Thorns really only hurt by surprise

Bird Droppings October 21, 2011
Thorns really only hurt by surprise

It has been an interesting week spending time with my granddaughter amazing how many different things she can find to get into. We recently had homecoming week and each day we the teachers and students could dress up according to various themes, 1980’s work out day sort of threw me until someone said Flashdance, the movie. Needless to say there were many shredded sweat shirts and leggings. Hero day found me wearing my Steve Irwin shirt since he is a real hero of mine. One day was college colors day so I was divided which of seven or eight do I choose from and it seems Georgia Tech won out and I only had a son graduate from there. I also had an episode of interest as I started working on questions about benefits yesterday. I bumped into another teacher who was complaining of increasing health insurance costs as we talked and I made a comment borrowed from a recent article of a health insurance executive who took home almost one hundred and fifty million dollars last year. I made a comment about this is why so many protestors are said where is the line of greed versus profit, and was told well you are a socialist and I am a capitalist I do not see anything wrong with that. Well why complain about health costs and rising insurance prices if it is ok to make an exorbitant profit off of them and in this situation does not impact my health care.

“Love is a rose but you better not pick it. Only grows when it’s on the vine Handful a thorns and you know you’ve missed it. Lose your love when you say the word mine” Neil Young

I first heard this song many years ago, Linda Ronstadt was singing it. It was years later that I learned it was written by Neil Young. Coincidently I have been a Neil Young fan since 1968, the Woodstock era. He is an interesting character, Neil Young that is. But the words in his lyrics are always powerful. I used my exercise from several semesters back when I gave out an assignment to find a song and print out lyrics. Several students printed out favorite songs that were a bit difficult to translate into anything, huh, huh, huh, yeah, yeah, yeah, huh, huh. That was a line actually ten lines of a fifteen line song lyric of a top ten song recently, entitled perception.

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation’.” From Creative viewing, by William S. Burroughs

What was Neil Young trying to say when he wrote that line so many years ago? It is not all as it seems. Burroughs looks at an artist creating and others will manifest that creation through perceiving that creation.

“The seeing of objects involves many sources of information beyond those meeting the eye when we look at an object. It generally involves knowledge of the object derived from previous experience, and this experience is not limited to vision but may include the other senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and perhaps also temperature or pain.” R. L. Gregory

We so often grasp at that first image, or first impression. “Love is a rose” to borrow from Neil Young, but the hidden aspects the thorns we don’t see till we try and pick it and a “handful of thorns and you know you missed it.” Trying to teach students to go beyond that first impression, use their prior knowledge and other senses can be difficult.

“Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Suggestiveness as Hawthorne states, perhaps teachers too are “suggestors”, first giving alternative other views in a world where so often views are limited. I think back to my first thought of health insurance. I suggested a line may have been crossed where someone was taking advantage of a situation to reap a profit. It has been a number of years since I first read Maslow’s works. One line stands above the rest. Do I look at the world and every problem as simply a nail and all I have is a hammer or was it the other way around yesterday discussing health car and insurance.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham H. Maslow

This is a key point, in life so often people are limited by what they know or do not know. I put this very quote up on a bulletin board in my hall at the high school. So often I see kids who only have a hammer, as a teacher it is important and actually far too often a highly guarded secret knowing where the other tools are kept and that there are other tools.
Parents and teachers spend too much time teaching how to nail only and not enough showing the tool box. What if I carefully pruned that rose with clippers and gloves and grafted to a new bush. We then have a different outlook and a different view. What if instead of a hammer a wrench is needed or needle nose pliers. Suggest rather than tell, as a teacher or parent and always offer alternatives instead of solutions. Provide insight instead of tunnel vision. We all have room to grow and to see anew. “Love is a rose” and thorns or no thorns I will still pick it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Why do we consider thinking a bad word?

Bird Droppings October 20, 2011
Why do we consider thinking a bad word?

“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” Henry David Thoreau

Just the other day I went out to my herb garden to take a self portrait and two butterflies joined me in the shoot. So while grandbaby sitting I am sitting here wondering on a chilly day I have found over the years moods of students often reflect the weather and changes in temperature air pressure. We started the day yesterday with a major front moving through and tornado watches through the state. So on a holiday from school we are having rain and cold. Some kids are better not knowing what the weather will be. Studies have shown many neurological issues are affected by air pressure and as I go further is thinking or cognition altered when a gloomy day hits. Should we call off school for cloudy weather after today I seriously wonder is creativity affected or imagination altered?

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allan

So often I see folks limited by their imagination each of us is blessed with a thinking process hidden in there is creativity. Years ago I remember my youngest son being tested for creativity during s series of tests for a gifted class. I was told he was off the charts for his age. Now today I have been watching high school students struggle with ideas and with thought processes that are second nature to me. I really wonder do we provide the time to think and to imagine or to be creative or simply want tape recordings played back of what was taught.

“If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George Barzan

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

As I watch and see how others teach in the quiet solitude of stillness I wonder is thinking occurring. There are many teachers who consider it is learning when all is quiet and when hands are folded and faces are facing front and feet are on the floor and books are open and pencils in hand writing incessantly.

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

“Thought is the parent of the deed.” Thomas Carlyle

How do we start the process of thinking in a world where thinking is a forgotten art form? Myself I read giving myself a basis for thought yet so many folks today choose not to read. Many are content to simply listen and feedback information in a replay sort of way. I was thinking of a cheer used in our school “I say red you say white” which ends being a sort of planned when you hear the bell say the answer.

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

“Each thought is a nail that is driven in structures that cannot decay; and the mansion at last will be given to us as we build it each day.” George Elliot

Thinking can start slowly and build with each new thought adding to the construct. Several years ago my son was involved in the Governor’s Honors Program along with several of his friends. This was six weeks of very intensive learning with other students all equal to or beyond where he was thinking at the time. He was immersed in thought processes and ideas. Coming back to the real world was hard for him. His senior year in high school was boring after that experience of challenging daily his intellect. One thought that came up continually was how many students in high school simply do not care to even think just doing what is needed to get by and never seeking to go beyond where they are. Here was a teenager bothered by this concept of seeing intelligent people sit waiting for answers.

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

“A man’s what he thinks about all day long” Ralph Waldo Emerson

What if we do not think all day and sit and vegetate are we nothing? Watching high school students do this day in and day out some day’s I think we could say we have a garden versus a school.

“Thought makes everything fit for use.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading Fitzgerald’s comment made me think that so many people want others to think for them as I watch the debates and politics swirling about. A comment is made very clearly even defined and then is twisted and altered and even though the exact words are in front of you it appears wrong. People will listen to what someone else tells them even if those words are totally against what they believe rather than to think on their own. Sadly and amazingly it works and politicians use it daily people do not want to think.

“Thinking in words slows you down and actually decreases comprehension in much the same way as walking a tightrope too slowly makes one lose one’s balance.” Lenore Fleischer

I read this and thought of Dr. Temple Grantin, a professor and researcher in animal science and an advocate for people who are autistic. Dr. Grantin is autistic herself. A book that she wrote describes her thought processes as thinking in pictures. Yesterday I was working with a student who by chance needed a place to take a test I had several students out and have plenty of room so she came in my room to finish her test. I could not help but notice she was reading words aloud. I asked why and she informed me she has a difficult time reading silently. She has ADHD and will fixate on a sentence when reading silently and has learned to read aloud to herself and then she can move through sentences. Different processes in thinking and learning that so often get left by the way side as we try and mass produce students.

“How you look at a situation is very important, for how you think about a problem may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. When you get discouraged or depressed, try changing your attitude from negative to positive and see how life can change for you. Remember, your attitude toward a situation can help you to change it — you create the very atmosphere for defeat or victory.” Franco Harris

Franco Harris ran for over 1,000 yards in a season 8 times; rushed for 12,120 yards in 13 years; and led the Pittsburgh to four Super Bowl titles. Many folks may not remember this great running back from the seventies but his name is still in the record books. He was known for making yards when they were needed and when the situation required.

“You create the very atmosphere for defeat or victory and we oh so often let ourselves lose. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” Martin Luther King Jr.

It is that thinking that can change whether you win or lose, succeed or fail. Today I will be checking grades on students I am always amazed at how many do not know what their grade is. A simple process ask the teacher and students choose not to even simpler get the password and check your own.

“If one wants to abide in the thought-free state, a struggle is inevitable. One must fight one’s way through before regaining one’s original primal state. If one succeeds in the fight and reaches the goal, the enemy, namely the thoughts, will all subside in the Self and disappear entirely.” Ramana Maharshi

“When thoughts arise, then do all things arise? When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish?” Huang Po

How do we encourage thought processes not only with children but with adults as well? So much of our world is geared toward stifling thought be it advertising or politics even TV and video games. As I sit here thinking we need to encourage students and teachers both, to think, to read, and to open up their minds to a world around them and not just stagnate and vegetate over what they have. So today keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Always looking for the definitive meaning

Bird Droppings October 19, 2011
Always looking for definitive meaning

Today I walked out into the darkness and was hoping for some rain which we did get as the cold front collided with the warm front and therefore causing some rain to fall. I may have been too foggy to realize till I was alone and did not have our dog with me for a walk. Our dog was still in her kennel sound asleep since I was up extra early to drive to north Georgia. I recall being given an assignment nearly eight years ago by a professor. The assignment was a special reading on a book that was published in the seventies by an educator considered very much the renegade, Ivan Illich published Deschooling Society in 1971. He was a scholar of theology, philosophy, history and psychology, and he was at one time or another and possibly all at the same time a parish priest, philosopher, college professor, thinker and educator.

“…imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.” Ivan Illich

My initial reading offered a view of the early 1970’s philosophy of the premise that the establishment is wrong. Watching what changes and evolutionary trends in society have taken from the hippie days of the 70’s through the overly materialistic 80’s into an era of ambiguity in the 90’s to an era of show me results in the now 2000’s education has evolved. We speed through time and life watching from the windows of a tour bus. A few days ago I was talking with students and watching imagination slip by. I asked several students to design and come up with a super hero in a matter of moments one handed me a character with a comic strip and logo and complete package. I said you did not create this and he was convinced he had. He had found a website that literally lets you create from templates a super hero I tried to explain how taking a paper doll and changing outfits is not creating the doll. However in a world of results he came through with quite a package and in our societal view of things probably would have scored well on that task for some teachers.
One of my favorites is going on line and buying prewritten papers even original papers from high school through doctorate level papers written by ghost writers who even take credit cards as well.

“Imagination is the process by which we say that an image is presented to us” Aristotle

I thought back to my younger days when play time was a few sticks and a patch of scrub we called the jungle. Nowadays we could have laser guns and vests to record kills along with camouflage outfits and night vision rather than night eyes. A good question do you remember the term night eyes which is simply allowing your vision to adjust to the dark. I was going to the car yesterday morning and I habitual walk out in the dark I happened to go towards where our trash cans were located along side the house. My son waited till I came back into the light to head for the car which was interesting at the time. Being the observer that I tend to be, I asked why he waited.
Night eyes are that point where darkness is revealed and you can move and see to a degree in the dark. If you would shine a flash light in your eyes at night it ruins your night vision and your night eyes. Modern kids have halide flash lights with adjustable sealed beams and or fluorescent lights for maximum visibility. By far I am not against technology and advances but we have stripped away the imagination. There is a doctor show on that many folks watch, HOUSE. An interesting approach as each week Dr. House is faced with an incurable and untreatable illness. It is always totally baffling to his crew of trained residents. I recall many years ago a dear friend who was trained at Grady Hospital as a nurse back in the day. Emory University is a well known nursing program and medical school and they would send new doctors to Grady for residency. Often times this was their first experience in a real medical situation. Grady student nurses often would have to cover for Emory Doctors. They knew what they saw rather than knew what they had read.

“Imagination makes knowledge of the phenomenal world possible, by synthesizing the incoherent sensory manifold into representational images suitable to be brought under concepts.” Emmanuel Kant

I enjoy watching the scruffy doctor doodle on his white board eliminating possibilities while totally baffling his three assistants with questions trying to get them thinking using their imaginations.

“One day, a Rajah’s son asked, “Father, what is reality?” “An excellent question, my son. Come, everyone, we will go to the marketplace.” So the rajah and his son went outside and mounted their royal elephant. The rest of the entourage followed on foot. When they got to the marketplace, the rajah commanded, “Bring me 3 blind men.” When the blind men arrived, the rajah commanded, “Place one blind man at the elephant’s tusk, one at the elephant’s leg and one at the elephant’s tail.” When that was done, the rajah said, “Describe the elephant to me, blind men.” The man at the tusk said, “It’s like a spear.” The man at the leg said, “It’s like a tree.” The man at the tail said, “It’s like a rope.” As the men started to argue, the rajah said to his son, “Reality, my son, is the elephant. And we are all blind men.”” Ancient Hindu proverb

When we train our imagination to be limited, to be only that which we have been schooled in and trained in the limits are set and the parameters are laid and we are in a sense stifled in truly finding answers. Dr. House’s students are limited by the texts they studied from as our many students who have been trained schooled in most institutions today. We have been taught that this is the right direction even when many paths are there and you can only go this way. There is only one way. Just a few years back a school district in the Atlanta area added a label to their, (occasionally I actually use the other spelling of there, there’re are four, there, their, there’re and thur as in ova thur) textbooks a disclaimer on evolution.
I always wonder when I see a one way sign what if I go that way granted in down town traffic in Atlanta on a one way street you may end up smooshed. But what about when conditions allow wouldn’t it be great to see a street from a different view than normal. Would it not be nice to see the other side of buildings you do not normally get to see? Perhaps even to meet people you never saw because they were always walking the other direction. There are days when I stand in the middle of the hallways during rush time in school simply to get a different view a different perspective of life. I miss the jungle; my kids had paradise which was what they called a outcropping of stone with piles of rocks and pebbles. Many the time if we searched for the kids they would be sitting playing at paradise although many times with hot wheels and transformers but still imagination running wild.
I found out several years ago a child hood friend bought the jungle I emailed him last night what a small world we have sitting there thinking back to childhood which really does not seem all that far away. I often wondered if it was to save that memory he bought hat small patch of land. I would like to think so in today’s digital sanitized deodorized world. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 17-18, 2011
Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

I took a relaxing weekend with family and grand baby and sort of got my thoughts together as the days went by. Somewhere as the rain dissipated last week we had a few good days of sunshine even though the temperatures were below normal and a chill has set in. I was running around all day yesterday taking my granddaughter up to her new home in Demorest Georgia just off the Piedmont College Campus. I got home relatively early in the afternoon and fixed dinner sat to write and download photos and my laptop hibernated since I forgot my power cord at school so I was in limbo for the evening. But all in all there is much to ponder and consider as I go into this day. I went out into the darkness this morning and watched the smoke from the sage and cedar embers dissipate into the slight breeze just before a brilliant sun rose in the east. Around me were the stars and a partial moon and sounds of a chilly morning were disrupted with the alarm of a car in the distance.
Today I will be writing and catching up as well as doing some gardening and gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold. Hopefully these days off will be filled with writing, a grandbaby, photos and reading. In my research I read the weekly publication from the NEA. I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication, The Educators Journal. An article caught my attention in a recent issue. In Georgia we have Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article addressed teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas just before my computer shut down that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. I am taking a few liberties with a bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky’s famous line.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far too low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over there door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the ambient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always new if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

Taking small steps

Bird Droppings October 15, 2011
Taking small steps

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How many times are we told “take your time”? So often in life we are anxious to get the job finished or to get to the top today. We often forget there are many steps along the way; many puzzle pieces needing to be placed in order to see the whole picture. For many months a student I work with has had issues with sleeping in class and at one point was suspended for three days. I have tried to get his family to get him to the doctor due to large doses of medication and combination of meds he is on. His sleeping is not typical teenager tiredness.
Walking through the meat section of Kroger I ran into his mother and his doctor had called back with blood work his level of one medication was three times what it should have been and the doctor was amazed he could even walk. One thing that so often happens in life is we want everything to be what we want now, placing a random puzzle piece on a table does not present where or how the puzzle will turn out. It takes numerous more pieces till we see a bit and we assume to know the whole far too many times.

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Elizabeth Taylor, A Wreath of Roses

A good friend asked me the other day about a job opening at another school. It happened to be in EBD, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. He asked what or could he succeed and what was key to my success. Unfortunately he asked as one of my students was for first time this year making a scene. I emailed back that evening the following. If you can trust the untrustable and be patient with those who would drive you crazy, EBD is no big deal, they soon will do what you ask. Force them and you are in a fighting situation and ISS and OSS are not meaningful consequences. Building to intrinsic consequences is far more powerful, taking a kid off the computer and or me just being mad at some of kids bothers them more than ISS or OSS. Sometimes little pieces work better than big ones. Solving small issues will eventually accomplish big goals if there is plenty of time.

“A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” Dutch Proverb

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you, so in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

“There will be a time when loud-mouthed, incompetent people seem to be getting the best of you. When that happens, you only have to be patient and wait for them to self destruct. It never fails.” Richard Rybolt

A simple word is patience. Often I wonder what might be one of my major attributes and in one word I would say patience. Yesterday a student was asking what would it take to get me mad, calling me names etc. I said it takes a good bit to get me mad and name calling wouldn’t do it. He proceeded to try and after a few choice words actually he wasn’t upset just wanting to prove me wrong. I said first I know the statement to be false and secondly I know the person saying this to be ignorant and or stupid for saying such things. He sat back and said, well I would be mad if somebody said that to me, and I told him that is your choice. Puzzle pieces forever falling in place is my motto. Patience has kept that kid in school versus an alternative setting and is taking a piece one at a time rather than trying to solve a puzzle in one fell swoop.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begins the task anew.” Saint Francis de Sales

So often a monk can address patience but they have to it’s their job. But monks too are alive and human and the frailties we face they too face or have faced. Breaking a task into manageable pieces often aids in completing the task.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.” William Shakespeare

Looking back on my own life it has been one of pieces falling in place slowly. One portion of my journey was twenty three years in the making. I left the teaching field directly for twenty three years all of that time in graphic arts and publishing for the training industry still indirectly in education. Coincidently during that time having delivered training manuals to most of the buildings at Georgia Tech which is where my son is now graduated from what a small world.
It has been so long in coming and even now I know this is only a portion of the puzzle, more is yet to come. In life I have found you savor each moment each second enjoy the cool breeze if only for a moment. Pull off the road if you need to view a rainbow or sunset and truly bask in the magnificence but that is another day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Who job is it to find the door?

Bird Droppings October 13, 2011
Whose job is it to find the door?

I have been in several meetings the past few weeks with teachers and parents. I recall one night my youngest son handed me a sheet of paper to sign up for a teacher parent conference in geometry seems he let a test or two slip by. At our school at progress report time any student with a grade less than seventy five percent is to have a conference, and that is a school rule. As I am thinking about comments from one of my meetings where a mother wanted the school to do what she was doing in keeping her children up with their work, she was tired. Ideally it would be great if each teacher spent time each day with each student. Then you do the calculations for this endeavor, ninety minute class with say twenty eight students that is about three minutes a piece if there is no start up or down time, less than ninety seconds for each student.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

This has been a favorite of mine for many years and maybe I over use it but it is such a powerful statement. As a parent and a teacher how do we make our parenting and or our teaching so potent as to impact our kids? How do we, or who should open the door for students and children?

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

Could not this person be a parent, friend and or a teacher?

“John Dewey’s significance for informal educators lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection – and the associated role of educators – has continued to be an inspiration. We can see it at work, for example, in the models developed by writers such as David Boud and Donald Schön. Third, was his concern with interaction and environments for learning and to provide a continuing framework for practice? Last, his passion for democracy, for educating so that all may share in a common life, provides a strong rationale for practice in the associational settings in which informal educators work.” Mark K. Smith, 2001

As often as I sit and think about how we work with kids I recall ideas from John Dewey. This passage written by Mark Smith relates four thoughts from John Dewey’s philosophy.

1. Engage and enlarge experience by drawing on what the child knows and has seen and touched and then build on that, develop that and move forward.

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

“Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced — even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.” John Keats

“Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our pronouncements are checks drawn on insufficient funds.” Rene Daumel

2. Thinking and reflection is that aspect that Einstein refers to that has baffled the sages down through time. How do we get students or anyone for that matter to think and then as Dewey teaches reflect?

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” Buddha

“Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” The Foxfire Approach

3. Interaction and environments for learning are providing an atmosphere that students want to be in and this is a key to success. Be it at home or at school if a child does not want to be there it is difficult to learn let alone to function.

“Course content is connected to the community in which the learners live. Learners’ work will “bring home” larger issues by identifying attitudes about and illustrations and implications of those issues in their home communities.” The Foxfire Approach

“For industry to support education and training it must provide a relevant cost benefit to the employer. The content and design of the learning on offer must be capable of not only sustaining the candidate’s willingness and ability to learn but also respond to the ever changing environment within which industry operates.” Mike Goodwin, University of Wolverhampton addressing the concept of negotiated work based learning

Context for learning is about providing rationale and reason for what is being taught. Content is easy, it is in the text book but providing context is where doors are opened.

4. Democracy in the class room is a significant tool for teachers.

“My own belief….is that a teacher’s stated views – and, more important, the visible actions which that teacher takes during a year in public school – are infinitely more relentless in their impact on the students than a wealth of books of any possible variety.” Jonathan Kozol, On Being a Teacher, p. 25

Students and children actively involved in their class room changes often the direction and flow of learning.

“Students can be forced to sit through a class, but they cannot be forced to be interested in it, or to do well.” Alfie Kohn, 1993

“A visitor then to my democratic classroom in action would walk into a room in which students are working in groups or individually grappling with ideas that will later enrich the classroom. Deliberation and debate would be ongoing as students worked on issues and projects that mattered to them as both a class and as individuals. I as the teacher would not be the center point of the room but would instead be its facilitator and manager.” Ryan Niman

Parents, students, teachers and administrators each have involvement in a student’s learning. There is no specific script that is better than another I have found over the years. As I listened to a mother want we the school do take over all she did at home I wondered what are you going to do take a vacation as a parent. While she was tired and concerned those 16 hours away from school are as crucial as the eight or so that students spend in school. Children getting sleep, proper nutrition, care and love are all integral aspects of getting a child to learn to have an appreciation for learning. Who opens the door is not as important as that it is open and students and parents and teachers can each find their role and build. It is up to each of us to try and do just a little better each day in all that we do and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Seeing our purpose in life

Bird Droppings October 12, 2011
Seeing our purpose in life

It has been over ten years since I started writing this piece. I went out this morning with many questions on my mind. I Have a significant paper to write, my son’s wedding anniversary coming up, a grandbaby that just started saying pop pop, new and old students and how to deal with them when I get to school and pondering with each breath if I have chosen wisely. It was cool as I walked out and rearranged a few stones in the back yard. I walked to the corner where I could see a glimpse of the sunrise perhaps it was the moon as it is too early maybe I could think about a sunrise was more like it. I was reading earlier a college student’s frustration in life and love on her xanga account (talk about old social networking) and glanced over birthdays and postings on my facebook page.
As I am listening to teenagers at school so often we limit ourselves to what we know now. Obviously it is hard to assume we will know more lately, but children at some point lose that aspect. It may be at puberty where imagination and thinking of what could be and how dissipate. Maybe that is why middle school kids are so hard to deal with they are locked in the now more so than any other age losing the ability to see ahead and not knowing enough to ponder anything else. However often I wonder about my own purpose in life, why am I here?

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

Every once in a while I find a quote from Richard Bach that strikes me. I remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the early seventies and it made sense. I would wager today most high school students and even college students would have a difficult time or find it too childish. A good friend offered up a book by James Kavanaugh, known for his controversial 1967 bestseller, A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church, calling for reform in the Catholic church, Celebrate the Sun, a sort of whimsical story about Harry Lagendorf , who happens to be a pelican. Each author took a whimsical look at the human condition and solutions in differing directions. Kavanaugh’s book is on my list for Christmas again.
When I was very young I felt I had a mission in life some great event perhaps I was to accomplish. As I got older and perhaps wiser that event became my life’s puzzle slowly falling in place each aspect piece by piece.

“The need for self-actualization is the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. People who have everything can maximize their potential. They can seek knowledge, peace, esthetic experiences, self-fulfillment, and oneness with God, etc. It is usually middle-class to upper-class students who take up environmental causes, join the Peace Corps, go off to a monastery, etc.” © 1997, Robert Gwynne, based on Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs”

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission.” Mourning Dove, Salish

I have seen her name spelled several different ways Morning Dove and Mourning Dove; she was from the Salish tribe and a healer or a medicine woman. Her tribe is the same as the great Chief Dan George actor and philosopher.
Maslow in his development of a hierarchy of needs has self actualization as the top of his needs pyramid. Such terms as self fulfillment, a self purpose and finding yourself have been tossed around as well. Native American thought has each aspect of our existence with purpose each as sacred and all are intertwined. I found myself explaining that to my son many days ago as we drove towards town. He had asked me, “What did you think of the pope”? An interesting question out of the blue, I used and borrowed from Mourning Dove all has purpose and all is sacred each unto their own. Is he a great man? Is he sacred? Is he to be revered? These are questions to answer from your heart and not for me to answer.

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

“The presence of a long-term, conscious goal has helped me maintain stability through the ubiquitous changes of over half a century.” Mary Craig

“Everything in the universe has a purpose. Indeed, the invisible intelligence that flows through everything in a purposeful fashion is also flowing through you.” Wayne Dyer

Perhaps we lose purpose in this disposable society. Many years back when I was privileged to participate in a session of training in Foxfire technique we toured the Foxfire museum a step back in Mountain life to an earlier day when each plant tree and leave had significance. The late Robert Murray was our tour guide and curator of the property and he would stop at a patch of weeds and pull a leave.

“plantago major – common plantain – white man’s foot print – Medicinally, plantain is astringent, demulcent, emollient, cooling, vulnerary, expectorant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxin, and diuretic. It affects blood sugar, usually lowering it. It has been used to treat lung disorders and stomach problems. For these purposes, a tea is made from either the leaves or the whole plant and taken internally. This same tea may be used as a mouthwash to treat sores in the mouth and toothaches. It may also be used externally to treat sores, blisters, insect bites and stings, hemorrhoids, burns, rashes, and other skin irritations. Alternatively, a poultice of the leaves may be applied to the afflicted area. This is probably plantain’s most common use. For relief from a bee sting or insect bite, simply shred (or chew) a plantain leaf and hold it on the bite for a few minutes.” The late Robert Murray at Foxfire and that was in about ten seconds

We would get a complete summary of what was once a weed, just a plant and now was a pharmacy. I remember using the seed heads to shoot at each other as kids. As we walked each tree or plant including Sweet Birch which can be used as a tooth brush, and plants such as mint and so forth all had significance. Many days ago I took a leave of white sage to school and let students smell and explained for Native Americans this was a scared plant used as incense and in teas to calm. You can use several leaves in boiling water and make a very relaxing tea. We have lost that closeness to nature that dependence on what is around us in our plastic world.

“What makes life dreary is the want of a motive.” George Eliot

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

“Needs are proponent”. A proponent need is one that has the greatest influence over our actions. Everyone has a proponent need, but that need will vary among individuals. A teenager may have a need to feel that he/she is accepted by a group. A heroin addict will need to satisfy his/her cravings for heroin to function normally in society, and will not worry about acceptance by other people.

“When the deficiency needs are met: At once other (and higher) needs emerge, and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still higher) needs emerge, and so on. As one desire is satisfied, another pops up to take its place.” Abraham Maslow

As our needs change in effect does our purpose. Emerson addresses we end up unaware as we journey often becoming greatly unaware of that as we gain it. Eliot speaks of motive a knowing of where we go or a direction. Dr. Maslow uses the concept of needs in a hierarchy of as we fulfill or satisfy one we reach a higher need. Looking back I find primitives seem to have a more complex view than we moderns and a more appreciative view of all around us.

“Be above it! Make the world serve your purpose, but do not serve it.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I think many take Goethe’s view and seek to make the world serve your purpose.

“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

Daily I see students like this floundering wandering aimlessly like empty hollow gourds to shake and rattle.

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.” Ken Hudgins

We have lost appreciation for life in our disposable world we seem to forget that all about us was once alive. As we timber old growth forest and try and pretend we can grow it back in 500 years. As we strip the world of rain forest that has taken tens of thousands of years to develop. According to some it all is alive each rock, each plant, each aspect of our existence and we ourselves find no significance in it far too often.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

A dear friend once posted about a sunset in New York City as she came home from work and how that had become a significantly good part of her day seeing the sunrise and set. My days of wandering the pastures late at night walking up on our buffalo as they slept are gone. I am now content to sit by the fire in our home and walk out into the back yard of our country home and listen to the morning. I still find purpose in each breath and in seeing each leave and twig as I walk about. I still look to see the red tailed hawk cross my path and wonder as my own puzzle pieces fall into place. Richard Bach has given us an ultimatum we can choose to use that and seek further or simply be as many do see this world as disposable and for them we are too. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.