Can we define our own success?

Bird Droppings January 24, 2012

Can we define our own success?

 

Yesterday in a teachable moment I drew upon my experiences and while discussing the phylum arthopoda and black and yellow garden spiders offered a Creek Indian view of early morning. Early in the morning I will often go and sit watching the sun rise in the east. If you look carefully you can see gossamer strands of spider silk literally touching everything. This is often called the web of life where all is connected and as I mentioned this to a group of ninth graders all were silent listening.

I left yesterday with several critical calls to make, errands to run and several feelings of people I needed to see and or talk with. As I traveled there were quite a few along the journey. I spoke with a retired Air Force electronics expert who had two years ago undertaken a vision quest with the Blackfeet tribe in the western US. I ran into several former and present students, parents and friends of mine. I would consider yesterday very much a success. As I went through the day yesterday I thought of what is being successful? Is there some magically way we can tell if we are successful in what we do?

Going deeper in thought I would like to consider myself successful at what I do and I think most people would want to feel this way. Wanting to be successful however has its basis on how you define success. It has been nearly eleven years since a fellow teacher handed me an article by Sydney J. Harris, a prolific writer and columnist from thirty years ago. Harris at one time was syndicated in over four hundred papers.

 

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris “Success is just a little more effort” from his column Strictly Speaking

 

As I read this passage I realized how true it is. So often it is one more step, another few words, fifteen more minutes that make the difference between success and failure or in being just average. In high school it is getting seventy percent and passing that so many try to attain. It is not that difficult to be a little better than most but we often see that as too much work or effort. I often wonder and I am a procrastinator myself what constitute too much effort or too much work. 

 

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

 

Being of a monastic nature I find some days this to be difficult, to include others. However we need others to succeed and to move ahead if only to provide support. Succeeding is more often than not an effort of a group rather than just a person.

 

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have heard this quote so many times at commencement speeches in lectures on success by motivational speakers and yet each time a little more of it sinks in. Perhaps Emerson was ahead of his time as I read his words the last two lines; it becomes so significant that success is having made another’s life easier a very powerful statement in our selfish society.

 

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

 

Success is how we leave others as we walk away, the difference we make the level at which we make change in the environment around and in some instances our ability to not make change and still accomplish something.

 

“My definition of success is total self-acceptance. We can obtain all of the material possessions we desire quite easily, however, attempting to change our deepest thoughts and learning to love ourselves is a monumental challenge. We may achieve success in our business lives but it never quite means as much if we do not feel good inside. Once we feel good about ourselves inside we can genuinely lend ourselves to others.”  Victor Frankl

 

Seeing ourselves clearly, honestly, and learning to like to even love ourselves is crucial to truly succeeding. Success is about us and how we affect the world and others. Success can be a minute difference we make in what is happening around us.  Success can be a simple elevation of a friend or attainment of a goal. Success is effort yet success can be attained with the heart as well as the body.

 

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

 

As I was reading quotes and articles today to write this morning it was interesting how success was defined by various people. Many wealthy people defined success in terms of wealth and yet others looked at the word as a gauge of human involvement. There are numerous different approaches and comparisons that are available as I looked, accomplishment, outcome, and achievement were all listed as definitive words for success as I read.

As I think back to two of the quotes I used today Dr. Schweitzer spoke of happiness as the key, this man was a musician extraordinaire he played in concert halls all over Europe and used those funds to run a hospital inAfricain the 1930’s till his death many years later. His success in life was his practice of medicine where he was needed. Emerson as he indicates defines success as that difference you make in another’s life. As I look closer at myself I truly believe success is a word needing others to define. It is about your impact and difference you make on others and success is not measured as much in volumes as in quality. If we take quality as defined by Phillip Crosby which is exceeding expectations and draw a loose simple parallel. Then success is exceeding others expectations. A new week just underway please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 23, 2012

Neither Wolf nor Dog

 

It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. While addressing the issue of the Native Indians of the Americas perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation with a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked within the subtle political jesturing and whispering of either Republicans or Democrats. 

 

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

 

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events n many countries. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy.

 

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

 

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

 

Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events or read of more exploitation of wilderness in Alaska. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the Little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back then lined up along a ditch and shot. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle vastly outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough, history has it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing.

 

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

 

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Indians nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly five years ago on a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat.

 

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

 

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was whatGarfieldbacked and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Indian was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grant’s time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over repealing health care for others and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.

 

“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

 

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, it is an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was asked to write the words of an elderly Indian a member of the Sioux nation, to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of the box

Bird Droppings January 22, 2012

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

 

I was thinking back nearly three years when history was made as a new president was sworn in and as one of my students came into class and asked to start working on his assignments. I did not beg and plead he started on his own. As he pulled a three ring binder and several folders from his back pack I sat with my mouth wide open who was this person. I have known him for a year and never has he been a “student”. It is amazing what a simple change in self-esteem and self-worth can do. On Thursday we studied for a vocabulary test using an LCD projector and when he left the room he knew the words. Last Friday morning he had a one hundred percent grade on his vocabulary test. It was a first in his educational career. What a change came over him. As I listened that night to our new president’s first speech I thought back to my student. We can make a difference each of us often in a small way that magnifies and grows.

 

“I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one’s own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.” the Dalai Lama, From “The Pocket Zen Reader,”

 

            I have found teachers can be limited in their scope of reality. You would think that as a group, teachers would be more open to ideas, to new thought, to climbing out of the box. I read this passage above yesterday in a daily offering I receive, I immediately thought of teaching. As a teacher most think only within the confines of their room. Being in a somewhat different sort of atmosphere in a resource room which for ten years is how I taught. I can recall I did claim god like power within my room. Something that has been hard to accomplish is improving behavior outside of my room. Whoa, what a concept? Try and get kids to behave for other teachers. In reality it is simply expanding kids thinking beyond the moment or at least trying to. With this one student I mentioned all it took was a nudge.

 

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.”  Isaac Asimov

 

I read this statement so many years ago and I responded one way. A friend sent me this quote, we have an ongoing dialogue and this was a response to something I wrote and not really a counter thought but additional support. Wisdom is not as elusive as one might expect. But I do not think in wisdom one would destroy one’s self. Knowledge or knowing how to do something does not impart wisdom.

A radical extremist can know how to build a nuclear device and detonate it and is that wisdom? Car bombers are they wise? Dying in retaliation and in any kind of war is that wise? Wisdom is not controlling knowledge and maybe I really do not know what wisdom is. So wisdom is part knowledge but also an additional aspect of concern and caring that provide the frame work for the knowledge to be structured within. Yet wisdom is not truly control.

Achilles knew his limitations and did battle. Someone else found his weakness and he was defeated. As I look deeper into the statement by Asimov however there is a willingness to know at any cost and perhaps that is really what is being said. Given the choice of not knowing or knowing and in so knowing all will be destroyed still Asimov would choose to know.

I recall we celebrate Columbus Day, we are celebrating a man who at one point sort of discovered America. As he was heading in this direction after leavingSpainas the weeks passed his desire to know came under fire as his crew feared they would be sailing off the edge of the world and great sea serpents and such devour them. He took a chance and discovered a new world, sometimes it is not destruction but illumination that waits.

 

True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

 

“Raphael paints wisdom; Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Seeing the pieces and picking through knowing which to save and which to toss aside is that wisdom. I wonder as I sit thinking this morning what choices will I make as I work with kids.

 

“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.” Horace

 

“In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand to the ground and explain: ‘We sit in the lap of our mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We soon shall pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.’ So we too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of the life around us in its multitudinous forms.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Having an understanding of what it is we see and touch maybe within there is wisdom. It is not as much knowing but understanding. An understanding within the constraints of what we know. What a paradox? I am sitting reading Kent Nerburn’s book Native American Wisdom, filled with quotes and ideas from Native American culture and thought. In a passage from Sitting Bull, the great medicine man of the Teton Sioux, he wonders why all things have happened as they have and from his thoughts and as I read I wonder. Sitting here thinking after the words as well of our new president.

 

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, Teton Sioux

 

Sitting Bull received his answer shortly thereafter as he was arrested for inciting mutiny on the reservation during a period of unrest. A medicine man from another tribe had started a cult according to authorities and it was growing in its following and Sitting Bull was accused of taking part. On his way to jail as legend has it, his arresters, several Sioux guards, as Sitting Bull gestured to his grandson they thought he was pulling a pistol and shot him several times. Sitting Bull had foretold his death several days before being taken by Sioux hands.

 

“Wisdom comes in dreams” Wavoka, Paiute, medicine man

 

Why even bring up an old Native American’s ideas during a discourse on wisdom? It is within the context of our knowledge that we seek wisdom within what we know. So often we fear what we do not know and that which is literally the opposite of wisdom and try and destroy it. Had we tried to understand when we first came to theAmericasperhaps this day would be somewhat different. What if we had tried to understand instead of force our knowledge upon a group of peoples. Knowledge alone can destroy wisdom. However maybe the buffer is understanding. Freud and Jung might argue Wavoka’s thought, yet they would sit and ponder dreams as therapy. I wonder as I sit and always my thoughts come back to going into a class room. I hope as I teach some way this makes sense and when a student leaves they look differently at life maybe wiser maybe just seeing a new color today instead of all black and white.

 

“Teachers are people who start things they never see finished, and for which they never get thanks until it is too late.”  Max Forman

 

Yesterday I bumped into a former student from nearly ten years ago now a father and married. When he left I would have placed him in that category of ninety five percent that will be dead, in jail, used car salesmen, or evangelists. A good friend and leading authority on conduct disorders uses that as a lead in to kids in high school with conduct disorders. My former student has done some jail time small pieces here and there but finished high school and is working steady and putting his wife through nursing school. So maybe wisdom came to him eventually. Maybe in that statement is wisdom and understanding but we may never see the true nature of all we and hopefully we are continuing to look. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Looking on a morning in a direction

Bird Droppings January 22, 2012

Looking on a morning in a direction

 

“Beginnings start in the east – from where the sun rises we begin a new dawn. Each day is a good new day with a fresh beginning, a new start.  East is the direction of the physical body and newness including children and newborns? It is the time of change for all is a new beginning, new ideas and seeing the light. The color yellow is the path of Life, to begin the walk as a warrior, to shine in all that you do. The sun rising in the east empowers each of us. The energy to do and to begin the action of the mind and heart is there. Animals of wings and flight are from the east include the hummingbird, the owl, and the hawk. Our words are given to the east that the smoke in the air or the voices in the air may be carried to Spirit.” Tree Song

 

I was outside much earlier this morning trying to get photos of tornado warning clouds swirling about. We have had several large fronts passing through and warm weather shifting to cold and back almost daily. So this morning we are under a tornado watch. I was listening to the sounds of morning in a spot I where I have been sitting now for nearly seven years at our house towards an open field. Many sounds are just beginning to awaken as the sunrises each morning. The stillness and solitude of early morning on some occasions off in a distance is broken by a rooster calling or generally more likely starters for the morning are crows and mockingbirds. Today it was a mockingbird that came to visit as I sat listening and watching the sun come up. It has been some time since I have heard nearly ten years however since I have heard a rooster crow from my door step.

 

“Sioux Morning prayer

Let your voice whisper righteousness in our ears through the East Wind at the break of day. Let us be blessed with love for all our brothers & sisters on Earth so we may truly live in peace. Let us have good health mentally & physically to solve our problems and accomplish something for future generations. Let us be sincere to ourselves and make the world a better place to live. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin” Unknown Author Traditional Sioux prayer

 

The Sioux end prayers and meditations with the phrase, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, which means, All My Relations. Many will questioned or wonder why end with such a vague phrase? But to the Indian all about is part of who they are and it is to all that they offer this Morning Prayer or thought. I downloaded images of various critters we found in pond water. After a long week of teaching, observing, photographing and waiting at home my granddaughter I succumbed to being a bit late starting today. I went home yesterday ordered pizza, sat and watched a recorded movie for about an hour and when my granddaughter got there played toll I fell asleep.

 

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

 

            The other day my mother gave a copy of her notes on my growing up childhood years. One is a story of how when very small around three years of age I ran away. I actually only went across the street into the woods. I will offer the entire story one day but since I was young I have enjoyed the solitude of the woods and nature. There have been many times in the various pathways of my life where I would find places to go and be alone with nature. Seldom have I been confined long in a place where I cannot escape to the calls of the wild and sunrise. Recently a friend posted photos of Cumberland Island which lies along the Georgia Coast and is protected. It is considered a wilderness area and off limits to most exploitation. Sunrise on Cumberland with no one for miles can be pretty spectacular. You have to camp on the island however to see a Cumberland sunrise. While I started with the east today it is about direction that I am writing.

 

 “I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” Pablo Picasso

 

I raised the question of purpose on Friday with a student and in an email last night an idea had me thinking. A dear friend said four people had raised the issue of purpose in life recently and she is going through a time now seeking her purpose. Before I went out I wrote back to her, for me it is not what is my purpose, as much as I have purpose and knowing you are significant in each aspect of what you do, borrowing from the Sioux again, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. Over the years I always thought I would one day open my eyes and see “My purpose” and I have come to understanding it is not a destination purpose is very much a journey.

It has been many years ago that I experienced a vision or a dream of a giant jig saw puzzle falling in place that sorted it out for me. I could not see the puzzle front every time I tried and look it would turn away revealing the gray backing. I had to be content to know it was falling in place piece by piece and each piece was more intricate than the last. As we seek direction on our journey as I thought and we have a powerful friend in our faith. Doors will open as they need to. I spent nearly two years sorting out where I was to go, working with indigent families and receiving enough barely to cover cell phone and mileage. A door opened in teaching and even then I was presented with tests. It was five times that my name was presented by a principal who wanted me teaching and four times I was turned down. On September 11, 2001 I was allowed to go back into teaching.

I have used the illustration of a puzzle often over the years and throw the word purpose about every now and again. There is an aspect of our journey we are directly involved in and that is direction, which way are we facing as we take that next step.

 

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lays disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson

 

I was looking this morning for words dealing with direction each time I tried mapping and directions came up. My oldest son finished his certification in GPS many years ago. He was working with an Environmental Science class at the high school mapping trees and positioning using GPS devices for a project and it hit me how so focused and reliant we have become on technology. We are at a point in our technology where we can ascertain thatSumatramoved 20 centimeters in the huge earthquakes of years past. But so often we have a hard time determining where we are going today let alone in life.

 

“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

 

I can always find a spot for a Dewey quote. Dewey is not the easiest read in the world, often his thoughts are in details we are not used too. Far too often teachers look for an easy fix to a complicated issue. In life far too many times we take the easy road.

 

“Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we’ve learned and create something.” Liz Carpenter

 

“You don’t have to buy from anyone. You don’t have to work at any particular job. You don’t have to participate in any given relationship. You can choose” Harry Browne

 

For many they see life as a funnel, a narrowing down rather than a spreading out. It has been many years since I walked the Appalachian Trail inNorth Georgia. Often when walking up a mountain, there are switch backs that would be used rather than a direct ascent. A switch back is a path that cuts back and forth up the mountain rather than straight up, and with a heavy pack a direct route is often impossible.

 

“The way to activate the seeds of your creation is by making choices about the results you want to create. When you make a choice, you activate vast human energies and resources, which otherwise go untapped. All too often people fail to focus their choices upon results and therefore their choices are ineffective. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

 

So often in life it is the first step, or that opening of the door is so difficult. When I did go back to teaching, I could have stopped at first rejection. I applied at five or six schools. I was not certified, and in order to get provisional certification you have to be employed, an interesting paradox. For some reason a principal thought I might work out and kept pushing, and at the board meeting I was hired, then called back, my sister had been hired who I recommended and so I couldn’t work there. Then my name did not make a meeting and second effort was defeated and a third and fourth. Finally a teacher had a nervous breakdown and was out indefinitely and a long term sub was needed and eventually a teacher. The board made allowances for my sister and I started on September 11, 2001.

It was many months later when the principal was putting a list together that I was asked what day I started and I couldn’t remember, it was the week after labor day and a Tuesday because approval was needed on Monday. The first step is the roughest many times.

 

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest

 

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr. Scout Cloud Lee

 

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, a singer, song writer, University professor and former cast member of the survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year atOklahomaStateUniversityin 1980, andOklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within”. Perhaps this is a good place to stop today Guest states “you have to decide” and Dr. Lee offers “we participate in the creation of a new world”. I’ll end up with a line from an Aerosmith song

 

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

 

Perhaps ending with a Steven Tyler quote is a good one since he is one of the judges on American Idol and a former student is on to Hollywood. Maybe he will exemplify his song and provide direction for some young people on their journeys in life. So please my friend’s keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Trying to get back to normal or is it abnormal

Bird Droppings January 20, 2012

Trying to find a way back to normal or is it abnormal

 

“Your son or daughter may be flashing warning signals that he or she will soon
drop out of society and join the “hippie” movement. If you know what to look
for, you may be able to prevent it.” Jacqueline Himelstein, How To Tell If Your Child Is a Potential Hippie and What You Can Do About It, 1970 P.T.A. Parent Education Pamphlet

 

I noticed a post on Facebook to a rather interesting website, Word of Mouth Critical Pedagogy that I am a member of and post to.  It caught my attention being a post for parents to catch warning signs of their children becoming hippies which I have been called over the years many times. As I read through I found it most interesting and actually having been involved to a degree in that era of change seeing the reminders from back in the day struck a chord. The first sign is “a sudden interest in a cult, rather than an accepted religion”. I found this intriguing as so many of our large churches literally are cult followings sort of thing and now considered main stream. The second followed the first with “the inability to sustain a personal love relationship drawn more to group experiences. In so many instances I see being part of a group now more significant than individuality for so many people.

One of my favorite musical artists in Neil Young and falling right into that period of time seems about right.

 

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought of it has been about a year since the shooting in Arizona of a congresswomen. But while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. It has been a long short week. Holiday Monday and catch up all week. We are all still trying to get back in a routine at school thinking back to last year where we had a three week scheduled break and a week for snow and ice we had were out over a month. It is literally trying to find my way back to normal and it is taking a few days or more to do it.  As lunch time at school rolls around I keep thinking I might have to escape at lunch to run home and hold my grand baby as well if they get down from school early. Adding to my new routine I am amazed at how quickly we change our life style and focus as grandparents. Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from the Arizona shooting was at Kent State nearly forty years ago and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:
“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

 

As I thought back with the song in my head to that day so long ago and where I was at the time finishing up spring semester at Eastern Baptist College in St. David’s Pennsylvania and starting to volunteer at a program in Paoli, actually getting my feet wet in teaching, where my brother was a student so many memories coming back all around a song. At Eastern Baptist we all started to wonder if the antiwar groups on campus that were relatively radical at the time were next for the National Guard. There was a tension that is hard to explain especially if you are a nineteen year who has seen and heard so many horror stories about the war in Viet Nam and at that time violence on campuses in the US.  We all wondered then if our country could ever get back to normal.    

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me and back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county an extended break with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and then an extra week due to ice and snow. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

 

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

 

            It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. I had more to do since my classes changed almost daily this past week students  in and out so my personal writing time was affected in the morning and now not having all day to run errands it is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and rest for another day.  

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

 

            I took a picture on January fourth of this year at sunrise and posted on facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school. As I read over several times this quote from Thoreau started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a month long break it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

Why can’t Swiss FAmily Robinson, SWR take over

Bird Droppings January 19, 2012

Why can’t Swiss Family Robinson, SWR take over for NCLB?

 

About two years ago to the day I spent the better part of the day driving between Macon Georgia and home and back. My son needed some books and a few things from the house and to buy text books. Timing as it was banks were closed kind of like this  past Monday so I could not just transfer some dollars to his account and since his calculator was one of the items he needed the journey was necessary. I have a way of going to Macon that involves literally all back roads and many images of rural life and humanity as I drive. It seems to me as I put on some music and observed driving along a two lane road that much is there to learn and to see. I am co-teaching two biology classes and today weather permitting we will be walking down to gather some pond water for classifcation purposes. We will be looking for microscopic critters. Another point is to show how much is out there for a project the kids are working on a sort of your own field guide book. When I drive I ponder how many images past by me and I past by. There are literally millions of plants, animals, people, cars, houses and they are all just images as I drive along. But it does give me time to think ponder as I say.

When I first stepped outside this morning the stillness over whelmed me. All was quiet even if just for a moment, ever so still, nothing moving, the air was still and sounds were none existent as I stood listening. I could hear the clicking of my dog’s toes nails on our walk way and as I stood going deeper into the stillness in a spot perhaps further in the trees I could hear a coyote barking maybe it was just another dog. With the temperature warmer than the past few days a few crickets who perhaps live along the edges of the house were chirping although slower than during the warmth of summer but still trying to get a song out. Overhead a fingernail moon sort of hid off and on behind a gossamer veil of mist and clouds.

