A beginning to an end

Bird Droppings May 17, 2011
A beginning to the end

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

A few days ago I was discussing the idea of teaching as an art form. I have on several occasions seen things others have not in terms of a student or even a class. So often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane yet in that moment of the mundane, miracles are happening. I recall several years back on our porch we had several Boston ferns in hanging baskets along with alternating spider plants. In one of the ferns a pair of purple finches had nested and three little finches were growing rapidly midst the daily checks. Most would have only seen the ferns and spider plants the adult birds had so carefully hidden the nest in the fern fronds.
When I sit each morning and write for example yesterday about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard during the summer months it is only my perception. My own view is limited by darkness and my own ability to see what is in front of my based on my life experiences. For someone a thousand miles away it is only words yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here near by unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM they too will not see what I see.
So as a writer I offer just glimpses of another experience and another world. In order to see more then it is about renewing our perception, sharpening our senses and opening our soul to see and hear and feel more than we do today.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion. Yet if you read any of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. In and of it all he was an artist, a philosopher, often scientist and very much a humanist. Today is a day unlike most other Tuesdays I have experienced yet it is an end and a beginning of phases of my own life’s journey. I am near the end of a semester and hopefully beginning to work on finishing my doctorate degree as school lets out. Yet I continue on that educational venture as I am looking past that to another learning experience and who knows maybe another degree. Perhaps one day I can sit idle but for now I crave that thought process.
Whenever I drive through Kentucky I can not help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way in for him what was a wilderness back then and yet for Indians of that place it was home and not a wilderness. For even in that day trails and pathways were worn from passage.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

In a recent paper for graduate school I referenced my recent experience as a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten a clarifying and specifying what was cloudy and unsure.
Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing living seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in and have gone beyond, yet it is new to me. For me it is wilderness yet civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see mundane and stale. It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crosses the pasture years ago. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky.
I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. That is the art of our existence. It is in the perception that seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heart beat. I by chance was where a student was yesterday. She is moving and came by sort of by accident as I was at the school. It seems she now lives near where we do and will not be attending our school next year as it across the line and another high school. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do I teach. She continued everyone wants to know. I tried to clarify by saying, on my door it states Block one is planning. During Block two and three I teach the philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do. Block four is learning strategies. She said that it sounds interesting. For three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your class except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost? Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

A firefly crossed my path

Bird Droppings May 16, 2011
A fire fly crossed my path

I wonder how many even notice when a firefly crosses our path. Most people will not even stop to look at such an insignificant moment in time. It has been a bit to cold for fireflies so far this year in our part of Georgia but thinking back to when we just moved to this house. As I sat in the darkness of a quiet morning fireflies for the first time graced my yard sort of an anointing one could say. As I sat waiting watching an occasional blip of light would appear among the shrubs. In the silence tree frogs and crickets would occasionally echo through the trees.
I wonder today as I sit here who saw the first fire fly? I recall long days of collecting as we would run around our yard in Pennsylvania as children placing the fireflies in a Mason jar and going back in our rooms with a special lantern. More lately I use my mason jar for sweet tea than chasing bugs or orange juice as I did today. I travel quite frequently to North Georgia and often will seek a new route to travel as I journey. On one of my last trips I drove out of the North Georgia mountains a totally different way. I was taking the scenic route and back roads it was a bit farther yet so enjoyable. We need too sometimes in our hectic lives take time to enjoy so often we forget to enjoy a moment or two.

“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

When I started writing this morning contentment was not the word I was looking for but the ease with which it seemed to fit was appropriate right now. Issues at hand seemed not significant as I sat looking for fireflies on my porch even though I knew there would be none today. Finally my puppy wanted back in she had had enough of my pondering and wanted her bed. Contentment an interesting word I wonder do we ever really find it.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha

For me what is contentment it easily could be sitting listening in the still of morning or is it feeling satisfied with a job well done and the adrenalin rush is over and that calm permeates your every being. Perhaps it is a sip of really wonderful hot chai tea, for some perhaps it could a sip of water on a hot summer day.

“Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” Mohandas Gandhi

As I think sometimes a thank you is all that suffices and contentment is close at hand. For my puppy today just pressing against me and a scratch on the ears and contentment was there.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams

Watching others meld into the vastness searching for an ember as the fire died wondering if the words spoken made sense to anyone but you. I wonder as I sit and think, and ponder this morning. When I walk out the front door into the morning the smell of spring and flower blossoms fill the air it seems in our back yard each day a new flower is blooming as I listen and look around our garden. Walking down the sidewalk to the cars a red rose bush greets you even today blossoms are coming and I am sure more notes will be left. Once a wayward stranger passed leaving a note as to what kind of rose bush is that magnificent plant. Midst the flowers a thorn yet if not for the thorn the value of the flower would diminish.

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Emotions and oceans both powerful forces in their own right. I remember sitting on a beach so many years ago unsure as to how I arrived. A friend was still waiting for me back in our room the chill of the air made the morning seem distant, winter on the beach in New Jersey can be a bit chilly. But at that time for me to be alone to think to wonder that was where I was.

“As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Today is a new morning a new chance to rise above and see perhaps new ideas new thoughts and ponderings; I will go out and see as should you. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Empathy; Do we have it?

Droppings May 15, 2011
Empathy; do we all have it?

“The capacity for consciousness of ourselves gives us the ability to see ourselves as others see us and to have empathy with others. It underlies our remarkable capacity to transport ourselves into someone else’s parlor where we will be in reality next week, and then in imagination to think and plan how we will act. And it enables us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place, and to ask how we would feel and what we would do if we were this other person. No matter how poorly we use or fail to use or even abuse these capacities, they are the rudiments of our ability to begin to love our neighbor, to have ethical sensitivity, to see truth, to create beauty, to devote ourselves to ideals, and to die for them if need be. To fulfill these potentialities is to be a person.” Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself, pp. 74-76

Empathy is a very difficult word to discuss. For many it does not exist and others actually live by this simple word. As I look at May’s idea of empathy which is a capacity for consciousness I consider we are all conscious I would think. But it is being able to see and feel in someone else’s shoes that is the key to this consciousness. Love perhaps becomes an integral aspect of empathy. In my own views I feel empathy is crucial to any field dealing with people be that nurses, teachers, pastors and all who touch lives. For these folks empathy is a must and it is that gift that allows us to be closer and to be able to touch the soul of another.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession” Sophocles

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Theresa

Key aspects of empathy are kindness, love, and caring and these are all positive attributes of empathy. Adams says there is a ripple effect. I have over the years used the illustration of a pebble in the pond story many times. When you toss a pebble into still water and the ripples emanate out from the point of contact going till they hit the edge of the pond and in effect they return only colliding with the ripples still in coming. That small act does continue many times over. Several years ago a movie was made of small acts of kindness and the impact on a community I always think what if.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahil Gibran

“…successful learners also have insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding–in a word, empathy.” B. F Jones, The New Definition of Learning: The First Step to School Reform

“Understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

A simple word that can be so powerful if put to use. Empathy can be a tool for teachers, nurses, pastors and a key to the heart and souls of others. Recently in defining my own philosophy of teaching I used the word empathy as a key aspect of my own personal belief in teaching. Having empathy makes for a more meaningful and believable teacher. I was talking with a good friend the other day and discussing consequences. I have never given detention in ten years. I asked is detention a meaningful consequence? What if it is for talking in class as he was writing slips for detention? Well what else do I do? My answer was having class so intrigued they are not talking and mesmerize them to a point of attention.
Most consequences are due to not teaching and not empathizing with students. Trusting, understanding, and caring these are keys to successful teaching. I was asked about referrals and in school suspension and out of school suspension. I have found nine times out of ten writing a referral and waiting a few days for a consequence effectively negates the consequence so why not deal with in class unless it is such that needs immediate response. If the issue is serious enough and requires attention and immediate action; then go directly to administration. But more often than not with empathy it is not even happening so often it is seeking attention or a plea for help.

“In addition to the shared feeling and accurate understanding dimensions of empathy, some writers also focus on the empathetic person’s communication of understanding to the person whose “internal frame of reference” he or she has grasped.” Kathleen Cotton, SIR, Developing empathy in children and adults

“Regardless of conflicting views about the appropriate place, if any, of “values education” in the schools, people are generally able to agree that developing this capacity to understand, appreciate, and communicate meaningfully with others is an important and desirable goal. This enables us to move away from our differences of opinion about the specific CONTENT of “good character,” focusing instead on the PROCESS whereby people come to care about one another and communicate that caring through their behavior. “Kathleen Cotton

One of those times I wished I could say I wish I had said that maybe some day. So often we forget that this interaction with others is so critical to success in life. Not only in school but when you walk out the door to your home and to the store. Each moment we are alive we interact with others unless we sit on a mountain top somewhere contemplating about the passing of a cloud although that is not a bad thought. I wonder if there is a decent pay scale for that position. We interact and if those interactions are in an understanding way and I think it is empathy. So much more will be gained by both people. Kathleen Cotton writes further about developing empathy in students and adults and perhaps this is something we should be pursuing. Maybe we all should try and empathize a bit more and maybe then I would not be offering daily please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Finding the pathway

Bird droppings May 13, 2011
Finding a pathway

I happened to have detention yesterday afternoon and from there to a get together for one of our special education teachers who is retiring. I picked up dinner for my family on the way to the house and missed senior awards night as I got caught up in working in the garden. The rain that five days ago was supposed to come has not come yet and a burn warning is in effect in north Georgia. As I worked in the yard I found a path where the deer cross to the wheat field behind our home. Cutting through the yard and hedge row behind our house saves them many foot steps I am sure over going down the road and avoiding and or jumping a barbed wire fence. As I went our earlier I was thinking about that pathway and how each of us has our own often skirting around the back of others and or just beyond view maybe a short cut maybe the easiest route in a difficult situation often simply the most practical.

“By identifying your true motivations and desires, it becomes easier to find direction in life. Now we know where your goals come from. What’s the root beneath your dreams? There is no right or wrong answers, just ideas at the core of you. We could probably analyze what in your past makes you want to become the things you put on your list. We could analyze how close you are to being all of the things you’ve listed. It’s not important. What matters is that now you know what it is you’re aspiring to become.” Skye Thomas, Tomorrow’s Edge, Finding Direction

Could it be so simple making a list of goals building a set of actions and plans, a road map of sorts for where we want to go? When I first went to college nearly forty two years ago I was aspiring to be a Biology teacher. It was a few years back I was certified to teach Biology but with that many shifts and changes along the way. My oldest son can tell you where you are within a few feet any where on the globe with satellite tracking with ion he gained in college. Amazing now my camera and phone will mark photos with GPS information. One day I hope he finishes up his certification I watched several years back as he did one project. He is working on determining pine beetle infestation in areas and pin pointing target areas for treatment and timbering for the forestry service. Eventually aerial maps and infrared sensing will show exactly where areas are. With many of the new cars if you drive the right car finding directions is simple no more stopping just talk to your car. I love it our male egos can remain intact. But in life sometimes more is needed.

“Synchronicities are not flukes or random events. They’re intentional reflections of our intuition working with the perfect order of all things in the unseen world. It’s why fish swim upstream, birds fly south and bears hibernate. Everything in nature intuitively gravitates toward what best serves its growth, and that includes the human race. The only difference is that we have the choice to follow our intuition or not.” Sonia Choquette, Trust Your Vibes, Finding Direction

A little new age thinking never hurts but a good thought often we choose intuitively to go in life a certain direction it may not be a quick choice but one over a period of time. For me the decision to return to teaching after nearly thirty years was not quickly made it came in series of events that culminated in a job at this school nearly eleven years ago. Even this specific job fell through four times and the fifth try with a teacher out on medical leave it worked out. I often wonder why this school yet I was not hired at six other schools I applied to. Why did this particular principal hire me and want me to work literally hiring me five times.

“Being committed to some goal in your life – a sense of having a mission, a purpose, even a calling – is a very motivating, very comforting thing. Some people’s mission steps up to greet them; others have to hunt theirs down.” Sam Baker

In a class the other day a question was asked, are you where in life you are supposed to be? Many hands went up some did not. For twenty four years as I searched I couldn’t answer that question however today it is easy, I am.

“Do the things you love to do and are passionate about, then you’ll have few regrets. Conspicuous success or public acknowledgement for these things may or may not come, but it won’t trouble you much either way because you’ll be happily enjoying yourself.” Sam Baker

The word passion seems to pop up a lot for me. Are we passionate about what we are doing? Are we passionate about our direction in life? I do believe it is true if you are passionate about what you are doing there will be few regrets.

“What intrigues you? What questions about any aspect of life or the universe absolutely enthrall you? There’s your direction! Although we cannot map out lives in advance, much can be done to make desirable outcomes more likely. Acquiring an exceptional ability is one such outcome.” Sir Bernard Cohen

Recently as I wrote about learning to lead as a progression or developmental aspect of growing up I started to think we actually learn how to teach from a young age. I started to think I wonder if my own kids have learned such endeavors in their turn at life. I wonder if my mother and father realized that they through bits and pieces laid out to me were directing me along a path.

“Your accomplishments will bring great pride and joy to your closest friends and family, but in the long run it will hurt all of you badly if you’ve done it only for them. You have to do things for the passion in your own heart.” Helen Fielding

I go by the school most off days as I do weekends to think and plan for the next week. Some days just a bit of catch up and I recall last weekend was an odd one I was cleaning up my school email with over four thousand past emails. I was going through and deleting ones that were not significant since I have a bad habit of saving emails. Working my way through last years emails saving those that were specific about students and parents correspondence I had found several emails congratulating me on being named teacher of the year in our area by Sam’s club in 2004. I have the blue vest in my closet at school and a letter on the wall for a quick reminder. One of my students had sent a letter to Wal-Mart it wasn’t something specific I did but a letter of recommendation from a student and I was honored. As I thought I really did not do anything different for that student. She graduated and is doing great we still keep in touch. I just did as I do each day. I feel I do it with passion and what is funny people see that when they are around you. What ever you choose whatever pathway you go down do it with passion and truly you will never go wrong. Please dear friends keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Finding Answers in Life

Bird Droppings May 12, 2011
Finding answers in life

Yesterday I was asked a simple question. I am too take several tests and they decide my life which should I take? Should I take test A or B. If I take A then my life will go this direction if I take B it will go this way. As I thought this morning if only life was so simple. A student was working on a research paper in my room and it seems with the end of the year and computers in short supply and End of Course testing on computers there are only so many computers and everyone is doing end of year papers. I have seven computers in my room when I have a room full all are used but yesterday and recently fourth period I have a few open.
This little girl stated first thing before she started her paper that she has ADHD. I think this was more a shock me than anything. My students sort of smiled and then I responded and so. “Well it’s hard for me to focus” As nice as I could, I explained in most classrooms that would be significant but you picked the wrong one. She looked at me and said but I have an SST and I am a tier three on the Pyramid of intervention and I am allowed extra time in my modifications. Very quickly I said and so, I really didn’t have the heart to say child everybody in this room has ADHD plus probably including me and you better focus on your paper.
So I asked her what are your parameters for this paper. She had to write a two page paper, ok what else and or it has to have one hundred words. It seems twenty three years of publishing have to pay off somewhere and I looked over her notes and writing and showed her how to format the paper. I suggested using Courier New as her font. Quickly she told me that it was not cute enough and so we began. So she typed away in Comic Sans or some other cute font and after a paragraph of her font I showed her why Courier New is better, her half page or so went to a page of type in 12 point. She was amazed and asked how did that happen? So as usual I came upon a teachable moment and maybe vocabulary as well.
I explained kerning the spacing and shape of letters and Courier happens to take up more space without appearing to and is acceptable in most papers often even recommended as an option Times New Roman or Courier New 12 point double spaced. So after several days the two page paper is done and a smiling little girl says “this is the best paper I ever did thank you” and so we shall see.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” Abraham Lincoln

A student finds in simply a few days that she can do a bit more by being shown and then giving her words contextual and relevant significance. Perhaps it was working in an environment that rather than being alien and fighting her disability embraces and functions with her. Looking back to asking which test to take and where do we want to go. So many questions and always more answers and it is the finding that the place where we can excel given our own disabilities whatever they are can be found.

“Life is rather like a tin of sardines – we’re all of us looking for the key.” Allan Bennett

“Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.” Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Civilization and Ethics, 1949

It has been a few years since the first time I searched for a book by Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Most are out of print and occasionally you can find a book store with a copy of his work. I remember vaguely news stories about this great man living in Africa and working in the jungles healing and trying to offer a bit of hope.

“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?” Alice Walker

As I read this last note it made me think so many simple things get me pondering. Each morning as I sit down to write or to journal as it seems I find pieces of myself as I go. I was listening to a friend wondering about their direction and listening to this student trying to find direction as she came into my class announcing she is ADHD. I was interesting as earlier as I watched the sky alive with color thinking back to my grandmother. Grandma Seitz and a favorite saying red in the morning sailors warning red at night sailors delight and my Georgia Tech graduate son explaining why AM stations work so much better at night. As I think each little piece to the puzzle is falling in place so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Getting the passion back

Bird Droppings May 11, 2011
Getting the passion back

When I walked in to work this morning the air was calm almost peaceful as I walked our dog down the driveway and through the yard. In the distance a great horned owl called several times and a bullfrog bellowed from the bottom land across the way. For several weeks we have had whippoorwill calling contests and five or six around d the area spend a large portion of the night echoing through the trees. Sadly the crickets and tree frogs are still not quite warm enough even though the air was near sixty eight today as I started this morning.
Over the past few days I have asked several friends about the understanding of the words passion and obsession. Are there similarities are they different as I looked at these two words. I think as I ponder today that there a fine line between the two. I wondered as I went through the day yesterday thinking about a line in a memo that truly caught my attention, something to the effect of getting the passion back.

“Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we would become weak and faint. Without love our self esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we cannot longer confidently look out at the world. We turn inward to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

It has been nearly thirty years since chief Dan George passed away. Some of my favorite movies featured this amazing man usually playing an old Native American. Coincidently he did not start acting till he was seventy one. Before his death he was honored by several universities in the United States and Canada with honorary doctorates. Dan George was the Chief of the Salish tribe of British Columbia. During his lifetime he lived with passion and with a love of mankind and life in his heart.

“We have taken so much from your culture; I wish you had taken something from ours…for there were some beautiful and good things within it. Perhaps now that the time has come, we are fearful that what you take will be lost….I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success: His education, his skills, and society. If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.” Chief Dan George, from a lament for Confederation

I pondered these words sitting here this morning wondering why I had so much on my mind. Perhaps it is knowing that there are pieces to my own puzzle needing to fall in place for me to complete my mission. I read over and over the last line, “what one fears one destroys”. In the work place so often change creates fear and in that we seek to destroy that which is creating the fear often without truly trying to understand what it is we are destroying. Today I was in such a dilemma I worked through ideas and issues only to continually be bound in the superficiality of the events. I was never bale to raise my head up to get a breath I was drowning on dry land. But as I looked deeper in and so often we can let our passion lead us into obsession. So often we can take love and forget for a moment that our passion is driven by love and slip into losing touch with why we were where we are, for example my own teaching. My friends earlier today said obsession is when you lose control and passion is when you put your heart into something.

“O Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds, I come to you as one of your many children. I need your strength and your wisdom. Make me strong not to be superior to my brother, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy: myself” Chief Dan George

In my class for a lesson we were looking at legends or myths. I used the movie Hidalgo, legend of the greatest long distant rider who ever lived and his great mustang Hidalgo. The movie is based on a true story that just happens to be difficult to prove. I used as one days lesson getting closer to home looking for and researching Frank Hopkins and the story of Hidalgo. Here in Georgia we have our own from not too many years ago the “Goatman” another legend of sorts. Back in the 1950 and 60’s Ches McCartney traveled the country with his goats. He had a team of big billies pulling his wagons and the rest trailed along. He was an itinerant preacher as the story goes spreading the word. Along the way he would do odd jobs for spare cash and always would invite folks to his camp although Ches was also know to be rather ripe smelling living with goats.
I was wandering and thinking of a role played in a movie by Chief Dan George where he portrays the ancient Chief Lone Wattie in one of my favorite movies “The outlaw Josie Wales”. The old man is constantly being snuck up on and at eighty years of age Dan George portrayed Lone Wattie. It was for Dan George that he lived each moment of his life with passion and with love and faith in his fellow man.

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away, they speak to me
and my heart soars.

By Chief Dan George

How do we get back the passion? Jokingly many of my kids will come in and say “Bird I love you” as I think back perhaps that is how and why we do get along there is a love involved, a trust a mutual respect. A student I have worked with now for four years was to be tested and he resisted finally after several months he said he would only if he could test first period. It turned out a different school psychologist than who normally tests in our building and who was unfamiliar with his case had a run in with him. My agreement and the students understanding since he did not want to miss the classes he was having trouble in was to test first period instead he was called out of fourth and upset. I received this email that bothered me this person a former school psychologist had spent less than two minutes with this student and wanted him suspended and or worse. Not knowing any of the details of four years of keeping him in school and passing. We had spent too much time and too much work and sadly too little concern took away any passion, any love and we destroy that which we fear. Eventually we worked it out and he graduated.

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.
The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars.

By Chief Dan George

We get passion back by looking for it and by seeking it out. We get it back by rekindling the fires in our hearts and souls. e get the passion back by being able to respond when someone says “I love you” without sarcasm but looking at a window of trust and seeing more than words. We can find the passion by being there and here and holding our head up maybe when we ought to lay it down. We can get back the passion when our heart soars. I ask as I do everyday to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Clearing the pathway

Bird Droppings May 10, 2011
Clearing a pathway
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White
Often I reflect on the journey of life and the many directions I myself have traveled. I watch others step by step along the way and I Listen as some stumbled and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times about which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left
“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg
I was wondering why so many of us each day think perhaps too much obsessing over reasons and rationale eventually tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up are lack of enthusiasm and desire. I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point? What is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross?
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm
“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis
There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along with each day being unique for me and for you. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live and Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed. Ellis states that life is an art form. Life is an art form and perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we use as wield we paint. Several years ago a movie starring Robin Williams was out “What Dreams may come”. The author of the book researched extensively on the afterlife there are nearly six pages of references in the back of the book. But a scene that caught my attention was as Robin Williams realized that he was painting the world around him and that his attitudes and concerns altered the surrounding colors as they would change and the hues fluctuated as he walked about.
“You cannot discover the purpose of life by asking someone else – the only way you’ll ever get the right answer is by asking yourself.” Terri Guillemets
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus
“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin
We set the boulders in our own pathway and we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose. But I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. As well we need to be aware that we must make an effort to also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zig zags an easy journey constantly side tracked. Where once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping and in climbing boulders and in pushing some out of the way. It has been a few months since I have used at the end of Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day.
“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, Blackfoot warrior and orator
For many this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning. Our scenery changes but life does go on and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Walking agian in the morning

Bird Droppings May 9, 2011
Walking again in the morning

It is hard for me to describe the feeling of losing this aspect of the day. It has been now nearly eleven years since each morning I would get up and walk upwards of five miles before dawn. Many of those journeys were with a good friend discussing various topics be it politics, theology, education and or philosophy. The past years I find myself more simply going into the early hours and listening alone to the quiet and stillness of that fraction of time before the sunrises. As I went out this morning walking the dog for a few minutes as she went about her morning business I could not help but here the sounds of spring were returning. Our morning had been rather cool and tree frogs and crickets had been silent for some time.
As I looked into the sky I noticed a small smile of a moon I feel as if I have lost time I have nearly missed a full moon cycle. The moon was barely visible through the trees now nearly filled in. In a few more days my teaching school year draws to an end, only a handful of days the next two weeks. My own schooling begins anew in a day or two as I get back seriously to my dissertation back to reading and writing it seems graduate school is composed of reading and writing.

“We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.” William Ewart Gladstone

On a morning where the news headlines is filled with headlines of retaliation, suicide bombers, conflict, war, mayhem and death it is new week what a better way to start then to think of peace.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa

Through out her life she set an example lived her life for others less fortunate than she and always striving for peace in her actions.

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I think back to my high school days and how Emerson was approached I never did learn who he was until my later years somewhere in grad school. He was one of our great thinkers and philosophers so and often we by pass him in literature a passage here and a note there leading into Thoreau and quickly go to Moby Dick and Melville. So many authors listened to and asked him for advice and mentoring. As I read Emerson today I have many websites featuring his works tagged on my computer for quick reference.

“If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots.” Napoleon Bonaparte

One of the great warriors of all time saw peace as a veil that men in general never wanted hence the constant pin pricks.

“The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.” Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Maybe it is the work needed to be at peace maybe it takes too much and we seem to always choose the easy way that of quick and complete destruction.

“The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists.” William J. Clinton, 1997

While we can argue his morality and personal life for many days on end Bill Clinton was an astute and intelligent man. As I read this passage I find this is the basis for so many of the world’s wars, clinging to his past. It often is not whether it is right or wrong but just clinging to it, that tradition or ritual. My Westie this past weekend has a stuffed toy bone she has carried every where made it hard to get her outside to the yard without it. She slept on it, carried it everywhere, she is obsessed with it. Many nations and peoples are like this as they wage war no practical value and definitely no humanitarian value, just because it was this way.

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” Indira Gandhi

Interesting how in India where Mahatma Gandhi taught peace so many leaders have died trying to attain that goal including Gandhi himself.

“Peace hath higher tests of manhood, than battle ever knew.” John Greenleaf Whittier

We have always known it takes far more to walk away then to fight but we succumb to our human nature and take a swing. Seems we always want to get in that first blow.

“Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” Francesco Petrarch

As I look about this morning how do we even attempt to banish these when they are the basis for so much of the world’s leadership perhaps when we vote next time around.

“There is one armor that the world of men and women, as a world, has never yet put on. The churches have long bungled with its fastenings, but the world has gone unfended, and few have been those in whose hands the mystical sword of the spirit has shone with daily use. This armor, waiting to be worn, is the armor of brotherhood and sacrifice, the world of unselfishness, a conquering sword, with the power, where used, to unite the world in love. And there are none who may not put it on.” M.A. DeWolfe Howe

Why is it the word love keeps popping up I recall my earlier years as anti war demonstrators in the 1970’s used peace signs and many times the word love was written right next to the peace symbol. One of my all time favorite movies of all time, Billy Jack contains a song, One Tin Soldier, recorded and sung in the film by the group Coven.

“Go ahead and hate your neighbor, Go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpets blowing come the judgment day, on the bloody morning after…. One tin soldier rides away.” Lambert-Potter

Actually briefly back in the day it was a hit song for the group. The song and short animated film of the song are based on the ends justify the means. I find it amusing how war never does seems to bring peace. World War II ended and we went into the cold war and Korean War, war does not bring peace. I was watching, The Scorpion King over the weekend and there is a scene where the bad guy says he is going to bring peace after conquering and slaughtering all in his path. The heroine, the sorceress turns to him and says you are bringing not peace only oppression.

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days’ governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.” Dwight Eisenhower

General Eisenhower fought for peace as commander of he allied forces in World War II during World War II and then served our country as President.

“We have all taken risks in the making of war. Isn’t it time that we should take risks to secure peace?” J. Ramsay MacDonald

Maybe weapons of peace just aren’t as cool as weapons of war and with so many video games featuring destruction who knows.

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

True peace is about freedom and choice and understanding.

“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.” Robert Fulghum

I wonder if any US funds have been spent on this weapon. I wonder if the current Congress would even address such a weapon. I wonder if Brown and Root have an inventory of Crayolas around somewhere in anticipation along with their corporate partner Halliburton.

“A warless world will come as men develop warless hearts.” Charles Wesley Burns

Peace is not an easy task when so many are against the idea and reap profits off of war and destruction. It seems so often companies who profit from destruction also make fortunes on reconstruction.

“We shall never be able to affect physical disarmament until we have succeeded in effecting moral disarmament.” J. Ramsay MacDonald

It is not an easy task seeking peace in a world so intent on war. I remember peace activists being jailed and beaten by police for being nonviolent which to me is a paradox of sorts. Gandhi was punished for being nonviolent and killed eventually because of his beliefs. Martin Luther King Jr. died advocating for nonviolence and peace. So many die for peace. Is a death in peace more notable than a death in war? I wonder if there is a congressional medal of honor for dying trying to achieve peace. Both dying for what they believe. As I search my heart this morning as I wrote I borrowed a passage from Dr. Wayne Dyer.

“When you know rather than believe you will discover the necessary abilities to carry out your purpose. Beliefs are handed to you; hence they are received with some doubt. Knowing comes from within.”

It is about knowing not simply believing. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Pondering on mothers day about faith

Bird Droppings May 8, 2011
Pondering on mothers day about faith

For so many a Sunday morning brings dressing up and heading to a place of worship. Worship for most is a community event a gathering of like believers who sit and go through ritualistic undertakings in a prescribed manner and at the prescribed time head home or to a restaurant for lunch and then right back to their lives. My question is always does this entail faith or simply tradition and ritual. A routine followed from childhood and continued into adulthood and passed on to offspring similar to tool making and other basic functions. Perhaps this is where I draw a differentiation between faith and religion. For me religion is the traditions and rituals and then faith is something else.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“In faith and hope the world will disagree, but all mankind’s concern is charity.” Alexander the Great

Within man there is a driving force, a desire to understand, a need to know and perhaps be known. Often we hope, we believe, so that we can share. Early writers chose a word to define this idea of sharing. In Greek several words were used to define what mankind considered love, Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is that sexual passionate love, Philos that love that can be deemed brotherly love, and Agape. Agape in 1613 was defined as the word charity by translators for King James. As I was researching earlier I found Alexander the Great used charity, perhaps in a similar fashion.

“Faith is a continuation of reason.” William Adams

“Faith is a higher faculty than reason.” Henry Christopher Bailey

“I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” St. Bernard

I have introduce the word love into my discussion of faith as well as so often it intertwines between the operations and delineations of what is defined by many as faith. A simple word faith, much of the world’s history has evolved around our understanding of this word and our acceptance or rejection of various aspects of that word.

“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.” Pearl S. Buck

“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” Thomas Carlyle

Several years ago I researched the word faith in an education class, and found that Dr. James Fowler of Emory University wrote a book on the development of faith. In his book he was comparing faith in stages much as Erickson and Piaget looked at children’s development.

“Do you know how to digest your food? Do you know how to fill your lungs with air? Do you know how to establish, regulate and direct the metabolism of your body — the assimilation of foodstuff so that it builds muscles, bones and flesh? No, you don’t know how consciously, but there is a wisdom within you that does know.” Donald Curtis

“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty… this knowledge; this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” Albert Einstein

As I researched the word and its applications to people and especially to children I found an interesting correlation and parallel. The word trust and faith are synonymous.

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A faith to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.” Bob Harrington

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” James Joyce

Could it be that faith is an evolutionary thing, it grows, alters, changes and develops much as visual acuity changes and mental cognitive aspects of our nature change. As I looked deeper and saw correlations to the word trust, I could see trust in children evolve and grow and simultaneously faith.

“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” Soren Kierkegaard

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary” Major Kira Nerys

There is a dark side as I watch children who have little trust in their lives for what ever reason. It is here we see that vacuum, a hollow void a space where faith is vacant. If faith and trust is void then as so many great thinkers have said hope is lost and charity is non existent. I watch students who have little trust in anything and for them only self matters. Over the years I have seen philosophy and theology often interconnect at times one trying to explain the other.

“Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” John Wooden

Two great men in their respective fields Niebuhr a theologian and Wooden one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time with a similar idea. Going at life and in my own case in teaching it is finding a way to build trust in children who have none. Many times more often than not when trust can be developed then so can faith. Hope soon follows, and charity sort of finds it way along. Many years ago I watched a film one of my favorites, Billy Jack. In one scene a young Native American offers a slip of paper to a young lady in the film containing a passage he attributes to St. Francis of Assisi.

“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 Niebuhr

Niebuhr used this statement in a much longer prayer often referred to as the serenity prayer during a sermon in the late 1950’s. As I worked through literature and my own thoughts piecing together bits and shards, I found there was a need within people for faith, and for trust. In reality it is not much different than so many other areas of human development. The capacity and direction of that faith and trust may vary greatly in traditions and in perceptions but it is there. Walking out into the mornings often reminds me, as I look upon a clear sky a moon tilted slightly smiling, stars and a few clouds creating an image of calm. We each piece together our own life’s puzzle one piece at a time often never seeing the completed version only having faith that it is there, somewhere. Please as the week draws to an end, keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and a most happiest of mothers days.

Looking for truth in an untruthful world

Bird Droppings May 6, 2011
Looking for truth in an untruthful world

I am later than normal getting to my writing as I was lazy earlier and spent a bit longer pondering the stars. It is the last day for another week of spring but here in Georgia the mornings have been a bit nippy the crickets and frogs have been silent. My dog decided to celebrate early getting me up almost before I was good and asleep. My youngest son and his wife headed south to Florida to visit my daughter in laws family and get in some beach time since college is finished till summer for them. It was a very strange evening not seeing my grand daughter in her room when I left for school or taking pictures last evening. I was discussing grand parenthood the other day with a fellow new grand parent and how it is so much fun watching the babies grow and learn. When my own were this age I was more concerned with feeding and clothing than observing and playing. Although we played a lot as they grew up.
Fortunately it was at about two this morning clear, the stars were out for the first time in a few days, we have had a lot of rain for which I will not complain about, as it has been so dry for so many summers. This will be actually one of the first in several years’ getting on towards Memorial Day that boaters in our Georgia lakes for their weekend will have a slightly more than full lake. It was not to far back we were bone dry and getting back from fifteen feet down took some time.
I was reading through my old yearbooks and entries by students who had signed it many not really my students but kids who stop by on a regular basis asking questions, holding Stevie the ball python, needing advice, or just because I happen to have a sofas in my room to sit on. Each one had similar connotations and touched my heart. As I am sitting writing another staff member just emailed where is your Bird Dropping’s on my Friday morning. Funny how something so simple in a routine can alter a day and hopefully my few moments of delay will be worth it.
Children see the world differently than adults and sadly most teachers never realize that. Piaget actually made reference numerous times in his writings and lectures to this point. In trying to understand children and even adults in all of the years I have observed and watched the world, I have found trust has been a focal point for building relationships with children and adults. We live in a world that forces us to distrust and this compounds the issue. Sadly we live in an untruthful world which is easy to see as we watch the financial debacles unfold and how many unscrupulous business people made fortunes while others struggled. In our own county insurance companies took in premiums and never generated policies as an example of a local business run amock. Millions of dollars were made for the agents and now as people are ready to retire or get injured and they have nothing. Several have gone to jail over that. I still find it interesting that Bernie Madoff was just on house arrest for so long for over fifty billion dollars in swindles and even now has had oppurtinities for vacations outside jail a time or two.

“A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage ‘Tell me then, how would you describe it?’ The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying ‘This is very sweet. Try eating it!’” Hindu Teaching Story

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across but nothing can describe more adequately than example.

“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships toss upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth… and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.” Sir Francis Bacon

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur James Balfour

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity something that is few and far between. We watch news and read newspapers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. One of my favorite heroes Bat boy, is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid back a fed days. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having an affair with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people do take to heart. There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication even with evidence debunking theories as to why the missions were faked and the thousands of people who would have to have been involved to cover it up and numerous other events in history that many of us consider to be real.

“Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.” Bernard Berenson

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” Otto Von Bismarck

Why is it, that truth is so elusive? I find it so hard to understand that we go at life literally intent on fabrication, deceit and deception. Bismarck’s comment though near a hundred years old is still very much true.

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” William Blake

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” Robert Browning

“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.” Alexis Carrel

I look back and see how so many times in avoiding truth the tales grew with each moment and soon a story takes the place of a simple event and soon a novel unravels and the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes literally a canyon.

“The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.” Clarence Darrow

“Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” Meister Eckhart

Isn’t it sad that truth is so difficult and yet so easy. Telling the truth eliminates numerous additional words and time that could be spent perhaps going in the right direction rather than pursuing issues that really may not even pertain, so simple and yet elusive.

“The greater the truth the greater the libel.” Lord Ellenborough

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality. A movie from a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, A beautiful Mind. Dr, John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us. We are brought up expecting untruth and we have professionals and politicians who work at telling half truths and fabricating to do their jobs and sadly they run the country. Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a medicine and become truthful sort of like Jim Careys character in Lier, and then we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and anyone could run for office?
Would it not be great if we could know the president was telling the truth or which ever politician is on TV? As I look at this concept it is truly sad.

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Frank Herbert

“Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” Martin Luther

“You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.” Sam Rayburn

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is no where to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harms way and many are due to untruths which we then justify by additional information and rationales mostly untrue. Do we even remember what and why? So as we sit reading and writing this morning please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.