Why not continue the journey?

Bird Droppings October 23, 2012

Why not continue the Journey?

 

“So I’d much rather get across the concept of freedom. It’s what’s important to Indian children. The only way you can be free is to know is that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die.” Russell Means, Indian Activist, November 10, 1939 – October 22, 2012

 

I first noticed the blogs and status updates on several sites I follow two days ago. On Russell Mean’s site statements that he was still alive midst rumors he had passed on. Then yesterday early in the morning a post, a very carefully written paragraph from his family that he was continuing his journey and had passed on. It has been some time since I first read about or heard about Russell Means.  Having been a college student in the early seventies and activism going on around us we saw AIM and Wounded Knee in the news. Later I watched Means act in several movies most notably in Last of the Mohicans. I have read his words and agree on some points and disagree on others but he died as he lived a warrior.

As I think back over who I am as a teacher and as a person I often wonder as to how I came to be the way I am and why do I take such a differing outlook over so many teachers involved in this endeavor. I recall my father essentially teaching me how to teach as a swimming instructor and in various Red Cross programs. His idea of Tell Show Test and Check was a favorite for teaching a subject or even a skill. I have used the FIDO principle another of his gimmicks many times over the years Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over again.

As I attended college and began thinking about teaching as a profession I had courses in how to teach and what to teach to various groups of children and adults. We talked theory and realities we practice taught and were observed by professors. I look back and wonder many times in how does a professor who has never taught outside of college level teach anyone how to teach, say elementary school age children. But within it all I became who I am as a teacher, parent and person. I see this enterprise as an ongoing continuum and one that truly is never complete. Going back to my Aerosmith I borrow from time after time, “Life is about the journey not the destination.”

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who does not know how to read.” Mark Twain

 

I spend a good bit of my day reading and find it so hard to understand when I see comments of I do not read or I do not have a favorite book written in a Facebook status or autobiography. I may in the course of a day look at ten or twelve books looking for thoughts or ideas for my writings. But to profess to not reading how can you consider yourself even semi-intelligent. For it is through reading that we increase our vocabulary and understanding of the world around us. It is through reading that we develop and progress beyond where we are today. It is thorough reading that we move along the journey.

I was speaking with a fellow teacher yesterday about such things. Why do kids not read for example? Some is a lack of encouragement at home during those hours away from school. Some is the example set by parents who are not readers. But I think a large portion is our current style of teaching to the test. We are teaching kids to pass tests that in some schools impact the teacher’s annual appraisals and in some cases even salaries are test scores based. When we take away significance and choice and mandate specific memorization for test content we lose an aspect of who the child is.

Paulo Freire is a radical in terms of education and his outlook on what teaching and education should be about. Freire was a teacher, activist, thinker, innovator and college professor in various stages if not all of his life.

 

“As a teacher in an educational program, I cannot be satisfied simply with nice, theoretical elaborations regarding the ontological, political, and epistemological bases of educational practice. My theoretical explanation of such practice ought to be also a concrete and practical demonstration of what I am saying.” Paulo Freire

 

How much more is gained when you can touch or apply what it is you are learning. There is another side of Freire’s philosophy that interests me as well and that is very similar to John Dewey in that the democratic process is crucial to a classroom and that the teacher is a learner as well as learners are teachers.

 

“In the context of true learning, the learners will be engaged in a continuous transformation through which they become authentic subjects of the construction and reconstruction of what is being taught, side by side with the teacher, who is equally subject to the same process.” Paulo Freire

 

An ongoing back and forth process one that provides both teacher and learner with answers and questions. I once considered this process to be symbiotic but as I learned and looked deeper it became osmosiotic. There was a constant flow back and forth between teacher and learner; it was not a reliance on one or the other.

“The teacher who thinks, ‘correctly’ transmits to the students the beauty of our way of existing in the world as historical beings, capable of intervening in and knowing this world.” Paulo Freire

 

I wonder how much of Dewey Freire read. Many of his thoughts run parallel to Dewey as Dewey saw experience as a critical piece so often left out when teaching. All of the experiences brought to the classroom by the students are bits and pieces that can be built on and added to. I am amused that Freire uses quotes around the word correctly. How many teachers are teaching correctly in the world? When you look at how a teacher is evaluated in Georgia with a six or seven question checklist and relatively simple responses and yet the process is one that is complex and not conducive to yes and no check boxes.

 

“It is easier to stick with what teachers have always done and believed, rather than go about the painful process of changing current thinking about teaching” Charlotte Danielson, from the book, Teacher Evaluation, Discussing why we continue to evaluate teachers in an archaic model

 

We continue to evaluate and judge teachers based on models that have been used since the early 1960’s and tend to focus on ease and the most simplistic methods. Time seems to be always a factor. I am wandering a bit today as I think about where I am on my own journey.

