Placing the puzzle pieces in specified places

Bird Droppings December 15, 2012

Placing the puzzle pieces in specified places

 

“In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.” Genjo Koan 

 

There are times when we in looking we miss what it is we are trying to find. Contained within a drop of water there is an entire universe. Sometimes we want to have things to be simply round or square and yet infinity abounds. Yesterday I was speaking with several teachers discussing why students acted as they did and behaved as they do. In a recent presentation on a chapter from a book on behavior management and treatments the last paragraph of the chapter summed up quite a bit and so often we look everywhere else and the answer is right beneath our feet.

 

“The absence of evidence to support medication as a viable alternative should lead future researchers and clinicians to further explore parenting strategies that facilitate the development of better sleep habits.” Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards

 

As we do so often we look for excuses we look for medical, physical, emotional reasons for sleep disorders in children. Yet with behaviors at school we blame class room activity, we blame teachers, planning, books, and or administration. What always amazes me is that the sixteen hour syndrome is never discussed; we never tend to see where the issue really lays, that of parenting strategies and all the overt issues that children contend with as they leave school. I often wonder why we cannot accept the blame as parents or why we want an excuse in any aspect of life.

 

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do –or don’t do.” Simone De Beauvoir, French Existentialist, Writer, and Social Essayist 1908-1986

 

I was ready to write down how the great Simone was a heroic figure in Bolivia, a crucial part of South American history and yet really this person was a philosopher from France and under study to Sartre.

 

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” Frank A. Clark

 

“Parents are not quite interested injustice, they are interested in quiet.” Bill Cosby

 

It is so funny thing how in the United States we have most of the world’s ADHD children. It is a funny thing that as we became so mobile and our family structure somewhat altered that number increases as well. Another interesting point is that during the 1980-90’s ADHD increased so rapidly, almost in epidemic proportions, over nine hundred percent. It is so funny how we began seeing this issue when it got on our nerves as parents and or teachers and took up our time. As an old person I was thinking to my own history and where was ADHD when I was a child.

 

“The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

 

We try and look at the whole and miss pieces or sometimes we look so intently at a piece we miss the whole. This is a paradox of sorts. I hate jig saw puzzles yet am fascinated by them and often I use the comparison to those same jig saw puzzles for life in general. Life is very much like a myriad puzzle, millions of intricate pieces all falling into place one at a time, each more intricate then the next. Sometimes we see a piece and for days focus on each minute detail, each little facet and each little color speck of white or red and the details over whelm us. We so easily lose sight of the whole picture the vast array of life in front of us forming over a minute tiny aspect.

 

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence then this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Amazing as I pulled Emerson in amazing how a hundred years ago a poet has pieces for today. We as parents, and or teachers try so valiantly to cast our being into a child to see ourselves living again. Maybe that is why we focus on a piece for so long.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop former Surgeon General of the United States Famous

 

As I think of Dr. Koop it is so much more so for the adding of the warning on cigarettes than his philosophy most people remember him. As I think I recall my dad’s story of how he also prayed by the bedside of my younger brother many years ago in Philadelphia Children’s Hospital where he was Chief Surgeon. He is an interesting man and great doctor.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Dr. Michael Levine, professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at The University of California

 

More so as I write today I find who these people are as I am looking at parenting as it is interesting as to what they say. Dr. Koop told my father as he sat with him one evening discussing my brother how parents of critically ill children were so different than so many others. They talked about how faith was so much an aspect of their lives and trust a critical piece of their puzzle as that dealt with their children’s issues.

 

“The word no carries a lot more meaning when spoken by a parent who also knows how to say yes.” Joyce Maynard

 

On many mornings I am really not sure where I am going with a thought and I know I wander about here and there. I wonder as well what I am trying to say as I start and many times midway I still am wondering. Joyce Maynard’s statement may be where I was going in the last page or two looking and building to this. Whether a parent or teacher or friend this applies as I look back to my starting quote from nearly 1000 years ago written by Dogen, a Zen master and told to his student. Back in those days, a koan was a question put out to answer a puzzle piece in a person’s life. A Genjo Koan, is an essential question, a question that entails and involves life itself.

 

“When fish go through water, there is no end to the water no matter how far they go. When birds fly in the sky, there is no end to the sky no matter how far they fly. But neither fish nor birds have been separated from the water or sky – from the very beginning. It is only this: when a great need arises, a great use arises; when there is little need, there is little use. Therefore, they realize full function in each thing and free ability according to each place. “ Dogan, 1243

 

As I sat this morning, thinking and writing so many ideas flowed listening to teachers yesterday express concern and question hearing parents gathered round their SUV’s trying to solve world issues and who was wearing what and what was the latest gossip. It is so easy to be sarcastic. Children are our greatest future commodity we should not waste them. As Dogan said about fish when parenting there is no end as long as you are a parent when a teacher there is no end as you are teaching. When as I say you are placing pieces in the puzzle it is not a whole as you focus and look at a piece in your hand. We all have work to do as parents, teachers, friends, as a child, or student. In all of this please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Go up another rung!

Bird Droppings December 13, 2012

Go up another rung!

 

A week of testing is nearly ended and the mountain is nearly climbed as we approach the holidays. I even with my aversion to shopping will be going out with my wife to brave the masses of the malls over the weekend and finish up the majority of holiday shopping while pushing her wheelchair. Perhaps that is why I am with my routine in total shambles the past few days getting to writing late. I am looking forward to the holidays while we are out from school for nearly three weeks. I am finishing up my meditation and writing this morning after an evening filled with reading posts from friends to a fellow teacher and family friend whose husband was killed in an automobile accident two years ago. It is a difficult time of year for families to deal with a loss but as I read through hundreds of posts and support from friends literally all over some even returning home for the holidays to be with their friends in this time of sorrow. Some days I am disappointed in the human spirit but this is not one of those days.

 

“One only gets to the top rung of the ladder by steadily climbing up one at a time, and suddenly all sorts of powers, all sorts of abilities which you thought never belonged to you–suddenly become within your own possibility and you think, ‘Well, I’ll have a go, too.’” Margaret Thatcher

 

The first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain was in her time the most powerful woman in the world. It is her philosophy of success that she discusses here and is simple, one step, one rung, one at a time to the top. So many folks want to jump from the ground to the top and forget there is so much in between. Seldom do you here negative comments about Prime Minister Thatcher of her time in office and the great dignity and poise she brought at a difficult time in our world’s history.

 

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles

 

One of the major ways that we as humans learn is through trial and error. However true success is not repeating the error again and again but doing anew and that is when we are succeeding.

 

“What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” Benjamin F. Fairless

 

As I read this note and the four simple rules or ingredients to success I was amazed at the simplicity. First love what you do, and then give it your best, thirdly seize opportunities, and finally teamwork and success can be yours. As I walk through the doors of a school and look at teachers so often you can tell good teachers by who is smiling, a sure sign that they want to be there. For these teachers it is not just a job they love what they do and do give the job their best. In no other field have I ever seen people seize opportunity such as in teaching. When paper is allocated or budget cuts restrict supplies you learn quickly to be resourceful and work with others it is so much easier to accomplish then working independently.

 

“Success is that old A B C; ability, breaks, and courage.” Charles Luckman

 

We acquire ability through learning and effort and taking advantage of breaks that come along and keeping your eyes open and always being ready. Courage is that character aspect of us that is that inner drive that can lead a person upward.

 

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” Colin Powell

 

As he lead US forces back a few years and then as Secretary of State Colin Powell has simply put it all in order as far as life goes, in order to find success you must prepare do your homework. Then you do the work and get it done and finally learn from your errors, from your mistakes and use them to succeed. As I read this afternoon between cleaning and shopping I found a thought I would like to end with.

 

“It is more important to be of service than successful.” Robert Kennedy Jr.

 

For many people the idea of success is a selfish thing, but finding true success is when what you do is affecting others positively. As I think back to so many who are taking time today and yesterday to help with the pain of losing a loved one and so many others pieces of life’s puzzle let us all take heed of our time we have. Today in this coming holiday please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Are there any possibilities?

Bird Droppings December 12, 2012

Are there any possibilities?

 

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” Les Brown

 

I was sitting talking with one of my sons yesterday remembering when I was their age. I should say trying to remember when I was their age that would be more appropriate. It has been a few years since my sons and I have been to lunch with my mother and as they would; they would get picking on each other and she always would enjoy the show. My oldest has been student teaching and working on graduate school and I recall one of his last semesters he was having some difficulty getting registered because his student loans had been electronically fouled up. I was trying to tell him take each moment as it comes, deal with it and move to next. He was upset and as the day progressed the lesson was learned it seems the wording in the college catalog allowed him a “loop” hole so he could register and get started in school that semester while the paper work of his student loan was resolved.

 

“It is necessary; therefore, it is possible.” G. A.  Borghese  

 

Perhaps as I get older I find nothing is impossible when we set our minds to it. Somewhere along the line I took a picture of my son crossing a stream stepping rock to rock. He had fallen in playing several times but even soggy and wet he was still trying to maneuver across, stepping rock to rock. I have used this illustration so many times and even have a picture of the stream hanging in my room at school as he does in his office. So often life is like crossing a stream, a stone at a time and we do fall in quite a bit. The ones who are successful in life climb right back up soggy and wet and keep going.

 

“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you, if you but knew what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have really come to like Emerson over the years almost as if he wrote some lines specifically for me to use those many years ago and they have been sitting and waiting.

I altered slightly Emerson’s words, “If we but know what we are”, and what a powerful statement.  We go through life trying to understand where and who we are and many of us spend the better part of a lifetime searching. Some will find themselves at a young age and the rest of us it seems like eternity trying to know.

 

“Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” Dag Hammarskjold

 

While not a household, Dag Hammarskjöld is the name of the former United Nations Secretary General during some of the world’s craziest times. The Cold War was one of the biggest historical events of our time between Russia and The United States. His statement of waiting till you attain your goal before you stop to measure is so crucial. So many of us when we stop to look and see where we are going become frustrated and slow down or stop completely.

 

“Of course we all have our limits, but how can you possibly find your boundaries unless you explore as far and as wide as you possibly can? I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.”  A.E. Hotchner  

 

Each day at school I post on my door a new quote something to offer a challenge to students, to open doors, to expand wisdom, to stick their neck out, and to go beyond where they are now. Each day many hundreds of people go by my door and some will crane their neck to peek inside the door, some will stop and talk as I sit in my office outside my room between classes at my door. What is that thing, what do you teach, and r whose room is this are my favorites that students come up with. Each day is an effort of trying to open boxes and pry the lids off sealed containers of minds and thoughts.

 

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” Soren Kierkegaard

 

It has been many years since I heard Dr. Norman Vincent Peale speak in Macon Georgia in 1973 when he recognized a small church my brother attended, The Church of the Exceptional, as the National church of the year. That was over thirty five years ago yet his ideas are as relevant today now at this moment as I write this cold morning in Georgia.

 

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

 

A possibilitarian is someone who always see possibilities, what an interesting thought in a day and time when so often we are subjected to negative and belittling concepts and ideas. So many students quit long before they ever get a chance to succeed. At this time of year we see many seniors leave high school or at least our school due to graduation tests. They have tried numerous times and while they will have enough credits and may even have been a B student or better cannot pass one of the five Georgia High School Graduation Tests. Many will seek enrollment in a small private schools that do not adhere to same standards and do not require GHSGT’s and will graduate in May on time only they will be graduating from that school.

 

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” Song from, The California Special Olympics

 

Sometime ago I followed UCLA’s basketball program more closely that I do now and on the team was a red haired fellow who just happened to be six foot ten inches tall. He became a premier professional player and in retirement one of the great commentators of sports Mr. Bill Walton.  It was only about two years ago this month that the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team tied the eighty eight game win streak of Coach Wooden and Bill Walton’s team.

 

“No matter how good you get, there’s always something further out there.” Bill Walton

 

There is to all lessons more than one aspect, and more than one possibility.  It is seeking, understanding and achieving those numerous other possibilities by never simply stopping because you made your initial goal. Now set higher goals achieve more and better grow further and farther, always lifting up continually. I was reading several small pieces this morning as I started writing. We all are givers and takers at one time or another as our lives balance out, try and balance to the giving versus the taking. You will never run out giving, but when you take soon doors will close. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Longing for the simplicity

Bird Droppings December 11, 2012

Longing for the simplicity

 

My reading and writing has taken a beating with the getting ready for the end of the semester, a trip to North Carolina and new grandbaby, and driving my wife to and from work since she broke her foot. Of course nothing would have stopped me going to see our grandbaby and or helping my wife out. We saved many trips to North Georgia with my son and his family moving back this way and soon I will have almost three weeks of catch up. I have much gardening to do and a lot of research and reading and writing to work on. It is always that I find solace in my Indian readings and in their understanding of life and reality. Perhaps it is my great grandmother’s influence that draws me to this and various other bits and pieces of my life’s journey along the way. The air is not so cold as I walked out into the early morning hours to a smiling moon silent as today unlike the past several a bit too cold for tree frogs and crickets.

 

“For the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy – free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

After a week of testing for End of Course tests here in high school, teachers are on pins and needles and with student’s grades in classes counting on a passing grade on the test tensions run high. Teachers unfortunately too are reviewed based on these batteries of standardized tests. Sadly Georgia may go soon to a standard that twenty five percent of a student’s course grade is the EOCT in those classes with the tests. The subject knowledge of students will be focused on their capability of taking a computerized test not truly on whether they know the material or not. Content not context is the rule of thumb in political arenas. We as a dominant society continually have to prove our worth, be it through conquest in olden days or testing as it seems now. A constant struggle to show we are the best.

 

“There is no ‘happiness index’ for the children in our public schools, and certainly not for children in the inner-city schools where happiness is probably the last thing on the minds of overly burdened state officials.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

 

A good friend using a combination of context and content achieved very well with his students on the Biology EOCT. His combination of hands on and relevant experiments in his biology class provide so much more than a cramming for the test that is done in many schools and in so many classes. Several times during the semester he will bring his students by to see various animals in my room as they are studying or grab a beaker of algae water from my turtle tanks. I think as I read the quote from Jonathan Kozol I was thinking of Foxfire and kids wanting to be in classes and teachers that kids want to go see and classes they want to experience. Many the times, I will have kids walk in my room and ask what class do you teach I want this class. Although I am tired right now and my exuberance is exhausted as we wind down these last few days before the holidays I am still pondering next semester.

As I was getting ready to leave school yesterday a former student stuck his head in the door. “The room has not changed much”, as he peered around checking every nook and cranny and in my room there are many. We held a nice polite conversation catching up for several minutes and I was amazed while still hyper and fidgety he was calm. The inner anxiousness was gone. No one can ever say he is not hyper active but the sadness that permeated his days seems to be at least in a major way lifted. He was smiling from ear to ear and telling about college and a possibility of four A’s and art work he was working on including one of me holding my grad daughter.  We walked over to see another teacher friend of his and talked the entire time catching up on five years he had been my student and a year now in college. A simple visit and my day was made. His photo hangs in my room one of him walking across the stage and the other showing his award from the state department of education for his award winning essay a few years back. I have shared with many his poignant essay of getting read y to go to his brother’s funeral. In showing to hundreds of people many who did not know him always a tear is shed.

As we talked I shared with him a discussion with another visitor just before he arrived. She went to Spain and Italy for a spring semester to study abroad. Another favorite student although she was never in my class we talked often and we spent ten minutes recently discussing her trip. As I talked with her I mentioned seeing “the Pieta”, carved from marble by Michelangelo. In 1964 which was one of the rare visits out of the Vatican for this work of art when it was displayed at the New York’s World Fair. I waited in line nearly an hour to see this magnificent piece of work. As I walked by I explained my feeling to these two students visiting at different times. I felt warmth as if you were waiting for Mary in white marble to breath. I wanted to touch the hand of Christ to see it was soft rather than cold stone. I had never been moved by a piece of art work as much as this had touched me.

Somewhere along the line I have heard art, real art is when you can convey a tiny piece of what you felt and saw as you created the work. Not just show another version but allow an individual to see a portion of what the artist saw as the stone was chiseled away. It is said Michelangelo could see his work in the stone. The quarrymen would call for him as a particular piece of rock was unearthed and quarried. Some he rejected but when he chose a piece of marble the creation was not to make a something for others but to reveal what was in the marble. I thought back to my friend and his essay and how he conveyed a tiny portion of what he felt to everyone who read that story. Perhaps the reason he seems happier is that he has allowed us after so many years to understand a small bit of who he is and why. My morning is closing about me and there are many things to do to get ready for my grand baby’s arrival so please this holiday season keep all in harm’s way on you mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

We seek the Holy Grail in education, but should be looking for a paper cup

Bird Droppings December 10, 2012

We seek the Holy Grail in education,

but should be looking for a paper cup

 

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.”  Jonathan Kozol

 

On the front page of our main local paper, numerous blogs, and scattered over internet news articles many today are related to education and most either discussing cuts to funding or how raising the bar is the cure to our system. One recent article is based on a popular scholarship program in Georgia funded through State Lottery funds on which the scholarship committee is chaired by a represenitive who opposed the lottery to begin with back in the beginning. How ironic is that? Our governor hit the ground with education in his sights for funding cuts and in same article proposed cutting corporate taxes. Somewhere in this logic seems lost. Another one of his campaign promises was school choice which a constitutional amendment was passed in favor of privatizing and for profit charter schools.

As I read the various articles it is interesting how the arguments of college tuition rising and costs of education increasing for college students seemed to be in a way misrepresented. The state cut funding to state colleges over the past eight years which forced state colleges to raise tuition which lead to increases in Hope scholarship funding which was set up to cover cost of tuition for state colleges. Funny I recall a similar pattern in Florida where the lottery was billed as a saving grace to education in the beginning and as the years went on state funding to education was cut and eventually lottery funding was cut and many programs once lauded nationwide are now gone.

While a staunch supporter of public education there are times when I raise the question should we even have it? Why not be a nation of an educated elite and a subservient uneducated mass who can then run the industrial complex which we no longer have. So quickly we forget there is little industry left in US, although Wal-Mart is one of the leading employers in the nation so everyone can now work in service and retail taking care of the educated elite. I am being very caustic about our educational situation and so many people’s actual attitudes towards it. I personally believe in the public education system in the US it might need some tweaking but it has produced many great individuals and it is still one of the greatest in the world other than in test scores.

 

“Many of the productivity and numbers specialists who have rigidified and codified school policy in recent years do not seem to recognize much preexisting value in the young mentalities of children and, in particular in children of the poor. Few of these people seem to be acquainted closely with the lives of children and, to be blunt as possible about this, many would be dreadful teachers because, in my own experience at least, they tend to be rather grim-natured people who do not have lovable or interesting personalities and, frankly would not be much fun for kids to be with.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher

 

I think where I am having difficulty is we so often grasp at straws those holy grails and the loudest brightest most expensive new idea that comes down the pike at least this is how it seems in education. Talk to any teacher with experience and they will joke about the many cycles in education. We started a new math curriculum in Georgia that is wreaking havoc on students and is now changing back. The particular text we were using has no explanations in it only problems. So when a student goes home to do homework, for example fifty problems, if the student does not know how to do problems and asks a parent unless the parent knows how there is no way to help the student. But that Holy Grail of a book deal was so well spent. A publishing company had a significant profit on that one.

 

“I am more and more convinced that we in the schooling game have no idea what real learning is about. It is no wonder that we embrace every so-called new idea that comes down the pike, and yet nothing really changes. We are the proverbial dog chasing its tail.” Dr. Grant Bennett

 

I thank Dr. Bennett again for a morning quote that I could use. I started on an idea the other day as I finished up my Bird Dropping about perhaps looking at the bottom end of the spectrum rather than always looking at the top in education. How do we help those who always seem to fail or not succeed in school? Within our own school we have added graduation coaches and other supplemental staff to work with high risk students. But still we are working to attain a goal based on best students and not on potential or rationale that has mired this or that student in the bottom end of the educational barrel. As I read numerous journals, blogs and books one continuing point keeps popping out. It is not increasing rigor, or testing, or textbooks and or curriculum that matters the most in education. It is a simple thing and free to educational leaders who pursue it. The one most single important element is teacher’s attitude.

 

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

 

I think there are issues with semantics and understanding as to what we deem success in education or in politics, battle, or the gaining and or lack of wealth. At our state level we continue to talk about raising the bar even though many are still failing. Raising the bar does nothing to improve those who cannot attain the bar to begin with let alone those who will self-defeat as standards and challenges get more strenuous. So often the test scores of various countries are compared and we are somewhere not near the top and politicians want to be at the top. In many countries of the industrialized world education is number one and somewhere around twelve years of age those going into trades and those going into secondary education part ways. Effectively we are testing all children in the US while many other countries are only testing those who are going into college. I had a friend who taught in Korea for a year in an exchange program. She made the comment that Koreans children planned on three hours of homework each night. There was not time for TV or video games or phone calls and texting it was serious and all about education.

 

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have seen photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula….and that nebula, in turn, from space. So we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all…..and with no horizons…”Joseph Campbell

 

As I walked outside early this morning a faint crescent moon hid behind clouds and tree frogs and crickets chirped away. It felt more like spring than almost winter time. As I went looking for quotes to use today I found this statement by Campbell. As I thought of Dr. Bennett’s words and those of Jonathan Kozol it seemed to filter through Campbell’s thought. Education is not a static closed ended entity but vast and limitless and individually unique to each person and student. I have watched over the years many ideas in education and seem to continually come back to those focusing on teaching not on books and curriculum but on relationships and attitudes developed by teachers and students. We always in this country of ours seems driven by a dollar sign and tend to push aside ideas that have little or no cost. I read the ten core practices from Foxfire every day in my class room and try my best to emulate in my co-teaching these concepts. All through the Core Practices the work is done together by students and teachers and it is not about an expensive curriculum or textbook series. Creativity, imagination, and critical thinking are key components and elements sort of like we tend to seek a Holy Grail instead of using the paper cup.

 

“Life’s a journey not a destination”Steven Tyler, Amazing

 

For a number of years I have used this simple quote by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song it comes from is one of addiction and pain and in many ways this is Steven Tyler’s journey back from addiction. I keep thinking to education and our continued effort trying to get to the destination without the journey. It is always simply a quick fix we can spend lots of money on.

 

“You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk”Steven Tyler

 

Who would have thought Steven Tyler took Human Development. Sort of reminds me of Piaget and I have always been a big fan of human development with each aspect of our lives passing through stages one stage after the other. I keep thinking back to my original thought of education and should we even have public education. Many people want education to be clean and neat all children learn the same and no child will be left behind yet each child is totally unique and then problems arise. Publishers cannot cost effectively produce books for each student needs and curriculum people cannot provide the multiple disseminations of a subject in a way that teachers can efficiently teach. We coined a great word in education diversification. In classes we are to diversify and teach to every level of student. Technically that is nearly thirty different levels if we have thirty kids in class. I was pondering a program we have for mentally impaired students entitled The Georgia Alternative Assessment. Basically the State standards are taken and tasks that sort of meet that standard are employed to evaluate a student’s capabilities meeting that standard. So in effect a student on GAA might have two standards to have tasks applied to in biology and is checked at various points during the year to see if there is progression and a portfolio is compiled and then graded. Several millions of dollars are spent evaluating these portfolios and then if standards are accepted by evaluator student can receive a high school diploma. Sadly a student who does not meet the state MI qualifications has to meet same standards as a college track student. Quite a bit of differentiation.

 

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

 

Sent as a delegate to The United Nations in 1949 he was elected Secretary of the UN in 1951 by a near unanimous vote he presided over the UN in its early years and many world tribulations. During his time in office we had the founding of Israel, the Korean War, and the independence of countries worldwide along with the spread of communism in Europe. As I read Hammarskjöld’s words this morning I found this as well.

 

“Tomorrow we shall meet, Death and I and he shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake.” Dag Hammarskjöld

 

He lived each step on his journey to the fullest and it was these words that he wrote as a young man that embellish his tombstone.

 

“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.” Henry Miller

 

So often in life we come to a place where do we walk across the field or do we follow the edge of the field safely. Some will choose to go the shortest distance between two lines and walk abruptly across never looking at the newly planted field and seedlings sprouting leaving trampled crops beneath their feet. Others fearful of being in the open choose immediately to walk the edge staying close to the woods for safety. It is a choice and we make them daily. The direction of your own journey is based on your choices each day.

 

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

 

“Nature is at work… Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.”David Seabury

 

As a teacher and learner I travel the pathway always looking trying to see all I can in my travels. I am constantly reading on how to improve my own teaching and that of others. I am always trying to understand who and what I see and why. I try to instill that curiosity in my students as they travel their own journeys and for me it is always about the journey.

 

 “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I will have to continue another day looking further at should we have public education. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

Sometimes there is no concrete answer

Bird Droppings December 9, 2012

Sometimes there is no concrete answer

“Obsessive search for the holy grail through only that which can be measured and documented effectively diminishes the sacred and leaves us standing empty without souls.” Dr. Grant Bennett

 

            A day or two ago I got a bit carried away and wandered into about two thousand words on what is it about great teachers and why can’t we teach that. Well in my discourse I did not really solve the dilemma but a response from a dear friend, a former professor in my graduate studies and middle school gifted teacher got me thinking. I recalled a scene from an Indiana Jones movie where the old knight who has guarded the Grail for hundreds of years has an evil Nazi officer trying to pick the Grail from hundreds of cups. He chooses a gaudy and elaborate chalice and soon feels the pain of his error and he disintegrates before our eyes. (Movie special effects of course) Shortly thereafter Indiana Jones has the same situation and chooses a simple plain cup to dip from the water of life in order to save his father. For hundreds of years we held an idea of a fancy embellished chalice as the epitome of the Grail and yet it was a simple cup that so often was not even seen. Looking back at Dr. Bennett’s thought in education we have sought the Holy Grail in testing, in curriculum, in various new-fangled gimmickry full of trappings and programs and maybe we truly missed the secret of good teaching and education.

            I had to sit back ponder and think about my response a bit to Dr. Bennett’s follow up to my note of the other day. Seldom do I skip a day in my meanderings although we did drive over seven hundred miles this past week and us old folks were worn out. We had gone to North Carolina to see our new grandbaby. Nearly two years ago in a similar situation visiting in Florida our first granddaughter my daughter in law gave me a book by Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher.

 

“It’s a humbling experience but I think that it is a good one too, for someone who writes books on education to come back into the classroom and stand up there as the teacher dues day after day and be reminded in this way be reminded what it is like in the real world. I sometimes think every education writer, every would be education expert and every politician who pontificates as many do so condescendingly, about the failings of the teachers in the front lines of our nation’s public schools ought to be obliged to come in a classroom at least once a year and find out what it is like. It might at least impart some moderation to the disrespectful tone which so many politicians speak of teachers.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young teacher

As I started this book by Kozol one of the first letters discusses that first day of teaching we all went through. I over the years have had several as I moved from Pennsylvania and my first teaching job to a program I stated in Macon Georgia and then to a school in Warner Robins. But the day I recall most vividly and actually forgot about was when I started back after nearly twenty three years away from teaching. I started on a Tuesday in September of 2001. Just by chance it was September 11th. For most of the year had you asked me what day I started teaching I would have responded the weekend after Labor Day. However my principal one day came in and said what day did you start and I pulled out a calendar and sure enough my first day was spent in lock down. I was replacing a teacher who had a nervous breakdown dealing with the EBD kids that I was thrust into.

            So here I was I had not taught a day in twenty plus years and stuck in a room I should say locked in a room with ten kids who all had been in jail or were on probation still. What do you do? Curriculum was out the door and over a few minutes we had our windows covered and all outside contact severed. Here I was with ten kids who were actually some of the worst in discipline referrals in the school in a tiny room for about five hours. I winged it and we got to know each other. It wasn’t long till those kids were coming to my class and not going to others which of course did not sit well with some of the other teachers whose classes they were missing. I thought about this and still at times wonder why was I being successful with them and another teacher had a nervous breakdown. I come back to perhaps it is not something we can actually put a label on but an easy word to use is relationships. Teaching is about relationships it is about building and maintaining them. I went out of my way to know these kids beyond the fact they were all jailbirds or into things most kids in high school would have never thought of. After my long dropping of the other day another note from a high school friend who taught Literature in high school in Pennsylvania for thirty six years loving every minute of it. I was asked the other day who was my favorite high school teacher and I could at the time only recall one. A former class mate from high school sent this email.

“Anyway…your point is well-taken.  What makes a great teacher?  I can honestly say that many teachers at Scott influenced me:  Joey Inners, John Kerrigan, Dave DeFroscia, Joan Tuckloff, and, of course, Miss Cristoforo.  They made classes come alive; they went the extra mile; they touched my spirit and made me realize what I could do if I worked hard and applied the talents I had.  I think Mark Twain said: Teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater.  I think he was right.  If the students like a teacher, they will walk through fire for them. One of my favorite activities asked students to write a quick note to a teacher who made an impression on them, thanking them for what they did.  It was the best assignment ever.  Here’s a salute to all of the teachers who have influenced me.” Beckie Backstetter Chiodo

            My father once told me that teaching was entertainment as well as imparting knowledge I am sure he had read Twains comment as much like me he had a vast quote library saved up which is sitting on my book shelf and I do borrow from occasionally. My father taught about industrial Safety and Loss Control and was in his day considered the leading authority in the field. He lectured in most parts of the world and often spent months teaching for example in South Africa to mine safety folks or in the Philippines or Australia. I went into a lecture many years back when we had an affiliation with Georgia State University and held many of his courses on campus or nearby. This course was in I think the Down Town Ramada Inn and I stepped in to watch the master at work. He was lecturing about a topic and to make a point he got down in a football three point stance and said hike and charged up the next yard or so of carpet. My father was a lineman in college and even in his sixties was pretty imposing. He lowered and raised his booming voice. He used many learning tricks we teachers still use to help his classes remember ideas. A famous one in safety is ISMEC. Identify, set standards, measure, evaluate and correct or commend a simple acronym and it became a mainstay of Loss Control management.

I recall another idea from my father when he visited a plant the first place he went was the maintenance shop. He would talk to the supervisor and ask where they saw issues. I was always amused at how many safety guys would question my father about this tactic. His response was this was ground zero for knowing where potential major loss will occur. In the maintenance shop doing repairs for example repeatedly for a specific shift or piece of equipment will indicate a potential problem waiting to hit. I started thinking that this could apply in a school. Several possibilities what teacher writes most referrals for seemingly inconsequential reasons? You cannot teach by referral. Look at remedial classes are there similarities with kids who are there? Did they have the same teacher? Did they come from the same school? What is their life at home? Far too often in education we start at the top and go down. I have found the gifted kids even without a teacher will do great. I am being somewhat sarcastic. As I am reading Kozol’s book and now interested in looking at others of his I am sure I will be borrowing ideas but I would like to leave today with this idea should we start at the bottom or the top in trying to solve educational problems? I am no closer to finding the solution to how do we tell a great teacher but maybe some food for thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

 

There is an aspect you cannot teach

Bird Droppings December 7, 2012

There is an aspect you cannot teach teachers

 

“Studies suggest that instructional and management processes are key to effectiveness, but many interview and survey responses about effective teaching emphasize the teacher’s affective characteristics, or social and emotional behaviors, more than pedagogical practice.” James H. Stronge, Qualities of Effective Teachers

 

I have been a student in classes with and have heard over the years many great teachers. If I was to put a characterization on those individuals it would be they could communicate and relate to their students. There was an affective, emotional and social interaction that brought relevance to their teachings. I first gained a serious enjoyment of literature from a professor at Mercer University in Macon Georgia who stood up on a desk and began reciting Shakespeare in his overalls. He had studied Shakespeare in Great Britain and acted in Shakespearean theatre while there. I was enthralled and for the first time in four or five years of college received an A in a Literature class. This professor went on after his tenure at Mercer to work with indigent farmers in rural Georgia which was his true passion.

 

“Why does everyone seem to have a story about how one special teacher got through to them, and reshaped their life forever? Could it be that teaching is just about the most important job in the world? And could it be that in the end, the challenge of fixing Americas schools comes down to putting great teachers into classrooms and giving them the tools they need to do what they do best.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

 

Sitting here a bit later than I have been normally as my schedule is mixed up today a bit. I knew I had to take my wife to work and get to school late I went outside into the fifty degree morning twice with my dog earlier and the sky was almost perfectly clear. Stars everywhere and every constellation I know just glowing. I could imagine early people on this spot hundreds even thousands of years ago looking up and seeing what I was seeing and imagining a hunter, a stag, a warrior, and dragons all emblazoned across the sky. But my experience does have some implication to my topic today as to what it is that in inherent ingredient in a great teacher.

 

“If we can’t identify the best teachers by comparing their credentials, we face an obvious and crucial question: How do we define a good teacher.” Karl Weber, editor, Waiting for Superman

It has been nearly seven years since I finished my Specialist degree at Piedmont College. When we would sit in our cohort and on that first day we were introduced to a thirty or so page document that at that time was labeled the STAR. This was to be the basis for our degree program. Basically it was a rubric to determine whether or not you as a teacher were proficient, excellent or distinguished and so forth. The rubric was loosely based off of work done by educational consultant Charlotte Danielson who now heads up the Danielson Group based in Princeton New Jersey.

 

“An effective system of teacher evaluation accomplishes two things: it ensures quality teaching and it promotes professional learning. The quality of teaching is the single most important determinant of student learning; a school district’s system of teacher evaluation is the method by which it ensures that teaching is of high quality. Therefore, the system developed for teacher evaluation must have certain characteristics: it must be rigorous, valid, reliable, and defensible, and must be grounded in a research-based and accepted definition of good teaching.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

“When teachers engage in self-assessment, reflection on practice, and professional conversation, they become more thoughtful and analytic about their work, and are in a position to improve their teaching. Evaluators can contribute to teachers’ professional learning through the use of in-depth reflective questions. By shifting the focus of evaluation from “inspection” to “collaborative reflection” educators can ensure the maximum benefit from the evaluation activities.” Charlotte Danielson, Danielson Group

 

The major goal of the Specialist program was for each of us to leave Piedmont as Distinguished Teachers. Somewhere I actually have a medal on a blue ribbon showing that I am a distinguished teacher. There is a catch to this being a great or distinguished teacher does not stop the day that it is anointed on you. This is literally who you are not a degree or piece of paper. But what makes a great teacher different and what is it that gives us these great teachers? According to the Danielson framework there are some specifics.

 

The Framework for Teaching:
Components of Professional Practice

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
  • Demonstrating Knowledge of Content
    and Pedagogy Demonstrating
  • Knowledge of Students
  • Setting Instructional Outcomes
  • Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources
  • Designing Coherent Instruction
  • Designing Student Assessments
  • Creating an Environment of Respect and   Rapport
  • Establishing a Culture for Learning
  • Managing Classroom Procedures
  • Managing Student Behavior
  • Organizing Physical Space
Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities Domain 3: Instruction
  • Reflecting on Teaching
  • Maintaining Accurate Records
  • Communicating with Families
  • Participating in a Professional
  • Community
  • Growing and Developing Professionally
  • Showing Professionalism
  • Communicating with Students
  • Using Questioning and Discussion
  • Techniques
  • Engaging Students in Learning
  • Using Assessment in Instruction
  • Demonstrating Flexibility and   Responsiveness

From Danielson Group website:

 

So often we need to confine our ideas to lists too easy to understand bits and pieces so we can check off what we have done or will do. Danielson’s four domains are significantly more than most twenty minute walk through that are the standard in Georgia. But still there are pieces that cannot be pinned down so easily. James Stronge in his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers has a few that stand out.

 

“Effective teachers care about their students and demonstrate they care in such a way that their students are aware of it.”

 

“Effective teachers practice focused and sympathetic listening to show students they care not only about what happens in the classroom, but about students’ lives in general. These teachers initiate two way communications that exudes trust, tact, honesty, humility, and care.”

 

“Effective, caring teachers know students both informally and formally. They use every opportunity at school and in the community to keep the lines of communication open.”

 

It might sound a bit silly but I am bothered when a teacher says they could not live in the community they teach in. How do you ever know your students if you only see them and experience what they experience eight hours a day? So often it is hard for teachers to break through the shell of teacher student barriers that are presented and held in place by tradition and often school policy. Teaching is not just standing in front of a group of students and lecturing for two hours. Generally most are asleep within the first ten minutes. Relationships need to be developed and cultivated that can bridge gaps. Emails to parents, communications with students and parents to let them know you are concerned. In all of my undergraduate and graduate years I only seriously remember one very bad professor. He would come in put the text book on his podium and then read it to us. When the bell would ring he would fold his book closed and leave. His office when open was rather cold. One girl I recall went to him for some help and came in sat down and he stared at her for twenty minutes and never said a word.

 

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

 

Perhaps it is remembering that worst case scenario of bygone years and multiplying it over and over in our heads to help us conceive of and develop what is the way things should be. I think I came to my idea of what makes a great teacher by comparing the worst and best and seeing the vast difference in learning that occurs. I did not need research and data to see kids were reading who used to be illiterate. I did not need a check list to watch people come away from a great teacher with the conversation still going and carrying it to lunch in the commons at Mercer or over dinner at Piedmont or Georgia Southern.

 

“Passionate teachers organize and focus their passionate interests by getting to the heart of their subject and sharing with their students some of what lays there – the beauty and power that drew them to this field in the first place and that has deepened over time as they learned and experienced more.  They are not after a narrow or elitist perspective, but rather a depth of engagement that serves as a base for branching out to other interests and disciplines.” Robert Fried, The Passionate Teacher

 

It is so easy to throw out the word passion and try and point to ourselves and say we are passionate teachers. But you can see quickly the difference between the also run and the passionate in life. As I wander today I have been a fan of Savannah College of Arts Literature Professor Mary Aswell Doll’s thoughts and have used them numerous times as references in papers on curriculum and education. This illustration of an electric current running through us combined with Fried’s passion and these are components of a great teacher.

 

“Curriculum is also … a coursing, as in electric current. The work of the curriculum theorist should tap this intense current within, that which courses through our inner person, that which electrifies or gives life to the persons energy source.” Mary Aswell Doll  

 

You have got soul. Many the time I have heard that remark in reference to or about someone. One of the experts on soul is Thomas Moore who has written numerous best sellers about this often ambiguous subject.

 

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

 

Soul cannot be taught it cannot be bought and it cannot be traded for. Moore uses some words here going a bit beyond Stronge’s qualities of a great teacher. Depth value, relatedness, heart and personal substance these are attributes are also pieces of who a great teacher is. A great teacher has soul might be my next point. Over the numerous years of teaching I have heard teachers say they have been called to teach. I sort of wandered back into teaching. Finding it was where I was meant to be. Parker Palmer offers to teachers that there is sacredness in our undertaking.

 

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, and the “secret ”that“ sits in the middle and knows – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real.  Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points.  But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

 

Maybe I should have stopped a few hours back but being in my sanctuary here at the school in my class room without students for a couple of hours and I get a bit carried away. I want to stop with a thought that no door can remain closed. We as teachers need to be about self-improvement, becoming students as well as teachers learning and reflecting so that we can always become better at our undertaking. We are critical links in our societal endeavors and it is crucial we hold up our end.

 

“I used to think that any door could be opened. Some stood freely open, some could be opened easily; some were harder to penetrate. Sometimes you had to knock, sometimes bang, sometimes charge; but always the door could be opened.” Susan Thomas Anthony, Walk With Spirit

 

            I started this many hours ago and here I am bringing to a close an unfinished work. Hopefully over the next few days I can address this idea of what makes for a great teacher but until that time please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Looking to nature for answers

Bird Droppings December 6, 2012

Looking to Nature for answers

 

As I read and pondered a world engrossed with money and how we can spend money. I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was beginning to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote. This for me is often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered.

 

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.”  Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

 

Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in the book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based on Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Most recently we had the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and today an article on the massive dead areas on the bottom of the Gulf. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis. Acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

 

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

It has been nearly two years since I was walking on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

 

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

 

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

 

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

 

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

 

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

 

I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

A new life coming

Bird Droppings December 3, 2012

A new life coming

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

 

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

 

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

 

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

 

Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. This was a rather interesting weekend for myself and my family. We celebrated a second birthday for our granddaughter, my youngest son and his wife moved in with us along with Charlie officially this past week, and tomorrow we are greeting our second grandchild as my middle son and his wife will be delivering a little girl. Add to this and two years ago roughly my middle son asked his girlfriend of over a year if she would marry him and she accepted and an anniversary is near for them. My nephew and his wife celebrate today their son’s second birthday and for an extended family so many blessings these past few days to remember and more to come. As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty plus years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now almost a second time grandfather.

 

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

 

Dan George I find myself using many times. Dan was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. He would speak of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past weekend watching, observing, holding and photographing my granddaughter and helping my wife get around after breaking her foot reaching for the phone. I was at the baker and texted her a picture of the grandbabies birthday cake and as she went to reach her phone twisted her leg and re-broke a bone in her foot. It is hard to recall a tiny newborn two years ago when each gesture and smile was first for her. I am so happy on how we as family responded and have encouraged her as she is learning daily. It seems even for a teacher watching my grandbaby learn daily I am amazed.

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes our teaching job number one, not so much to have her belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for her to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. I recall two years back watching my granddaughter and son as we went for blood work the bond that has been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she carefully touch’s her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment or two I was peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my ever so tiny finger now. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

A new week and another new grandbaby on the way it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep all in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird

 

Can we find responsibility?

Bird Droppings December 2, 2012

Can we find Responsibility?

 

As I begin my morning of writing and wondering and my first official second year as a grandfather the idea of responsibility sort of hit me. We live in a world of passing responsibility off to another generation be it natural resources, fiscal, educational, philosophical, judicial, military, and just about any other issue that you can consider. This is not some new human inability to deal with but an aspect of which we are that has been developed over some time. As family ties have been broken down and survival became a back seat event to accumulation “who has the most stuff”, we lost responsibility.

In my life time I have watched efforts to destroy wilderness loom up and always at the effort of someone who is out to reap a profit. It is not a betterment of mankind but a quick fix of accumulation to add to the growing self-centeredness of humankind.  There are many attributes to humanness that provide us an ability to if we sincerely try tale responsibility for and successful provide a world for our children and grandchildren that they can make choices about and benefit from rather than a world that is dying and issues that literally will eventually destroy life as we know it.

 

“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

 

Once before I used a quote from Walter Anderson and found an intriguing situation as I research the man behind the name. Walter Anderson is many people I found literally in that on my search I found a noted commentator and an artist who could have possibly made the statement above. Which if these two men said the words is hard to tell although as I read I would like to think this is the Walter Anderson whose brush strokes and colors emblazoned his art work and scenes of the Gulf Coast in wild vivid paintings.

The artist Walter Anderson was born into wealth and art and he studied the fine arts in college and was awarded scholarships to study aboard. In his travels became fascinated with the primitive cave art of France and Europe. He succumbed to mental illness and depression in his 30’s and spent the later years of his life alone painting on Horne Island off the coast of Mississippi. We know his art from the thousands of paintings drawings and sketches found after his death in his homes and cabin. You can read the words above and look at his work on the following website:

 

http://www.walterandersonmuseum.org/index.html

 

“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson

 

Responsibility is a big word and one that can affect us forever. I keep looking at the words above and thinking of a man alone on an Island painting feverishly getting his ideas to canvas and I think of students in a class trying to deal with what are sometimes the obscurities of modern education. As a teacher you try and point toward responsibility and “whatever” is the response always that classic catch phrase of teenage vernacular.

 

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion

 

“The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man.” Roy L. Hunt

 

Daily as I work with teenagers I see a correlation between accepting responsibility and self-respect and or self-esteem. I do not have specific data to back that up but a gut feeling that the child who states so glibly “whatever” as a catch all for their existence has little if any self-respect and or self-esteem and very often does not except responsibility in any shape or form. This seemingly simple concept carries far beyond the high school and into the halls of Congress. It seems few consider anything past the now and self-interest.

 

“We have a Bill of rights. What we need is a Bill of responsibilities.” Bill Maher

 

“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” Stanley Milgram

 

As I wonder about the concept of responsibility and that it is so true we want to teach it yet strip it away as well. In a modern school so many teachers want to be the boss, the head honcho and what is so funny I have that on a name plate sitting in my room given to me by students in the 1970’s, Mr. Bird, head honcho. We tend to strip away responsibility as we demand authority to and or demand respect. I learned many years ago respect can never be demanded only earned.

 

“We are accountable only to ourselves for what happens to us in our lives.” Mildred Newman

 

This concept of accountability to ourselves is one that I find interesting and the degree to which we hold that varies according to what you are used to and have experienced in life. What is acceptable to me may be totally different to someone who lives within the limitations of a limited income, different culture, and as I think back to how they are in turn raised as a child.

 

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” George O’Neil

 

“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

 

It has been nearly thirteen years since I worked with indigent families operating a ministry that helped provide food, clothing and shelter when needed. I met a fellow who had diabetes however he did not truly deal with his diabetes which is point one. This fellow like the artist Walter Anderson who started today’s journey suffered from mental illness though he did not recognize it.  After a severe car accident left him with a broken hip and unable to work I was called in as the motel where he was living was getting ready to kick him out. He was still in bed from the broken hip when I met him and still had on the hospital gown from several days earlier when he was dropped there by a local hospital service.

So here I was meeting this fellow who was a chain smoker and obsessive compulsive to a point the cigarette ash was literally in a six inch pile by side of the bed. I helped this man and a long story ensued but I will cut it short and make it quick. This man wanted to work yet as he tried different jobs things would happen as his diabetes was ravaging his body and brain. His personality would show or flare up might be better and his mental condition slipped from a cover he could present and he would be fired.

After getting to degree of health and on disability the urge to work was more than he could handle and he worked at a factory for a few days and was injured. A piece of metal punctured his foot and with neuropathy from diabetes he did not feel it. He walked all day with a piece of spring steel through his foot and bleeding in his shoe. As the event played out several days later a severe infection ensued and several more days and a partial amputation of his foot. Now he could not work and accepted to a point his full disability. Why should I even tell this story? This fellow if he is still alive I have not had contact in four or five years lives today in Texas and takes care of himself. We may question how and why he does and I hear so often that welfare and handouts are wrong yet he cannot work and in many situations no one would let him work for more than a few minutes.

Responsibility is a big undertaking. I read Ronald Reagan’s statement and thought to recent IEP’s and discussions in educational settings and to a few students I currently have.  So many times we as teachers are guilty in regards to student’s actions yet we want them to be responsible. We set in motion the events that create incidents and actions and the student is held as irresponsible.

 

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

 

“You must accept responsibility for your actions, but not the credit for your achievements.” Denis Waitley

 

 Sitting in front of the computer this morning wondering about the day ahead to be responsible for my actions but not for my achievements a very difficult and almost inhuman task. However I do think this is a point and an interesting thought to end on along with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

Wa de (Skee)

bird