Staring into a starry sky listening to an owl call:

Bird Droppings August 21, 2011
Staring into a starry sky listening to an owl call:

When I went out on my morning excursion this morning or I should say several times as I think my dog and granddaughter plotted against me. I heard my granddaughter and went into check on her and then the dog wanted out so my granddaughter and dog went for a walk in the wee hours of the day you could hear owls were calling off in the distance. The area of the county we live in is relatively flat and it is easy to hear surrounding calls from far off. Much of the land is still in timber although there are a few houses. Several hundred acres behind us is dormant right now since wheat harvest in spring and is standing four feet tall in brush. My mornings are always a treat contrary to the verbal threats on the dog’s life as I get awakened.
I received an email from a friend that actually help steer me along the pathway many years ago. She has in her midlife crisis changed directions and found new answers herself as well. Something we sometimes do not get the chance to do is thank people who have actually showed us or taught us in life. Often it is an expected situation such as at school with a teacher we expect to be taught; however true teaching is symbiotic it is not simply a one way street. There is thanks in both directions from student to teacher and vice a versa. So this morning thank you to all the students and teachers I have had.

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

So often I watch teachers believe they have learned all there is to learn; a great vocabulary and witty way and they are the world’s gift to students. But teaching is about learning and learning needs to never cease.

“There is no human reason why a child should not admire and emulate his teacher’s ability to do sums, rather than the village bum’s ability to whittle sticks and smoke cigarettes. The reason why the child does not is plain enough — the bum has put himself on equality with him and the teacher has not.” Floyd Dell

A simple thought yet so often true. Why do students not learn or reject a teacher? A simple thought equality, students even small children know when they are being taught down too and not taught too or with.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Somehow always an Emerson quote floating around and I have found Emerson had a world view that would be impressive to many in today’s world. But this thought is truly what teaching or education is about, taking a concept that some do not know and making that understandable to others. Finding a way to convey knowledge and develop thoughts. I have heard the term strategies thrown around from many educators but there is more to it than a packaged strategy or curriculum.

“The teacher is one who makes two ideas grow where only one grew before.” Elbert Hubbard

Several of my recent emails concerned APATHY and in emails with several friends we discussed APATHY as well. One word kept creeping into the dialogue relevance making what is taught relevant. APATHY often is from lessons that have nothing to do with the student absolutely no relevance. I use the word context quite often as well when discussing relavance. Hubbard offers that teachers are growing ideas, which is so true. John Dewey in his thinking addresses drawing from experience and using experience in education and in learning.

“To teach is to learn twice.” Joseph Joubert

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw

As often as I walk into a classroom I find students who want to find answers or look for new an idea that is pursuing knowledge. It becomes so easy to teach when that process occurs. It is providing the atmosphere that will allow that to happen. Often traditional desks in rows and chalk board stifle creativity and something so simple a change as tables versus desks and rolling chairs open new doors.

“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled, but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer

I have used often an illustration from Sydney J. Harris of education should not be as so many surmise a sausage stuffing machine but more like culturing pearls in oysters. Throughout our educational system especially in light of legislation such as NCLB, as an example, the sausage stuffing idea putting in what is needed and filling the space is what many school systems are doing. I often wonder if somewhere there is a school and or school system where culturing is occurring and if there are any teaching openings there.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward

A simple definition for quality in teaching and capability of teachers – Great teachers inspire in their students.

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde

Recently in a meeting about a student a teacher complained that this student never finishes their work. I made a comment that I never had that issue. I produced a 300 word essay and said it was worked on till complete. I was asked how much time did it take and said three days. “well it should have been done in a day” was the response from the angry teacher. Too often teachers are looking at more than one piece of information the complaint was not finishing work which I showed is being done then it changes to time, which I was not worried about. Interesting how the addition of time alters the first complaint. So it becomes are we looking at completing work, staying on task or completing a given assignment in a given time, two different aspects and yet many see as only one.

“Those who trust us educate us.” George Eliot

This works both ways there needs to be trust in the student for the teacher and trust in the teacher for the student or true learning will not occur. Memorizing facts is not learning. Using facts to accomplish a goal and then understanding those facts is learning. Several years ago I recall my middle son raising an issue while a student at Georgia Tech. In his senior design class several students who were straight A students and at Georgia Tech that means have never left their rooms albeit always studying had a difficult time equating their learning to physical design. The book knowledge did not have context for them. These straight A students were floundering in senior design. My son while not a straight A student had great conceptual understanding of information from working in the lab.
I thought back a few years to a former principal who would dress up as a goat herder in his social studies classes when a teacher. He would use a method of teaching many would take offense to, almost a virtual history class. The students would actually live out within the confines of a game, world history. Sometimes it takes dressing up in a goat skin and rattling bells to get a point across. So today a special dedication to all the goat herders (even those who were recently selected principal of the year in Georgia) out there, let’s rattle some bells and shake up a few minds. Keep students on their toes and thinking let us all make APATHY a word never having to be used again. Please my friends let us all keep so many who have been harmed and all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts

I always come back to Emerson

Bird Droppings August 20, 2011
I always come back to Emerson

Last night I was extremely tired after the first week of school and our first official football game actually a cross-town scrimmage but I was just too tired to make it. While just a scrimmage I was hoping to make it I taught one block a day over there last year one semester and made a bunch of friends. I left school just exhausted and started playing with my granddaughter and went to watch a movie with my youngest son. I had noticed on one of my excursions outside I had numerous blossoms on a datura plant and while at the movie my wife texted a photo. When we got home it was dark save for star light which was in patches among the clouds and over cast as it had rained while we were gone. I had gone from dawn to dusk and beyond yesterday and somehow felt like I really did not get much done. I had been at school all day ran some errands moved some plants watered and reestablished a few plants. I clipped a few dead pitcher plants from our bog garden. We have a pitcher plant or plants I should say and it is interesting to show novices the vast amount of insects they actually trap.
On a different topic it has been quite a few years since I began gathering Emerson quotes and writings. As I looked back on a day I felt I did not get much done I started adding up after reading this quote. Actually I had talked to a graphic arts class during my planning period, started working on sports posters, taught my classes, done a good deal of paper work, went to the bank, post office and gas station, loaded my camera and such and went to a football game all the while talking to maybe a thousand people along the way.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a difficult proposition many times to simply put aside today at that point where you stop. But far too often we get encumbered with the now and focus to a point where we carry that focus over to the morrow and often stress and anxiety follow. This is sort of what I was doing and not realizing what all I had really gotten done.

“There is a tendency for things to right themselves.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man, who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Somewhere along the line a professor called me an existentialist so many years ago and it took a moment and as I thought, ponder as I do, perhaps I was to some extent. I have read more Emerson the past few years than probably in my life time finding bits and pieces that truly seem to make sense. So often in life as Emerson states it will work out, but as he also says simply trying will not do it, having principles is the key. I am finding many ties with Emerson and Thoreau and their love of nature and life to Native American thought.

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

“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth steps in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have used this line from Emerson so many times before, so often we initiate yet do not continue after that first step. The great one in life is that person who takes the second and third step as they proceed in life.

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find this quote interesting as the fake beard falls away. So often I have met people whose facade is imitation, unreal, purely make believe and even fake. They strive so hard to be something they are not; high school students call them affectionately POSERS. They go through life posing as someone else. Thinking back a few months as I am walking around the halls, kids will point to someone and say they are a poser. It is all about trying to fit in a different group or in a different style. As I watch and observe so many times the school bully is that, simply to hide other flaws. It could be poor reading skills and or poor self esteem. As I sit here this morning this last statement is most significant, it is most difficult so often to make that initial decision. Yet as time will be, once the decision is made things seem to happen and the pressure is gone and events fall in place. Today is a new day and with that please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Searching for ideals

Bird Droppings August 19, 2011
Searching for ideals

So often in life we are faced with choices which determine how we can face the day and or how we interact with the events surrounding us. On the news a phone cam videoed a man being shot by police. The video was grainy and what was explained to be a gun was a weapon. Officers interviewed on camera alleged they were aware the man was mentally disabled but they used all caution at their discretion. I am not sure what that meant and they did shoot the man and kill him. In schools we can be trained to subdue the physical developments of disturbed children without killing them. Interesting it seems officers with weapons seem to forget to use non-killing means first. But who can say that at a moment when seemingly a possibility of death an assailant with a supposed gun is coming at you what we would do.

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

This morning the moon has dwindled away and is gone. The clear sky is still a sight to see and experience early in the morning as I walked out taking our oldest dog out. One aspect of my own personality that has helped me in life has been trusting people. I will trust till literally until forced not to. I faced a dilemma several years ago and most every year it seems with students who I work with that are trying to get kicked out of school. Various discipline issues are tried, talking back to teachers, leaving classes, leaving the building, skipping classes and one of my favorites as I think of a particular students smoking on campus. I still liked him and still will try to help him even though he was deliberately forcing the issue. Perhaps getting caught in the same bathroom at the same time four times is a bit much however and by the same administrator.

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, and I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!” Anne Frank

It has been a number of years since I first saw the movie about Anne Frank and read her book. When I get frustrated with simple things of life I recall such individuals as this marvelous teenager who courageously kept her idealism midst the tumult of Nazi Germany. I have friends who in various discussions are comparing the radical Muslim ideology of today to Nazi Germany. One point is Germany was constantly albeit primarily focused on warfare still researching and improving technology. Most of the radical segments of Islam want to revert to a more primitive state.

“Ideals are like the stars: we never reach them, but like the mariners of the sea, we chart our course by them.” Carl Schurz

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.” Oscar Wilde

Is it because we want Utopia or is it a fear of that same utopia that drives us away from it. As I thought it dawned on me that establishing ideals requires a considerable amount of trust, a belief in something that is often called faith in many circles. Over the years I have read many aspects and variations of what faith is and how it is developed.

“Stage 6 is exceedingly rare. The persons best described by it have generated faith compositions in which their felt sense of an ultimate environment is inclusive of all being. They have become incarnators and actualizers of the spirit of an inclusive and fulfilled human community. They are “contagious” in the sense that they create zones of liberation from the social, political, economic and ideological shackles we place and endure on human futurity.” Dr. James Fowler, The Stages of Faith

Several years ago I became interested in the concept of how faith develops and its parallel word trust interestingly enough they within the definitions of each other. Reading this section of Fowler’s stage six in the last line, when we trust or have faith to that ultimate level we are “contagious” and the parameters of society and politics are insignificant. Fowler goes on to say in all of history very few have ever reached that stage most remain fixated on the lower levels of the humanity faith scale.

“Today we see symptoms of our blindness to limits in cancer and AIDS, which are still beyond our reach. We also see them in modern terrorism, in which there is no human compassion to set limits on killing. The anonymity in modern warfare-smart bombs and high-flying war machines-is another example of hubris and the absence of humane limits.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

I am wandering a bit but so much of we are revolves around the concept and ability of trust building and setting ideals to grow from. “No limits to human killing” this is a parameter of world terrorism and sometimes I wonder if we and our own government do not adhere to a similar policy as we seem to have a difficulty with peace. I wonder what Anne Frank would think of our crazy world now in our government head quarters we will argue or debate depending on from which perception and view you take and one side will lose and one will win. It has been an interesting week with my broad band service up and down due to the thunder storms and some new construction. I would think cutting an inch thick fiber optic cable would cause some concern. As I ask every day and do again today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

Looking for the passion

Bird Droppings August 18, 2011
Looking for the passion
“All games have an important and probably decisive influence on the destinies of the players under ordinary social conditions; but some offer more opportunities than others for life long careers and are more likely to involve innocent bystanders.” Dr. Eric Berne, The games people play
In a recent note I had written down a thought. Why are you passionate about your job? I started thinking and yes perhaps as I think I obsess too much. I may ponder as I call it over trivial thoughts for some meaningless dribble, little shadows that many simple never see. Can you be passionate about something any other way? Yesterday I filled in a form for a young man who was very obsessive in so much of his life, obsessive to a point of distraction from reality many times.
If you mention Jeff Gordon’s number and his eyes would light up and statistics would flow about this NASCAR race or that and this sponsor or that and soon you would wish you never mentioned Jeff Gordon. It is funny since you used that to get from another subject that he had been obsessed on. Technically it is called Obsessive compulsive Disorder or OCD. Could I see passion in that obsession or is there obsession in passion.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, recorded by Dr. Henry Smith, 1854

So often in life we do or say things that seemingly are independent thoughts sort of random utterances that mean only a bit to us as we pass in that moment. Yet the ripples the effects and flow of direction from that utterance can carry and evolve far beyond that moment. As in a game where one person manipulates a piece and often the other parties involved are unaware of strategy and plan and soon there is nothing left. I think back to that obsession and what may be said in meaningless thought pursuing a thought an idea that is driven from some physiological mechanism we do not control. Could it be that passion is mistaken for that an errant whisper and dream an obsession on a simple concept that is mistaken as true passion.

“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.” John Wesley

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let men tremble to win the hand of woman, unless they win along with it the utmost passion of her heart! Else it may be their miserable fortune, when some mightier touch than their own may have awakened all her sensibilities, to be reproached even for the calm content, the marble image of happiness, which they will have imposed upon her as the warm reality.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was perhaps John Wesley’s obsession that leads to his passion; the founder of the United Methodist Church, Wesley was an Anglican Priest who was methodical in his thinking. He often would have communion 30 times in a single day. He was often on his knees in prayer for hours on end or composing hymns and music as did his brother Charles. The web of life has so many strands all woven in and about. Was John Wesley a man obsessed or was he passionate about his calling. Hawthorne sees a different picture of man. He sees one of seemingly change, of personality differences and varying capabilities. Emerson’s thinks as I do that there is a close kinship between obsession and passion, a powerful spring but difficult to regulate.

“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Amiel, Journal, 17 December 1856

“Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless.” Honoré de Balzac

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.” Aldous Huxley

I look at how we see passion and conversely obsession and wonder if often the two are not synonymous sharing attributes of each other. Perhaps it is offering similarities within differences. It is easier to say you are passionate about your job than obsessed with it. It is far easier to except a passionate person than an obsessive one. Religion needed obsession to succeed as I look at Wesley and so many of the Saints yet passion for their beliefs is a more powerful and believable offering. In art I see Vincent Van Gogh who without his obsession would have never painted with the feverish pitch and effort that he did and his paintings today would not be selling for tens of millions of dollars, when in his life time they barely kept him alive. We see passion now when the poor girl he sent an ear to, saw obsession. Huxley seems to so easily change the tune with the atmosphere, we domesticate the passions. We turn that obsession into useful and meaningful work. Often in the game as I started passion is turned not against the passionate but for the person holding the hand.

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.” Elbert Hubbard

I have known many who even take medication for OCD and you can tell when and how much they took based on their interactions. I wonder how we deal with passion do we manipulate and propagate as needed. Or do we simply medicate when not needed and push under the rug when the deed is completed and game won. It is such a difficult chore to ponder on passion. Do we have it or is it simply obsession? Please keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind.

It is not about asking for but giving thanks

Bird Droppings August 17, 2011
It is not asking for but giving thanks

As I do so often searching the book shelves at my local Barnes and Nobles or Borders, soon to be no more. I found a few books over the past weekend. Two of the books are by J. T. And William Garrett and focus on Cherokee medicine and spirituality and the other is a book I have found most interesting and will be borrowing from in the classroom and in my writing over the next days. The book’s title is, Activating the Desire to learn by Bob Sutto who uses Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory, to open up students to learning. Choice Theory is a totally different approach in our world of antecedent, behavior and consequence as depicted in behaviorist understanding. Perhaps a good lead in to my thinking on this book and idea is one of saying thank you.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

Thanksgiving is a way of life for traditionalists in Indian thought. Prayer to an Indian is about giving thanks for what is received or to be taken for use. Prayer is never asking for something as we materialistic folks seemed to do on a minute by minute basis. It was only a few weeks back that as I was waking up considerably later, still while most folks were still asleep, and I was thinking about gratitude. So often we are not thankful for all that befalls us. When I saw Eckhart’s quote about a month ago my first thought was to use it on Thanksgiving Day. But I really think it goes beyond a single day of giving thanks.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Northrup Christine

Being grateful opens doors and let’s people in. We live in such a protectionist society and reality. We are always trying to protect our own area of influence and self. Many times this is human natures preponderance to greed coming into effect. However gratefulness can lift you up and take you beyond where you are now to another level.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” French Proverb

“It is another’s fault if he is ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.” Seneca

Gratitude requires giving and in giving we are also offering of ourselves as well as building up within ourselves.

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Ethel Percy Andrus

“It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving.” Richard Braustein

Life is about giving, sometimes what you offer to others is simply, the how, and why and where you are placed in life and many times that provides the vehicle for your journey through life and direction or a map for others.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” Flora Edwards

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Kahlil Gibran

So often we think of giving as money or food, but in reality giving of yourself is the hardest and the still the most rewarding. Caring about people and sharing is much harder than simply providing a dollar or a can, the gratitude comes back within and through our hearts.

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.” Lao Tzu

“A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high.” Fiona Macleod

When forester’s timbers a given area, often they will leave several healthy older trees to seed the remaining land. I have been in areas where clear cutting save for a few tree, has occurred and several years later a new forest has begun. But it is so important to plant seeds and to scatter them as to be a friend and to let friendships grow.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” Brian Tracy

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

I remember a candlelight service so many years ago, one person carefully started with a lit candle and handed their light to another’s candle and each in turn went through the room lighting another’s and soon the room was filled with light. We are much like a candle light service if we share our light and love, and pass it on to the person next to you. It is to say thank you when you receive from another and offer always to another. So often life hands us unexpected surprises, gratitude extends and magnifies those times. Please as we get into this coming week ahead keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Finding our piece and or place

Bird Droppings August 16, 2011
Finding our piece and or place

“We are not all called to be great. But we are called to reach out our hands to our brothers and sisters, and to care for the earth in the time we are given” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Many years ago when I lived in Coatesville Pennsylvania and would be walking along the pathway leading from my neighbors home down to ours I came to realize we are all here with purpose. At that time this was just an isolated thought walking as I did every day after school or walking up to my friends house on “the path” as we called it. On one side were fruit trees and a patch of pines planted on an area of an oil pipe line. The other side of “the path” was grown over in sassafras and dogwood so that every spring time my walk would be trimmed in flowers. It was a random thought and one that filled my mind, we all had purpose.
For nearly fifty five years since that moment my journey has been one of understanding in that purpose in my own life and trying to assist as I can others to find their own meaning.

“Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” Leo Buscaglia

“The purpose of man is in action not thought.” Thomas Carlyle

I have talked and written often of the journey as I think of my own personally as it was often traveling that path in Coatesville Pennsylvania walking between fruit trees and dogwood as I would think.
Looking back to Kent Nerburn’s passage our calling as Nerburn states is reaching out and caring for in our time that which surrounds us. For many years as I was growing up I thought purpose was something great, some noble act that I would do or attain.

“Men achieve certain greatness unawares, when working to another aim.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose in life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.” Gerhard Gschwandtner

We often do not know and are unaware of what it is. Too often we search so diligently we miss what is right in front of us.

“Multitudes of people, drifting aimlessly to and fro without a set purpose, deny themselves such fulfillment of their capacities, and the satisfying happiness which attends it. They are not wicked, they are only shallow. They are not mean or vicious; they simply are empty — shake them and they would rattle like gourds. They lack range, depth, and conviction. Without purpose their lives ultimately wander into the morass of dissatisfaction. As we harness our abilities to a steady purpose and undertake the long pull toward its accomplishment, rich compensations reward us. A sense of purpose simplifies life and therefore concentrates our abilities; and concentration adds power.” Kenneth Hildebrand

“For many people purpose is a mote point they choose to simply exist and drift aimlessly wandering about lost. It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” Mary O’Connor

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” Friedrich Nietzche

As I look even those who seek no purpose in life, have purpose unbeknownst to them and it is integral with all others surrounding them. It took many years for me to break away from being the central focus of my own purpose seeking to understanding we all are integral and all are pieces in the puzzle and each facet does and eventually will fit together.

“Why do I not seek some real good one which I could feel, not one which I could display?” Seneca

“Be not simply good; be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

Many years ago I recall on a field trip in a class on Human development while a student in a small college in Plano Texas. We went on a field trip to a state mental hospital. In those days, 1968 as my son says “back in the day”; many disabled children and adults spent their entire lives in residential centers. They were wards of the state. We went through units of children with Down’s syndrome and brain injuries, children and adults that really did not look much different. We then came to a unit that was filled with clear plastic containers much like you see in a nursery in a hospital each container had tubes going to it and IV bottles hung along side.
As we walked through I was 18 at the time observing and looking at people some infant size, all were nearly adult in age who were here but all had significant brain dysfunction and were non-mobile and were turned every few hours to keep from getting bed sores. The tubes of nutrition and fluids kept them alive. What was their purpose?
Years later as I attended seminary and visited again a state hospital this time in Georgia a similar room except this time three young pastors to be were the ones in attendance as they walked through. I went to a meeting shortly thereafter and the focus was on the child in the clear plastic tub. The conversation turned to how they couldn’t do anything for them and they were over whelmed these kids were lost.

“It is the wise person who sees near and far as the same, does not despise the small or value the great” Chuang Tzu

Perhaps the easiest explanation as I see is my brother John who was born with brain injury, he diagnosed with CP, cerebral Palsy. John never attained little in academics, language, and even potty training was not in his realm of learning. John really never accomplished much that is what some would say. But when you pull an individual piece from the puzzle it is simply a piece but connected with its facets and other pieces and it makes a whole.
Many people because of working with John went on into Special Education and the teaching field. One good friend went into prison psychology and is currently a school psychologist in an alternative school. Each person that came into contact with him has moved in one way or another. As I look back on my seminary group and those guys who found nothing around them there were nurses, doctors, and family that were in need the piece the child in the tub touched many people each day and it was the connections that they did not see. All they ever saw was that one tiny piece. Finding purpose is seeing the facets the interconnections and that we are all pieces in a puzzle still coming together. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Just do it! But when?

Bird Droppings August 15, 2011
Just Do It! – But when?

“I am only one, but I am still 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.” Helen Keller

I have always held a great respect for Helen Keller. To have overcome such odds and become the world traveler and speaker that she did is almost unfathomable. Maybe this is why the story of her childhood is entitled “The Miracle Worker”.

“There are two kinds of people: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Indira Gandhi

As I read this morning these two statements stood out. These two great people were tremendously influential in their time. Helen Keller blind and deaf yet addressed world leaders and lectured throughout the world. Indira Gandhi daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the first woman prime minister of a leading world country. To simplify their remarks, “Don’t just sit there do something”. So often people sit and wait many times for someone else to do whatever needs to be done.

“Don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing. Find a good wing and climb up underneath it.” Frank C. Buraro

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin

Each day I see teachers and students hesitate, myself included, “I can get it done tomorrow” or “I can’t do it”. In the end so often what gets done is only adequate and could have been so much better. We hesitate, we procrastinate, and we except partial over a whole, and or we will take a 70% on a paper “its passing”. I see and hear red when I hear that and yet I remember when I too would accept that grade and walk away happy. It was less work and much less studying.

“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” Donald Gardner

“There is nothing so fatal to character as half finished tasks.” David Lloyd George

Everyday it takes effort to try and explain that it only takes a bit more effort a bit more energy for a A over a C. Is it human nature to seek the easy path in life?

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”. Napoleon Hill

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.” George H. Lonmer

I had a student explain why it took so long for him to finish projects. He wanted to be sure it was right. I told him it was because he didn’t work at it. However he assured me it was seeking perfection was his down fall. But is it the data, the key to many choices in life. Yesterday my perfectionist unknowingly was observed for ten minutes. In each half of ten minutes anytime someone mention anything he would get up and walk over to see what it was or come over to me to see what I was doing. So in perfecting his work nearly two thirds of his time was getting out of doing it. I made a comment, “if you put that hard work from the three or four minutes out of ten you actually worked into all ten minutes you would be done in time and have plenty of time to spare”.

“How soon not now, becomes never.” Martin Luther

“Don’t wait for extraordinary circumstance to do good; try to use ordinary situations.” Charles Richter

We wait, we pause, and we hesitate so often in life. I wonder at what point in our evolutionary makeup pausing came in. Perhaps it was a modern contrivance, maybe with remote controls invention. I would think if you paused when a saber toothed tiger was chasing you it would only be once. It had to be when remote controls came around.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Haile Selassie

“During a very busy life I have often been asked, “How did you manage to do it all?” The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.” Richard Tangye

When it is time rather than putting off and often doing only a partial job of knowing when to and when not, but not wasting time either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have back those ten minutes here and there?

“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” Dawson Troutman

“The best labor saving device is doing it tomorrow” Source unknown

Each of us will have excuses for waiting but in the need perhaps we should put aside excuses and get the job done myself included. Today keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Sharpen the machete or bring a shovel

Bird Droppings August 13, 2011
Sharpen the machete or bring a shovel

“When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

Always in the movies with a jungle setting the leader has a machete and hacks away at the growth making the way clear for the group following. Anthony J. D’Angelo is an author of sorts, an author who as a senior at West Chester College in Pennsylvania wrote a paper “Wellness Works” which would became the basis for his ideas. While writing primarily about college life the paper offers bits and pieces of wit to help folks make it through the day. He is also author of “The College Blue Book” and “The Inspiration series”.

“We are creating a new kind of “school” for a new kind of world. After all, the world as we know it is less than 15 years old. For in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and in 1995 the World Wide Web went up. It is a completely new world for us all. With this new world, come new challenges. With these new challenges, come new ways of educating people for the future and it is our every intention to be at the fore front of this educational revolution. The 20th Century was about Content, but the 21st Century is about Context.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

As I read through the website dealing with empowerment many good choice pieces of thought and understanding of human nature.

“Most College Students Get a Degree, But Not an Education.” Anthony J. D’Angelo

The basis and rationale of his thought centered on the fact nearly one third of college students drop out which is mentioned on his website is:

His writings and training (coaching) are meant to change that. Nearly 100 years ago another educational revolutionary had similar thoughts, John Dewey offered a very similar constraint to content versus context with his take on constructivism and experiential learning.

“Learners who can adapt quickly by learning in a complex world are more likely to adapt to changing conditions and survive as an individual.” Martin Dougiamas, A journey into Constructivism

I walked out this morning with a nearly full moon blaring down fully knowing it is simply a reflection of the sun’s rays yet transfixed on the fact the surroundings are brighter even through incoming clouds. I did however miss Mars which was to be larger than normal.
“Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.” On Purpose Associates

Looking at the bright surroundings earlier today as I took my friend Lil Girl out for her morning constitutional I saw light, my senses saw light. I can accept that or pursue why and how, perhaps the batteries are new. Beginning this semester I started a daily log writing down as events transpired within my class room, while focusing on education daily life is little different. Earlier as I read D’Angelo’s thoughts while focused on college students the application to a lesser degree very easily could be my own students who are high risk for graduation from high school. It is about pushing that envelope further with people who are at risk with life itself.

“The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the “right” answers and regurgitate someone else’s meaning. Since education is inherently interdisciplinary, the only valuable way to measure learning is to make the assessment part of the learning process, ensuring it provides students with information on the quality of their learning.” On Purpose Associates

As a teacher so often I find myself saying this is my class room and you will do as I say. I even have gone so far as to declare when I had a trailer as an independent kingdom and issued money, albeit Mr. Bird bucks. I still have the crown although it currently resides on a rather large stuffed antelope head (an eland) on my classroom wall. While I said my class room in effect the room has become the student’s room.

“I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is continually shaping the individual’s powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions. Through this unconscious education the individual gradually comes to share in the intellectual and moral resources which humanity has succeeded in getting together. He becomes an inheritor of the funded capital of civilization. The most formal and technical education in the world cannot safely depart from this general process. It can only organize it or differentiate it in some particular direction.” John Dewey

Do I simply want to except the light from the moon or pursue finding out more. I spent the better part of my planning period on the phone with a parent a few days ago. A particular student has been a problem for all of his teachers, numerous physiological reasons can quickly be brought to our attention and various assundery medications have been prescribed by his physicians. In high school with four different teachers and different outlooks of perception we have a student being daily assessed by four people and four world views. On a particular bad day I jotted down behaviors that were issues. Somehow medications came into the discussion and the student made a comment how he felt that was the issue not his behavior, “the medicine made him do it.” He often finds excuses for his behavior as we all do
Upon referring to the handy PDR eight of behavior issues were side effects of various medications he was currently on. Of the meds all were recommended for adults. All were indicated in bold lettering that they may cause drowsiness and not to operate equipment while taking them. Sadly these are what we give this student In School Suspension for sleeping and for making comments about how he can’t think straight.
All day long we hack at leaves with our machetes. I tell my friends in the north about kudzu which is hard to describe. It is a plant that hacking at the leaves only infuriates it and it seems to grow faster. About four hurricanes worth of water dumped on it help as well and it only grows faster. But whether it is education or family we need to look beyond traditional means, recalling the content versus context argument of Dewey, and borrowing from D’Angelo. I was speaking with my son about teenager issues as we rode home from Kroger many months ago. It is so easy to say one thing, hack off leaves and never really get to the roots. He asked me why our county has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates. It is a difficult question to answer so we hack at the leaves so to say.
So we walk out today looking for how come it is so bright outside we also need to look at context. We also need to review why we keep sharpening the machete and not look for a shovel. Another word for the day as I finish today is harm, it is an elusive word. A child raised in an environment where tomorrow is questionable is a form of harm. Students who say whatever and quit school is also harm. Young men and women fighting in various wars around the world is a significant case of harm. Refugees in Sudan, Congo, all through Africa and the Middle East, tying shelter together with sticks thread and leaves are a powerful form of harm. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Looking back

Bird Droppings August 11. 2011
Looking back
Occasionally I will check my horoscope and see what the future foretells, and or see what is in store for me for the day. I picked up my morning papers and checked my email horoscope as well; today’s was an interesting lot for me.

“You could be tuning into events from the past today, FRANK, and trying to put these memories into some order. Sometimes it can be a good thing to write events down in a journal so that you can get some perspective on them. You can even do this on your computer instead of taking out pen and paper. You have had many interesting characters pass through your life, and writing down some incidents with them could make for interesting story telling.” Yahoo Daily astrological reading

Nearly every morning when I get up around 3:00 or so, I take our Westie the wonder dog out for her morning constitution and walk. Most mornings it is the Westie who wakes me and then Charlie our granddaughter wakes up and I will go say hello. As I walked out today a clear beautiful sky, crickets still keeping their chorus going though a few more degrees warmer and silence will be the tune, this has been one of the warmest nights in a while. As I looked into the sky and saw numerous constellations and a nearly full moon surrounding me, the big dipper, Orion, and many more. One really stuck out for it was directly in my line of sight Cassiopeia, the W. What is funny is I remembered who showed me this constellation which made the Horoscope have some meaning.
Usually I delete without a glance but today’s horoscope caught my attention, combined with my own star gazing of the morning. Many years ago when I lived in Pennsylvania on Fisherville Road outside Coatesville one of my near neighbors was Harold Sweetman. Back in the day as my son will say often, “tell me dad about back in the day “. Harold was my nature counselor for Camp Ringtail, a day camp for kids 8-12. We did this in my parent’s back yard which was about 10 acres. We would have 100 little campers and about 15 of us high school and college age folks having a blast in summer camp.
Anyhow as the story goes we were playing capture the flag one night in the fields behind our house in the neighborhood and Harold pointed out this constellation his Dad had shown him, Cassiopeia. As life goes that nature counselor went on to bigger and better things, he graduated from Coatesville High School and went to the University of Boston and a few degrees later was Dr. Harold Sweetman, biologist. I went back to Pa. a number of years ago for a reunion and stayed with Dr. Sweetman and family at their Devon Pa. home, situated in one of the largest collections of azaleas and rhododendron in the country. It seems Harold is the curator for this beautiful arboretum.

“Jenkins Arboretum is a carefully planned botanical garden established in 1968 through a bequest from H. Lawrence Jenkins and is committed to conserving its 46 acres of the once bountiful Pennsylvania woodland and nurtures one of the state’s major horticultural showcases of native trees, shrubs, rhododendrons, azaleas, laurel, blueberries, ferns and wildflowers. The Arboretum’s preservation of natural habitats and watershed presents a compelling model for others to follow. Jenkins Arboretum is located at 631 Berwyn Baptist Road in Devon, PA 19333 and features several native habitats that support native wildlife, open vistas and 1.2 miles of easy paved walking paths through hilly terrain. Plant collections are clearly marked for a self-guided botanical tour. The Arboretum is open from dawn to dusk every day, and admission is free.” Jenkins Arboretum website

Any nature lovers nearby go take a look it is well worth the visit and say hello to Dr. Sweetman for me and thank him for showing me Cassiopeia nearly forty years ago. I will try and stop in on my return this fall for my fortieth high school reunion.

“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.” Margaret Fairless Barber

It is the experiences of life that provide us with tools to build a future. John Dewey ideas have been promoting this since the early 1900’s progressive then as it is now.

“A feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain, and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I ventured away from my normal wanderings today but eventually we drift back to where we are here and now. A new group site on facebook from Coatesville has been inspiring me lately. But as I thought to those days “back in the day” fond memories and memories I have built on and have retold many times it is for us now here in this time to be providing the basis for stories of the future. It is to be sharing ideas and thoughts, wisdom, and experiences. A few nights back I showed my youngest son Cassiopeia soon he can show my granddaughter. Who knows maybe one day he won’t have to end his emails with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Filtering into bottles

Bird Droppings August 10, 2011
Filtering into bottles

Starting back to school again today and sitting here on day one and thinking back. I remember how hard I was hit by the impact of No Child Left Behind so many years ago. I was testing or reading a test to students who within their IEP’s were allowed modifications in testing. As I read an idea hit me, a liter bottle holds a liter no less unless you choose to not fill it and no more or it will spill out.

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Nearly a hundred years ago Dewey developed his ideas and philosophies about education. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time. Much of what he thought was ahead of where we are going today. Many months back I saw an interesting head line in our Sunday paper about the current educational mandate of “No Child Left Behind”. “Are we leaving children behind?” was the title.

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

How and why we educate children is crucial. Is it for some greater good or for the individual that we offer and provide education? Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning, to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn, he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room, many graduate school programs today teach democracy in the class room. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education, but respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

So often the simplest answer is the correct one. An easy word is encouragement and yet we so often use it to little. We can do better, we have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find answers. I have written now several times and reflected often on the idea of filling a liter bottle. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort the knowledge into groups or subsets. It is that information we absolutely need and can remember, what fills the bottle. For the less significant information perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill so we know where to find it.
The information we really do not need, it can spill to the ground. It is teaching the difference. It is teaching to sort and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. As Gray states it is to be independent of education and Sir William with having that “desire to learn it”. This is what teaching is about. So recently many children in our area headed back to school, it can be a great day and a wondrous day. Please a reminder to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart. namaste