 

“There is no valid teaching from which there does not emerge something learned and through which the learner does not become capable of recreating and remaking what has been thought. In essence, teaching that does not emerge from the experience of learning cannot be learned by anyone.” Paulo Freire

 

I will have to admit Freire does get deep and philosophical at times. But this aspect of doing of experiencing that runs through his words to me is significant. Many teachers try and keep everything to a minimum in terms of how they teach. I was involved in a discussion on a new math program and was informed we only want students to learn function not how it works. So students memorize a line on a graph which is this or that and that gets answers A-D but in effect they never understand or learn what that really is or why. On the other side I have watched a model of a watershed during a graduate class along with an explanation of what was happening when rain or excess water was present and how it impacted the surrounding area. Our lecturer was versed in experiential teaching. He builds on teachable moments and on hands on experience.

As I am thinking back to several summers of teaching biology to kids who had failed biology during regular session and how I taught those summers. My objective was to have them pass a comprehensive exam approved by school and department. We would spend the first hour each day learning vocabulary, doing what I hated but without vocabulary you cannot even read a biology test let alone answer questions. After that we organized and categorized all the trees on campus. We studied hands on ecology and interactions. We watched videos of various settings deserts, (The Living Desert by Disney Studios), Jungles, and the Arctic. Occasionally we would get out one of my ball pythons and talk about reptiles and amphibians. I have had live animals in my room since I started back teaching. Amazingly all passed the finals and in three years only one quit coming and it was a family problem. As the system changed and went to seat time as the criteria and worksheets were the lessons I stopped doing summer school. It was no longer teaching simply babysitting.

I wonder often as to the whys and how’s of so many teachers and think back even in our own high school to great teachers and ones I consider great. Those are the teachers who get kids excited about learning and who look for ways and means to bring life to the lesson and who are always learning as well. There are only a handful of teachers I would consider great as I think back and always a story or two. My middle son had biology in ninth or tenth grade and a presentation was made in that presentation a slide was used that he knew was incorrect and waiting till class was over went to the teacher and told her. At first the teacher was reluctant to listen until he said my brother has that animal in his salt water tank and I am familiar with it. She said she would fix it so it would be right. Several years later in an advanced class Zoology again the slide and again the wrong name and scientific data attached. This time being more mature and angry he stopped the class and said the slide was wrong. So here is a student who tried to help a teacher who was not interested in learning.

 

“Why not, for example, take advantage of the student’s experience of life.” Paulo Freire    

“A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of the actual experience by environing conditions, but that they recognize in the concrete what surrounding are conductive to experiences that lead to growth.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

 

Dewey taught we need to build from not exclude the past experiences in our endeavors to teach children. I have found this in the Foxfire Approach to Teaching to be a critical element.

 

“New activities spiral gracefully out of the old, incorporating lessons learned from past experiences, building on skills and understandings that can now be amplified.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 7

 

In my reading of one of my favorite authors, A wolf at Twilight by Kent Nerburn, the concept of the old method of forcibly taking Indian children and placing in boarding schools to modernize them and make white Indians is mentioned. This is a key element in looking at how we treat children in schools even today. We make them live by our rules and standards imposing guidelines that fluctuate from class to class often teacher to teacher. Granted the days of the boarding school may seem somewhat at odds with today’s schools but in reality there is little difference. In a diversified culture we demand language that may or may not be known. Coming from a special education back ground I am always amazed at how we expect children who are poor readers in their own language to read and learn in another. Research shows you cannot in most cases exceed the level of attainment in a second or third language that you have in your first.

So I wandered and pondered this is my reflection for the morning a wondering and thinking about what can we do to truly change education as we know it. Freire points to Critical reflection as a means for educators to learn as well as teach. John Dewey builds on reflection as does Foxfire.

 

“In the process of ongoing education of teachers, the essential moment is that critical reflection on one’s practice. Thinking critically about practice, of today, or yesterday, makes possible the improvement of tomorrow’s practice.” Paulo Freire  

Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work.” Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 8

 

As I read this morning and thought through my various readings I wondered if the commonalities I was seeing in Freire and Dewey were perhaps things as educators we should be trying to attain rather than so often fight against. In Foxfire Core practice nine a thought that has for me been a key element of any teaching I do and that is making what I teach relevant and meaningful and have it be something the child can leave the room with and it makes sense outside of class.

 

“Connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond the community are clear.Foxfire Fund, Foxfire Teaching Approach Core Practice 8

 

I just wonder many times what if teaching and teachers would ever catch on and really be concerned more about the kids than the content, more about the community than the curriculum, and more about humanity than the National educational initiatives. So I will stop and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Should we look within to who we really are?

Bird Droppings October 22, 2012

Should we look within to who we really are?

 

Amazing what a day or two out of routine will do. I actually did not get on my computer and do anything of a writing sort knowing this coming week off I would be writing in significant quantity. So I played with my granddaughter and built Lego flowers and drew with crayons and read uncountable Eric Carl stories. I would not change anything of course. So looking back to catching up I was reintroduced to James Kavanaugh in a roundabout way. I recall in the 1970’s having read some of his poetry as he was popular for several reasons in the hippie culture of that period. He was a renegade Catholic priest as he wrote out against the church and was rather quickly no longer a priest in the Catholic Church legal term of the word. His conferences, seminars and books were a cult favorite in the time.

I began my Master’s Degree Program at Piedmont College in the spring of 2002 side tracking some of the basic entry requirements with a very high Millers analogy score. As I progressed it seems I needed to be interviewed for acceptance into the Education Department which was odd since I was nearing the end of course work for my Masters. I set an appointment and went to my interview. The line was about twenty people who were all there for an initial interview. Here I was already completed and doing an initial interview sort of the cart before the horse perhaps. I went in and was asked several questions relating to the missions statement of the Piedmont College Department of Education.

 

“The School of Education’s mission is focused on mastering the Art of Teaching: Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of All Children. Supporting this mission, we strive to prepare reflective, scholarly, proactive educators. These practitioners effectively educate their students to become knowledgeable, inquisitive, and collaborative learners in diverse, democratic learning communities.” Piedmont College Education Department

 

As I thought about my questions and answered and proceeded to head home I felt good and was ready to finish my Master’s program. A few days later I received a letter stating I had failed my interview immediately I called my advisor who called the Dean and set up another interview with the Dean of the Education Department. So here I am failing my initial interview and I can rub some people the wrong way relatively quickly but I had felt good about my interview back a few weeks and was confused. As I went into the Dean’s office the Assistant Dean was present also. My first question was from the Dean, How do I get on the Bird Droppings email list? I seriously liked this conversation already and proceeded to pass my interview.

I continued from my Masters at Piedmont directly into their Specialist Program and met with the Director of that program to set up my plans for a course of study. It was interesting as the professor who failed me in my interview was by chance one of the professors in the cohort recommended to me by the Director of the program and I was sweating bullets. It was not until a few months later we met and have long since been good friends it seems that one interview day was a bad one for him, a wrecked car, his Porsche on the way among other things. As my Specialist classes unfolded this professor would start and or finish each session with James Kavanaugh as point of inspiration. Within a few weeks I was acquiring copies of Kavanaugh’s work. After nearly forty years again I am a fan. I wanted to share this piece today from his book, Quiet Water, published in 1991.

 

 

 

In the Center of Your Soul

By James Kavanaugh

 

There is quiet water

In the center of your soul,

Where a son or daughter

Can be taught what no man knows.

 

There’s a fragrant garden

In the center of your soul,

Where the weak can harden

And a narrow mind can grow.

 

There’s a rolling river

In the center of your soul,

An eternal giver

With a rich and endless flow….

 

There’s a land of muses

In the center of your soul,

Where the rich are losers

And the poor are free to go.

 

So remain with me then,

To pursue another goal

And to find your freedom

In the center of your soul.

 

I read through this poem now twenty times this morning each time getting a bit more and each time literally another tear. I look into my tiny granddaughters eyes and I see this poem. I have always felt the eyes hold the soul of a person. These are very powerful words for today. I do believe in this day and time we all need to have some inspiration and additional meaning to our lives. You could ask, what the soul is, and go off on numerous tangents and wanderings but for today have the soul be that of who you are. The soul is your essence borrowing from James Hillman and Karl Jung. So many days ago I started asking as I wrote to please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and today is no different with headlines blaring of so many in pain and suffering through the world. Again a very quick reminder search your soul and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

would you choose mud or stars?

Bird Droppings October 19, 2012

Would you choose mud or stars?

 

About two weeks from today I will celebrate a birthday and for several years now as I start and make a comment about my age a good friend always reminds me I have the years wrong. I claim to be a year younger every year. Since he too is the same age he doesn’t want me getting too far behind. I walked out this morning to perhaps our one of our coolest mornings of the fall to date, still not a frost, but chilly none the less. I was holding a white sage leave smoldering and a tiny wisp of smoke responding to my breathing as I stood watching the stars midst the dark clear sky. I will attest to the calming aspects of white sage as incense or in a tea. I seem to find the observation of the smoke curling and lifting almost meditative.

I came into my class room today to continue reviewing books and papers in order to develop a rough draft of my dissertation for graduate school. Along the way between writing and reading and research I clean up debris and what not from a study group last period yesterday. That is always fun. But as I started the day looking for quotes these two seemed appropriate. A crazy thought for the morning for some cleaning a snake cage is only nasty, for me it provides a teaching tool with the healthy snake and it also gives me in a way an interconnection with the circle of life. One of the kids asked yesterday why I kept animals in my room.

 

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin

 

“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Each moment, is for each of us different and as I use the word over and over our perceptions vary greatly about life. Emerson so eloquently states “the same world is a hell and a heaven “Depending on how you take it. I was thinking back a few days to a photo I took and made a poster. Again thinking back a year or so to cleaning out a snake cage from a snake a student had brought in. It seems the snake at six foot was too large and still growing; they had started to cut back on food so she wouldn’t grow so fast. I fed several large rats and after a day or two a rather large surprise awaited me. I claimed it was a world record snake poo. Actually took a photo and had on the cage for a day or so. I did clean it up rather quickly as along with size was the additional benefit or olfactory awareness that was not on the lesson plan for that day. How we live life and our reactions can be construed much the same way. Do we see a pile of poo or a way to find humor and even learning?

 

“It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” David Feherty

 

We live in a world of contrast black and white and somewhere in there a dividing line to separate our adaptation and manipulation of crossing the line between the two. That is our dealing with life. I am reading on the side a book by Aldus Huxley and his experimenting with mescaline which is derived from peyote under the supervision of a doctor. The session was recorded and documented in 1953. Several of his ideas tied into our acceptance of reality and how we each see that around us.

 

“Nothing in life is so hard that you can’t make it easier by the way you take it.” Ellen Glasgow

 

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Thaddeus Golas

 

Many years ago I recall a story from Hindu lore of a water bearer who each morning would go to the stream and fill two great jugs with water. One jug was new and held every drop all the way from the river to the house.  The other jug had a crack in it and a steady stream of water leaked out all the way from the river to the house. Many the time when the jug arriving at the house would be nearly empty. One day the new jug most boastful said to the cracked jug how can you be so happy you never complete your task each day all your water leaks out and you come home empty. The cracked jug said smiling and never once upset, have you noticed the flowers all along the way from the stream lining the path where I water them each day. How often do we jump to conclusions with students and friends?

 

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

 

I find this so true in high school and among students, some who are so capable simple choose to just pass, “I have a seventy I am passing that’s all I need”. Others who struggle to achieve try for an A and work finding every aspect of their endeavor difficult, each sentence a chore, but they persist and succeed. I got to know a young lady who took the science portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test five times. Each time she would be closer gaining points as she went. Finally recently she passed by two points. Several years ago our school board passed or stated they will uphold the graduation walking policy as to GHSGT scores. Sadly within that area of failing scores are the girls and guys who do try and may take five tries to succeed not because of attitude but ability. Unfortunately they are in jeopardy of not walking for graduation.

I read how we need to uphold that standard but it is a faulty one, there are exceptions and this young lady is one and her mother and she were ones that fought to walk. She had received her fourth test score weeks before graduation and was one point off of passing. She took tutoring classes and studied hard and had been a good student for all of her twelve years. She wasn’t a person who did not deserve to walk she tried, and tried hard. Eventually she did pass on the fifth try. However that was the last time a student walked who had not passed the tests. Our view as a society when a child fails a standardized test is that of a failure and we punish them at graduation time.

 

“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.” Fredrick Langbridge

 

Sometimes it is only a matter of looking up versus looking down and perception is radically different. Huxley in his story of mescaline use adds how we become spoiled by our world and soon forget pieces. Our brain becomes a filter to hold back memories and to adjust perception to what we need for survival.

 

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” Chrétien Malesherbes

 

So often we limit ourselves we set up the road blocks and stop dead in our tracks without a possibility of success because we think or perceive we cannot make it.

 

“Attitudes are more important than facts.” Karl A. Menninger

 

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” Earl Nightingale

 

“We have unprecedented conditions to deal with and novel adjustments to make — there can be no doubt of that. We also have a great stock of scientific knowledge unknown to our grandfathers with which to operate. So novel are the conditions, so copious the knowledge, that we must undertake the arduous task of reconsidering a great part of the opinions about man and his relations to his fellow men which have been handed down to us by previous generations who lived in far other conditions and possessed far less information about the world and themselves. We have, however, first to create an unprecedented attitude of mind to cope with unprecedented conditions, and to utilize unprecedented knowledge.” James H. Robinson

 

It was only a few years ago in the history of man that TV became a reality. It was only a few days back in school as I was helping someone do a paper, a question was asked “when did racism start during the civil war”. Racism and slavery are not new to man, some anthropologists look back even to Neanderthal man at signs of racism with Cro-Magnon man. But each generation has more to work with more information more knowledge more data to compile their response what had been looked at one way was now different.

 

“There are times when you just get down, you feel like nobody likes you. We’re in high school forever. It’s just what we do with it.” Rene Russo

 

Rene Russo is one of my favorite actresses and someone who was famous as a model and actually made it as an actress. She at one point as her modeling career started to dwindle thought all was over, but interestingly enough now she models as much or more because she is far more famous as an actress.

 

“Don’t be against things so much as for things.” Col. Harland Sanders

 

Most of us have had Kentucky fried chicken at some point in our life. Col. Sanders literally changed fast food along with Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame. It was attitude that did it. Both men took already used and tested ideas and with attitude made them work far greater than either perhaps ever dreamed.

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.” John Wooden 

 

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Ray Kroc

 

Every day I hear a student blame a teacher for being a sorry teacher. I have never yet heard a student say they were a sorry student. I have heard many students except simply a seventy percent and be happy stating even proudly “its passing”. So where does the blame lie if in effect blame is appropriate. We choose to fail or succeed and we are the culprits not the teacher, not the book, not the class we choose. Another day is underway and please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Can you tie a knot with one hand?

Bird Droppings October 18, 2012

Can you tie a knot with only one end?

 

“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” Charles Swindoll

 

It is the responses that the world sees this is how we are judged and how we are thought of. Each day I see hundreds of people coming through hallways and or in my room at the high school and their attitude about their life is perhaps the one thing that can make or break them in any given day. How we respond to what people see is what drives all things around us. If we bring an attitude for example and a poor attitude at that to a given place and respond to seemingly inconsequential stimulus in an overt way because of that inherent bad attitude we will be perceived as being that which we possible really are not nor do we choose to be. Unfortunately our attitude at the moment drives the reality of others in their perceiving of us.

 

“The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

I think intelligence provides color and shades of gray to a black and white world. However it can be manipulated both positively and negatively. Look at a color blind test for example, a swirl of colors and yet some can see and others do not. Intelligence has nothing to do with it other than creating the test that is being seen. Conversely, perception, how we see that image is then how we interpret that image and or do not interpret it.

 

“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

There are several issues at hand; first it is how we respond to a given event. Secondly how we perceive a given event and then determine that in fact that the event is happening. I have always enjoyed reading Shelly’s work and yet very seldom have I used a piece in my daily wanderings. Today was a day that had minor delays and changes in routine offering an imbalance to a morning. I am a creature of habit and change is difficult for me. Next week we will be taking a week off from school due to a fall break and more than likely I will be stir crazy by next Tuesday. As we read Shelly’s line we know change is inevitable. If we plan and think and strategize change can be less significant and in effect can become more evolution that really a change. Is it a development of sorts, a gradually shifting from point A to point B and on to point C.

I was observing several students a few days back and change is what affects them more so than any other aspect of school. Offering choice can totally bewildering to them. I work with several autistic teenagers and often choice is a difficult venue. Should I go to the rest room and or the bus since the bell rang. An either or situation and it is seemingly a difficult one for this one fellow as he stood in my door asking me what he should do. While afterwards it was humorous at the time it was a life altering event until he remembered he was on third load and had plenty of time. Still for each of us we live in a society of choice. Years ago I had a student who could not choose. He literally needed to be told what to wear by his mother and what to do during the day by his teachers. On his own he would always get into trouble by responding inappropriately to stimuli. Eventually he ended in jail serving three life sentences when all external restrictions were gone and his mother passed away.

I watch students who have similar tendencies and wonder what happens when we take away answering questions and offering help. What happens when a world designed by people who enjoy control and power chose to make you the scape goat. I read a headline about enormous profits of oil companies and I look at price of gas. Any fool can see if you charge twice as much for an item profits will go up. Costs go up as fuel prices rise and I recall in a speech one of our past nation’s leaders stated it is ok for oil companies to reap record profits on high gas costs, because it is market driven. Interesting as I sit and think about the comment and whose side was he on. I now understand why we are having such difficult times with educational policies and other issues on a national level. If you can make a profit it is ok, it is market driven. Much of our educational policy is profit driven and market oriented in items like standardized tests and textbooks.

Certain industries are at record levels while former main stays of our economy have been driven overseas. I seriously wonder how we did it, pushing jobs to China or where ever. I wonder, if I was an oilman or drug company president or oil construction company owner I would be a happy camper right now. I got into a discussion with two former military folks who are now teachers earlier today. We were discussing World War II and current warfare. Literally thousands died in battles in World War II and today with our highly mechanized military handfuls die instead. But what was interesting was that in days gone by industry boomed during war time. We are in wars where for the first time during a major war we are hurting in jobs and in financial areas. We have no industry left it is all in other countries. We have to buy hardware and military equipment from other countries. Even in a campaign speech one politician bragged about saving billions on a fuel tanker airplane in a contract bid. The part left out was that instead of manufacturing in the US it would be built in France and 6000 jobs would be in another country. How much was that worth? A response was it is all about the global economy.

 

“The more unintelligent a man is, the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer 

 

All is focused on a bell shaped curve. Approximately twelve and a half percent know something is fishy, twelve and a half percent are being left behind and seventy five percent do not care because the response they see is feasible at the time and that is all that matters. Sort of ok there are no weapons of mass destruction, but when we made the choice we were sure there were. It is ok to pay twice what we should for gas because others are and therefore it is market driven. What if we as consumers could determine the price of gas and profitability of those companies? What if medications were within reach of people instead of pricing to a point where lifesaving and threatening medications were unattainable for some? The new drug plans are so cumbersome most cannot use or the holes in plans leave some stranded. What if we could have a utopia and everything was perfect and a bell shaped curve was now a flat line? Recent political jargon would say that is socialism. Ever wonder why and when you are dead monitors show a flat line, it seems there are some who want people to flat line and eliminate the curve. Some who want to get everyone on the same wave length equal and no complaints at all?  In education it is a big one is the legislation of No Child Left Behind, NCLB, where all children are the same by law at least they will be in 2014.  Granted this has gone by the wayside but the new version of standards is not far off just different wording.

 

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

 

As I sat and thought about all of this it is sort of like trying to tie a knot with only one end. Does it really do any good to have a knot if the other end is somewhere else? Well as I keep wondering I could use that knot in the end of a rope to knock some of the politicians in the head. It has been a chilly clear fall day and I am still trying to gather up plants needing to come in for the warmth and hopefully do some cuttings this weekend. It has been a good day and one filled with conversation and communication. I look forward to more. Please my dear friends 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

 

Should we compare children to sponges or containers?

Bird Droppings October 17, 2012

Should we compare children to sponges or containers?

 

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

 

Numerous times over the past few years I have been amazed by four year olds and the level of inquisitiveness as the Early Childhood Education classes use my room as a in school field trip. On a more personal note now watching my granddaughter at nearly two years old inspecting, observing, testing, touching, and soaking up each piece of new information I am constantly enthralled by the learning level. As a part of our career track our high school students who are interested in going into teaching assist in a class with four year children mainly those of teachers in the local schools.

This ECE program is a great hand’s on program for aspiring teachers and a fantastic one on one, often two on one for each of the four year olds who are in the program. Every time I have the ECE kids in my room I am always amazed at the questions and how much like sponges small children are. Absorbing every detail they ask questions uninhibited and openly. A question I have been asking working with high school students now nearly twelve years is when do these sponges soaking up everything around them become simply containers to fill?

It has been so many years, far too many years since I last heard Harry Chapin perform live. He was killed in an automobile accident July 16, 1981. The medical experts who were involved stated he had a heart attack on his way to a concert and lost control of his car. Periodically I will listen to Harry Chapin recordings bringing back many fond memories and always ideas, one of which over the years I have referenced many times previously and as I sit thinking today is what I am addressing in education. The song is of a little boy going to school for his first day.

 

Harry Chapin would speak this line or two: “Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, But don’t worry, we’ll have him joining the parade by the end of the term.”

Flowers are Red

By Harry Chapin


The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw
And the teacher said.. What you doin’ young man
I’m paintin’ flowers he said
She said… It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red
There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Then the way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me…..

And she said…
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Then the way they always have been seen

But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It’s for your own good..
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should
Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Then the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin’
She said…Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Then the way they always have been seen.

But there still must be a way to have our children say . . .

There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

 

Perhaps in helping my oldest with a presentation on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences last night my thought processes were shifted into gear. While I teach high school students directly over the year I get to meet and work with briefly our four year olds. So as I work with small children I wonder where do the teachers and parents stop them from being sponges and change them all into containers. I thought back in my own educational career which spans many teachers good and bad and many from first grade through doctorates. So often a teacher demands strict adherence to rules within their class room. In far too many classrooms teachers even limit the thinking in their setting. Turn to your worksheet and do all the problems and then read your text book pages such and such. Where is the learning in simply doing busy work? Where is the context and relevance to a child? John Dewey would be having a hissy fit if he could see how little our factory based educational system has changed so little.

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his education.” John W. Gardner

 

The student who does nothing but busy work will never shift to pursing their own education. We teach children they need teachers to tell them what to do and in so many situations they students sit and wait to be told.

 

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

I am a firm believer in reflection but only when it is an inner look not simply parroting the words of the teacher. We need to be opening windows and doors. We need to be making sponges not containers out of children.

“What we have learned from other becomes our own reflection.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I wish all along I had the second teacher of the little boy in Harry Chapin’s song for every one of my teachers or my children’s teachers. I did by chance have her in second grade, Miss Bethea, who would let us color in rainbows and imagine and be creative. That was a wonderful year of school and here I am over fifty six years later
remembering. I have watched my children flourish with some teachers and perish under others.

 

“What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul.” Joseph Addison

 

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.” Native American Saying

 

Yesterday evening just as the sun was setting I walked out to my herb garden out in my back yard for a moment to check on some plants I had transplanted the day before. As I looked to the east and the rising sun a great red tailed hawk swooped just before me banked about and headed to a nearby tree. As my eyes followed the hawk I saw its mate sitting there in the tree and both flew off. It has been some time since this pair of hawks was hunting nearby although I have seen them many times in the six years we have lived here this was the first in many months. Sitting listening to Harry Chapin singing this song above, is a great way to start my morning of reading and writing. I will end with the Yeats quote as it is what education should be about. Maybe next week while I am off from school I can head up to North Georgia and visit with a program nearly forty five years old. The Foxfire magazine started in 1966 has been produced ever since as a product of a high school class. The program is based on the Foxfire teaching approach which draws on John Dewey’s writing from the early 1900’s. I am always amazed at the relevance of this man’s thoughts to education today. As I have for so many days now going on twelve years please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Over the years I have found it is simply to write

Bird Droppings October 16, 2012

Over the years I have found it is simply to write

 

“I hold strongly to the belief that we are all part of the drum, and when the drumhead is struck in one place, it reverberates through us all. I also hold firmly to the belief that service to others is our highest calling. Anything less constitutes a failure to pay our spiritual rent on earth. To be given the miraculous gift of life is to be given something so precious that it can never be repaid, even though we cannot give a name or a face to the mystery that bestowed this gift upon us. So we must express our gratitude with service here on earth.” Kent Nerburn

 

Every day I sit down and write some days it makes it into my daily or near daily now morning ritual Bird Droppings and others well into my files for later use. Today I received an email from a friend a fellow teacher who I have never met in real time. I met through the acquaintance of another friend who I have met and who referred me to this other friend. Now that is confusing. Anyhow I received a great series of old farmer quotes this morning from North Georgia and this one caught my attention.

 

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled” An old farmer’s advice

 

            After sorting emails I started with wanting to continue my thought from yesterday and the spiritual loss within children as we inundate them with technology and literally occupy every moment with a gadget or thing. I almost find it paradoxical that I am registering a software package and syncing my new iPhone this morning and got to one screen where you check which of the following you or your family own. There were thirty objects listed ranging from Blackberries to cable TV. We had 27 of 30 in our household. Had we not been so against Apple computers we might have had all 30. Actually I do like Apple we just do not have one although we do all have iPhones and I use an iPad daily.

            As I thought of how much we count on and “need” all of these things it hit me how we replace aspects of humanity with the immediateness of technology. I see anger transmission as a good example. I was reading various blogs on Facebook this morning and saw several rather severe venting. Unlike in the old days waiting till you see someone you blog, email, text message and or call on your cell phone immediately your anger. There is a change in how we react and deal with life. So often we miss the journey since the destination is immediately here. 

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination – we don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

 

So many years ago I first read this line and have told the story many times of finding a yellow sticky note (again technology 3M post-it notes) on my computer. Every once in a while I get amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B on a recent day a song was playing in my son’s truck. It happened to be the Aerosmith CD with this line in it. An old Aerosmith song entitled Amazing from the 1993 album Get a Grip that never went higher than 3 on Billboard’s top ten but it was good enough to have its own Wikipedia site. However for me a powerful of couple lines about life. Over the years I have paraphrased and altered a bit so the real line from Steven Tyler’s lyrics. 

 

“Life’s a journey not a destination and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings. You have to learn to crawl, before you learn to walk.” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

 

I never realized Steven Tyler was a developmentalist, always just considered him a rocker. There are steps in each of our lives as I grow older with technology and without I learn each moment is special and unique and intertwined with so many others. I have learned to enjoy and view the journey. I have my technology but I use it to work with me and enhance not to substitute for any piece or part of my existence. As I sit and play with my less than two year old granddaughter who can get into my iPad quicker than I can to her apps and stories I have downloaded when we sit down to read together.

 

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

 

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous. I was thinking back nearly nine years ago and how the house was quiet, everyone was gone. My wife and son were at Georgia Tech for orientation, he ended up graduating from Tech almost five years ago. My youngest was at music camp for the week, I actually do not know if they were ready for him or not, he took his tuba but his passion is the blues harp (harmonica) and still is. He and his cousin went to camp to do some serious jamming with his national steel guitar and my son on harmonica. Matt is always trying to turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of pop music so many teenagers listen to. My son today is in Demorest Georgia at Piedmont College in nursing school and father to our first grand baby. I recall his tenure at Mercer University in Macon Georgia the heart of only a few years back the Southern Rock and Blues heart and soul.

I drive by mothers many evening often drop off mail, and often some digital photos for my mother’s hobby. She creates one of kind greeting cards from photos and artwork from family members. She uses the image on the front and then writes a unique phrase to go inside. I recall driving around looking for a picture of a spider web for her and in the process took 60 other photos one I have used as a screen saver on my laptop for some time now.

Thinking back again my oldest son started a ten gallon reef tank years back that has been through ups and downs and it grew to twenty gallons, basically a salt water aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens currently are primarily colonial polyps and coral which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank, but up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current very much alive. I have taken many pictures  one is of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. Tiny mantis shrimp that have hatched in the tank are swimming about each less than a sixteenth of an inch What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space 36 inches long and 13 inches wide and a foot high. I often think of life this way we miss so much when we do not look closely.

 

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

 

So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them all the time. Having a good outlook and open minded perception are crucial to truly seeing all around you.

 

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

 

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

 

It is all in the journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see not missing that minute detail or word and with conviction achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest 29,000 feet plus above sea level and no one else had ever done that. Now Nepal and Mt.Everest is a nearly tourist trap albeit a very expensive one but many have made the summit.

 

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

 

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is with confidence, constancy, courage and curiosity as Disney said. I might add one thing it is to always be looking, observing trying to understand the depth and passion of our existence. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Can we even look for truth in an untruthful world?

Bird Droppings October 15, 2012

Can we even look for truth in an untruthful world?

 

“A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage ‘Tell me then, how would you describe it?’ The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying ‘This is very sweet. Try eating it!’” Hindu Teaching Story

 

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across just telling the truth. Nothing can describe more adequately than truth. I have written about truth numerous times and talked with teachers and educational experts about that same subject on countless occasions and still this is subject we seldom broach in society. It is so very hard to always be truthful in our society today with the instant broadcast of everything we do on ipads, ipods, iphones, smart phones and numerous other gadgets. Many times we can question, what truth is much as did the great philosophers of old but we still get caught up in the loudest and longest winded and often distorted message of a charismatic bozo that has a great speaking voice and wears a nice suit usually with a Rolex. As I read the Hindu parable above it hit me. Maybe truth is within the experience, being able to find it through an event or some sort of actual hands on experience sort of John Deweian.

 

“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth… and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.” Sir Francis Bacon

 

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur James Balfour

 

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity, something that is few and far between especially as we go into an election sequence. We watch news and read papers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. Bat boy is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid many months back. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having an extramarital affair with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people take to heart and then pass on to ten more people. There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication and numerous other events in history. A local science professor comments in class while teaching genetics that the Apollo mission is a hoax because the ripples in the wrinkled flag even though identical in all the thousands of photos taken are caused by a breeze blowing in the studio where the shots were taken. That has been proven numerous time to be a bogus claim we did land on the moon!

 

“Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.” Bernard Berenson

 

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” Otto Von Bismarck

 

Why is it, that truth is so elusive? I find it so hard to understand that we go at life literally intent on fabrication, deceit and deception. Bismarck’s comment though near a hundred years old is still very much true.

 

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” William Blake

 

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” Robert Browning

 

“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.” Alexis Carrel

 

I look back and see how so many times in avoiding truth the tales grew with each moment and soon a story takes the place of a simple event and soon a novel unravels and the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes literally a canyon. I see this daily with some of my students who soon forget what is real and what is not.

 

“The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.” Clarence Darrow

 

“Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.” Benjamin Disraeli

 

 “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” Meister Eckhart

 

Isn’t it sad that truth is so difficult and yet so easy, telling the truth eliminates numerous additional words and time that could be spent perhaps going in the right direction rather than pursuing issues that really may not even pertain. It is so simple and yet so elusive to so many.

 

“The greater the truth the greater the libel.” Lord Ellenborough

 

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

There is paradox in Emerson’s words as I read again that line. Sometimes we equate truth as not colorful enough and a word here and there and a far better story evolves. We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear. The truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality and the pain is less at the time. A movie out a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, “A beautiful Mind”.  Dr. John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us and simply live life in an unreal world with shadows of reality occasionally flashing by.

We are brought up accepting untruth; we have professionals, politicians who work at telling half-truths and fabricating to do their jobs, as they run the country. Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a few drops of medicine or could be given sodium pentothal (truth serum) before each meeting and become truthful? Problem is we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and then anyone could run for office. Would it not be great if we could believe the president was telling the truth or the candidate running against him? As I look at this concept more deeply it is truly sad that we can even look at life in this way, knowing lies are there and yet accepting and often holding them as truthful.

 

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Frank Herbert

 

“Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” Martin Luther

 

“You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.” Sam Rayburn

 

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is nowhere to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harm’s way and many of these instances are due to untruths, which we then justify buy additional untruthful information and rationales.  Do we even remember the what and the why of anything anymore? So as I sit reading and writing this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird