semblance of temporary or some sort of documentation.
I started a conversation several days ago with how much do you want to pay for chicken which is largely processed by illegal labor. Chicken is now as low as two dollars a pound and on the high side five or so dollars a pound. How about seven or eight dollars a pound? We can unionize chicken processing and such how about vegetable pickers and landscaping and construction workers? How much more for a head of lettuce are we willing to pay or for a house? I am not condoning illegal immigration but where should we focus efforts, on people wanting jobs or on industry willing to hire them illegally. Seems a paradox. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.