An owl calling

Bird Droppings February 29, 2012

An owl calling

 

Last night I woke for a few minutes my wife thought I had left the burner on with a pot still on the stove I had cooked up my world famous chicken and rice for dinner. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over three years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a specific learning disability in reading.

I seldom bring up being ordained but being ordained has certain privileges and after all scheduled visitors are permitted into the jail pastors can go in. So I went in and I visited for nearly forty five minutes with one of my favorite students of all time at the county detention center. We talked about how seven years ago she had come to me with a big what if. She proceeded to tell me a friend of hers is pregnant and what could she do and who should she go to. It only took a few minutes till I realized the friend was actually herself. I recalled how she sat on the sofas in my room propping her feet up as she completed school while pregnant and would come in my room to rest.

She nearly came to tears as started talking about her babies who I have pictures of hanging on my door at school and have held and laughed with several times. I said no crying since I did not want to cry in front of a former student. We talked about jail food and how as soon as she was out she wanted a homemade tortilla and eggs and all the trimmings. It was nearly nine when I walked the almost half mile from the visiting room to my car which in my haste had locked my car keys in and had to have a police officer help me get into. As I drove home I recalled all of the publicity of illegal aliens and immigration laws and how business men provide jobs at a cheaper rate. A recent article on banks in bailout of applying for nearly twenty one thousand visas for white collar positions since they can get foreigners for less money in attorney and accounting positions over US citizens.

I thought of a young girl who had worked and had finished school and raised three kids and was being held because of where she had been born not where she was raised and grew up and gone to school and yet we have people receiving huge bonuses who created and caused one of the worst financial crisis’s in history walking around free and going on vacation. I was mad when I got home thinking of how greed had driven our society to where it was.

I wrote some of this a little over three years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts beyond the memories of a wonderful person who had been sitting in a jail cell away from her kids.

I sat listening even though half asleep as I do every morning and today the pine needles have made a lace pattern in the spaces between the twigs against the clarity of the sky. The sky is cold and clear and stars are everywhere as I wandered out. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me or so I thought but it was the cold ringing in my ears, but off in the distance a great horned owl called. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.

It was not all that long ago that several times a student reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up in the spring. Her mother coordinates the local Native American gatherings and dances. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. While for some eastern tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across theMississippithe various tribes attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power, of wisdom, of a fine line between here and the spirit world.

Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person and darkness yet a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As the weather warms up I will hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in theNorthGeorgiaMountainswith my middle son on an environmental field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Arch Diocese of Atlanta.

The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an ongoing program with a group that provides for school educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.

One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.

As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at my environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call.  I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.

 

“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology

 

I was listening several years ago to several students, for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two Afro-Americans and the comment offended them.

My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in ruralGeorgiamay have been accepted and applauded. It could have been the exact same words and yet a significantly different reaction. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper. How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations. A college student fromSouth Georgiawas writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.

Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of times we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks.  

namaste

bird

 

PS. My former student who I visited in jail after several thousands of dollars and an attorney and several intense weeks she received a permanent visa card as did her boyfriend now husband.

What if treaties and promises were all kept? What a world we would have?

Bird Droppings February 28, 2012

What if treaties and promises were all kept?

What a world we would have?

I begin each morning waking up and finding my way to my computer taking our dog out if she wants to, checking my ipad, making sure my connection is on or network up since we have an archaic internet provider and grab a bottle of water and go to work. I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before heading to school. Today as I answered an email thought from yesterday and build for today I found this thought.