I started thinking of a student I had several years ago that was never listened too and listened too much all at the same time. He has tourettes syndrome, we as a society hear only his tics, the vulgar rantings that go on endlessly and never ask him what he thinks. I keep thinking of our national school policy of No Child Left Behind and look at so many who are. Those kids who do not fit the mold maybe they are border line in cognitive levels and more so they are often severe from a behavior issue standpoint. So as a result it often pushes schools to quietly push these kids aside albeit leave them behind. It could be a developmental disorder such as autism, or even better a conduct disorder that actually is not even covered under state guidelines and there is no place left in our efforts to include everyone in our molded and boxed schools.

It was several years as I was sitting in a graduate class deep in South Georgia’s pines and farm land and the discussion was focusing around what is an ideal school setting.  My immediate spontaneous thought was Swiss Family Robinson. Maybe it was not the book as much as the Disney movie that I consider a classic. Culture and knowledge was taught by books of course both parents were very well educated and the allusion is father had been a teacher but the context was constantly taught in the survival effort in the jungles of their island home. Each of the children was excelling in areas of their own expertise but able to apply their knowledge in real life situations.

So do I see schools of the future designed around tree houses and jungles? Perhaps not but borrowing from great educational thinkers of the past and present we could build in context, we could elevate the knowledge we teach and try and embed relevance for our students. On that Saturday in graduate school as we talked about the history of education in the US various issues came up. One significant one was how teachers have become non professionals and how students have simply become product and somewhat less than human in terms of legislation and political motivation. They have become human capital to be manipulated and prodded and pushed in what ever direction policy dictates. Often in whatever direction capitalism demands consumers. A comment was made about the number of teachers and in being tied to consumerism. Sadly Wal-Mart employs more people in theUSthan education does. Think about it more Wal-Mart employees than teachers a very powerful idea, not really good or bad, just interesting in a society so regulated by political means.

Last block of the day Friday a student whom I have never really had walked in and I asked what was going on. He was complaining about a substitute teacher and how she did not get along with the class, she wanted them in assigned seats and took roll and wanted quiet. I am some days amazed at how some former students and often former student’s buddies end up coming by my room. That was the case here a former student from three years ago and this other fellow stopped in.

 

“The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Gaylord Nelson

 

As the day ended and students cleared the hall I headed over to chat with some friends. I stopped at several points that I normally do and the substitute teacher finds me and asks about a particular student and guess who it was that was very disrespectful to her and by chance the room we meet up at is another teacher’s who has this same student as well and similar thoughts, a very negative student, belligerent and very disrespectful. Knowing the student and that he had with some teachers excelled I smiled.

 

“To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakable perfect miracle.” Walt Whitman

 

Perhaps a seemingly random thought as I look at this morning so far. I was cleaning up my email inbox and as I went various quotes and stories sent from friends and associates I was copying and pasting to word documents to save. So this is a random quote simply pulled from the thin air or for whatever reason not deleted many days ago or is it coincidence that each quote and story today really is applicable. As I look at the teacher and substitute teacher and the student are they looking at life as Whitman suggests? Why is this student reacting the way that he is?

My good friend Dr. James Sutton a psychologist inTexasaddresses many of these types of teacher student issues in his books. Sitting here in the stillness and quiet I just had a great idea we could have for teachers an 800 number to call for help with difficult students. I wonder if anyone would pay to use it. But in reality there is a mind set with teachers and students often from day one.  Something is there with that student that is blocking or keeping him or her at a distance and the result is turmoil between teacher and student.

Everyday I have other teachers come by can you do this for me. I emailed a friend I need to put a sign out by my room you need testing done, essays or papers written, send your students here, whatever stop in. Then it dawned on me many of these students will not do anything for some teachers. One comes to mind and it is a certain type of teacher this students does not like he will literally fail because of his personality and conflicts. But what about in order to fairly evaluate get that essay written or test done in an unbiased place with someone who is not fighting with or in tension with that student, actually not a bad idea, I wish I thought of it. I need to email that teacher or two or three and commend them.

 

“Never think that I believe I should set out a “system of teaching” to help people understand the way. Never cherish such a thought. What I proclaim is the truth as I have discovered it and “a system of teaching” has no meaning because the truth can’t be cut up into pieces and arranged in a system.” Diamond Sutra

 

Not a good rationale for curriculum perhaps that is why I am enjoying my major in graduateschoolofCurriculumtheory. I do think in terms of life and relationships this very definitely applies however. Far too often we tend to look at life as all is this way. If I go over here it is the same if I go over here it is the same. I remember a teaching job in Macon, I was expecting little nice 12 year olds and when I got there the average age was 15 and in those days EBD wasn’t sorted out they were just all in that class. I survived day one to plan for day two and all went well, although I forgot to mention I took an eight foot boa with me on day two and those rough and rowdy 15 year olds had a great fear of snakes at least when I first pulled my buddy out of the gym bag. We then proceeded to talk about snakes and each student by the end of the day had handled and held the snake.  I did not have another issue for two weeks and was offered the class full time and almost took it, however my studies at Mercer University were to start in a week.

It is so difficult to try and treat every thing in education as neat and clean. Trying to understand a student that is different in terms of the “nice” perfect kids is not going to work. So what truths do we set down, what principles can guide us in dealing with a kid who is disrespectful?

 

“If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” William Penn

 

Sitting on my desk on a 4 inch by four inch board decoupage to the board and cute burnt edges is this quote. It was given to me over thirty years ago inMacon,Georgiaby a student from that first class of hooligans.

We have all heard the saying about do not complain till you have walked a mile in my shoes. Howard Eubanks and also another former student of Dr. James Sutton’s seminars and an EBD teacher inNorth Georgiaemailed me this story a few years back.

 

“Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost cried when the little boy said, ‘Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.’ She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet. He then announced, ‘These aren’t my boots.’ She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to, and once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner than they got the boots off he said, ‘They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ’em.’ Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry, but she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again. Helping him into his coat, she asked, ‘Now, where are your mittens?’ He said, ‘I stuffed ’em in the toes of my boots’” Author Unknown

 

How many times each day with students do we forget to check the toes for mittens? We want everything just so, perfect little darlings, all in rows and little cute name tags and all in cute little outfits and quiet and neat handwriting and so forth. We really are trying to pull boots on everyday and every class with mittens in the toes. In a high school class it is hard to walk in and with a wave of the magic teacher wand, “poof” all is well. It is hard for many teachers to check all the cowboy boots for mittens. When you think there is a problem try and you try and build fail safes, have a core group of teachers you can check with. Maybe there is an issue with that kid maybe his mittens are really stuck in there deep.

So many teachers would much more rather write a referral and teach by referral. If all my students are in “In School Suspension”, I will have a really great day. I will have to admit there are students when I see they’re out I cheer but I do it under my breath and to myself. But I am finding many teachers just do not want that chance, they do not want to look for mittens they might soil their hands. School custodians will always provide paper towels and for the squeamish use the gloves in your first aid kit. I am being literal in a symbolic thought.

Many months possibly a few years ago a friend sent this email note:

 

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand – strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Ride! ”

 

I am not sure where or who said this but a slight alteration and paraphrase from me.

 

“Teaching should NOT be a journey to the end of the day with the intention of arriving safely with perfect attendance and all the “A” students all in order and lesson plans in an attractive and well preserved lesson plan book, but rather to skid in sideways, Ideas in one hand – Creativity in the other, energy thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO – What a Day!” fbird

 

I bumped into another teacher after school last Friday and they asked how was my day and I said “I had a blast,” I really should have said I think I found about a dozen pairs of mittens. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

We have to try and care

Bird Droppings January 18, 2012

We have to try and care

 

So far for this year and the tail end of last year all the snow, sleet and ice predicted have never showed up. It has been unseasonably warm with only a few nights getting below freezing. I lost my phone yesterday as I headed home from school and find it amazing how dependent we have become on our smart phones. I did not know my sons or my wife’s numbers and had to look up my cellular accounts on the internet. Fortunately as I walked in my phone was sitting at my last stop as I headed home yesterday.

As I headed in to school today a brilliant smile greeted me in the sky. A crescent moon was gleaming away after a night of rain and storm. Sitting here pondering my writing for today yesterday I was sitting talking with some students on war and faith and how human beings have such fickle and often conflicting views which create much of the tumult in the world. In a roundabout way the discussion ended up with Mother Teresa. I have always been impressed with the attitude and faith of Mother Teresa.

 

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” Mother Teresa

 

It is difficult for me to even imagine the ability to do what Mother Teresa did day after day as she was walking the streets of Calcutta India dealing with poverty and human suffering I can barely imagine. In the above thought she asks to light a light in the hearts of people and I try and compare and feel like a match stuck barely casting a spark.

 

“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.” Barbara De Angelis

 

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

 

As I look at my day and my effort to try and emulate some of humanities great givers I realize I am here now in this moment and that other person was there at that moment and for now even if only a spark, a minimum of light, it is light and it is shining and what I can do now within the context of where I am is what is so important. My morning is spent before class in the hall literally talking to students often students who are walking down the hall simply being there. I interject questions, how are you and such and often more times than not make some smart remark “I wonder if they are still grouchy today?” Yesterday my friend who wasn’t speaking too me I followed down the hall directly behind her with comments like, some people just are annoying, they stop talking to other people for no apparent reason anyhow after about fifteen feet of annoying remarks she turned around cracking up and said ok I will talk to you. Later in the day I think a well of holding back spilled out have you ever tried to listen to a kid with ADHD try and explain why they were mad at you and all that has happened in a week in fifteen seconds or less it requires hypersonic listening.

“It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.” James Baldwin

 

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

 

Always as I read Mother Teresa’s comments the “L” word comes up time and time again love is the focus of her thoughts and statements. In teaching so often it is difficult to use that word, parents find it hard to tell their children. I have heard many times the line “my children know I love them even if I do not tell them”.

 

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

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

 

It amazes me how people do not see how love and giving are really selfish. When you love and when you give it is returned the circle is complete. I know this is an understatement and love and giving are not selfish by any means but it is so true that this circular motion occurs it may be simply the feeling of doing good. Later today I am doing a poster for school about the relief fund one of the classes has started. It is a feeling of good will of love while these kids will never witness any effect that what they do here in our town collecting money for a relief fund actually does there is satisfaction and pride in the effort.

 

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

 

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

 

I have been a visitor in schools where teachers wall themselves up in their rooms’ They open the door for class and lecture close the door then open the door and maintain this assembly line routine through the day and never once have true contact with a student. They take roll I did that the other day started calling names and said we have been required to call roll and students must raise your hand and say present after about two or three students actually did it one pipes up, “Mr. Bird but you know we are here” and therein lays the difference. Some teachers are so engrossed in not knowing their students they never know they are there. Many choose not to give for a fear of caring.

I called a home yesterday and spoke to a dad if I can call him that. He was pleasant and polite. I asked about his daughter who is a ninth grader. She was with friends for the weekend and he had told her she was responsible for her ride to and from a town about thirty miles distant average car 10 miles per gallon that is 3 gallons either way a total of six gallons of gas and if careful we can get gas for $3.35 so maybe $20.00 in gas. It seems she could not get a ride back and he told her he could not afford to come get her. Perhaps my comprehension was a bit off. If one of my children went out of town for the weekend and was unable to get home I would have found twenty dollars in gas or found a way to get them home. My initial reason for calling was due to attendance.

 

“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

 

“We must give more in order to get more; it is the generous giving of ourselves that produce the generous harvest.” Orison Swett Marden

 

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives; and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.” George McDonald

 

I was looking through old photos from back in the day and found several of some friends from Auburn Alabama. These photos go back nearly twenty five years. The young man in the photos used to work for me when he was in college. I jokingly recalled as I talked to his wife after I spontaneously called after looking at the pictures. I remember meeting his wife’s father for the first time. It seems my friend was hiding in our stock trailer at a livestock show her daddy did not want her seeing him and he was looking for him amazing how time is and now they are now business partners. But a small side note they lost a baby several years ago and now have two healthy boys and the third pregnancy is going fine near to full term. As I talked with my friends wife she offered that in her heart it was meant to be there was a reason and she may never know why they lost a child. It had taken two years but they were having another baby and you know every day I end with remembering those in harm’s way well in harm’s way is a big term keep this unborn baby in your thoughts these are special folks.

 

“If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa

 

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” Mother Teresa

 

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.” Mother Teresa

 

 Today make an effort to know your students, your children, your friends, your family and those you meet so as I do every day please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird