Building sandcastles drip by drip

Bird Droppings January 11, 2012

Building Sand castles drip by drip

 

Back when I was going to graduate school nearly every day and before switching to internet classes and WebCT it took some getting used to going to school and then going to school again. I was teaching from seven in the morning till three in the afternoon students who have had difficulty with school and then driving an hour and going to school from five till nine thirty most every day.  I will say thinking back nearly eight years going as a student after being a teacher made for an interesting schedule. It was a time of flux for me also getting used to a new computer and tied in to that we had radical administration changes in our own school. All in all it made life interesting. However it was also around this time my middle son was tutoring several students who had difficulty with chemistry.

I found it most interesting watching him work with his peers who were high school students as well. During that same period of time he helped me break bridges in a summer school physical science class as he was helping with tutoring. We built twenty one inch bridges of popsicles sticks and white glue only and then using a device to see whose can hold the most weight. The students really got into the breaking and it was interesting as the bridges ranged from zero to eighty one pounds in breaking weight.

I also had a side experiment on building pyramids which involved a sand box. In the course of having my sand box set up as I do for this project I built a sand castle albeit a small one. I went back to teaching and as I watched one of my students as he smashed my three inch drip castle not because I built it just because it was there. Later that same person smashed several of the broken bridges and as I watched observing simply to break them no real reason other than to break them. It really made me think in light of all that happened that day as I looked back some people are capable of creating new ideas and new concepts for others to see and also follow or complete those ideas concepts but in among those people are others who see an idea or a concept and simply tear it down not because of what it is or isn’t literally without thought or reason simply to tear it down.

It surprisingly saddened me to watch my tiny three inch castle smashed not through some random wave or step or misstep by a passerby but a deliberate effort. I came back to a thought I used in class many times and in writing my droppings over the years from Kent Nerburn who by education was a sculptor. He talked about when we are born and have a piece of marble to sculpt some create marvelous works of art others drag this block behind and some simply smash the marble into gravel. Last night as I sat thinking about my current classes and pondered the day into this morning. It is sad the limits that student have imposed upon themselves only to tear down and smash into gravel never ever to see a work shine upon a pedestal a piece of art work.

 

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson

 

In among our daily journeys we are faced with individuals who choose only to tear down who would rather simply relish destruction than creation who do not understand lifting up yet we need to continue to try and show there is more to life.

It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.”  Albert Einstein

 

 So maybe it is a miracle as Mr. Einstein says even for my castle destroyer to simply be in school for he chose to be here he was not forced. Who knows maybe just maybe something will rub off and one day I may find him sitting by a sand box thinking and drizzling sand between his fingers into a drip castle instead of just smashing them. So a simple thought for a simple day and as we go about this day and hopefully we will hear less of our friends and families in harm’s way. Sadly they are still thousands of miles away many and we need to keep them in our thoughts so please keep all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and so have a glorious day today and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

Horses and Trains and Learning

Bird Droppings January 10, 2012

Horses and Trains and learning

 

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

It has been nearly fifty years since diesel engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks fromScranton,Pennsylvaniaand the rich anthracite coal regions toNew JerseyandNew York, hauling the fuel of the times on theDelaware,Lackawannaand Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on theDelaware,Lackawannaand Western coal trains from 1900-1946. 

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

 

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

 

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories.

 

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

 

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In our English class we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town.

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children. 

 

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Perchron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

So am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

I put an Aerosmith CD in my car today as I left the house and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line actually a quote and yes I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn 

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

 

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

 

 Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

 

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

 

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 

            I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in there veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponantionally Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Reaching out

Bird Droppings January 9, 2012

Reaching out

 

“We may not live holy lives but we live in a world full of holy moments” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

 

Today starts my first full week of school for this semester. Thinking ahead a bit fifteen weeks to go or so and graduation May 20th and summer break. I am already sorting piles on my table of my graduate work and student work along with books I need to read and emails to answer.  I have been a fan of Kent Nerburn’s since my first suggested read nearly twelve years ago by a student’s mother. Today is no exception as I read a nearly six year old note from Kent’s a blog on his website. I highly recommend taking a look at his books and website kentnerburn.com.  Kent was addressing a letter he received from a student a fifth grader who was requesting photos or pictures of Chief Joseph. Kent had written an extensive book on the flight of the Nez Perce focusing on Chief Joseph. As he illiterates when he was searching in his early twenties he had written to Norman Mailer asking could he come work for him and received a response.

 

“His note was brief. But I still remember his last line. ‘Write more than you have been writing.’ I’m sure it was just a way to finish the response. But to me, so desperate for meaning and direction, it became something of a creative beacon: if Norman Mailer said I should be writing more than I had been writing, then I should be writing more than I had been writing.” Kent Nerburn

 

As I read this paragraph and Nerburn’s next thoughts it dawned on me how often we as teachers and parents are asked for help and how often we tend to set that request aside due to not enough time so they can do it on their own, why me and all of the so many reasons to not help.

 

“It is a humbling experience to have a young person reach out to you for advice or assistance, whatever your role or status in life. It means they are open to your wisdom and your counsel. In that brief encounter, you can shape a life. We all get these opportunities, though not frequently. When they do come, they often do so in a clumsy or inarticulate fashion, because the young person who is reaching out has invested so much in the reaching that he or she does not do it with grace. Fumbling words, inappropriate requests, too constant a presence, a transparent attempt to seem worldly or knowledgeable — these are only a few of the ways this hopeful reaching for help and insight can express itself. We need to see past these clumsy efforts when a young person reaches out to us for assistance. We need to stop what we’re doing, open our hearts and ears, and hear what a hungry heart is asking of us.” Kent Nerburn

 

Nerburn ended his blog with a thought that he hopes he can do something for his young writer that will be of value to him. I have been pondering most of the weekend on a direction for an article for a National Educational magazine actually two differing directions have kept me stifled of lately. I keep seeing in my mind’s eye the idea of a funnel and how we take children and pour them through a funnel. We are constantly squeezing them faster and faster till they shoot out somewhere in twelve or so years. There is little time to answer questions if there is any time to even propose a question. We have to adhere to our curriculum maps and schedules and get data into those brains for graduation tests and end of course tests and test of tests. With all of the jamming of information and content we soon find there is no more room for creativity or imagination.

I once used the illustration of putting five gallons in a liter bottle in the end you condense it, you filter it and you take away what you as the teacher deem not of importance.

I was grazing through Barnes and Nobles education section and found a book written by a former US Secretary of education, no names at this point. He had in his attempt to declare what constitutes a good education made a list of what statements and or quotes should be recognizable by each grade and age. Ten of one list were from the Bible. Interesting and I thought is there an agenda here or what. As I read further in my reading while offering in science that evolution was considered by most scientists as valid it was still a theory and offered a choice of schools as a solution since most will teach evolution. He did offer how intelligent design was a cover up for creationist theories.

But I am back to my idea of funneling that of providing a list from a higher or I should say former higher up official of what should be learned by children which actually included Bible verses. Granted in today’s political debate one side is saying the other is doing away with religion what about those non-religiously oriented children and or other religions that would in this scheme of things literally be behind by not knowing that material and yet we do this constantly as we use a list of standards and norms for determining the rightness and wrongness of learning. I keep coming back to my idea of Swiss Family Robinson as a curriculum. Oh yes that book was on the list of should read books in elementary school. It is an early nineteenth century book as were many on his list “the classics”. Harry Potter was not on the list as were quite a few more recent books.

But this fellow is not alone I have watched counties and schools funnel thought and thinking by channeling in directions of what the community and administration think is correct. How many questions get left by the way side? How many teachers even have time anymore to listen to see if a question was even asked? What happens when the funnel gets so constricted that nothing gets through? But it is a new week and a new day and I am throwing away the funnel. I hope that I will have a question or two today and that I take the time to answer them. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Reading about yourself will sometimes offer a clue

Bird Droppings January 8, 2012

Reading about your self will sometimes offer a clue

 

After over thirty three years of marriage it seems almost like day one every day and each keeps getting better. Periodically it seems I will receive at some odd hour of the night and or morning a paper to review for one of my sons. There are many times that there is a very narrow window of time between when I see it and it is due. Waking at three in the morning does provide the opportunity. It has been nearly two years since this one passed through the electronic maze of life and caught my attention as the individual he was referencing was one I have read about and had some interest in as well. I will borrow a few bits and pieces from my son’s paper.

 

“There was a prominent study conducted by psychologist and educator Dr. Albert Bandera involving environment and personality. His goal was to see in what ways people come up with their impressions of other people…. The idea behind the experiment was to gauge the ability of people to judge someone’s personality based upon their environment…. I found reciprocal determinism to be quite interesting in how it added free will to the idea in contradiction to most previous behaviorist theories, where people are completely determined by their environment. What opened up this concept to me was the office study because it explained the concept on how people affect their environment.” Matt Bird, senior nursing student Piedmont College

 

“People not only gain understanding through reflection, they evaluate and alter their own thinking.” Dr. Albert Bandera

 

As I read my sons words and recalled many readings of Bandera I found myself intrigued reading my sons view of me and my room at the high school. As I read I realized how much I impacted my environment through my room and my interactions with people who come within it. I use the term sanctuary many times including today in another email to a friend describing my room at school in regards to students.

 

“I often in my life have seen offices and bedrooms that truly embody peoples’ personalities. For instance my Dad’s school room at my high school back home a person could easily determine that he has a high level of extraversion, you could grade his level of agreeableness, his conscientiousness, his high level of emotional stability, and his openness to experience. My father’s school room has walls covered in various pictures of current and past students, various exploits and accomplishments, and there are animals all throughout the room in various aquariums. Naturally students clamor to my father’s room and love to be around the man. Throughout my life I have seen experience affect my dad’s personality but I have seen my father’s personality drastically take control over his environment and the situations he has been placed into.” Matt Bird

 

As I do every day I sit down and write thinking and reflecting as I go. As I read my sons words so many thoughts came to me. Former students, teachers and principals I have met along the way. Photos on my wall go back eleven years and a few much more to when I started back to teaching it seems so long ago. My own thoughts ranged to recent papers on community and learning. Always I somehow end up thinking of Foxfire, John Dewey and experiential learning methods from the early 1900’s still considered progressive today which always intrigues me.

 

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

 

Each of us lives in a society, a culture, a community, and we all share in that aspect and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group, the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically, mentally and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of those interactions and relationships.

 

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

 

We have to be working together to be moving forward and as humans we so often spend much of the time wasted, fighting and arguing among ourselves and the motion and or growth is limited.

 

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

 

“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.” Dr. Albert Bandera, From Self-efficacy: The exercise of control, 1997

 

Watching high school student’s form clicks and groups while adults have clubs, and social groups we tend to be a somewhat selfish animal. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us often by limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. Sharing a simple task is so often a distant thought if it is even a thought. TV humor even plays on this subject several times as in the old Seinfeld and Will and Grace sitcoms where giving is a chore, a burden, and the characters are literally parasitically instead of symbiotic. As I was reading and looking for quotes and thoughts this one seemed to pop out at me.

 

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

 

 Wright was speaking literally yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do psychologically destroy them. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

 

“The most difficult thing is we do not deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

 

“We are more heavily invested in the theories of failure than we are in the theories of success.” Dr. Albert Bandera, from APA address, 1998

 

In a recent project assignment, several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question because they just wanted done. Whether it was right or wrong good or bad was not the issue it was over with.

 

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

 

“By sticking it out through tough times, people emerge from adversity with a stronger sense of efficacy.” Dr. Albert Bandera

 

I read these quotes and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self-absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over still you wait just as the rest do so is there in effect a real benefit. A favorite catch phrase of high school students is “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself” especially if we look back at Bandera’s thoughts and others. As we enter the middle of a week our world is troubled and sore, so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Digging for gold

Bird Droppings January 7, 2012

Digging for gold

 

“You have to drill through mud and water to get oil; you have to sift through sand and silt to get gold; you have to chop and hack through stone to get diamonds. So why do so many people feel that the treasure of ideas should come to them with little or no effort?” Sydney J. Harris

 

I recall a story my father told me of his experience in a South African gold mine many years ago. At this particular mine, which also is the deepest hard rock mine in the world, going down over fifteen thousand feet and extending nearly twice that in shafts horizontally another world existed below ground. At that depth the rock face could cook an egg from the heat. When miners are looking for diamonds and gold ore they only dig, drill and mine the vein of ore which could be a hundred feet thick or a few feet. At that depth all effort and time are crucial, if a section of reef (gold bearing ore) is only a few feet thick and mining will center on that vein. It can be more excruciating to hand-mine a few feet thick vein of reef than one where large mining equipment can be used.

 

“The common notion, particularly in our country, that education ought to be painless does not apply to any other area. The athlete sweats and strains, exercises and conditions himself to obtain mastery over his chosen field; the auto mechanic goes back to technical school to acquaint himself with the new electronic gadgetry; the business executive toils amid the increasing complexity of global competition.” Sydney J. Harris

 

 As the miners worked in spaces often simply crawling and removing only that ore surrounding the vein, and in hard rock mining that is very difficult and very dangerous. As it is spending too much time and effort digging more that was needed could result in a disaster either physically or financially. On a side note this particular mine broke all safety and production records for tunneling in a twenty four hour period and won the industries production, quality and safety awards all in one year.

 

“Why is education the only activity we are willing to spend so much on and resigned to getting so little in return from? No rigger, no miner, no farmer would be stupid enough to make such a bad bargain.” Sydney J. Harris

 

I have a coring a six inch long two inch wide cylinder, from that mine and from fifteen thousand feet down, it sits on my desk a reminder of the difficult task. As I look at education today after reading the AJC headline where the state education dept. knew the state middle school math tests would be a disaster I wonder seriously. Harris wrote this column over twenty years ago and the words seems applicable now. I was reading the AJC our main Atlanta paper this morning and the second section lead article is how charter schools are scoring higher than “regular” schools. My response is duhhh; I could have told you that just looking at students in charter schools. Often requirements to get in and you do have to fill in forms and applications to be accepted sort of like college. So here you have a select group of students not all students taking a standardized test and then comparing results. That is like let’s sort out the best students and then compare their scores to everyone else. Amazing what you can do with statistics. A true measure would be how they improved in that school not simply versus general population.

 

“Whatever else educating ourselves may be, it cannot be easy. It cannot be painless. It cannot be spoon-feeding. But it can be a delight, as any difficult challenge can be a delight if we look upon it as an adventure, not an inconvenience or a burden.” Sydney J. Harris

 

I was thinking yesterday about why students do not like school. Why do some students thoroughly enjoy the efforts and some do not? Learning it seems has been made tedious and cumbersome. I have found if students do not want to be in class teaching them can be minimal at best and they will expend less than more. So how do we get students to want to be there? This is an all-encompassing task. In an essay by Alfie Kohn entitled, What to look for in a classroom? Aflie Kohn gives a few tips. Some of those simple tips from his chart  are, on the walls; have good signs, have them covered with students’ projects, Have evidence of student collaboration and make sure that any work, signs, exhibits, or lists obviously has been created by students rather than by the teacher.

 This is the information about, and personal mementos of, the people who spend time together in this classroom that is what is crucial. Kohn also has a list of bad signs which starts with nothing on the walls. He states that students will want to be where they are wanted, where enthusiasm is shown, and where they are accepted not merely tolerated. As I look at this, really it is also about any aspect of life. It is just as critical be it as a friend, parent and or not just a teacher. We affect each other by how we interact. In life if we don’t want to be there we get up and leave.

I recall a student came to me about his class that he was upset with and did not want to be there, he left and was referred, and every day the same thing. I am always amazed at how a solution could be so simple. How do we get this student to want to be in class? It has to start with the attitude of the teacher and student. Once that student is in class then education can begin. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Caring: A very precious commodity in teaching

Bird Droppings January 6, 2012

Caring: A very precious commodity in teaching

 

                As I am pondering my last minutes before the school day starts. The air temperature is warming again outside and we are under a thinking its spring again weather watch tonight through next week. The anticipation of some rain and warm weather wants me to get my garden tools out. I am a bit disconcerted although I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays between a grand baby and family it has been wonderful but really with rain put off much yard work. I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement. Some use solely with a few friends, some especially younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. However after being back in teaching nearly eleven years I find caring is a very precious commodity in teaching and one that is difficult to teach others.

 

“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person

 

            Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. Last year we experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting congress women in Arizona and rhetoric in the current debates and ads is focusing on the negative aspects on both sides as to fanning the flames. However it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. In another dropping recently I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institution are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individual involved in the shooting last year was mentally ill which will play well in his court hearings and trial. But how do we as teacher’s help children choose differently.

 

“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

            Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.

 

“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

I have watched a new math curriculum reek havoc with students and teachers. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.

 

“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

            I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.

 

“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr.  Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

 

Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.

 

“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

            I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.

 

“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

 

Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

PS. A former high school student from our high school asked me to read her blog and comment and I was impressed.

 

“In my teaching, I aspire to instill a love of learning in my students — a drive that makes them into lifelong, voluntary seekers of information, of truth, of beauty. I believe this is possible (though not easy) to do for every one of my students. However, schools today are not set up in a way that is conducive to such inspiration. Large classrooms where the overlooked middle continues to blend and disappear, lesson plans designed around standardized tests, and isolated approaches to things like grammar and vocabulary do not light a fire in students. How can I say this with such certainty? Because I, as a student, was largely a product of such a system — and I did not have the fire that I value so much today. There were teachers who made a difference — absolutely — but always by bucking the system, if ever so slightly. No teacher who recites standards and lives out of a workbook can inspire a student. If you want students who chase after learning, give them something to learn that matters! In my temporary classroom of seventh graders, we are reading The Giver, and every day I love to watch my students fight with their own perceptions of “normal” and “utopia.” They are learning. They aren’t filling in bubbles, they aren’t copying definitions. They are thinking. They are talking. And they are learning.” Kimberly Marsh, newly graduated educator

Getting the passion back

Bird Droppings January 5, 2012

Getting the passion back

 

When I walked outside earlier to take our Westie for her morning bathroom break I was greeted with a near full moon, well maybe a half moon and a crystal clear sky filled with stars. Thinking to myself I said thank you for being alive and such a wondrous visage in front of me. Over the past few days I asked several friends about passion and obsession and what was their opinion of these words. For example are they similar or are they different. Perhaps there is a fine line between the two. I wondered as I went through the day yesterday thinking about a line in a memo from a good friend I received over the weekend. It was about getting the passion back.

 

“Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we would become weak and faint. Without love our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we cannot longer confidently look out at the world. We turn inward to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it and with it alone we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George

 

It has been nearly thirty years since Chief Dan George passed away. He was in numerous movies playing elderly Native Americans interestingly enough he did not start acting till he was 71. Before his death he was honored by several universities in theUSandCanadawith honorary doctorates. Dan George was a chief of the Salish tribe of British Columbia and he lived with passion and with a love of mankind and life in his heart.

 

“We have taken so much from your culture; I wish you had taken something from ours…for there were some beautiful and good things within it. Perhaps now that the time has come, we are fearful that what you take will be lost….I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success: His education, his skills, and society. If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.” Chief Dan George, from a lament for Confederation

 

I pondered these words sitting here this morning wondering why I almost forgot to get up this morning on time I do not like time changes and was definitely spoiled from a holiday break. I know pieces to my own puzzle are falling in place. I read over and over the last line. “What one fears one destroys”. In the work place so often change creates fear and in that we seek to destroy that which is creating the fear often without truly trying to understand what it is we are destroying.

Yesterday I was in such a dilemma, I worked through ideas and issues only to continually be bound in the superficiality of the events, never able to raise my head up to get a breath. I was drowning on dry land. I looked deeper in and so often we can let our passion lead us into obsession, we can take love and forget for a moment that our passion is driven by love and slip into losing touch with why we were where we are, only to be obsessing. My friends earlier today I wrote obsession is when you lose control; passion is when you put your heart into something.  

 

“O Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds, I come to you as one of your many children. I need your strength and your wisdom. Make me strong not to be superior to my brother, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy: myself” Chief Dan George

 

I was wandering, thinking of roles played in movies by Dan George and in one of my favorite movies “The Outlaw Josie Wales” in particular. The old man Lone Wattie is constantly being snuck up on. At eighty years old Dan George portrayed Lone Wattie in this movie. Each moment of his life he was involved in passion, in love, in his faith, his people, and in mankind.

 

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away, they speak to me
and my heart soars.

By Chief Dan George

 

How do we get back the passion? Jokingly many of the kids will come in and say “Bird I love you” as I think back perhaps that is how and why we do get along there is a love involved, a trust, a mutual respect and perhaps passion. A student I had worked with for four years was to be tested and he resisted finally after several months he said he would only if he could be tested first period. It was a different school psychologist than the one who normally tests in our building that tried to test this student and who was unfamiliar with his case and had a run in with this student.

Finally by agreement and the students understanding since he did not want to miss the classes he was having trouble in was why he wanted to test first period, he was called out of fourth and upset going into testing. I received this email and it bothered me, this person had spent less than two minutes with this student and wanted him suspended and or worse. Not knowing any of the details of four years of keeping him in school and passing, too much work and too little concern took away any passion and any love not to mention respect. Yesterday I received a call from this student now out of school for four or five years asking about a transcript to get into college. We destroy that which we fear.

 

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
  speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
  speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
  speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
  they speak to me.

And my heart soars.

By Chief Dan George

 

We get passion back by looking for it, by seeking it out, by rekindling the fires in our hearts and souls. We get the passion back by being able to respond when someone says “I love you” without sarcasm but looking at a window of trust and seeing more than words. We can find the passion by being there and here and holding our head up, maybe when we ought to lay it down. We can get back the passion when our heart soars. So for a Tuesday morning that sure feels like a Monday morning and an few hours earlier than I have been getting up please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Looking at the reflection beyond a mirror

Bird Droppings January 4, 2012

Looking at the reflection beyond a mirror

 

I was looking over again a book this morning “Qualities of an effective teacher” by Dr. James H. Stronge, Professor in Educational Policy, Planning, and leadership at theCollegeofWilliamand Mary,WilliamsburgVirginia. Stronge looked at students and how various aspects of a teacher’s involvement effect the student’s achievement, verbal ability, intellectual ability, content knowledge, certification, and experience. One aspect that was most intriguing to me was, “the Role of reflective practice”. As I recall having read this book in 2008 or so and now Dr. Stronge is employed by the state to come up with an effective teacher evaluation program I think it is interesting how he sees teachers.

 

“Reflective teachers portray themselves as students” “Effective teachers are not afraid of feedback; in fact they elicit information and criticism from others.” Thoughtful reflection translates into enhanced teacher efficacy. And a teacher’s sense of efficacy has an impact on how he or she approaches instructional content and students.” Educators confidence in their ability to facilitate the learning and understanding of material by students is observable by others.” James H. Stronge

 

It might be said that Stronge’s was borrowing his thoughts on reflection from many years ago. Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, Henry David Thoreau walked away from teaching to be a student. Only in being a student himself could he teach.

 

“I find that the rising generation in this town do not know what an Oak or a pine is, having seen only inferior specimens. Shall we hire a man to lecture on botany, on oaks for instance, our noblest plants-while we permit others to cut down the few best specimens of these trees that are lefty It is like teaching children Latin and Greek while we burn the books printed in those languages.” Henry David Thoreau

 

Much of Thoreau’s thought process and writing was as he walked through his area of New England, learning about the world and people within. It is introspection and reflection that lead me to my early morning writing and reading. I started looking at a well used journaling of sorts’ websites, Facebook, WordPress, Myspace.com, where students, teachers, friends and family use the medium to reflect and post thoughts ideas often more trivial and whimsical than introspective yet within the milieu of ideas there is thinking and reflection. For in writing about yourself and views on things you are offering a view to the world of yourself.

 

“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

 

I have watched education change since 2004 as we are putting so much emphasis on testing specifically standardized tests as a means of finding about learning or what has been learned in a given space of time. How many facts can an individual hold within a given cranial space? Is there a limit based on some cognitive level indicator as to how much any given person can acquire and retain? IQ has long been used as a determining factor in cognitive ability often just a simple test and we have an IQ score, but of course the bell shaped curve applies and at either end are the exceptions and in many cases those left behind.

So when we look further and find not everyone with a high IQ succeeds, and not everyone with a low IQ fails. Testing perhaps is not an accurate science after all in many situations. We use norms and percentiles and cumulative averages to provide the data for our theorizing. We look for patterns, and we look for trends. Can we really find an indicator of learning or of knowledge?

 

“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. 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 to teaching and learning

 

For several years on another website I have watched and read many students and friends’ journals, granted it is ancient to many, xanga has been a tool used by literally millions of people to vent daily, and or wonder daily. Many offer inner reflections of daily happening in learning and in life. I use journals myself in class to allow a freedom of speaking out of reviewing and pondering the day’s events most often hand written since some have aversion to computers. Some students chose to be very simple and direct, such as, “I went home ate dinner and fell asleep”. Often as I read each day others will offer inroads to their thinking and understanding.

Perhaps as I look back at Stronge’s ideas from his book. This line stood out, “Reflective teachers portray themselves as students”. It is a desire to learn that carries over to students. I have found over the years that simply telling someone to do something often is met with disaster, as in teaching, it is in interacting and in doing that learning occurs. Reflection offers a doing, a chance to look at what we do know and how we believe we can apply it. For several weeks I have been reading graduate student’s reflections, for some it is simply the professor wants this and this and here it is. However others open up and truly reflect on the topic, going into their inner most understanding, rather than simply regurgitating content and information.

One paper I read recently was a reflection on the entire ten core practices involved in the Foxfire Approach to teaching and how you as a teacher utilized or considered these in your teaching. As I read several teachers numbered one to ten and listed responses, some reflected on the overall impact of just now revealing and how crucial and important some of this information was, some even avoided touching on some practices. Yet as I read what is a reflection continually popped in my mind as a question.

When I look in the mirror I see a close but not exact view. It is depending on the angle and set of the mirror and in that much can be different. However it is still only one view at that precise moment in time.  The question was about your involvement now and this person admittedly was not involved but saw the potential in it. So while not addressing some addressed all indirectly. Reflecting, pondering, and offering a view and views that is open for perspective as well can lead to further discussion and reflection. I am wandering as I write today. A long holiday of nearly three weeks and being lazy after all that relaxing has muddled my thoughts. But one key thought for the day reflect on where you are and where you going as a teacher and as a learner. Please my friends as always keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

Looking for the elder in each of us

Bird Droppings January 3, 2011

Looking for the elder in each of us

“Someday the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you will die too.”  John Hollow Horn Bear, Brule Sioux 1850-1914

 

            I got up earlier and saw a friend had posted a strip mining photo to Facebook. I commented and added a quote from my readings. A bit later she added the above quote from a leader of the Sioux who attended three presidential inaugurations and was a peace treaty leader as the Sioux resigned themselves to reservations. I have been working over my break gathering old Bird Droppings and working on my ongoing project of compiling some I consider decent into a book. My daily journaling for nearly twelve years and for me a meditation of sorts and in most cases how I start my day. I have been reading the past few evenings when I get a chance a book by Archie Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Gift of Power: The life and teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man. Coincidently as I go I am cataloging and tagging my old droppings. I am using some of old ones that seemed important today to use from 2005.

 

“The face you have up to age thirty five is the one you are born with; after thirty five, it is the face you have made.” Abraham Lincoln

 

A new year and yet another year older, I can always pick on a good friend who is a few months older than I am about being the oldest of us which I need to do soon. I participate in a group website with fellow high school class mates of 1967. As always comments about grandchildren and retirement abound. A few months back when I could afford it I was privileged to use a senior citizen discount at a theatre. With several all of the family members with smart phones that record music we have been searching files for old recordings from my sons various bands back in the day. I recall a few years back as I went to pick up my youngest son, his band Open Suggestion was cutting their first recording and I had to wait while they burned CD’s.

As we headed home the conversation went to old music and LP albums and one of the guys kept saying CD’s and I made a comment about there are a few who may not have made the grade to CD yet. Funny thing was I picked a group little known outside of the coffee house circuit of late sixties early seventies to focus the conversation on, Brewer and Shipley known for their one hit wonder a token of the times “One toke over the Line”. Actually I went to hear them at The Main Point located just outsidePhiladelphiain 1971 or so just prior to moving toGeorgia. It was the night before I took my first load south in my 1969 VW bus with curtains on the windows. As I listened that night to another of their songs with which they ended their show that night, “Don’t want to die inGeorgia”.

 

“The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.” Hervey Allen

 

“You can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older.” Anouk Aimee

 

Nostalgia of the New Year as I think back to just before moving toGeorgiaI had visited over Thanksgiving 1971 after going toFloridafor a few days. I arrived inMaconGeorgiaon my way toFloridato visit my cousin who was living inNaplesat the time. However as I went to Macon the streets were still showing signs of all the flowers strewn during the funeral for Dwayne Allman just a little over a month previous, in October of 1971. On Thanksgiving Day 2004 I took two of my sons for the first time to Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon Ga. to see the grave of Dwayne Allman, former lead guitar and slide player for the Allman Brothers band and original slide player on the famous Eric Clapton song “Layla”.

 

“To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Henri Frederic Amiel

 

“Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday.” Thomas Arnold

 

It has been a few years since I had discussed with a friend the concept of Elders, a lost art in our hectic world. In primitive cultures the elders were the force behind the family and tribe, the storage house of wisdom and knowledge in a world where all was passed down by word of mouth and story; not by the internet and high speed modem connection. As I read my book Gift of Power, the story is of a handing down of wisdom and understanding over many generations. As I work on my doctorate based on The Foxfire Teaching Approach, in the original program students gained much of their understanding from their elders as they interviewed and learned about their culture and history. I am privileged to soon be able to start learning myself as I go through the archives of nearly sixty years of interviews and photographs.

 

“Our mission is to reclaim the sacred role of the elder for our time by encouraging people of all ages, especially those who are “chronologically gifted”, to abandon the modern “elderly” retire-recreate-deplete paradigm, and to consciously and intentionally celebrate the second half of life by embracing a return to the time-honored engage-serve-leave a legacy role of the traditional elder.” Barry Schlimme, The Wisdom Center

 

As I read through the side panel on the website my friend led me too, the words Celebrant, Conservationist, Mentor, and Sage I could so easily apply the word teacher in place of elder. These are the role a good teacher should be involved often because there are no other figures to serve that purpose. In many cases we as teachers are the elders of our society and we often forsake our duty. We need to engage, serve, and leave and not control, intimidate, and conquer. I have a brochure for a conference I will be attending in March designed to provide ideas for working with High Risk Youth and several of the ideas are emphasized in the various proposed speakers talks.

 

“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.” May L. Becker

 

“Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.” Pearl S. Buck

 

I always seem to be at the right place and right time on that night several years back as I drove to pick up my son I stopped to get a bottle of water, a one liter of Smart Water please. For whatever reason really none I did not go to my favorite Quick Trip and ended up at a convenience store several miles along the way. This store is sort of out in the boon docks but on my journey and pathway. Coming out as I pulled in a former teacher from the High School who had gone in the service. He went through basic training and such and was about to be shipped overseas, he developed a stress fracture and was discharged from the service.

We talked about teaching and while we talked a former student walks out synchronicity as Jung says. A comment this former teacher made stuck with me, while he wanted to serve his country and now was unable to the experience was meaningful and will be with him forever, he did what he could. As I am writing this morning still three words from the quote above stand out we as adults, as elders in our community and as teacher’s parents and friends, we each need to “engage, serve and leave”. I would add to this we need to engage each other as humans as well, we need to serve each other and we need to leave each other a little better than we started. So many of us get too focused on ourselves and forget others.

 

“We do not count a man’s years until he has nothing else to count.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

As I watched the sunrise this very cold morning in Georgia, each year, each week, each day and each minute, a new one, so it is each morning comes and another opportunity for us to serve others and mankind. I am using a passage from my current reading to close today and some might find offense in using the words from a Lakota holy man. But I ask you to look at truly what is being said. Heal the whole person, as often as the medicine men of the Lakota will say they cannot heal someone who chooses not to be healed. Daily I work with kids and sadly teachers as well whose spiritual lie, mental life and physical lives are in turmoil. Granted as a teacher I am limited in my capacity as to what I can do but it is also not distracting further from where this child is on their own journey. We need to try and better each person even minutely as we traverse this plain of life.

 

“I treat the whole person, spiritually, mentally and physically while doing my doctoring. I use the power given to me and the power of the plants, and there must also be a little power on the side of the sick man or woman to bring about a cure. The sick person plays a big part in the healing process. He must have good thoughts and use whatever he finds that is “waken”, or holy, within himself. I don’t just treat a little part of him; I have to treat his whole body and all of his mind.” John Fire Lame Deer as recalled by Archie Fire Lame Deer 

 

Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

So hard to type 2012

Bird Droppings January 2, 2012

It is so hard to type 2012

 

            Sitting here coming to school in the dark alone thinking back after skipping a day of writing. I received a small book for Christmas about five years ago from my wife, “It isn’t easy being green” by Jim Henson Jr., the son of the great puppeteer. As I looked through this simple book of quotes and thoughts from Jim Henson and Kermit among others the overlying thought is one of positivism and optimism. How about starting the New Year, and what a better a way than on a positive and optimistic note.

 

“I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me.” Jim Henson, page 11, It isn’t easy being green

 

            I started looking at this book again last night and of course immediately had several ideas for my daily Droppings along the way. My wife and I actually went to bed early New Year’s Eve as we have for several years but my granddaughter was visiting and keeping us company. So no party, no celebration for New Year’s Eve; it had been a long holiday and one of many memories. My wife and I both go back to work tomorrow and another sleepless night was not really a good idea. As I cleaned my emails I found several additional thoughts to build on today.

 

“Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities.”  The Dalai Lama

 

            So often we get absorbed in the now. I recall a few years back seeing a large church along the interstate outsideAtlantacalled The Church of the Now. We do indeed to pay attention to today yet we also need to take a peek at how we are impacting the future. Environmentalists try to help us focus on the future, some like Al Gore gave it a try and put a bit of fear in us to give us a realization of how we are impacting the earth. I find it amazing how so many try and push the future aside for profits today and the anti-greenhouse effect people do. Growing up in a house where industrial safety was discussed for over sixty year I find it amazing how so many want to do away with regulations. In industry millions of lives have been saved by regulations. Did it cost more to save a person’s life possibly so but to that person’s family what is the worth.

Why do children so easily understand life? When I am talking with little children they seem to know how we are hurting the earth and that we should do otherwise. Recently I read the president of Bolivia has passed a law equating nature to human status in order to protect the natural world of Bolivia from exploitation. I find indigenous peoples and children often have similar thought patterns in terms of nature.

 

Look at children. Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside? Children don’t usually act in such a manner. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.”  The Dalai Lama, “Imagine All The People”

 

I think it is empathy that children have and seem too loose as they get older and become educated. Children so often can sense feelings and emotions from others. As we age we seem to put that aside in lieu of learned responses and behaviors. I wonder if as adults we can attempt to be more empathetic. Perhaps fell a bit more with our hearts that with our intellect.

 

“If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.”  The Dalai Lama

 

            So often in life it is our response and our attitude when we face adversity that determines the next step in our live. Can we learn from problems we encounter and then rise above that issue? It is a matter of cultivation as the Dalai Lama states. Can we cultivate a better attitude and understanding? I woke up this morning early and had the opportunity to see the sun rising. A beautiful orange and red horizon band across the sky greeted me.

 

“Indeed one’s faith in one’s plans and methods is truly tested when the horizon before one is the blackest.” Mahatma Gandhi, 1924

 

            For several days we have had rain off and on but warm, and I should not complain since we desperately need the water in the ground and in our lakes and reservoirs. But this last front has brought cold which I do not like except for killing fire ants. It is Gandhi’s words of when the horizon is the blackest that our faith is tested. Many the times that I have looked out across the way with black clouds billowing and heaving as storms approach, and changed plans. It is seeing that blackness and believing in you that is the real test. A new year is ahead and there are so many challenges and so much work to complete, in our country and in the world. Maybe we can all make a resolve for the New Year to see a little different and hear a little better so the world can reach towards peace and harmony.

 

“General standards of human rights apply to the people of all countries because, regardless of their cultural background, all humans share an inherent yearning for freedom, equality and dignity. Democracy and respect for fundamental human rights are as important to Africans and Asians as they are to Europeans and Americans.”  The Dalai Lama, “Harvard International Review,” 1995

 

            Perhaps I have borrowed a bit much from the learned man who goes by the title of the Dalai Lama, the fourteenth Dalai Lama since 1391. He was chosen in 1935 and currently resides inIndiain exile. I have read several of his books and always find his words comforting and enlightening. So for this first day of 2008 please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.

namaste

bird