Sunset over Between

Bird Droppings June 19-20, 2011
Sunset over Between

“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’” Vine Deloria, Jr.

It has been a rapid quick succession of journeys and trips along with trying to keep my herb gardens watered and weeded over the past few weeks and it has been difficult to get into a routine. I drove up to north Georgia yesterday to sit in on a Foxfire teacher course and will be heading back up for a few more days tomorrow. As I returned from the mountains yesterday it was getting close to sunset and the great red ball gleamed red ahead of me and somewhere just as I reached a spot to get a photo it disappeared below the horizon.
Talking with the teachers yesterday and at each of the Foxfire courses is a recharge for me of my desire to strive to be a good teacher and always rekindles my hope that we can soon escape the prison of teach to the test and truly be educating children for life rather than a score on a end of course test. A good friend informed me that she and another teacher from her school both teaching with the Foxfire approach were back to back teachers of the year. That says something when you are breaking out of the traditional mold of teaching and using the approach that John Dewey promoted nearly a hundred and twenty five years ago.
My morning started with a trip to the doctor for my semi annual stretched to two years blood work. It always seems hard to find time to get to the doctor. But I am getting old and I was ganged up on and I was there at eight this morning to get poked and prodded. I went by our school to check on my animals and to touch base with administration; I wanted to throw an idea out. Everyone was else where when I got there after my doctors trip. I went by our house and unloading groceries and my grand daughter and I played for some time while her mother ran some errands. On one excursion out side sitting on the front porch rocking I looked about a hundred feet away and two baby deer very young judging by the size crossed into the woods. I showed them to my grand daughter but at six months and the camouflage of their spots I do not think she saw them.
My more recent reading has been one of a spiritual nature looking at various moments in my life each unique and synchronistic as I go my way. The timing of the deer today and over the past few days numerous events that were as eloquently timed as I continue on my own journey. It was nearly a year ago today I was taking my wife and son to an early morning flight to Dallas that put me on my way home as the sun came up over Atlanta. It was not a spectacular sunrise but still pretty coming up around the skyline. It was only a few hours later a call from my middle son he was back in Atlanta from Omaha Nebraska and the NCAA World Series, his school Georgia Tech was eliminated so they drove straight through to make classes on that day.
All in the same day a good friend had previously asked me to borrow so I headed to Athens to drop my book off for him to review. When I got home I noticed a bulletin in MySpace from someone who I have been reading their blogs and has been commenting on mine, a young lady from Canada. I had responded to a note earlier in the morning before going to the airport and received word she was heading to South Korea not sure why but a journey. She would write her thoughts often in riddles or a paradoxical way. Often you would have to think to unravel her meaning. So that day nearly five years ago her words of wisdom from jennjenn and we shall move on from there.

“Who knew? A journey always begins and ends in the same way” jenn

I have often written about the journey in life and or that life is a journey jenn went to Korea to teach English in a private school and learned much about life and people as she traveled through Korea and eventually China. I sat here thinking about what jenn wrote that day and what I had done in the course of a day I had gone over to Athens to sit and talk with a friend, another teacher needing some help with a project. He was just needing some ideas to get going to finish his master’s capstone so I left my capstone manual and drove home. He went on to pass his capstone and graduate only to end up moving to California to teach.

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau

As I sat and thought and pondered Henry David Thoreau came to mind as he was a wanderer. He walked about to learn, to grow and to meet new people. His idea of a journey was it doesn’t matter what is ahead or what lies behind it is in our hearts that is important and in some ways this is perhaps what jenn was saying it is not about where we are going or when we come back if ever but what we carry with us is always the same who we are and why we are. I use often loosely the concept of soul as that inner part of us that is who we are.

“Illusion holds power over you when you are not able to remember that you are a powerful spirit that has taken on the physical experience for the purpose of learning. It has power over you when you are compelled by wants and impulses and values of your personality. It holds power over you when you fear and hate and sorrow and fester in anger or strike out in rage. It has NO power over you when you LOVE, when compassion opens your heart to others, when your creativity flows unimpeded joyously into the present moment. In other words, the illusion had no power over a personality that is fully aligned with the soul.” Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul

I was thinking of Gary Zukav as I was thinking about my starting idea which sort of wandered around and in and out but of soul and that our soul never changes. Where we go and why and when we come back our soul that inner driving force of energy remains and stays the same. Thomas Moore left the priesthood to become a therapist and writer holding a doctorate in psychology and theology. He writes about how do we take care of our souls and while a theologian he writes about the soul from a non religious point of view.

“We think of the psyche, if we think about it at all, as a cousin to the brain and therefore something essentially internal. But ancient psychologists taught that our own souls are inseparable from the world’s soul, and that both are found in all the many things that make up nature and culture.”

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or as something to do with immortality. When we say that something has soul, we know what we mean, but it is difficult to specify exactly what that meaning is.” Thomas Moore, The care of the Soul

It is the beginning and the end of the journey that of who we are and why our connections to all that is and was. I use this quote from Aerosmith often and believe it.

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

Here is for a safe journey for jenn and all else who are traveling my family and many friends be it from work, school, vacation or just going to Kroger and always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Am I home?

Bird Droppings June 18, 2005
Am I home?

It is late afternoon and the breeze from an impending quick summer storm has taken the temperature down a few degrees. It is cool now but as the storm dissipates and the warmth of summer will soon over come the welcome chill of the rain and wind. I walked out to my quiet place in a distant corner secluded from much of the surrounding with weeds and brush. I can sit and listen to the trees, birds, insects and life passing by.
As the rains came I walked back to the house to sit and write again some seclusion in my corner in the upstairs loft area. Listening to a 1971 Neil Young CD and pondering numerous issues that confront me. Earlier I went on the back porch with our dog and in the silence of the darkness save for the friendly chirp of crickets and peep of tree frogs echoing through the morning stillness a nearly full moon was attempting to show through the cloud cover. A few stars creep through oak leaves and pine needles and the blips of fireflies produce an eerie effect as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. The all consuming question for the day was I wonder if I am home. It has been a few years since I felt that way.
Having lived in a house I built and raised my children and numerous pets for over twenty years it was a place where my favorite dog passed away and I could sit with no one near if I chose to play music loud. So I wonder today am I home now? Occasionally a car at 4:00 AM can still be heard in front of the house as it was today perhaps someone going to work or coming from play but the stillness of the back yard and silence of the trees makes me think perhaps I am home.
My children are all grown and even now a grand baby sleeps here as well and they are asleep inside and my dog is resting growing bored with me staring into the night and listening to sounds that irritate her ears. Although a low flying firefly catches her eye. So here this afternoon I am sitting down to read and write. A good read for those interested in Indian lore and understandings, “How can one sell the air?” which is a speech by Chief Seattle as it sits by my computer. This was a question he raised where is home? For many it is only a place where we rest, eat our meals and tend to chores of daily life. As I look thorough this simple book it is where our ancestors have been buried and where the pathways are worn by our feet and air been breathed and re-breathed by our children’s children. That is where home is so I continue to wonder am I home? Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Reading a friends book for the tenth time

Bird Droppings June 17, 2011
Reading a friend’s book for the tenth time

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of his new book “What parents need to know about ODD”, nearly five years ago and I have been through it numerous times. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when “Bird Droppings a teacher’s journal” comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately big words, long words, and almost nonsensical words such as post-structuralism, phenomenology, semiotics and hermeneutics are a couple of good ones just to mention a couple or two. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.
I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book “What Parents need to Know About ODD” is an easy to read, easy to understand and to use as a tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend to my parents and associates Dr. Suttons books and ideas almost daily. This is not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue that we teachers have been saddled with for almost seven years now, NCLB, the federal law which requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP’s. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using the recommended program.
Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs many researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation actually myself a few years ago and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify the research and found that it was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them. A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states.

“…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” The New York Times

Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying, I wonder when teachers will be asked?

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD
I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say to that were established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. This is common sense not any scientific based doctrine but logical teacher learned information. My son who is biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows at that point. Yet teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests. Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”.

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas and they apply elsewhere in life than just working with an individual child. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and even within families. Far too often we go for power not form. I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu and the late David Carridine was portraying a Sau-lin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. So easy to get caught up in words as I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up, the reader has to be able to understand the writer. The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood by the reader? One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles that play on words and many readers have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic. I wonder how long it will be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and it is not the rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is to make good consumers. All our efforts at teaching are being subverted into generating customers as discussed by many authors. The fat we are calling college students customers which is the term used on many campuses is sad and that is the word used by administrations in a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money. As I look back and in going back looking at any war in history money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and sure enough Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy was being turned around. The power paradox in Iraq an interesting thought have we ever focused on the form and that of the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya among the many. But as has become habit please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Wandering around today and nearly missing a moment with my grand daughter

Bird Droppings June 16, 2011
Wandering about today and nearly missed a moment
with my grand daughter

“Until you have a son of your own you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son, and you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to be.” Kent Nerburn

In my running around today I got home just in time to hold my grand daughter before her morning nap. As I started this morning with fathers day coming up I am borrowing from one of my favorite authors who wrote a book to his son and this passage is from that book. I am sure had Kent been blessed with daughters his words would be different and one day perhaps he will be graced with a grand daughter which even makes this passage more significant. As a grand parent the joy is magnified and intensified and every single smile or tiny hand reaching carries love and emotions that are hard to express.
My youngest son heads out early every day often before his daughter is awake. I had a nice drive this morning into town and errands for the house and for school. I felt like I drove a million miles by the time I got home. It has been some time since I thought about this topic and thought I would share again.

“To admit you were wrong is to declare you are wiser now than before.” Unknown author

When I saw this I had many flashbacks to arguments over the years, now perhaps I would call a few debates but back in the day they were arguments. One of my favorite was about copperhead eggs. But that was many years ago, copperheads do not lay eggs they are developed inside the female and are born fully developed and poisonous. Funny thing was many years back a UGA vet student could not be persuaded otherwise. I knew that information from about second grade, anyhow in life admitting you were wrong is probably one of the hardest and most difficult tasks we could ever have, even when only a silly argument or discussion on copperhead eggs or who was best baseball player. Letting go of ego is a difficult task.

“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Karl G. Jung

If I were to call my shelf a certain kind of psychologist it would be Jungian. I do think Jung may have over did it a bit in his idea but ego is such a hard task master and so often in life we all sooner or later fall victim.

“If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?” H. Ross Perot

Looking back on my own life and I was never really a Perot fan but I happen to like the thought he addresses here. In life who but ourselves is there to clean out the barn. I found a sign with the word EGOS in bold lettering on it and then the red circle for NO across it. I placed several up around the school the only one that survived was on my door, still haven’t figured that one out. All the others were down very quickly, people in general do not want to be wrong or questioned.

“If you think about yourself then you’ve lost sight of the ball.” Mike Willesee

Ever wonder how a pro basketball team either succeeds or collapses. All in all most pro teams are very close in ability, but it is the dealing with egos that makes or breaks a team. A coach has to be able de-egoize a team that is the true sign of a great coach.

“A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team. “ Pat Riley

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” John Wooden

“Nothing will work unless you do. “ John Wooden

Many of you never may have heard of John Wooden, perhaps the greatest College basketball coach of all time. I believe he won more NCAA championships somewhere about ten, than any other coach and more in a row. Wooden lived a simple philosophy of life.

“You cannot attain and maintain physical condition unless you are morally and mentally conditioned. And it is impossible to be in moral condition unless you are spiritually conditioned. I always told my players that our team condition depended on two factors — how hard they worked on the floor during practice and how well they behaved between practices.” John Wooden

Recently a few months ago I found an article in the sports page, by former Wooden player who did not get to play very much. This former player was interviewing Bill Walton, a former NBA star, a now sports broadcaster and former great of UCLA’s glory days under Wooden. The player who did not play much had the same respect and love for Wooden as did Walton, and both carried Woodenisms in there wallets still, twenty plus years after college. Example is the key to Coach Wooden’s philosophy of life. Live the life as well as play hard. EGO had no place on a Wooden team and if an ego cropped up you probably will be sitting on the bench or playing at another university. Wooden was successful because he did not skirt the edges so many in the paper schools have done. He won through practice, his players were glad to get off the team, his practices were so hard. Behavior between practices was as important to Coach Wooden as was your play.
Imagine a world where the aura was gone from pro-sports and players played because they wanted too, not for millions of dollars. Imagine where newspapers would have to print about the team getting all A’s in the NCAA rather then team members are arrested for shop lifting and sexual harassment. EGOS can destroy not only an individual but a team and a society.

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” John Wooden

I will close with that last statement from John Wooden, in life and not just sports character will keep you there, a good thought to remember and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.


Bird Droppings June 15, 2011

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” William Faulkner

When I first read this earlier it hit me hard, so often in life we want to accomplish that great task all in one quick movement and all at one time. It has been a few years since I first read a favorite authors email blog and he had been working on an idea and book for years, based on Chief Joseph and he mentioned patience in relation to another Native American work in progress. As he wrote in that blog in the Dakotas nearly fifty years ago sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, promised to honor the memory of Crazy horse by carving out a mountain in his likeness. To this day rock by rock he and his family since his death in 1974 have kept that promise, the face was dedicated n 1998.

“Our patience will achieve more than our force.” Edmund Burke

So often as I teach each day it is not a great lesson that succeeds but simply patience. Being able to deal with difficulties of the day and move into the next without dwelling to long on a single issue, moving small stones one at a time, in our effort to move or carve a mountain as Faulkner points out above.

“The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.” Epictetus

“Patience means self-suffering.” Mahatma Gandhi

“That virtue of the mind which is called Patience is so great a gift…” St. Augustine of Hippo

I walked out earlier taking the dog for his morning constitutional before me a clear sky filled with stars and perhaps the most gorgeous full moon in many months. Our home sits slightly off the road with a large back yard going into about four hundred acres of wilderness, actually very private. But it was stars that caught my eye in the brilliance of the moon and each morning they are there when clouds allow lately. I was discussing with my principal and superintendent a few days back the concept of patience. I recall back seven or eight years ago when a former student’s mother had been killed in a car wreck, we were talking how students will come to certain teachers. This former student I had ten years ago yet everyday she would stop by when she was in school before graduation to check on me, consistency came out, students will flock to consistency when meted out with patience.

“Let this be understood, then, at starting; that the patient conquest of difficulties which rise in the regular and legitimate channels of business and enterprise is not only essential in securing the success which you seek but it is essential to that preparation of your mind, requisite for the enjoyment of your successes, and for retaining them when gained. So, day by day, and week by week; so month after month, and year after year, work on, and in that process gain strength and symmetry, and nerve and knowledge, that when success, patiently and bravely worked for, shall come, it may find you prepared to receive it and keep it,” Josiah Gilbert Holland

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Barbara Johnson

I typed in Patience’s as a search and the first few were all lyrics for a Guns and Roses song the words are not really applicable or I would use them but the song, there is a whistling start to the song and I am sitting here writing about patience and humming the start to the song. This is one of those songs you can not get out of your head.

“(whistle) …little patience, mm yeah, mm yeah, I need a little patience, yeah – just a little patience, yeah – some more patience, – yeah – need some patience, yeah, could use some patience, yeah, gotta have some patience, yeah, all it takes is patience, just a little patience, is all you need” Axl Rose, Guns and Roses 1989

In all honesty the words really don’t quite do it with out the whistling and tune especially with Axl Rose’s whining voice singing. But patience “is all you need”.

“Consider the hour-glass; there is nothing to be accomplished by rattling or shaking; you have to wait patiently until the sand, grain by grain, has run from one funnel into the other.” John Christian Morgensten

Whether this was made by the 16th century artist or more recently a whimsical poet of the 20 century this is a powerful statement. If you have never watched an hour glass at work, it truly is the best example and analogy of patience, one grain at a time falls through no more no less till the entire mass of sand drops.

“If I have made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.” Sir Isaac Newton

“Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily.” Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

It does take patience, trying to accomplish any task takes patience. I have talked of world peace more than once and am committed to that ideal but it will take patience. However until that time we must keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.

Listening to John Lennon and reading John Dewey

Bird Droppings June 14, 2011
Listening to John Lennon and reading John Dewey

I ran my errands today including a trip to Barnes and Nobles. I got up and started my day driving and doing errands from yesterday and in the process a lot of thinking and pondering as I say.

“As soon as you’re born they make you feel small, by giving you no time instead of it all. Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all. A working class hero is something to be. A working class hero is something to be. They hurt you at home and they hit you at school, they hate you if you are clever and they despise a fool. Till you are so crazy you can’t follow the rules. When they tortured and scared you for twenty odd years, they expect you to pick a career, when you can’t really function you are so full of fear.” John Lennon, Working Class Hero

I was looking at Barnes and Nobles for a specific book and accidentally found an acoustic CD of John Lennon’s that caught my attention. Working class hero was the first song and as I listened to the words it was to me about education and family rearing in America literally and lyrically in many cases. I also found the book Qualities of an effective teacher by James Stronge.
I had the opportunity to visit the Foxfire property last week for a bit of research that is actually fun for my dissertation. As always it was well wroth the drive to Mountain City Georgia right on the line with North Carolina. The Foxfire property sits on the side of Black Rock Mountain and is composed of eleven vintage cabins and buildings taken apart by hand and rebuilt on the property. Many were donated and some acquired with grant money, but all were hand labored by high school students as part of their class. Each shingle and log were taken apart at there point of origin and painstakingly rebuilt on the Foxfire property.
As I listened to the participants in the session I attended as a quest teacher and attendee it was interesting to see in several new teachers a spark of enthusiasm and creativity so often missing as teachers fall into that mold so many systems want their teachers to adhere too. Foxfire is not a curriculum but an approach to teaching, it is one of student involvement in the learning process that has its roots in the thinking and writing of John Dewey from 1930 in his book Experience and Education.

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

John Dewey believed and wrote about; in education experience is the teacher. Each moment was an active learning moment and each previous prior to walking into the class was a learning moment. So past experiences were crucial in his approach to teaching and understanding children.

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” John Dewey

Dewey also taught and wrote about doing and in that doing learning would occur. In today’s world of memorizing for tests often little is learned as relevance becomes a mote point. For Dewey relevance was what education was about and should be.

“We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos” John Dewey

Many teachers have a difficult time with Dewey’s idea of a democratic class room where students have direct input into the learning process. As I read over John Lennon’s words “they hate you if you are clever and they despise a fool”, I think of teachers who do not want someone in their class who knows more or might have a better idea and they surely in today’s world of accountability want anyone who cannot pass the State End of Course test.
Earlier today I went to my Credit Union to get a few dollars, a very few, and got into a discussion with the two tellers. One of the tellers is in nursing school and the other a parent of a fourth grader and sixth grader. We got talking and the discussion was about the State testing and most recently how could a good teacher administer a test knowing over half would fail the test. Georgia’s department of education recently authorized grade level tests knowing many children would fail. The results were first aimed at teachers for not teaching the right material, secondly the state finally said we knew there was a problem and rejected the tests. Sadly many children failed and in some instances school failure rates on specific tests were as high as eighty percent. Would a good teacher have made a difference?
I went from the bank to get a hair cut and again a conversation with my barber about education; she is an elementary school teacher. She went back to college part time after raising her kids and is a second year teacher. We talked about vocational rehab and adults with special needs and we talked about how a good teacher would never give a test knowing fifty percent would fail.
After wandering about I realized maybe we need some changes in out educational system but how and where and what do you change? We need good teachers and a means to find and keep good teachers. We need curriculum that is meaningful and relevant to the children and to their future as citizens of this country. In many educational articles and the trend of a hidden agenda where schools are simply supplying workers and consumers to keep the military industrial complex in business is written about often. Listening to John Lennon I was seeing all of those teachers I have heard say they hate kids and all of those dictatorial teachers who say sit in this chair with your hands folded and do not talk and I think back to a passage by Mary Aswell Doll.

“It is the purpose of curric¬ulum, I argue, to engage the imagination, such that it is possible to think more metaphorically, less literalistically, about one’s world and one’s presuppositions about that world. When stories are told, one sees ideas differently; when images are heard, one hears differently, more introspectively. But, to engage the imagi¬nation, different teaching strategies need to be employed.” Mary Aswell Doll, Like Letters in running Water

In another passage Doll discusses the classroom alive and fluid and ever changing. Many teachers would be beside themselves seeing a room like that. Then I think to discussion yesterday in the Foxfire Class and how this is what education should be about experiences each moment and each second an experience and a teachable moment to borrow that phrase. A dear friend has graduate degree in Experiential Education, which focuses on outdoor teaching methods through wilderness experiences and natural activities. I get nauseated when I think to some scripted programs used in schools where ever word said is from a script and how will any child become creative in that environment. How will any imagination be promoted and maintained. In a recent class the question was asked how we can measure creativity from a performance standpoint. Today as I was discussing what makes a good teacher with people as I went through the day I asked can we measure empathy or intuition or caring for that matter?
So we have a system that needs “fixin” as the mountain man would say. How can we fix it? Number one is finding and training and keeping good teachers. Develop teachers through performance evaluation and professional training. Provide the potential for success rather than a diagram for failure. As I sit pondering and ranting I actually got thinking more about teaching teachers and how would I weed out people who hated children and those who would never make a good teacher. I got thinking to a recent episode of House a doctor show on TV. He had to find three good doctors to work with him and often arbitrarily would simply tell someone to leave or you’re fired. That may not work in a college class room. But I did get a laugh out of it. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Using Calamity as an opening

Bird Droppings June 13, 2011
Using calamity as an opening

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

I wasn’t sure from where to start today as I have been busy, feeding snakes and animals at the high school, ordering two books for graduate school, spending most of last week at a Foxfire course in the mountains, and taking care of my granddaughter in between. After sitting down and focusing I have had several ideas that I have been pondering and that have been running through my thinking the past few days. As I think back and forward to a possible job change moving is always difficult. We have attachments to people, places, students, and thinking back to moving from one house to another we have attachments to a house.
For me the past few days considering and thinking about my job and possibly moving to another position I have seen in change that often we find new sustenance. I recall back a few years when we last moved into this house it was within hours that our sons had made their new accommodations home. Always we are sorting through the acquired preponderance of material and items that are collected over the years. Matter of fact we still are. I am a notorious pack rat and actually my main negative with even interviewing for this new job was moving out of my current room.
Within each calamity, tragedy, life hurdle and hard coming is light. Dr. James Sutton, Clinical psychologist has done a beautiful forward for my first book of Bird Droppings, The journal of a teacher. It was several years back when we moved that was the first email I opened at our new house. It is funny I am sitting here sorting through my papers working on graduate school and various other undertakings. I was first thinking today’s message would be brief since I have much to do but I wanted to share two songs that have been running through my head for several days.
Country Stars Big and Rich original claim to fame was a song entitled, Save a horse ride a cowboy, not one of my favorites though it helped promote them to national fame and a song on their first album was brought to my attention. The song is simply titled Holy water. I heard this song a now nearly four years ago and was impressed with the harmonies and words. I heard them wrong the first time as we so often do. So Big and Rich’s song and ponder for yourself the lyrics.

“Holy Water”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first time I heard this song tears welled up in my eyes as I was listening to the words of the song. My first reaction was thinking the woman in the song was being washed or cleansed by holy water. I took this CD to school and played it for a class several months back to illicit responses. I asked what is this song about and one of my red necked skate boarders piped up and set me straight. The girl wants to be held like holy water as something special and sacred. Here I am working on a doctorate and a student sets me straight, from the mouths of babes so they say. It got me seriously thinking and how many of us want to be held at some point in our lives like Holy Water.
A week or two back for lunch my oldest son and I were eating at a barbeque place and on the TV a Martina McBride music video was playing. It was an older one from a few years back. As I watched the video entitled, God’s Will, again I was in tears. A powerful image as I thought back to what took me into teaching exceptional children so many years ago. So I am using some more song lyrics and these are for all special education teachers a good one to save a copy of and please try and watch the video. So lyrics number two by Martina McBride.

God’s Will

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

My son leaned over and asked, dad are you crying again, as I watched a powerful music video and song especially for some of us who are where we are to be. A calamity you might say got me into working with exceptional children and adults probably a few calamities to think of it. Nearly fifty years ago my brother John was born and my mother was in labor nearly two days. John was born with cerebral palsy. At the age of two he contracted encephalitis and suffered more brain injury. John passed away just a few years ago. John was always with his family, sharing in all gatherings, he never spoke a word, he was never toilet trained and yet he left his marks upon so many of us.
The city of Macon was segregated in its education of exceptional children till John came along. Many the people who have became teachers of exceptional children after babysitting or being around John choosing this field to teach in. My own family ended in Georgia because of John. There are so many stories of John’s impact on people. Somewhere I have a photo of John and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. One of the few photos of my father with John is dad dressed as Santa holding John on his lap.
John is buried on a hill now sharing the plot with my father, out by my mother’s house and not a day goes by that I do not look back and wonder what if this had not happened to our family would we be who we are and where we are now. My mother has answered this idea in a series of poems and thoughts she has put together over the years and published a book. As I look back for each of my brothers and sisters have responded I am sure as have I too these questions in their own fashion. I do hope these two songs will provide enough fodder to make you think and ponder as I say. So for today peace my dear friends and thank you all for the support and emails over the years so until tomorrow please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.