Can we use intuition?

Bird Droppings October 31, 2012

Can we use intuition?

I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has issues most of the time after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so.

 

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate
in eternity.”
Edwin Hubbel Chapin

 

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called. A thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

 

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

 

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

 

 “Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

 

As I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that and then one said do you have that written down, what is your starting point. How much planning time do you allow and as I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment go by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

 

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

 

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

 

“Trust your hunches.  They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

 

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

 

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

 

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

 

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

 

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

 

 “I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

 

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

 

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

 

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

 

I wish I had said that. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

 

Why would some rather send a photo than write?

Bird Droppings October 30, 2012

Why would some rather send a photo than write?

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book was Brave New World, written in 1932 and you would think that a book thirty years old would not have been that controversial. However for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed.

Today in 2012 on another hall in our school English teachers use the books my tenth grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list as do many high schools across the country. These were such books as 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than forty years ago and still today can inspire students and adults to think and ponder. I fear the undercurrent in politics in some areas of the country towards education may again squelch such reading.

 

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

 

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

 

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. It is sort of my kick-start to the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits to the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit, coming back to a note the other day and actually I used yesterday talking with future teachers, the idea of a container as per students. That was until I read this line from Huxley.

Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly fifty years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

 

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky on a clear morning like today stars greet me spread through the sky constellations and for some beacons of direction and purpose. As the seasons pass the constellations change time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home and not at school as I have for a few months now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.

As I read Faulkner note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks and months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at the time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to read.

 

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is so true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually writing words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

 

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

 

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.

In my room often it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

How difficult is it having heart?

Bird Droppings October 29, 2012

How difficult is it having a heart?

 

It is chilly outside in Georgia temperatures are supposed to get near almost to freezing but not quite, high forties but one of coldest days so far this fall. We have still a week or two till we are off from school Thanksgiving and a fall break. I was watching TV last night and an old history sort of movie about the Pilgrims coming over to the New World is coming up soon. I find it funny how after that first Thanksgiving relationships between the native Indians and Pilgrims went downhill and it was not long till red skinned natives were the spawn of Satan and were to be eliminated by whatever means feasible. Pilgrims were not much different than today’s politicians as it was land was involved. I found it interesting how things changed so fast. Why is it we only have heart occasionally and some people never do?

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.”Buddha, Sayings of the Buddha

 

It has been several days since I was working with students expressing a news article in visual form. Over the past few years as I interact with people and seeing how much of an impact learning styles actually make on students it amazes me that such a simple thing is not seen previously. How we learn has been an issue I have looked at very seriously. Humans tend to learn basically in one of three ways visually, auditorially, and kinesthetically, in other words we see, hear or touch. A few days back I threw out the idea of perception as well and how we hear see and touch along with how we interpret is a factor. The assignment entailed using one PowerPoint slide to explain one of the main news articles out currently. The sample I used was based on The Red Lake Shootings in Minnesota several years ago. In a few moments about 45 seconds images and a few words flashed over the screen and my interpretation of the news flashed before us.

Students then chose stories and interpreted visually what they saw and felt. Ideas varied and stories varied significantly. One went in a direction of an issue close to home teen suicide and several reiterated the Red Lake Shootings. One however focused only on himself. His visual experience while interesting was a whirl of his own image. For several months going on two years I have known this student and his focus so often is self-motivated as so many of us are. He derives his day from seeking attention to and through himself be it passing gas and letting everyone in the class room know or speaking out loud to draw attention from a teacher. The idea of disrespect is an understatement but it all is self-focused so to say here I am.

 

“A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.” Dictionary.com

 

For quickness I use dictionary.com and there is defined the word sympathy as an interaction between two people or things affecting both. As I thought back to my self-centered fellow I wondered as he focused all day on himself does he have sympathy? In the defining quote from Buddha sympathy is established as four aspects those being charity, kind speech, doing a good turn and treating all alike.

 

“The force of truth that a statement imparts, then, its prominence among the hordes of recorded observations that I may optionally apply to my own life, depends, in addition to the sense that it is argumentatively defensible, on the sense that someone like me, and someone I like, whose voice is audible and who is at least notionally in the same room with me, does or can possibly hold it to be compellingly true.” Nicholson Baker

 

There are many issues at hand that warrant attention and sympathy today locally and worldwide.

