Looking for a reason

Bird Droppings March 31, 2012

Looking for reasons


“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux


Nearly eleven years has passed since I did a research paper on causes of various emotional issues with children. When I first started back to teaching it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper I was looking for commonalities among children who had more serious issues in school and in life. I listed drugs use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers licenses, wealth, social status, child hood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students all was on their school and public record. As I looked deeper at my students and most were still children I concluded that most with problems were made they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested it. I found an article in Divorce Magazine entitled Help for Generation. They listed statistics that in 1970 seventy two percent of adult population is married and in 1999 only fifty nine percent. This was an interesting statistic and furthermore the number of divorces granted is down per one thousand people but up per number of new marriages.

As I researched years ago in that group of students that I was using for my data only two out of twenty eight lived with their biological parents, I should say both biological parents.


“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate director of the Institute for American Values


“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich


I have found myself hooked on Law and Order, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society it seems.


“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine


As I researched deeper in reasons children have issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. It could be drugs alcohol and literally any of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. Children learn what they live both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte writes extensively about and which is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the seventies.

Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble. Thinking back over ten years to an event in Minnesota where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree at his school. Elsewhere drug arrests and gangs make the news a young man killed in Florida is bouncing around from two differing perspectives. I recall several years back when I was walking outside my room and a student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened it was only a few weeks prior this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I was pulling them apart. It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight by one involved. In that same time period I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over and about their kids in front of the audience to a point an officer was involved. It really is no different than thirty five years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. I finally asked why and all the kids said parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parents yelling at them.


“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop


I never met the man but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia when John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.  In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States and one to always be looking for answers midst all the questions.


“Children are curious and are risk takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw


Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graph on the development of trust. Stages in how trust evolves with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant sort of you instinctually trust we then learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.


“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust


I have over the years read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grantin’s unique view is being autistic provides insights as she looks at animals in a different light than we do and she can understand and operate on that instinctual level. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving could display trust in a child let alone destroy trust and then want them to lead normal lives.


When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life


Sitting writing here in my room at school with my three sons all adults now it is so easy to say no problem. Then I click to Yahoo News and as I described the event in Minnesota those years ago the Red Lake shootings and headlines of this or that as to why a 15 year old would kill nine people and himself.


“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man


In 1972 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia at that time he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard from his brother a few weeks back. His tribal name translates to Red Clay, he was and is an artist. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce after his wife lost their first baby. Every day that I have known him he had been drinking. Once he was the most requested teacher in Bibb County now retired he had been an itinerant carpenter and Professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles. But a comment that stuck with me and an image he had painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the foreground is one of a chief or man of importance, the second his wife and the third a small infant burial platform. His unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly thirty years ago he would not live past forty. He has but barely but as I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at Red Lake High School in Minnesota and you can find his editorial and blog about this event on his website. As today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks.  



Are we going in the right direction?

Bird Droppings March 30, 2012

Are we going in the right direction?

            Sometimes when I start my day I have no real understanding of the direction and or course of my day. I walked out into a dark morning lit with stars only and knowing somewhere hidden was a moon soon to be showing. A great horned owl called deep in the pines and around me birds were waking up getting ready to proceed with the day. I paused for several moments listening to an awakening world and headed towards one of my favorite stores to get my morning beverage usually a cranberry grapefruit drink at Quick Trip. I was standing at the counter when the clerk who I actually know yet don’t as we talk often at five in the morning when customers are not waiting tells me he finally read an essay I had shared several months back. Before he could tell me what he thought of my former students writing out of nowhere I am being hugged from behind. A former student at the high school who probably spent more time in my room than class caught me by surprise. She went on to show me her engagement ring and how excited she was about getting married. As I was leaving the clerk informed of his opinion on the student written essay that it was great. I got to school a bit later than I usually do and ended up discussing education and life with another teacher and how over a hundred years ago John Dewey wrote about and developed what is still considered progressive education. We are still functioning within the industrial model mass production of students to go be workers and consumers in society. John Dewey wanted individuals.


“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. I believe that the school must represent present life-life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground. I believe that education which does not occur through forms of life, or that are worth living for their own sake, is always a poor substitute for the genuine reality and tends to cramp and to deaden.” John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, 1897

I recall many years ago taking a test in high school that would indicate what we were suitable for in terms of an occupation. I recall getting called in to the “guidance” counselors who in my day were wives of the football coaches. Funny thing is how does a guidance counselor who does not know you and has never talked with you even offer any sort of guidance. I never quite figured that out while in high school that is until I was told I should look at technical training because of my very poor grades. The fact I had been in accelerated classes all through junior high and all of my achievement scores and tests were off the charts did not seem to count. My SAT score that was significantly higher than many was inconsequential to that counselor until I pointed to it and said I really do not like high school and thank you for your time but I will stay in college track. I was not a very good student in high school 597th 0f 795 students. It seems I was side tracked somewhere in elementary school about education, and periodically I would have a few flare ups of wisdom. The little flare ups during standardized tests were just enough for me to remain in college prep and high functioning classes all through my remaining days of high school.

 So I was amused by the guidance recommendations. I was reminded recently of my turmoil in high school of trying to place me in a job before I knew what life was about and what was out there. It is interesting because across our state we are now trying to do just that with career tracks and educational tracks laid down in ninth grade for students. I was thinking about Special Education and in our IEP’s we do a transitional plan at age fourteen.  What do you want to do is asked and I have had three want to be a rappers and a few professional sports figures on transitional plans over the years. 

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

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

For nearly thirty years I have had a Chinese proverb hanging on my wall that reads as follows.

“You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day: You can teach a man to fish and feed him for life.”

I have been to teenagers funerals to many times and thinking about all the kids I talked with there and on emails I really wondered, as I sat thinking this morning about trying to figure out what these students will be doing in twenty years. It made me think of my own life. I was thinking what do we as teachers really need to teach. With the advent of federal and state legislation demanding certain standards be met it is interesting how teachers and parents get left out of the loops and legislators decide.

As I look at John Dewey and John Gardner’s comments while differing in philosophies a point of interest. Dewey mentions a process of living give your teaching context making it meaningful. Gardner says not just cut flowers but to teach them how to grow the flower, not simply facts. What does this mean to me as a teacher?

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner


“WHEN most people think of the word ‘education,’ they think of a pupil as a sort of animate sausage casing. Into this empty casing, the teachers are supposed to stuff ‘education.’ But genuine education, as Socrates knew more than two thousand years ago, is not inserting the stuffing’s of information into a person, but rather eliciting knowledge from him; it is the drawing out of what is in the mind.” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly Speaking, What true education should do?

It has been nearly ten years since I did this lesson and it was quite an experience. It seems like yesterday I had two students in my class room and several were out during second period suspended or in School Suspension (ISS), this was a really rough group of kids. I had decided to do a class project that the class wanted to do. I set parameters that were relatively simply borrowing on my Foxfire teachings and trying to set up a democratic classroom.

1. Project had to be of interest to all students

2. Project had to be school appropriate

3. Students had to be able to learn academics in the context of the project

4. As the teacher I had to be able to measure learning

5. There had to be a culminating project and end point during the semester

So a day or two later when everyone was in school we started by first coming up with ideas for the project. The class came up with several, wrestling, girls, cars, animation, photography, building something and several very inappropriate for school if not in violation of state and federal laws.

One however that continued to peak interest and has been an integral part of my class as I use digital photography daily and every student has taken a camera home and taken literally tens of thousands of pictures. As the discussion progressed photography seemed to be the choice and eventually the project became a photography contest within the school sponsored by my second period class.  While tedious in the beginning as ideas it all started and soon took on a life of its own eliciting thinking from these kids. Naturally thinking was the big word and was the main task and for a few of them it was tiring but then on to next step. How do we get permission? Actually after the class decided I had gone and gotten permission from the principal but students would have to proceed as if they do not have it and formally get permission. We actually almost completed the project but in the end behaviors out of my class sent one to alternative school and one back to the psycho-ed program. Unfortunately these two were the leaders of the class. But somewhere in my files is this great effort in a folder.

Watching the thought process evolve from students who often simply do worksheets and or get in trouble.  For students who read several grades below their actual level throwing ideas around about having a voting process and different categories and digital versus film it was a pretty amazing discussion. I argue day in and day out about having context to a lesson. When a student has context for the content it has life and meaning. 

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living” John Dewey


“If we are succeeding in our efforts to establish an excellent quality of present experience, people, teachers, students, administrators, parents should enjoy being in school; there should be fewer incidents of violence and nastiness; there should be more acts of kindness, more expressions of concern for others; more open conversation and fewer acts of control on the part of adults.” Nel Noddings

As a teacher I get frustrated knowing that information, understanding and knowledge of what is education and learning are out there in the nebulous but get rejected by a cookie cutter mentality that requires easy quick fixes and various publishers’ approval. I found this article from Nel Noddings and was amazed at her suggestions that follow many European and Asian approaches to schooling. First that excellence in schooling is not that everyone meets a collegiate curriculum and succeeds in it but that individually we are providing and excelling in directions that we are suited for. It could be that the individual student is more adept at art, music, technology, industry or even academics. This was written several years ago and if you get serious John Dewey was writing about this in 1897 over one hundred years ago and why do we never pay attention. The article is Excellence as a guide to Educational Conversation by Dr. Nel Noddings, Stanford University, 2004. We have to as teachers to go beyond in many cases. Sadly what we have been taught in education classes, which has been to do what is expedient versus real. Noddings and Dewey both would agree we need to try and not just teach just “stuff” as Harris indicates. We have to bring life to education and make it alive. As a parent and now grandparent this comes home as well and parents need to be involved. We need to wake up parents instead of simply letting them sleep through their child’s school experience. This is a community effort not simply one teacher and one student. Even though that is where it starts. Sydney J. Harris uses an illustration of an oyster and a pearl.

“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.” Sydney J. Harris

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

I got a bit carried away today. But as I read this last quote by Einstein who was left behind more than once in his educational experience at an early age can we as a society begin to look at each other as potential pearls instead of just sausages? I wonder as this school year is winding down and a new school year approaches all too soon. Try today to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



Can we change our direction and or pathway?

Bird Droppings March 29, 2012

Can we change our direction or pathway?


Perhaps I spend too much time pondering and sorting through the metaphysics of life actually I have a doctorate in metaphysics somewhere on my wall along with one in theology and now trying to sort through and finish a dissertation on the art of learning to get my doctorate in education, of course I may be looking into psychology Ph.D. next who knows. Actually I if I win the lottery would like to apprentice to a medicine man in the Dakotas but that is another story. Part of my heathen theology coming out. For a number of years I have used the illustration of a puzzle falling in place to explain life. Many times as I look back over my own life and wonder what if I went a different direction for example stayed in teaching in 1977 my pathway would have been significantly different and understanding of whom I am as well. It has taken me over thirty years to find myself and even now often I am wandering searching for pieces I have missed along the way.

On my bookshelf in Macon in 1977 was a copy of Foxfire II and I had borrowed from it with the kids I worked with in Warner Robins. The ideas in the book provided me with insights into a style of learning and teaching borrowing from John Dewey that really made sense to me. My journey led me back to teaching in 2001 and to a teaching certificate which the only graduate school that would take me was Piedmont College. I was teaching at the time on a provisional certificate since my undergraduate degree was in psychology. In the course of my masters I saw Foxfire materials around the education office and as I started my specialist degree was invited to be in first Foxfire teacher class at Piedmont. So I became entrenched in Foxfire some of the photos on the Foxfire Fund website are ones I have taken over the years. Something so simple a book I found that intrigued me in 1973 or so and thirty years later my dissertation is based on it. It is hard to explain my searching and understanding as each day I gain insights and understandings I did not have the day before.


“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist


Perhaps I should consult my Jung texts on my dream of a red tailed hawk in my old back yard from my childhood and how the hawk follows me around or I should say I see a lot of red tailed hawks. Jung was a great believer in dreams and dream analysis and in part this led to his split from Freud. For myself I have been torn on the idea of change and what part we can play in this great cosmic drama. Can we alter our part? What if we redirect the lines and switch characters in midstream?


“Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.” Marcus Aurelius


There are two basic premises in reality one we are the center of the universe that each of us is a focal point and many people do feel that way. The other is we are simple a small piece of a much larger puzzle, one insignificant little piece yet without it the whole is not complete.


“The men and woman who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else…some defect of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambition and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in their lives of others. Your ambition may be, it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people — if I may use the word in a mild, benevolent sense — the people, whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition, and welcome.” John Jay Chapman


A deep thought though I would beg to differ. Maybe it is how I read the passage yet I cannot help but think of Albert Switzer and Mother Theresa who gave up promising careers to help others. Giving in to fate I do not see these two great humanitarians as such but as embracing life and leaving self aside so they can help others. Perhaps it is our own definition of what is real.


“Whatever limits us we call fate.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


I do think we become limited by semantics by words that try and define and offer parameters to perhaps limitless ideas and thoughts. We all seem to want parameters to whatever we do. I watch teenagers setting boundaries and limits and barriers every day. Some will be cultural and societal, others closer to home perhaps religious and spiritual. We want definition in our lives we want to be able to say well this person is this or that. We like stratifying and categorizing in our lives. I was working with a student on test scores trying to explain two people could have tested exactly the same on a personality test and still be totally different people. While a test is normed and validated it still has its limitations.

Some people see far more in a Rorschach inkblot test and details while a less artistic person may only see a face or a rabbit. A few days back another teacher was telling me about an optical illusion and how a student could not see the old woman in the drawing only a bird which was never there. Picasso saw myriads of color and shapes and we see a hodge podge of paint and call it abstract or cubist for lack of better terminology to define and delineate his work. I enjoy Eric Carle famous children’s book artist and writer and his use of colors and image to portray his work. Maybe we should simply say it is Picassian or Carlianian unique to the artist who saw differently than we other mortals.

I enjoy reading Edgar Allan Poe and had the experience of talking with and assisting in publishing an author’s work years ago who confessed being the incarnation of Poe, ridiculous as it may sound. It was a bizarre period in my own life as I spent many hours on the phone and in reading his work. First of all he looked like Poe and he was an idiot savant. He could spin words and phrases instantly. When he would meet you he would literally immediately give you a poem often handwritten in beautiful calligraphy or an acronym of your name. He would write a poem each line starting with a letter from your name spelling out your name and literally analyzing your personality.

While working with this fellow as weird as this sounds crows would literally flock to my yard hundreds of crows, all day at my house which was in a pasture. When I sent the last of his work to him the birds went away.


“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” Carl Jung


I related this story a few days back but draw upon again. Reading over the years I came literally by accident one day upon a book, I was floundering business wise and saw an ad for a free business analysis. I called and was assured it was free and would I sign to use this consulting firm if all went well in the analysis. I signed and for two days a gentlemen came and informed me I should close my doors. Not really a shock since my largest customer had changed from print to software and was a major part of my business. After submitting his business thoughts he told me about a book he thought I should read “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. It is sort of a new age book he said.

He wrote the name and author on a piece of paper which I stuck in my wallet for my next trip to Borders. It was several Borders trips later and I forgotten about the book and while walking down an aisle a book fell and hit me in the head literally. Surprisingly enough guess which book. The book contains nine supposed insights recorded in ancient times and written in an archaic ancient language not used in 3000 years. Anyhow the point is here is the fourth insight from Redfield’s book.


“The Struggle for Power – Too often humans cut themselves off from the greater source of this energy and so feel weak and insecure. To gain energy we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy


As I read this earlier all the struggles and attention seeking of students versus teachers, and of Carl Jung teachings sort of fell into place. We draw energy from others to replace energy we are lacking. We are lacking because we are not generating but simply using sort of a parasitic relationship. I have over the years developed a chart on student teacher feedback which could as easily be people to people feedback. One the lowest most primordial level is parasitism, where we feed off others energy. The second level is symbiosis and this is where each one needs the other independently of each other and yet inseparable. The third level is osmosis, where energy is freely given and exchanged back and forth.

Albert Switzer and Mother Teresa worked in this way, they never sought energy but received in the giving an ongoing exchange. I see daily students and teachers who exhibit bits and pieces of each of these forms of human interaction. Going back to my starting quote, understanding where you are and why is paramount to changing, and the ability to growth and truly being able to help others and yourself. I went out into the rain a few days back, a drizzle of sorts and cold. Rain has a way of quieting the air and forest. It was literally silent, muffled by the rain and heavy air. Our dog does not like the rain and scurried back inside, curling up in her blanket as soon as she got into the garage. I sat down unsure of which direction I would go today and wandering as I do often I sent a couple emails and posted a status on Facebook before getting my thoughts clear. But perhaps my point is we need each other, we do need interaction and we can change. We are not at the mercy of fate and or some cosmic puzzle unless we choose to be, yet we are all part of that puzzle as well. A paradox of sorts as is so much of life. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks.  




Thinking back to a piece of the puzzle

Bird Droppings March 28, 2012

Thinking back to each piece of the puzzle


Officially spring is here and around here daffodils are finishing up and most flowering trees are near full bloom which of course inGeorgiameans voracious amounts of pine pollen, everything is yellow between rains. While cloudy this morning the air is slightly cool and hidden behind clouds the moon is just starting to come back. The clouds are low lying and creating a haze with the lights from around the school. Moments make up each day we live and in those moments is where the pieces to our life’s puzzle play out. As I get older I find myself trying to not so much bring back pieces but to clarify memories and pieces of my past as I ponder today.


“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” Henry David Thoreau


It has been many years since I first realized my father would often write late at night. I once asked why he kept paper and index cards by the bed and pens. He would have a thought and often spend hours writing in the middle of the night when it came to him. Over the years that translated into numerous books and articles on Industrial safety management and loss control. I have found the early morning hours to my liking quiet and peaceful I can wrote and read with little interruption and my mind is fresh and alert. I try and encourage students to journal, to write and to put thoughts down not just in computer short hand as many do in their texting but with real words and feelings. I actually came up with a lesson plan last semester for a Shakespeare Sonnet to paraphrase in a tweet but using words not codes. I even developed a rubric for it to score and reflect on.


“What you get by achieving your goals is to as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Henry David Thoreau


I enjoy Thoreau more so now than when I was reading in high school. As I read his ideas and thoughts it is perhaps because I have experienced many of his similar thoughts walking about in the forest or mountains. It could be in seeing nature, listening to nature and wondering about life and where we are going in life that has drawn me to Thoreau.

I so often mention context versus content in learning. It is so hard to give a writer like Thoreau context if you have never walked a pathway in the woods or listened to a mountain stream. It is interesting as I describe Thoreau I thought of Helen Keller who was blind and deaf and yet had an understanding far beyond many of us with eyes and ears that physically work. Her context for her life was drawn in her hand by someone translating the world although she was sighted for a few years as a child. She had a great teacher who could offer an honest and true interpretation of life around them.


“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Henry David Thoreau


As I was thinking about Helen Keller she was at first a rather bad student kicking, screaming and throwing whatever she could get her hands on. But she was won over by her teacher Anne Sullivan. She was won over by someone who cared about her. I made a comment about meaningless paperwork yesterday and as I went home and thought it isn’t the paperwork that drives a good teacher it is heart. I indirectly made contact with a friend from many years ago through email. I met her working in a camp program for disabled children and adults. She is still in that work. I left and came back myself after almost twenty years in the corporate world. I can remember my wife telling me why do you not go back to teaching that is what you really love to do. It was a good call and now almost eleven years later I am still teaching.


“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” Helen Keller


An interesting thought as I sit and read today. How can a blind deaf student be encouraged to learn not only basics but college and then go on to become known worldwide as a speaker and not ever hear her own voice.


“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart” Helen Keller


This past Friday I was talking with several teachers about motivation, how do we motivate students who do not really want to learn? I was wondering as I read thoughts from Helen Keller and Thoreau.


“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence” Helen Keller


I was wondering how many teachers are optimistic as they walk in their rooms or are we pessimistic simply calling it quits before the door to the room even closes. This may not be a teacher issue as many state mandates for numbers of passing and failing and who will succeed and who won’t with predictor tests and end of course tests and graduation tests and tests of tests going on. It is almost as if we are trying to fail as a nation. We mandate more time to seeing where students are then trying to get them there. One of my favorites is a state test for end of course that has to be given three weeks before the end of the semester in order to be ready you have to cover all material and then three weeks are left. It seems the state needs three weeks to grade the tests that teachers could grade overnight.


“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” Helen Keller


As I think back to my childhood we were encouraged to try more so than simply succeed. That may sound a bit strange. We were always encouraged but never demanded we were raised in optimism not pessimism. We were encouraged to think to imagine and ideas were never suppressed and extinguished. I wonder if with so many kids today if parents constant barrage of do this and do that has taken away the imagination. Does being a soccer mom or gymnastic mom supersede imagination and creativity? Does having that in shirt or pants for a hundred dollars take precedence over a thrift shop Hawaiian shirt and baggy pants for a dollar?

I think we as teachers often do the same with our students we tend to get lost in test goals and not illuminate creativity and imagination. We want to stuff information rather than teach how to use it. Time is short but I wonder what if we did take the time to teach how to along with the content.


“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.” Helen Keller


Far too often it is too easy to sit back and just let things go by. We were testing kids this week on the Georgia High School Graduation test and several as I walked back to my room after testing made comments about how they Christmas tree’d the test, guessing rather than even trying. As I think so often so many of us Christmas tree life, just guessing no thought and where we do end up never really knowing where we might could have been. Thinking back in my own life I have many puzzle pieces I probably forgot along the way and maybe that is why I am thinking back and pondering did I miss something along the way.

I recall a fellow I tested a few years back I was doing transfer testing from a home school environment to public school setting. He had not really applied during home school looked on another students work and literally copied and had someone else do his answers when he could. It was kind of whatever to get through and it showed as we tested. While his home school grades were excellent he could not get credit for most of his courses through our private testing. This is not about whether Home school is successful or not because most kids I have tested have done great and excelled. This is about desire, determination and motivation all those good things. You will never know what pathways you could have trod if you never try.

Often it does take a good teacher often a great teacher to inspire kids. Hopefully one day I can look back and see kids I have worked with have been successful. So today a new day peace to all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



A morning meandering here and there

Bird Droppings March 27, 2012

A morning meandering here and there


Sitting in my classroom which in many ways for me is a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of reality I wonder as I sit writing pondering the day ahead. I sit listening to the haunting notes of R. Carlos Nakai a Ute Indian playing a handmade cedar flute and the constant flow of water through my aquarium filters a calming effect and wonder. I had my annual evaluation yesterday and was reminded of my major weakness procrastinating and my total distain for paperwork especially meaningless paperwork. We write Individual Educational Programs IEP’s for kids in special education yet have become so restricted within our curriculum as to how do we implement when according to politicians all children will be on grade level by 2014 at least according to federal legislation. All the talk and yet that still I believe is law. We have become nation of test takers and at that not very good at it since across the country as per yesterday’s front page of the Atlanta Journal constitution cheating was widespread nationwide. Yesterday on my Facebook I shared a photo that amazingly enough was liked and shared by quite a few, those that can teach do and those who cannot make laws about teaching.

I was up early today checking my emails and various blogs and wondering how that simple thought had hit such a note across both republican and democratic friends and then I walked outside to take our trash out and listened for a few minutes. Across the woods a great horned owl was calling only to be interrupted by a barred owl on the other side of the house. The bright sky was a contrast to the darkness and every star was visible no clouds hanging around this morning. I paused to give thanks for the day ahead and for life. I pondered on the owls for a moment listening intently as the calls were wandering away and soon were silent. Only a few days ago I was talking with a dear friend from Oklahoma whose grandfather in his lifetime had been medicine man to the Creek Nation. We spoke of medicine and life and how a true medicine person shares their power and knowledge and they do not sell it. Meanwhile in Washington debate is on as to who will reap the benefits of a Supreme Court ruling on healthcare. Some say it is a right others say it is purely a business and profit making at that recalling how the CEO of my healthcare provider made in excess of a hundred million dollars in a year last time I checked and somehow I do not think that benefitted my health. I found it was easier to listen for the owl than worry about politics.

Procrastination should be a major and if so I would have highest degree offered as I read through several emails from my doctorate graduate school cohort and class mates that are defending their dissertations in the coming weeks. In another set of emails from an article reviewed on a blog several commented on how these particular readings provided insight into successful educational programs. I actually had enjoyed the readings and it made me recall a teaching principle I learned in from my father who used it in the steel industry many years ago and I actually was taught this concept in a Red Cross course for instructors in 1968. It is called the FIDO principle, hence Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again. If you repeat something, often enough maybe it will sink in. Granted in today’s educational system of teaching to the test this might be happening a bit too much.

I look at John Dewey’s ideas from 1900 and how we still call those ideas progressive education. With all of the educational materials out now, many are only a few years old in effect yet are called traditional when comparing to Dewey, I find that amusing. One of the topics I have been reviewing is looking at performance versus social support. I am of course leaning in the Social support direction as this is an integral part of my day when I am teaching even with general education students. This is how I see kids and deal with kids. I go back to my idea in one of the postings today of getting away from a swing of the pendulum and going in the direction of a pulse, no swing either way but a steady beat or energy.

We should try and steer away from that concept of right or left swing and go towards what is best for the kid not always for the society. I have worked with a large number of kids from a certain trailer park nearby. Many are very bright and all are poor. The sixteen hour syndrome as I call it is alive and well in that trailer park. As I go by often several times a day between my mother’s house and my own, I see kids I have had and often new ones but always similarities. As I look back at the last nine years of teaching EBD students I have had more kids from that one spot in the county than any other specific spot. Sadly in actuality many are marrying within that group. There are more kids being born, coming from that environment. Many are on the fringe of society. Many of the kids are anarchists, punkers, suffering from divergent behaviors, drug addicts, alcoholics, and few if any have jobs. I wondered why as I drove by thinking of past kids from this enclave. Several are serving hard time; several will be back next year. I wonder if anyone in that community was approached about their participation in the greater good.

            Interesting as I am having a difficult time getting started this morning wandering off a bit as I had just driven by that trailer park. I am always trying to stay up with our youngest thinking back a few years I recall back to a day as he says when he decided to do a Godzilla marathon with the old Godzilla movies. I did not make it through the first one. When I got up the next morning the TV was still on and he had crashed somewhere after five in morning watching the twenty eighth movie featuring the man in a monster suit. He just found the latest installment which features every major other monster and a walk on by the computer generated Godzilla. I often wonder if there is a hidden meaning to Godzilla the all-powerful beast who always eventually has a weakness.  Sort of the David and Goliath of nature and humanity, and my youngest of course came to the rescue offering that the original concept of the monster was an antinuclear effort.


“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Van der Post


For many years I have been intrigued by this man whom I had not heard of prior to finding a quote several years back and yet he has written literally hundreds of books and articles on Africa and numerous other countries. He was raised by an African Bushman woman and taught their ways and his philosophy of life and his writings are permeated with nature and the thoughts and aspirations of this primitive people. Van der Post was knighted by the Queen many years ago and actually is the Godfather to Prince William. He is the only non-royal to have ever been given that honor.


“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Arnold Bennett   


“What is to give light must endure the burning.” Victor E, Frankl


As I sit this morning so often it is conversations and happenings of yesterday that drive the thought that inspires me as I write. Yesterday I was talking with some friends of where they had been and where they were going, adversity is a good word as we spoke. It is about looking the lion in the mouth and walking away knowing you have survived. A new graduate of a well-respected associates program was daunted by her rejection at a four year school. She had gone to the two year program on a full athletic scholarship and suffered grade wise in order to play on a nationally ranked junior college team. As time to graduate came close she had to quit and actually lost her scholarship in order to raise her grades and put more time into studying. She had conquered her adversary and now was trying to move on.


“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.


“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.” Laurens Van der Post 


“The chief condition on which, life, health and vigor depends on, is action. It is by action that an organism develops its faculties, increases its energy, and attains the fulfillment of its destiny.” Colin Powell


Overcoming adversity begins with action, with a step forward, with realizing shadows are cast by light with knowing that growth comes from effort. It is difficult to cross a stream if you never take the first step. In borrowing from the Zen teachings “You can never cross a stream the same way twice”. I was sitting here remembering old stories and thoughts in the past we would hike up a stream in north Georgia the Toccoa Creek and in that hike transverse about 500 feet up hill over rocks and boulders and such climbing up the creek. In the process of course water is continually flowing against you and depending on the rainfall it could be a good bit. Cracks and crevices abound and more than several times you actually swim in rock channels ten feet deep and eighteen inches wide all uphill but at the top is a water fall.


“The view at the top is always worth the climb” Sir Edmond Hillary


Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks.



We are where we need to be at the moment

Bird Droppings March 26, 2012

We are where we need to be at the moment


“We are discovering again that we live in a deeply mysterious world,
full of sudden coincidences and synchronistic encounters that seem destined.” James Redfield


Throughout my life I have felt a sense of belonging to that specific moment in time. Often I will pass by a spot that I have passed by hundreds of times and see something new that had previously never caught my attention before but at that moment triggered an idea or thought I needed for that day. I often talk about and several days back was approached about the idea of fate. I quickly offered that there are unmistaken interactions going on that seem to lead in a direction. It does seem one event occurs that leads into another and had that first event not occurred the next would not and so forth. I use with teenagers the idea of a timeline and granted comparing sixty two years to fifteen or sixteen is not really fair but then again they can remember more of their early years than I can. I have each student draw a line and then indicate critical points in their lives. At first I ask for only positive events and subsequent happenings or direction changes and then ask to put in negative aspects and events although since in a public building allow them to not indicate what they are unless they choose to. Having worked with many Emotionally Disturbed children in eleven years many times you can find spots point that could be reasons for or about what it is they are holding in.

Once we have a timeline of our lives we discuss and look at how we came to where we are and what if another option had occurred. In dealing with behaviors and misbehaviors I use a similar approach looking at after behavior has occurred what could I have done different and avoided this consequence or attained that consequence. I try and show the intertangling and interconnection of each event and how we are not a single organism and only self-centered that it is the interactions of our environment and others that provide catalyst and medium within which we survive or do not survive.  

I have used many times the concept of a puzzle all of the pieces falling into place one at a time. In life these pieces are very intricate and complex yet when we stand back we can see the interlocking pieces and interconnections one to another. I often wonder at my own life’s journeys and how I ended up where I am. Many the time I have said I am where I need to be right at this moment to interact with the people I meet and that I come into contact with here now and that tomorrow is another day and another piece to the puzzle. My first glimpse of this concept was in a dream or vision nearly twenty years ago sitting on my porch in the midst of a hundred acre pasture. I would go out at night and think ponder in the wee hours and sadly back then I did not write down my experiences to the extent I do now. I saw a sky full of puzzle pieces falling and all I could see was the gray back side of each piece. As they fell they each came into place interconnecting each exact and precise one to the next. I had a feeling of this is my life falling into place. I walked toward the puzzle and as I tried to see the face of the puzzle it turned only allowing me to see the back. However I could grab a piece of the puzzle and look at what was there. A vivid image of that moment and then I placed back into the great picture that was forming. A dream or vision but so vivid at the time. I seldom reference other than using the idea of a puzzle falling into place but as I sit today I know after many days of writing that each word has significance somewhere.


“A new spiritual awakening is occurring in human culture, an awakening brought about by a critical mass of individuals who experience their lives as a spiritual unfolding, a journey in which we are led forward by mysterious coincidences.” James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy, insight one


It was several years after my puzzle experience that I first read Redfield’s book I was amazed at how it seemed to fit many things going on within myself. The book was not a great literary piece of work yet at the moment I read it of great import to me. Even to the extent I was told about the book by a consultant who came to work with my company for two days in 1998 and review our business plans etc. Basically he told me to close up and move on which I did shortly thereafter. But he also was married to a girl from Peru and they were in the process of moving to Peru to start an import and export company. Coincidently The Celestine Prophecy takes place inPeru.

I wrote the name of the book on a sheet of paper and stuck in my wallet for a Borders, Barnes and Noble trip whenever that may come which for me is often once a week. It was several months later walking in Borders a surprise, as guess what book fell off the shelf and hit me in the head. As I picked up the book and looked at the title it rang a bell literally. I looked in my wallet to the piece of paper and this was the book I was told I should read. I never had contact with that consultant after he left and could not recall his name if I tried.


“This awakening represents the creation of a new, more complete worldview, which replaces a five-hundred-year-old preoccupation with secular survival and comfort. While this technological preoccupation was an important step; our awakening to life’s coincidences is opening us up to the real purpose of human life on this planet, and the real nature of our universe.” James Redfield, Insight two


It was in the early 1900’s Dr. Carl Jung came up with the word synchronicity which relates to and ties into Redfield’s book which was written in the mid 1990’s. Jung found this concept as he interviewed patients, these interrelated meaningful happenings, and these puzzle pieces falling in place. Moving to science in the concepts of quantum physics they are ideas addressing many of the ideas in Redfield mentions in fiction. Energy and a bond we all have to this flow of energy is often a focus of theoretical meanderings of quantum physicists. String theory and other theoretical frameworks point towards interconnections of all matter not just life. I found that interesting as this is an Indian view of reality as well that all is connected and that is thousands of years old. One of favorite old tee shorts is one from the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia. On the back is a world view graphically illustrated and around it all is connected borrowing from Chief Seattle.


“We now experience that we live not in a material universe, but in a universe of dynamic energy. Everything extant is a field of sacred energy that we can sense and intuit. Moreover, we humans can project our energy by focusing our attention in the desired direction…where attention goes, energy flows…influencing other energy systems and increasing the pace of coincidences in our lives.” James Redfield, Insight three


Somewhere in my readings I read a science article on how a double helix shaped mass of space dust was found near the center of our galaxy. This cloud had the form of what appeared to be DNA. The massive magnetic forces of the black hole at the center of the galaxy appear to be what has created this cloud in this shape. As I read it became apparent how literally insignificant we are in the total scheme of things floundering about trying to understand literally infinite understanding with a finite tiny frail mind. Many times I look for reality in my place of existence and find I am so totally unsure so today I will borrow a short poem from a wise and brilliant young man who at the time of his writing was eight years old.  



By Mattie J.T. Stepanek



I really miss

Having a brother

I miss my

Two brothers and my sister

And I don’t


Why they died


It’s so sad

To not have

A brother, and

Another brother, and

A sister

When I should have them.

And I know that


Will make me

Happy again

But right now,

 don’t know what, and

I don’t know when


Mattie Stepanek died at thirteen from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, along with his brothers and sister. He was able to share though briefly his heart felt understanding of life and all around him. As I looked through one of his poetry books, Hope through Heartsongs I was caught up in his words but also by the forward written by Gary Zukav author of numerous bestsellers.


“Chapters begin and end, but the book continues. Five sensory humans mistake their lives for the book. A multisensory human sees his life as a chapter in the book. He sees the lives of others in the same way. A multisensory human does not think of herself as beginning with her birth and ending with her death and more than she thinks a book ends when one of its chapters comes to a conclusion. The unfolding history of the book becomes more visible in each chapter – in each life.” Gary Zukav, Foreword to Hope through Heart songs by Mattie Stepanak


I am looking forward next week to spring break and one of the nice things for me when I have days off from school is to enjoy the sunrise. I walked out this morning facing east and a bit of smoke drifted as I lit a small amount of white sage, ursi leave and red willow bark too contemplate on as I stood mesmerized by the wonders around me. As I walked into opening to a large field behind our house green with growing wheat grass the sun rising still hours away across the other side of my existence to my left and on one side darkness into the pine forest overhead stars and a jet stream lined across the sky I felt at ease with where I was today. We exist much in this same manner seeing brilliance in black and white at times in settings conclusions and in beginnings and soon brilliant colors. Each day our pieces fall in to place one tiny piece at a time each integral to the next each a page as Zukav views life as a book and for me each a piece of the puzzle. I wonder where today will lead and where the pieces will fall. Peace and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



A beginning or end in a circle where?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2012

A beginning or end in a circle is where?


“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein


Over the past two days we have had family visiting and friends and family coming to the house to celebrate the upcoming marriage of my cousin’s daughter. Last night we had a quick change as a cold front moved through going from summer back to spring in temperatures. It was a bit chilly this morning but is to warm up and be a pretty day.  It was about six years back a good friend dropped by for a couple days. This was the first time he had been back in this area for nearly three years. In our course of topics as we talked late into the evening on two nights was the idea of teaching as an art form. We talked about views on life and how so often I have on occasions seen things others have not. Wandering around as I do looking for pictures to take often images others would pass up. One of our discussions over breakfast we talked about intuition and empathy as crucial aspects of being a good teacher.

Another topic was how so often in life we tend to view daily happenings as mundane and yet in that moment of the mundane miracles are happening. In our backyard we have since we have moved here put in numerous flower beds in one bed we have several ferns along with angel trumpet plants and several other flowering shrubs. However one bed is special nearly every flower attracts hummingbirds. Coincidentally we planted quite a few butterfly and hummingbird friendly plants last year around the yard and I was pulling dead flowers off when I heard a loud humming buzzing sound. I was being dive bombed by a hummingbird. My wife had me place a hummingbird feeder in the tree which centers the bed. The hummingbird food was constantly getting gone and I had just refilled it, it has become one of my jobs to keep the feeders filled come summer time. It will not be too long till they are back from Mexico and as I look up hearing the buzzing I will see hummingbirds feeding directly beside me and who knows maybe this year I will get a good picture.  

When I sit each morning and write about fireflies dancing across the edge of my world in my back yard or whippoorwills echoing through the dawn and dusk it is recognizing the mundane in life. Should I not be hearing they will still be calling and should I not be watching the fireflies will still light the night? My own view is still limited by darkness and my own vision and my own perception. I try and instill in my students to look past images everyone else sees and try and find that which is theirs and theirs alone. I am saddened when a great idea and creative mind is silenced by peer pressure.


“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche


For someone a thousand miles away it is only words that I write yet I see it and experience it and yet for someone here nearby unless they are willing to rise at 3:00 AM they too will not see or hear what I see and hear.  So in effect a writer offers glimpses of another experience and another world to those willing to read. I offered as my friend and I talked it is about renewing our perception sharpening our senses to see and hear and feel more than we do today. 


“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”  Albert Einstein


Many considered Einstein to be an atheist for his very often blunt statements about religion, yet if you read very many of his nonscientific statements there is a spiritual aspect to them. He was an artist and a philosopher as well. Thinking back again six years it was a day not unlike most other days I have experienced with my friend talking with many old thoughts and memories that we discussed years ago. Sitting and reminiscing about his days in seminary and choosing to go back to teaching and how that impacted his life. There is an end and a beginning of every journey and at one point I even asked him if he was in the right place now. Without blinking an eye he responded he was never happier and knew this was where he was meant to be now in his life journey as I know I am where I am too be for now.


“We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lightening flash and the swelling deep.” Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Eastman, Santee Sioux


Perhaps one day I can sit idle as I started thinking a few moments ago and rock on my front porch, but not today. For now I crave that thought process and questioning and curiosity of learning and teaching. Whenever I drive through Kentucky I cannot help but think of Daniel Boone finding his way which was for him a wilderness and yet for Native Americans of that place it was home not a wilderness. Even in that day trails and pathways were worn from the passage of moccasin feet.


“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein


In a paper for graduate school several years ago I referenced my recent experience, as somewhat of a clearing of a haze from things I had forgotten. It was as if things were clarifying from many years ago. Often what is learned is not just from books but from experiencing, living, seeing and believing. Each day I travel a road many others have journeyed on and many others have succeeded in going beyond that road. Yet it is new to me each day for I choose to see more than the day before. For me it is wilderness opening new trails not yet approached by civilization. For me it is fresh and vibrant even though many see only the mundane and stale.

It might be in the flight and blinking of a firefly or the snort of breath as a buffalo crossed the pasture years ago, or the call of a whippoorwill off in the trees. It may be in the feather left for me as a hawk soared through the sky. I recall a movie where the start and end was nothing more than a piece of fluff blowing about until it gained import with Forest Gump and was placed in a special place in his life. We do not know from moment to moment how someone will react to anything we do or say or write. I spoke with my friend about interconnections and how this is the art of our existence. It is in the perception, the seeing, feeling and hearing of our own heartbeat.

I ran into a former student yesterday. She moved and happened by chance to be in our town as I was my favorite store Quick Trip. Seems she now lives in another county and will not be attending our school next year. She just wanted to say hi and in the conversation asked what do you teach everyone wants to know, it seems I have many students who just come by my room and officially are not in my classes. I told her on my door it states; Period One – The philosophy of learning about how and why we learn what we do, Period two – the same, Period three planning, and Period four again the same. She said that sounds interesting.

For nearly three years she wondered what I taught and wanted to be in my class. I would always respond you haven’t been in enough trouble yet. As she left after I explained Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, she said even though I wasn’t in your regular classes except for Biology in summer school I learned a lot. How is that for an ego boost?


By chance I was reading as I do and emailing my friend pointing out several websites and books. Two passages caught my attention as I end my writings today.


“On the basis of the belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Good Heart


“Strength based in force is a strength people fear. Strength based in love is a strength people crave. It is as true today as it was then and as true for nations as it is for individuals. Unfortunately, too few of each are listening.” Kent Nerburn


Nerburn was addressing a friend’s comment aboutViet Namand those of us old enough to have been drafted and or serve in that time of war. Looking at the news and comments from politicians the past few days this passage from the Dalai Lama struck a chord with me. One of the things my friend and I did while he was hear was see each of my sons since my friend had been involved with them in youth work and music. Of course that included along the way riding down to Georgia Tech and going for a campus tour in the Georgia Tech mascot, the Ramblin Wreck. Recently I was watching old videos and the other night spending several hours with my sons catching up reminded me how significant today can be. Now I can end for this morning of cool weather is another week ahead so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks.



Can we teach a love of learning?

Bird Droppings March 23, 2012

Can we teach a love of learning?


I bumped into this young lady at the grocery store a few days ago and it had been some time since our last run in. She was one of my secret seniors nearly five years ago. It has been almost five years since a young lady who happened to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt same colors and sequence of colors but no confederate flags.  The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning or colors. Sarcasm can sometimes be a powerful message and or a great marketing tool.


“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”  Nelson Mandela 


I recall a year or so ago and a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweat shirt. The students reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever as an answer. Whatever is a quitter’s statement? Had that student answered with arguable statements from the actual Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.


“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sense, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha


I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and somewhere between the two quotes is an answer. I have never being satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.

How do we re-instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black person elected in a general election, and notably to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison nearly twenty seven years.


“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. “ Nelson Mandela


“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom


Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helpedSouth Africain their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. “ Albert Einstein


Why children stop questioning and stop desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough.


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another.


“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.


“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall whichever comes first. As a child I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barn yard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.


“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day a thousand times over. “KentNerburn, On Education and Learning


I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one.  It has been nearly fifty years since the acronym was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret to what gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and more questions to answer. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and always give thanks.




Why do so many not pay attention on the journey?

Bird Droppings March 22, 2012
Why do so many not pay attention while on the journey?

“Life is about the journey not the destination; we don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith, American Idol Judge

Every once in a while I get amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B not too many days ago a song was playing in my son’s car and it happened to be the CD with that line in it. I meant to write down which song and forgot later he told me it is from the song Awesome. Perhaps a bit much borrowing continually from a rock star and American Idol Judge but the line is a great one.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous so for me just as always in the wee hours today my house was quiet. I stepped outside to listen and look at the stars and the temperature must have been just right because it felt rather warm yet no frogs or crickets broke my silence as I looked toward the stars. Everyone else is asleep when I sit thinking or walk about listening. One son is married and living in Florence South Carolina. He graduated from Georgia Tech and ended up as an environmental safety and health engineer. My oldest son finished his undergraduate degree at Piedmont College and while living at home is now working on his masters in Piedmont’s graduate school and my youngest son also at Piedmont lives in Demorest just off campus with his wife and my grandbaby. He was just accepted to Piedmont’s nursing school.
I recall a few summers back my youngest was at music camp for a week when my father passed away. My youngest son’s passion has been the blues harmonica and from what I have heard will be playing with some friends this weekend while he is home. They get together playing old southern rock and serious blues. Who knows maybe they will turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the pop music so many teenagers listen to now a days.
I went by my mother’s house the other evening as I do many times a week sometimes to drop off digital photos for my mother’s hobby she is creating greeting cards from photos and artwork, except that I had forgotten them. Her cards use an image on the front and then she will write a poem or phrase to go inside. I went driving around months ago looking for a picture of a spider web one day for her and in the process took 60 other photos. One I had used as a screen saver for many weeks for my laptop of my oldest son’s salt water tank. It has been nearly a five years since he has had a reef tank, basically a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens are primarily colonial polyps and other invertebrates which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank. However when you get up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current they are very much alive. One of the pictures I took was of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. A tiny mantis shrimp that hatched in the tank was swimming about and got his or her picture taken, each of them less than a sixteenth of an inch long. What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space so small.

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

So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them. It is our outlook and perception that are crucial to truly seeing and hearing in this reality. Daily I hear people complain about teaching how they do not like teaching or do not like working with children. I hold back and do not reply although maybe I should why do you keep teaching then do something else.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

It is the entire journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see, not missing that minute detail, or word and with conviction achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest 29,000 feet plus above sea level no one else had ever done that, now Nepal is a tourist trap with thousands coming through not all to climb but many to say they were there.
I heard from several friends lately through Facebook from so many years ago and one used the word new when describing those days from so long ago. I wrote to another friend this morning about how that was such a good word for back then so many things were brand new almost like opening presents. But today I just don’t rip off the paper and see the new toy I look at each minute detail. I try and listen far more carefully granted I am old and hearing is slightly going still better than most peoples. When I was younger I was rushing through life and things were new and so much to see like running through the park to simply say I have been there. I now stop and ponder and wonder about the details the pieces to the puzzle. No longer is it about getting done it is truly about the journey.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

Understanding often comes from pondering the question


Bird Droppings March 21, 2012

Understanding often comes when pondering the question

It has been interesting this spring weather wise. I have been battling allergies and sinus issues daily between cold and hot and rain and then not enough rain and the pollen. When I headed to school today I had been thinking about the many years of daily writing and journaling of my ideas and thoughts. Many times as I have written over the past years the word perception has come up. I addressed the idea of questioning the question yesterday and I was thinking back one night as we were finishing back many days ago as I was sitting and posting on our discussion post on the internet as myself, friends and fellow graduate students were discussing critical race feminism which ties in sex, race, culture, and ethics and to some extent then education. The idea of perception was brought up numerous times as in this course of study for many it has been an opening of eyes that had been closed.

I am an observer by nature and education and many the times as I walk into someone else’s office, classroom or study I immediately peruse the books and items on shelves and desks. I see the papers, the order of items, or lack of order and the amazingly you can quickly make assumptions about that individual.  In my own case if someone walked into my writing hovel they would see animal books and magazines as my oldest son also stacks various reading material among my own. There are many years of theology and spiritual matters along with numerous translations of religious texts, and bibles. In stacks many informational texts, arts and craft books, herbs and gardening books, notes from graduate school, and psychology texts scattered among the piles and shelves.

An individual’s personality exists within the piles and various items or at least a perception of who they are. In my case in a quick look you would see several books, Spirit Dance by William Edelen, Red Pedagogy by Sandy Grande, The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a book on Great quotes, The purpose for your life by Carol Adrienne, The Handicapped child in the classroom, Ten Stupid things men do to mess up their life’s by Dr. Laura,  A passion for excellence by Tom Peters, Control of Human Behavior, Safety and the Bottom line by Frank E. Bird Jr. It is these books that are on top of piles on my table and desk.  I always wondered could a psychological analysis be made of me from those texts sitting out perhaps recent readings or reference sources. Something could be said; perhaps a perception, an opinion, or an assumption could be made about the person. Last night a fellow educator posted she had just bought her first Stephen King novel and a book on Revelations on Facebook and so numerous posts and notes later it was most interesting watching the responses.

“Except for the still point there would be no dance ……. And there is only the dance.” William Edelen starts his book Spirit Dance with that line from T.S. Elliot  


I sit thinking about that line do we have a still point? Last night as I was reading comments on various blogs as fellow teachers and future teachers discussed their views and realities in discussion boards on line and as we are trying to finish out the year working with students who are waiting for the last few minutes of the last day before summer break to complete work so much anxiety among educators. Perhaps this is only a perception of mine. We are using the word senioritis as we address the seniors here in high school that seem lost in oblivion as their last year winds down. It can be a teenager in the last thirty seconds of school or a graduate student in the last thirty seconds posting before break. “And there is only the dance”

 I looked through my book of quotes a little collection of quotes from my first year back teaching containing poems from myself and others and photos of students school etc. sort of a mini yearbook, always coincidences. I found a Garth Brooks song lyric. The song is The Dance written by Tony Arata, who by chance was my brother in law’s roommate in college at Georgia Southern many years ago.

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.” Tony Arata 


Thinking about the dance in reference to Elliot’s line and Arata’s line it is about who we are inside and how we see the world. So often in life we want to avoid problems. I am finding as I grow older it is the problems and tribulations that give us the pieces of who we are. It is all of this history that gives us our outlook on life, our perception as we view the world. Wandering to back to my graduate school posting discussion as we learned over that semester everyone has a history and it is within that history we can only get a true understanding of who they are. Not really knowing a person’s history can alter your perception of them.

 As I paged through my little book I had copied nearly eleven years ago I found a note I had written evidently this book was one of my students. The student had wanted me to write a personal note so I kept the book and then school was over and she never picked up her book and I wrote a second note.  As I look back it brings a tear. It seems she quit school with graduation test difficulty found a new boyfriend fiancée and got married and pregnant, sort of all in one fell swoop. Was this a success or failure from a teaching standpoint, did we reach that former child who now has a child. I am sure some would say no.  But I have talked with her since and she is a happy mother and did get her GED and went on to technical school.

It has been nearly forty one years since I first started teaching. A few years back I had a professor who was ten years old in public school inMaconGeorgiawhen I moved to that town in 1971 or so. Back in the day special needs kids were not all being served in public school IDEA legislation went into effect in 1974 but did reach Georgia really till a few years later. One of my first jobs in education in Macon was working with a child find. Thirty nine years ago there were not IEP’s or mandatory education for all children. Many disabled students often just stayed home since there really was no place for them in the public schools at that time. We found 278 children and adults in less than 90 days who were not being served and we were only looking for 50 to start our program which was the maximum capacity for the building. 

In those days 1970 – 1973 it wasn’t about curriculum or text books or even lesson plans it was simply students who had never been served. In and among those students was a young black man who by chance had Down’s syndrome, Sammy Jones age twenty four. He was friendly clean cut and always fixing his hair and checking his shirt to be sure it was tucked and adjusting his belt always making sure everything was just right. He would be a poster child for correct dress code, always immaculate. Sammy would always somehow bring up “big momma”, seems he called his mother “big momma”.  

I remember one day after we started up our daily program and Sammy was in “school” his excuse to not do work would be “big momma said I don’t have to do that” when he didn’t want to do something. I recall Sammy’s favorite class was nap time. We found Sammy through another program for children Ms. Rawl’s Lucky Duck nursery. As I think back to my first days teaching in Georgia it has been some time since I really thought about Ms. Rawl’s and Lucky Duck where my late brother John attended school when we first moved to Macon. It was all a matter of perception perhaps as it seems the promised school to get my father to move his business to Macon never materialized and my brother became the token white boy in a black school. Macon in 1971 was still very separated especially with disabled children. My brother John was “bussed” in.

The funny thing was Ms. Rawls, my mother and I ended up writing the federal grant that got initial funding in Macon for disabled children. There was a significant clause, the schools had to integrate. A coincidence perhaps, but as I think back and remember driving across town to that old school to pick up John at Lucky Duck he wasn’t a token child he was a child at a school and for him every day he would be smiling not one time did John get upset about his school I never remember my mother complaining about where he was going to school I do remember Ms. Rawls and how much concern she had for John. Maybe our perception was different back then. As I think back to my mothers and my own perception I do not think ours changed significantly but many others did.

“No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off in the storm” Charles Kettering


            It takes getting across the sea to arrive at the other side when the storms get rough quitting is not an option. So many people when times are rough choose getting off in the storm but far too often the waves and turmoil do them in. It is about in life how we perceive and how we see the world around us. Yesterday several of us were talking in the hall and a student mentioned she paid eighty dollars for a pair of jeans that was a mass of holes. Our discussion went to how people are paid to make holes in jeans which are then sold. Perception, I have jeans with significant holes in them each hole earned and remembered. A wonderful day a quiet day but in the turmoil and strife please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Especially today as the shootings, bombings and such continue around the world let us strive for peace. Somewhere in my readings on Indian thought and spirituality I found a short note on prayer. The Indian never prays for things but only to give thanks and today perhaps we should all give thanks for each moment of life we have and for those around us.