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.



Should we question our questions?

Bird Droppings March 20, 2012

Should we question our questions?

Yesterday as I was sitting in my class room after finding in my files an article from a few years back about the innuendos about who and why Georgia students in middles schools across the state did so poorly on CRCT’s, Georgia’s  version of school  year grade end tests in subject matter. Sadly the state knew ahead that the failure rate would be high and still administered the tests. I am always amazed by teachers who teach to actually try and fail students. I just finished a discussion with a colleague about passing a fellow who had a 79 on his end of course test in geometry and was failing class due to homework not being turned in. He had an 86 disregarding homework on test scores and quizzes. For me that was a no brainer he mastered the material and do you cause trouble for next year’s teacher failing a kid who knows the material and also happens to be SEBD, severely emotionally and behaviorally disturbed. Always amazes how some people think.

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster


“Ask the large questions, but seek small answers, a flower, or the space between a branch and a rock these are enough” Kent Nerburn

I wrote an email to a friend only a few moments ago sitting here gloating at issues I should have addressed and could have before they were issues. Some days I am bad about letting the flow go and spill over as it may be. I read this line from a book I am reading and wonder now as to answers I was seeking, maybe too often we seek large answers from small questions or ask the wrong questions thinking we know the answer already.

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins

Somewhere on my shelves in my room at school maybe in a drawer are a series of tapes from this guru of self-help, he occasionally has a good thought or two. Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame uses the term of the Essential Question as an integral aspect of learning. We need to ask an essential question and build from there as we develop our course or train of thought often adding additional questions to stimulate and emphasize key issues and points. Several weeks ago I used some thoughts from Zen teachings from over a thousand years ago and from Socrates even before that who also taught by asking questions and answer questions with additional questions.

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz


“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Anthony Jay

If a wrong question is asked I wonder is that a paradox or can that even be? Can you ever ask a wrong question? When I am talking with future teachers in our Early Childhood class I tell them as the four year olds they teach they will finds they ask questions incessantly. We have to let them and yet here I am asking if a wrong question can be asked. I look at these two thoughts and perhaps it is not wrong questions but poor questions. I have a student who will often ask questions and many times I sit looking at others and wondering, where did that question come from? It is sort of like if I am discussing blue birds and the question asked is that bird blue.  It hit me during reading a test recently that so often my vocabulary and that of many students is vastly different and when I read a sentence not even thinking about words students may know the answer but not know the question. In determining the sequence of events in photosynthesis at what stage does oxygen appear? What if you do not know the word sequence and know the photosynthesis cycle which you studied diligently the night before for your test? You guess not based on the answer that you know but guess based on not totally knowing the question.

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett

Over the years I have acquired many books dealing with the care of animals and have even participated in publishing several in days gone by when I was in that line of work. Years back we found a book for diagnosis of aquarium fish problems. It was questions with various answers, such as if answer A go to page 3, or if B go to page 6, then on page 3, if A go to page 34, and on 34 if C this is the disease, a dicotamous key. In looking at questions and answering you literally could follow your way to a diagnosis. Essentially it was a taxonomy of animal, specifically fish disease. A good friend in Virginia literally borrowed the idea and wrote a sheep manual in a similar fashion that at one time was the Ovine diagnosis book of choice across the country. Actually have my name in there somewhere as a resource and editor.

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Decouvertes

I had to think as I read this if you know the answer why question. Is the paper white? I know it is but I am questioning and in questioning will show it to be white so in effect proving its whiteness or not. I learned it was white even knowing it was.

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.” Voltaire


“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster


“For example, when you sail in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as you can see at that time. All things are like this.” Eihei Dogen, 1200-1253

Maybe we who ask the questions need to listen more carefully to the answers and in listening learn as well, a symbiosis perhaps osmosis is a better word of sorts. It is about another day beginning and another sunrise to see. In talking with a friend who used to be just across the hall, that is all she looks for and as she rises each morning is thankful for another day having survived breast cancer and you know what as simple as that sounds for some and her in particular each moment is a miracle and I recall after seeing her each morning smiling and thankful for another day my day goes so easy and I too am thankful. I ask with a sincere heart please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart. This is for a very special friend who greets each sunrise and who has greeted every day for nearly eleven years that I have known her, Buenos Dias.  As I close as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.



Seeking that one moment midst the many moments in life

Bird Droppings March 19, 2012

Seeking that one moment midst the many moments in life


“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but moments.” Rose Kennedy


In a world filled with near misses everyone seems to be always seeking that one big one that perfect moment and lets close ones pass by unnoticed. I was thinking as I started this morning of my past life experiences in Loss Control Management which I was directly involved with for nearly 25 years as I worked in designing and publishing materials for Safety and Loss Control Management consulting companies. Several times in my father’s career in Safety and Loss Control he did research on accident ratios situating and comparing incidents those inconsequential moments versus those major losses and or life threatening accidents. As I read rose Kennedy’s statement his rational hit me. In his calculations covering millions of incidents there would be one major loss for about every ten thousand incidents. However as I thought and recalled it was not by looking at major losses you could predict accurately but by looking at the flow of incidents leading to that major loss. Life is not always as Rose Kennedy states about that one milestone but it is about the ten thousand moments leading to.


“The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” James Allen


“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammerskjold


We need to look as we go in life and see the pieces as they fall in place. While we may not be able to view in its entirety we may not see the frame as Hammerskjold states we are definitely a part of all in that picture. Sadly out in the real world many people will buy a frame then look for the filling. I may never find the right frame myself for all that it is to contain might need more of a file cabinet.


“No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” Francois Muriac


“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins


I am always amused by self- help gurus who can’t take their own advice and or really do not practice what they preach enough said about self- help guru’s. But occasionally I do like words used and ideas thoughts as I look back on my first thought this morning.

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but moments.” Rose Kennedy


I mentioned how my father built his research on looking at the incidents, the moments in order to predict the major losses and or milestones putting this in a positive view. What if we paid more attention along the way would not predicting that milestone, encroachment or timing be more likely and in building for the next milestone. Perhaps sitting in an IEP the other day made me think in this manner and lead me to this point.


To meet my goals, I couldn’t let up when I was playing tennis.” Tracy Austin


“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi Berra


 I am sitting here wondering as I recall comments from the meeting the other day. An IEP committee sets goals for a student those being short term and long term. In this particular instant I was seeing something others did not. I was looking at moments and not milestones. This young man was missing moments and attaining milestones, but all those moments or pieces that were significant in such things as friends, associations and social interaction. Many years ago I recall my father telling the story of a young man he worked with, a brilliant young man who at that time had the highest score ever achieved in the entrance exam to Albright College ;located in Reading Pennsylvania. Meanwhile he also had the lowest score on social interactions. He had literally lived at home all his life going to school and home. School was easy he made straight A’s literally in everything but PE which he refused to do. Amazing discussing Einstein’s theory on one hand and not wanting in interact socially on the other. My dad knowing the young man chose to assist him in getting into college by teaching him to fit in. He graduated valedictorian of his class with a straight A grade point average. Although still exceedingly shy and withdrawn from society he focused on research and eventually became a leading researcher for the US Navy in tactile nuclear submarines.


“I realized that I am missing something that everybody else has-emotional complexity-and I have replaced it with intellectual complexity. I obtain great satisfaction out of using my intellect. I like to figure things out and solve problems. This really turns me on. When I observe emotional complexity in others, it is sort of a rhythm that goes on between a boyfriend and a girlfriend. I often observe this on airplanes. Sometimes I get to sit next to them. It is similar to observing beings from another planet. The relationship is what motivates them; but for me, it is figuring out how to design something, such as figuring out better ways to treat autism. I use my mind to solve problems and invent things. I get a tremendous satisfaction from inventing things and doing innovative research.” Dr. Temple Grantin, in an interview February 1, 1996 with Dr. Stephen Edelson


Dr. Grantin is autistic and interestingly enough a leading international expert in autism and in her specialty Animal Science specifically in livestock handling. I highly recommend Dr. Grantin’s books if you have any interest in teaching and working with Exceptional Education. But going back to Rose Kennedy’s thought and why she might have said this Rose was the parent of a mentally impaired child, she saw firsthand issues many parents only read about and many some never consider. Rose also lost three sons long before their time, two to assassin’s bullets and one in World War II.


“A child miseducated is a child lost.” John F. Kennedy


I was thinking as I started earlier of about this amazing lady who outlived her sons Joseph, John and Robert and who raised a child who had difficulty in school. Her sons set milestones as a president of the United States and an Attorney General yet as a mother it was the moments that were significant.


“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain.”John F. Kennedy


By gathering the moments we can introspect, reflect, build and even change our goals.


“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, “because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”  John F. Kennedy


It was a mother gathering moments perhaps a teacher designing and writing goals that are realistic and yet challenging with an exceptional student in an IEP. It is seeing pieces rather than the whole and it is caring.


Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was truly an inspiring woman. What she gave to this country is immeasurable. As a mother she nurtured, stimulated and challenged nine children -among them our 35th President, John F. Kennedy, and two U.S. Senators, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy… The Tribute to Motherhood Award was presented to Mrs. Kennedy through her son, Senator Edward Kennedy in April, 1990, at her 100th birthday party.” A biography,


Moments not milestones use the moments to measure your life.  Pondering a thought and wondering about which direction to go as I think back to a wonderful weekend with family and working in the yard. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks.



Sadly children will become who we assume they are

Bird Droppings March 17, 2012

Sadly far too often children will become who we assume they are


“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” Stacia Tauscher


So often I watch teachers treating students simply as things in the class room, items to be dealt with when needed and or if needed. Looking at a semester end test score yet to be, a number in an electronic grade book, or a number to be attained through the curriculum map and guide, and this is one of the tools needed to attain it. Each day I hear children who talk about how much they hate their parents or parent and want to move out leave home and be on their own. I wonder where things went wrong. Why would a child want to leave home? Why would a child say they hate their parents? How and why would a teacher simply look at a child as a thing?

I was watching Law and Order Criminal Intent several nights back and a family situation was the item of the investigation. It was a close knit group of family members who were in effect criminals, petty thieves and con artists who moved from place to place following a long tradition of family code. They were a close knit family and one who broke the code of silence was killed by a jealous brother. The investigation finally came to a family gathering where the detective led the murderer into confessing. But as the killer was led away by officers he made a comment about the real family that was there even though theft was a basis. It was sort of weird in a way but I started thinking about how many families are dysfunctional.

I was asking my mother when our thirty first Easter egg hunt was to be. For thirty plus years we have held a family Easter egg hunt. All the grand children, great grandchildren and even a few friends gather and it is sort of fun watching twenty and now thirty year olds hunting for eggs with several now having their own kids hunting.


“You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance?” Franklin P. Jones


I have been told many times I have patience dealing with students who many times have issues that drive other teachers up the wall. But it is from my students I learn to be patient by observing and listening. It seems when you listen calm occurs.


“Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.”  William Stafford


Reading this and I was immediately thinking of a picture and a video of my granddaughter dancing up a storm. My daughter in-law posted a photo just a few days ago with a caption about her dancing. The picture is almost too cute to describe she has a bottle in one hand and a squeezable fruit container in the other and sunglasses dancing away.

I had several four year olds in my room to see the zoo that is my room the other day. As I was listening to these little ones it is always quite a treat. Listening to and seeing what questions and answers they come up with it often surprises me. We talked about snakes, lizards and my ostrich eggs from theKalahari Desert. We looked at a bird cage used by deep rock miners to house a canary to show when poisonous gas levels became too much for miners to bear. But how do you get the bird out? Was the question asked by a four year old and I showed the kids how the cage had a door so the canary could come out each night as the miners returned home.


“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all” PearlS. Buck


I read news and articles each how this person is expecting to get off and in one situation while on trial for money issues in a campaign coming to Washington for a lobbyist meeting. It is amazing how our system works. I recall a news story back a few years ago of the sale of port duties would be halted and sold to an American firm and then Halliburton’s name came up, since they have moved their headquarters to Dubai from Houston it was almost a joke on the news yet realistically possible and sad.


“You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to do but skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762


I wish I had the energy I had when I was young to be able to go dawn to dusk and maybe grab a meal somewhere along the way. I remember as a kid we would be fighting wars and battles in a world of imagination, playing football or just looking about searching creeks and streams for salamanders and fishing with my cousin for creek suckers and minnows under bridges many years ago.


“Children are unpredictable.  You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.” Franklin P. Jones


Kids can see through most anything and know far beyond anything we do perhaps it is their honesty and innocence. It could be we tend to provide far too many inconsistencies.


“Children make you want to start life over.”  Muhammad Ali


It is so true, as I sat there talking and playing with four year olds we played with puppets and stuffed animals read a few facts in a book while we discuss various animals. It added about ten years to my life in only a few moments.


“There was never a child so lovely, but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


I recall a grandmothers rationale on grandchildren and why they are so great, “you can send them home at the end of the day” was her response.  A good friend just gave birth to her first child and I know she will be a great mother. Several times she made comments about how she wasn’t sure looking back at her own life. It is in the questioning I see answers. When the moment comes for each of us as parents and grandparents we know and we do our best. There will be times anger will creep in but it is a phone call away and soon it dissipates. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks.



Actions speak so much louder than words

Bird Droppings March 16, 2012

Actions speak so much louder than words


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


It has been a few nights since my wife and I had a chance to go out together one of those quiet romantic type dinners. As we both headed early to work today I was thinking back to one evening as we sat down at a booth at a local country restaurant, about the same time we sat down an elderly couple carefully made their way to the adjacent booth. Both the husband and wife helped each other moving ever so slowly. After his wife had seated herself the husband went and fixed a plate at the buffet for her. When he returned to the table my wife happened to glance over and the woman was smiling as her husband came back to their table. My wife said “she looked like a child”, her child was coming out as she smiled.

 Many years ago as I took one of my first graduate classes which happened to be one I had nearly thirty years prior but was required to be sometime more recently, a class in human development. A research paper was a requirement of the class and I developed a chart on the development of faith and trust in the process of writing my paper. I had been reading a book by Dr. James Fowler head of the Ethics department at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University on the development of faith. It was interesting as I read he had used and compared the development of faith through correlations of various concepts to other educational devlopmentalists such as Piaget, Erickson and even Freud.


“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin


 When I read the passage from the Dalai Lama I was reminded of a stage I wrote about in my subsequent paper based on learned trust. Children when they are born inherently and universally trust I called it simply Universal trust. A baby instinctively trusts as it survives by literally instinctual trust and behavior, sucking reflexes only require milk to satisfy. A bitter taste and the baby would soon withdraw. The baby would learn to not suck. A simple example that as the child grows becomes more complex. Each new facet of life requires new information and understanding and soon a child learns trust. We go from an instinctual universal trust to a learned trust. In this growing process the interactions of individuals that are seen by others impact the learning curve and consequently the level to which a person trusts.


“Who would not rather trust and be deceived?” Eliza Cook


 Quite a few Monday night’s back one December, I delivered my youngest son to a local restaurant where the Early Learners were having their Christmas banquet. Our high school has a group of fifteen or so four year olds, under the supervision of a lead teacher and para-pro involved in teaching Early Childhood Education to high school students who want to go into education. Actually this is considered a technical class in our school, an experimental school in some ways a teaching school for high schoolers. Many of the little learners are children of teachers within our high school.


“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Frank Crane


 It seems my son had been Santa Claus for two years for the little learners. Matt inherited my father’s Santa suit. Dad, for as long as I can remember, had been Santa for our family. I recall a night inModenaPa., Santa came through the fire escape window when I was four years old. This image is still vivid in my mind and many things are not as I get older. I check my driver’s license for name and address periodically.

For one reason or another Matt had to wait, which meant sitting in the waiting area of the restaurant. Quite a few little children came through, some would hide behind their parents, and others would go up and sit beside him and or ask him questions. Each child was unique.


“No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband, and I know he can be trusted.” Elsa Einstein


“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


When Matt finally went into the Christmas party each child came up to him and I would take a photo. There was no questioning of whom this was, it was Santa. After all of the little learners came up, the teenagers, high school girls came and sat in Matt’s lap. Now I know why Matt did this each year. But within the context of these moments, trust was adamant. Children have learned to believe in, or not, Santa Claus, that is not an instinctual event.


“Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life.” Joseph Conrad


So often we take the innocence of children and convert it to the learned ways of adulthood, greed, envy and all the other influences of mankind are learned. But I have found in life’s journey that trust does begin to filter back as time and age goes on. Thinking back to dinner with my wife and how she noticed the elderly woman’s smile, sometimes is it the glint in an eye or a smile from an elderly person that shows the inner child is still there. Perhaps it is that untouched innocence and universal trust has returned, or maybe like me, you forget all else, that you have learned not to trust. As I pondered it became evident that it is how we are seen and the things that we leave behind as memories in others eyes and ears are what may be the most critical of all in this reality.


“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” Leo Aikman


With an election still coming up I am sitting here looking over morning news and how each side sees and addresses issues in differing ways. Last night I read a blistering headline of US oil production was down thirteen percent on federal and Indian lands. However when you look at overall US production we are at highest level since 2008 and putting oil into reserves. So depending on which headline you read first your impression is swayed or changed. I was reading last night several pieces about war and will borrow just a thought coming from a former student.


“War, one could argue, developed from three functions in the macrocosm of human societies to A) take another society’s land and resources B) to defend one’s land and resources, or C) to liberate one’s own land and resources. Historically, you could place any early war under one of these categories.


But, morally speakin…g… how do you determine that the bullet which leaves the muzzle of YOUR rifle serves B and C and not A? Is it by who shot first? Well, not necessarily, since Navy Seals from your country may have torched a village that morning, your side may be in the wrong. Is it by a sense of “greater good?” Perhaps… but logically speaking, how often do immoral means yield a moral end? If I took your insulin to give to another person with Diabetes, would that be moral?


I am not anti-war, because life is not just. This is not an ideal world, and sometimes you have to fight for what you love. All I’m asking is how many soldiers died to protect what they love, and how many died because of some covetous politician?” Alex Hill  


As I read this last night I realized how much I missed conversations with this student as he was always several years ahead in his thinking and wisdom.


“Thou wilt find rest from vain fancies if thou doest every act in life as though it were thy last.” Marcus Aurelius


“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


 I am getting long winded today perhaps I started too early but the thought from this great theologian ties into my morning ponderings. In 1945 Bonhoeffer was hanged in a Nazi prison camp for being a member of the resistance as he vocally opposed the National Socialists, as well as physically opposed with his involvement in assisting Jewish families out of Europe. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested, tried and executed.  Much of his writing came from prison in the form of letters to friends.  


“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


It is the nature, and the advantage, of strong people that they can bring out the crucial questions and form a clear opinion about them. The weak always have to decide between alternatives that are not their own.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I was getting absorbed in reading Bonhoeffer’s articles and actually a bit deep for a Friday morning I think Alex got me thinking last night. I am also reading a friends theology thesis paper again which really is a bit deep for a Friday. Theology reads easier on Thursday or Saturday. However Bonhoeffer was very controversial in his time, and even now especially now for his thinking, which was not traditional church theology.


It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Being blunt was not a difficult task for Bonhoeffer in his writing or speaking; consider that this was in a time in history when what you said could elicit a jail sentence and or death penalty. He wrote prolifically, even the last two years of his life in a German prison, writing extensively on theology and ethics and finally executed for supposedly being involved in a plot to kill Hitler.


If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time, because a dose of joy is a spiritual cure.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This great theologian believed in living what you believed. These following words were from his prison many years ago and published after his death. Perhaps they provide a window into his thinking and efforts alias all that which other men tell of?


Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I?  This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once?  A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.


Sitting here reading words from a man who died nearly seventy years ago because of what he believed in and lived for. In today’s crazy world it is sometimes difficult to comprehend. Daily I review test scores of reading comprehension and I wonder if we also could evaluate living life comprehension? Do we truly comprehend life that is about us and in us or its effects on us and others? So today I try and write about so many things and a few words from a man who lived as he spoke and believed and died a martyr to his words. As I close another day of reflection and writing please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.