 

“All sympathy not consistent with acknowledged virtue is but disguised selfishness.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

“Sympathetic people often don’t communicate well; they back reflected images which hide their own depths.”George Eliot

 

As I searched this morning deeper I found often we tend to view sympathy with caution perhaps this person is being sympathetic for a reason a trick politicians use frequently. Perhaps it is for gain, thinking back to the Pilgrims. Is it human nature to be so wary so distrustful of others.

 

“Is there anything more dangerous than sympathetic understanding?” Pablo Picasso

 

“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity is not enough.”Simone Weil

 

Several semesters back I sent off a paper dealing with kissing frogs. It was a reflection on teaching in a way but really it was a reflection on life. My premise being we should all be frog kissers. Teachers and so often parents are to be the Frog Kissers: Many times I have used the inference to the fairy tales of child hood of kissing a frog. We are always trying to find that enchanted princess or prince hidden beneath the guise of a frog; one kiss and the prince or princess will appear. Being an avid herpetologist along with my son, kissing frogs can be a risky business. Many species secret toxins some so lethal they can kill a man with barely a touch let alone a passionate kiss. There are some that can induce psychosis and hallucinations when ingested. All these efforts by the amphibians are purely defense mechanisms evolved over millions of years.

But the symbolism of the fairy tale and teachers/parents is what struck me. Teaching is about kissing frogs. We as teachers need to be taking those risks trying to find the hidden princes and princesses among our students. In reality we are going beyond simply taking roll and letting that child slip through the cracks. We need to be risk takers we need to set the example for the students that we will make an effort to be there and give each child ample time and place. As I pondered it was obvious as to where and why teachers quit. I see John Dewey’s idea and the example of Dewey in the classroom through Foxfire and all these great idealistic thoughts and then they seem to disappear into educational lala land.

What were to be great teachers seem to be eventually lost midst the flow and ebb of educational bureaucracy and never get a chance to be who they are. For many years I have wondered are today’s students and teacher automations doing as all those others have done before. Turn to page 138 children and read, now answer the questions at the back of the chapter. Raise your hand when you wish to speak and do not get out of line. I recall a Harry Chapin song I use often about a little boy who comes in his first day and colors flowers in a rainbow of hues, until his teacher corrects him and flowers are red green leaves are green, soon the creative spark is gone and another student became a frog. Fortunately in the song a risk taking teacher saves the day and kisses the frog and the rainbow is back. We need to work towards being that which we should be teachers, not simply information stuffers. As a parent and teacher a hard row to follow.

 

“There are four bases of sympathy: charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike.”Buddha

 

I keep thinking back to this idea of sympathy it is an active process not simply a feeling. I used loosely the illustration of kissing frogs but each aspect described by Buddha is an action. Charity is an activity although borrowing from a 1600 translation the Greek word agape is translated as charity. In Greek three words translate for love; Eros, philos and agape. Agape often is also translated as a supreme unlimited love or God’s love. In the Biblical translations of 1600 the Greek agape would translate to charity, an active love an ongoing love.  Kind speech is an action and is a physical response. Doing a good turn not just charity but physically doing something and perhaps the most difficult treating all alike again actively involved.

When I started this morning sympathy was more an emotion. Having a heart as I thought was just a sentence structure used to elicit sympathy and or other emotions. But sympathy is an active word it is beyond and there for having a heart perhaps too is active engaging. For nearly six years now I have ended each Bird Dropping with keep all in harm’s way in your heart and on your mind, originally I started with the attack September 11th and then war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it has grown in form keeping in your heart is an action it involves doing not simply mouthing words. I recall nearly three years ago in the state of Vermont which still operates on a town meeting basis and several towns were voting to not send anymore national guards units from Vermont to the Middle East. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state. Action some are sending cards reminders of home. For some it may be just a thank you as GI’s return.   It is about active involvement, kissing frogs, having a heart, it is about voting and sympathy is action not just thinking about it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to give always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

t takes more than one strand to make a rope

Bird Droppings October 27, 2012

It takes more than one strand to make a rope

 

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.”Faith Baldwin

 

Each day as I talk to my students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful.  But as I think this beautiful fall morning trying to decide if I should when I Get home today work in the yard or be lazy I thought I would take a few moments to write. Many of the children I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

 

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”John Donne

 

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

 

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”James Baldwin

 

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together.

 

In union there is strength.” Aesop

 

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”Alexander the Great

 

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

 

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

 

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students.

 

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.”Daniel D. Michiel

 

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope.

 

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.”Mahatma Gandhi

 

Real unity that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is nowhere to be found or so it seems. I showed my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened exponantionally.

 

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”Booker T. Washington

 

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

 

Each day as I sit outside my door at school I witness differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood.  Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

 

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.”Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

 

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much more and do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

 

I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them.  I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.”Don Marquis

 

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? Watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with The Rally to stop the insanity, teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

 

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”Kenyan Proverb

 

Interesting while writing about unity and still believing in individuality it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the rally yesterday one thing kept coming up why all the negative why not work together the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Do we make teachers or are they born?

Bird Droppings October 26, 2012

Do we make teachers or are they are born?

 

I started this endeavor yesterday in response to a quality teacher issue and how we spend so little time evaluating teachers and place emphasis on a non-valid instrument such as an end of course test. I eventually got a bit side tracked and came back to it today. I walked out of the house and crickets were calling as loud as any day during the summer till I realized it was just my old man hearing ringing as it does some mornings we need a few more degrees to get the frogs and crickets chirping. It was warm and a front was moving through a chance of rain. The day is under way and it was great to be a teacher.

Over the years I have listened to great teachers in college, graduate school, in industry and in the pulpits of various churches. As I went through my teacher education I had been told that men should not teach elementary school, children should be seen and not heard and most of the traditional understandings of what makes a teacher. However within those few negative comments there were positive ideas as well. I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale many years ago talk about positive thinking. I heard Dr. Tony Campolo lecture in sociology and everyone left the class wanting to major in sociology. Dr. Glenn Doman in a small college in Texas lectured on human development in 1968 and it impacted me to a point that much of my reading and interest in human development for years to come centered on his ideas.

 

“….but say there was a student’s union. Might they ask that the dropout rate be lowered? Might they stay at the negotiating table until it was below 50%? We ought to ask kids whether they think the status quo is working.” Bill Gates

 

In 1972 or so I found a copy of Foxfire 2 at a bookstore and it fit right into the ideas I had about teaching. I was working with a group of Learning Disabled teenagers in Warner Robins Georgia and the hands on approach of Foxfire worked wonders. I asked students what they wanted to read and bought magazines rather than use elementary level books that were provided. Amazingly reading levels went up significantly. Sadly the principal attributed to her preferred reading curriculum which I did not use and bought more of her elementary level books.

 

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

It is not necessarily about technique that I was intending to write but about that inborn flare for teaching which is an aspect I see as an art form, you can compound that with the fact there is not a truly effective means to evaluate teachers. For example in our school a twenty minute observation one to three times a year along with a simple ten or so item check list is our system of evaluation. Time is a crucial factor with administration as to evaluate fifty to a hundred teachers time is paramount to completing an effective evaluation. Charlotte Danielson developed a very good program that has been incorporated in the ETS (Educational Testing Services) program of available tests and evaluation tools. However to be fair to a teacher it takes at least thirty six hours of observation to adequately evaluate with this tool. Most administrators are pushed for twenty minutes in today’s bare bones education budgets.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

“Very little is invested in understanding great teaching. We’ve never had a meaningful evaluation system that identifies the dimensions of great teachers so we can transfer the skills to others.” Bill Gates

 

If only we could find a way to effectively evaluate and understand what makes a great teacher. Why is it that kids know and respond accordingly? While not an evaluation too some sound practices to follow. As I read again for the millionth time perhaps contained within a way to evaluate a great teacher.

 

The rest of the Foxfire Core Practices:

  1. 2.       The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.
  2. 3.       The work teachers and students do together enables learners to make connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond their communities.
  3. 4.       The teacher serves as facilitator and collaborator.
  4. 5.       Active learning characterizes classroom activities.
  5. 6.        The learning process entails imagination and creativity.
  6. 7.        Classroom work includes peer teaching, small group work, and teamwork.
  7. 8.       The work of the classroom serves audiences beyond the teacher, thereby evoking the best efforts by the learners and providing feedback for improving subsequent performances.
  8. 9.       The work teachers and learners do together includes rigorous, ongoing assessment and evaluation.
  9. 10.   Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.

 

I have come back to these simple practices many times and each time it seems to me this is just good teaching. Working with the Foxfire Approach to teaching you find very quickly it does take a bit more work but results and the attitudes of kids make it worth the effort. Giving kids input to what it is they are learning adds significantly to retention and their own accountability. I have written about creativity being stripped away from schools in favor of teaching to the test. We seem to find the word accountability bounced around and use standardized tests to measure that accountability. That then surmises that a teacher is a great teacher if everyone passes the end of course test in their subject. Sounds perhaps like a good idea till you are the teacher with ten special needs students who also have to pass the test along with ten behavior problems who could care less whether they were in school or not. Now the great teacher is banging their head against the wall trying to survive and the students are literally working against them.

Essentially it comes to attitude as I started reading Dr. Donald Clifton’s book, entitled How full is your bucket. I found that the concept of a dipper and bucket is a good one.  Over the weeks ahead as I finish the book I will be sure and use some quotes. In a nutshell we each have a bucket and dipper and either take out of or give to each other. The concept is if you are always giving you will never have an empty bucket. What if we could apply this simple concept in education? Looking at the idea of Foxfire and John Dewey’s democratic classroom and filling a bucket there are possibilities out there we could find a way to take the natural talents of a given teacher and assist them in bringing that out. If we could give students input and communicate and if we could get away from the methods and technique only approach to teaching we could maybe make a significant change in education. So here I am wondering why we do not much like arguing politics probably even the best solution will never see the light of day because of the powers that be.  So as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Who is responsible?

Bird Droppings October 25, 2012

Who is responsible?

 

Here in Georgia we have on the ballot an amendment to the State Constitution to provide for a new State Board for Charter Schools. This board is such that it would lie outside local support department of education authority and be appointed by the Governor. Most of the funding is coming from the private sector and companies wanting to get into the education process in Georgia. I researched several of these companies and found foreign investors, massive fraud cases in one instance fifty schools run by a Virginia company in Florida involved in money laundering among other situations and the one that really caught my eye teachers are paid less this is how we can become more efficient. Sadly too many voters in Georgia are unaware of what is entailed in this ballot measure and it most likely will pass. It is not a yes or no as indicated for Charter schools it is a yes or no for local control.

Several weeks ago I was involved in a debate of sorts on the issue of public versus private education; it circled around and about really going not too far. Yesterday I picked up our local paper and a letter to the editor caught my attention. It was a blast at public education locally and how we were not growing and how we did not need a school bond for new schools and how some of the thirty to forty year old buildings were good enough in their day and were still good enough. There was no growth and why should we not be putting money into operating costs and not buildings.

Then the writer extolled the home schoolers who sought better education and also private schools where students received better educations. No Child Left Behind even was mentioned and how students from our county could go to another county from schools who did not meet the standards. All over not wanting a school bond past. It was just a few years ago you could drive around our county and see thousands of homes, literally thousands going up all which eventually have families in them with children who go to school. Our high school has literally split forming two high schools in the past few years. When I started teaching twelve years ago we had maybe fourteen hundred students we have more than that now and another high school filled with twelve hundred more students that would have been here.

In so many parts of the country people take attitudes similar to this person who wrote in to the local paper and school systems then have problems. But as the individual pointed out it is up to the public, up to the voters who elect school board members and pass bond issues. The responsibility is in the hands of the people. Another comment was made about curriculum and how school boards made decisions without community support. Our school board meetings in general are public and open for community involvement and our current superintendent is even having public forums for parents to give their views and to hear directly from parents and the community. Responsibility is a big word. Texas and Kansas popped up as represented of curriculum issues. The plan offered in these states was to do away with critical thinking and real science in favor of religious based notions.

 

“A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.” John Dewey, Democracy in Education

 

We as individuals are responsible if we choose to be and to the extent we chose to be through voting and through communication with elected officials in all levels of government and society. How is responsibility defined? I quickly typed the word into my faithful computer and Dictionary.com came to the rescue.

 

“The social force that binds you to your obligations and the courses of action demanded by that force;” Dictionary.com

 

Responsibility is a social entity a “force that binds”. Being a part of a social group of society then implies responsibility to an extent, rules and parameters that exist to protect us from each other. It could be the guidelines and structures that give direction, perhaps in a way we are guided too much some might say.

 

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”  Walter Anderson

 

Often as I research an idea early in the morning through books and the internet I find coincidences and several years ago as I found this quote by Walter Anderson, it was one of those. Walter Anderson the writer and editor of Parade magazine interviewed and discussed with leading figures around the world. His book Courage is a three letter word, has been an inspiration to many dealing with anxiety and fear. But as I searched I also found another Walter Anderson in the bayous of Mississippi a painter and artist that is worth throwing out who also in his art dealt with anxieties and fear of his own making. He was periodically institutionalized for schizophrenia and other mental issues. Walter Inglis Anderson painted with a passion not unlike Van Gogh. So teachers if you need a good reference source when looking at American artists check this fellow out. In the end as I read the sentence on responsibility it could have been from either the author or the painter “I am responsible” and it is we citizens who need to face up to that.

 

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan

 

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession, a duty.” John D. Rockefeller

 

One of my former students was an advocate of anarchy, always wearing the popular rock logo on his wrist bands and all over his books notebooks and even his skateboard. When talking with him about the concept he would always go in a circle, what if we did have anarchy and you were only responsible for yourself doing whatever you wanted. As I thought I could see where youthful idealism could manifest itself in such a philosophy. But what if, where do you stop in a society, where there are no boundaries and soon it is whoever is strongest and most powerful is in control and you have a dictatorship. Usually he would back out of the discussion when it left him by himself. He wanted freedom and no one else really mattered. In effect he did not want responsibility.

 

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will — his personal responsibility.” Albert Schweitzer

 

“The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

As I read and think this morning it is not so much going back to that starting letter to the editor about accepting responsibility, it is that too many people do not want to be involved. They do not want the responsibility of choosing, of interacting, or of involvement. That letter mentioned the growth of home schooling and private schools. I found when I moved to Georgia in 1972 public schools were in peril in some communities students were leaving in droves. It was not because of quality of education but because of desegregation. Many white students did not want to go to school with other ethnic groups. This election shows that this issue has not gone away.

Today while that is still an issue so often it is hidden within the pretext of religion as so many schools are billed as “Christian” schools. Many home schoolers are home schooling because of religious reasons and the idea that public schools are to secular and much too public. I find it interesting no one ever says they are too science driven.

 

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I always seem to be seeking a monastic life in the midst of society. It is up to us in the end we are who responsibility falls too. Be it about education and or the zoning of a piece of property. But it requires involvement and it requires thought. So it is a new week ahead and so much happening on the world front and locally. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Is sacred more than just a word?

Bird Droppings October 24, 2012

Is sacred more than simply a word?

 

“When we acknowledge that all of life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.” Dr.Scout Cloud Lee

 

Dr. Lee is a motivational speaker, author of twelve books, singer and song writer, and a university professor and actually along the way a cast member of The Survivor series on CBS. She was voted Outstanding Teacher of the Year at OklahomaStateUniversity in 1980, and Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Woman in American in 1980. In 2002, Lee was honored to carry the Olympic torch exemplifying the theme of “Light the Fire Within.”

I used Dr. Lee’s quote and the preceding paragraph on September 7, 2009 in my daily wanderings. An email earlier reminded me of this quote and some thoughts along the way with several books I picked up this week at Barnes and Noble, I should get a commission for mentioning bookstores and Quick Trip. I state on my Facebook page my religious belief is that all is sacred. That in and of itself is a powerful statement and one I adhere to or at least attempt each day I live. Many can argue from their own religious perspective and or theological viewpoint as to what is sacred or not. On a recent journey to Macon I went by the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Park. I speak of the place in a reverent manner as for thousands of years many peoples have held this place as a sacred spot. When I climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound and look to the four directions I imagine what it was like before the Macon skyline was visible to the north or the visitor center to the east.

Sitting on my table as I write is a Bushmen water container. It is simply an ostrich egg emptied out with a hole in the top and carvings of animals and designs etched into the shell and then filled with ash to leave a black line. This egg is over fifty years old and brought back by my father from South Africa many years ago and given to me. In the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa and to the Sans as they wish to be called, we use the term Bushmen this is a sacred vessel. It is one of many that would be stashed plugged with grass and placed at a specific spot identified by the markings belonging to a particular hunting group it would be filled with water and stored for the next trip through that spot.

Over the past few years I have read many books on spirituality, Native American thought, Curriculum, Education, Teaching methods, Religion, Counseling, Psychology, Herbs, Medicinal plants, Reptiles and Amphibians, and even a few fiction books mainly Harry Potter. One author who has always kept my attention and I still periodically check up on his essays is William Edelen. Edelen is a Presbyterian pastor, former fighter pilot, former agriculture teacher, author, speaker, and thinker extraordinaire. While his books of essays are not best sellers on a few years back was the United Methodist Women’s book of the year, In Search of the Great Mystery. Edelen incorporates many ideas from Native American thought into his writing along with Thomas Jefferson and Thoreau.

 

“The question I so often ask is this: Why are the vast majority of people so willing to turn over their life, values, priorities, and decisions to such authoritarian institutions? Are they insecure, that fearful, that blind, that they cannot assume personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth? ‘Your own reason is the only oracle given to you by God,’ wrote Thomas Jefferson.” William Edelen, Spirit Dance

 

Edelen was addressing millenniums of mass church building and increasingly larger congregations that demand from their parishners. I always found it humorous that one Atlanta church required a credit report to join although I think that pastor has been indicted.

 

“People often ask me, “What are you …… what do you believe…. Are you a Christian…. Taoist … Buddhist …. what? In a joking mood I may tell them I am a Taoist, Druid, Agnostic shaman. But when I answer the question seriously, I tell them I live within the historical stream of mysticism, and that orientation, world view, cosmology, or philosophy of life is the same whether one lives in a Taoist society, Buddhist, Christian or secular.”  William Edelen, Spirit Dance  

 

Needless to say William Edelen is a character, he still has many listeners and readers and even in his nineties he still speaks in Palm Springs each weekend delivering a new essay. There is a website where these are posted. But there are many views of life, spirit and sacred what compromises these. Continuing on today another writer whom has drawn me to them is Thomas Merton. Merton was a Trappist Monk he is considered to be one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Merton died in a hotel room in Southeast Asia in 1968 protesting the war in Viet Nam.

 

“To unify your life, unify your desires. To spiritualize your life, spiritualize your desires. To spiritualize your desires, desire to be without desires.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

 

“Everyone has an instinctive desire to do good things and avoid evil. But the desire is sterile as long as we have no experience of what it means to be good.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

 

Almost sounds like John Dewey words in needing to experience good in order to desire to do good. Both Thomas Merton and William Edelen use the concept of opposites prevalent in Eastern philosophy as well as in Native American thought. Merton and Edelen often quote The Dalai Lama in their writings and as he is spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhists, he is respected worldwide.

Over the years I have been a fan of the writings of the Dalai Lama myself, at age six or so he was chosen to be the successor to the thirteenth Dalai Lama and left his parent’s small farm to go to the capital of Tibet in Lhasa and here was tutored in Buddhist traditions and writings. He through his young years had tutors from England as well who taught other subjects and provided a world view for this humble boy from a small farm in Tibet. Today he is considered one of the great thinkers of our time and has received the Nobel Peace Prize among other numerous awards. His many books help bridge, and make an effort to provide insight into Buddhist philosophy and understanding of the world. One of these thoughts within Buddhism is the theory of emptiness.

 

“According to the theory of emptiness, any belief in an objective reality grounded on the assumption of intrinsic, independent existence in untenable. All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence. To possess such independent, intrinsic existence would imply that things are therefore entirely self-contained. This would mean that nothing has the capacity to interact and exert influence on other phenomena.” Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom

 

I walked into my local convenience store this morning to get a couple of bottles of Smart water; I have switched after years of drinking Evian only. No, it does not increase my IQ by more than a small percentage with each bottle, but it has no metallic taste and it is essentially distilled water with electrolytes added. Another advertising pitch I could make a fortune if I was signed with all of these commercial entities. As we talked with one of my Muslim friends I wished him a Happy Halloween, and it hit me. Halloween was an attempt in the old days of allowing pagan rituals into the Christian domain back in the days of assimilating cultures as you conquer. What was interesting is how it was then followed by All Saints day to beg forgiveness for the previous day.  All Saints day has a special spot in my heart having been born nearly sixty three years ago on that day. Although after I was born the Catholic Church dropped the holiday.

But it is always interesting where our traditions and history take us and will take us. Borrowing a line from the Dalai Lama’s above quote.  “All things and events, whether material, mental or even abstract concepts like time, are devoid of objective, independent existence.” At the time it was a necessary evil to allow All Hallows eve and get the pagans to follow in line. As the day changed and it seemed All Saints day was no longer needed it was discounted as a holy day by the church. It might have had something to do with me being born on that day as well just thinking out loud.

 

“My plea is that we bring our spirituality, the fullness and simple wholesomeness of our basic human values, to bear upon the course of science and the direction of technology in human society. In essence, science and spirituality, though offering in their approaches, share the end, which is the betterment of humanity.” The Dalai Lama

 

“The whole point of science is that there are no facts, only theories. You don’t believe these things they are working hypotheses that the next bit of information can transform. We are taught not to hang on but to stay open.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

 

As I read The Dalai Lamas words it reminded of the passage from Campbell, recognized as one of the leaders in comparative mythology.

 

“The first fact that distinguishes the human species from all others is that we are born too soon. We arrive incapable of taking care of ourselves for something like fifteen years. Puberty doesn’t come along for twelve years or more, and physical maturity doesn’t arrive until our early twenties. During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological dependency. We are trained as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us to react.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

 

As I sat thinking on this passage my mind drifted over to a book I am reading again Kent Nerburn’s, The Wolf at Twilight. Nerburn is called to come to the Sioux reservation to help an old friend in a search for his sister who has been gone now nearly eighty years. One of the comments made is in a discussion on hand shakes. Nerburn questioned how they could tell he was unfamiliar with the Sioux ways and they said by the handshake. A white man shakes hands hard exerting force wanting to maintain control, power, be a man. A Sioux shakes hands lightly, softly not imposing their dominance over the person whose hand is being shaken. It is a matter of how we are raised. The cultural biases and societal influences provide the basis for who we are. Perhaps this is where I am concerned in our quest in education and society so often for simplicity and measureable data. Are we leaving out the spiritual and actually leaving science by the way side?  We seem to want answers solid data and facts. So many people want laws in science and not theories. So many people want one way in religion and forget the spirituality aspect of what it is they seek.

 

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves…… The connectedness made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts – meaning heart in its ancient sense, as a place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

I first read Parker Palmer about eleven years ago in a book club meeting where our principal used this book, The Courage to Teach, as one of our readings. Parker Palmer emphasizes in his writing that teachers choose to teach because of heart because they desire to do something for humanity. Many of his themes touch on the spirituality within teaching. It is this idea of connectedness that toes in to my thoughts today and with some of the others I have quoted and used. In recent months I have become a fan of Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, former Department Chair of Guidance at the University of Florida. His books along with his father are based on the Cherokee Nation. Many of his thoughts on guidance reflect his own understandings and outlooks based on his Native American heritage.

 

“Native peoples view all things as having spiritual energy and importance. All things are connected, all things have life, and all things are worthy of respect and reverence. Spiritual being essentially requires that individuals seek their place in the universe; everything else will follow in good time. “Dr. Michael Tianusta Garrett, Walking in the Wind

 

I have wandered today and yet perhaps not strayed from where I was going in my journey and will end with perhaps my favorite author Kent Nerburn.

 

“Spiritual growth is honed and perfected only through practice. Like an instrument, it must be played. Like a path, it must be walked. Whether through prayer or meditation or worship or good works, you must move yourself in the direction of spiritual betterment.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

 

“It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.” Kent Nerburn, Simple Truths

 

I had actually started to be rather short and be done with it today but sort of got caught up in my own wanderings and readings. It has been over twelve years that I have ended my daily thoughts with this phrase and again looking at the news and listening to what is going on in the world I will again close with my traditional last statement. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird