Watching a hawk fly by

Bird Droppings April 30, 2012

Watching a hawk fly by

 

I was able to attend only a few track meets this year and as always I did take a few photos as I tend to do. I recall about three years ago when I was not able to get to the region meet till after school and since it started before school was out one of the team managers took my camera to get a few photos of some of the events I would miss. As I looked at old photos of pole vaulting a thought crossed my mind in conjunction with an article I read and have used now in my research by Ronald A. Wolk founder and former editor of Education Week.

 

“Standardization and uniformity may work with cars and computers, but it doesn’t work with humans. Today’s student body is the most diverse in history. An education system that treats all students alike denies that reality.” Ronald A Wolk

 

I reviewed my photos and talked with one of the coaches about a particular student who has really done well that year in pole vaulting. She missed going to the state meet in a tie and she had too many misses as she vaulted.

 

“Standards don’t prepare students for anything; they are framework of expectations and educational objectives. Without the organization and processes to achieve them, they are worthless.” Ronald A. Wolk

 

I have pondered this idea of an event like pole vaulting and comparing to our current trend in education of raising the bar. The practice of making it harder to achieve a high school diploma for example is common place across theUnited States. We set the bar up and do not have the processes within some students to make it to the bar. I could see in a pole vaulting contest where the high school state record may be fourteen feet and we set the bar at sixteen feet and believe all potential pole vault contestants will now attain that level of skill. Most quit pole vaulting and Wolk uses statistics from various states showing dropout rates as an issue and most recently with national changes in calculating dropout rates even more so. .

I have been pondering this concept of raising the bar for some time and teachers have been fired for not attaining goals set by states and federal legislation. I am doing bus duty this spring and we have several elementary students that catch the bus children of teachers to their schools from the high school. Perhaps to none other than educators and parents the stress level in an elementary school during CRCT time in teachers and students should be looked at. If we deliberately stress children over testing are we going the right direction? If we deliberately cause anxiety among our children over test scores that have little validity other than what the publisher has stated and in reference to state and federal mandates are we even being sane?

Thinking back I was working on several questions for my graduate school comprehensive exams. In that process I would head to the University of Georgia Library on weekends to review material. I recall as I was driving to the University in Athens and as I turned on the highway bypass towards the University a red tailed hawk flew over the road gliding by into a patch of pines. About three hundred yards further a dead hawk alongside the road it appeared the hawk was trying to feed on a dead armadillo which had been hit by a car. The hawk had become road-kill as well. As I drove on I wondered if maybe this was a pair considering how close they were and if they had a nest and young and this might have been the reason to venture that close to highway. I have seen other times similar situations with dead hawks at road kill sites.

 

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth. “ChiefSeattle

 

It has been many years since Chief Seattle spoke but his words ring true today. It may be that in our time that we so often take for granted all around us, the trees, animals and even other people. We live a life so self-centered and focused on us we tend to miss so much. It was many years till man realized he was not the center of the universe and was really just a somewhat an insignificant speck. I am sitting at my writing typing on my laptop wondering about an interesting question. So many people see problems with public education and yet few offer solutions that seem to go in the right direction as I was mentioning in Wolk’s statements.

I have been reading numerous books on curriculum theory but I am waiting for a book on curriculum action to be published. Fifteen books are scattered about my table with each a different author and different idea how to solve issues in schools. A graduate school professor made a comment several months ago about how many curriculum theorists have moved to Canada to practice and to learn and do research. It is interesting in this world of we want to be the best that it seems Canadian schools want to get better. InCanadahowever they are looking for ways to improve beyond politics.

We have numerous laws and ideas but never seem to get better in a recent headline in the local newspaper title was and students’ scores highlight disparity. In several systems mentioned nearly a third of eighth graders will be retained because of a test at the end of eighth grade. I wonder how they were at the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth maybe we should do a sort of a pre-test and post-test thing. A simple practice that would actually give a better indication of learning and it seems we do not do that. We simply test at the end of eighth grade so we know this child is at this stage and knows this at this point but what did that child learn in eighth grade we still do not know.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

It has been nearly eleven years since a fellow teacher first showed me a Sydney J. Harris column. So often as I watch people in school or out about in the community. These people are a reflection of everything around them. Harris says we should be more like windows letting in not just reflecting back.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education.  Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization.  We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

I wonder thinking back to my hawk flying by I hope if there are chicks they were along far enough to survive and as I think maybe it takes action on the part of parents who truly want a good education for their children. In Georgia a big push is for vouchers and Charter schools and sadly both are profit driven not in the interest of children and neither offer much more in terms of new ideas and have from research actually not done as well as public schools. The really sad part is that many kids in today’s diversified world often do not have parents at home anymore and that puts stress on everything including tests and school. As I end today maybe we can all take a moment and try and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

namaste

bird

Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 29, 2012

Are you a Weginahsa?

 

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and my granddaughter woke up crying, she was spending the night with us so her mom and dad could study for finals this week. Both work and study time is minimal with a seventeen month old. So I fixed a bottle and Charlie fell back asleep but by then our westie needed to take a run outside to do her morning thing. Lately she has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen fixing a bottle she started barking and I went and took her out. A near total cloud cover greeted me and yet still several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for rain as I have been hoping for a few drops myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

 

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

 

            I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

 

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

 

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

 

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

 

Every day I drink a liter bottle of water after my energy shot drink. I have to have my morning five hour energy shot first. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot of expresso. Although I do brew my own now at school which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space. 

 

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

 

Many years ago there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.

As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away Friday after five years and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of theUnited Statesall people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding fathers key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.

The restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old.  One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family, both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence.

 “There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it.  We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Recently as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row.

We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Going to school

Bird Droppings April 28, 2012

Going to school

 

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters to cooks, selling fancy cheese, wines and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook. As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking. It turns out she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. A small world or is it synchronicity, I think I know what Dr. Carl G. Jung would say. My major in graduate school always causes confusion as most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions and mine was in Emotional Behavior Disorders.

It has been nearly eight years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University. My major for some may be a bit obscure that being in curriculum theory with an emphasis on Teaching and instruction, it is a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention in my early readings was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book What is Curriculum Theory.  As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, along with various cuts of meats where my livestock background came out.

I have been listening as I read, write and study for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute fromArizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who thirty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

 

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

 

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey
Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

 

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms granted it was interesting especially to one such as I who is constantly observing human nature. When she offered she is in counseling and on meds for psychosis things made better sense.

As I watched my class watch her as she came in who being mostly relatively conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting but as I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online I thought as I listened to her lecture being a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.

I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that as maybe we all should try and be who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and most of all too always give thanks.

namaste

bird

The depth of our souls

Bird Droppings April 27, 2012

The depth of our souls

 

I received an email from a dear friend many years back after writing about humor and it truly made me think as I looked back on some older notes and thoughts last night and as I pondered I found the response I sent to her and it scares me how we can humorize our dark side often to a point of distain or callousness:

 

Dear Bird,

How about the humor of John Stewart and S. Colbert? Does anyone ever think that some incidents are too sensitive or horrendous to allow for satire or humor?

Frances

 

My response: I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides. Perhaps even primitive aspects of who we are. Movies like Jack Ass and the humor portrayed and Stewart and Colbert are mild compared to South Park, for example. Colbert is on a higher intellectual plane than South Park I think at times. But the audiences thrive on it sadly enough and I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community not even public housing but simply shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specific people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well yet maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading on Foucault currently and much of his base philosophy in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see  watching several older American Idol shows and how the judges belittle people some who were special needs what a sad state our society is in.  bird

 

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

 

Often having been in teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past not at a student’s expense as much as the moment and ourselves. Being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper which is often common place in some settings are good examples. One of my favorite over the years was an OCD student who once asked me 54 times if he could hold our class room pet Stevie the wonder snake a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer this was before school and a general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room. She then asked me did I not hear him and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. All it took was changing the subject to derail that OCD event and she had. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is in his twenties and never went back to school after that year. He was afraid of the new principal. When the new principal took over eight years ago he was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building so he still sits at home and watches TV. His disability keeps him from working.

 

Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Elliot

 

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time. But I do not see people viewing that way I see people watching a movie or show and laughing at often human frailty and those human aspects. Over the past years I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul. An aspect that Jung, Hillman, and Moore all psychologists and authors write extensively on.

 

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed.  Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

 

We get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who children really are and could be. I have used the term funneling or forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel till it will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind in the overflow.

 

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

 

Smith, points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions according to Smith:

 

“obliterate the lines between fact and fiction” D. G. Smith 

 

We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even ….. ? I was very frustrated listening knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going whatever it takes. We are a world and society of immediacy. Sadly is also is as we slowly lose are humanity.

 

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

 

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are. 

“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

 

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are.  The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search.  A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

 

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context.  To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief.  Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.” Dr. James Fowler

 

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are.  It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.

 

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life.  But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris

 

Spirit is then who we are subjectively? 

 

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

 

We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, student of James Hillman, a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul in his writings and lectures.

 

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.  I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality.  When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

 

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human.  We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

 

Mary Aswell Doll, professor of Literature at Savannah College of Arts and Sciences, in the introduction to her book, Like letters in running Water, includes her thoughts which deal with her interdisciplinary studies on religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul.   She mentions, “It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns”.   It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.

“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children.  My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

 

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul.  Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer and to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well or who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed. Many thoughts to ponder on this Friday morning so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

The journey

Bird Droppings April 26, 2012

The journey

 

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

 

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. What and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

 

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

 

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the societies own good and many top educators believe this. There are times when I believe that watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

Today as I do every day I let out our Westie terrier, Lilgirl the dog who at 15 pounds thinks she is a 150 pounds, generally after Lilgirl is up, I get to my reading of emails and writing. I recall only a few years back when we had two dogs and they could not be out at the same time or in the same room or space, I always thought that was interesting as they were raised together. Then I go to the computer and write trying to catch up on emails. Sometimes the Westie will come and sit by my feet and sleep. Today she wanted back out, an alteration to my morning routine and it bothers me. What is of concern as I think is this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

 

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

 

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to can and be bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society.   

 

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

 

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq over the past few years and previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. In Georgia it is our state legislators passing laws for charter schools while continually cutting finding to public education, increasing class sizes, and in some cases eliminating funding to special needs. We complain and we are faced with a journey with neither provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario.

On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

 

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site,

 

 http://www.units.muohio.edu/dragonfly/find/find/PAGETH1.shtml

 

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. I was talking to a young man yesterday and trying to get him to understand it will be difficult to continue as he is and pass the class. His response was simple I am not coming back to school next year so what. So easy to say I quit and why was this kid left behind in a society that has the tools and means to educate and has for so many years. Many times I hear that is just the ways it is. For some time I have been a fan of Dr. Nel Noddings and her relationship philosophy of caring in terms of education.

 

“Without imposing my values on another, I must realize that my treatment of him may deeply affect the way he behaves in the world. Although no individual can escape responsibility for his own actions, neither can the community that produced him escape its part in making him what he has become.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Stanford University

It is not just the student who is to blame it is also we as an educational system have let him down. We who supported the concept of No Child Left Behind and continue with Race to the Top ideologies.

 

 

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

namaste

bird

 

 

Neither Wolf nor Dog

Bird Droppings April 25, 2012

Neither Wolf nor Dog

 

It has been some time since I first read the book by this name written which happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. Listening to political gibberish and sitting watching twitter comments through indigenous news casts the issue of the Native Americans has never gone away and is perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation with a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in Republican or Democratic jargon.  I saw a poster recently of an Indian woman stating something to the effect anyone not speaking Lakota, and listed numerous more dialects and languages needs to leave as you are trespassing illegally on Indian land.

 

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

 

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

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries and we are the invaders again. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy. Recently on a public broadcast a former rock star that is also an alleged draft dodger from the Viet Nam era and is very pro guns was blasting our current president and came awful close to threatening him. Many considered that tirade as patriotic, at least the NRA convention crowd applauded.  

 

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

 

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

 

With each word spouted from conservative’s lips about lowering gas prices are ways oil companies can increase profits. I have not quite figured this out how we as citizens will save if oil companies increase profits. Perhaps it is looking for new lands to subdue which is the credo of so many conservatives and their religious affiliations. Taking away lands from wilderness to own and subdue and to plunder. Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing.

 

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

 

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Indians nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly four years ago on Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas. More recently Arizona enacted even stricter laws that are currently in court and today before the US Supreme Court. Back in the day were we not the illegal immigrants and we stole a land and destroyed culture after culture taking and subduing.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of Tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat; I do not think he would be in today’s politics.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

namaste

bird

Where have all the teachers gone?

Bird Droppings April 24, 2012

Where have all the teachers gone?

 

Over the past few days I have been talking with a veteran and a few new teachers to be, college seniors who are getting ready to go out and teach and even a few who are student teaching with our facility. As I meander around this morning getting my odds and ends done for the day and feeding the critters in my room I could not help but notice the lack of young new teachers. I spoke with my principal earlier this week and he said he only had a few apply this past year and only hired two new teachers in recent years although we do have an Australian with an E3 visa at a nearby high school in the county. I had spoken with this fellow from Australia many times over the past five years and of course have to get my late great Crocodile Hunter questions first and then ask about E3 visas. It seems we now have an allowance of E3 visas which allow indefinite stays to work. Of course they apply to needed areas in certain fields of which teaching is one.

            But why are we running out of teachers. One article I read and my principal also quoted was that within a few years the US will be seven million teachers short. I complain about no child left behind and it seems that soon there will be a lot of children left behind because there will no teachers left to teach them. Amazing how things work out. I “Googled” the question, where have all the teachers gone? I had over seven million hits. The very first hit was a paper entitled; Where have all the teachers gone from nearly ten years ago.

 

“It was earlier noted that the quality of teacher preparation and the quantity of available teachers are not independent. A traditional interpretation of this statement is that higher preparation standards by limiting access threaten the supply of teachers and the staffing of schools. It would be unfortunate if the projected need for more teachers were to cause an erosion of standards for teacher preparation. This scenario leads towards lower student performance, less job satisfaction, higher teacher attrition, increased public discontent, and further erosion of standards. Easier teacher preparation programs and emergency permit hiring are expedient solutions to short term employment needs. However, such expediency may bring about greater long term problems. “ Mark Eric Fetler, Ph.D., California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

 

This is not something that just happened. Dr. Fetler addressed the issue in 1997. I recall many years ago when I was in undergraduate teacher education and experienced a class where the professor believed men should not be in elementary education. My own graduate school classes have been literally enlightening and uplifting as both colleges that I have attended are progressive in their scope and views on teacher education. So why do we need teachers so badly? I should rephrase that and say why do we need good teachers so badly? I keep humming the folk song where have all the flowers gone except inserting teachers instead of flowers.

Teachers are not created simply by a certification process contrary to the beliefs and understandings of many politicians and administrators. Teachers are not simply trained and like an assembly line we produce teachers which so many people think happens. This may be a silly example. Something so simple as it takes a hundred years to grow a hundred year old tree may seem silly yet in our hurry up world we really do not want to wait that long. We genetically engineer and manipulate and bring in exotics that in our climate grow faster and then sell old growth remaining trees to Japan which amazes me in the paradox.

A hundred year old tree isn’t all that old considering the 500 year old plus redwoods and sequoias on the west coast and sadly other countries will pay small fortunes for them. Part of that willingness is respect for the age and consideration of the tree which we have lost.  Easterners revere and honor the age of the wood and intricate and tight beautiful grains that produce veneers and furniture that is near priceless. An interesting thought a 500 year old redwood takes 500 years to replace, Easterners understand such things we fast paced immediate answer western people do not. Could be why we so easily put aside the devastation of an oil spill or so quickly say drill baby drill in a wilderness area.

Another interesting thought as I get started this morning I picked up a book actually several at Barnes and Nobles the other day and I am just getting started on them. One was “The Tao of teaching”, it is so far intriguing.  A comment is used that I like “the art of teaching” which has become the basis of my one day dissertation.

 

“When I see – I forget, when I hear – I remember, when I do – I understand”

Ancient Chinese saying

 

As I go deeper into my reading I will share but teaching as an art form is an interesting and intriguing concept. Reading this ancient passage is also akin to progressivism’s John Dewey thinking on experience and learning. As I consider the term art of teaching it is sort of like some folks will always be finger painting and others painting masterpieces from day one. School for a good teacher always starts tomorrow and school for some folks never starts it is just a job.

 

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott

 

Questioning investigating teachers should inspire not constrict such endeavor. I always go back to the famous Moby Dick question of “In your opinion what was Herman Melville trying to accomplish with his writing of this book?” Ms. Stern did not appreciate how he was writing a historical fictional rendering of the whaling industry and its financial impact on the society ofNew England. I received an “F” and the response “That’s the wrong opinion”. I never knew an opinion in theUScould be wrong, maybe different but not wrong.

 

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

 

 I never realizedhow true this was till I came back directly to teaching about twelve years back. As I was going back to graduate school and reading more lately than when I was in school years back all 12 years of public school and all 12 years of college and such.

 

“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

 

How in life do we make any lesson important enough “potent” to borrow from Albert (I am on a first name basis now)? This came up in my class yesterday that a teacher needs to be excited about what they teach and in turn that excites the students. Being in a co-teaching situation and never knowing semester to semester what classes I might be co-teaching sort of takes away from the excitement but it is the interaction and relationships built in teaching that are a driving force.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Making something hard easy, someone who can make it potent, and is always learning but is humble, a true teacher.

 

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw 

 

As I look at Georgia Performance Standards, GPS’s and all the standardized Testing and such,  is knowledge pursuing the child or do we not teach enough art recognition  in the teaching of teachers and teach too much mechanics. I can show anyone color and texture and each will offer back a finished piece rarely will they be the same and every once in a while a masterpiece will be produced. We should search for teachers as we search for masters find those that can and then we can seriously educate children.

I was cleaning my vast store of old files in my closet. Things that when I saved them were crucial. I have thinned out the ten or so boxes to one now and found a spring of 2004 newsletter “Reaching Out” produced by Dr. James Sutton, author, consultant, lecturer, clinical psychologist and leading authority on Oppositional Defiant Behavior and Conduct Disorder. There is an article on page five only a paragraph or so about Stevie the wonder snake.

 

“Frank Bird is a teacher in Georgia. He believes strongly that a classroom should have student appeal. After all, it’s about them anyway, so why not make it interesting. To this end, Franks classroom is pretty untraditional, even cluttered, but it’s full of all kinds of “kids’ stuff.” Frank has a classroom assistant, Stevie. Stevie is a Ball Python… a snake (a very large snake). Students will do anything (even work) to hold Stevie if Stevie can sleep in their laps. Now that’s a pretty creative way to keep a student in a seat.” Dr. James Sutton, Reaching Out, Spring 2004

 

It has been some time since I talked about this with James Sutton. But it reminded me with a significant change coming for me in the next year moving from a room I have been in since before this article was written of my main tenet in my classroom and in schools period. Kids have to want to be there in order to learn.

 

“Students will learn better when they are somewhere they want to be… Opportunities expand for learning when a student comes in wanting to be there… Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

 

If only teachers would listen in their Learning Focused Schools Seminars and Professional Learning sessions. If only teachers would respond to students as people rather than things as Dr. Glasser points out in The Quality School. If only is a big issue in education. Today I have been pondering a bit much about a critical issue and will end will please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

PS. “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