Getting Ready

Bird Droppings July 31, 2011
Getting ready

“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas and public education.” Russell Means

I walked early this morning just before the sunrise taking my dog for a stroll. The moon was gone for now as we walked down our walk streaks of color were intermixed with the clouds overhead in all directions. Georgia is in a drought since oddly we have had rain almost every day for a week or two. A spot here and there, a raindrop here and there I swear some days it seems it rains on the front t yard and not the back. Generally it is thunder storms and pouring rain sporadically around it might be in town and drive a half mile and nothing, sort of a typical Georgia summer. We have been lucky we have had the rain at our house and in the surrounding area easily judged by kudzu growth which has been defoliated recently by county along roads as it inched out to pavement.
As a teacher there is anticipation, as the first official day of school draws near only ten more days away or so. I am sitting here wondering what to teach or say. Do we have the books and paper, pencils and pens, markers and poster board and all of the materials and such we need to go forth and spread the required knowledge? In a world of rapid access and instant everything can we even compete with all that is there as a humble teacher. I started with Russell Means who has been a key figure in Indian Activism for nearly forty five years. Means is an actor having portrayed Chingackook in Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis.

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. “ Kent Nerburn

“Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” Inuit proverb

I read this and wondered, perhaps an ancient version of the Aerosmith quote I use so often “Life is about the journey not the destination. “ In the world of the Inuit the moment is of utmost necessity as life literally hangs in a balance constantly. There is a line of forward looking knowing we need wood to keep the fire going, food to sustain living and yet the moment is so crucial. Last night I had a dream of teaching. Odd a teacher would dream of teaching but it had significance to me as it was about teaching swimming. I started teaching swimming lessons when I was twelve or so. In teaching swimming you have to learn to swim by swimming you cannot learn by reading a book. I find it amazing how we have taken that simple concept of having context to the lesson and forgotten it. John Dewey would be rolling in his grave if he could see how much s\we have bastardized learning.

“Predicting the future is easy. It’s trying to figure out what’s going on now that’s hard.” Fritz R. S. Dressler

“Create your future from your future not your past.” Werner Erhard

Recently I helped a friend write and design a brochure for a program they were doing the front cover had a picture of a foundation and was worded something to the effect of building a strong foundation. For many people life is trying to focus on the future and they literally try and build a foundation based on a goal far off. Often they lose sight of what is here now and immediate. The Inuit knew tomorrow they would need wood for the fire and it would be found but the heat is here now while it burns. So often we need that goal set off in the distance but we need to live now to reach it.

“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Johann Sebastian Bach

Now right this moment is when you proceed to build toward your goal. Bach could not create his masterpieces without time spent hitting the right keys practicing perfecting the music that would become timeless.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Yogi Berra

Many years ago newspapers would make jokes of the yogism’s and pick on the great catcher for the New York Yankees and when he became a Major League Manager they still made fun of his comments. However looking at this quote, there is little difference when speaking about a fire and wood but when you need the fire there sure is borrowing from the Inuit statement I started with.

“Don’t do anything in practice that you wouldn’t do in the game.” George Halas

The great NFL coach was accurate as to life as well if you practice it in your life you will end up actually doing it. I write often about example and trying to set an example. It is in what we live that others see and understand us. I was walking in and noticed posters on a coaches wall alluding to this concept. Actually several of the following were on his wall.

“If I don’t practice the way I should, then I won’t play the way that I know I can.” Ivan Lendl

“We all knew there was just one way to improve our odds for survival: train, train, train. Sometimes, if your training is properly intense it will kill you. More often — much, much more often — it will save your life.”Richard Marcinko

Richard Marchinko was a former US Navy SEAL team commander and founder of the notorious SEAL team Six which is the group that took out Osama Bin Laden. He was an antiterrorist before it was being supported with federal tax dollars. Marcinko now is a security advisor and author writing about his exploits during Viet Nam and after during the tenuous period as terrorism shifted as a means to accomplish a groups ends, his concept of practice and training kept both himself and his men alive.

“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.” Ignacy Paderewski

“An hour of practice is worth five hours of foot-dragging.” Pancho Segura

I received an email months ago and a good friend was going to be singing in a concert and in her email she spoke of the joy and fulfillment of singing and performing and perfecting the music. She was excited in her description of the event yet to take place and the thrill of performing. But is it the hours of dedication the audience sees and the emotions poured in over the hours of learning the music that is heard and not simply the one hour recital at 7:00 Saturday night. Life is about practicing and working at knowing the wood will be there to keep the fire going. I will end today my meanderings with a quote from a great football player in his time perhaps the greatest running back ever in High School and he was from a small town in Georgia, went to The University of Georgia, and then to fame in the USFL. He was actually who the USFL built the league around.

“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” Herschel Walker

Herschel is now several years retired from football and many years from High School where he still is a legend in football here in Georgia and of how he trained as a child pulling tractor tires around the yard and doing thousands upon thousands of sit ups and pushups. It is interesting how so many know what he did yet do not emulate the feat. They know what got him to his greatness yet and they want to be there but avoid the work. Sadly LIFE too is similar. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doing what you love is not work

Bird Droppings July 29, 2011
Doing what you love is not really work

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past eleven years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty three years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started out by hand. I had been talking with our new graphics teacher at the high school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.
One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my fathers book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I Love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.
As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husbands death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as red further.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to is there material even in our high speed world that needs to be with held. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better managed the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Is the moon setting while the sun is rising?

Bird Droppings July 27, 2011

Is the moon setting while the sun is rising?

            I left the house relatively early for my summer normal schedule. But had places to go and things to see just didn’t know what for sure. As I left the house several rabbits and birds either ran or flew across my path as I drove down the dirt road beside our house. A bit further down the road I noticed the nearly crescent smiling moon going down in the sky. No sooner do I notice the moon and the sun is rapidly coming up. How can this be both events all at once? This was even better than an eclipse. As I took a turn on a back country road a mother opossum began peering at the roadway looking about ready to jump in front of a car. I noticed she was carrying some babies on her back and hopefully she avoided traffic although it was early and I did not see any cars. I drove to a farm nearby where I had noticed a rather large patch of Jimson weed, Datura stramonium growing.  About two acres of datura covered most of the cow pasture. This plant is different than the moonflower, I have at the house Datura inoxia. My plants have a nearly foot long pure white trumpet flower and bloom only at night. The field of flowers was blooming most of yesterday and still going strong today and has purple streaks in it.

            Yesterday I stopped by my mother’s house to take her shopping as we talked she mentioned finding pictures of her father and shared several with me. It was a few months back she gave me a book of my father’s realizing I never turn down books, Touch the Earth by T.C. McLuhan. As I read and recalled from earlier in the day yesterday several postings about changes in our world it started to make sense more so than it had is some time.

‎            “All living creatures and all plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow – the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great they would die,  but there are clouds that bring rain, and the action of the sun and earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life.” Okute, Teton Sioux, 1911

            As it turns out the book was given to my father in 1983 by a friend of his who signed the book as well. T. C. McLuhan edited the stories and gathered them from various Native American warriors, chiefs, holy men and orators. The photos are all from Edward S. Curtis famous black and white photographer and chronicler of the Wild West. T. C. McLuhan is a New York filmographer and author with numerous projects to her credit. The Shadow Catcher is a 1975 film based on Edward S. Curtis and his travels from 1893 through 1930 recording on film and tapes the sights and sounds of Native American peoples across the country. His concern was the old ways would soon be gone and his effort has recorded many events and happenings found nowhere else in media. T.C. McLuhan’s father is a bit more well know in literary circles, Marshall McLuhan was named Patron Saint of Wired magazine in 1991.  T. C. McLuhan produced and directed the documentary “The Frontier Gandhi” in 2008. Looking at a book on Native American culture I have found an author and now several films I want to pursue.

“I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said? I wonder if the ground would come alive and what is on it? Though I hear what the ground says. The ground says the Great Spirit place me here.” Young Chief, Cayuse, 1855 at an Indian Council in the Valley of the Walla Wall


            Yesterday I responded to a blog about how rapidly things were changing and how food stuffs with the dying off of honey bees will be impacted. Over the last few years I can honestly say I have seen fewer and fewer honey bees. I Plant numerous flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. But each year there are fewer honey bees. This year I have seen one possibly two and I wander my gardens every day during summer looking for photo opportunities and this year no pictures of honey bees. As I read through this manuscript and thought about the title touch the earth I thought to the writings of many great Native American leaders both on the battle field and spiritually. All reflect the contact with the earth as a key to their existence. Whether it be sitting on the ground instead of on a chair or standing in moccasins close to the ground instead of thick soled boots or shoes the Native American way is to be one with the earth. I tagged a t-shirt photo I took a year or so ago with the world and some feathers and surrounding the image the words, “This we know all things are connected.”

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, and the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”  Thich Nhat Hanh


            Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk residing in France who was ejected from his country of Viet Nam for being against the war in the late sixties and early seventies. “All is a miracle” is such a simple statement yet it is what this life is about if we so choose. The miracle is in our own seeing and believing. What a glorious day while cloudy it will still be a great day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.




Success is the journey not the destination

Bird Droppings July 27, 2011
Success is the journey, not the destination

My mother called me on a Saturday several years back all excited as she was listening to one of my father’s speeches from back in the day. I could hear my father’s booming speaking voice in the back ground from the tape recording. She mentioned a speech on Maximizing Success that he did in 1985 and we had recorded for our customers and clients with what was then our family company The International Loss Control Institute. Dad traveled at that time nearly seventy five percent of the time often staying in a country for weeks lecturing and teaching about his ideas on Loss Control management.
As she read the line I have used as a title today it brought back memories of a yellow sticky note and my sons hand writing affixed to my computer back in 1996 or so when a teenager was killed in a car wreck that was very close to many of us. Written on the note was a line from an Aerosmith song from a 1993 CD, Get a Grip and a song entitled Amazing by Steven Tyler. The line read life’s a journey not a destination.

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow bring… yeah. You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler

Seldom do I ever use the entire line of the lyrics when I quote Steven Tyler trying to get a bit more emphasis from the words. But as I looked today and have been for so many years intrigued by developmentalists the second part, you have to crawl before you learn how to walk caught my attention today. It could be that I had just read excerpts from Rabbi Gans writings and in his thoughts success is a progression towards a goal more than attainment of that goal.
Years ago I was directly and indirectly involved in a program entitled The Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential. Dr. Glenn Doman and Dr. Karl Delacato who were the developers and implementers of this concept. The idea basically was that in working with brain injured children and adults you could retrain portions of the brain undamaged to take over for the damaged portions. A simple concept and when pondering that stories go Einstein only used ten percent of his brain capacity it seems logical. The simple version of their philosophy was you have to creep, and then crawl before you walk. By training and retraining the brain in those patterns you could accomplish great things with brain injured individuals. Perhaps a glimpse at what IAHP does through their philosophy would provide a window.

“Where there is life there is hope. There is no such thing as false hope–it is a contradiction in terms. However, there is false despair. For centuries brain-injured children have been warehoused and forgotten. The Institutes believe that every brain-injured child deserves a fighting chance to be well. It is the mission of The Institutes to give parents the knowledge they need so that their brain-injured children may have that fighting chance. Further, The Institutes proposes that every child born has a right to be intellectually, physically, and socially excellent. The Institutes recognizes that parents are the most important teachers that their children will ever have. When parents know how the brain grows and why it grows the way it does, they are the very best teachers their children will ever have.” The Philosophy Of The Institutes, 2009

A serious issue with many is that there is no scientific proof their ideas work. They tend to refrain from control and excremental groups and if a parent wants help they will try and teach those parents the journey. My younger brother for a number of years was involved and in those years I saw improvement. Myself I was involved in a college program in Texas not only in Human Development classes but in the program myself as a college flunk out and one who more than likely had suffered brain injury at birth from seizures and epilepsy. But I did see success stories every day in their programs. Success many times is measured in minute increments when dealing with a brain injured child. Raising their head unassisted or feeding themselves can be a substantial goal if they had never done that before.

“Success is the journey not the destination.” Frank E. Bird Jr., 1985 Maximizing Success

I found it interesting my mother as we talked had googled the quote from my father and much as I did this morning found many hits but no specific person to attribute the quote to. However as I read I came upon a passage and article reprinted from a book.

“When you travel, you no doubt have a destination in mind. Reaching that destination is the end of a long process. First comes the journey, then the destination. It is the same with any goal; first you make the preliminary steps, then you reach the goal. All the steps in between are part of a long process called “success.” So whenever you set a goal and fall short of reaching it, or you miss the deadline to complete it, you can still be proud of your accomplishments, because as long as you are making progress, you are traveling on the road of success. You are not a failure if you miss a goal, but you are a failure if you stop trying, because once that happens you have brought the journey to a close.” Rabbi Moshe Gans, Success, 1996

As I read this short paragraph many of the ideas I had been pondering for now thirteen years made sense. We do have a goal a destination but our true success is not attainment of that goal but that we are progressing towards that goal. Imagine the applications to education. Immediately I thought of standardized testing with only an end point. Rabbi Gans would say how do you measure the success if you only have a goal and no progress. Essentially we should be measuring the progress not the end results. Where did that student start and where have they gone in their learning. In a learning focused school environment that would be a pre-test and post-test which gives you the journey and a map of where they are going. Sadly we only use the measure of end of course test in so many instances.
I have wandered and pondered many thoughts this morning and still have more reading and writing to do. Success is a journey it is about progressing towards a goal and attaining that goal. Maybe if enough people make a goal of world peace and we head in the right direction we can be successful. Maybe we can progress towards world peace. That would be a nice thought for today. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Far too many see the world with a narrow lens

Bird Droppings July 25, 2011
Far too many see the world with a narrow lens

I have been driving and vacationing for three days which is odd for me to not sit and get in some mediation and writing. I briefly had time to download a few photos with the hectic schedule we kept since last Thursday. So I am going into a deep thinker today with my thoughts and hopefully will be back on track this week as I came home last night to a smiling moon over my head a wonderful sunset driving back and most of all a chance to do a good turn as two young girls coming in the opposite direction in a severe rain storm yesterday lost control and flipped in their car into the guardian cable median barrier. We stopped and my son called for help as I went in the pouring rain to check on the passengers. They were fine the car totaled and within minutes a county sheriff was there. Listening to y son tell the story is quite a tale and I thought I told some stories.
My wife often picks on my old seventies glasses I used to wear, big wide lenses and frames. I went about three pairs of glasses back and got a new prescription and more modern frames and lenses much smaller, lighter and narrower. It has taken some time about three years to get used to them. I was sitting outside this morning and perhaps it was the darkness. My field of vision is such I was seeing the entire frame around the lens in my glasses. It is hard to explain. My old glasses with the big wide lens I did not see the edges of the frame and lens as I am now. In these smaller narrower frames I can see the edges and am forced to view through a much narrower field. Many times I feel as if some teachers see this way in their classroom in regards to students. Walking in the doors of any school you will find some teachers wearing very narrow glasses in terms of their attitude about education.

“How to teach, is to create possibilities for the construction and production of knowledge rather than be engaged simply in a game of transferring knowledge.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

It becomes difficult as state and federal mandates require teachers to teach to specific tests, be it subject matter, and end of course tests and or graduation tests. So often teachers narrow their view so as to keep a job as schools and systems look at success rate of teachers based on test scores.

“The teacher who does not respect the students curiosity in its diverse aesthetic, linguistic, and syntactical expression; who uses irony to put down legitimate questioning (recognizing that freedom is not absolute, that it requires of its nature certain limits); who is respectfully present in the educational experience of the student, transgresses fundamental ethical principles of the human condition.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

So often many teachers limit the classroom to their own view or to the view of the text, local curriculum, and the almighty teachers manual. A classroom should be about opening doors and windows not closing them.
I got into a discussion while working at a photo kiosk at a local retail store. I was using up my free digital prints coupons and got into a discussion with a young mother. She was not sending her daughter when she was old enough to public school because she did not want her exposed to all that went on. I explained my kids went to public school and immediately she responded and what kind of jobs were they able to get when they got out, she was assuming no kids went to college from our high school. She was surprised when I told her one had graduated from Georgia Tech and was now a chemical engineer, one graduated from Piedmont College and now was in graduate school with the intention of going into the teaching field in biology, and one will be a senior at Piedmont College in the Nursing Program.
She responded she did not realize very many went on to college from our local high school. I proudly informed her about seventy five percent of graduates went on to higher education. She proceeded to tell me she wanted her daughter to go to a “Christian School” and learn the right things. I mentioned how restricting and limiting that was, she offered she would take her to soup kitchens to volunteer and to expose her to the other side of life. I thought back to my illustration that I use quite often of looking at life through a toilet tissue tube. I once did a poster of looking at a magnificent plant through a toilet tissue tube putting the tube up to my camera lens. All you could see was the roots. It was a great picture of roots but the glorious blooms were missed in the wider view.

“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who male little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

I recall a seasoned teacher who was searching diligently for the instruction manual and transparencies provided with a course materials for a class in world history. She was irate stating that she could not teach without it. It was only a few minutes before she was spouting off about having taught college and high school for forty years and of course world history for most of those. I thought to myself how could someone who has been around a class for so long be unable to teach a day or two unaided by props, especially props that are so restricting as textbook materials generally are.
While she had three degrees all were forty years ago and she had done nothing since for her own education. I recall a statement by Henry David Thoreau. He left teaching to be a learner so that he could be a more effective teacher. Every day I set foot in a class as a learner I become a better teacher. I am increasing my own view of the world, getting a bigger lens so to say versus the mother who wants to restrict her daughters to a view to looking through a toilet tissue tube.

“The more critically one exercises one’s capacity for learning, the greater is ones capacity for constructing and developing what I call ‘epistemological curiosity,’ without which it is not possible to obtain a complete grasp of the subject of our knowledge.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

The more we can learn and be exposed to real learning the more we can acquire knowledge. I like the wide view seeing so much more. I wonder why parents want to limit their children’s view of the world and or teachers narrow the view down through their selection and delivering of material. There is so much out there to see and hear and experience. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings July 21, 2011
An eclectic morning

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

It has been a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek actually it may have been one of the movies. Mr. Spock has interfered with Star Fleets objectives in relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that life times are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice they became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, and all varying other forms of art work. For them it was about always improving since time was not a factor. As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier this morning this movie popped in my mind.

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind, the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from there sun seemed to be the key to longevity I was reflecting back on several incidents at school last semester. My assistant principal came in with thirty minutes left in the day before a holiday to do an observation or so he said sticking his head in the door. On that day I had two extra students who had been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes sort of a holding pattern for a day or two. I was in the middle of trying to alleviate a year book emergency and rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted her daughters angel scene from a Christmas play I just took for drama dept. and several extra students were assisting in helping down load hard drives from refurbished computers so all in all ten things happening in last thirty minutes of last day before holiday.
I never mind observations and probably have had more in eleven years than most have in a life time but my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But as we think what we portray in our minds as I shifted from disaster to success and within seconds I was plotting a new reprisal. As I am here sitting pondering how we see things in life.

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Batchelor, Meditation For Life

As I drove into the school this morning coming around a turn an object was in the other lane to the side of me. It was a box turtle and I stopped and began to back up to get the turtle to the other side. Flashing through my mind was a similar incident the other day in the same spot of road where I stopped to remove a six foot black rat snake before it could get hit. I stopped looking both directions for cars and even had flashers on and door open. A car was coming the other direction and never slowed down, aimed at snake hitting it before I could clear my door. I grabbed my snake stick which I always carry and moved the injured snake into the bushes. So here I was again trying to save an animal and again a car does not slow down and right at the poor turtle. As the car tire hit the turtle it changed to a pine cone and skipped across the road.
Wandering back to the movie Mr. Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet and in effect society in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. A good friend posted something about profit and capitalism this morning. I responded that the website for ethical capitalism is seldom visited. Star fleet was willing to destroy a people for profit. In the article my friend mentioned it was a major bank was willing to destroy people’s lives eventually in bad mortgage deals for short term profit. Is it human nature since that is what many would say?
I observe my students literally constantly making mental notes on behavior and going back to the day before holiday with the two extra students. One of the students I have had for a period every day the other I did not know. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class, acting out, attention seeking whatever the cause. I have been a fan of, Law and Order, a police show on TV. Last night in an old rerun a young boy who had been abused was talking with prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life, the very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. The boy was concerned he was “sick” because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show this young man tried to kill himself.

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” The Dalai Lama

Perhaps I am trying to cram too many thoughts into one sitting. It was a busy day yesterday and will be today preparing for a trip to Myrtle Beach and a reptile show. We all need to be looking at our lives. Are we trying to over simplify? Are we being honest with ourselves? Do we use the word love as merely an attachment? Can we be more than we are in our given time? Many issues as we head into the coming days. I need to take my wives car to the service station and for tomorrow just a reminder from Will Rodgers for our politicians.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

Please as we head to holidays keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds.

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings July 19, 2011
Hearing an owl

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” W. Beran Wolfe

Within this life we want to feel as if we are pursuing happiness this is perhaps an inner sort of thing within humankind. This aspect of who we are some would say is illusionary or it is the peer pressure. It is only the group psyche coming into play for happiness is an individual entity it is something from within not a transitory effort to have or to be like everyone else.
While reading emails and looking through electronic mailings and postings I happened to read one about the ideal guy would wear specific clothiers or have specific hair color or eyes or build sadly no where it seems do we look deeper. We seem to want the trappings and it is this outward appearance that brings happiness supposedly to far too many. We want this ideal to be who we want to be who we want to be around and advertising shows us this daily in all forms of media.
As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night I had awaken from a very vivid dream and gathered myself and let my dog out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and my dog rubbing against my leg dripping wet from the early morning dew on the grass and plants. It was not raining and had not for a day a two but the dew was exceedingly heavy this morning. The crickets and tree frogs chorus was still chirping away though the darkness although the booming of the bullfrogs on a nearby pond was silent. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt for frogs legs. My oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night while I had heard them as well in our years here this was my first experience hearing them so close as I went out. The dueling owls went back and forth for several minutes in the stillness.
In my imagination so many myths and legends of owls for some great magic in owls for many others evil and death. But as I listened to the two back and forth mimicking calls I thought perhaps it is about territory or perhaps a pair hunting. There was not a fear but a sense of grandeur as the sounds soon dissipated I wondered why tonight and I pondered after reading this simple quote that I started with by W. Beran Wolfe and then searching further as I tend to do.

“One important source of unhappiness is the habit of putting off living to some fictional future date. Men and women are constantly making themselves unhappy because in deferring their lives to the future they lose sight of the present and its golden opportunities for rich living.” W. Beran Wolfe

Perhaps the owls were a reminder of things needing to be done or of specifically for me to stopping the procrastinating. There is joy in life for each of us now it is not a distant event to be reached when the right clothes, job or things are finished done or bought. Real happiness or I should say true happiness is now it is in the contentment of knowing you have succeeded and are where you need to be right this minute, this second. It is knowing that all you have done has been to get you here. Wisdom is about accepting what and where you have been and learning from this. Happiness and I mean true happiness is being content, it is about being alive. As I am sitting here writing as the sun is getting higher in the sky and moon faded for the day I have renewed my effort to thwart my procrastinating efforts by seizing the moment and getting things done. I have writing to do, bulbs to dig, weeds to pull, grass to mow and book to read. Yet some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking and pondering content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s Herb garden:

Herb encrusted chicken breasts – I have made this several times over the summer and it is always one of those meals with no leftovers. I have also used a boneless pork loin and basically the same method s adjusting seasoning for size of loin. It is wonderful either way chicken or pork.


• ½ cup dry bread crumbs
• 1 tablespoon sage fresh chopped
• 2 tablespoons of basil fresh chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
• 1 tablespoon of oregano fresh chopped
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
• ½
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or pork loin)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and or I like to grill with this recipe and in my Green Egg set temperature at 350 degrees
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, sage, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
Dredge the chicken breasts through the beaten egg, then through the mixed herbs (usually I will use a paper plate for my chopped fresh herb mix), until the chicken breasts are well coated.
Place in the oven or on grill and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.

How do we measure a man or woman?

Bird Droppings July 19, 2011
How do we measure a man or woman?

So many times in life over the years I have seen and heard others talk of others both good and bad. In a high school rumors run rampant literally all the time. Gossip is a way of communicating for teenagers I believe. Over a summer a few years back I attended several funerals of family and friends. In two of the funerals the lives of the folks were what impacted all those in attendance and yes people were grieving and upset yet the influence and discussion of that person is what surmounted the grief. It was easy to measure those people through their lives.
I attended a teenager’s funeral and it was of a different nature more about religion and salvation than the child who was taken at such a young age. It has bothered me as I knew this young person. Back nearly four years ago during school days on a daily basis if she was in school she would stop by my room to talk. I have participated in several websites and blogs in memorial that have helped ease that void that was left after the funeral for so many and still is being used today. People were addressing the life and measure of this young person. As I read the comments left and notes added to the facebook and myspace sites I can see a wonderful person emerge, one that will impact others for many years.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson

Several times I have pulled this quote out the past six years. It is a good one, a philosophy of life that truly presents a universal truth in a sense. When social status has no significance and means nothing to someone to a degree they will not let that be an issue in life, nor is it simply treating people as you would like to be treated. Doesn’t that sound familiar; literally every religion has that philosophy running through it. I have always found this to be an interesting concept.

“Ah, when to the heart of man was it ever less than treason to go with the drift of things to yield with a grace to reason and bow and accept at the end of a love or a season.” Robert Frost

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Oh to often we sit back seeing and knowing what is right but not saying anything. We know we need to treat people differently than we do and just cannot seem to take the step or climb up and do it.

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest. It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi

As I sit thinking reading through various writers thinkers I always seem drawn to Gandhi, a simple man who in his simplicity changed a nation. From his thoughts sprang new ideas and a determination with the ideas and philosophies of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. “ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been trying for this summer to come up with something along that line, how can we judge man truly judge man. If we devoid ourselves of senses such as sight, hearing, and smell can we judge a man purely on character?

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. – When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” Helen Keller

I have always felt strongly that of all the famous people I have read about perhaps today’s youth need to read more about this remarkable woman. She stood out among people and was recognized as a great individual beyond the fact she had overcome so many obstacles. She spoke in front of the powers of the world in her time yet never saw them or heard them. For those of you who do not know Helen Keller at a very young age due to an illness lost her sight and hearing. Later on down the line a book and then several movies addressed her life in “The Miracle Worker”.
Essentially the story goes how a teacher would not give in to a child with no sight or hearing who had basically become a spoiled brat. With her teachers help a great mind was opened to the world and, “we can never know what miracle is wrought in our life, (or more importantly) or in the life of another.” Take a moment this morning and review where you are in time, in life and step forward boldly offer a hand up if needed and do not be afraid to ask for that hand if you need it. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s Herb garden:

Simple Sensation
from Susanne Elliot LaCranda Ca.

Couple handfuls of lavender or rose petals (half this amount if dried)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
½ – ¾ cup honey or maple syrup

5 cups boiling water over herbs in a pan and cover – steep 10-15 minutes
Strain and add lemon juice and sweetner

I wonder if you can get moon burn trying to get pictures of moonflowers?

Bird Droppings July 17, 2011
I wonder if you can get moon burn
trying to get pictures of moonflowers

I was up early in the morning taking the dog out and remembered I had several blossoms opening on my datura plants, jimson weed or moonflower. This flower only opens for one night and only at night. I get many photos early in the morning if you can get there before the heat of the day wilts the blossoms. When I went out I was thinking it will not be long if the clouds let me go out and watch as the moon comes up. Earlier today I was sitting out behind the trees and a near full moon was hiding this morning behind patchy clouds. After a night of working on my research paper and falling asleep the back yard was glowing from the hidden light. I know from my science classes that it is simply reflection from the sun, but it is hard to talk of the moon without attributing to it its own glow. Sort of like a student and a good teacher one could say. We may never see the teacher only the reflection of the knowledge and wisdom passed on. I find myself wandering lonely in a pedagogical desert at times.

“Now nearly all learning space is occupied by an elaborate testing apparatus that measures the student’s progress in ingesting externally imposed curriculae and more insidiously provides a sorting device to reproduce the inequalities inherent in the capitalistic market system. …In turn the teacher becomes the instrument of approved intellectual and moral culture, charged with the task of expunging destructive impulses and fueling the empty mental tank. The student must be permitted no autonomy lest the evil spirits that lurk in everyday life regain lost ground.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom, Ethics, Democracy and civic courage

Many great thinkers and writers attest to democracy and education going hand in hand. John Dewey wrote extensively about this as does Freire. John F. Kennedy I borrowed from in recent days, Thomas Jefferson and so many more believed democracy and education are intertwined. But as I read Freire’s statement above I wonder if what we call democracy is truly that. How can a society manipulating its students into a market place albeit into consumers truly be a democracy?
Many historical writers of education address the incorporation of higher education. I went to get a water bottle yesterday from a vending machine and only certain ones were on and able to be purchased. So I could only get specific drinks and specific brands. In our school it happens to be all coca-cola products. I thought it interesting as we have the Cola wars even in schools. It has struck education and today as I walked through the gym I glanced at our score board and the huge coke logo. It was free I have heard. We have a regular coke man who many kids know by name.
Each week we buy over ten thousand dollars in Coke products. Essentially everyday he provides sustenance for nearly 2000 students and faculty just in this building. It is interesting as you add and subtract figures, two drinks and one snack per day per student and teacher equates to over one million dollars in sales per school year and three high schools in our county and over a hundred counties in Georgia. No wonder corporations want input in education.
I was noticing how what seemingly doesn’t happen and is not supposed to happen does, students tend to group by ability. Several times I have noticed lower functioning students and students who have failed a class particularly math and science will be grouped together and often with a younger less experienced teacher in the classroom. This happens all over not just in our school. Obviously Honors and advanced placement classes are taught by better teachers with experience and in most cases they have specific certification, “gifted” qualifications. A simple observation, the best teachers are often in the best classes with the best teachers and or in classes of special education special needs students.
I have been watching again the promos for a film coming on cable again, The Ron Clark Story. Ron Clark was the 2000 Disney Teacher of the year has been featured on Oprah and interviewed by Katie Couric. In his teaching providing context to content is a major theme in his teaching and now with the advent of The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta he is taking his philosophy to a new standard.

“Before going to the bowling alley, Mr. Clark visited himself, measured the lanes and used the dimensions on worksheets. He also used the bowling pins to teach fractions, and took the prices from the snack shop and used them in math class. On every trip, whether it is up the street or across the globe, the Ron Clark Academy will make every moment a learning opportunity because as Mr. Clark has learned children must have a connection to something before they will appreciate it. After preparing our students so thoroughly for each trip, they will truly get the most out of the experience and internalize all they have learned.” The Ron Clark Academy, Curriculum,

Here is a teacher in our time stepping up and using ideas from 1915. John Dewey proposed such things many years ago.

“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.” John Dewey

However it requires a teacher to go to the bowling alley and go to a store and go to and do work and additionally out of the school stuff and more work in school and doing word walls and doing stuff and …..on and on. Much more than getting the teachers manual off the shelf and using the packaged transparencies and materials provided by McGraw Hill or whatever publisher is approved by state and federal guidelines and conveniently has aligned their text with your state curriculum and or had advisors on your state committee for curriculum. It is no coincidence textbooks are expensive and a big business, every school buys textbooks. College texts are notorious about price but what if priced at fifty dollars each and many especially in elementary reading classes are disposable it amounts to millions of dollars a year in each school district. Last year over $188,000,000.00 was spent in California to purchase books in order to keep up with curriculum standards. So if you multiply by fifty states and many more countries and we are talking billions of dollars at stake.

“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

Friere and so many others are fearful of education being too incorporated and losing the freedom of thought which in reality is when we lose according to Dewey our democracy. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

A lone lightening bug doesn’t leave an easy trail to follow

Bird Droppings July 16, 2011
A lone lightening bug doesn’t leave an easy trail to follow

I was reading last night and a blog reminded me of my own thinking so many years ago. I recall sitting in an apartment alone waiting for the morning so I could go to work, alone in the dark. I had no family near by, really no friends near by as all had moved on were married or were in school away at the time and many were in Viet Nam as soldiers drafted, as there was a draft at the time. I went out yesterday and as I walked back to the porch a lone lightening bug was walking up a stem of Bermuda grass which has gotten pretty tall I need to mow. I have tried for several years but it seems our sulcata tortoise doesn’t like Bermuda grass and I can pull grass for her from patches of our yard where fescue, Johnson grass and weeds abound because I do not mow there regularly. When we can put tortoises on out in the yard they are kind of a cool lawn mower, all hundred pounds or so. I watched this lonely bug climbing and then fly off into the forest.
I wandered back in my own life to days alone sitting on a hill in an apartment with no one within a hundred yards. For nearly a year that spot in Pennsylvania became the center of the universe while I was awake, wondering. I was very selfish as look back and at the time it was hard to focus beyond that point. I have been trying to understand the self motivating behavior and self centeredness of teenagers lately. As I look back to that time my job was getting teenagers to volunteer and work with disabled children and we had several hundred involved and active. However while they were involved in volunteering they were very sincere and dedicated yet away from that and the self centeredness would came back. I was reading a blog where a word caught my attention sheepeople. We are often like sheep, the herding instinct in tow following the crowd. Occasionally a loner pops up and strays.
I hope my lone lightening bug finds whatever it is he or she is looking for as it flitted off. For many years I have observed students who go over board in class, some would say hyper active and it is a good catch word and they drive teachers crazy. Interesting thing is they get attention. As I came in one day one student was sitting quietly by himself and not doing anything. I watched for five minutes or so, no weird noises or behaviors and then his friends filtered in, still no weirdness. I am always impressed when you observe him in his classes and depending on the situation his behaviors, language, and attitude change. Is this choice behavior or is this behavior of a student who is really alone and seeking attention of an adult even though negatively.
I wonder if much like the lightening bug flashing was it to get my attention no one else was around and had I been a few minutes either way would not have seen it. Could it be a coincidence? We live in this world so full of indifference and so stressing for so many, it is no wonder at times people find them selves alone be that self imposed or not. Here is a student who self imposes isolation at times through behaviors inappropriate for the moment and yet draws himself back into the group through the interactions with students and teachers without engaging in effect. Has the behavior been effectively reinforced over the years be it positive or negatively. Have certain antecedents effectively elicited behaviors or is it literally without thinking and choice involved. I wonder and I wonder where the lightening bug flew too.
I walked out to one of my datura plants first thing to get a photo with dew drops on the flower as they only bloom at night. Each morning lately the moon is higher in the sky and getting smaller. Yesterday as I walked out around ten o’clock in the evening the moon was nearly over the house fading away into the cloud cover we have had for two days and rain thankfully. I have a large note beside me as a reminder to look up some files on a student I had for four years hopefully I will not forget today, old age and my memory is going. Maybe today politicians will have a spark of humanity and decide to have a bipartisan debt meeting and succeed in this financial mess we are living with. . Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.