“One does not sell the land people walk on.”  Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875  

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood that we wanted to possess, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture about seeing the world differently several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes. While I finished my graduate class room studies it wasn’t that long ago as we discussed these books and the culture of feminism in class we discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her book discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent post on our class site mentioned how could he as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Yesterday a young man wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness.  As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

 

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

In many ways we too still do this if we have control we promise much yet it is only to get more and a trusting person would not question a man of authority. If it was a questionable person maybe yes but we do this we use trust to get what we want still today. Look at our politicians on both sides and never before have sides been so distant since the day our current president was elected. Throughout history in the conquest and overpowering of peoples lies have done far more than war. The broken promises do more damage than any weapons. Look at students in class rooms as we go through a school and all the broken promises. We even legislated that all children will be reading on grade level by 2014. I said it was absurd in 2004 when the law passed as a teacher of special needs kids I knew not all children will read on grade level unless we decide to selectively euthanize eighth graders who do not meet standards. Maybe in the political arena that will come up of course if all children are homeschooled by 2014 as one candidate suggests no big issue.  

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” Shinquaconese

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust and we use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts using promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goal. The ends justify the means look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or morning dove sounds like. I am sorry to me that is worth not drilling and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.

I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas. Matter of fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competiter for gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want.

Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony.

“… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

Imagine a world where word was bond, where promises were kept where a hand shake was a contract for real and students and children knew they were respected loved and would be cared for. Imagine that what was said would be and not change or be different. We do need each other. We are social creatures and dependent on one another. We ourselves are to blame for so many of the issues we are confronted with through distrust and broken promises. A simple guide when you say something, do it. Perhaps I need to begin with myself as we all do. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

Thinking for a minute of what to write

Bird Droppings February 27, 2012

Thinking for a minute of what to write

 

Over the past few weeks I have read several blogs and emails about counting sheep and last night as I lay down to get some sleep after a long day of working on playing with my grandbaby, reading, and writing, I should have been working in my herb gardens but I was still a whooped puppy. Long about nine o’clock last night which for me usually is time for me to just zone out I lay there thinking for a bit. Of course just as I fell asleep it hit me we just left my youngest son, his wife and our grand baby only a few hours ago. Just as I thought of this he called needing a question answered about a computer printer. I almost felt like no need to go back to sleep since I get up at three in the morning during the week anyhow.

When I got to my computer and started in I sat there thinking for a second about how each of us builds our routine around who and what we are at the moment. Thinking back to my son and how when he would come home from college it would be his three hour nap and then play some games on his computer and chill, but it has changed now that he is married and a baby makes a big shift in our lives. After I got up I went to let the dog out everyone was content and happy which is probably due to her having just been out already since my son took her out when just before going to bed around midnight.

I went back outside only to find a steady drizzle falling and the air getting warmer. I thought back to my earlier trying to go back to sleep and when my son woke me up I lay there making up blog lines each more whimsical then the last. Unfortunately thinking doesn’t put you to sleep and it dawned on me why counting sheep would. For most people a sheep is a sheep they all look the same sound the same and act the same. If I was counting sheep depending on my mood and if I were looking for show lambs or breeding sheep or sheep to work herding dogs they would be different. The muscle mass or breed characteristics and then what breed am I counting and the history would come up of that breed counting sheep would never work for me after so many years of raising and showing sheep.

 My oldest son and I had Southdown sheep for some years including an Oklahoma Black and White show champion ram. Southdown’s go back a few hundred years in England famous for their meaty carcasses and for their small size. Why I do not count sheep because I might start on Jacob four horns which do not act like other breeds they scatter when a predator arrives each ewe taking their lambs and running in different direction. This is a little different twist on herding instinct. Perhaps I think too much, pondering each particular aspect and then going deeper and never getting bored enough to fall asleep and usually becoming more awake. So many years ago I found if I think of a relaxing spot calm and peaceful within seconds I am asleep, not from boredom but from relaxing.

 

“Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may grow.” Louise Driscoll

 

So often we lose sight of dreams of quiet times and get caught up in the issues of the day. As I came into my room earlier today several students were complaining about panic attacks, anxiety attacks and stress issues. How can it be that fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year olds are having stress related issues? It boggles my mind to see such young people caught in adult situations simply things like leaving home, being pregnant and trying to make adult related choices as a child and not being allowed to play with Lego, which is exactly what we are doing in class today. Lego maniacs rule, it is an excellent eye hand and imagination builder.  

 

Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” Charles M. Schultz

 

How do we tap into those extra gears and show kids there is more to life and so much more than what is at home or around the next corner. Over the past few days I have wondered about why and how we do to kids what we do.

 

“Have compassion for your parents’ childhoods. Know that you chose them because they were perfect for what you had to learn. Forgive them and set them free.” Louise L. Hay

 

As children complain about parents it is only what your parents have learned and had to work with as to how they deal with their children. Some have had powerful mentors and successful family experiences others have had trials and tribulations and for some no families or no parental support. We as teachers often become surrogate parents filling voids left by absentee parents and guardians.

 

We have contributed; each in the time allotted us, our endeavors to render… a permanent blessing to our country.” Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, Third American President

 

I wonder how as days go by we will be perceived as a nation.  Will it be as savior or war monger, freedom provider or imperialist so many questions? I was reading a note earlier from another teacher who is currently caught up in immigration issues as our many people. People come to work to have a chance at life and here we are most powerful nation in the world trying to decide what to do with them. I hear “they” are getting benefits and not paying I can understand this. Yet businesses all over the nation are utilizing “their” labor and not paying taxes on it or workman’s compensation on that labor yet we target the people who want to work and not the people who are employing them. Why not tax and take out workmen comp and or why not provide some semblance of temporary or some sort of documentation.  

I started a conversation several days ago with how much do you want to pay for chicken which is largely processed by illegal labor. Chicken is now as low as two dollars a pound and on the high side five or so dollars a pound. How about seven or eight dollars a pound? We can unionize chicken processing and such how about vegetable pickers and landscaping and construction workers? How much more for a head of lettuce are we willing to pay or for a house? I find it amusing that commodities based on often illegal labor somehow maintain their prices if when tough immigration laws are promoted yet gasoline which we are in maximum production and exporting fluctuates based on speculation.  I am not condoning illegal immigration but where should we focus efforts, on people wanting jobs or on industries willing to hire them illegally. To me this seems a paradox.  Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

The most powerful of teaching tools: REFLECTION

Bird Droppings February 25, 2012

The most powerful of teaching tools; REFLECTION

 

“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” Helen Keller

 

Helen Keller was one of the most envisioned people to have walked the earth yet never for most of her life did she ever see anything being blind and deaf. AS I have gone through life and learned it is the ability to reflect that inner vision of looking back on what we have done and then build upon it that makes us visionaries. For many of us in graduate school and in our general course of doing things reflection is an integral part of the day. It has been nearly twelve years since I began putting my daily sojourns in life on the internet and sharing with others.

 

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection because others can push you to look deeper and harder; to go places you may not think about or even be willing to think about on your own. When you tell others your story — when you share with others what you did and why, what happened as a result, why you think it happened, and what it might mean — several things take place that do not happen when you process your thoughts alone:” Hal Portner, Teachers as Learners

 

So often In the midst of researching and thinking an idea comes forward and or is found that can truly change your course and direction. Recent bits and pieces in my own life have left me thinking and wondering. One such reference is a Foxfire course in teaching that I was involved in several years back using Foxfire’s Core Principles. I took this course atPiedmontCollegeand within the education department their attitude toward reflection is paramount.  More recently was earlier today as my wife was responding to a post dealing with instructors in college and reflective practice. Reflection on our teaching practices is a key element to improving and accomplishing more through our instruction.

I was working with a student recently and developing ideas on how to use digital imaging in various student projects, we all tend to see so different. Perceptions vary so much person to person even with images that are taken on a digital camera you get different views. Many times when I am taking pictures I will end up with reflective images views of lakes, streams, images reflected from cars windows and such. On my one laptop the screen saver is an image at Georgia Tech of a historic building with me taking a picture reflected in the headlamp of the Ramblin Wreck.

I created an image many years back, and was using this image to show students the effects that can be had with careful viewing, camera angles and imagination.  A large alligator was lying alongside a pool of water in its enclosure exactly parallel to the pool. The image reflected in the water was literally a duplicate of the great alligator, two alligators lying together touching toes. My students came back with images that made me proud, literally a camera filled with reflections.

I recall a comment from a fellow grad student about mirrors and an article we read recently again on reflecting. One of the images my students came up with was the one student viewing the other as the picture was taken so both photographer and model are in the reflection almost as if standing next to each other. This was a powerful image from a couple of novice teenagers.

It has been a few years since many schools began banning journaling sites on the internet. Still occasionally there will be an arrest for harassment or threats on the websites. In one county several arrests were made directly from information from the website pertaining a few years back to a bomb threat at a school. Personally I still have a problem with banning sites since so many kids communicate this way. What if kids were educated on use and shown innovative ways to work on their sits and be proud of them?

 

“Collaborative reflection can have a greater impact than solitary reflection” Hal Porter

 

I was reviewing sites earlier today as I am limited in access on line at school due to our own computer blocks and such. I think it amusing how instead of journaling or messaging kids spend more time finding ways around blocks now a days. But looking back at my morning previews, the journal writing in many of these sites are reflections of individuals lives, a reaching out for others opinions for approval and for social interaction.

I realize there often is a dark side and have read many times where individuals tear each other apart online. This morning I responded to a former student currently away at school that left a note on my own site. I hadn’t heard from them since graduation nearly four years ago, reflection time. My daily sojourn into my own contemplation has been on public display for many years. For me reviewing and pondering as I say the day previous has helped me find answers as I read and as I write, looking for others views and ideas on that subject even though it may be only a quote or thought.

My students who turned to reflection as they photographed into art a contemplative image perhaps have taken a different approach as they view the world much in a similar manner. They see not directly and in living color but in a mirror image with filters and screens so many times or is it us as adults who see through filters and sun screens and image enhancers and miss so much of what really is there. Life is moving, flowing, transgressing, and alive whether we choose to acknowledge that or not. I begin a new journey soon moving from one course of thought to another trying as I can to pass pieces to my students offering bits and pieces as I go.

Years ago I recall my dad getting a small weekly booklet “Bits and Pieces”, full of thoughts and inspirations. It is the bits and pieces we share as teachers that add seasoning to the lessons, it is here we add context. Recently I have been recorded answers to a questionnaire I have designed as a rubric, “The M r. Bird Skittles challenge”. Contained within students offer ideas on what motivates them and why they set goals. This fun exercise makes for good research actually as I compile answers. One aspect students numerous students indicated as to why they were motivated by particular teachers was family stories. In my study number three on why they are motivated by particular teachers. Teachers gave context from their own lives relating to material and content.

Perhaps in my own reflection today is a good analogy to teaching, for many cooks (teachers) simply throw the meat on the flame and cook. While others will marinate, season, carefully monitor the internal temperature, and even carefully select the cut and quality of the meat before cooking. Some will tell their secrets to others to provide success in that persons cooking. There are so many similarities to teaching. Far too many times I have watched teachers throw the meat out often even without cooking seeing their students as simply savages who can eat it raw. Others just seer the edges a bit and unfortunately there are some who over cook and burn the meat, (I am bored being the result from students!).

I tried an exercise the other day, I made a referral sheet for students to refer teachers and then proceeded to make a teacher evaluation sheet for students to grade their teachers, a rubric of course. Interesting ideas came out as they had a hard time with why they were bored. They say it, but cannot pinpoint why. Maybe bored is an overused word and as in cooking maybe bland is better. Perhaps a tad of seasoning added would change everything.

Many years ago I had a history teacher in college who would walk in, never look at the class, never take roll, set his book on the podium, and begin reading the book. We had the book and literally could follow or read on our own soon people stopped coming as day after day he read from the book. It was not long that less than half the class was there, and those that came slept since it was an 8:00 class. Sadly nearly everyone failed including me. The professor covered the material in minute detail he read every single word in the book, and bland was an understatement, did I mention monotone as well.

A few Fridays back I tried a bit of an experiment. We did essays on, how do you know if a teacher is good or bad. Midst the turmoil and amusement, actually some pretty in-depth answers came from that gem. Coming from a kid who is pretty much a parasite on humanity and the educational system, after two paragraphs of whining and complaining he had an epiphany, look for wrinkles. If a teacher has fifty or more he or she is a bad teacher. Their thought was, wrinkles are caused by being stressed and if a teacher is stressed they are not enjoying themselves and if they are not enjoying themselves in what they do they cannot be a good teacher. I wish I had thought of that.  As I thought to this statement, from the mouths or should I say fingers of babes. I watch the news with a heavy heart every day, children killing their families even here locally in our county. There are so many in harm’s way in so many different places. So please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

namaste

bird

Our desire for freedom

Bird Droppings February 24, 2012

Our desire for freedom

 

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.

We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction. However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who at that time was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.

Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.

But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.  

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

 

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.  

 

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it  and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

 

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

 

 “From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

 

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow. 

As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly eight years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

So another school comes to a close and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Trying to raise a flag

Bird Droppings February 23, 2012

Trying to raise a Flag

 

Growing up as a child I recall the many stories my father would tell, stories of World War II, of Grandpa Niper, and my favorite stories of Native American warriors and chiefs. I am amused as my youngest son says back in the day. One story is of my father that happened during World War II as the flag was raised on Mount Sirabachi on the island of Iwo Jima as the American troops moved island to island in the South Pacific trying to end the war. That flag raising has been immortalized in statues, photos, films, and in most World War II history books but I am sure the flag is no longer there on Mount Sirabachi, that bit of land that long since has reverted to its native foliage and habitat.

A good friend asked me about various aspects of his tenure at a former job signs he had been there were long since erased, covered, taken down, and a new blank wall replacing a mural painted by students and more recently a newly adopted school logo.  So often we only see with our eyes we are visual learners. When we landed on the moon, and or Columbus landed in the new world, we and they planted a flag, a visual stimulus to draw attention to the phenomenon, to add support to the effort, perhaps to make the ten o’clock news. Is that what we do simply draw attention? I think back to a recent film based on a novel written by the son of one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. The book, Flags of our fathers, sees the event from  a person’s view that actually was there and its impact on the men involved and how so much more happened in that simple act of recognition. 

 

“The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.” Donald Schon

 

Long ago as man clambered from his cave, change became inevitable. He was leaving the warmth of the fire he required clothing. As he became a hunter, he required new tools for the bigger and stronger animals that provided more for his family. As populations grew additional transformations from gatherer to hunter to social being occurred. It was not long till status, power and soon politics were booming. As I thought back to an early society, and whose furs were better, whose cave was warmer, whose club was bigger and whose totem poles and drawings were coolest. Days came and went and we are still finding these symbols of those who were there. Soon furs gave way to cloth and hunting to farming and soon cities and towns sprang up and grew and with that various additional aspects of human nature. I find it interesting as anthropologists uncover as they study the few remaining true hunter gathering societies that as they observe many of the more depressing aspects of human nature are not there. Greed and hoarding do not exist in hunter gathers and appear as we become an agrarian society and begin with the exchanging or bartering of goods. 

 

“We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.” Donald Schon

 

In societies that sprung up each new chieftain made a mark initially in the genetic codes left behind and then in written form and art and other trappings. Soon as new chieftains came much as in the wild where a new dominate male lion will devour all of its former rivals cubs so the new gene pool is only his, we destroy and eliminate. We push our ideals and thoughts.

 

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon

 

We must move past that base nature of man and build legacy into the souls of those still here. Teaching needs to go beyond a simple memorization of content and into truly contextual aspects of life. We truly need to learn not simply be told.

 

“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfills for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Schon

 

We need to get to a point in our system where internal transformation is ongoing even evolutionary as it may be a constant growing and developing, not limited by that individual or idea but perpetuated by the societal needs and identity. I look back at where and when and emailed a friend earlier. I have learned over the past few years for whatever reason in education there is this great tendency to continually revert no matter how effective and how proven an idea is, to a more traditional methodology. I recall a teacher searching frantically for transparencies and a teacher’s manual for social studies many years ago for a subject she had taught for forty years.

Teachers seem to inevitably take the path of least resistance. This almost seems drilled into the teaching psyche. A professor shared the story of five monkeys with me and I have used in bird droppings over the years. I asked several teachers why this is so. Why do teachers come in so excited and in a semester or two end up like everyone else. One wise teacher said fear immediately. I thought about it and perhaps that is so. In the educational society so often administrations work so hard to be feared by students and faculty that perhaps even those who know otherwise fall in to that trap.

Fear drives human nature in all aspects and sorts of human kind we seem to revolve around our fears. Religion is based on fear, laws and rules all are focused and based on fear. Yet how difficult is it to accomplish, truly accomplish anything if fear is the driving force. When the fear is gone all leverage is gone. This is why it is so difficult to work with conduct disordered or sociopathic individuals and students. Yet when you change that fear to one of trust perhaps another story can and will be written. In today’s educational arena in many schools word is this many teachers will lose jobs with coming state budget cuts. Motivation becomes what can I do slightly more of or better than my neighbor teacher so I am still here next year.

When we look back at where is the legacy of anyone, at anyplace, it might be easy to say it was erased. Yet when Bird Droppings goes out each day and when those of us who adhere to ideals and philosophies that were presented and carried on, that legacy is being passed on and expounded upon and who knows where and when that will go. I have set as a goal to teach in the education field in college and hopefully one day will be able to. Today I have to be content with students I have worked with who continue to ask questions and seek ideas as to how to teach and move forward in their chosen vocation and career. Legacies are not in the trappings as much as what is carried away in the heart and soul of the person. The flag raising on Mount Sirabachi only took an instant and yet is etched in hearts worldwide, and truly only time will tell. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.  

namaste

bird

Walking to the car and looking at stars

Bird Droppings February 22, 2012

Walking to the car and looking at stars

 

I started to school earlier than usual arriving about 4:35 or so and no one is here. Now that event in and of its self is not for many significant since most folks would simply say well yeah who would be there at that time. But for me sort of an ominous situation because I am always second to school coming in after Pops who is one of our custodians and opens up the building each day.  I Have several reports to ready for meetings today and needed some extra time to get finished. Hopefully later today I will be taking pictures of a few new herbs in my herb garden and tulips starting to open a bit early due to warm weather. This morning as I walked to my car just looking at how the light is reflecting off of everything about me got me to thinking back to last night and walking out into a beautiful clear sky and stars everywhere.

It was interesting as I looked towards the sky my back yard amphitheater almost felt like it was centered on the little dipper. Over my shoulder a little better than a new moon barely visible out through the pines and oak trees. The air was cool and clean fresh might be a good word and the chorus frogs were hard at work trying to shake off a slight chill. That might be a good air freshener name, “a clear starry night”. How that could be interpreted perhaps in the great bard Bob Dylan there is an answer.

 

“How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky? Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan

 

So many groups and individuals have covered that song over the years. But the words caught my attention again. How many times must we look up before you can see the sky? My wife called my attention to the sunrise night or two ago, and as I walked around this morning drawn to a mist laying across the grass and it seemed my pictures are literally haunting with the faint fog coming off the ground going back a day or two to photos I took of several sunrises with the fog hanging along the ground.  

As I was looking last night and turned to my left a constellation that always catches my attention. Perhaps it is because a friend showed it to me so many years ago. It is the constellation, Cassiopeia which forms a running W. Of course I read it was placed there during the campaign for president along with all the cute W bumper stickers back when George W was running for president. For several weeks during the last election when I first saw them I thought all those cars were filled with astronomers.

 

“How many years can a mountain exist, before it’s washed to the sea? Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan

 

Such powerful words when you read them. It was a trickle of water than formed theGrand Canyonwhich is three miles wide at some points all from a trickle of water over many millions of years, washed to the sea. But I get caught in the second line, how many times can, a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see. I look at news and see investigations into politicians and we have allowed through our own voting electing these people who misused our votes, or did they. Maybe we are as guilty as they are and as greedy. It is amazing how public opinion about wilderness dwindles when gas prices soar or when news media features stories about. Recently First Nations has allowed the white man into very sacred lands to photograph and publish articles about the ghost bears of British Columbia. We hear arguments about the Keystone pipeline daily and how important it is and how China will get that oil if we don’t put this pipeline in. Canada has turned it down by a vast majority for four years because it would go through this section of wilderness where the ghost bears live. Eighty percent of Canadians are against the pipeline to the Pacific so we were the second option not the first.

 

“There must be some way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief.  There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth. None of them along the line know what any of it is worth. No reason to get excited,’ the thief, he kindly spoke. There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. All along the watchtower, princes kept the view. While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too. Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.” Bob Dylan

 

I think I heard this song by several others before I ever heard a Dylan version. This is my son’s ring-tone on my cell phone, All along the watch Tower. Many years ago watch towers were along the walls guarding cities and countries and guards were there to watch for enemies. In the song the princes kept a view but I have quoted an entire song for one line. Perhaps because I really like this song be it Dylan’s own version, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and or Jimmy Hendrix’s but this line catches my attention.

 

“There are too many here among us that think that life is but a joke…. “So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

 

The inevitability of life is an end for many and that is death. So many folks view life as never ending. I read blogs and listen to comments from teenagers all day and none of them seem to know what it is worth. Most feel there is plenty of time. On Friday as I was trying to explain to a senior for him to graduate he better start now and get his act together he responded he would later in the semester, there is always time.

Life is far too short and riders are approaching. Life is like a fuse lit on one end always getting shorter. Sadly sometimes it will get cut off prematurely. But it never gets added to and at some point it will end. Savor each moment never waste, squander and loose precious moments with family and friends.

 

“If I can’t help somebody with a word or song. If I can’t show somebody they are travelin’ wrong. But I know I ain’t no prophet an’ I ain’t no prophet’s son. I’m just a long time a-comin’ an’ I’ll be a long time gone.” Bob Dylan

 

I wrote in an email yesterday a prophet is never recognized in their own lands. I learned that many years ago in Seminary. I think it may even have a biblical twinge to it. My youngest son put one of my favorite Dylan albums of all time on from 1975 or so, Blood on the tracks, in my car the other day. One track I have to play as soon as it is on.

 

“Life is sad, life is a bust. All ya can do is do what you must. You do what you must do and ya do it well,” Bob Dylan, Track 10, Buckets of rain

 

Few songs and albums bring back memories like this one does for me. It is inMaconGeorgiaabout 1975 searching as always. But, “you do what you must do and do it well”. After talking to the young fellow I mentioned about graduating and starting this last semester now to try and succeed rather than waiting till the end of the term. I thought back to 1967 when I was in high school and all I wanted was to not be in high school and it did not matter where I went to college since it would be to avoid the draft since getting drafted at that time and going to Viet Nam was every boys fear. Getting drafted in 1967 meant Viet Nam so I went to college. I officially started my career as a student; actually it was not until a few years later I started being a student. My freshman year was not too great in student terms. At that time I just existed in the space allotted. Sometimes borrowing from John Dewey, “It takes experience”. Learning can only come with experience, if only we had enough time to experience all in life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird